Australia’s center-right government shocked the country and defied the polls as it retained power of government. In power since 2013, PM Scott Morrison and the Liberal-National coalition will return.
How ya like US now? It’s a mixed bag. The Eurasia Group Foundation conducted a poll to determine whether countries see American democracy as a model. We fared the worst among key allies included in the poll (Germany, Japan), while a majority of the Chinese would like to see their government become more like ours. The most-cited reasons for unfavorable views of the U.S. were opposition to President Trump, interventions abroad, and economic inequality.
“President Donald Trump has insulted U.S. allies, befriended Vladimir Putin, excused a grim list of other dictators, embraced nativist politics and movements, and shaken the post-World War II liberal order. But the problem also includes cynical politicians in both parties, calcified systems that don’t deliver public goods and complacent citizens who cannot bestir themselves to vote. All of this is tarnishing the overall luster of democracy—and pulling America away from the world. If we do not soon reverse this U.S. retreat, democracy world-wide will be at risk.”
“Democracies depend on the free flow of accurate information more fundamentally than autocracies do, not only for functioning markets and better public policy, but also to allow citizens to make informed voting decisions, provide policy input, and hold officials accountable. At the same time, information flows can be manipulated to undermine democracy by allowing the unchecked spread of propaganda and pseudo-facts, all made more efficient by the Internet, automation, and machine learning. This is Democracy’s Dilemma: the open forms of input and exchange that it relies on can be weaponized to inject falsehood and misinformation that erode democratic debate.”
“Today, presidents have basically abandoned the separation of powers Madison so carefully crafted. Three events took place last week—all at the hands of President Donald Trump—and each warrants examination from the Madisionian perspective as each assaults limited government and rejects the separation of powers. Each, as well, involves the accumulation of unconstitutional power in the branch of government that Madison feared the most.”
Officials from the Election Assistance Commission, the federal agency charged with managing the nation’s electoral systems and helping states adopt good election administration practices, are pleading for more money before the 2020 elections. The agency is operating at half the capacity it had 10 years ago, while threats have increased. “What we are working on is the infrastructure of our democracy,” Vice Chair Benjamin Hovland said. “What we need is an investment from Congress to help us do that work.”
“In this country, independence of the president from established authority of any kind is supposed to be impossible. Its emergence represents, at the very least, an erosion of democracy — a nightmare, not a legacy.”
The Maine Senate voted narrowly on Tuesday to join an interstate effort that would aim to undo the Electoral College in its current configuration by awarding presidential electors based on the national winner of the popular vote. If it becomes law, Maine would join 15 other jurisdictions in an interstate compact aimed at electing presidents by popular vote.
Concern has been growing for the past several years about the future of democracy, and there is considerable dissatisfaction in many countries with how democracy is working in practice. But public support for democratic ideals remains strong, and by one measure, global democracy is at or near a modern-day high. As of the end of 2017, 96 out of 167 countries with populations of at least 500,000 (57%) were democracies of some kind, and only 21 (13%) were autocracies.
“How will this improve our current system? Right now, hyper-partisanship has created an environment where the winner feels no accountability to opposing voters. However, if during the campaign, candidates are encouraged to appeal to a broader spectrum of voters in order to win, those elected will naturally provide more unifying leadership. Furthermore, independent candidates will no longer be considered ‘spoilers’ and will have an equal opportunity to win.”
“By the late 1980s—through traditional intelligence-gathering, international monitoring, support for civil society, academic exchange programs, and diplomatic outreach with the U.S.S.R.—we began to understand that the Soviet Union was a failing enterprise. … One can argue that Iran, Cuba, and Venezuela are displaying those same telltale signs of terminal decay. But as I watch the Trump administration’s approach to all three—led by National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo—I find myself wishing that today’s leaders would revive some of the late Cold War tactics that worked so well.”
As Maduro finds courage to crackdown on his opponents and as his loyal militia groups threaten politicians and normal citizens alike, Venezuelans are scared to show support for interim president Juan Guaidó. This led to a smaller crowd showing up for Guaidó’s scheduled protests on Saturday.
“A republic that moves too close to an oligarchy would require democratization. Yes, conservatives are correct to point out that moderation is a feature of a republican government. However, as the founders themselves knew, echoing their classical predecessors, moderation means more than just protecting the minority from the majority. It necessarily implies that the majority should be protected if the minority should ever accumulate too much power. The republic, at present, indeed requires a moderating influence. So perhaps, after all, it is a good idea to constantly point out that the United States was founded as a republic.”
