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Muslims worldwide protest French President Macron’s Islam crackdown - Vox.com
French President Macron has cracked down on Islam in France since a grisly murder. Muslims worldwide are protesting.
Thousands of Muslims from the Middle East to Asia are protesting the French government and boycotting French products after President Emmanuel Macron defended the right to display cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed considered a major taboo by many Muslims. From Saudi Arabia to Bangladesh, Iran to Morocco, countries are showing their displeasure at how France is treating its Muslims. It threatens to drive a wider rift between the Western European nation and much of the broader Muslim world. Earlier this month, secondary school teacher Samuel Paty brought scrutiny when, as part of a lesson on freedom of expression, he showed his students two caricatures of Muhammad published by the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo the same images that in 2015 inspired jihadists to kill 11 staff members at the magazine and six others in Paris. Parents and teachers at the school said Paty gave his Muslim pupils the opportunity to leave the classroom or look away so as not to offend them, but an outcry ensued nonetheless. On October 16, an attacker beheaded Paty with a butcher knife as the teacher made his way home. Police found a Twitter account suspected of belonging to the assailant that featured a picture of the severed head along with a message: I have executed one of the dogs from hell who dared to put Muhammad down. In response, Macrons government has turned Paty into a freedom-of-expression hero. At a national memorial for the slain teacher last week, Macron said France will continue the fight for freedom and intensify efforts to end Islamist extremism in the country. Part of that campaign is to create an Islam of France, as the president has put it for years, that aims to seamlessly integrate Muslims into French society. Macron says extremists are impeding that integration, and his government has begun carrying out raids, deportations, and ordering the dissolution of certain Islamic groups. One of them aimed to fight Islamophobia in France and another was a humanitarian organization that does work in Africa and South Asia. Authorities also didnt stop images of the cartoons from being projected onto French government buildings during the national remembrance. Frances interior minister, Gérard Darmanin, told local paper Libération on Monday that such measures were aimed at sending a message, adding, We are seeking to fight an ideology, not a religion. Yet to thousands of Muslims worldwide, fighting a religion is exactly what it seems like the French government is doing. And theyre speaking out against it. From boycotted yogurt to canceled French week We will not give in, ever.We respect all differences in a spirit of peace. We do not accept hate speech and defend reasonable debate. We will always be on the side of human dignity and universal values. Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) October 25, 2020 On Tuesday, 40,000 people rallied in Bangladeshs capital, Dhaka, against Macrons efforts, and even burned him in effigy. That followed less aggressive acts in other countries, with Turkey, Tunisia, Kuwait, Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and more calling to boycott French products and grocery stores. In Kuwait, for example, theyve already started pulling items like French yogurt and sparkling water off the shelves. Qatar University even canceled its French week as part of the anti-Macron movement. Its unclear what precisely instigated the protests. H.A. Hellyer, a senior associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London, said it was likely a combination of factors, namely Macrons defense of the cartoons and the crackdown on Islamic organizations. A lot of people are quite aware of that outside of France, and it contradicts the claim that the French authorities are only going after extremists, he said. The global reaction by Muslims is similar to what happened after a far-right Danish newspaper published cartoons titled The Face of Muhammad in 2005. Even though no image directly portrayed the prophet, hundreds of thousands took to the streets in protest. Some demonstrators responded violently, and 250 people were killed and another 800 were injured. But the main action was for the public in Muslim-majority countries Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Libya to boycott Danish goods and companies. The message was clear then as it is now: If a country allows such cartoons to be published, it will take a major economic hit. But that message hasnt been fully received by the target countries, and experts believe the current uprising may eventually fizzle out just like the Danish one. Its going to be a blip, said Shahed Amanullah, a former US State Department official who led outreach to Muslim communities around the world, and the fundamental problems of whats happening in France arent going to be addressed by the outside world. Theres no prominent effort by French Muslims for a boycott at the moment, Amanullah continued, which means when they subside, theyre going to be left holding the bag. But some world leaders actually want the protests to continue mainly because it benefits them politically. This is an opportunity for Muslim leaders to grab power The heads of Muslim-majority countries have stepped up their criticism of France since the Paty murder, and of Macron in particular. Pakistans Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday tweeted the French presidents actions and statements inevitably leads to radicalisation. The next day, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoan went even further, saying in a televised addressed that French products should be boycotted since Muslims in France have been subjected to a lynch campaign similar to that against Jews in Europe before World War II. Hallmark of a leader is he unites human beings, as Mandela did, rather than dividing them. This is a time when Pres Macron could have put healing touch & denied space to extremists rather than creating further polarisation & marginalisation that inevitably leads to radicalisation Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) October 25, 2020 (Other figures, like those leading Iran and the militant group Hezbollah, are also making similar comments to gin up anti-Western sentiment and show themselves to be defenders of Islam.) Why say such things if it might provoke further anger? Perhaps they truly believe it, but experts argue theyre making those comments out of pure self-interest. I dont think theyre instigating, necessarily, but theyre definitely utilizing [the moment] for their own benefit, said Mobashra Tazamal, a researcher on Islamophobia. These leaders often present themselves as defenders of Islam and Muslims and it pays off for them in terms of national support. But, she noted, theyre more talk than action. Both Khan and Erdoan have failed to hold China accountable in its campaign of repression against Uighur Muslims, she said, even as Chinese authorities destroy mosques, criminalize the observance of Ramadan, and force Uighur Muslims in concentration camps to drink alcohol and eat pork. Still, Macron is an easy target, and may be one for months to come. On October 2, two weeks before the Paty murder, Macron delivered an address detailing his views on the role of Islam in Frances secular society. What we must attack is Islamist separatism, he told the nation, saying extremists preyed upon desperate Muslims in desolate neighborhoods, basically creating anti-French enclaves by spreading their radical Islamic ideology and project. He also made some sweeping, incendiary generalizations, such as that Islam is a religion that is in crisis today, all over the world. Such language, experts say, particularly demonizes French Muslims. That not only gives the Khans and Erdoans of the world fodder to attack Macron, but also the space to animate their publics when it most suits them, potentially stirring up even more trouble. They might win, in other words, but Frances Muslims may lose. This will have lasting consequences, I think, in how French Muslims are problematized in France by the elite, RUSIs Hellyer said. Thats troubling. Macrons two reason for continuing the crackdown on French Muslims Experts say Macrons actions are driven by two factors. First, he is trying to garner some right-wing bona fides by taking a tougher stance against Islamic extremism ahead of his reelection fight 18 months from now. Second, hes a true believer in Frances centuries-long values of freedom of speech and secularism. We will not give in, ever, he tweeted on Sunday. We will not give in, ever.We respect all differences in a spirit of peace. We do not accept hate speech and defend reasonable debate. We will always be on the side of human dignity and universal values. Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) October 25, 2020 The problem with that is French Muslims may feel extremely targeted by what Macrons government is doing. After all, Holocaust denial is criminalized, which means some forms of expression are outlawed in France. But when it comes to images of the prophet, Macron says thats fair play. French Muslims are asking for the same respect that France gives French Jews, said Amanullah. They want to feel like theyre equal French citizens, not second-class citizens. Unsurprisingly, little of what Macrons government has done has sat well with Muslims around the world and theyre expressing their frustrations. Help keep Vox free for all Millions turn to Vox each month to understand whats happening in the news, from the coronavirus crisis to a racial reckoning to what is, quite possibly, the most consequential presidential election of our lifetimes. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower you through understanding. But our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources. Even when the economy and the news advertising market recovers, your support will be a critical part of sustaining our resource-intensive work. If you have already contributed, thank you. If you havent, please consider helping everyone make sense of an increasingly chaotic world: Contribute today from as little as $3.
Philadelphia police shooting of Walter Wallace sets off a night of protests at Malcolm X Park - Vox.com
Wallace, a 27-year-old Black man, was fatally shot in front of his mother while reportedly experiencing a mental health crisis.
