Tag Archives: France

Election Update

May and June were significant months for elections, both in the United States and Europe.  While the news media tends to overhype some elections and ignore others, there are some conclusions that can be drawn from those elections.

Starting with the United States, the big news has been a series of special elections — focusing mostly on three Congressional seats held by the Republicans.  Neither party can be particularly happy with the results at the Congressional level, but certain things need to be noted.

First, except when caused by death or sudden resignation due to scandal, most vacancies occur in what the parties consider to be “safe” seats.  With the exception of the upcoming special election in Utah, the special elections for the House are all the results of an executive of their own party “promoting” the member of Congress to an executive office.  In California, you have to go back to 2012 to see the last time that a Republican even ran in the 34th district.  The four Republican seats were solid wins for the Republican incumbents in 2016 with the closest margin being 16% in Montana.  All five of these districts were double-digit wins for their party’s candidate in 2012.  The only district that was arguably winnable by the “out” party was Georgia 6 and that is only if you looked solely at the 2016 presidential election.  By the partisan vote index, Georgia 6 is still R+8, meaning that the Democrats would need to get around 58% nationally to win that seat. Continue Reading...

Posted in Elections | Also tagged , , , , Comments Off on Election Update

Foreign Elections — French Edition

On Sunday, French voters will go to the polls in the first round of their presidential election.  There are several key differences between the U.S. and France.  First, the French have more than two main political parties.  Out of the eleven candidates running, at least five represent significant political groupings.  Second, the French president is elected by popular vote.  Third, if no candidate gets a majority of the popular vote (likely based on current polls), there will be a run-off.  Fourth, the center of French politics is significantly further to the left than U.S. politics.  While folks try to put things in U.S. terms, the best way to view it is that the top five is like Donald Trump, John Kasich,  Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and someone to the left of Bernie Sanders, and even the Donald Trump candidate is more liberal on fiscal issues than President Trump.

Of course, what is the same is the existence of the National Front — an organization that Donald Trump loves.  As it’s name implies, the National Front is a xenophobic party opposed to French membership in the European Union and the Islamic influence in France.  It is also pro-Putin.  The National Front typically polls somewhere in the teens.  While this has historically been enough for the National Front to contend for run-off slots (both in Presidential and Parliamentary elections), the National Front is so far out of the mainstream of French politics that it normally loses most of those run-off elections (it only holds two seats in the outgoing French Parliament.)  In this election, the National Front is (again) running Marine Le Pen — daughter of the founder of the National Front and its leader since dear old dad retired.

There are some signs that the far right nationalist views of the National Front are making gains in France.  There is a symbiotic relationship between ultranationalist candidates like Le Pen and Trump on the one side and Islamic fundamentalist terror groups like ISIS.  Each terror attack make the law and order and anti-Islam messages of the ultranationalist sound like the only option that voters have if they want security.  However, that very anti-Islam message feeds into discrimination against Muslims who are native-born citizens.  Young Muslims feeling rejected by their own country then turn to leaders who call for a return to an era when Islam was dominant and promote violence as a means to that end.  When these young people follow through on that call and engage in acts of terror, the cycle begins again.   Given a spate of terror incidents on the eve of the election, the National Front may pick up an extra couple of percent in the first round of the election. Continue Reading...

Posted in Elections, The Politics of Hate | Also tagged , , , Comments Off on Foreign Elections — French Edition

Fearing Fear Itself

Wanting to give a chance for the heat of the moment to pass, I did not post on this topic last week.  However, our wonderful politicians to paraphrase another statement, never miss an opportunity to make things worse by over-reacting to the crisis du jour.  While it is unclear that the current proposed legislation on refugees actually changes the screening process, the timing of this legislation and the specific requirement that the Administration give periodic reports to Congress is another blunder on the PR side of the war on terror — sending a clear message to the Muslim world that the U.S. sees Muslims as our enemy, even though that is not the case.  Several points need to be made (and hopefully will be made by those who want to be President and our other national leaders, but I am not optimistic).

First, and foremost, fundamentalism — whether Islamic or Christian or Jewish or Hindi or Buddhist — is an idea.  An idea can’t be defeated by military force.  In today’s world, all it takes is a computer (or smart phone) to communicate messages — both to recruit new participants and to coordinate plans — and to transfer the funds needed for operations.  While controlling a piece of territory (especially one rich in natural resources) can allow a training program and help with raising funds, it is not absolutely necessary.  Thus, if our only strategy is a military one, we face the modern day equivalent of a mythical Hydra — lop off one head (Al-Qaeda) and a new head (ISIS) emerges to take its place within a year or two.

Second, all religions have the potential for a fundamentalist streak, and most religions have some text that can be interpreted to support holy war (call it a jihad, a crusade, or whatever) against non-believers.  Most also have texts that can be read to support tolerance and non-violent attempts to convert by persuasion and demonstrating the goodness and truth of the religion.  Christians attempting to convince others that Islam is different should first closely examine their own history — even at this late time, we are only a couple of decades removed from the troubles in Northern Ireland and the war in Bosnia, much less the continued mistreatment of gays and lesbians on religious grounds by Christian leaders in Africa.  We also need to recognize that all religions have different sub-denominations.  If a Muslim tried to lump in Episcopalians with Southern Baptists, both groups would quickly respond about how different Episcopalian beliefs are from Southern Baptist beliefs — although both qualify as Christian and protestant.  Yet, in the U.S., we quickly gloss over the differences between Sunni and Shia and all of the divergent schools of belief that fit within each of those two broad categories. Continue Reading...

Posted in Politics, The Politics of Hate | Also tagged , , , Comments Off on Fearing Fear Itself