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The Evolutionary Perspective
Category Archives: Populism
Posted: August 22, 2021 at 3:08 pm
Protesting seems to be in vogue in the world. Cubans are protesting their deteriorating infrastructure, Peruvians are rising up against electoral fraud, Haitis protests culminated in the murder of their president.
Targeted disinformation is complicating the wave of instability and creating a new form of populism where, absent a popular demagogue, attention is hyper focused on distrust and conspiracy theories. Thats the case in Colombia, where social media usage is among the highest globally.
Since April 28, thousands have marched in Colombia in protest of their government. Complaints have ranged from a (now-withdrawn) tax overhaul, to police brutality, systemic and endemic corruption, the extra-judicial killings of community activists, fracking and renewed demands by the U.S Government to fumigate vast swathes of coca plantations with glyphosate (Round-Up).
Violent factions have wreaked havoc during the protests and reduced Bogots much lauded transportation infrastructure to rubble. The June 26 assassination attempt against President Ivn Duque proved to a majority of Colombians that criminal factions, from frontline vandals financed by crowd funding, to urban militias, pushed Colombia to the brinkbut not over.
The complaints of the self-professed strike committee, however, ignore the progress Colombia has made, including the Nobel prize-winning peace agreement with FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) in 2016, which has indirectly made Bogot safer than cities like Detroit or New Orleans.
A comparative look at Colombias sophisticated system, where proportional representationis required in the Senate, reveals stunning discrepancies. The World Health Organization in 2020 ranked Colombian healthcare system 22nd out of 191 countries, beating those of many developed and richer nations including Canada. The lower threshold for income tax is two million pesos monthly (approximately US$557), well above the average Colombian salary. The literacy rate is 95% reflecting a robust education system. And a quick calculation places Bogots homeless rate below 1%; for context, that of Seattle in 2020, was 1.65%.
The administration of Colombian President Ivan Duque, defined by the World Bank as democratic center, was one of the first to create a pandemic relief package for the education sector. While the first edition didnt adequately address the challenges of distance learning, it was certainly one of the fastest pandemic responses of a world leader. The U.S. did not follow suit until December of 2020.
Recently 548 people in the Cali region were reported missing, allegedly at the hands of the police. According to the Deputy Attorney General Martha Yaneth Mancera, most of the reports were false. The majority were found immediately, reported twice, or away on vacation. Of the remaining 91 names on the list, none had any known family. I have a hard time believing that 91 people dont have one friend, mother, brother, wife or anybody who can confirm they are missing, she stated during a news conference.
Who could be behind this false information?
In an interview with the respected Colombian journalist Mara Isabel Rueda, vice-president Marta Luca Ramrez believes that the countrys democracy was the target of a coordinated strategy, financed, planned and well-supported by social media, in order to create chaos, destruction, all acts which have endangered the lives of millions of Colombians.
It is no secret that narco-terrorists and other illegal armed groups receive backing by Venezuelas Nicols Maduro and regime strongman who has been denounced as an illegitimate leader by over 50 countries. Maduros leading foreign policy objective towards Colombia is maintaining the porous border as safe passage for the Marxist ELN and FARC dissidents. Colombian president Duque stated at the UN General Assembly: My government has irrefutable and conclusive proof that corroborates the support of the dictatorship for criminal and narco-terrorist groups that operate in Venezuela to try and attack Colombia.
It is also clear that Colombia has multiple enemies making use of soft cyberwarfare with impunity, to destroy Colombias democracy and preserve their own anonymity. Such disinformation and populism are a toxic duo, comprising a terrifying new global threat affecting us all.
To support an ally such as Colombia, whose democracy has been refined through the crucible of years of conflict, the most effective tool is communication through human presence. As part of its anti-drug interventions in Colombia, the U.S. should encourage initiatives to identify and call out online misinformation by supporting non-governmental organizations and professional outlets that can build a frontline in the battle between truth and falsehoods. And its time for us all to pay attention.
Erin O’Toole’s Conservatives target suburban voters in election platform of thoughtful populism – The Globe and Mail
Posted: at 3:08 pm
Conservative Party leader Erin O'Toole speaks at the Westin hotel after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called an early election, in Ottawa, on Aug. 15, 2021.
When suburban voters side with people who live downtown, as they did in the past two federal elections, Liberals win government. When they side with their country cousins, as they did in 2011, Conservatives win. The platform that the Tories released Monday is designed to make 2011 happen again.
Conservative Leader Erin OToole and his advisers have crafted a dense mix of measures that might best be described as thoughtful populism. Some of those measures, such as allowing foreign telecoms to compete with Canadian providers for your cellphone business, are long overdue. Some of them, such as the one-month GST holiday, are gimmicks.
But all of them aim to attract suburban voters, especially those who are less economically secure, while painting the Liberals as the party of fat-cat Corporate Canada. Will it work? Well soon see.
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The first thing that the Conservatives want you to know is that their plan is serious 83 pages as a PDF, with tiny type but also with many pictures of Mr. OToole, who is looking very fit these days.
Tax credits underpin Conservative plan to spur hiring, growth
The second thing they want you to know is that the Tories are anti-big business. The manifesto is chock full of promises to stand up to Corporate Canada by targeting uncompetitive practices, to make foreign tech companies pay their fair share of taxes, to go after wealthy tax evaders and big corporations, to close tax loopholes for rich, big corporations and those with connections in Ottawa, to stop kowtowing to the wealthy, big U.S. tech companies, and large multinationals, and to stand up for those who dont have a voice.
They would even amend the Labour Code to make it easier for unions to organize, especially against large employers with a history of anti-labour activity.
Third, Canadas Conservatives are anti-downtown. We cant just have a recovery for the downtowns of a few big cities. ... We cant just have a recovery for downtown Toronto. ... Too many politicians and journalists who live in our big cities ignore, dont understand or simply dont care about what is happening outside the major urban areas. And so on.
