Lamentations over “Realpolitik” – An Obituary of Sorts

I have been reading many of the obituaries of Henry Kissinger in the past few days. So far, only two have been a positive one, while the others (either by the editorial board or columnists or invited authors in FT, Politico, Washington Post, NYT, Guardian, Huff Post, New Yorker, Atlantic) have been mostly negative. Because of the way that his life affected my own career path, I am personally inspired to chime in to the hoopla. Here are my thoughts about why I do not align with the positives. Continue reading “Lamentations over “Realpolitik” – An Obituary of Sorts”

Slim Democratic Majorities in Virginia

The outcome of the state legislative elections in Virginia, held on Tuesday, 6 November 2023, produced narrow majorities for the Democrats in both houses of the General Assembly. In contrast to the alarming polarization and the populist takeover of one of the major political parties at the national level, this is an encouraging example of democracy in action. I include this chronicling of Virginia’s politics from afar in this series on “Democracy under Threat” with a bit of optimism while also recognizing the worrisome undercurrents that are evident even in Virginia. Continue reading “Slim Democratic Majorities in Virginia”

In the Final Days of the Virginia Elections

In these last few days before Election Day in Virginia (Tuesday, November 7th), I have the impression that democracy is alive and well in this part of the world. One can lament the enormous and unrestricted amount of money that has gone into the 140 state legislative races for the Virginia General Assembly, as well as the barrage of negative advertising by or on behalf of many of the candidates, especially in the hotly contested districts. But it is a truly competitive election, thanks to the involvement of the media and civil society groups and academic commentators in publicizing where all that money is coming from and how the candidates are positioning themselves on the issues. I am impressed. Continue reading “In the Final Days of the Virginia Elections”

Chaos and TikTok and Virginia Politics

With abortion  rights and parental rights prominent in recent Virginia news, the spillover of chaos in Congress may not be as big a deal in the state’s legislative races as the prospects of a federal government shutdown might have been.  But the shocking ouster of Representative Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the House did highlight the dangers of populist extremism from the right within the Republican Party. Complicating matters a bit is the $2 million donation to Governor Youngkin’s Spirit of Virginia PAC from an American billionaire associated as a major investor with the Chinese TikTok. Continue reading “Chaos and TikTok and Virginia Politics”

No Lockdown, After All

We were reminded during the flurry last week of failed formulas to avoid another shutdown, that the one in 2013 coincided with the Virginia gubernatorial election of Terry McAuliffe. Republicans had wanted to defund the Affordable Care Act then (and ultimately failed), but a side effect of the 16-day shutdown was a higher turnout for the Democratic candidates. The off-year cycle of Virginia elections in this latest federal budgetary confrontation does not involve a governor, but it does involve the 140 seats (40 for the Senate and 100 for the House) of the Virginia legislative assembly. Continue reading “No Lockdown, After All”

Progress Report on Virginia’s State Legislative Elections

We are on the brink of a federal government shutdown attributable to the extremist faction of Republicans in the House of Representatives. This is a bizarre characteristic of American democracy, but it is especially detrimental to a state like Virginia, with its second largest contingent of federal employees in the country (huge California being the only one with more). If there is no new annual budget for the federal government starting on 1 October 2023, almost all federal employees are required to stay away from their work duties and forfeit their income. Continue reading “Progress Report on Virginia’s State Legislative Elections”

Democracy in Jeopardy: The Case Study of Elections in Virginia

The anti-democratic turn in politics around the world was startlingly highlighted by the events of January 6, 2021 at the US Capitol. The shock of it operated as a trigger for me (as it was for much of the world!) to pay closer attention to what is happening to democracies more generally, and not just in the US.  It inspired me to start writing this series on “Democracy in Jeopardy”, with the idea that I could at least focus on democratic challenges in the three countries where I have lived – USA, of course, but also France, where I have been living on and off for the past couple of decades, and India, where I spent much of my childhood.  One can hope that first-hand knowledge stimulates action. I have written extensively about my impressions of how democracy operates in France, and a bit about my memories of democracy in India. And although I have been following and have even been actively involved in American politics from afar, I am only now getting around to writing down my thoughts about the state of democracy in the US.  I start with my observations about politics in the state of Virginia – excuse me, the “Commonwealth” of Virginia! Continue reading “Democracy in Jeopardy: The Case Study of Elections in Virginia”

Reflections on the Evolution of Democracy in India

On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of India’s independence, a lot was  written about the deteriorating state of Indian democracy as yet another example of how apparently well-entrenched democracies are threatened by anti-democratic political movements.   I, too,  have been concerned about the threat to democracy from populist-inspired nationalism and its variations in the US, France and India, three countries with which I have personal connections.  I currently live in France, was born and lived in the States, but also lived for many of my formative years in India. Here I am inspired to share my reflections about my passion for India and how my impressions of this great country have evolved through the various occasions of my presence in that country. We all wring our hands in dismay over the sliding away from democratic values that we observe in India these days, and I hope that we’ll get past this somehow. Continue reading “Reflections on the Evolution of Democracy in India”

An Unusual Selection of Campaign Posters for French Elections

In the town where I live (Grasse, France), there is an enclave known as Ste. Anne. Geographically, it appears to be encircled by the municipality of Grasse, but it is a small valley with a distinct atmosphere.  The main road into Grasse dips down and curves around the edge of this valley.  At the main turn-off into Ste Anne there is a large signboard that is visible to vehicular traffic going into Grasse itself. This signboard regularly features large posters – typically but not always political ones. (Sometimes, they are advertising a circus nearby.) It’s the unusual flow of political posters that has caught my eye. Continue reading “An Unusual Selection of Campaign Posters for French Elections”

Comparing the Extremists in the US House with a Similar Situation in the French National Assembly

The penetration and disruption of extremist politicians into governing bodies is a worldwide phenomenon. The 15 ballots that it took for Kevin McCarthy to prevail over a cluster of extremists to be elected Speaker of the US House of Representatives is only the beginning of a disruptive two years for US governance.  Similar concerns are on display in numerous other countries, but here it is interesting to see how the functioning of the French National Assembly compares with what has happened (and is happening) in the US. Continue reading “Comparing the Extremists in the US House with a Similar Situation in the French National Assembly”