Here’s why a trade agreement embracing NZ won’t be too high on Biden’s policy agenda

Republicans and Democrats across the US are beginning to slice and dice the November 3 election results which showed President Donald Trump and the GOP did much better than anyone – pollsters, analysts and the media – ever expected.

Staggering sums have been spent. The Centre for Responsive Politics calculates both parties spent $US14 billion in all.

This disproved the conventional wisdom that money buys votes. Think of Michael Bloomberg. The former New York mayor and one-time presidential candidate spent more than $US1 billion of his personal fortune estimated at $US55 billion for little.

The $US66.9 billion spent by the Democrats failed to win control of the Senate as expected while they lost ground in the House. In the current Congress, the Democrats hold 232 seats and the Republicans 197. In the next House which takes office on January 3, the Democrats will have only 222 seats and the Republicans 208.

Make up of the new Senate won’t be concluded until the January 5 run-off in Georgia, where the two GOP incumbents failed to make the cut on November 3. Both parties are pouring millions into the race, which the Republicans are expected to hold.  This will give them 52 seats to 48. A loss would give the Democrats control because with the 50-50 balance, the Vice President (due to be Kamala Harris) will have a casting vote. Continue reading “Here’s why a trade agreement embracing NZ won’t be too high on Biden’s policy agenda”

Almost there – but whoever wins in the US, the politicians must make it easy for the people to cast votes

With 72.2 million votes, Joe Biden has already won more votes than any presidential candidate ever.  He overtook Barack Obama’s 66.4 million while Donald Trump scored 68.5 million.

This has been a high-scoring election. Republicans now describe themselves as the party of the working class but exit polls suggest Trump won support among voters with family incomes higher than $100,000, whereas Biden won among those who earn less.

As The New York Times reported, Republicans neutered the Voting Rights Act, purged voter rolls, shuttered polling places and kneecapped the Postal Service, preventing the timely return of hundreds of thousands of ballots. There is no way to know how many people might have voted if their government had sought to help rather than to impede them.

Republicans also sought to undermine public confidence in the integrity of the election by concocting fantasies about widespread voter fraud. And in Pennsylvania, Republicans prevented the counting of early votes before Election Day, ensuring there would be plenty of time for corrosive rhetoric and legal challenges. Continue reading “Almost there – but whoever wins in the US, the politicians must make it easy for the people to cast votes”

There’s one certainty after votes are tallied in a close presidential election: the US will remain sharply divided

Joe Biden was continuing  to inch ahead in the race for the White House at the time this item was posted, but a clear result is not expected for two days. Most recent counting has Biden with 248 Electoral College votes to Donald Trump’s 214. 

The Democrats’ “blue wall” failed to materialise, as had been predicted in the expectation that early voting would favour them in all races.   

The results so far have left the Democrats devastated and already recriminations have begun. Was Biden’s campaign too laid back and socially-distanced? Did the prospect he would serve only one term matter, because who would follow him?   Was he really too old and tired-looking compared with Trump’s manifest energy in the closing stages of the campaign?

Did Trump’s taunts that “Sleepy Joe” had had 47 years in Washington DC and “hadn’t really achieved anything” resonate strongly in the rural and old industrial states in the mid-west and south? Was his manifesto too dense and detailed, especially on labour relations (which we have already reviewed) and provide the Republicans with too much ammunition? Continue reading “There’s one certainty after votes are tallied in a close presidential election: the US will remain sharply divided”

The logic of a Trump win

With the opinion polls showing a healthy lead for Democratic candidate Joe Biden, and the betting markets now putting him odds on, how might Donald Trump pull off a win in the US presidential contest on 3 November.

Well, Hillary also had a comfortable lead this time in 2016.  Biden’s lead is also narrower in the crucial battleground states.  

This time Trump is the incumbent.  Historically, Americans usually grant a second term, except in unusual circumstances.  But Covid does seem pretty unusual.

Continue reading “The logic of a Trump win”

What sort of coalition do America’s voters want?

The future of America’s Republican party looks more interesting and probably also more healthy, if one can judge by the interchange between Ben Sasse, the scholarly Senator for Nebraska, and his more demotic President, Donald Trump.

“No president — whether named Obama or Trump or Biden or AOC — has unilateral power to rewrite immigration law or to cut taxes or to raise taxes. This is because America doesn’t have kings”, 

wrote Sasse before adding a quick civics jab: 

“Under our constitution we’re supposed to have public servants.”

It’s a reminder that political parties are coalitions – often uneasy ones.  

Continue reading “What sort of coalition do America’s voters want?”

Kushner muses on whether US elections can be delayed – but the Constitution spells out the electoral realities

Whether President Trump can delay the November elections is a question that has been floated by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, now dubbed “deputy president” by the Washington Post, in an interview with Time magazine.

Polling day might be delayed but there are constitutional and legal reasons why a President can’t delay a federal election or extend the term of office.

The 20th Amendment to the Constitution says the terms of the President and Vice President “shall end at noon on the 20th day of January.”  There is nothing to allow a president to remain in office beyond January 20 or to invoke some emergency power to extend a term of office.

If no president is chosen by January 20, the Constitution enables Congress to determine who acts as president.

The Presidential Succession Act lays out the pecking order.  The next person after the vice president is the Speaker of the House, currently Democrat Nancy Pelosi, then the president of the Senate, Senator Mitch McConnell, a Republican, and then the Secretary of State, at present Mike Pompeo. Continue reading “Kushner muses on whether US elections can be delayed – but the Constitution spells out the electoral realities”