Canadian federal election 2021: Latest updates and essential reading ahead of Sept. 20 vote
The plan has a distinct bias against well-educated, affluent families with progressive views, and a distinct bias toward people who are less economically secure and more socially conservative. So as well as promising many billions of dollars to create jobs, the Conservatives plan to scrap the Liberals $10-a-day child-care program, which advantages those who can already afford child care, and send the money directly to parents, to use as they wish. People who work nights and rely on unconventional child care sources would appreciate that.
In related news, the Conservatives would counter wokeness on campus by ensuring that public postsecondary institutions accommodate the range of perspectives that make up Canada through a commitment to free speech and academic freedom. And CBC News would be subjected to a not-very-friendly review to ensure it no longer competes with private Canadian broadcasters and digital providers.
Fourth, Canadas Conservatives are tough. They plan harsher penalties for interference with an infrastructure facility or a public transportation system. The Tories are betting suburban voters dont approve of blockades by Indigenous and environmental protesters.
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They plan to be tough on China. They want tariffs on products from countries like China that emit high levels of carbon. They want to reduce dependence on trade from China. They would strengthen alliances to combat Chinas growing authoritarianism, regional influence, and military expansionism.
But they would encourage students from Hong Kong to come to Canada, and are generally favourable to robust immigration. A new program would permit direct private sponsorship of persecuted religious and sexual minorities.
There is plenty in the plan for core supporters, such as lifting the ban on tanker traffic off B.Cs north coast, and improving the tax treatment of family farms.
But Mr. OToole has angered many core supporters by committing his party to pricing carbon, with revenue going into personal low carbon savings accounts that people could draw from to buy cool green things, such as e-bikes. Suburban voters care about climate change.
Over all, the plan is comprehensive, detailed and uncosted. (The Parliamentary Budget Officer is reviewing the document.) But in one sense, the numbers dont matter as much as the intent: to shore up the Conservatives Western and rural base, while attracting suburban voters who work at Walmart.
Now its up to Mr. OToole to sell it.
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Posted: at 3:08 pm
Representational image. Elections, Princeton Professor Mller explains in his new book 'Democracy Rules', dont automatically make a democracy.
A few years before he joined the Nazi Party, political theorist Carl Schmitt wrote about why he believed that liberal democracy was an oxymoron. The liberals, in his definition, were keen on incorporating all points of view, which only led to endless discussion and compromise.
In a democratic state, on the other hand, the task is to identify allies and opponents and be hard-headed about making decisions. The influence of his argument still prevails, with shades of majoritarianism and rule by executive decree.
Thats not how everyone sees it. Democracy and its discontents have been the subject of a vast number of books, especially in the recent past. How similar is our concept of it from the Athenians, how participatory should it be, how much equality should it guarantee: these and more have been covered at length.
Now, Jan-WernerMller, author of the earlier What is Populism?, adds another volume to the shelf. In Democracy Rules, Mller, a professor of politics at Princeton, continues his argument by asserting that democracy is about freedom and equality for all. Populism has to be kept in check for it to prevail.
His definition of populists is the one in common parlance today. That is, not those who genuinely engage with peoples aspirations to challenge power structures, but those who claim to be the voice of the people for their own ends.
As he says in his earlier book, this is inherently hostile to the mechanisms and, ultimately, the values commonly associated with constitutionalism: constraints on the will of the majority, checks and balances, protections for minorities, and even fundamental rights.
He emphasises a current sense of crisis because of the actions of several regimes, in which he includes those of Orbn, Erdoan, Kaczyski, Modi, and Bolsonaro. The family resemblances arise because of a shared authoritarian-populist art of governance.
Once populists assert that only they can represent the people, writes Mller, they can also claim that all other contenders are illegitimate. Thus, civil society protests are labelled as having nothing to do with the real people, and activists are portrayed as tools of external agents.
An example is Turkeys 2013 Gezi Park protests which, an Erdoan adviser explained, was the doing of Lufthansa. The German airline allegedly feared increased competition from Turkish Airlines after the opening of Istanbuls new airport. Imagine that.
The point is that in a society of free and equal citizens, differences are not going to magically disappear. They need to be assessed, managed, and incorporated. Mller is also clear that elections dont automatically make a democracy: It depends on how exactly they are understood and on what happens before and, especially, after votes for representatives are cast.
What, then, are the characteristics of a desired democracy? For Mller, two stand out: losing and uncertainty.
The assumption that a losing party is irrelevant because it has been rejected by the majority doesnt wash in a democracy. For a start, such parties can force the winners into concessions, either during an election campaign, or as a result of a strong showing at the polls, or because of later circumstances.
This is the art of turning a loss into a demonstration of integrity. A loyal opposition shows a commitment to democracy, a key contrast with the ancient Athenian type of rule.
Of course, the other side of the coin is all-important. A governing party must recognise the oppositions special role and engage with it. Ideally there is a running discussion between majority and minority, in parliament and beyond, with arguments circling in an ongoing (yet also contained) political conflict. Losers should remain at liberty to make their case; they are not excluded or systematically disadvantaged (as they are under the rule of authoritarian populists).
The uncertainty aspect is to do with the notion that political outcomes such as election results have to be undetermined at the start. The alternatives: North Korea, where official candidates literally receive 100 percent of the vote; or other dictatorships such as Azerbaijan, where election results were accidentally released on an iPhone app the day before the vote in 2013.
Uncertainty also respects the possibility that people sometimes change their minds. A functioning democracy protects members of a one-time majority who might want to shift their ground. These could be legislators or citizens. Mllers case is that elections are based on a census, but they are not like a census: a dynamic political process might lead citizens to prioritise aspects of their identity in surprising ways.
How should one safeguard these principles and political rights to speak and assemble freely? Importantly, what he calls hard borders must be protected, such as not denying the standing of particular citizens as free and equal members of the polity.
Mller highlights democracys critical infrastructure, by which he means associations, political parties, and the media. Its not just about the ballot box; these are sites for the continuous formation of opinions and political judgments in society at large: anybody can have a say, at more or less any time.