Philadelphia is reeling after two police officers shot and killed a 27-year-old Black man named Walter Wallace Jr. on Monday afternoon. During the encounter, which was captured on video, both officers had their guns drawn as Wallace, who was reportedly experiencing a mental break, advanced toward the officers with a knife, though the knife is not visible in the video. By Monday night, West Philadelphia, the site of heated Black Lives Matter protests in late May and early June, had become grounds for hours of unrest over the police shooting. Community leaders are calling for the police department to release body camera footage of the incident as others question whether the citys new system for responding to behavioral health crises was put into effect on Monday. Activists with groups like Reclaim Philadelphia have longdemanded the defunding and dismantling of the Philadelphia Police Department, which they say has a police union contract that allows for the surveillance, harassment, displacement, and incarceration of Black and Latinx communities in the city. What we know about the police killing of Walter Wallace Jr. According to a report from the Philadelphia Police Department, officers made their way to the 6100 block of Locust Street in the Cobbs Creek neighborhood of West Philadelphia after receiving a report about a man with a knife. A live video posted to Instagram on Monday afternoon by a bystander sitting close by in a car on the block shows what took place in the moments before officers fired their weapons. Wallace, first standing on the sidewalk, moves toward officers who are standing in the middle of the street. As Wallace advances toward them, the officers walk backward away from Wallace with their guns pointed toward him. Wallace pursues the officers to the other side of the street, in between parked cars and back into the street, for about 25 seconds. During this time, Wallaces mother follows Wallace in an attempt to shield him and stop him from advancing toward the police. Other bystanders scream for both Wallace and the officers to stop. Officers can be heard yelling, Back off, man! and Drop the weapon! Another bystander, a young Black man, follows behind Wallace before officers scream, Move! Move! Move! to him as they prepare to use their weapons. Once Wallace is back in the street, each officer fires several rounds of shots; Wallace falls to the ground immediately. His mother and other bystanders run to his side, visibly angry with the police for shooting him. In the video, Wallace is seen standing several feet away from the officers when they shoot him. Im yelling, Put down the gun, put down the gun, and everyone is saying, Dont shoot him, hes gonna put [the knife] down, we know him, Maurice Holloway, a witness, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. Why didnt they use a Taser? Wallaces father, Walter Wallace Sr., told the publication. His mother was trying to defuse the situation. He added, He has mental issues. Why you have to gun him down? Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, who spoke to the family Monday night, said the video of the incident presents difficult questions that must be answered. The two officers, whose names have not been released, were removed from street duty and the PPDs Officer Involved Shooting Investigation Unit has launched an investigation into the shooting, which Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said will fully address residents questions about the fatal shooting. Both officers were wearing body cameras. Ahead of the unrest, Outlaw said she planned to join Kenney to meet with members of the community and members of Wallaces family to hear their concerns. While at the scene this evening, I heard and felt the anger of the community. Everyone involved will forever be impacted, Outlaw said. The fatal shooting led to a night of unrest across West Philadelphia neighborhoods A large crowd assembled at the scene of the police killing Monday evening, with gatherers alleging excessive use of force on the part of the two officers. Protesters eventually moved to Malcolm X Park, where they chanted Black Lives Matter and Wallaces name. At a nearby police station, protesters were met with police officers who were dressed in riot gear and formed lines with shields and barricades. Hundreds of people also traveled to West Phillys 52nd Street commercial corridor where vandalism and looting ensued, creating a scene that mirrored the unrest that took place in West Philly after the police killing of George Floyd in May. According to police, at least 30 officers were injured in the protests, including from thrown bricks and rocks. One officer, who was run over by a black pickup truck in the early hours on Tuesday, was hospitalized and in stable condition with a broken leg later in the morning. As police attempted to control the crowd, violence broke out. In various videos online, officers could be seen beating protesters with batons. In another video, a Black woman is pinned to the ground as one officer repeatedly punches her in the face, with several officers forming a blockade around the assault. City Council member Jamie Gauthier, who leads the district where Wallace was killed, demanded that the police department immediately release the body camera footage from both officers. The public deserves a full, unvarnished accounting of what took place today, Gauthier said. The killing took place about a week before the presidential election, when Philadelphians will vote on a ballot measure to determine whether the city will restore its police oversight commission. Critics have long argued that the commission, however, would have no real power over the police department, as commission recommendations were historically overlooked and ignored. The body was also underfunded, and investigations into police misconduct took years. Pennsylvania, and Philadelphia, is at the center of the presidential election, with some predicting the state could be the tipping point in determining who wins. Trump has seized on this reality by advocating for poll watchers in Philadelphia, and Donald Trump Jr. sensationalized the situation in the city on Tuesday morning, suggesting that people vote for Trump to avoid more BLM riots in Pennsylvania. For activists, Wallaces death further underscores their calls to push for greater attention to victims of police violence who have mental health conditions, like Daniel Prude, who was fatally shot by police in Rochester, New York, on March 23 while experiencing a mental health crisis. Activists have demanded that resources be redirected from police officers to emergency response systems and experts who are actually equipped to address such situations. At the start of October, Philadelphia announced it had launched a program to flag 911 calls related to people experiencing a behavioral health crisis. It is unclear whether this initiative was in use on Monday. But as local PBS station WHYY points out, the police department has already trained nearly half of its officers in crisis response, and the department hopes to have a behavioral health specialist accompany officers on calls by the end of the year. Had these officers employed de-escalation techniques and non-lethal weapons ... this young man might still have his life tonight. Had these officers valued the life of this Black man had they treated him as a person experiencing mental health issues, instead of a criminal we might be spared our collective outrage, Gauthier said in a statement, adding, In this moment of reckoning and pain for West Philly, we need accountability, we need justice, and we need it now. Help keep Vox free for all Millions turn to Vox each month to understand whats happening in the news, from the coronavirus crisis to a racial reckoning to what is, quite possibly, the most consequential presidential election of our lifetimes. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower you through understanding. But our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources. Even when the economy and the news advertising market recovers, your support will be a critical part of sustaining our resource-intensive work. If you have already contributed, thank you. If you havent, please consider helping everyone make sense of an increasingly chaotic world: Contribute today from as little as $3.
Supreme Court: The radical implications of the new Wisconsin mail-in ballots ruling - Vox.com
The Supreme Court’s new decision on Wisconsin mail-in ballots threatens a century of voting rights law.
The Supreme Court just handed down an order in Democratic National Committee v. Wisconsin State Legislaturedetermining that a lower federal court should not have extended the deadline for Wisconsin voters to cast ballots by mail. The ruling, which was decided by a 5-3 vote along party lines, is not especially surprising. The lower court determined that an extension was necessary to ensure that voters could cast their ballot during a pandemic, but the Court has repeatedly emphasized that federal courts should defer to state officials decisions about how to adapt to the pandemic. Monday nights order in Democratic National Committee is consistent with those prior decisions urging deference. What is surprising, however, is two concurring opinions by Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, each of which takes aim at one of the most foundational principles of American constitutional law: the rule that the Supreme Court of the United States has the final word on questions of federal law but the highest court in each state has the final word on questions of state law. This division of power is implicit in our very system of government. As the Supreme Court has explained, the states and the federal government coexist in a system of dual sovereignty. Both the federal government and the states have an independent power to make their own law, to enforce it, and to decide how their own law shall apply to individual cases. If the Supreme Court of the United States had the power to overrule a state supreme court on a question of state law, this entire system of dual sovereignty would break down. It would mean that all state law would ultimately be subservient to the will of nine federal judges. Nevertheless, in Democratic National Committee, both Gorsuch and Kavanaugh lash out at this very basic rule, that state supreme courts have the final say in how to interpret their states law, suggesting that this rule does not apply to most elections. They also sent a loud signal, just eight days before a presidential election, that long-settled rules governing elections may now be unsettled. Republican election lawyers are undoubtedly salivating, and thinking of new attacks on voting rights that they can launch in the next week. A potentially seismic reinterpretation of American election law As Gorsuch notes in his concurring opinion, which is joined by Kavanaugh, the Constitution provides that the Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof. A separate constitutional provision provides that each State shall appoint members of the Electoral College in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, According to Gorsuch, the key word in these constitutional provisions is Legislature. He claims that the word Legislature must be read in a hyper-literal way. The Constitution provides that state legislatures not federal judges, not state judges, not state governors, not other state officials bear primary