Calling all Political Writers. A competition is afoot.

One of my other bloggy places, Tremr, is having a political writing competition that is well worth checking out if you’re into that kind of thing. Link below for those interested.

https://www.tremr.com/the-editor/tremr-political-writing-competition-may-2016

 

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In The Event of a Clinton Nomination, Sanders Must Be Hillary’s VP

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This post originally appeared on Tremr, go there to join the debate.

First things first, the race is not over yet, not by a long shot. The math is increasingly difficult, though not impossible, for Bernie Sanders to win the nomination for the Democratic candidacy come July. Results in Washington, Hawai’i and Alaska over the weekend are a significant resurgence for Sanders, and he could well come back to win it from here, despite Clinton’s strong start.

For the sake of argument, and for this debate, let’s assume it won’t happen. A Clinton win in July represents a potentially disastrous nomination for the Democratic Party, unless she plays a very clever political game from here forward. Ignoring the special place in hell that members of the Republican Party seem keen for her to occupy, she is also one of the least liked and least trusted candidates for the Democratic nomination in years, even among members of her own party.

The best way to claw back some of those elusive favorability ratings is with a perfect choice of VP, and Bernie Sanders may well be that man.

Now, there has been almost unprecedented hostility between the two camps, so perhaps it is an unlikely outcome, but for Clinton it could be a masterstroke. It would certainly be an unexpected, but fascinating move if she did choose to pursue it, and could end up being politically expedient for both sides if managed correctly.

Why Clinton Should Do It.

From her early position of strength, Clinton is facing a difficult run in to the nomination in July. Huge wins for Bernie Sanders in Washington and Alaska mean that her campaign may still be significantly upset, even if Sanders does not quite have time to snatch the nomination from her.

If she does limp over the line, damage control will be the priority item on the agenda. Her candidacy will be tainted by the close run candidacy, and she needs to immediately make concessions to prove that she has listened to the popular voice that has cried out to disown her. Putting Bernie Sanders on her ticket would be the perfect way to do that.

For many Sanders supporters, it is not merely about loving Bernie, but also hating Hillary. If she could get Sanders to endorse her, and even agree to run side by side with her, this would go a long way to repairing some of the damage her battle with Bernie has done to her image. I would imagine it would be difficult for a Sanders supporter to resist if he were to suddenly turn around and claim that, actually, Clinton is not so bad after all.

There has been so much hatred towards Clinton that she needs a win, she needs some of those disenchanted voters who may otherwise vote for Trump, or at least not turn out to vote for her. In short, she needs to capture a portion of the vote whom have been alienated from politics as usual. There are numerous ways to do that, of course, but why wouldn’t you go with the person who has already captured all that energy, in Bernie Sanders?

Received wisdom is that the best Vice Presidential candidate comes from a key swing state, for the excellent reason of practicality. Sanders’ popularity, however, particularly among the youth, could well extrapolate this to an even higher order of magnitude. Why limit yourself to one state when you have a man who may nationally mobilise thousands of voters who would otherwise stay well away from the polls to potentially run alongside you?

Hillary Clinton is the very definition of a pragmatic politician, somewhat too much of one for many people’s tastes, but it would be foolish to pass up such an easy way to gain a few thousand votes, and is the sort of opportunity you would expect her to take in a heartbeat.

Beyond the obvious benefits to voter turnout, there’s also that old chestnut of keeping your friends close, but your enemies closer. Clinton has very publicly battled with Senator Sanders in this primary season, and the two camps are not very fond of each other, to say the least. A VP nomination may be just enough to neutralize the threat posed by Sanders to her chance at a stable first four years in office.

To illustrate this point, let’s play a game. Two questions. First, name anything a Vice President has achieved that the President didn’t want to achieve while in office. Second, name any two Vice Presidents from before Al Gore. Not as easy a game as we would like to think, is it? Bernie as VP, then, could be an ideal outcome for Clinton; get Bernie’s voters and then put him in a corner office for four years and let him shout his ideas to nobody in particular, leaving her to get on with her dream job.

This was Jimmy Carter’s VP – any ideas? (Via Wikipedia)

Why It Could Be Good For Sanders.

Of course, there’s always the chance that Sanders would not accept any invitation to run as Secretary Clinton’s VP , and there are a number of good reasons why he wouldn’t, principally the futility of the arrangement described above.

However, if he knows that going in, and prepares for it, then he can make demands before the campaign even starts, and with those guarantees be a much more effective VP, further forwarding the progressive agenda.

The main goal for Sanders would be to keep that agenda visible. Clinton is very much a flavor of the month politician, and with Sanders at her side, the economic inequality that forms the basis of his campaign and his support would burn much brighter and much longer than it might otherwise do. It is the perfect way to influence proceedings and make sure his campaign does not become a mere footnote to history.

There’s also the change that a Sanders vice-presidency might bring to the Democratic Party. If you succeeded at the second part of my challenge earlier, either you have an encyclopaedic knowledge of obscure politicos or, more likely, you picked a VP who ultimately went on to be President- a reasonably common outcome. Now, Bernie is probably too old for this outcome, especially if Clinton ended up as POTUS for a full eight years, but what it may do is open the door for someone in Sanders’ mold to run for president in 2024, and have a serious shot at winning.

This has to be Sanders’ aim. He has always been one to put the final goal, the ‘revolution’, before himself, and if he truly believes what he advocates is best for the country, then keeping it in the public eye at the expense of personal glory will be one of the major factors on his mind.

A cozy position as Clinton’s VP may well be the best way to do that.