As Habermas put it, this is a public sphere which can be a space for wild cacophonies. Thats a good thing, feels Mller: multiple voices clash, opinions get tweaked and fine-tuned; people pick up cues as to what they should think, even if they cant spend hours on the finer details of policy. In his timely metaphor, its like a mass Zoom meeting, with some people talking at us, unsure whether anyone is listening, others off in group chats on the side, and some engaged in private one-on-one exchanges.
Mller suggests ways to prevent the decay of democratic norms and institutions, so vividly highlighted by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt in their earlier How Democracies Die. Democracy isnt free, he writes, and we could consider asking citizens themselves to maintain it. Candidates, for example, could be supported by schemes such as Seattles democracy vouchers funded by property taxes, through which citizens contribute to electoral campaigns.
It hardly bears repeating that both misinformation and disinformation have become easier to spread. A system of legitimate checks apart, one solution is to allow an even greater diversification of media outlets and public funding of non-profit media groups. The media should also be allowed to report within a frame of values they pursue as long as that frame is transparently acknowledged.
Mullers book doesnt dig deep into the reasons legitimate or not -- for the acceptance of populists in the first place. And it offers few pointers on what to do about bad-faith actors, who now seem to be everywhere.
Nevertheless, he offers reasons for hope. For a start, the ranks of those disappointed by democracy, but not ready to ditch it, include millennials, who have been suspected of caring less about democracy than they should.
Despite dismaying polarisation, what politics has created, politics can undo. The underlying message throughout is that democracy thrives when theres more: more discussion, more participation, more media, more parties, and more arenas for disagreement.
Posted: August 6, 2021 at 10:40 pm
ORBETELLO, Italy On Friday, the first day that Italians needed to present a nationwide health passport for access to indoor dining, museums, gyms, theaters and a wide range of social activities, Margherita Catenuto, 18, from Sicily, proudly showed a bar code at the Capitoline Museum in Rome certifying that she was vaccinated.
Its like showing you have a conscience, said Ms. Catenuto as she walked in. You do it for yourself, and you do it for others. Its very sensible.
Similar measures to stem the coronavirus pandemic have prompted large protests in France and bitterly split Americans between cities that will require vaccine passes, like New York, and entire parts of the country that consider even masks an affront to their rights. But Italians have mostly greeted their new Green Pass with widespread acceptance and, after some compromises, near political consensus.
After a long populist period that prized anti-establishment fervor and viral propaganda over pragmatism and expertise, Italians are suddenly enjoying a high season of rationality.
For things to get better, get vaccinated and respect the rules, Prime Minister Mario Draghi, the most unapologetically establishment prime minister in Europe, told reporters on Friday before Parliaments summer recess.
On Friday, signs outside movie theaters reminded patrons to bring their Green Passes proof of a vaccination, a negative test swab taken in recent days or proof of a past virus infection which they can download or print out. Restaurant workers checked certificates along with temperatures and reservations. Tourists can provide proof of vaccination with a vaccine accepted by European Medicines Agency.
Do you have a Green Pass, a hostess at an Orbetello sushi restaurant asked Laura Novelli as she showed up for lunch with a friend. She didnt, nor did she have a negative swab test result or proof that she had recovered from Covid. I didnt even think about it, the 26-year-old waitress told the hostess who turned her away with a shrug.
The notion that Italy under Mr. Draghi is doing reasonable things to help bring Italy out of the pandemic and into recovery has translated into broad support for what is now Europes most expansive measure in countering the spread of the Delta variant.
A recent poll published in Italys largest newspaper, Corriere della Sera, showed that 66 percent of Italians support the Green Pass, and populist leaders who once cast doubt on vaccines have largely gotten with the program.
Having a reasonable leader helps, but I think Italians were reasonable in this crisis from the very beginning, said Ferruccio De Bortoli, a columnist and former editor of the newspaper. He added that this goes against the myth of irrational Italians.
On Thursday night, the government announced that starting in September, the pass will also be required for schoolteachers, school administrators and university students. Teachers who dont get the pass wont be allowed into school. After five absences, teachers will stop receiving salaries.
Mr. Draghi has called returning to in-school learning a fundamental objective.
In September the pass will also be required to board ferries and buses traveling between more than two regions and on planes and high-speed trains. People who enter restricted areas without the pass, and business owners who let them in, face a fine of up to 1,000 euros more than $1,180. A business that violates the rule can be closed for one to 10 days.
Aug. 6, 2021, 7:54 p.m. ET
That did not stop the hostess at the sushi restaurant, who said the pass was wreaking havoc on reservations and business on its first day, from offering to look the other way for two teenage boys who did not have certifications. They declined and stepped back onto the street.
I like to travel and wherever you go you need this freaking pass, said one of the teenagers, Giovanni Galatolo, 18. Im getting vaccinated on Tuesday.
The government argues that the pass will increase economic activity, not least by allowing more of normal life to resume. For example, seating capacity on the national high-speed train network will be increased from 50 percent to 80 percent, meaning more business travel and economic activity.
But it is also clearly intended to push Italians like Mr. Galatolo to get vaccinated.
Mr. Draghi, whose government consists of a grand coalition of parties, has exhibited a flair for putting populist politicians who traffic in spreading unreasonable doubts in their place. That includes Matteo Salvini, the leader of the nationalist League party and once the most powerful politician in Italy, who has struggled for relevance under the plain-spoken Mr. Draghi.
Mr. Salvini has staked out an ambiguous, have-it-both-ways position on the vaccine. One day he dips back into the populism that once made him Italys most popular politician, saying that those opposed to vaccinations should be listened to, that vaccines are useless for young people, and that the Green Pass should not be required to enter restaurants and bars. The next he declares support for Mr. Draghi and his policies.
Last month, when he suggested that a broader Green Pass would deprive half of Italians of their right to life, Mr. Draghi would have none of it.
The appeal to not getting vaccinated is an appeal to die, Mr. Draghi said in response to Mr. Salvinis remarks. You dont get a vaccine, you get sick, you die. The refusal to get vaccinated, he added, would make people die.
Understand the State of Vaccine Mandates in the U.S.
The next morning, Mr. Salvini got vaccinated.
Mr. Salvini said he had already booked his vaccination, and that he did it not based on what Mr. Draghi said but as a free choice and not because someone imposed it on me.
