Friday, March 17, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Weekend News Update 5

With many nervous European Union (EU) member state leaders
watching, the Dutch electorate returned its current Prime
Minister Martin Rutte to office, but in their visible relief, ignored
the fact that Rutte’s party (which only has the largest number of
members of the Dutch parliament, and must form a coalition to
govern) lost about a quarter of its representation while his major
(and most feared) opponent, Gert Wilders, a conservative populist,
came in second, but increased his party’s total from 12 to 19. Mr.
Wilders, even if he had won the popular vote, almost certainly
would not have become prime minister since most or all of the
numerous other Dutch political parties oppose him. Also making
big gains was the leftist Green Party. It will probably take several
months for Mr. Rutte to form his coalition government. Mr. Wilders
has promised to remain in Dutch politics for the foreseeable future.
Much more ominous national elections coming up include France,
beginning next month, and Germany, a few months later.

Angela Merkel, the long-time German chancellor and preeminent
EU political figure, has arrived in Washington, DC for a meeting
with President Donald Trump. Mr. Trump warmly welcomed Frau
Merkel to the White House, but differences between the two,
including immigration issues and the future of the EU, were
evident in a press conference that followed their private meeting.
Each had been critical of the other during the recent U.S. campaign.
Although a small right wing party exists in Germany, Frau Merkel’s
main opponent in her re-election effort this year is from her left.


Minnesota DFL (Democratic) Governor Mark Dayton has threatened
to shut down the state government if the Republican-controlled
legislature sends him budget bills he doesn’t like. Many observers
feel the governor, who will retire after this his second term, is
bluffing because history shows that, both at the state and national
level, those who force a government shutdown usually pay dearly
at the polls.  Through most of his tenure, Mr. Dayton’s party has
controlled at least one house of the state legislature, but in 2016,
Republicans took control of the state senate as well as the state
house (which they had won earlier). Only house members are up for
re-election in 2018. In last year’s election, the GOP almost won the
state for Donald Trump, a huge shock for DFLers who presumed this
hitherto “blue” state would easily go for Hillary Clinton. Many
observers think the GOP could win the governorship in 2018, and
that possibility has the them wondering why Mr. Dayton is pursuing
such a high-risk strategy as a goverment shutdown in this high-tax
state. (One advantage the DFL has so far, however, is that no strong
GOP figure has emerged to run for governor.)

Congressional Republicans so far are not united for a plan to
replace Obamacare (though they seem agreed about its repeal),
but even as the debate goes on in the U.S. house and senate,
the Affordable Care Act (known as Obamacare) appears to be
imploding nationwide as major insurers pull out of state plans
and premium costs rise precipitously. Although some
conservative strategists urge the Congress to simply let
Obamacare implode, the need to have at least a transition to a
different and better health insurance plan would seem politically
self-evident. President Trump has indicated his strong support
for the plan now being finalized in the U.S. house, but this plan
faces noisy opposition from some GOP senators. Failure to
enact a credible replacement to Obamacare, however, could lead
to a very negative voter reaction to Republican candidates in 2018.

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

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