What about the other candidates?

There are a number of other candidates for Vice President being bandied about, from Elizabeth Warren to Tom Perez to Julián Castro, and there are convincing arguments for all of them which I am sure my opponent in this debate will explore more thoroughly.

Frankly though, as much as Sanders’ supporters would have you believe that his election success is down to a love for progressive politics and a hatred of the establishment, the fact is that most of the enthusiasm is around the man himself- it’s basically a cult at this point. Warren makes sense in terms of her policies, as do a number of younger, minority candidates but, frankly, is it worth the risk?

This has been the most unpredictable election season in living memory, and it makes sense for all parties for Sanders and Clinton to be on the same ticket. With it, they have a good chance of beating Trump, without it, in a Trump/Clinton run-off, who knows?

Mrs Clinton must go with the candidate who has captured America’s imagination and desire for a hopeful message, something she herself has failed to achieve. And so, I say once more, if Hillary Clinton does win the Democratic nomination, her first choice of running mate simply must be Bernie Sanders.

Tackling ISIS: Where Do We Go From Here?

François_Hollande_-_Janvier_2012The IS attack on France has sent shockwaves around the world. The appetite for decisive action against ISIS is at a record high, and yet there is no clear consensus on what should be done. Here’s your chance to have your say on the key issues. Click on the link below to join the debate

Source: Tackling ISIS: Where Do We Go From Here?

The View from Brazil: The Reaction to the Petrobras scandal.

The Background

The last month has been an interesting one for Brazil and its economy, if by interesting we may also imply the institutionalised corruption that has lasted decades which has recently been revealed in the country. For those who are unfamiliar with the situation, Petrobras, the state-owned former jewel of the emerging Brazilian economy, has been embroiled in a ‘kickback for contracts’ scandal after a former manager of the company, Pedro Barusco, told the country’s congress of the ‘institutionalised corruption’ that had been taking place. In fact, the scandal has become so bad that it has now expanded to implicate as many as 57 politicians. 

Now, this has all been fairly widely reported in the past few days, but there was something that struck me about the coverage. The fact is, probably largely for logistical reasons, rarely do we get an accurate picture of public opinion in the country where these momentous events take place, so I am here to change that. I would like to offer a brief breakdown of what Brazilian journalists have been saying of the events, rather than making sweeping claims on what the Brazilian populace feels about its politicians’ corruption, so if you would like to come on that journey with me, then read on, dear reader, read on.

Political Reaction

The first thing to say is that, whilst there has been some support for Dilma Rousseff herself, the general reaction has unsurprisingly been overwhelmingly negative. Ms Rousseff, the current President of the country, headed Petrobras for seven years and, while her name has not been directly linked to the scandal, there have been many questioning her leadership credentials, given that she has overseen both of the major parties involved in the corruption.

Journalists have at times been savage in their criticism of both Ms Rousseff and her government. José Neumanne, writing for the Estadão newspaper, lambasted her for her weak speech following the breaking of the news, saying ‘to ask for patience from a public that has only heard self-indulgent lies from her cannot fail to sound foolish, useless, arrogant and alienated’.

Strong language indeed, but he was not even the most vocal of her critics, the title of which goes to fellow Estadão writer Fernão Lara Mesquita who categorises Ms Rousseff as a farcical, incompetent, ‘supreme-leader’ type with delusions of grandeur. But he does not stop at criticism of Rousseff, going on to lament the whole political system in the country, saying that ‘those who play the political game must always be reminded who is in charge of whom – “Of the people for the people and by the people”‘.

Perhaps most significantly of all he questions the actual democratic nature of his country by claiming that you cannot call Brazil a democracy ‘without putting quotation marks around it’. Mesquita’s  opinion and tone have been echoed by many, and a number of people have called for the impeachment of Ms Rousseff less than 12 months after she won the presidency once more, with mass protests planned for this weekend.

Economic Impact

It is fair to say then, that politically this is one of the worst scandals to have hit South America in decades, but we must also not underestimate the economic impact of these events. It has been a widely held view that Brazil’s economy, which had appeared to be one of the rising stars in the world theatre, has stalled in recent years, and many commenters have linked this to the mistrust caused by the poor management of the state-owned oil company.

Fernanda Guimarães wrote soon after the news broke that ‘the poor governance of Petrobras was responsible for the exit of investors in all of Brazil’s economy’, while Míriam Leitão wrote in O Globo that the Petrobras situation was a tumour, and that ‘the economy is paralysed while Petrobras completes the surgery that it is having to go through’, which has implications for Brazilian business at every level.

Conclusion

Commenters then, have not held back their disgust at the way the news has affected their country, with wide-ranging economic and political criticism emerging as the scandal widens. It will undoubtedly have a huge effect on Brazil for many years to come. It remains to be seen how this will affect Dilma Rousseff’s presidency, or even if she will manage to hold on to her recently re-acquired power as more and more bad news emerges from the woodwork. What is certain, however, is that the words of Míriam Leitão offer the most poignancy here. Yes, it is a horrific abuse of power by those involved, and they should be summarily and swiftly dealt with, but the important thing for Brazil is to get its economy back up and running. To do this it is vital to find where Petrobras went wrong, fix the problem and make sure it never happens again. Easier said than done, of course, but we can only live in hope that this will be a learning experience, and that this will remain the biggest corruption scandal in South America for many, many years to come.

N.B. All Brazilian opinions were originally written in Portuguese, and the translations are my own. This post originally appeared on http://www.tremr.com