The Far Right Is Here to Stay

Mr. Salvini has been crowned (or at least, has crowned himself) this movement’s leader. During the campaign he met with fellow nationalists across Europe, and organized a big rally in Milan to unite the parties. His dream now is to build a cohesive voting bloc in the new Parliament that can shape the legislative agenda. He’s likely to fail: Nationalists aren’t known for cooperation and compromise, and many issues divide them, in particular Russia. Even so, they are a force to be reckoned with.

None of these parties seems any longer to support exiting the European Union or the eurozone. Instead, they want to change it from within. If the nationalist far right can mobilize a third of the European Parliament’s votes by making common cause with other conservatives, it will be able to do lots of damage, for example by blocking any attempt by the European Commission to punish a European Union country that violates the rule of law. Last year the Parliament issued such a warning against Hungary. Would the same thing be possible in 2020? It’s not hard to imagine the European Union becoming a union of liberal and illiberal democracies

Thankfully — and for this we can be grateful to voters — the euroskeptic nationalists are not the only new force to be reckoned with in the European Parliament. Liberal and Green parties were the surprise winners of this election. Together they gained about 60 additional seats, giving them a total of 176; with this will come much political influence. Perhaps the Greens will use their success to demand that climate change become a priority for the continent.

The Greens found their support predominantly among young, urban pro-Europeans who support the idea of a united Europe but are critical of the European Union as it exists today. They see Brussels as risk averse and neglectful when it comes to long-term problems like rising inequality and the environment.

So these are the victors:

  • Ecological liberals who want to preserve life on Earth and
  • national populists who want to preserve their way of life.

But what they have in common is the sense that the current trajectory of politics and society is not sustainable. They both offered change and change was in demand.

On the eve of the elections, a poll by the European Council on Foreign Relations found that while the trust in the European Union is higher than any time in the last 25 years, a majority of Europeans believe that the bloc will fall apart within 20 years.

For the moment, supporters of the European Union don’t need to panic. The elections demonstrated that Mr. Bannon’s predictions of a revolution at the ballot box were fantastical. The nationalist far right is not going to break up the European Union any time soon. But while these elections succeeded in containing the rise of euroskepticism, the real problem is not going away: europessimism.

The Economics of the Civil War

In 1805 there were just over one million slaves worth about $300 million; fifty-five years later there were four million slaves worth close to $3 billion. In the 11 states that eventually formed the Confederacy, four out of ten people were slaves in 1860, and these people accounted for more than half the agricultural labor in those states. In the cotton regions the importance of slave labor was even greater. The value of capital invested in slaves roughly equaled the total value of all farmland and farm buildings in the South.

.. Looking at Figure 1, it is hardly surprising that Southern slaveowners in 1860 were optimistic about the economic future of their region. They were, after all, in the midst of an unparalleled rise in the value of their slave assets.

.. The Northern states also had a huge economic stake in slavery and the cotton trade. The first half of the nineteenth century witnessed an enormous increase in the production of short-staple cotton in the South, and most of that cotton was exported to Great Britain and Europe. Figure 2 charts the growth of cotton exports from 1815 to 1860. By the mid 1830s, cotton shipments accounted for more than half the value of all exports from the United States. Note that there is a marked similarity between the trends in the export of cotton and the rising value of the slave population depicted in Figure 1. There could be little doubt that the prosperity of the slave economy rested on its ability to produce cotton more efficiently than any other region of the world.

.. The income generated by this “export sector” was a major impetus for growth not only in the South, but in the rest of the economy as well. Douglass North, in his pioneering study of the antebellum U.S. economy, examined the flows of trade within the United States to demonstrate how all regions benefited from the South’s concentration on cotton production (North 1961). Northern merchants gained from Southern demands for shipping cotton to markets abroad, and from the demand by Southerners for Northern and imported consumption goods. The low price of raw cotton produced by slave labor in the American South enabled textile manufacturers — both in the United States and in Britain — to expand production and provide benefits to consumers through a declining cost of textile products. As manufacturing of all kinds expanded at home and abroad, the need for food in cities created markets for foodstuffs that could be produced in the areas north of the Ohio River. And the primary force at work was the economic stimulus from the export of Southern Cotton. When James Hammond exclaimed in 1859 that “Cotton is King!” no one rose to dispute the point.