responsibility for setting election rules, he writes. The implications of this view are breathtaking. Just last week, the Supreme Court split 4-4 on whether to overturn a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision that also would have allowed some mailed-in ballots that arrive after Election Day to be counted. Both Gorsuch and Kavanaugh were among the dissenters, though because there were no written opinions,neither explained why they would have thrown out the state supreme courts decision. We now know why. Based on Gorsuchs reasoning in Democratic National Committee, its clear that both he and Kavanaugh believe the Supreme Court of the United States may overrule a state supreme court, at least when the federal justices disagree with the state supreme courts approach to election law. That is, simply put, not how the balance of power between federal and state courts works. Its not how it has ever worked. Nor is it correct that the word legislature should be read in the hyper-literal way Gorsuch suggests. For more than a century, the Supreme Court has understood the word legislature, as it is used in the relevant constitutional provisions, to refer to whatever the valid lawmaking process is within that state. As the Court held most recently in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (2015), the word legislature should be read in accordance with the States prescriptions for lawmaking, which may include the referendum and the Governors veto. But Gorsuchs opinion suggests that this longstanding rule may soon be gone (again, as he put it, state legislatures not federal judges, not state judges, not state governors, not other state officials bear primary responsibility for setting election rules). State supreme courts may lose their power to enforce state constitutions that protect voting rights. State governors may lose their power to veto election laws, which would be a truly astonishing development when you consider that every state needs to draw new legislative maps in 2021, and many states have Republican legislatures and Democratic governors. The return of Bush v. Gore Kavanaugh, for what its worth, takes a slightly more moderate approach in his concurring opinion. The Supreme Court of the United States, he writes in a footnote to that opinion, may overrule a state supreme court when the state court defies the clearly expressed intent of the legislature in a case involving state election law. Just how clear must a state courts alleged mistake be? The answer to that is unclear. But it is clear that Kavanaugh rejects the longstanding rule that he and his fellow federal justices must always defer to state supreme courts on questions of state law. That position could also have profound implications. In 2018, for example, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down gerrymandered maps drawn by the GOP-controlled state legislature. Kavanaughs position would allow the Republican-controlled Supreme Court of the United States to overrule such a decision. Kavanaugh also lifts much of his reasoning from a disreputable source. Before today, the Supreme Courts decision in Bush v. Gore (2000), which effectively handed the presidency to George W. Bush, had only been cited once in a Supreme Court opinion and that one citation appeared in a footnote to a dissenting opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas, which was joined by no other justice. But Kavanaugh quotes heavily from Chief Justice William Rehnquists concurring opinion in Bush, which also embraced an excessively literal approach to the word legislature. It appears that Bush v. Gore, arguably the most partisan decision in the Courts history and one that Kavanaugh helped litigate is back in favor with key members of the Court. Its worth noting that the decision in Democratic National Committee was handed down literally as the Senate was voting to confirm incoming Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a staunch conservative who during her confirmation hearings would not commit to recusing herself from cases involving the 2020 election. That means that last weeks decision allowing a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision to stand could be very short-lived. That decision, after all, was 4-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts voting with the Courts three liberals. With Barrett, the Courts right flank may well be getting a fifth vote to toss out the state supreme courts decision and to order an unknown number of ballots tossed out in the process. Its unclear what immediate impact the decision in Democratic National Committee will have on the upcoming election. Last April, about 79,000 ballots arrived late during Wisconsins primary election but were counted anyway due to a lower court decision. The Supreme Courts decision in Democratic National Committee will prevent similarly late ballots from being counted during the 2020 general election. The deadline for Wisconsin mail-in ballots to arrive is 8 pm on Election Day. Though 79,000 ballots could easily swing an election, thats only if it is close (in 2016, Trump won the state by a razor-thin margin of some 22,000 votes). A large enough margin could minimize the impact of the Courts decision, and voters can ensure that their vote is counted by voting early enough. But while this decision may not change the result of the 2020 election, its impact is still likely to be felt for years or even decades assuming that Republicans retain their 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court. American election law has entered a chaotic new world, one where even the most basic rules are seemingly up for grabs. And the Supreme Court just sent a fairly clear signal that it may be about to light one of the most well-established rules on fire. Will you help keep Vox free for all? The United States is in the middle of one of the most consequential presidential elections of our lifetimes. Its essential that all Americans are able to access clear, concise information on what the outcome of the election could mean for their lives, and the lives of their families and communities. That is our mission at Vox. But our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources. Even when the economy and the news advertising market recovers, your support will be a critical part of sustaining our resource-intensive work. If you have already contributed, thank you. If you havent, please consider helping everyone understand this presidential election: Contribute today from as little as $3.
Chile is about to rewrite its constitution to form a more equal society - Vox.com
Chile’s constitution was written by a dictator. After a referendum, the country will rewrite the charter to make a more equal society.
When metro fares in Chiles capital rose last year, few expected the decision would end with the fall of the countrys dictator-era constitution setting the country on a politically treacherous but transformational effort to create a better society. On Sunday, 78 percent of Chileans voted in a plebiscite to replace the current charter written by Gen. Augusto Pinochet, the far-right autocrat who ruled from 1973 to 1990. Starting in April, a 155-member constitutional assembly which must feature an equal number of men and women elected by the public will draft it by early 2022. When theyre finished, the entire population of the South American country must vote to approve or reject the new document. Its a dramatic step, but one thousands of Chileans have demanded for years, and especially in recent months. Last October, large-scale protests broke out over a 4-cent metro-fare hike in the capital, Santiago, which quickly became a symbol of how the nations political elite were out of touch with the needs of everyday Chileans. About a quarter of the countrys wealth goes to just 1 percent of the population, leaving much of the nation drowning in debt. As a result, even a small spike in the cost of public transportation imposed economic hardship on millions. That pain was basically enshrined in Pinochets constitution. His regime made the neoliberal, free market economic model the law of the land, leading to, among other things, the privatization of education, health care, and pensions. Those policies (and then later, democratization) helped the country become one of the most prosperous and stable in the region. But politicians on the left and right failed to address the rampant inequality those same policies also produced. Thats why much of the country began calling for a wholesale change to the constitution: If the nations political leaders wouldnt completely scrap the laws written by a dictator, then the public would take matters into its own hands. This is a huge victory, and the young people who led this made history, said Jennifer Pribble, an expert on Chilean politics at the University of Richmond. The win didnt come without a cost: 36 people were killed and hundreds were wounded, tortured, or sexually assaulted by Chilean police during months of protests. Now the hardest part begins. Creating a whole new constitution is more challenging than ripping one apart, as is getting most of the countrys buy-in for it. Its therefore possible the promise of the moment gives way to the realities of governance and politicking. Promise, though, is better than nothing. This is an opportunity to engage holistically in the kind of political and social agenda that clearly 78 percent of Chileans support, Kristina Mani, chair of Latin American studies at Oberlin College, told me. Chileans voted overwhelmingly to replace their military dictatorship-era constitution in a referendum. About 78% had approved the option of a fresh charter to replace one drafted in 1980 under the right-wing dictator Augusto Pinochet. pic.twitter.com/ErNx2l2e17 DW News (@dwnews) October 26, 2020 The constitution never had democratic legitimacy Pinochets 17-year rule was inordinately brutal. Nearly 40,000 people were wrongfully imprisoned, tortured, or killed, and more than 1,000 have been officially considered disappeared (though experts believe the real number is far higher). In 1980, the Pinochet regime wrote the nations constitution and rigged the plebiscite to have it approved. Beyond the economic laws, it gave the dictator and his cronies immense powers, now known as authoritarian enclaves, that persisted even into Chiles post-1990 democratic era. Most egregiously, the constitution gave seats to unelected senators in parliaments upper chamber one of which Pinochet himself occupied after stepping down from power to hinder popular representation and give the regime more control over the political process. As the country moved on from its autocratic past ironically, a 1988 referendum led to Pinochets downfall Chilean leaders made 42 amendments to the constitution. For example, in 2005, those Pinochet-granted seats, numbering 10 at the time, were abolished from the parliaments upper house, leaving it with 38 elected members. The reforms also stripped the military of its unchecked authority, finally placing Chiles armed forces under the direct command of the president. Despite those and other efforts, two things still angered the public about the nations constitution. Gen. Augusto Pinochet (left), head of the Chilean military junta, waves from the motorcade in September 1973 in Santiago, shortly after his coup that killed President Salvador Allende. AFP via Getty Images First, the simple fact that it was mostly written by a dictator