E. J. Dionne Jr.

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Australia sent the democratic world some useful messages in its recent election. The most important: that democracy can stay healthy even when voters are disgruntled, and even when they have problems with the two major parties.

Our friends Down Under could do this partly because they have an electoral system that requires everyone to vote and allows voters to cast ballots in a nuanced way. Preferential voting, in which voters rank their choices, means that voters can say more about how they think than a single marking next to one candidate or party can convey.

And with turnouts approaching 90 percent, the will of the people really is the will of the people.…  Seguir leyendo »

El presidente francés Emmanuel Macron, las fuerzas de la democracia liberal y la alianza contra Ucrania obtuvieron un respiro en la primera vuelta de las elecciones presidenciales de Francia realizada este domingo.

A pesar de las preocupaciones de los partidarios de Macron de que obtendría el primer lugar por muy poco margen, ganó con 27.4% de casi todos los votos escrutados, muy por delante de la candidata de extrema derecha Marine Le Pen, quien obtuvo 24% en su tercera contienda presidencial. La actuación relativamente sólida de Macron aumenta la probabilidad de que logre la victoria cuando los dos se enfrenten en la segunda vuelta, el 24 de abril.…  Seguir leyendo »

French President Emmanuel Macron arrives at his election night headquarters in Paris to deliver his victory speech Sunday. (Thibault Camus/AP)

French President Emmanuel Macron, the forces of liberal democracy and the alliance against Ukraine won a reprieve in the first round of France’s presidential election on Sunday.

Despite the worries of Macron’s supporters that he would barely take the top spot, he won 27.4 percent with nearly all the votes counted, well ahead of far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who secured 24 percent in her third presidential contest. Macron’s relatively strong showing increased the likelihood that he will prevail when the two face off in the second round April 24.

In a sign of the discontent Macron’s pro-business policies have unleashed in significant parts of the French electorate, the far-left candidate, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, was running close to Le Pen with 21.6 percent.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Ukrainian woman sits outside a building nearly destroyed by Russian shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 15. (Miguel A. Lopes/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

The power of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s video address to Congress on Wednesday owed to something more than charisma born of clarity, tenacity and personal bravery.

Five words, unlikely to make a list of Top 5 sound bites, defined why this is a battle for a generation. The confrontation in Ukraine, Zelensky declared, is a fight “to keep justice in history”.

He’s right. Allowing Russia’s aggression to succeed would mean ratifying a future that privileges power over justice, autocracy over self-determination and impunity over accountability.

The trial of human decency the world is looking at now should have been obvious long ago.…  Seguir leyendo »

U.S. soldiers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division arrive to provide security in support of Operation Allies Refuge at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Aug. 20. (Us Air Force/Via Reuters)

The United States is highly competent at fighting wars when the objective is clear, victory is the only option, and a large share of the public supports the engagement.

Our country has rarely been good at sustained commitments in murky conflicts where the goal is a vague “political settlement” that is neither victory nor defeat.

We ought to have learned that lesson long ago. Afghanistan has taught it again. It’s why President Biden finally said: Enough.

Biden’s decision to withdraw is a cold, realpolitik judgment, as he underscored in remarks on Sunday. His prism, he said, rested on the questions: “Where are our national interests?…  Seguir leyendo »

Ted Kennedy managed to be esteemed by almost everyone without ever becoming all things to all people. He stood for large purposes, unequivocally and unapologetically, and took hard stands. Yet he made it his business to get work done with anyone who would toil along with him. He was a friend, colleague and human being before he was an ideologue or partisan, even though he was a joyful liberal and an implacable Democrat.

