Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Japan’s Ruling Party Begins to Pick Next Prime Minister

In Japan’s parliamentary democracy, the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has begun its competition to designate a new prime minister. This person must lead the party into the parliamentary (Diet) elections in November (Nov. 28 at latest). The prime minister selected a year ago, Yoshihide Suga, decided to step down as his polling approval ratings sagged due to the Olympic Games and the continuing pandemic. Suga had been the cabinet secretary of Prime Minister Shinz┼Ź Abe, and took over after Abe resigned due to ill health.

Suga and Japan are key elements in the Biden administration’s plan to strengthen Asian alliances to counter the assertive foreign policy of President Xi Jinping and China’s Communist Party.

Four LDP leaders have announced their candidacy:

  • Taro Kono – Abe’s defense minister and Suga’s reform minister is a frontrunner and has Suga’s endorsement. Georgetown graduate, fluent in English and a Twitter user.
  • Fumio Kishida – Former foreign minister is also frontrunner due to leading a large LDP faction.
  • Sanae Takaichi, rightwing former interior minister, and Seiko Noda, former gender equality minister. No woman has represented the party or been prime minister in its history.

Other candidates could be considered. The process is well-reported by Japanese media, but remains fairly opaque. The party election is essentially bargaining among the main party factions and leaders with public opinion important only to judge appeal in the next elections. Until Abe, a one-year term for prime minister was common. Voting among LDP will take place September 29 and more than 750 Diet lawmakers and rank and file LDP members will vote. If a second round is needed, lawmakers and a representative for each region (47) will vote. The final Diet vote is October 4. The next prime minister will be leading during a perilous period with the pandemic, China and climate change major challenges, requiring a strong government response. The relationship with the new American administration, which was off to a good start, will also be a key factor in success.

Candidates for the top post in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party pose prior
to a joint news conference at the party’s headquarters in Tokyo, Japan,
Sept. 17, 2021. The contenders are from left to right, Taro Kono, Fumio
Kishida, Sanae Takaichi and Seiko Noda. | Kimimasa Mayama/Pool Photo

Monday, September 20, 2021

New Map Incumbent Protection. Is This a 5-3 Map?

The latest congressional redistricting map may garner the 8 votes it needs to be approved, but it mostly secures incumbents compared to earlier staff iterations. The Commission has settled for the status quo. Although surprises are possible, at least the latest draft doesn’t provide much potential for them.

The previous map, which made competition the key value, has been traded for comfort. Incumbents are now more secure with improved partisan margins. Comparing the partisan lean of the map reported on September 3 to the districts of September 15, incumbents are more secure and competition reduced. The two most competitive districts, including the newest 8th, both lean Democratic by amounts larger than the last map.

The map will no doubt see some changes before September 28 when it must be submitted, but the major change in creating the commission process was much effort for little effect.

See: Boebert and Buck Will Go Home to Old Districts. Is This a 4-4 Map?

Denver November Ballot Turmoil

Denver local government is in disarray. The unity between the Mayor’s Office and City Council has been disrupted and the leadership and authority of the government waned. It’s now every interest group and political personality for themselves and their own agendas. The results is a chaotic ballot, with 13 proposals ranging from major city bond initiatives, to City Council trying to take power from the mayor, to citizens fighting city initiatives and each other. Private land use disputes are also on the ballot. Even the lowly Denver Republicans see an opening and have a couple of the traditional limit government proposals.

The main city initiative is a $450 million five-part bond package. But even the normal city unity for bond proposals collapsed when several interests and councilpersons objected to the National Western $190 million arena.

See: Will the Stock Show Bond Pass?

Thursday, September 16, 2021

If I Lose, It Was Stolen

In a replay of Donald Trump’s greatest hit, “The Big Lie,” California Republican recall candidate Larry Elder, radio talk show host and conservative firebrand, and his Fox News and online advocates began claiming election fraud before the election was over. It becomes an embarrassment given the landslide result.

Trump and now Elder are attacking the legitimacy of elections – a core element of democracy. Trump, of course, is looking for allies for his “Big Lie” message and the next round of elections, especially a possible 2024 rerun. Elder is mainly thinking about the media benefits from being California’s and now the country’s leading radio host-cum-politician. Beneficial for both of them, damaging to the election confidence.