But its now clear who is calling the shots, especially since the pro-business base of Mr. Salvinis own party supports Mr. Draghi in the hopes of getting the economy moving again.
Mr. Draghi has obviously robbed populism of its voice, said Sergio Fabbrini, a professor of politics and international relations and dean of the Political Science Department at Luiss, a university in Rome.
The Green Pass is by no means a panacea to the pandemic, and there are still major hurdles for the government to overcome. Younger Italians have proved more resistant to getting vaccinated, but some Italian regions have mobilized inoculation campaigns at their beaches, nightclubs and bars. In Sicily officials offered vaccines in ice cream shops and pizzerias.
More troubling, especially given the awful toll of the virus on older Italians during the first waves of the pandemic, is that about 11 percent of Italians over the age of 60 are still not vaccinated.
Sporadic protests by anti-vaccination activists, who were encouraged during the anti-establishment political campaigns of Five Star and the League, have broken out.
While the government considers about 7 to 8 percent of Italians as strongly opposed to vaccines, it sees an equal percentage as reachable, but they just havent gotten around to it or dont see the point. The Green Pass, they argue, has already prompted a spike in vaccination bookings, and the government is confident a broader use of the pass will prompt even more inoculations.
Ms. Novelli, who was turned away from the sushi restaurant for not having a Green Pass, said she wasnt ideologically opposed to inoculation, but had hesitated for fear of missing work with side effects from a fever. She said she understood the rationale of the pass, and said if it became necessary to work, Ill have to do it, but she said she wouldnt get vaccinated just to eat in a sushi restaurant.
I did, said her friend Laura Cretu, who had recently been vaccinated and added that she also needed it to go to university classes in September. Without the Green Pass, she said, you cant do anything.
Reporting was contributed by Emma Bubola in Rome, Gaia Pianigiani in Siena and Elisabetta Povoledo in Pallanza, Italy.
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Posted: at 10:40 pm
The debate centers on what lessons to draw from Donald Trump, who talked like a populist but governed with the exception of trade policy more like a Reaganite. The divide doesnt quite fall along pro- and anti-Trump lines. The pro-Trump former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley, for example, has emerged as a leading champion of traditional free-market policies in opposition to other pro-Trumpers like Vance and Hawley. The battle is likely to play out in the 2024 presidential primary, and shape the future of Republican politics long after Trump exits stage left.
The emergence of the new economic counterculture is loosely connected to the two-year-old think tank, American Compass, whose founder, the Harvard-trained lawyer and former Bain consultant Oren Cass, routinely derides his adversaries as market fundamentalists peddling stale pieties from the 1980s. Cass left the free-market Manhattan Institute in 2019 to launch American Compass, the first right-of-center think tank dedicated to pushing the government to get more, rather than less, involved in national economic policy in order to help advance a certain set of social and cultural goals a view Cass and his ilk have termed common good capitalism. The groups mission: To restore an economic consensus that emphasizes the importance of family, community, and industry to the nations liberty and prosperity.
Oren Cass at a conference in New Orleans in 2017. | Stephen McCarthy/Collision/Sportsfile via Flickr
In order to become the party of the working class, Cass has argued, the GOP must abandon its doctrinaire attachment to free-market principles in favor of traditionally Democratic causes like organized labor, the minimum wage and an industrial policy in which the government boosts particular industries over others. He also favors a stricter immigration policy with an eye toward migrants impact on the wages of American workers, arguments echoed by Vance and Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
Its a very different set of things to put together and support, certainly from Republicans, Cass told me recently, describing his position as in all respects antithetical to the Chamber of Commerce view.
Cass critics say he is merely a more intellectual version of the crass political opportunists looking to capitalize on the Trump legacy. Why else would the 2012 Romney campaign adviser turn his back on the free-market principles he once championed? Why else would the populist agitators of the previous decade, including the Tea Party darling Marco Rubio and his chief of staff, the former Heritage Action enfant terrible Michael Needham, shift their focus from restraining government and controlling spending to finding new ways for the feds to meddle in the economy, or the onetime Trump critic Vance transform himself into an avatar of populist economics?
A lot of people have tried to assign meaning to the Trump phenomenon, and a lot of that meaning is self-serving, says Michael Strain, director of economic policy at the American Enterprise Institute. President Trump did not expose some deep problem in American society that requires a rethinking of the economic system, Strain adds, arguing that the 2008 financial crisis and the recession that followed led to the sorts of populist uprisings around the globe that have historically followed economic cataclysms.
Others, including the political scientist Richard Hanania, say Cass is drawing the wrong lessons from Trumps political success, which Hanania believes had more to do with culture than economics. In an essay published after the 2020 election and titled, unsubtly, The National Populist Illusion, Hanania called out Cass and Rubio by name, arguing that attitudes toward issues like political correctness and immigration were more closely linked to Trump votes than economic status.
Hedge funds, private equity firms and venture capitalists, many of them longtime Republican donors, have been on the receiving end of many of Cass barbs, and the titans of industry, broadly speaking, argue that Cass has no more business charting the countrys economic policy than any other Ivy League consultant. See last months nasty Twitter tangle between Cass and the hedge fund billionaire Clifford Asness, a top GOP donor, that began when Cass argued that Asness firm hasnt been good at delivering results for its own investors. Describing American Compass as a blood and soil organization, Asness urged his followers to familiarize themselves with Cass work: Its every populist piece of utter nonsense all in one place. Very convenient, he wrote.
Twitter battles notwithstanding, Cass cites as his chief intellectual adversaries Haley, the former U.N. ambassador, as well as the outgoing Pennsylvania senator Pat Toomey, who has been a leading voice on economic policy, and the members of the Wall Street Journal editorial board.
Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley is, along with Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, one of the leading opponents of the emerging movement of Republican economic populism. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Toomey delivered a speech last year titled In Defense of Capitalism that took aim not at the old threat that comes from the left but rather at the hyphenated capitalism trending on the right. When I look at this and I look at where this is coming from, he said in the speech, it strikes me as maybe the most serious threat to economic freedom and prosperity in a long time, because its coming from our allies. It is meant to be a dagger thrust into the heart of the traditional center-right consensus that maximizing economic growth is all about.
