Monday, October 11, 2021

Best Article On Current US Politics

The following is an article by Gerard Araud, the former Ambassador of France to the US (2014-19). It was published in Le Point yesterday. 

It is by very far the most precise and cogent description of current US politics that I have seen. While the author does not offer any conclusions, I think we can all form our own quite easily.


The Misfortunes Of Joe Biden

Americans are proud of their institutions.  They see in their Constitution, which has been in force since 1787, a perfect balance between the federal government and the 50 states that make it up, as well as between individual rights and the laws of the state.  Maintaining this balance presupposes the cooperation of the legislative and executive branches of government.  Thus, the White House needs Congress to act, but within Congress itself they have introduced procedures so that the majority cannot impose its will on the minority.

American political life presupposes consensus and agreement, either between the President and the elected representatives, or between Republicans and Democrats.  Until recently, the system worked well as the two parties each covered a very wide range of views and always had members willing to compromise with the other side.  A Democratic president could therefore work with a Republican Congress and vice versa.

This is no longer the case. The Republican Party has become radicalized under the pressure of its base.  A new generation of party leaders is absorbing the moderate candidates in favor of the "hardliners" who refuse to cooperate with the hated Democrats.  The conservative Democrats of the South and the moderate Republicans of the Northeast states who bridged the differences between the two parties have disappeared.  Now the electoral map consists of fiefs of one or the other party without possibilities of cooperation.  Out of the 435 constituencies for Congress only 78 are politically ambiguous.  Essentially, two countries are now facing each other with increasingly rare intermediaries.

Barack Obama was the first to face this new reality when he lost the majority in Congress in 2010 and, despite his moderation, faced an uncompromising opposition determined to paralyze his actions.  Trump's election led to another radicalization, that of the Democrats, who never stopped questioning his legitimacy, while for his part, Trump made sure to add fuel to the fire of his camp's passions.  Biden, the personification of moderation, has therefore inherited a divisive country where it is becoming increasingly difficult to operate institutions designed for collaboration and consensus.  The more time passes, the more it seems that his constant calls for reconciliation fall into the void.  The House of Representatives Republicans, the majority of whom have not recognized his victory, and the Senate Republicans, who are afraid of suffering Trump's wrath, offer him no relief.  As if that were not enough, now the biggest difficulties come from within his own camp.

The Democratic Party is divided between moderates and progressives.  The latter did not like at all the compromise that Biden negotiated with a few Republicans for an infrastructure plan which they find inadequate.  So they refuse to vote for it unless at least social measures are added on a scale that the two more moderate Democratic senators refuse to accept.  The impasse in the President's own camp seems insurmountable.  In the Senate, the Left sometimes joins Republicans to block people considered too moderate from assuming positions in the administration

Democrats are also divided at their base.  Woke ideology triumphs in universities but also often in local party delegations.  Many Democrat voters believe that the party is in the process of "suicide", and white suburbanites will hardly vote for Democrats again while they present this picture.

All of this paints a picture of despair for Joe Biden who is collapsing in the polls.  Public opinion has not appreciated either the devastation in Afghanistan or the impasses that have been created in Congress and the Senate.  Nothing is lost yet, but he will need all of the negotiation skills he possesses in order to make it through Scylla and Charybdis.  On the one hand, the fanatical Republicans loyal to Trump and on the other, the hysterical leftists of the Democratic Party.

  Gerard Araud

  Former Ambassador of France to USA (2014-2019)

  Le Point, Oct. 10, 2021


  1. Hmm...

    My feeling on this is that the Dems have many people in the mold of Araud; and these people are the problem. Not because of anything specific that they do or say but because of who they are. Let me explain.

    The Republican appeal is to power; might is right. Therefore billionaires are good, nationalism is right, racism is forgivable or even good. Their goal is to use and acquire more power. From this perspective, Republicans do not need to make sense or have any logical consistent policy. In fact, the ability to make illogical things true is a fundamental demonstration of power (see 1984). Trump may be inconsistent on many things but he is spiritually consistent with the republicans.

    The Democratic appeal is to reason and solidarity. The call is for sacrifice for a greater good and a disdain for power. Therefore, when the democrats have leaders that treat politics as a career, they lose. When the democrats try to analyze the political process like Araud, they lose. For their fundamental strength comes from the call to sacrifice. The disdain of power however strong.

    When the democrats compare themselves to the republicans, they make a false comparison. It is like a priest comparing himself to a money lender. The very act of making the comparison proclaims that the priest is false. How can the multi-millionaire democratic leadership call on its people to sacrifice? They cannot. Even worse, they feel like traitors that take the place of true leaders. A person may forgive his enemy; but never a traitor.

