The 2018 Midterms and Legislative Limbo

This week, Americans go to the polls to decide the composition of the next Congress. President Trump’s upset victory over Hillary Clinton two years ago generated a surge of political engagement on both sides. Because this political fervor continues, the 2018 election has been perhaps the most highly anticipated midterm of our lifetimes.

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Sweden's Shift Right

Since Brexit’s success in June of 2016, European political commentary has focused on the decline of moderate “establishment” parties and the emergence of right-wing populism as a powerful new force. In the last two years, elections in several countries, including Germany, Austria, Poland reinforced this narrative, with far-right parties gaining ground and some governments modifying their policies to appease nationalist voters  Last Sunday, Europe’s political transformation seems to have continued.

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The GOP Tax Bill and the Midterm Elections

Last January 3, an overjoyed Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell took their seats in the new 115th Congress hoping to undo President Obama’s legacy and establish a conservative one of their own. The next months, however, did not live up to their expectations. Despite their surprise victory in the 2016 elections, which gave them the presidency and allowed them to maintain control of both houses of Congress, the Republicans found themselves divided, consumed by unsuccessful attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and unable to pass any major legislation. This has all changed in recent weeks, with a new tax bill likely to become law. 

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Austrians and Czechs Move Europe Right

This month, Austria and the Czech Republic held general elections. The results in both countries represent the latest step in right-wing populism’s march through Europe. On October 15, Austrians voted for Sebastian Kurz, a 31-year-old ex-foreign minister and head of the center-right OVP (Austrian People’s Party), to be their next chancellor. After his appointment to the OVP’s top spot last May, Kurz revitalized his stagnant and floundering party, bringing it from a dismal 20 percent support to 31.5 percent in the election. Discussion of migration dominated the campaign. Kurz capitalized on popular concerns about this issue, promising to close the Mediterranean Route, a major path African migrants take to reach Europe, and arguing that “on a European level we need to fight hard to put a stop to immigration.” Interestingly, the OVP’s embrace of nationalism did not prevent the far-right Freedom Party (FPO) from gaining ground; the FPO also climbed 5% to 26%, finishing just behind the second-place Social Democrats.

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Is a Nuclear North Korea Inevitable?

In a meeting with President Trump last November, President Obama described North Korea as our country’s biggest national security threat. Given that Kim Jong Un has threatened to carry out a nuclear strike on our nation for years and has failed to follow through, Obama’s concern seems overblown. However, the “hermit kingdom” has recently upgraded its weapons system and is becoming the imminent danger many fear. Unfortunately, we may now be powerless. It is probably too late to take decisive action without accepting an enormous death toll, even though passivity will bind us to an intolerable future.

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