He suffered profoundly, made large mistakes and was, to say the least, imperfect. But the suffering and the failures fed a humane humility that led him to reach out to others who fell, to empathize with those burdened by pain, to understand human folly and to appreciate the quest for redemption.…  Seguir leyendo »

De nuevo es momento de esperanza. Momento de esperanza en que la era de retroceso racial y política profundamente divisoria sea historia. Momento de imaginar que el patriotismo de los disidentes ya no será cuestionado y que el mundo ya no se dividirá entre votantes de valores y aquéllos sin referentes morales. Momento de esperar que las etiquetas ideológicas ya no basten para descalificar a un político.

Por encima de todo, es momento de celebrar el sincero abrazo del país a la democracia plasmado en la intensa implicación de los estadounidenses en esta campaña y la elevada participación en las urnas por toda la nación.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Read-Only Version, by Anne Applebaum.

Having just had the surreal experience of watching snippets of the Biden-Palin debate on a BlackBerry while sitting in a car traveling between Nagoyo and Kyoto (don't ask), I thought it worth pointing out, belatedly, how different the vice-presidential debate seems when watched and when read.

I saw the transcript first, before I'd seen those snippets or read much commentary, and I therefore thought Palin had had a disastrous night.

For one, she kept contradicting herself, not least about the role of "government." On the one hand, she declared that "we need to make sure that we demand from the federal government strict oversight of those entities in chage of our investments."…  Seguir leyendo »

When you put the Olympics in the hands of a dictatorship, the results are predictable. Yet the Chinese government still found a way to surprise even its critics -- not so much by behaving oppressively but by doing so in a foolish and entirely unnecessary way.

By revoking the visa of 2006 Olympian Joey Cheek at the very last moment because he had the nerve to speak out about Darfur and the Chinese government's support for Sudan's barbarous regime, Chinese authorities guaranteed that the opening of these Games would focus as much on politics as on sports. The burden now is not on China's critics but on its government.…  Seguir leyendo »

Imagine what it would be like not to be able to marry the person with whom you want to spend the rest of your life. Then imagine how tens of thousands of gays and lesbians in California must have felt last week when the California Supreme Court declared that homosexuals have a right to marriage under the state's constitution.

My visceral reaction to this decision, rendered by a moderately conservative court dominated by Republicans, was to share the joy of the gay and lesbian couples you saw celebrating on television. But my practical reaction was to wonder whether this decision will speed or slow our country's steady change of heart on the matter of recognizing committed gay relationships.…  Seguir leyendo »

The most jarring word that Pope Benedict XVI is using during his visit to the United States is "countercultural." The American sense of that term is shaped by the 1960s: free love, drugs, hippies, rock music and rebellion. Needless to say, that's not what Benedict is preaching.

That word is the key to understanding how Benedict's message runs crosswise to conventional liberalism and conservatism. Benedict came to the United States as a quiet but forceful critic of "an increasingly secular and materialistic culture," as he put it during yesterday's Mass. Almost any American who paid attention to his sermon had to be uncomfortable because all of us are shaped by the very forces he was criticizing.…  Seguir leyendo »

Hope is an overused word and an underrated virtue.

We "hope" for all kinds of things, from the trivial to the profound. But hope is both a habit and a discipline. It is an orientation toward the future based on the conviction that we live in an ultimately trustworthy universe. Hope is the virtue on which faith and love depend.

Even more than faith and love, I think, hope is closest to the heart of the Christmas story. In an anthropological sense, Christmas celebrates new life and birth, a theme that crosses cultures and traditions. This sense of Christmas has a beauty all its own and embodies a nearly universal quest for renewal.…  Seguir leyendo »

Kevin Rudd, Australia's incoming prime minister, combines iron discipline with a puckish sense of humor, political toughness with a reflective spiritual side, and a youthful disposition with an old pro¿s skill at divining where a majority lies.

The triumph of Rudd and his Australian Labor Party holds lessons for Democrats and other center-left parties. John Howard, the conservative incumbent swept from power after 11 years in office, had presided over record prosperity. For the first time in the country¿s history, wrote Peter Hartcher in the Sydney Morning Herald, a government was tossed out in unambiguously strong economic times.