.. One “economic” solution to the slave problem would be for those who objected to slavery to “buy out” the economic interest of Southern slaveholders. Under such a scheme, the federal government would purchase slaves. A major problem here was that the costs of such a scheme would have been enormous. Claudia Goldin estimates that the cost of having the government buy all the slaves in the United States in 1860, would be about $2.7 billion (1973: 85, Table 1). Obviously, such a large sum could not be paid all at once. Yet even if the payments were spread over 25 years, the annual costs of such a scheme would involve a tripling of federal government outlays (Ransom and Sutch 1990: 39-42)! The costs could be reduced substantially if instead of freeing all the slaves at once, children were left in bondage until the age of 18 or 21 (Goldin 1973:85). Yet there would remain the problem of how even those reduced costs could be distributed among various groups in the population. The cost of any “compensated” emancipation scheme was so high that even those who wished to eliminate slavery were unwilling to pay for a “buyout” of those who owned slaves.

.. Beard and Hacker focused on the narrow economic aspects of these changes, interpreting them as the efforts of an emerging class of industrial capitalists to gain control of economic policy. More recently, historians have taken a broader view of the situation, arguing that the sectional splits on these economic issues reflected sweeping economic and social changes in the Northern and Western states that were not experienced by people in the South. The term most historians have used to describe these changes is a “market revolution.”

.. In 1860 6.1 million people — roughly one out of five persons in the United States — lived in an urban county. A glance at either the map or Table 2 reveals the enormous difference in urban development in the South compared to the Northern states. More than two-thirds of all urban counties were in the Northeast and West; those two regions accounted for nearly 80 percent of the urban population of the country. By contrast, less than 7 percent of people in the 11 Southern states of Table 2 lived in urban counties.

.. In the South, the picture was very different. Cotton cultivation with slave labor did not require local financial services or nearby manufacturing activities that might generate urban activities. The 11 states of the Confederacy had only 51 urban counties and they were widely scattered throughout the region. Western agriculture with its emphasis on foodstuffs encouraged urban activity near to the source of production. These centers were not necessarily large; indeed, the West had roughly the same number of large and mid-sized cities as the South. However there were far more small towns scattered throughout settled regions of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan than in the Southern landscape.

.. Settlement of western lands had always been a major bone of contention for slave and free-labor farms. The manner in which the federal government distributed land to people could have a major impact on the nature of farming in a region. Northerners wanted to encourage the settlement of farms which would depend primarily on family labor by offering cheap land in small parcels. Southerners feared that such a policy would make it more difficult to keep areas open for settlement by slaveholders who wanted to establish large plantations. This all came to a head with the “Homestead Act” of 1860 that would provide 160 acres of free land for anyone who wanted to settle and farm the land. Northern and western congressmen strongly favored the bill in the House of Representatives but the measure received only a single vote from slave states’ representatives. The bill passed, but President Buchanan vetoed it.

.. Southerners, with their emphasis on staple agriculture and need to buy goods produced outside the South, strongly objected to the imposition of duties on imported goods. Manufacturers in the Northeast, on the other hand, supported a high tariff as protection against cheap British imports. People in the West were caught in the middle of this controversy. Like the agricultural South they disliked the idea of a high “protective” tariff that raised the cost of imports. However the tariff was also the main source of federal revenue at this time, and Westerners needed government funds for the transportation improvements they supported in Congress.

.. In 1834 President Andrew Jackson created a major furor when he vetoed a bill to recharter the Second Bank of the United States. Jackson’s veto ushered in a period of that was termed “free banking” in the United States, where the chartering and regulation of banks was left entirely in the hands of state governments. Banks were a relatively new economic institution at this point in time, and opinions were sharply divided over the degree to which the federal government should regulate banks. In the Northeast, where over 60 percent of all banks were located, there was strong support by 1860 for the creation of a system of banks that would be chartered and regulated by the federal government. But in the South, which had little need for local banking services, there was little enthusiasm for such a proposal.

.. They see the economic conflict of North and South, in the words of Richard Brown, as “the conflict of a modernizing society”

.. James McPherson, argues that Southerners were correct when they claimed that the revolutionary program sweeping through the North threatened their way of life

.. Most writers argue that the decision for war on Lincoln’s part was not based primarily on economic grounds. However, Gerald Gunderson points out that if, as many historians argue, Northern Republicans were intent on controlling the spread of slavery, then a war to keep the South in the Union might have made sense. Gunderson compares the “costs” of the war (which we discuss below) with the cost of “compensated” emancipation and notes that the two are roughly the same order of magnitude — 2.5 to 3.7 billion dollars (1974: 940-42). Thus, going to war made as much “economic sense” as buying out the slaveholders.

.. the only way that the North could ensure that their program to contain slavery could be “enforced” would be if the South were kept in the Union. Allowing the South to leave the Union would mean that the North could no longer control the expansion of slavery anywhere in the Western Hemisphere

The New York Congressman Who Could Lead an Impeachment Charge Against Trump

When House Republicans impeached Bill Clinton, in 1998, for lying about his affair with the former intern Monica Lewinsky, Nadler emerged as one of Clinton’s most ardent and public defenders, trading his obscurity for a brief moment in the national spotlight. The impeachment, he warned in the House Judiciary Committee, was a spectacular misuse of the power granted to Congress by its founding fathers, a “partisan coup d’état.”

