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Will democracy save the Democrats?

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Politics is not a Hemingway novel, but there is no doubt that Democrats are suddenly wondering: for whom are the bells tolling this midterm election year?  And has the earth moved?

A month ago, there was no doubt that this November would look like virtually every other midterm election:  the party that holds the White House, the President’s party, loses seats in Congress in the midterm elections. 

Given that Democrats hold the House by only four seats, and the Senate is tied 50:50 between the two parties, the expectation – until right now – was that the Republicans were a slam dunk to take control both houses of Congress.

In the past 100 years of midterm elections, only twice has the president’s party gained seats in both the House and Senate. 

The first time was in 1934, when FDR started delivering on his overwhelmingly popular New Deal. 

The second time was in 2002, when the country was united behind President George W. Bush in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.  (Prime Minister John Howard also won re-election that year in part on his stance with the US on 9/11).

The Republicans believed they had this year nailed.  Inflation exploding, gasoline prices through the roof, interest rates rising sharply with more pain ahead, crime out of control in the inner cities, the southern border out of control with immigrants pouring into the country, a Democratic party suffused with wokeness on cultural issues from what is taught in schools to transgender rights to a party dominated by radical activists and socialists. 

The Republicans were in no doubt that the Democrats, led by their branding Biden as a weak, ineffective and too-old president, meant that November would be breeze.

The winds of change were also being fed by a powerful sense that the country is deeply troubled.  Nearly 70% of Americas believe the country is headed in the wrong direction. Two thirds view the economy negatively.  More than half of voters have an unfavourable view of Biden.  

Signs of America’s quality of life in decline abound

US life expectancy has fallen because of the Covid pandemic – the sharpest fall in 100 years. Today, it is 76 years – down from 79 years in 2019.  Reading and math scores for 9-year-olds dropped sharply. The drinking water system in Jackson Mississippi has collapsed.

Trump spent the first seven months of the year backing his hand-picked acolytes for the House and Senate and also for offices responsible for counting and certifying the votes in the states that denied him victory in 2020:  Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin.  Trump is counting on their winning and “fixing” the system to ensure that he will be declared the victor in those states in 2024 – regardless of whether he actually wins a majority of votes or not.

Then the earth moved.

At the end of June, the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right of women to access abortion services. As of today, one in three American women have lost the ability to legally have an abortion, and more restrictions are coming. The Supreme Court’s ruling is exceptionally unpopular.  60% of Americans believe abortion should be legal without undue restrictions. And voters know which political party is responsible for this.

In just one month, the abortion issue exploded.  Kansas – which has not voted for a Democrat for president in nearly 60 years – voted overwhelmingly to keep abortion rights in their state constitution.  In upstate New York, a Democrat, campaigning on this issue, came from behind to beat the Republican.  In Senate races, Trump anti-abortion extremists in several states are trailing.

In July, President Biden suddenly started winning in Congress.  The biggest clean energy program ever enacted.  The biggest health care package since Obamacare.  The most significant investment in computer chips and allied technologies – ever. A bipartisan gun safety law.  Better health care for veterans. 

In August, the FBI raided Trump’s home at Mar-A-Lago to recover thousands of documents, including dozens of classified documents, which belong to the US government and the American people. Trump may be subject to criminal prosecution for not turning over the documents took out of the White House.

By September, the overall trends were clear.  Where political analysts had been expecting a swing to Republicans of 20-30 seats in the House, the projected Republican gain today is just 12 seats.  In the Senate, the growing consensus is a 1-2 seat Democratic gain.

A poll this weekend by the Wall Street Journal reported that voters were most concerned about:

“The economy and inflation first, followed by abortion. But when offered a choice of five issues and asked which made them most likely to vote, they put the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade ahead of inflation.”

WSJ

So the earth has moved.

Biden wants it to move to some more. Last week he invoked the reason he entered the presidential campaign in 2019:  to assert that the extremism fomented by Trump is not what America is, and not what America should ever become.  Biden sees Trump as a direct threat to America’s democracy.

Biden has seen enough, and this is why he addressed the country last week.  

“As I stand here tonight equality and democracy are under assault. We do ourselves no favor to pretend otherwise…

TOPSHOT – US President Joe Biden speaks about the soul of the nation, outside of Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on September 1, 2022. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

“There’s no question that the Republican Party today is dominated, driven and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA [Make America Great Again] Republicans. And that is a threat to this country … blind loyalty to a single leader and a willingness to engage in political violence is fatal to democracy…MAGA Republicans are destroying American democracy.”

BIDEN’S SPEECH ON DEMOCRACY

No president since the Civil War has given such a speech about the country’s future.