Is Vladimir Putin succeeding? Polls show that Americans are losing faith in our electoral system and in the media that reports on our elections. “This is Vladimir Putin’s game plan — sow distrust, discord, disillusionment, and division,” says Sen. Richard Blumenthal. “There’s a real danger to such distrust in the integrity of our election system that has lasting damage,” he warns.
“To be sure, literally embracing illiberal strongmen and rubber-stamping stolen elections spans multiple U.S. administrations, both Democratic and Republican. However, the Trump administration’s endorsement of deliberately broken democratic processes and the leaders who have benefitted from them has shifted America’s position toward democracy promotion from tepid to outright hostility.”
A majority of voters says the Electoral College system should be abandoned in favor of a national popular vote, according to a new NBC News–Wall Street Journal poll. The survey finds that 53% of voters say the outcome of the presidential election should be determined by the popular vote, and 43% say the Electoral College system should remain in place, cutting sharply along political lines. Democrats by and large support abolishing the current system.
“New Census data suggests an estimated 3.6 million voters did not cast a ballot in the 2018 midterm election because of a problem with their voter registration. To have so many Americans unable to vote because of an inefficient and unnecessary layer of bureaucracy is shameful. The good news is this is a solvable problem, and many states are taking positive action. Same-day registration, a policy spreading in states across the nation, allows eligible voters to register or fix a problem with their registration when they go to the polls to vote.”
“By taking action to meet the problems of the industrial era…the nation’s leaders turned technology-driven challenges into American success stories. At the heart of such success was the creation of new public interest rules reflecting new business and technology realities. The resulting policies seem second nature to us today: antitrust enforcement, consumer protection, and worker protection. These new rules did not restructure the economy nor inhibit innovation, but they did put guardrails in place to temper the instinct to excess that is inherent in unsupervised capitalism. The result was unprecedented economic growth for all. Today, we need a similar reconsideration and restructuring of the rules of economic behavior.”
The head of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party, Heinz-Christian Strache, has vowed to fight “Islamization” as he prepares for the European elections on May 23. Using scare tactics, Strache hopes to overperform and lead his fringe party into the mainstream in Austria.
Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is definitely in the minority on this issue. A majority of Americans are against giving imprisoned felons the right to vote, according to a new poll released by The Hill/Harris X. Sixty-nine percent of registered voters said people who are incarcerated for a felony should not vote. That went up to 89% for people serving time for terrorism-related crimes.
There’s a broad effort in Republican-controlled states to restrict access to the ballot after voters approved ballot initiatives in November’s midterm elections to expand voting rights. A new report from the Brennan Center for Justice indicates that there are 19 bills restricting voting access moving through state legislatures in 10 states. Why?
A federal court ruled that Ohio’s congressional maps are unconstitutional and must be redrawn before 2020. The ruling is likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court, joining similar cases from North Carolina and Maryland.
“[H]ardly anyone seems satisfied with how their own elections are run. But there is actually a lot of good news out there on voting rights and election reform. Some communities are expanding the electorate by enfranchising more people. Voter registration has become effortless, and Election Day is now more convenient in certain places. Structural changes to how we cast ballots have reduced voter apathy. Innovative public financing options have made it easier for more people to run for office and actually have a chance to win.”
To reduce the influence of corporate, PAC, and other big money in politics, Democratic candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand unveiled a plan on Wednesday to give every voter up to $600 in what she calls “Democracy Dollars,” which they can donate to federal candidates for office. “It will change who has a seat at the table and who gets elected in this country within one election cycle,” Gillibrand said.
“Anger at political elites, economic dissatisfaction, and anxiety about rapid social changes have fueled political upheaval in regions around the world in recent years. Anti-establishment leaders, parties, and movements have emerged on both the right and left of the political spectrum, in some cases challenging fundamental norms and institutions of liberal democracy.”
“In March 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson addressed a joint session of Congress, announcing his intention to submit what would become known as the Voting Rights Act. … That evening, addressing our nation’s leaders, President Johnson explained, ‘This time, on this issue, there must be no delay, or no hesitation, or no compromise with our purpose. We cannot, we must not, refuse to protect the right of every American to vote in every election that he may desire to participate in.’ President Johnson was right. We must protect and reaffirm the right of all voters to participate in every election, including those who are unenrolled independents.”
