The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

May Tells Everyone to March to the Polls in June

May Tells Everyone to March to the Polls in June

Surprise! The United Kingdom will hold parliamentary elections June 8.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has announced plans to call a snap general election on 8 June.

She said Britain needed certainty, stability and strong leadership following the EU referendum.

Explaining the decision, Mrs May said: “The country is coming together but Westminster is not.”

There will be a Commons vote on the proposed election on Wednesday – Labour have said they will vote with the government.

The prime minister needs Parliament’s backing to hold a vote before the next scheduled date of 2020.

Explaining her change of heart on an early election, Mrs May said: “I have concluded the only way to guarantee certainty and security for years ahead is to hold this election.”

I’m sure the parliamentary system of snap elections makes sense to our cousins across the Atlantic, but it feels really odd over on this side. Could you imagine waking up one morning and finding out there’s a new election for the country’s leader in six weeks? (Cue Democrats saying, “If only!”)

Apparently the biggest opposition party was caught completely unprepared: My old friend Marshall Manson observes, “Watching coverage on the BBC. They can’t get a Labour spokesperson on camera. No front benchers. No one at all.”

The Dems Went Down to Georgia, Looking for a House Seat to Steal

Here it comes! Tonight brings the second and probably most interesting special House election of 2017, in Georgia’s sixth congressional district. Today 30-year-old Democrat Jon Ossoff, a quartet of other little-known Democrats, nearly a dozen Republicans, and an independent face off, and if anyone gets 50 percent, they’re the new representative. If no one reaches 50 percent, then the two top candidates — probably Ossoff and either former Georgia secretary of state Karen Handel and local businessman or former Johns Creek city councilman Bob Gray — head to a runoff June 20.

As I wrote back in February, “These are not the most glamorous of contests, but as Republican success at the state level during the Obama years demonstrates, they can be consequential. If there is indeed a massive grassroots mobilization of anti-Trump voters in the works, its first glimmers should be seen in this year’s races.” Democrats ran a lot better than usual in the heavily Republican Kansas district last week… but they still fell short.

Democrats think Ossoff has a shot of breaking 50 percent tonight. If he doesn’t, he’ll probably have a tough time in the runoff; as Erick Erickson observes, “There hasn’t been any significant poll showing Jon Ossoff equaling or exceeding Hillary Clinton’s 46.8 percent” that she received in the district in 2016. Getting almost 47 percent is a nice figure in a 20-candidate traffic jam of a race, and disappointing in a two-candidate runoff.

Our Alexandra DeSanctis is covering the race from the trail:

Georgia’s sixth congressional district — which is made up of the eastern part of Cobb County, as well as the northern parts of Fulton and DeKalb counties — has been represented by a Republican for nearly four decades straight, since 1979. For about two of those decades, the district’s congressman was Newt Gingrich; he was followed by Johnny Isakson (who is now one of Georgia’s two senators), and then Price. None of these candidates ever had any difficulty holding on to the seat.

Many who know the district well — much better than the outside Democrats who have swooped in to peddle Ossoff as the antidote to Trump — are quick to point out that, while GA-06 has long been Republican, it has never been Trump Republican. In the GOP presidential primary last year, Florida senator Marco Rubio won the district with nearly 40 percent of the vote. Trump came in a distant second with 28 percent, topped by a margin of about 14,000 votes. This may explain why voter enthusiasm in GA-06 paled come November. It is worth noting, too, that, skeptical though they are of his strand of conservatism, Trump is faring better with voters in GA-06 than he is with the median voter. While his current national approval rating is at 42 percent, in March he had an approval rating of 51 percent in the sixth district.

If tonight shakes out the way the polls suggest, with Ossoff in the high 40s, then the news for Democrats is mixed. Anger over Trump has motivated their grassroots to come out in better-than-usual numbers in special elections… just not enough to win in heavily Republican districts.