made it an extremely unpopular charter. The constitution never had democratic legitimacy, Richmonds Pribble told me. That was always the Achilles heel of the document. Second, the constitution just didnt work for everyday citizens. Its free market model drove down poverty from 31 percent in 2000 to 6.4 percent in 2017, according to the World Bank, and made the copper-rich Andean nation the highest-ranked country in Latin America on the United Nations Human Development Index. But beneath the surface lay a murkier picture. A recent study by the Santiago-based think tank Fundación SOL showed that 50 percent of Chilean workers earned less than 400,000 pesos per month (roughly $550), making a small change like to the cost of public transportation a plausible breaking point. Amalia Gómez, a 66-year-old who had to find a job to augment her measly $125-a-month pension, asked the New York Times on Sunday why her government couldnt provide her with a better life. Why not, if we are a country rich in minerals, fish, agriculture? she said. Why cant we use those resources to our benefit, for our education and health? The reason, experts told me, is the constitution itself. Simply put, its extremely hard for Chilean politicians to reform those sectors because the laws governing them are in the national charter. Any changes would require a supermajority in parliament to pass, which is tricky given political divisions in the body. Plus, just like in the US, any considered alteration to a nations constitution becomes a fraught and contentious battle few leaders want to spend political capital on. Which explains why Chile has seen protest movement after protest movement for about two decades. Some of them, namely the student demonstrations of 2011, shook the political class to its core, making them realize the public was extremely unhappy with the status quo. A national conversation grew around updating not just constitutional laws but rewriting the charter altogether. Hearing those calls, Chiles last president, the left-wing Michelle Bachelet, promised to do just that but she couldnt get her more liberal constitution passed. When the right-wing billionaire Sebastián Piñera came to power in 2018, he said a new constitution wasnt even on the table. But his views changed with the protests over the metro fare hike that began on October 18, 2019. Despite his governments deadly crackdown on mostly peaceful protests, demonstrations continued and morphed into a campaign for economic and social equality. In other words, the creation of a society only a new Chilean constitution could provide. The dogged persistence forced Piñeras hand. Politically, he was devastated by the demonstrations. They were a plebiscite on his tenure in office, Oberlins Mani told me. That November, Piñera said he supported a new constitution. His government initially set up the referendum for April, but the Covid-19 pandemic pushed the vote back to this month. Chilean President Sebastián Piñera delivers a speech during an event to commemorate the 93rd anniversary of a Chilean police force on April 27, 2020, in Santiago, Chile. Marcelo Hernandez/Getty Images Now that a rewritten charter received a resounding mandate on Sunday, Piñera has struck a different tone. Until now, the Constitution has divided us, he said in a Sunday address from the presidential palace. As of today, we should all cooperate to make the new Constitution become one home for all of us. Experts I spoke to said Chiles president may not be happy about the situation, but hes potentially happy about how hell be viewed. This is Pineras clever move to go down in history as the leader who presided over a popular shift in Chile, its next step, Mani said. What that next step will be, though, is what will roil Chilean politics for the next few years. The road to a new Chilean constitution is long and bumpy Defining the rules for how a country should run is hard enough. Add political complications and the whole process becomes near impossible. Take just threeof the main concerns experts mentioned to me. First, 155 seats in the constitutional assembly are up for grabs. That means there will be hundreds of Chileans campaigning to represent their districts, each potentially making promises to win votes that they may not be able to keep. Intense and intractable debates may dominate discussions, thereby hindering any kind of process. Thats problematic, of course. Once delegates meet in April, they will have nine months to draft the new constitution, with the option of a one-time three-month extension. Time, clearly, will be short. Then theres the fact that the drafting of the new charter will coincide with next years presidential elections in the country. The debates the presidential candidates have could potentially influence constitutional discussions and animate partisan passions. As a result, reasoned, forward-looking discussions might give way to more parochial, short-term concerns. This worry speaks to the heart of the debate. Chiles current constitution, unlike others in Latin America, doesnt codify things like social rights, womens rights, Indigenous rights, water rights, and more. The publics hope is that the new document will reflect local and regional needs, as well as provide for a more inclusive society. This is going to be a contentious process, said Pribble. Young voters are looking for a lot of specific guarantees and rights in this constitution. A person dresses as Freddie Mercury in the midst of the celebrations for the approval of a new constitution in Santiago, Chile, on October 25, 2020. Matias Basualdo/NurPhoto via Getty Images Should political cleavages form over exactly how to provide those rights, the result might be more of a compromise than activists want. And if thats the case, the public could reject the new document in the 2022 vote. Third, and relatedly, only half the nation voted in Sundays referendum, the highest turnout for a national vote in about a decade but still low when considering the stakes. Convincing 50 percent of the public to back a whole new charter one they didnt personally vote for could prove difficult. Experts dont minimize the complications, and note that there could be many stumbles on the road ahead. But even so, its a path Chileans have long hoped to travel. Its important to have a re-legitimation of the system, said Oberlins Mani. Help keep Vox free for all Millions turn to Vox each month to understand whats happening in the news, from the coronavirus crisis to a racial reckoning to what is, quite possibly, the most consequential presidential election of our lifetimes. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower you through understanding. But our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources. Even when the economy and the news advertising market recovers, your support will be a critical part of sustaining our resource-intensive work. If you have already contributed, thank you. If you havent, please consider helping everyone make sense of an increasingly chaotic world: Contribute today from as little as $3.
Japan’s new Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide faces a year of crisis - Vox.com
Suga Yoshihide, who replaced Abe Shinzo, must now tackle the coronavirus and stagnating economy ahead of the Olympics — all in one year.
Japans new prime minister is at once the likeliest and unlikeliest person in decades to lead his country. Suga Yoshihide was former Prime Minister Abe Shinzos right-hand man, serving in a role that mixes the duties of top spokesperson and chief of staff. He helped Abe govern for eight years until illness forced Abe to resign in August. If there was anyone who could continue Abes legacy while attempting to stabilize the country, Suga was it. Many in the ruling conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) thought itd be foolish not to stick by the figure in the party election to choose the next leader. At the same time, Suga isnt cut from the same cloth as Japans previous 98 prime ministers. He doesnt have any familial ties to politics. He doesnt come from a big city. He doesnt have an elite education. He doesnt really even have a faction within his own party. All he does have is a reputation as a hard worker and an effective operator who gets stuff done. The impression of him is that hes Dick Cheney, a prickly and shadowy behind-the-scenes mastermind, said Joshua Walker, president and CEO of the New York-based Japan Society, though he noted Suga is actually more personable, folksy, and charming than the publics perception of him. Suga is the Japanese common guy who realized his dream, Walker said. Since he became prime minister last month, the 71-year-old Suga has worked to ensure his dream doesnt turn into a nightmare. Parliamentary elections must be held by next October, which gives Suga no more than a year to make his case to stay in charge. Thats a daunting task, as he must curb his countrys Covid-19 outbreak while boosting a sputtering economy and all in time for Tokyo to host the 2021 Summer Olympics. If Suga doesnt succeed, a younger cohort of party leaders who covet the premiership some of whom are in his Cabinet might move to unseat him. Their hope, experts told me, was for Suga to take the blows in the hard year ahead so they could take over in calmer times, untainted and unharmed. But such a play is risky as it rests on betting a popular bureaucratic infighter will fail. The prime ministership is a good place from which to advocate staying prime minister, so long as you have successes under your belt and are leading and moving the country in the right direction, said Sheila Smith, senior fellow for Japan studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, who has met Suga. Hes going to have to make his mark now. The question of whether he can do that will dominate the next year of Japanese politics. Clearly not everyone is convinced Suga can stand out and survive, but perhaps the likeliest unlikely prime minister in the nations modern history knows how to take his shot. Everyone has always underestimated him, and hes always blown people away, said Walker. Underestimating him is a mistake. From farm boy to national leader Most origin stories about a new Japanese prime minister begin with their upbringing in a powerful political family or their time at a great university. This is not that story. Suga grew up the son of strawberry farmers in Akita prefecture, a mountainous rural region of northern Japan. Instead of taking over the family business, he moved to Tokyo after high school. To pay for his part-time education at Hosei University which he chose because it was the cheapest option available he worked at a cardboard factory and a famed fish market. It was in school that Suga realized he wanted to be in politics. But with no support system in a country where political fortunes depend on them, he had to start from the very bottom. In 1975, two years after graduation, he became the secretary for a representative in the government of Yokohama, Japans second-largest city. It was an unglamorous job, as his daily tasks included fetching cigarettes and parking cars. Twelve years later he sought office for himself, wearing down six pairs of shoes while running for Yokohama City Council. According to the LDP, he knocked on 300 doors a day, visiting 30,000 homes. He won his race, and quickly earned a reputation as Yokohamas shadow mayor after pushing through some key initiatives, such as making it easier to get