Haley, a likely 2024 presidential candidate, made the debate the subject of her own remarks at the conservative Hudson Institute last February and later in a Wall Street Journal op-ed slamming those who are pushing a watered-down or hyphenated capitalism.
Other 2024 prospects among them, Mike Pompeo, Ron DeSantis, Ted Cruz and Rick Scott havent yet staked out strong positions on the GOPs intraparty economics debate, but they will inevitably need to do so. The one thing on which both groups agree is that an economic brawl on the right is likely to play out in the next Republican primary. Cass predicts a fight for the future of right of center between his allies, like Rubio and Hawley, and those he describes as pre-Trump, including Haley.
Just as Trump disrupted the political consensus on China, the outcome of this debate is likely to shape the consensus economic views of a party in tumult. One of the practical questions stemming from this debate is how voters respond to the rhetoric of a watered-down capitalism, and whether it produces results electorally. Opponents argue it might be good short-term politics, but that voters ultimately punish politicians who preside over periods of economic contraction precisely what those like Toomey say the populists are likely to produce.
Those of us who think as I do need to constantly remind people that capitalism serves the common good, Toomey said in an interview. This whole notion of common-good capitalism betrays the flawed premise on which its based, which is that capitalism somehow does not serve the common good.
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Posted: at 10:40 pm
Puducherry awash with posters, portraying CM as the hero of films Sarpatta Parambarai and Kabali, ahead of his birthday on Wednesday
For those accustomed to the poster mania that surfaces in the city during the run-up to the birthday celebrations of N. Rangasamy, who turns 71 on Wednesday in his record fourth stint as Puducherry Chief Minister, the appearance of a reference to filmmaker Pa. Ranjiths OTT release Sarpatta Parambarai this year was a no-brainer.
Sure enough, one of the posters features Mr. Rangasamy in a boxing ring in the place of the hero of the film, played by Arya, alongside his mentor and inspiration, K. Kamaraj, former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.
Over the years, more so when he occupied the Chief Ministers chair, leaders and cadres of the AINRC, a party he founded, have gone to great lengths to display their loyalty in the form of huge banners, cut-outs and hoardings.
In the past, the wall-life version of the man they call Makkal Mudhalvar has featured him in the league of Barack Obama, Roger Federer (a nod to Mr. Rangasamys routine of playing a set or two at the Gorimedu grounds) or in the avatar of films such as Baahubali and Kabali. This time, the larger-than-life avatars also include that of Krishna in the iconic moment in the Kurukshetra battleground from the Mahabharata. In fact, over-zealous loyalists have not spared the Bay of Bengal either putting up posters on wooden pillars off-shore.
Citizens are hardly amused at the scale of hero worship and the attendant disfigurement of public spaces in flagrant violation of the Puducherry Open Places (Prevention of Disfigurement) Act, 2000.
As a responsible Chief Minister, as I am sure he is, we expect him to honour the ban on posters, said Sunaina Mandeen, a resident of Kurussukuppam.
The minimum thing required in any society is implementation of the rule of law. Whether it is disfigurement of public spaces or implementing the ban on plastic, the will has to come right from the top, she said.
Puducherry Municipality officials say that the rules had been framed granting exemptions with clearance from the civic body but concede that violations are common.
Any move from our side to crack down on the violations can potentially trigger a law and order issue. From the perspective of finding a sustainable solution, we are mooting an all-party meeting to sensitise stakeholders on the issue and evolve a consensus on voluntarily ending this practice that mars the dignity and the beauty of the city, an official said.
Observers say it will be amiss to dismiss the phenomena as a product of astroturfing as the veteran is one of the few to enjoy a cult status among followers, especially in the Thattanchavady-Indira Nagar belt.This celebration overdrive is disconnected from the image of simplicity and austerity around Mr. Rangasamys demeanour and lifestyle, said V. Selvam, social scientist.
The very fact that he enjoys such popularity and stature also bestows on him a special responsibility to set an example for his followers. Given the circumstances of the pandemic and a tottering local economy, we would have expected him to instruct his followers to scale back celebrations, he said.
Meanwhile, AINRC Secretary N.S.J. Jayabal on Monday issued an appeal to followers to not to visit Mr. Rangasamys house on his birthday as he would not be in town. The appeal was made to prevent crowding in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Posted: at 10:40 pm
Tucker Carlson. Illustrated | Getty Images, Library of Congress, iStock
Tucker Carlson has become the latest and highest-profile figure on the American right to make a pilgrimage to Hungary.
Fans of Carlson's top-rated prime time show on Fox News learned Monday that he would be broadcasting all week from Budapest, where he would also be delivering a speech next weekend at MCC Feszt a conference sponsored by the Mathias Corvinus Collegium, a think tank recently granted $1.7 billion (about 1 percent of Hungary's GDP) by Prime Minister Viktor Orban in order to help foster the kind of nationalistic conservatism favored by his government. That includes kicking Central European University out of the country, banning the academic study of gender from colleges, allowing the ruling Fidesz Party to gobble up 90 percent of media in the country, and demonizing George Soros for cultural trends the prime minister's supporters dislike.
Carlson is unlikely to be the last conservative to pay hommage to Orban. John O'Sullivan, a one-time Thatcherite conservative who served as an editor of National Review through most of the 1990s, has been president of the Danube Institute in Budapest since 2017, bringing in a long list of American conservatives for conferences on right-wing populism and the threat of cancel culture.
In addition to a speech by Carlson, the MCC Feszt will include remarks by such prominent figures on the American right as Dennis Prager and Rod Dreher, the latter of whom has been living in Hungary and blogging effusively for The American Conservative about the Orban government for months. Dreher was joined a few months ago by Notre Dame's Patrick Deneen, author of surprise bestseller Why Liberalism Failed, for a lengthy discussion at MCC of the transnational conservative future.