Trump exploded in his response at a rally in Pennsylvania over the weekend. Trump thundered that Biden’s speech was,

“The most vicious, hateful, and divisive speech ever delivered by an American president…

TRUMP

“You’re all enemies of the state … It was not just my home that was raided last month. It was the hopes and dreams of every citizen who I’ve been fighting for … There can be no more vivid example of the very real threats from American freedom than just a few weeks ago, you saw, when we witnessed one of the most shocking abuses of power by any administration in American history,”

Biden believes that this urgency of affirming America’s democracy will save the country and his fellow Democrats.  We will know the day after the midterm elections whether this is true. 

If Republicans win back the Senate, Trump backed candidates will be the margin of victory. Trump will be boosted to declare his candidacy for president in 2024.

If the Democrats hold the Senate, it will be because they defeated the extremist Trump candidates.  That would mean that the Trump movement has peaked and is in decline – that if the party sticks with Trump the party loses elections.  

If the Democrats also keep the House – which still must be considered very unlikely – that will be a shocker. 

If both occur, they will constitute a Hemingway event of Richter scale. 

Bruce Wolpe is a Ticker News US political contributor. He’s a Senior Fellow at the US Studies Centre and has worked with Democrats in Congress during President Barack Obama's first term, and on the staff of Prime Minister Julia Gillard. He has also served as the former PM's chief of staff.

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Watered down meetings for Pacific leaders

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Solomon Islands Prime Minster concludes his second overseas trip in a week as strategic competition heightens

It’s hard to believe a time when leaders from the Pacific jumped on board their emissions-spurting jets to meet with the U.S. President.

But last week 12 leaders from across the Pacific gathered in Washington to meet with President Joe Biden in the first U.S.-Pacific Island Country Summit.

“We honoured the history and values that our nations share and expanded our cooperation on key areas that will benefit our people for years to come,” President Biden said.

What was the meeting about?

Leaders from Fiji, Solomon Islands, Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia were among the guests at the summit.

They discussed maritime security, climate change, and economic development.

Of course, climate change is a crucial issue for these Pacific Island states, many of which are low-lying and vulnerable to the impacts of rising temperatures and sea levels.

These countries are already experiencing higher temperatures, shifts in rainfall patterns, and rising sea levels.

There are also long-term climate variables, which are expected to occur in the future.

The U.S. believes the summit was a platform to “reaffirm its commitment to the Pacific region” and “strengthen its relationships”.

But it was only a matter of time before the climate guise was dropped.

“The security of America, quite frankly, and the world depends on your security, and the security of the Pacific Islands.”

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT

Security is the key word here, because President Biden’s definition of this, may differ from the low-lying states of the Pacific.

Why was it important?

One word: China. When Beijing’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi blitzed through 10 Pacific countries earlier in the year, he had a big deal on his mind: a regional security pact.

“China practices the diplomatic principle of equality among all countries,” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

The Pacific sensationally declined to sign up to the sweeping deal, which included greater economic and security ties.

Wang said the Pacific region should not to be “too anxious” about Beijing’s intentions.

“China is not a newcomer, but rather an old friend with Pacific Island countries,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Solomon Islands is the key example here, especially after Prime Minster Manasseh Sogavare’s stance on the Declaration following last week’s U.S.-Pacific Partnership.

Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele said he watered down the initial language because it “put us in a position where we’d have to choose sides”.

He added there were “indirect” references to China, however, officials later found “common ground” and Solomon Islands signed up.

It’s no surprise Sogavare was then seen standing next to President Joe Biden for the official photo at last week’s Washington Summit. Fiji’s leader Frank Bainimarama was also strategically on the other side.

It was the first time in 40 years where a Fijian Prime Minister had an official audience with the U.S. President.

Why is Solomon Islands at the centre of this?

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare met with Australia’s leader Anthony Albanese in Canberra today, where the pair reiterated their relationship as “proud Pacific nations”.

“I look forward to engaging with Prime Minister Sogavare on building a strong and prosperous Pacific region, based on principles of transparency, respect and partnership.”

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA

Australia remains Solomon Islands’ largest development partner. But Sogavare’s state visit largely remained behind closed doors, with no media opportunities scheduled.

Prime Minister Sogavare welcomed Australia’s $16.68 million commitment to support the 2023 Pacific Games, and offer to support the next Solomon Islands’ election—an issue where earlier friction was caused.

Sogavare’s visit was part of Canberra’s plan to reduce friction between the two nation.

Earlier this year, Honiara signed a security alliance with Beijing. It stirred a diplomatic pot over concerns a Chinese military base could be established on the island nation.

Australia’s Prime Minister meets with Solomon Islands Prime Minister.

Australia’s then-Prime Minister Scott Morrison asked for greater transparency over the deal.

But Sogavare lashed out at Australian officials in his nation’s parliament, asking where the same transparency was over the AUKUS alliance between Australia, Britain and the U.S.