to the citys port and reducing waitlists for day care centers. But what distinguished him most in that time, and what continues to define him today, is his dogged work ethic. Hes known for sleeping in his office, Walker, the Japan Society chief, told me. That workaholism is part of what initially attracted Suga to Abe, experts said. After serving 10 years in Japans lower house of Parliament, Suga was picked by Abe during his first stint as prime minister in 2006 to serve in his Cabinet, overseeing internal affairs and telecommunications. Then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga listens to proposals for the government of Japans plan for Camp Foster on August 12, 2020. Corporal Jessica Collins for U.S. Marine Corps The former farm boy stuck by him ever after, even when a scandal led Abe to resign as prime minister the following year. When Abe returned to power in 2012, Sugas loyalty was rewarded with the plum post of chief cabinet secretary. That job is arguably Japans second-highest government position. Whoever assumes it must hold two press conferences a day and run the bureaucracy from the behind the scenes, basically combining the portfolios of the American press secretary and chief of staff. Its both an incredibly visible job and a thankless one. It takes someone with an innate sense of power and an insatiable drive to get the work done. The right-hand man Ask experts and people who worked with Suga about his time as chief cabinet secretary, and the first thing they note, unsurprisingly, is his assiduousness. In his more than 2,300 days in the job, he woke up each morning at 5 am, read the newspaper, did 200 situps, and took a 40-minute walk but always in a suit in case he had to run into the office for an emergency. Michael Green, the Japan chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, DC, said Suga had breakfast every morning at a hotel near his office with someone who could teach him something. Sometimes that someone was Green. He liked to ask me about Obama or Trump and the state of American politics, Green told me. Sugas curiosity stemmed from a firm belief in the US-Japan alliance and that Japan must be a leading world power. Hes a patriot, Green said. Once at work, Suga would visit Abes office multiple times a day to coordinate messaging, advise on economic policy, provide intelligence, and much more. With his staff, he was known for asking sharp questions about why the government should take certain positions. He could be prickly, sometimes even mean, with those who didnt have a good answer. Hes a no-nonsense guy, a Japanese official who worked with Suga told me, speaking on the condition of anonymity to speak freely. Everyone was always on their toes around him and alert whenever they had to brief him. Sometimes he preferred to read documents by himself, the official added, but he was always willing to take advice from senior aides. His dedication to his job, many noted, was evidenced by his preference to live in a Parliament-provided apartment in Tokyo instead of his home in Yokohama, and how he only ate soba noodles for lunch so he could finish within five minutes. But he wasnt just the guy behind the curtain. He found ways to step onto the stage. Innately understanding the needs of rural communities, Suga launched a hometown tax system in 2008 by which a Japanese citizen can donate money to any local government or prefecture (it doesnt actually have to be the persons hometown). In exchange, that person receives a tax deduction nearly equaling the size of the donation, as well as locally made gifts from the recipient to incentivize further donations. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga speaks during his press conference in Tokyo on September 16, 2020. Carl Court/Pool/AFP via Getty Images More recently, he pushed Japans three major wireless carriers in 2018 to slash their prices by 40 percent. He argued they basically had a monopoly in the country and that competition between them wasnt lowering bills for everyday citizens. That same year, he took charge of an effort to bring more foreign workers into Japan as a solution for the nations aging workforce batting back years of resistance to such a reform. Japan is aiming to be a country where foreigners will want to work and live, Suga said in a statement advocating for the change. In 2019, he also became the first chief cabinet secretary in three decades to visit Washington, DC, where he discussed national security issues at the White House. Its unclear what the discussion was specifically about, but experts say it likely touched on North Korea and how much Japan should pay to keep 50,000 US troops stationed in the country. That Suga made the trip, and not a high-level diplomat, underscored just how much Abe trusted him with major foreign policy matters, experts told me. After all, Suga also had oversight of the countrys national security team and could veto the firing of any government staffer, requiring him to have deep visibility into all bureaucracies, including foreign policy-related ones. Speculation immediately swirled during the trip that the chief cabinet secretary might be angling to replace Abe once he stepped down. By all accounts, Suga proved himself a capable operator over eight years. He has an incredibly good reputation for being able to manage the levers of the bureaucracy, said CFRs Smith. Hes astoundingly good at it. Whether hell be as effective as prime minister is what everyone is watching for now. Sugas make-or-break year When Abe abruptly resigned in August, Suga pretty quickly consolidated support within his party to become the next prime minister. He faced challengers, but the consensus in the party was that Japan should have continuity at the top of its government during a pandemic and an economic downturn. Suga, Abes Mr. Fix It, fit the bill. He vowed to stay on the course Abe set, pushing for a strong Japanese foreign policy and some economic reforms at home. Then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga (right) presents flowers to now former Japans Prime Minister Shinzo Abe after Suga was elected as new head of Japans ruling party at the Liberal Democratic Partyon September 14, 2020. Eugene Hoshiko/Pool via Getty Images The foreign policy part may not be a new challenge for Suga, analysts noted. China continues to be antagonistic to Japan, relations with South Korea are tanking, and North Korea is advancing its nuclear arsenal, but all that was true when he was the chief cabinet secretary. His greatest immediate global challenge might actually be dealing with the US. If he has a bad relationship with Trump or Biden, whoever is president, hes toast, said CSISs Green. Indeed, the US-Japan alliance is the cornerstone of Tokyos global relations. Without a good working relationship with the American president, itll be harder for Japan to push back on adversaries or reach any reconciliation with South Korea. But what will most occupy Suga and define his year in charge will be the coronavirus and the economic havoc its wreaking. As of October 21, Japan a country of around 127 million people had more than 90,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 1,600 deaths. Thats not bad compared to much of the world, but the pandemic caused the nations economy to shrink by around 28 percent between April and June, the largest contraction since the country started keeping records in 1980. Thats bad news on its own, but Japan was already dealing with a years-long economic slump due in part to an aging workforce. Its a trend Sugas keenly aware he must reverse, and doing so starts with minimizing the viruss spread. Reviving the economy remains the top priority of the administration, Suga told reporters just after becoming prime minister on September 16. But Suga has other ideas to help his country in the meantime. Hes ordered his government to create a new digital agency that, among other things, would help citizens file all necessary paperwork online instead of with old technology. Experts say this is a needed change, especially since the coronavirus required millions of Japanese people to file paperwork to get their benefits. The problem is the governments response to most requests was very slow, as officials still prefer hard copies and fax machines to online forms and email because the hanko a stamp with a familys or individuals seal is still the main way Japanese people sign documents. Only about 12 percent of all of Japans administrative work is currently done online. Suga and his administration minister Taro Kono whom many believe wants the premiership say its high time to change that practice. The creation of a digital agency is a reform that will lead to a major transformation of the Japanese economy and society, Suga said in September. Id like all ministers to cooperate in this major reform with all their might. CFRs Smith said digitizing the government and the nations private sector will be hard, and Sugas initial push was met with raised eyebrows. But now Smith is inundated with requests for Zoom meetings from Japanese colleagues, something that didnt really happen until the new prime minister encouraged his nation to adopt more digital tools. Once you begin that process of shifting gears, it can move very quickly in Japan, she told me. If Suga can maintain close ties with the US, improve the economy, and quash the coronavirus making it possible to host the (spectator-less) Olympics in the summer then he may have a chance of ensuring his party wins parliamentary elections whenever he calls them before next October. Theres a lot on the line here for the LDP, Smith said. Analysts say the LDP is expected to prevail, though a victory doesnt necessarily mean Suga remains prime minister. Party elders could decide its time for new blood, or Abe could come out and say he didnt like the way his former top staffer ran things. In that case, the race would be on for yet another prime minister in Japan. Suga could also make mistakes that lead him to lose his current mandate. For example, he surprisingly refused to accept the appointments of six professors to a state-funded science panel of over 100 academics because of their past criticisms of Abe. Some say hes aiming to stifle dissent, and while his decision isnt expected to become a major controversy, it calls into question his judgment. But Suga, experts say, is keenly aware the job is his to lose. The best chance for him to enact his reforms and Abe-like foreign policy is if he stays in control. Few believe hell do anything to jeopardize that possibility in the months to come. He understands power very well. He knows you have to build up your position to gain your leverage, said CSISs Green. Anything he wants to do is just talk until he proves he can win. Help keep Vox free for all Millions turn to Vox each month to understand whats happening in the news, from the coronavirus crisis to a racial reckoning to what is, quite possibly, the most consequential presidential election of our lifetimes. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower you through understanding. But our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources. Even when the economy and the news advertising market recovers, your support will be a critical part of sustaining our resource-intensive work. If you have already contributed, thank you. If you havent, please consider helping everyone make sense of an increasingly chaotic world: Contribute today from as little as $3.