All of which means that Hungary looks to be for populist conservatives in the 2020s what the Soviet Union was for the international left a century ago: a foreign model of a morally and politically edifying future. That doesn't mean or imply a moral equivalence between Orban's nationalism and Soviet communism. But it does point to a similarly transactional relationship. In return for providing earnest intellectuals with hope, a government often treated as an international pariah gets to enjoy a flood of fawning coverage when those ideologically engaged writers and talkers start sharing their carefully curated experiences with the world.
Time will tell if today's pilgrims turn out to be genuine prophets of the political future or just the latest band of useful idiots for a discredited and unsavory regime.
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Posted: August 2, 2021 at 1:44 am
Tech billionaire Peter Thiel is establishing a reputation as a financial powerhouse in GOP circles, shaking up marquee 2022 races with contributions that could make him among the biggest players in the midterm elections.
Thiel raised eyebrows with separate $10 million donations believed to be the largest in history to outside groups supporting Senate candidates to super PACs supporting two of his proteges, venture capitalist and Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance in the open Ohio Senate race and Thiel Foundation executive Blake Masters in the Arizona race against Sen. Mark KellyMark KellyHarris's bad polls trigger Democratic worries Bipartisan group says it's still on track after setback on Senate floor Poll: Two-thirds of AZ Democratic voters back primary challenge to Sinema over filibuster MORE (D).
Hes also expected to write checks for candidates in House and gubernatorial contests.
The investments from the early Facebook investor and PayPal cofounder, who also has ties to former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump PACs brought in over M for the first half of 2021 Chicago owes Trump M tax refund, state's attorney mounts legal challenge Biden hits resistance from unions on vaccine requirement MORE, are early signals Thiel intends to use his financial largesse to disseminate his avowed libertarian stances.
Peter has a vision for America that includes more personal freedom and less government intervention, and hes willing to put up his own money to make it a reality, said GOP donor Dan Eberhart.
The combination of Peters money and his libertarian political views could be a powerful force in the GOP this cycle, he added. Peter is a serious power broker in Republican politics right now.
The massive donations are just the latest and largest from the longtime GOP contributor.
Thiel, a 53-year-old German-born entrepreneur, first burst onto the conservative scene in 2009 with an essay detailing his libertarian beliefs, a departure from the overwhelmingly liberal bent of Silicon Valley.
Hes since written checks to several lawmakers who share his worldview before seeing his influence expand via his relationship with Trump. Thiel served on Trumps transition team after his 2016 victory, and their relationship grew from there, expanding his access to the White House.
His donations to Vance and Masters indicate a desire both to up libertarianism's presence in Congress and to elevate close allies. Vance worked for Thiel in Silicon Valley and later obtained an investment in his own firm from the entrepreneur, while Masters rose to become chief operating officer of Thiel Capital and president of the Thiel Foundation.
You put those two things together, the personal relationship, along with the fact that they're supportive of his worldview, and I think that very likely explains the level of support, said one Republican operative whos supportive of both Vance and Masterss campaigns.
Thiels power play comes amid shifting dynamics within the GOP.
Trumps departure from the Oval Office set off shockwaves throughout the party, leaving no figurehead in public office to advance the America First populism that Trump unleashed, which remains popular with the grassroots and at times aligns with Thiels ideology.
That sets up an opportunity for Thiel to elevate candidates he believes could satisfy Republican voters hunger for more populist voices but who don't irk centrist voters the same way Trump did.
The base is changing, Eberhart said. Republicans need candidates who reflect the new populist direction Trump has taken the party and who are also acceptable enough to voters that they can win a general election. Peter may be able to do that better than anyone else right now.
Observers say Thiels sway in GOP circles is formidable given the heft of his donations, suggesting he could be a growing influence as elections become increasingly more expensive.
I think he's seeing what a lot of these folks have seen over the last 10 years, which is these races are getting more expensive, and if I want to have influence and I want my guy to win or my gal to win, you're going to be spending a lot more money, one GOP official said.
He does pull up a seat at the table as a big player, for sure.
The investments in Vance and Masters also provide tangible impacts for both of their campaigns.
As first-time candidates, both, particularly Masters, will have to boost their name recognition, as well as build up email lists and other campaign infrastructure. But with the $10 million investments to supportive outside groups, theyll be able to go beyond those basic building blocks and even start going on the attack.
What these donations do, is it made both of them automatically real candidates, right from the get go. Because when you have $10 million sitting in a super PAC, no one can deny that you should now be taken seriously as a candidate, said the GOP strategist whos supportive of both.
I think J.D. would have gotten a lot of media attention, regardless. Blake probably wouldn't have gotten any attention without that donation, the strategist added. I think that's the most tangible immediate effect. And then the long-term effect is, that's $10 million that could be spent to raise their name IDs; that's $10 million that can be spent to kneecap their opponents. And it's not something that you usually see with first-time candidates.
Beyond the specific donations, Vance and Masters could also benefit from Thiels existing contributions to conservative groups and proximity to Trump, which may make other figures and groups wary of endorsing their opponents for fear of losing Thiels money or rankling his allies.
It makes them think twice about endorsing because they'd like to get some of Peter Thiels money too. And a good way to make sure you dont get Peter Thiels money is to endorse against his candidate, said one GOP strategist involved in Senate races, including one against a Thiel-backed candidate. So, he essentially freezes some of the most powerful forces in politics with the threat ofretribution and not continuing to spend his money on their projects.
Already, Thiels donations have swayed other donors to get off the sidelines.
An adviser to Rep. Ted BuddTheodore (Ted) Paul BuddTrump takes two punches from GOP Schumer, Tim Scott lead as Senate fundraising pace heats up Pro-impeachment Republicans outpace GOP rivals in second-quarter fundraising MORE (R-N.C.), who is running in North Carolinas open Senate race with Trumps endorsement, said the campaign got a jolt of support after Thiel cut a check.
I cant speak to other states, but here in NC, the Thiel contribution on the national level layered with maxed out contributions from prominent NC job creators have opened up a lot of new pathways for our campaign, the source said. Folks who had earlier indicated that they were going to sit out the primary on the sidelines are now proactively calling us to offer support.