Until Saturday¿s vote, Labor had lost four elections in a row.…  Seguir leyendo »

Maybe Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki should just enter our primaries next year and Americans could vote up or down on whether he should remain in office.

The surest sign of how bad our choices in Iraq have become is the eagerness of both of our political parties to blame the entire mess on the man American officials helped install in his job. After all, it was taken as an American victory back in April 2006 when Maliki replaced Ibrahim al-Jafari, who faced many of the same criticisms as prime minister that Maliki does today.

Now, Maliki is the problem. Among Democrats, both Sens.…  Seguir leyendo »

Nicolas Sarkozy was a divisive figure during his campaign for the French presidency. But he's governing as a uniter, not a divider.

George W. Bush ran for president in 2000 promising to ease partisan divisions. He has left our politics a wreck of recrimination, anger and polarization.

This weekend, the contrast between Sarkozy and Bush could not have been more conspicuous.

From France came word that the center-right president was urging the International Monetary Fund to name Dominique Strauss-Kahn as its managing director.

There is no exact American metaphor, but imagine if Bush had pushed for a prominent liberal Democrat -- Al Gore or John Kerry, perhaps -- to head the World Bank.…  Seguir leyendo »

Quietly, the real debate over Iraq is beginning.

It's not about whether the United States should pull out troops. That is now inevitable. The real challenge is to figure out the right timetable for withdrawal, whether a residual force should be left there and which American objectives can still be salvaged.

This is not the debate President Bush wants to have come September, when a slew of reports will be issued assessing the results of the troop surge. Already, the administration is preparing the ground for kicking the real choices into next year. Where once the White House seemed to be saying, "Give us until September," its spokesmen now seem to be insisting that we won't know much by then after all.…  Seguir leyendo »

British Prime Minister Tony Blair's announcement that he's stepping down won't quell the anger felt among so much of the antiwar left. But my own reaction is a deep sadness that he tarnished a formidable legacy.

As Blair exits, beleaguered by the unpopularity of the war in Iraq that he championed, it's almost impossible to remember the excitement and energy he called forth 10 years ago when he and his Labor Party won their landslide victory.

The mid-1990s were a joyful time to be on a center-left that seemed to be leaving the old conservatism in the dust. Blair and Bill Clinton represented a charmed and charming reformist future that would take us on a Third Way "beyond" -- a big word at the time -- both the "old left" and the "new right."…  Seguir leyendo »

Why do we have the same futile argument every time there is a mass killing?

Advocates of gun control try to open a discussion about whether more reasonable weapons statutes might reduce the number of violent deaths. Opponents of gun control shout "No!" Guns don't kill people, people kill people, they say, and anyway, if everybody were carrying weapons, someone would have taken out the murderer and all would have been fine.

And we do nothing.

This is a stupid argument, driven by the stupid politics of gun control in the United States.

In other spheres, we act reasonably when faced with new problems.…  Seguir leyendo »

This weekend, many of the world's estimated 2 billion Christians will remember and celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

While some Christians harbor doubts about Christ's actual physical resurrection, hundreds of millions believe devoutly that Jesus died and rose, thus redeeming a fallen world from sin.

Are these people a threat to reason and even freedom?

It's a question that arises from a new vogue for what you might call neo-atheism. The new atheists -- the best known are writers Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins -- insist, as Harris puts it, that "certainty about the next life is simply incompatible with tolerance in this one."…  Seguir leyendo »

Two things are now abundantly clear about the future of U.S. policy toward Iraq. First, majorities in both houses of Congress have lost faith in President Bush's approach to the war. Second, the president will do all he can to resist changing his strategy by trying to split his critics into ineffectual factions.

Bush's choice is certainly bad for opponents of the war, but it's also bad for American foreign policy.

The president is inviting a full-scale confrontation over his warmaking powers in the expectation that the Democrats' narrow majorities will deprive them of the votes they need to win such a fight.…  Seguir leyendo »