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Background Briefing: May 28, 2019

 

Dark Forces Did Not Win in the EU Elections but the Greens Did

Hello and welcome to Background Briefing, available 24/7 at backgroundbrieifng.org, I’m Ian Masters and today we will examine a number of stories and issues in the news.  We will begin with the results of the elections for the European Parliament in which the much-feared rise of the far-right seizing enough seats to paralyze the E.U. did not materialize and instead there were gains on the left with the Greens winning 69 seats in the European Parliament, up from 52 seats in 2014.  Daniela Schwarzer, Director of the German Council on Foreign Relations, joins us to discuss the E.U. elections which saw the highest turnout in two decades and analyze the results that indicate the long-serving center-right and center-left coalitions have lost their majorities to gains on the populist right and the environmentalist left. Gains by Salvini’s far-right anti-immigrant League in Italy, the far-right National Rally of Marine Le Pen’s in France and the U.K.’s new Brexit Party, were to some extent offset by the collapse of Austria’s governing right wing coalition, not to mention the strongest-ever results for Germany’s Greens who took 21% of the vote, just behind Chancellor Merkel’s Christian Democrats. In a CNN interview Merkel warned that there is “work to be done” in Germany to confront dark forces on the rise in Europe and she strongly rejected ceding any ground to populist parties, instead she spoke of a need to show “why we are a democracy, why we try to bring about solutions, why we always have to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes, why we must stand up against intolerance, why we show no tolerance towards violations of human rights”.

 

Trump Throws Bolton and Abe Under the Bus

Then we get an assessment of Trump’s just-concluded state visit to Japan which prioritized pomp over policy where at the closing press conference, in one breath Trump undercut his National Security Advisor and Japan’s Prime Minister Abe by suggesting North Korea’s recent short-range missile tests were not a big deal and did not violate U.N. sanctions, which they did. Apparently Trump is only concerned about North Korea’s long range missiles which could reach the U.S., but for Japan, Kim Jong-un’s nuclear-tipped short range missiles are a big deal. Kent Harrington, a former senior CIA analyst who was National Intelligence Officer for East Asia, joins us to discuss his article at Project Syndicate “Kim Jong-un’s Moneyball Strategy” and Trump’s Japan trip.”

 

Will Working Class Politics Emerge in the 2020 Elections?

Then finally we look into whether the Democrats will embrace working class politics in the 2020 campaign or play more towards identity politics and social issues as few candidates in the crowded field rely on union support while most hew towards issues that concern donors that do not necessarily resonate with working Americans. Eric Blanc, a former high school teacher who writes on labor movements past and present for The Guardian and The Nation joins us to discuss his new book “Red State Revolt: The Teachers’ Strike Wave and Working Class Politics”.