    I don't think the Americans think this; but I think they feel it. Therefore, even the hardcore democrats (or especially the hardcore democrats) vote Trump. Who knows, in a decade we may be speaking of the United States of Trump. =)

  2. Ever since Bush II US politics have changed radically. Like Mr. Araud says, politics in the US used to be an exercise in consent, in finding a common ground in order to govern the country effectively. No longer; especially since Trump the country has shifted to "ideology" as a political yardstick, something that is very familiar and common in Europe. One could even say that this is almost the first time that America is becoming "political", in the full sense of the word.

    To make this point clearer, Europeans would always maintain that it did not really matter which party governed in the US, it was all one and the same.

    Is the US capable of operating despite deep ideological chasms? I am certain it cannot, not yet anyway. Unlike, say, Germany it cannot form coalition governments, their credo and their nature have become 100% "winner take all". Even though their political system is BY DESIGN dependent on consent.

    It is now like asking a team oriented basketball player to become a champion tennis player. It can't be done, not quickly.

    1. Let me try to rephrase my words from this perspective.

      America was always an ideological nation: the sanctity of life; the importance of the constitution; the rule of law. The ideologies were widely shared and bound the nation together.

      However, the ideologies were destroyed by the career politicians who won elections through messaging rather than having a message. It became utterly obvious in Bush's Iraq war and in Obama's bank bail outs.... but there were many others (say Snowden) Ideologies die when they are not enforced and Trump rushed into the vacuum to provide the simplest of ideologies.

      Trump's ideology is that it is all about power and only about power. Encapsulated in the slogan: Make America Great.

      The democrats (fools that they are) unthinkingly bought his ideology and tried to play the game as one of power politics.... But if power is the ideology, people will go with Trump rather than Biden... So the democrats sit around asking themselves what to do and talk about messaging this and that.

      The answer is really simple. Return to the old American ideologies and go after the systemic corporate and political corruption. Start with their own house and impeach Biden, the Hunter nonsense is more than enough. I guarantee you the Democrats will control house, senate and presidency for the next decade.

    2. The country was always ideological and patriotic overall - maybe still is, too. What I meant was the there was no real ideological difference between Republicans and Democrats as there is, say, between the CDU and the SDP in Germany, or the Conservatives and Labour in the UK.

      But now... they are at polar opposites in EVERYTHING. From economics all the way to abortion and voting rights.

    3. hmmm... Good point. I agree with you; most of American's real ideologies are intact. In fact, thinking about it, I would say there is only one, real ideological divide in America. That is rule-of-law vs rule-of-power. And the divide is not what it seems.

      I dun believe that dems / reps are that opposed on everything... I feel that most of these "ideological battles" are just political positions staked out for theater. In fact, in terms of real ideology, both party leaderships are still the same. They both believe in rule-of-power.

      The problem for the democratic party is thus two fold. 1) Their base believes in rule-of-law; 2) the Republicans are have already captured rule-of-power ideology. This leaves the Dems with no platform and no base... Instead, they try to take the opposite point of the Republicans on everything, creating the mess that we see. They ran the entire last election on the platform that Biden is not Trump... ok, it worked then; but you can't build a political movement that way.

      The Dems really need to go with the rule-of-law ideology and start ignoring what the republicans do. If they clean up their party, they have the moral high ground to go after the republicans later.

  3. People on the side of the working class are "hysterical leftists"? LOL. Neoliberal corporatist hacks are called "moderates", LOL x2!

  4. Jenn Rubin does a good job of taking down the "progressives vs. moderates" trope.


    2. maybe someone could hint to the moderates that they should join the Republican party instead... =)

      but to be fair the progressives are in trouble too, their platform is too focused on grievance and getting someone else to pay for stuff. The strength of the Democratic party comes through when it emphasizes that WE (i am borrowing Hell's notation) are in it together.

      The Chinese used to have a very nice slogan. Those with strength will contribute their labor; those with wealth will contribute their money. Neither one is more important than the other; this is a house we build together.

    3. Thank you JTD for the article. Indeed, it is those two Senators who are creating most of the fuss on the Dem side.

      But that's not the wider issue, which is where's the money going to come from?

      The US is in debt up to the eyeballs and most spending cannot easily be reduced since it involves Social Security, Medicare, etc. Borrow even more? That's hardy the answer, so it must come from increased revenue. Yes, tax the ultra rich and FINALLY create a sort of minimum corporate tax. But those two are not nearly enough.

      The US needs to make some HARD choices - "taxing the rich and the corporations" is an easy one, popular with all voters. BUT they won't raise more than $200-300 billion more annually, at most.

      FY2022 projects a deficit of $1.84 trillion INCLUDING higher tax revenue projections... we need much more revenue, therefore.

      1. Federal VAT on every transaction
      2. Fuel tax on a par with Europe
      3. Cut defense spending 25-50%

      It's not about progressive and moderate labels... it's about money.

    4. Easy solutions; print money....

      The stock market won't crash; you get re-elected; and if inflation happens, you can always print more. =)