.. The #MeToo movement had just claimed the eighty-eight-year-old congressman John Conyers, of Michigan, who resigned after multiple women came forward to accuse him of harassing and propositioning them.

.. That left a prime opening to succeed Conyers as the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, which would oversee an impeachment of Trump if Democrats were to win control of the House in November’s midterm elections.

.. a leaflet he wrote and handed out to Democratic members said he was “the strongest member to lead a potential impeachment.”

.. Nadler, a stubborn seventy-year-old who spent the better part of two decades battling to stop Trump from rerouting the West Side Highway.

.. if and when it comes to impeachment, he will in no way be a neutral arbiter of the President’s fate but an implacable foe who has already pronounced judgment on Trump’s fitness for office.

.. After Trump fired the F.B.I. director, James Comey, last spring, Nadler said that there was a “very strong case” that it constituted obstruction of justice.

.. saying, “This President presents the greatest threat to constitutional liberty and the functioning of our government in living memory.”

.. he believed that Trump’s refusal to retaliate for the Russian intervention was as serious as if an American Commander-in-Chief had failed to respond to the 1941 Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

.. “It’s a fundamental attack on our way of life. It’s a very fundamental attack on the U.S.

.. “What if Roosevelt had said, after Pearl Harbor, ‘We’re not sure who did it. Maybe it was the Chinese. Maybe it was somebody else’? And used that as an excuse not to respond?”

.. A vocal and growing minority of House Democrats is not waiting for the results of Mueller’s investigation to make that judgment on impeaching Trump.

.. a resolution to begin the process of impeachment authored by Congressman Al Green, of Texas, has twice been put to a vote. In early December, it received fifty-eight Democratic votes.

.. forty-one per cent of Americans support impeachment

.. “We started this knowing it’s a marathon and not a sprint,” Steyer told me. “And that it has to do with the information reaching the American people so that people understand this is a deeply unfit and dangerous American President.”

.. But Steyer’s rallying of the Trump-hating party base has put him at odds with Nadler and other Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill, who believe it is both premature and politically damaging to call for impeachment now.

.. Bernie Sanders has publicly pleaded with Steyer and others to avoid “jumping the gun” and pushing for Trump’s removal before it’s possible to achieve it. Other Democrats, especially the campaign strategists who have to advise the Party’s candidates in the midterm elections, fear that impeachment is a political loser with voters, who will cast ballots on more traditional pocketbook issues.

.. “But I would also quote Nelson Mandela: ‘Everything is impossible until it happens.’

.. He considers Steyer’s Need to Impeach campaign “premature at best,” he told me. “I don’t think it’s constructive. We don’t have the evidence now that would be convincing enough to people to justify impeachment.”

.. As a political matter, Nadler added, “I don’t think the election campaign should be fought on the basis of impeachment or no impeachment.

.. In Nadler’s reading of history, Nixon was forced from office because Democrats enlisted enough Republicans in the impeachment case to make Nixon’s presumed conviction in the Senate, by a two-thirds majority, likely; then and only then did Nixon step aside.

.. In the Clinton case, conversely, Democrats stuck together and voted en masse against the House impeachment, and Republicans were unable to secure a conviction on the basis of just their own party’s votes in the Senate.

.. Removing the President is a dramatic move against the popular will; in effect, Nadler said, “you are nullifying the last election,” which is not something to be undertaken “without having buy-in, at least by the end of the process, by an appreciable fraction” of Republicans as well as Democrats.

.. The alternative? “Twenty or thirty years of recriminations. Of almost half the country saying, ‘We won the election; you stole it from us.’ You don’t want to do that. Which means you should not impeach the President unless you really believe that, by the end of the process, you will have not only Democrats agreeing with you but a good fraction of the people who voted for him.”

.. he successfully urged Republicans on the Judiciary Committee to hold hearings on just what would constitute an impeachable offense, an exercise that convinced him that “the real test for an impeachable offense is, is this a threat to the constitutional order, to the protection of liberty, to the checks and balances system that the Constitution sets up?”

.. “The impeachment clause was put into the Constitution as a political tool with which to defend the republic, to defend the constitutional order, to defend against a would-be tyrant.”

.. he expected that Mueller, like previous special counsels before him in the Clinton and Nixon cases, would deliver a report to Congress laying out his evidence related to the President, and he promised it would have to be sufficiently serious and specific.

.. I would certainly have to be convinced if I were going to help lead it—that the President has committed impeachable offenses, and that those impeachable offenses are so serious that the constitutional order is threatened if he is not impeached and removed from office,” Nadler said. “That’s the real test.”