It’s Hard to Keep It Light if There’s an Approaching ‘Dark Age’

James Kirchick’s The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues, and the Coming Dark Age is not a fun read, but it’s an important one.

Early on, he details how the Hungarian government is choosing to forget some aspects of the country’s history regarding the Holocaust:

On the Sunday of July 20, 2014, police cordoned off Freedom Square [in Budapest] while construction workers put the finishing touches on an addition to this urban tableau already brimming with historical tributes: the Memorial to the Victims of the German Occupation. From the moment its construction was announced, following an opaque artistic competition lacking public consultation, it had been the subject of heated dispute. Beginning with its very title, which labels the tempted movement of German soldiers onto friendly territory an “occupation” the memorial absolves Hungarians’ complicity in the Holocaust. Depicting the Archangel Gabriel (described in the plans as the man of God, symbol of Hungary) under attack from a sharp-clawed German Imperial Eagle, it portrays the Hungarian nation as a collective victim of Nazi predation. BLOCK This distortion of history obscures both the specifically anti-Jewish nature of the Holocaust and the Hungarian state’s active collaboration in mass murder.

It’s striking how a monument built by a government that claims for itself the exclusive legacy of Hungarian anticommunist resistance so much resembles a work of socialist realism. By obscuring Jewish victimhood entirely and ascribing total innocence to Hungarians and total evil to Germans, the memorial is actually as exploitative as any Stalinist icon.

… [Prime Minister Viktor] Orban’s defense of the occupation memorial was also notable for studiously dodging the fact that the main victims of the Nazis in Hungary, as everywhere else in Europe, were Jews. “The victims,” he wrote, “whether Orthodox, Christian, or without faith, became the victims of a dictatorship that embodied an anti-Christian school of thought” — essentially claiming that Christians were as much victims of the Nazis as Jews, a word his letter does not use even once.

… When I visited Freedom Square [in summer 2015], an eighty-seven year old Holocaust survivor sat directly opposite the memorial addressing a small group of people. A rotating crew of citizens stand watch over the Living Memorial to prevent its defacement by neo-Nazis. I asked that evening’s attendant, a man who appeared to be in his late fifties, a gentile, why he was spending a beautiful Budapest summer night in what seemed like a lonely, futile protest. “History is more complicated than this falsifying, simplifying monument,” he answered.

Second to Russia, no European country is manipulating its history for political purposes more egregiously than Hungary. In both places, rewriting the past is done with an eye to the future, as governments inculcate their citizenries with nationalism, irredentism, and intolerance and then marshal these attitudes in service of the state. The clashing historical narratives embodied in the dueling memorials in Freedom Square have engaged the wider public in a debate reaching far beyond the usual esoteric academic circles. As Hungary creeps further into authoritarianism, its revisionism has worrisome implications for Europe’s future.

I’m sure there are some U.S. conservatives who conclude that because Orban heads up the party of the Right in that country’s politics, he must be the good guy. Eh, don’t be so sure. Back in 2014, he declared, “Hungarians welcomed illiberal democracy… ‘Checks and balances’ is a U.S. invention that for some reason of intellectual mediocrity Europe decided to adopt and use in European politics.” Hey, pal, we’re fighting like the Dickens to keep checks and balances in place over here. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and all that.

If that all seems too dark and depressing, here’s Kirchick getting kicked off RT television after going rogue and using his interview time to denounce Putin’s record on the human rights of homosexuals.

ADDENDA: In the Morning Jolt of April 7:

This morning, we finally have one big change to U.S. foreign policy that you have heard me yearning for, month after month: There is now a consequence to using chemical weapons. Not an all-out war, not an invasion, not even a full effort at regime change, just… consequences. And just maybe, the Syrian military will decide to leave the sarin and the chlorine on the shelf in the next battle.

It’s now April 18, and so far, Assad’s regime hasn’t used chemical weapons since the U.S. strike. Syria is still a horrific bloodbath, but we might be looking at a successful case of deterrence.


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