Poll: Most Trump voters don’t see Covid-19 as an important election issue - Vox.com
Only 24 percent of Trump supporters view the coronavirus as a “very important” issue in this year’s election, compared to 82 percent of Biden supporters.
A new Pew Research Center poll has found a stark partisan difference in views on the importance of the coronavirus pandemic in the days before the presidential election. The poll, taken from October 6 to 12, found that only 24 percent of registered voters who support Trump view the pandemic as a very important voting issue in the 2020 election, compared to 82 percent of Biden supporters. The highest issue of concern for Trump voters, by far, was the economy 84 percent named that as being very important (a reasonably high number of Biden supporters, 66 percent, agreed). The poll asked registered voters about six issues abortion, health care, foreign policy, the economy, the coronavirus pandemic, and Supreme Court appointments and found that Biden and Trump supporters viewed most issues with relatively equal importance. Two interrelated issues were clear exceptions: health care, an issue Biden supporters were 38 percentage points more likely to view as very important, and the pandemic, which boasted an even larger 58 percentage point gap. Pew Research Center So far, more than 220,000 Americans have died from Covid-19 and roughly 1,000 continue to die every day. States like Arizona, Wisconsin, and Florida all of which voted for Trump in 2016 have experienced some of the worst outbreaks in the US. As my colleague German Lopez points out, if Republican-leaning states alone were a country, theyd be in the top 10 for Covid-19 deaths among developed nations. And the worst may be yet to come: On Friday, the US reported a single-day record of confirmed coronavirus cases, over 85,000 surpassing the previous high from July by over 10,000 cases.Saturday, the new confirmed case count nearly matched that record high,topping 83,000. With case loads and hospitalizations already at dangerously high levels, epidemiologists have expressed concern that this third wave of Covid-19 cases could be the most deadly yet. Trump has stressed the economy over pandemic response A second Pew poll, released earlier this month, may give some insight into why many Trump supporters dont see the coronavirus as an important issue in the upcoming election. The survey found that 68 percent of Republicans think the US has controlled the Covid-19 outbreak as much as it could have versus 11 percent of Democrats; it also found that 66 percent of Republicans think the Covid-19 outbreak has been made out to be a bigger deal than it really is, while just 15 percent of Democrats said the same. Pew Research Center This poll reflects a narrative advanced by President Donald Trump: that his administration had done everything possible to control the coronavirus outbreak and that the coronavirus was never as serious as media, experts, and Democratic politicians made it out to be. Throughout the pandemic, Trump has praised himself and his administration for having done a phenomenal job handling the crisis. In Thursdays presidential debate, Trump cited a model that forecast US deaths if the country took no coronavirus prevention measures, claiming that 2.2 million people, modeled out, were expected to die, misleadinglysuggesting that his administrations response had saved approximately 2 million lives. In that same debate, he claimed that 700,000 people would be dead right now under a Biden administration a death toll that would have required Biden to do less to stop the virus than the Trump administration has (Bidens coronavirus plan calls for doing more). Vice President Mike Pence pursued a similar line of attack at the vice presidential debatein early October. Besides praising his response,Trump has also consistently played down the seriousness of the coronavirus. In the last presidential debate, he responded to a question about the virus by saying, Were learning to live with it. On Saturday alone, Trump tweeted that the record-setting number of new cases in the US is being overhyped, claimed that the virus would magically disappear after the election, and pushed a baseless conspiracy theory that doctors and hospitals are inflating the Covid-19 death count for profit. Meanwhile, Trump has repeatedly pushed to completely reopen the US economy. Echoing a claim hes been making since March, the president said at Thursdays debate, The cure cannot be worse than the problem itself, and thats whats happening. ... We cant keep this country closed. This is a massive country with a massive economy. From the outside, its easy to view Trumps constant downplaying of the pandemic as political suicide the sort of behavior that will entrench opposition to the president and potentially cause his supporters to abandon him come November. But the Pew polls released this month appear to tell a different story. Trumps blatant denial of the coronavirus reality and his focus on reopening the economy isnt turning his base off; to the contrary, it reflects what they already believe about the pandemic. Political polarization affects views on Covid-19 but it has its limits The academicliterature on political polarization points to a simple explanation for the massive divergence in public opinion on the coronavirus, Pews pollsters detected: Partisans dont evaluate the world objectively; they take cues from the leaders and media sources who they trust. Drawing on the work of political scientist Sara Wallace Goodman, my colleague Ezra Klein explained this phenomenon with regard to partisan divergence on mask-wearing earlier this year: Sara Wallace Goodman, a political scientist at the University of California Irvine, has been part of a team repeatedly surveying the same group of Americans to see how their behaviors and attitudes have changed over the course of the virus. Even controlling for factors like the prevalence of the disease in the place respondents live, Wallace Goodman and her colleagues find a significant and growing partisan gap in terms of fear of the disease, perceived safety of different behaviors, and preferred policy solutions. The key to understanding this, Wallace Goodman says, is that when people are operating in areas of high misinformation and lack of information, they take cues. We can only be rational if our leaders are rational. If you see the president not wearing a mask in meetings, youre going to model what he does. The same goes for whether you think the importance of the coronavirus pandemic has been overblown, or whether you think the US did everything it could to control the virus. Because few Democrats or Republicans have personally conducted investigations into these issues, the differences in opinion between them hinge on which leaders and institutions they trust. Liberals tend take their cues from epidemiologists and science journalists or from political leaders and media outlets that defer to their expertise. Conservatives often take their cues from Fox News, Trump, and other leaders and news outlets who are often skeptical of or downright hostile toward those experts. In fact, when the same Pew poll that evaluated partisan opinions on Covid-19s seriousness asked respondents about their primary news sources, it unveiled some striking findings. Among Republicans whose primary news sources are Fox News or talk radio, 78 percent thought the seriousness of Covid-19 has been exaggerated, and 90 percent believed the US has done everything it can to control the virus. Republicans who consume a more diverse array of news sources have considerably lower numbers on both counts. Pew Research Center None of this means Trumps dismissive rhetoric and response to Covid-19 will ultimately help him come November. The president has not enjoyed the same kind of pandemic polling bump that peer country leaders and US governors have received. He still lags behind former Vice President Joe Biden by about 10 percentage points in national polls just over a week before the election. Trump also appears to be lacking support among older voters in key swing states like Florida that have been especially hard-hit by the pandemic. One reason for this appears to be that while Trumps rhetoric on the coronavirus clearly appeals to Republican voters, it seems far less effective at winning over swing voters. According to a September Kaiser Family Foundation poll, the coronavirus outbreak is themost important 2020 election issue for 15 percent of undecided voters. And recent polling across seven swing states Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas by the conservative polling firm CT Group found that 56 percent of former Trump voters who no longer planned to vote for the president cited his pandemic response as a major factor in reconsidering their support for him. Will you help keep Vox free for all? The United States is in the middle of one of the most consequential presidential elections of our lifetimes. Its essential that all Americans are able to access clear, concise information on what the outcome of the election could mean for their lives, and the lives of their families and communities. That is our mission at Vox. But our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources. Even when the economy and the news advertising market recovers, your support will be a critical part of sustaining our resource-intensive work. If you have already contributed, thank you. If you havent, please consider helping everyone understand this presidential election: Contribute today from as little as $3.
