Comparing US and EU Recent Migration Trends

The United States has the largest foreign-born population of any country in the world (roughly 50 million). This is not the highest percentage of the population – many smaller countries have that standing (including Switzerland – but also Germany and Austria).  With a long (albeit erratic) history of previous immigration flows, both voluntary and forced, the US is probably the most diverse country in the world.  But the EU has also experienced comparably significant increases in migration and diversification. Without dwelling on the past, though, the challenge is to look at recent trends and explore the similarities and differences. Continue reading “Comparing US and EU Recent Migration Trends”

International Women’s Day 2024: France the Pioneer

With cold and stormy weather in southern France keeping me at home on International Women’s Day, I watched wistfully as the sunshine shone on the large crowds gathered in front of the Ministry of Justice at the Place Vendôme in Paris. We were witnessing the formalities of enshrining a woman’s right to an abortion as an amendment to the French Constitution. And I didn’t have to be there in person to join the celebration.  France is definitely the pioneer in what President Emmanuel Macron described as the “beginning of a struggle” to establish the right to an abortion as a universal right everywhere. Continue reading “International Women’s Day 2024: France the Pioneer”

European Migration Issues: An Introductory Commentary

Migration has become a  prominent political issue in both the US and Europe. One could argue that it has always been a visibly controversial and divisive issue – and certainly so in the past ten or fifteen years.  What is different this year, however, is how rapidly it has risen to the top of the political agenda both in the US and Europe. The heating up of the migration debate may be attributable to its easy manipulation by populists in a significant year for elections in both the US and Europe. But it is clear that the record numbers of people seeking to migrate have been aggravated by the unusual ways that the legal framework for what one might call “irregular” or “unauthorized” migration have come to dominate the debate. The following commentary assesses the European and French context of the migration debate, with some preliminary comparisons with the US context. A separate commentary is planned to reflect further on recent developments in the US. Continue reading “European Migration Issues: An Introductory Commentary”

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”