More than half of Americans believe democracy is under attack (56%) in a new CNN poll. Nearly the same percentage believe election officials in the U.S. will overturn the results of a future election because their party did not win (51%).

The latest AP/NORC survey shows one of the few issues both Democrats and Republicans are worried about, albeit for difference reasons, is the right to vote. The percentage of people say the “U.S. government is doing a good job protecting the right to vote” declined from 84 percent in 2011 to 43 percent today. And both parties agree.

Republicans increasingly believe the fraud charges from their party leaders and news sources. Democrats see Republican state-level efforts to change voting administration as restrictions and possible nullification.

In general, it’s clear that the next few election cycles will be a real test for election access and integrity.

The House is Lost for Democrats?

The consensus political view in early 2021 was that the Democrats would have a very difficult time beating the historical pattern of the party holding the presidency losing House seats, and if the Democrats lose 5, they’re out of power.

Democrats were hoping President Biden’s popularity (averaging 54% the first 100 days), managing COVID-19 and an economic rebound would create a different scenario. Needless to say, not only did those accomplishments recede in August, but Biden is now at a negative 5 points with 45 percent positive. In addition, the Afghanistan withdrawal took a toll on his and his party’s strengths. There are now few suggesting Democrats can hold the House.

The latest bad news from the polling front comes from Republican pollster Bill McInturff at Public Opinion Strategies. He reports the generic ballot test in his national survey is tied between the Democrats and Republicans at 42 percent. The last time it was tied was in his polls was October 2015 (Democrats lost the House). In April, a year ago, it was 6 points Democratic. His numbers nearly equal the polling average reported by RealClearPolitics today at 1 point Democratic, 43 percent to 42 percent.

News cycles move quickly and Democrats haven’t given up hope that they can beat the odds. It builds pressure to motivate their slim congressional majority to stay in line to accomplish some key legislation, especially spending for infrastructure, hard and soft, and voting rights. It also behooves the administration to speed up appointments of more judges and long-delayed ambassadors.

Trump Candidate Cannot Win Statewide in Colorado

Eli Bremer | Photo: Colorado Times Recorder
The Colorado Republican Party is trying to field candidates to challenge Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet. A number of national indicators appear positive for Republicans, but in Colorado, their first challenge is winning the nomination without getting too close to former President Donald Trump. Trump is not popular among Colorado unaffiliated voters and is especially useful for Democrats to gin up and turnout their base. But, Trump remains popular with most Republicans and failing to embrace him and the “Big Lie” can cause primary problems.

Eli Bremer is trying to navigate that conundrum as he seeks the nomination.

Since announcing his candidacy last month, Bremer has not yet held a public campaign event in Colorado nor taken a definitive stance on Trump. But this refusal to say outright what he thinks of Trump might be Bremer’s best hope for winning a statewide election in a state where Trump is extremely unpopular, according to Colorado political analyst Floyd Ciruli.

“Whoever wins the GOP nomination, whether it’s Bremer or otherwise, is going to face the same problem,” Ciruli said. “They’re going to have to signal their dedication to the party’s base, to issues like election integrity, to Trump. But also, they’re going to have to distance themselves from Trump if they have any hope of winning the general election.”

Ciruli emphasized that any Republican candidate trying to win a statewide election will have to play coy when it comes to Trump.

“This is a universal challenge in a state like Colorado,” Ciruli said. “In some states, it’s an asset to have Trump connections. There it can turn into a contest between candidates competing to say how strong they are for Trump. But that’s not the case here.”

Read The Colorado Times Recorder: GOP Senate Candidate Eli Bremer’s Connection to Trump Hurts His Changes to Beat Bennet, Experts Say by Sean Price

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Congratulations UCLA

UCLA was just named the No. 1 public university in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. It was the fifth win for the school.

I graduated in 1973, and just enjoyed a lunch with some classmates who are very involved in the alumni association and the public policy school. Like all campuses, it is working very hard to get back to in-person classes from the humanities to the hard sciences, and it’s making progress in what will be a great year for students, faculty and staff.