Friday, March 10, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Weekend News Update 4

Most of the outspoken populist political figures in Europe,
especially those in France, Netherlands and Germany (where
national elections are scheduled in the next few months) are
seeing a recent decline in popularity as the voting approaches.
Marine Le Pen, the French populist nationalist leader, still
leads narrowly in most polls, but an independent candidate,
Emmanuel Macron is in strong second place (and one point
ahead in one poll). M. Macron is a former socialist who now
claims to be an independent centrist. Should these two be
the finalists in the second and final round of voting, Macron
would be the heavy favorite to be elected president --- since
voters from the other parties would be likely to coalesce
around him to prevent Le Pen from winning. Netherlands
populist nationalist Gert Wilders is no longer in first place in
Dutch polling, but has fallen behind current Prime Minister
Mark Rutte, the Liberal party candidate who, in response to
Wilders’ anti-immigrant campaign, has moved very close to
Wilders’ position. The winner in the March 15 election will be
asked to form a government (although should Wilders win, he
likely won’t have the votes in the Dutch parliament to form a
coalition successfully). In Germany, long-time Chancellor
Angela Merkel, once a prohibitive favorite to be re-elected,
now has a competitive race, but the challenge is not from the
right, but from her left. One reason radical candidates from the
right or left rarely succeed in contemporary Europe is that most
of its nation states have multiple parties, and when a radical
candidate rises, the voters usually get behind the more moderate
candidate. (One caution is that the above assessment is based on
recent polling, and as the Brexit election in Britain, and the
2016 U.S. election demonstrated, contemporary polls can be

The Trump  administration seems much more engaged in
enlisting support for the Republican legislative program
than the previous Obama administration was when pursuing
its own agenda, even in the two years when Democrats also
controlled both houses of the Congress. Part of this seems
due to considerable GOP intraparty disagreement, especially
in the U.S. senate, and partly because most members of
Congress did not initially support the president’s candidacy.
The latest venue for wooing members of Congress has been
invitations for a night of bowling on the White House bowling
alley. This facility was initially built during President Harry
Truman’s term, and was often used by Presidents Lyndon
Johnson and Richard Nixon. Bowling balls and bowling shoes
are supplied to guests. A little known fact: the largest shoes in 
the inventory (size 13) were first used by President Johnson.

The Republican house and senate leaders in Congress are
advising that there will be no immediate major changes in
the U.S. tax code, but that they are coming after legislative
action on repealing and replacing Obamacare is finished.
Former Speaker Newt Gingrich argues that tax reform will
likely have more impact, but few would argue that the
action to repeal Obamacare has a political priority in light of
long-time voter opposition to the troubled program, and the
pledges by candidate Trump and GOP congressional
candidates that they would take decisive action on the issue.

The respected liberal website fivethirtyeight has just
published a very credible study of voter attitudes showing
the U.S. electorate is quite polarized on most of the political
issues of the day, and more so than in recent decades.

Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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