“Americans have long struggled over the scope of voting and representation. Democracy is — and always will be — a fight. And the lines of this particular conflict are clear. Rather than try to expand our democracy or even preserve it as it stands, Republicans are fighting for a smaller, narrower one that favors their voters over all others so that their power and the interests they serve become untouchable.”
“Kremlin-sponsored bot-farms and Twitter trolls will surely try to aggravate America’s racial tensions, undermine respect for our democratic institutions, and sow doubt about the legitimacy of our elections through a ‘messaging campaign.’ But our sitting president does all those things — exponentially more effectively — through his Twitter feed on a near-daily basis. … Our political Establishment’s refusal to acknowledge this fact is more dangerous than the president’s failure to acknowledge the threat posed by Russian interference — not least because, were it not for the former, Donald Trump would no longer be president.”
“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should explain why he blocked a bipartisan denunciation of Russian interference in our election before voters went to the polls. Americans deserve to hear why McConnell did not trust them with the evidence that he and 11 other congressional leaders received in a confidential briefing in September. … Now McConnell and other Republicans are saying the integrity of our elections is too important for partisanship. But before the election McConnell appears to have put partisan concerns first.”
“From India to Indonesia to Brazil, democracy is being compromised by online domestic disinformation campaigns from political parties seeking to gain an advantage. Democratic institutions have not been able to keep up and have instead deferred to tech firms, trusting them to referee online behavior. But this is a task far beyond the limited capabilities and narrow motivations of companies such as Facebook and Twitter. If the democratic recession is to end, democratic institutions need to create new rules and hold the responsible parties to account.”
“The Mueller report isn’t just a reckoning about our recent history; it’s also a warning about the future. Unless checked, the Russians will interfere again in 2020, and possibly other adversaries, such as China or North Korea, will as well. This is an urgent threat. Nobody but Americans should be able to decide America’s future. And, unless he’s held accountable, the president may show even more disregard for the laws of the land and the obligations of his office. He will likely redouble his efforts to advance Putin’s agenda, including rolling back sanctions, weakening NATO and undermining the European Union.”
On Tuesday, Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and one of his closest advisers, said that the multiple investigations into Russian election interference have been more harmful to American democracy than the original interference itself. He couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, he might want to actually read the Mueller report, which reveals a years-long plot by the Russian government to interfere in the U.S. that investigators call “sweeping and systemic.”
Leaders of Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement were sentenced up to 16 months in prison on public nuisance charges. The Umbrella Movement was a democratic movement that caught the ire of Chinese state officials.
Having already passed Egypt’s parliament, a referendum that would extend President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s rule for another 11 years went to the Egyptian people for a vote. While unclear if the vote was free and fair, the Egyptian people overwhelmingly supported extending Sissi’s power. The referendum passed with nearly 90% of the vote.
Ukraine’s top presidential candidates, Petro Poroshenko and Volodymyr Zelenskiy, met in Kyiv’s Olimpiyskiy Stadium to hold a debate. The debate was bizarre in part because the candidates were on separate stages taking questions and debating each other from opposite ends of the stadium.
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly has signed a new voting bill that amends the law concerning advance ballots, signature requirements, and polling places. Her office says it will expand voting opportunities and make voting more convenient. “Over the past decade, we have seen countless efforts aimed at making voting more difficult in this state,” the governor said. “I hope this will be the first of many laws that help ensure that every voice is heard in our democratic process and that every vote is counted.”
After the Sudanese military took over control of the country, the African Union (AU) issued a 15-day deadline for the military to establish civil rule. If the military fails to do so, the country may have its membership removed form the AU.
Even after deposing embattled former president Bouteflika and opening the door for new elections, the Algerian military is losing its patience with ongoing protests. The military said, “All options are open in the pursuit of overcoming the different difficulties and finding a solution to the crisis as soon as possible…”
Powerful leaders with little accountability may be a thing of Egyptian past, or maybe not. Egyptian parliament approved amendments to the constitution which would allow Egyptian president Abdul Fattah al-Sisi to remain in power until 2030.
Stephen Moore, who President Trump announced last month as his nominee for the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, has a history of advocating self-described “radical” views on the economy and government. In 2009, he even went as far as saying, “Capitalism is a lot more important than democracy. I’m not even a big believer in democracy. …Democracy doesn’t always lead to a good economy or even a good political system.”