“I learnt of the AUKUS treaty in the media. One would expect that as a member of the Pacific family, the Solomon Islands and members of the Pacific should have been consulted to ensure this AUKUS treaty is transparent.”

MANASSEH SOGAVARE, PRIME MINISTER OF THE SOLOMON ISLANDS

The recent Washington summit was the perfect opportunity for President Biden to roll out the red carpet and discuss his administration’s plans for the Indo-Pacific region.

On the other hand, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it “will keep in close communication with all parties” and “make good use of the mechanism of China-Pacific Island Countries Foreign Ministers’ Meeting”.

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How close to a full scale nuclear war are we really?

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Since President Vladimir Putin’s latest warning that he is ready to use nuclear weapons to defend Russia, the question of whether or not the former KGB spy is bluffing has become much more urgent.

There are several reasons why Putin’s nuclear warnings have the West worried. First, Russia has been increasingly aggressive in its actions in recent years, from annexing Crimea to intervening in Syria. This has led to a feeling that Putin is becoming more and more reckless and unpredictable.

Second, Russia has been beefing up its nuclear arsenal, with reports indicating that it now has more nuclear warheads than any other country in the world. This increase in firepower makes Putin’s threats all the more credible.

Last but not least, there is the fact that Putin is a former KGB agent. This means that he is no stranger to playing games of brinkmanship and bluffing. In the past, he has used nuclear threats as a way to get what he wants. For example, in 2008, he threatened to aim nuclear missiles at European cities unless the United States agreed to drop plans for a missile defense system in Eastern Europe.

The West is worried

Given all of this, it’s no wonder that Putin’s latest nuclear threats have the West worried. Only Putin knows if he is actually bluffing, but given his track record, it’s certainly a possibility.

If a nuclear weapon were used in Ukraine, it would cause a massive humanitarian crisis. Tens of thousands of people would be killed or wounded, and millions more would be displaced. The economic and social damage would be enormous, and Europe would be plunged into chaos.

In addition, the use of nuclear weapons would also have devastating consequences for the rest of the world. The nuclear non-proliferation regime would be dealt a serious blow, and there would be a renewed risk of nuclear war.

The world would become a much more dangerous place.

Nuclear impact

A nuclear explosion in Ukraine would have a regional impact, but it could also have global consequences. The use of nuclear weapons would violate the nuclear non-proliferation regime, and this could lead to other countries acquiring nuclear weapons. In addition, the risk of nuclear war would increase, and this would have a negative impact on the entire world.

The UN has condemned Russia’s threats of nuclear war, and it has called on all parties to refrain from any actions that could lead to the use of nuclear weapons. The UN Secretary-General has said that there can be no military solution to the crisis in Ukraine, and he has urged all sides to return to the negotiating table.

Russia has several allies in its war against Ukraine. These include Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Russia also has the support of China and Iran.

The war in Ukraine has had a significant impact on energy prices.

Due to the conflict, there has been a disruption in the supply of natural gas and oil from Ukraine. This has led to an increase in prices for these commodities.

The West can only threaten Putin further, as they’ve done all year, since President Biden warned that Russia was about to invade Ukraine.

Every step of the way, Putin has done exactly what the West has feared.

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“These are the guys?” Putin’s Dad’s army

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Vladimir Putin’s army is in a bit of a pickle. They’ve been drafting retirees, and telling conscripts to use tampons for bullet wounds.

This isn’t exactly the most impressive fighting force we’ve ever seen. In fact, they look more like dad’s army than anything else.

It’s clear that Putin is desperate to beef up his forces, but it seems like he’s just throwing bodies at the problem instead of actually preparing them for battle.

Pictures from Sevastopol in Crimea show groups of men — many well into their 50s and 60s gripping weapons and wearing uniforms.

Several appear in questionable fighting shape.

This could be a big problem for Russia if they actually get into a serious conflict. We hope for their sake that they never have to find out.

Thousands of Russian men are fleeing the country to avoid conscription. This just goes to show how unpopular Putin’s policies are, even among his own people.

The Kremlin is now trying to catch thousands of Russian men as they try and leave the country. But it’s not going to be easy.

Many of these men are willing to risk everything to avoid being drafted into Putin’s army.

It’s estimated that up to 100,000 Russian soldiers have died in Ukraine since the conflict began.

This is a huge loss of life for Russia, and it’s all thanks to Putin’s reckless policies.

Many of these soldiers were just boys, barely out of their teens. They had their whole lives ahead of them, but they’ll never get to experience it now.

It’s tragic, and it’s all thanks to Putin. He needs to be stopped.

At the same time, a video shared on social media shows a Russian officer telling new recruits what to expect.

“I say right away if you are near the fire, you are f***ed,” she says, before reeling off a list of items they will need to acquire themselves before entering the war zone.

“Take sleeping bags with you, you will sleep where you have to.”

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