Pennsylvania Supreme Court: Mail-in ballots can’t be rejected over mismatched signatures - Vox.com
It’s a blow for Republicans who challenged the state’s guidance that different-looking signatures shouldn’t be disqualifying.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Friday that mail-in ballots cannot be rejected if a voters signature looks different than the one on their registration form. The ruling came after Pennsylvanias Democratic Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, the states top election official, turned to the court for clarity on the legality of her signature-matching policy. She introduced guidance in September that said ballots shouldnt be thrown out due to mismatched signatures, and has since been mired in a legal battle with President Donald Trumps reelection campaign and other Republicans. The court decision backed by five Democrat and two Republican justices marks a victory for Democrats and voting-rights advocates in a critical battleground state Trump won by roughly 44,000 votes in 2016. It comes on the heels of another loss for Republicans in the state: the October 19 order by the US Supreme Court, which let stand a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that mailed-in ballots received up to three days after Election Day must be counted. County boards of elections are prohibited from rejecting absentee or mail-in ballots based on signature comparison conducted by county election officials or employees, or as the result of third-party challenges based on signature analysis and comparisons, the court wrote, upholding Boockvars guidance. If the Voters Declaration on the return envelope is signed and the county board is satisfied that the declaration is sufficient, the mail-in or absentee ballot should be approved for canvassing unless challenged in accordance with the Pennsylvania Election Code, Boockvar wrote in September. The Pennsylvania Election Code does not authorize the county board of elections to set aside returned absentee or mail-in ballots based solely on signature analysis by the county board of elections. Over 1.4 million Pennsylvanians have already submitted mail ballots, according to the US Elections Project, the overwhelming majority of which have been sent by registered Democrats. Pennsylvania and other states across the US are expecting an unprecedented surge in mail ballots as voters attempt to find ways to avoid in-person voting due to the coronavirus pandemic. Signature-matching processes are a contentious issue. As political scientists and voting-rights advocates have pointed out, election officials are likely to reject far more authentic signatures than false ones in an electoral system wherein fraud is exceedingly rare. As the Atlantic reported, a Carroll College political scientist working on behalf of plaintiffs challenging an Ohio signature-matching law calculated a 97 percent chance that any given ballot in the state rejected on the basis of a signature mismatch was authentic. And in 2016, perceived signature mismatches constituted the biggest reason mail-in ballots were disqualified. Voting-rights advocates have also pointed out that signature-matching processes are likely to disproportionately exclude authentic signatures from very young voters, very old voters, disabled voters, and voters of color. In battleground states like Pennsylvania, where the margin of victory between candidates can be razor thin, signature-matching policies could play a decisive role in the outcome of the 2020 election. With a significant 20 electoral votes at stake and an ideologically heterogeneous population, Pennsylvanias ballot laws are particularly pivotal. As of this morning, FiveThirtyEights polling averages show Democratic nominee Joe Biden with a 6 percentage-point lead over Trump in Pennsylvania. Both candidates have made the state a focus in the final days of the campaign, hoping to win over new supporters. Will you help keep Vox free for all? The United States is in the middle of one of the most consequential presidential elections of our lifetimes. Its essential that all Americans are able to access clear, concise information on what the outcome of the election could mean for their lives, and the lives of their families and communities. That is our mission at Vox. But our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources. Even when the economy and the news advertising market recovers, your support will be a critical part of sustaining our resource-intensive work. If you have already contributed, thank you. If you havent, please consider helping everyone understand this presidential election: Contribute today from as little as $3.
Why Michigan’s woman governor is a favorite target of Trump’s - Vox.com
Gretchen Whitmer accused Trump of inciting domestic terrorism on Sunday, in reference to a kidnapping plot against her recently stopped by the FBI.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has called on President Donald Trump to stop inspiring and incentivizing and inciting domestic terrorism against her, in a plea that came just 10 days after the FBI revealed a right-wing plot to abduct her. Her statement, made Sunday on NBCs Meet the Press, comes after Trump told supporters at a Saturday rally in Muskegon, Michigan, to be careful of the governor and their states attorney general, and after he criticized Whitmers attempts to stem the rising number of Covid-19 cases in Michigan. Each time the president attacked the governor, his supporters took up a lock her up chant. For the second time in a single speech, Trump fans in Michigan direct "lock her up!" chants toward Gretchen Whitmer, who just weeks ago was the target of a kidnapping/assassination plot hatched by Trump supporters pic.twitter.com/wh7ts1Cqf5 Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 17, 2020 Its not a new theme for Trump: Hes long made a point of going after Whitmer, both before and after the FBI arrested six men for planning to kidnap and potentially murder her. In March, he told Vice President Mike Pence, head of the White House coronavirus task force, not to call the woman in Michigan because Whitmer criticized his response to the pandemic. Immediately after the kidnapping plot was revealed in early October, Trump sent three tweets about Whitmer, briefly noting that he condemns ANY extreme violence, while also accusing her of doing a terrible job as governor and criticizing her for not thanking him personally for the FBIs role in stopping a domestic terrorism scheme. Governor Whitmer of Michigan has done a terrible job. She locked down her state for everyone, except her husbands boating activities. The Federal Government provided tremendous help to the Great People of Michigan. My Justice Department and Federal Law Enforcement announced... Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 9, 2020 ...today that they foiled a dangerous plot against the Governor of Michigan. Rather than say thank you, she calls me a White Supremacistwhile Biden and Democrats refuse to condemn Antifa, Anarchists, Looters and Mobs that burn down Democrat run cities... Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 9, 2020 ...I do not tolerate ANY extreme violence. Defending ALL Americans, even those who oppose and attack me, is what I will always do as your President! Governor Whitmeropen up your state, open up your schools, and open up your churches! Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 9, 2020 Trump has also attacked Whitmer using nearly the same rhetoric as the members of the far-right militia who called themselves the Wolverine Watchmen who were arrested. [Whitmer] wants to be a dictator in Michigan, Trump told a Fox Business host Friday, and they cant stand her. According to an affidavit by FBI agent Richard Trask, the Michigan conspirators repeatedly referred to Whitmer as a tyrant and said she had no checks and balances at all. Whitmer isnt the only elected official who has become the target of would-be right-wing violence over Covid-19 restrictions which are well-supported by science. In Wichita, Kansas, on Friday, a man was arrested for plotting to kidnap and kill Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple because of a mask mandate, according to a report by the Wichita Eagle. And the same group that planned violence against Whitmer had also contemplated kidnapping Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. Northam and Whitmer both run states Trump tweeted his supporters should LIBERATE along with Minnesota in April. LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege! Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 17, 2020 And as as Voxs Fabiola Cineas has documented, Trumps rhetoric against Whitmer and his LIBERATE tweets are not one-off events. He has a long history of encouraging hate groups and political violence. Trump has seemed especially quick to attack female opponents Trump, needless to say, isnt selective about who he attacks. At the slightest criticism, hes just as likely to turn his fire on a member of his own party like Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse as he is to go after anyone else. And Whitmer has criticized him: In March, she said that we, as a nation, were not as prepared as we should have been for the coronavirus pandemic, and Sunday on Meet the Press, said the Trump virus response is the worst in the globe. But while Whitmer isnt alone in pointing out the shortcomings of the federal Covid-19 response even Gov. Larry Hogan, the Republican leader of Maryland, has also done so, for instance she has become the unique target of a sustained campaign of vitriol by the president. Theres a straightforward explanation for that. As Voxs Anna North explains, Whitmer isnt just a Democrat or a governor telling people what to do shes also a woman telling people what to do. Thats never been particularly popular with a certain subset of Americans, and its especially unpopular now that Trump and others have introduced a gendered element into the politics of Covid-19 response, peddling the idea that its manly to ignore the risk of the virus. Indeed, its no accident that Whitmer is being called a tyrant and a bitch. The attacks on her feed into age-old stereotypes about women in power stereotypes that are especially dangerous now as they undermine some of the very leaders who are trying to stop the spread of Covid-19 and keep Americans safe. Ultimately, Trumps attacks on Whitmer are just part of a history of misogyny on the part of the president. In 2016, Hillary Clinton was also the target of lock her up chants. Just this month, Trump attacked Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris as a monster. And while Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is characterized as cryin in Trumps tweets, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is almost invariably labeled Crazy Nancy when Trump tweets about her. According to Barbara Res, a former Trump Organization executive who oversaw the construction of Trump Tower, Trumps sexism is by no means new. But, she reportedly writes in an upcoming book, his regard for himself had increased exponentially over time, as had his contempt for women. And Trumps treatment of Whitmer would appear to be a clear example of that. Help keep Vox free for all Millions turn to Vox each month to understand whats happening in the news, from the coronavirus crisis to a racial reckoning to what is, quite possibly, the most consequential presidential election of our lifetimes. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower you through understanding. But our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources. Even when the economy and the news advertising market recovers, your support will be a critical part of sustaining our resource-intensive work. If you have already contributed, thank you. If you havent, please consider helping everyone make sense of an increasingly chaotic world: Contribute today from as little as $3.
Thailand’s protest movement gains momentum amid a government crackdown - Vox.com
Thai protesters defied a ban on large gatherings to call for the prime minister’s resignation.
