Lorenzo & his humble friends

The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool

Tag: donald trump

Perdere il voto

Al centro di ricerca con cui collaboro da qualche anno ci occupiamo di studiare, tra altre cose, come cambia l’estensione del suffragio elettorale tra paesi e sistemi politici diversi. In pratica, confrontiamo centinaia di elezioni in tutto il mondo per capire chi ha diritto a votare e chi no. È un tema importante, perché a seconda di dove viene tracciata la linea tra questi due gruppi si favorisce un candidato anziché un altro. L’ultimo caso in cui le decisioni relative al suffragio potrebbero aver avuto un esito determinante su una competizione elettorale è quello delle presidenziali americane del 2016. Leggete il resto del mio articolo su Unimondo.

Un dilemma democratico

L’ultimo articolo che ho scritto per Unimondo parla di come comportarsi con Donald Trump: collaborare o resistere? Lo potete leggere qui.

Divided States of America

Ieri Unimondo ha pubblicato un mio articolo in cui parlo della squadra di governo selezionata da Donald Trump. Le scelte del presidente-eletto rappresentano una prima indicazione delle politiche che seguirà una volta insediatosi alla Casa Bianca. L’amministrazione voluta da Trump ha un profilo piuttosto omogeneo, essendo composta quasi esclusivamente da uomini anziani, bianchi, ricchi, filo-russi, molto di destra e convinti che il riscaldamento globale non esista. Buona fortuna.

Contested conventions

On Wednesday Fivethirtyeight published an article (It’s Still Not Clear That Donald Trump Will Get A Majority Of Delegates) explaining that Donald Trump still has on only a little more than 47 percent of the delegates allocated so far. It is possible that the withdrawal of other candidates from the race will make things increasingly easier for him, making it possible to reach the 1,237 delegates needed to secure the nomination. But what happens if he falls short?

Most delegates are pledged to candidates only for the first ballot. After that, they can vote for whoever they please and throw open the convention. So, says the Guardian today, “it would probably be anarchy“. Just like the 1924 Democratic Convention, which had to choose the candidate to challenge the Republican incumbent, President Calvin Coolidge. The Convention turned into a heated contest between a candidate who banked on support from the Ku Klux Klan, William G. McAdoo, and Governor Alfred E. Smith of New York, who was reviled by the Klan for his religion. Neither of them came close to getting two-thirds of the delegates needed for the nomination: it took 16 days to the delegated before they could agree on a compromise candidate, John W. Davis. He then went on to get only 29 percent of the vote when he ran in the general election against President Calvin Coolidge.

Four years later, Governor Smith won the Democratic nomination, but the Klan awaited him as he crossed the country, burning crosses and spreading lies. The Democratic party lost those presidential elections too, the fourth in a row. Such a spectacular streak of electoral defeats resulting from internal splinters sounds familiarly sinister to the G.O.P., which has produced a monster out of its “wild obstructionism”, its demonisation of political institutions, its flirtation with bigotry and its “racially tinged derangement syndrome” over President Barack Obama. Now that monster is strong enough to destroy the party.

The only sane Republican alternative

There still seems to be only a glimmer of a sliver of a possibility that a sane person might emerge as the Republican alternative to Donald Trump. John Kasich has proven, time and time again, that he is the only true presidential candidate in the circus of the Republican nominees.

The Ohio governor is the most experienced and the only one who has the substantive side of the campaign covered. Sure, Kasich is a hard-core conservative –  in his first term as a governor he’s gone after public-sector unions, fought to limit abortion rights and opposed same-sex marriage. He is strongly influenced by his religion and often talks about God and his personal beliefs while on the campaign trail. But unlike all the other conservatives in the race, he seems to be the only one who is capable of bargaining and getting things done. As the New York Times wrote in February, “as a veteran of partisan fights and bipartisan deals during nearly two decades in the House, he has been capable of compromise and believes in the ability of government to improve lives. He favors a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants, and he speaks of government’s duty to protect the poor, the mentally ill and others “in the shadows.” While Republicans in Congress tried more than 60 times to kill Obamacare, Mr. Kasich did an end-run around Ohio’s Republican Legislature to secure a $13 billion Medicaid expansion to cover more people in his state.” Kasich has, in fact, an impressive track record: he won nine terms as a congressman and one as Ohio governor. When he took over in 2011, the state was $8 billion in the red with an economy in the doldrums. Today it has a surplus of $2 billion, and its workforce has increased by 350,000. He has even managed to dole out $5 billion in tax cuts. The Time Magazine also endorses Kasich, writing that “Trump’s speeches are all about him: his polls, his edifices, his steaks. Kasich’s speeches are about the audience. He encourages people to tell their “stories.” Often, these have little or nothing to do with politics… Kasich is the least hortatory candidate in the race. You listen to Hillary Clinton making grand pronouncements–“And isn’t it about time that we had equal pay for women?”–and you cringe: Yeah, of course, it is … but why are you yelling at me?

Kasich numbers are now surging as people start rewarding a positive campaign. However, after losses in Super Tuesday, the hope for a Kasich nomination relies entirely on his ability to take Ohio on March 15—a winner-take-all state.

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If he succeeds in taking Ohio, Darrel Rowland writes, maybe “somehow, some way, this John Kasich guy just might have a chance.” The Buckeye State is key in any presidential election: no president since John Kennedy has won without carrying it. But even if Mr. Kasich wins Ohio and its 66 delegates, along with some of the others at stake on the same day in Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina, his chances of gaining a majority of 1,237 remains close to a mathematical impossibility.

Ruling the void

What good is political science if it flubs the biggest development in American politics in generations? Using this question, some commentators are turning “political science didn’t predict Trump” as the 2016 version of “economists didn’t predict the 2008 recession“. But this is factually misleading: there are plenty of political science books anticipating Trump’s rise.

For instance, the findings of Peter Mair’s “Ruling the Void” show how strong outsiders could escape the control party rankings used to have on their candidates. The book was published in 2013, two years after its author had unexpectedly died of a heart attack. Obviously, Mair didn’t predict the rise of Donald Trump. Nonetheless, his book explains why someone like him, like Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders, or Marine Le Pen could succeed against the odd.

Once upon a time, political parties created a vital link between the public and political decision making. Now this is no longer true: parties have become glorified spin doctors for state power as their leaders are more interested in their role as part of the government than in representing their voters. Traditional elites have progressively abandoned domestic loyalties, forming a sort of global elite, like the one that assembled in Davos one month ago. Mair suggested that traditional political parties have become glorified spin doctors for state power and he quoted another political scientist, Rudy Andeweg: “the party … becomes the government’s representative in the society rather than the society’s bridgehead in the state.

It is become of this context that at some point voters rebel against the traditional parties and look for outsiders. Like Martin Wolf wrote some time ago, “it is not hard to see why ordinary people … are alienated. They are losers, at least relatively; they do not share equally in the gains. They feel used and abused.” In Italy these people vote for another party, say the Five Star Movement; in the US they vote for outsiders shaking up the traditional party ranks. Elites need to work out intelligent answers to voters’ discomfort. But this is for politicians to find. Good political science, on its part, should remain concerned with asking the right questions.


Trump it up

Trump to Obama: $5 million donation to charity if you release passport, college records. Now Barack Obama has revealed why Donald Trump hates him – it goes back to their childhood days in Kenya. “We had constant run-ins on the soccer fields. He wasn’t very good and resented it. When we finally moved to America, I thought it would be over.”

But, hei, one good thing on Donal Trump. His TV show, the Apprentice, is actually great. Even the Italian version with Flavio Briatore (!) is pretty good. Thanks to Alberto for telling me about that.