While Thiel's support for Vance and Masters has yet to deliver a Trump endorsement in either of the Ohio or Arizona Senate race, his backing has already swayed other donors to get off the sidelines in the midterms.
Vance, Masters and other Thiel-supported candidates will have to prove themselves as attractive contenders in their own right, and other Republicans in top races are expected to raise hefty sums as well.
But even those on the wrong end of Thiels donations concede the entrepreneurs giving is significant.
It's an elite impact, said the strategist involved in a campaign running against a Thiel-backed hopeful.
However, Thiels gargantuan donations also make him a target, and critics say theyve stocked early ammunition against him.
Neither Vance nor Masters have longstanding ties to the conservative movement, raising criticisms of their bona fides, and Thiels own background at Facebook could be a knock amid conservative grievances about Big Tech.
Defenders rebut that criticism by pointing to Thiels early support of Trump in 2016 and well-known libertarian beliefs in liberal California. But opponents are nonetheless expected to use it as a way to knock their newly well-funded opponents.
A board member of Facebook is funding my opponents campaign? That's pretty easy to get out of your mouth, said the GOP strategist working on a rival campaign.
Posted: July 29, 2021 at 9:12 pm
When Jair Bolsonaro won Brazils presidential election in October to the consternation of the countrys traditional political elite, commentators were sharply divided about the implications. Some warned that Bolsonaro, a far-right populist who has openly expressed admiration for the brutal military dictatorship that ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985, presented a clear and present threat to democracy. Others argued that Brazils strong institutions, including its aggressive press and fiercely independent judiciary, would rein in his authoritarian tendencies.
The fight over Bolsonaro echoes the academic debate over so-called populist figures around the world. Some scholars have warned that populists tend to be phenomenally corrupt, perpetuate their hold on power by delegitimizing the opposition, and inflict lasting damage on their countries democratic institutions. Others, including the historian Niall Ferguson, have suggested that populist governments are usually so incompetent that they prove short-lived. Yet others, including the political theorist Chantal Mouffe, have emphasized the positive potential of populism, and insinuated that critics of these movements are simply defenders of the failed status quo.
Right now, the four most populous democracies in the world are ruled by populists: Narendra Modi in India, Donald Trump in the United States, Joko Widodo in Indonesia, and Bolsonaro in Brazil. That makes it rather important to know which scholars are correct: Either democracy is in the midst of an unprecedented global retreat, or were witnessing a salutary course correction in which citizens are finally holding global elites to account for their failures. (Or, if Ferguson is right, nothing much will change.)
Read: What is a populist?
The most obvious way to settle this urgent matter is to look at the impact that populist governments have actually had on democracies in the past. To that end, we constructed a comprehensive database of populist governments. Doing so was an inherently fraught exercise: If you ask three scholars about the nature of populism, you are liable to get five different answers. Besides, populism is not like a light switch that is either on or off; some leaders exhibit certain (but not all) classic characteristics of populism.
Heres how we formed our list: We selected 66 leading peer-reviewed journals in political science, sociology, and regional studies; identified all articles published in these journals on the subject of populism, as well as political leaders linked with populism; then vetted each potential case study, consulting with country and regional experts. Populist governments, in our working definition, are united by two fundamental claims: (1) Elites and outsiders work against the interests of the true people, and (2) since populists are the voice of the true people, nothing should stand in their way.
Ultimately, we identified 46 populist leaders or political parties that have been in power across 33 democratic countries between 1990 and today, giving us the ability to settle the theoretical debate about the tension between populism and democracy in a rigorous, empirical way, on a global scale, for the first time. The results were alarming: Populists are highly skilled at staying in power and pose an acute danger to democratic institutions.
On average, ordinary democratic governments remain in office for a brief span of time: three years. Six years from their first election, four in five non-populist governments have already been booted from power. Populist governments, by contrast, manage to sustain their hold on power for a significantly longer stretch; on average, they hold on for about six and a half years, or more than twice as long as their non-populist rivals.
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Populists arent just more likely to win reelection once or twice; they are also much more likely to remain in power for well over a decade. Six years after they are first elected, populist leaders are twice as likely as non-populist leaders to still be in power; twelve years after they are first elected, they are more than five times as likely.
Arguably, these findings are not, in themselves, all that concerning: The longer survival rate for populists may simply reflect their efficiency or popularity. But among populist leaders who entered office between 1990 and 2015, only a small minority left office as a result of the normal democratic process.
In fact, only 17 percent of populists stepped down after they lost free and fair elections. Another 17 percent vacated high office after they reached their term limits. But 23 percent left office under more dramatic circumstancesthey were impeached or forced to resign. Another 30 percent of all populist leaders in our database remain in power to this day. This is partially a function of the recent rise of populism: Thirty-six percent of those populist rulers who still remain in power were elected over the past five years. But even more of them have been in office long enough to raise serious concerns: About half have led their country for at least nine years.
The most important issue, however, is neither how long populists stay in office nor even how they ultimately leave, but what they do with their powerand, in particular, whether their tenure causes what political scientists call democratic backsliding, a significant deterioration in the extent to which the citizens enjoy basic rights.
Here, too, our findings were sobering, to say the least: In many countries, populists rewrote the rules of the game to permanently tilt the electoral playing field in their favor. Indeed, an astounding 50 percent of populists either rewrote or amended their countrys constitution when they gained power, frequently with the aim of eliminating presidential term limits and reducing checks and balances on executive power.
To participate in politics in a meaningful way, a country must have freedom of the press, so that citizens can make informed choices; protect civil liberties, so that citizens are free to voice their preferences and organize around their interests; and maintain political rights, so that most adults have the right to participate in free and fair elections. On all of these counts, populist governments fall short. Controlling for the many ways in which countries that elect populists may be different from countries that do notincluding per capita income, recent economic performance, a countrys history with democratic institutions, and civil conflictwe found that populist rule is associated with a 7 percent decline in freedom of the press, an 8 percent decline in civil liberties, and a 13 percent decline in political rights.