In Bangkok, Thailand, on Saturday, tens of thousands took part in continuing pro-democracy protests following a government crackdown Friday, which saw riot police unleash water cannons containing a chemical irritant on crowds calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha. Protests against the prime minister began in March this year, following the dissolution of a popular pro-democracy party, but have dramatically increased in size this week, with crowds numbering in the tens of thousands. The government responded to these growing protests with an emergency decree on Thursday, which banned groups of more than five people and gave police the authority to make areas of Bangkok off limits to protesters. Along with this new measure have come the arrests of protesters, including a human rights lawyer and several student activists. The protesters have released several demands, chief among them that the prime minister resign. A former general, Prayuth seized power in a 2014 military coup. A new constitution was put in place by military leaders three years later that sets aside parliament seats for military officials so many that protesters argue the prime minister will maintain power regardless of the outcome of elections. As Panu Wongcha-um reported for Reuters, protesters made three demands in July: the dissolution of parliament, an end to harassment of government critics, and amendments to the military-written constitution. Demonstrators are still working towards those goals, but increasingly, protesters are demanding changes to the countrys monarchy as well. As Richard Bernstein has explained for Vox, citizens of Thailand have traditionally avoided statements that could be seen as critical of the royal family, which is currently led by King Maha Vajiralongkorn, due to the countrys lèse-majesté laws, which outlaw defaming, insulting, or threatening of a member of the royal family. That has changed: For example, at an August protest, a student protest leader gave a speech accusing the government of fooling us by saying that people born into the royal family are incarnations of gods and angels, and asking, Are you sure that angels or gods have this kind of personality? The king, who ascended to the throne four years ago, rules largely from Europe, but has nevertheless spent extravagantly and steadily amassed power in a way that harks back to the bygone days of Thailands absolute monarchy, according to the Economist. His support for the prime minister has frustrated Prayuths critics, and his successful efforts to bring royal wealth and military forces under his direct control have led some protesters to call for new limits on the monarchys powers. Arrests for breaching the countrys lèse-majesté laws have continued, and Friday, two protesters were charged under an obscure law for an act of violence against the queens liberty, in this case, for yelling near Queen Suthida Vajiralongkorn Na Ayudhyas motorcade. The two protesters face a potential sentence of life in prison for endangering the royal family. These charges as well as threats from the prime minister have not deterred the protesters. After Fridays police offensive, the demonstrations that continued Saturday appear to have remained largely peaceful and were well-attended despite a shutdown of Bangkok public transit. As many as 23,000 people turned out at several locations around the city, according to a police estimate reported by the Bangkok Post. The goal is to change the whole political system, including the monarchy and the prime minister, one Bangkok student told the New York Times. A democratic legitimacy crisis As Voxs Zeeshan Aleem explained in August, Thailands protests hinge on the tenuous legitimacy of the current government. Though current prime minister Prayuth ostensibly won another mandate in 2019, the results of that election are disputed. Since then, a major opposition party has been disbanded by the courts, and pro-democracy activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit was reported as disappeared in Cambodia, possibly taken on the orders of the Thai government. Wanchalearm hasnt been seen since his abduction in June, and Jakrapob Penkair, another dissident living in exile, told the BBC in July that Wanchalearm, also known as Tar, was likely dead. I think the message is: Lets kill these folks. These are outsiders, these are people who are different from us and they should be killed in order to bring Thailand back to normalcy, Jakrapob said. But nothing could be more wrong in that interpretation. I believe their decision to kidnap and murder Tar, and others before him, has been subconsciously radicalizing the people. The protest movement has been fueled by student activism, but lacks defined leadership, according to the BBC. Thats by design activists have reportedly drawn inspiration from decentralized pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong in order to maintain momentum amid arrests. In part in order to circumvent restrictions on speech, activists have also relied on pop culture symbolism at protests. According to Aleem, Protesters have used creative methods drawn from the world of popular fiction to veil their criticism of the government and mitigate charges for violating restrictions on political speech. For example, some protesters have dressed up as characters from Harry Potter in order to advance their arguments against the government and monarchy. Other pro-democracy protesters display three-finger salutes inspired by the Hunger Games series. The Thai governments crackdown on protesters has been condemned by multiple international organizations. Human Rights Watch, for instance, argued that the ban on protests, as well as other new restrictions, meant that rights to freedom of speech and holding peaceful, public assemblies are on the chopping block from a government that is now showing its truly dictatorial nature. Amnesty International has decried the arrests of protesters as an intimidation tactic. Its unlikely that the protest movement will stop soon, though even if the governments response begins to echo the violent anti-protest crackdowns Bangkok saw in the 1970s. The dictatorship must be confronted by the people, even under the threat of arrest, activist Panupong Jadnok told the Washington Post. We wont step back. We will fight until our death. Will you help keep Vox free for all? The United States is in the middle of one of the most consequential presidential elections of our lifetimes. Its essential that all Americans are able to access clear, concise information on what the outcome of the election could mean for their lives, and the lives of their families and communities. That is our mission at Vox. But our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources. Even when the economy and the news advertising market recovers, your support will be a critical part of sustaining our resource-intensive work. If you have already contributed, thank you. If you havent, please consider helping everyone understand this presidential election: Contribute today from as little as $3.
New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, hailed for Covid-19 response, wins historic reelection - Vox.com
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern led her party to a landslide victory in Saturday’s election.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been hailed around the world for her governments quick action on Covid-19, which has helped New Zealand avoid the mass infections and deaths that have devastated the US and Europe. Now, voters in the country have responded to her leadership by handing Ardern and her Labour Party their biggest election victory in 50 years. Ardern, 40, gained international attention when she became prime minister in 2017, then one of the worlds youngest female leaders. At the beginning of this year, her center-left party looked set for a tight election due to a lack of progress on issues it had promised to prioritize, like housing and reducing child poverty, CNN reported. Then came Covid-19. Ardern responded swiftly, with an early lockdown that essentially eliminated spread of the virus. She also spoke directly to New Zealanders with a warmth and empathy thats been lacking in other world leaders, helping to soothe New Zealanders anxieties and getting them on board with coronavirus restrictions. To date, New Zealand has reported fewer than 2,000 cases and 25 deaths due to Covid-19. In Saturdays election, Arderns party is on track to win 64 of the 120 seats in the countrys parliament, according to Reuters. That would give the Labour Party decisive control of the government, allowing it to govern without having to form a coalition, and granting Ardern and her allies more power than ever to chart New Zealands course through the pandemic and beyond. We will build back better from the Covid crisis, Ardern said in her acceptance speech on Saturday, evoking a slogan also used by former US Vice President Joe Bidens presidential campaign. This is our opportunity. Ardern has always been popular abroad. Now she has a mandate at home. Ardern has maintained a high profile around the world since she was elected, as Damien Cave reports at the New York Times. It wasnt just her youth that drew attention she also became the first world leader in nearly 30 years to give birth while in office in 2018. Her six-week parental leave was hailed as groundbreaking, showing the importance of paid leave for parents at a time when many especially in the US struggle to access this benefit. (In New Zealand, new parents can access up to 26 weeks of paid leave funded by the government.) But Ardern hasnt always been as successful at home as she was popular abroad. Leading a coalition with the nationalist New Zealand First Party, she has struggled to deliver on progressive promises like making housing more affordable and tackling climate change, Cave reports. Covid-19 then changed everything. Ardern was praised not just around the world but in New Zealand, where her quick action meant that many children could go back to school, and adults could return to work, while countries like the US saw a surge in infections. Meanwhile, her personal addresses amid the pandemic to New Zealanders were lauded for their directness and warmth. In April, for example, she reassured the countrys children that both the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny were considered essential workers. Arderns response was in many ways the embodiment of one of her leadership mantras: Be strong, be kind. Arderns effectiveness, alongside strong responses by Germanys Angela Merkel, Taiwans Tsai Ing-Wen, and others, even led some to wonder if female leaders were better at handling the pandemic than male leaders. And now, her constituents have voted to keep her at the helm as New Zealand continues to weather Covid-19. With a majority in the countrys parliament, Labour will be able to form a single-party government that may give Ardern greater ability to deliver on her priorities than shes had in the past. Despite this mandate, Arderns second term will bring new challenges including repairing an economy weakened by successive lockdowns, and ensuring her majority is able to deliver on its campaign promises. She has significant political capital, Jennifer Curtin, director of the Public Policy Institute at the University of Auckland, told the Times. Shes going to have to fulfill her promises with more substance. But Ardern says shes ready to get to work. The campaign slogan that carried her to victory was simple: Lets keep moving. Help keep Vox free for all Millions turn to Vox each month to understand whats happening in the news, from the coronavirus crisis to a racial reckoning to what is, quite possibly, the most consequential presidential election of our lifetimes. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower you through understanding. But our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources. Even when the economy and the news advertising market recovers, your support will be a critical part of sustaining our resource-intensive work. If you have already contributed, thank you. If you havent, please consider helping everyone make sense of an increasingly chaotic world: Contribute today from as little as $3.