Read: The next populist revolution will be Latino
Overall, 23 percent of populist governments initiate democratic backsliding, defined as at least a one-point drop in a countrys democracy score as defined by the Polity IV project. By comparison, only 6 percent of non-populist governments are responsible for this kind of deterioration. In all, a populist government is four times more likely than a non-populist one to damage democratic institutions. (And it is likely that were under-counting actual cases of democratic erosion because of status-quo bias in organizations that measure the robustness of democracies. Despite ample evidence of the erosion of rule of law and media freedoms in Hungary and Poland, for example, Polity IV had not yet registered democratic backsliding in these countries as of 2017.)
But are all populists equally dangerous? According to thinkers like Mouffe, scholars need to draw a sharp distinction between left-wing and right-wing populists. While right-wing populists victimize unpopular minorities and weaponize public anger for illicit goals, left-wing populists are supposedly far more likely to correct elite failures on behalf of the poor and downtrodden. The best response to right-wing populists, according to this camp, is not a preference for parties and candidates that respect long-standing democratic rules and normsbut rather the election of left-wing populists.
The data do not bear out this argument. Since 1990, 13 right-wing populist governments have been elected; of these, five brought about significant democratic backsliding. Over the same time period, 15 left-wing populist governments were elected; of these, the same number, five, brought about significant democratic backsliding. This suggests that left-wing populists are not likely to be a cure for right-wing populism; they are, on the contrary, likely to accelerate the speed with which democracy burns out.
In any case, traditional ideological measures may not do a particularly good job of capturing the nature of these movements. Also since 1990, 17 populist governments have come to power that cannot be easily classified as either left- or right-wing. Once again, five of these governments initiated democratic backsliding, suggesting that ideological hue is less important a predictor of the damage a government is likely to inflict on democratic institutions than the extent to which it is populist.
Populists often get elected on a promise to root out corruption. In Brazil, Bolsonaro soared in popularity by riding public anger against the Carwash scandal, a giant scheme of kickbacks from construction contracts that implicated much of the countrys political class, including the ex-president Luiz Incio da Silva. In Italy, the populist Northern League has long railed against corrupt politicians in thieving Rome. In the United States, President Trump famously vowed to drain the swamp.
Read: How Democrats killed their populist soul
But far from draining the swamp, most populists have, as the economist Barry Eichengreen put it, simply replaced the mainstreams alligators with even more deadly ones of their own. In fact, we found that 40 percent of populist heads of government are ultimately indicted for corruption. Since many populists amass sufficient power to hamper independent investigations into their conduct, it is likely that this figure actually underestimates the full extent of their malfeasance.
This suspicion is corroborated by a second piece of information: Our data show that populist governments have led their countries to drop by an average of five places on Transparency Internationals Corruption Perceptions Index. Some cases are far more extreme than that: Venezuela, for example, dropped by an astounding 83 places under the leadership of Hugo Chvez.
Since populists often thrive on anger about all-too-real shortcomingselites who really are too remote, political systems that really are shockingly corruptit is tempting to hope that they can help rejuvenate imperfect democracies around the world. Alas, the best evidence available suggests that, so far at least, they have done the opposite. On average, populist governments have deepened corruption, eroded individual rights, and inflicted serious damage on democratic institutions.
But it is also crucial to note what our results do not show. First, as advertisements for financial products so often put it, past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results. It is possible that changing circumstances, like the ideological evolution of populist movements or the growing influence of social media, make it either more or less likely that populist governments will undermine democratic institutions in the future.
Second, it is as yet unclear how easily the experience of past populist governments, which have mostly been concentrated in middle-income countries with some recent experience of authoritarian rule, will translate to rich countries with long democratic traditions. Thanks to the strength of its civil society and the widespread commitment to constitutional order, the United States, for example, may prove better able to withstand a populist president.
Finally, averages say little about individual cases. Citizens of countries that are governed by authoritarian populists should certainly be concerned that similar governments have eroded checks and balances in a large number of cases. But that is a reason to fight rather than a reason to grow fatalistic.
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Posted: at 9:12 pm
President Joe Biden slammed the Republican Party and former President Donald Trumps phony populism during a press conference Monday, but declared he still believes the situation will pass.
The Republican Party is vastly diminished in numbers, Biden told reporters. The leadership of the Republican Party is fractured, and the Trump wing of the party is the bulk of the party but it makes up a significant minority of the American people.
Biden noted that other leaders attending the NATO and G-7 summit have seen things happen that shocked them and surprised them but agreed with his view of believing the American people are not going to sustain that kind of behavior.
This comment appeared to be a reference to the Jan. 6 riot mentioned just prior by a reporter, where Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (RELATED:Biden Takes Swipe At Two Democratic Senators For Voting More With My Republican Friends During Speech)
Biden expressed shock and surprise at events that have occurred because of Trumps phony populism. He called out some Senate Republicans, though not by name, for being reluctant to take on a Jan. 6 investigation, saying its because theyre worried about being primaried.
But at the end of the day we been through periods like this in American history before, Biden added, going back to his overall theme that things will come together. Where there has been this reluctance to take a chance on your reelection because of the nature of your partys politics at the moment.
I think this is passing. I dont mean easily passing, he continued. Thats why its so important that I succeed in my agenda. The agenda, whethers its dealing with the vaccine, the economy, infrastructure. Its important that we demonstrate we can make progress and continue to make progress.
Despite Bidens harsh words for what he called a large wing of the allegedly diminishing Republican party, the president ended by reiterating his believe that things will change.
I think youre gonna see that theres a that God-willing, were gonna be making progress and theres gonna be a coalescing of a lot of Republicans, particularly younger Republicans, who are coming up in the party, he said.
Biden has pressed for unity throughout his presidency. Hes also been pushing for bipartisan solutions, although there are lines in the sand from both his administration and Republicans that may prove too difficult to overcome.
Most recently, Biden has been speaking with Republicans in an attempt to come to a bipartisan agreement on an infrastructure plans. The talks have so far proven futile and the president began looking to a new bipartisan group to negate with just before leaving for his first foreign trip since taking office.