No Democrat running for president has had a better 2019 than Kamala Harris. The numbers tell the tale. The California senator was in the low single digits in polls conducted before her official launch on January 28. She is now in the low double digits, running third behind Joe Biden, who enjoys cosmic name recognition, and Bernie Sanders, whose devoted supporters brought him a second-place finish last time. But polls do not tell the whole story.
“The most important political event of the twentieth century,” wrote Irving Kristol in 1976, “is not the crisis of capitalism but the death of socialism.” Plenty of self-described Marxist and socialist regimes existed throughout the world, Kristol recognized. It was rather the ideas behind such regimes that had reached a moral and intellectual endpoint. Nor was this passing away entirely to be cheered. “For with the passing of the socialist ideal,” Kristol went on, “there is removed from the political horizon the one alternative to capitalism that was rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition and in the Western civilization which emerged from that tradition.”
February 2019 is turning out to be a critical month in the presidency of Donald Trump. It may be the critical month. The midterm elections and record-long government shutdown are behind him. By delivering an optimistic and inspiring State of the Union address, Trump effectively reset his presidency and framed his opposition as beyond the American mainstream. But three tests await him: on Congress, on North Korea, and on China. How he handles these challenges will say a lot about his chances of reelection.
I’m not a Democrat—in case you haven’t noticed—but Howard Schultz is. And Schultz isn’t one of those Blue Dog, southern or mid-Western, conservative Democrats either. He’s from Seattle, holds liberal positions on, as far as I can tell, every issue, and has donated gobs of money to the Democratic Party and to the last two Democratic presidents. But Schultz is also a democratic capitalist who attributes his phenomenal success—his fortune from Starbucks is around $3 billion—at least in part to America’s culture of entrepreneurial risk-taking, minimal government interference in commerce, individual responsibility, and rule of law. He worries that the Democratic Party, radicalized by the presidency of Donald Trump, is in the process of abandoning support for the very aspects of American life that made his life possible.
Decades from now, historians will note with irony that socialism was rehabilitated in the United States just as its full depravity came into view in Venezuela. That beleaguered South American country took its first steps on the road to serfdom in 1999, when Hugo Chávez was elected to the first of four presidential terms. The former military officer used Venezuela’s plentiful oil reserves to spread the wealth as he consolidated power, harassed dissenters, and joined forces with Castro. Chávez was more than a typical Latin American populist. His regime was the rallying place for the international, anti-American left. His name became an ideology—Chávismo—based on revolutionary politics and centralized control. He was detestable.
Beto O’Rourke is lost. The former Democratic congressman, who unsuccessfully challenged Ted Cruz in last year’s election, has spent the last few weeks in a confused and melancholy state. Something possessed him to live-stream a recent dental cleaning, perhaps the grossest introduction of a potential presidential candidate in the nation’s history. He gave an interview to the Washington Post where the only specific plank in his immigration platform was opposition to President Trump’s border wall. In the same interview, he mused that the Constitution may no longer apply to the United States, since we’re an “empire” with troops deployed around the globe and “trading agreements.”
Kamala Harris is set to announce her candidacy for president sometime around Martin Luther King Jr. Day. What sort of chief executive would she be? Well, here’s your first clue: On December 5, Harris posed a series of written questions to Brian Buescher, President Trump’s nominee for District Court in Nebraska.
On Thursday, after eight years in the minority, Nancy Pelosi returned to power as speaker of the House of Representatives. Her party controls 235 seats to the Republicans’ 199. One contest, in North Carolina, has yet to be decided. The Democratic majority is just a couple seats larger than the one Pelosi led more than a decade ago. Back then a Republican resided in the White House as well. By the seventh year of his presidency, when some 100 U.S soldiers were killed in Iraq every month and gas on average cost $2.80 per gallon, George W. Bush was about as popular as Donald Trump is today. And in 2007, as we all remember, Pelosi’s Democrats set about enacting universal health care and ending the war in Iraq.
TOKYO—”I would like to congratulate you on your historic victory in the midterm election in the United States,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told Donald Trump during the recent G20 summit. Mentions of the remark occasioned knowing smiles here during a recent study trip sponsored by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The election might not have been, strictly speaking, a “historic victory” for Trump—Republicans lost some 40 seats and control of the House of Representatives while adding two seats to their Senate majority—but Japanese voters are nonetheless aware of Abe’s intention. He wants to be Trump’s friend. More importantly, he needs to be.
OKINAWA—I’ve had to wait on the tarmac for planes ahead of mine to take off before, but never F-15s. Naha airport here shares a runway with Japan’s Air Self Defense Forces, leading to delays whenever Japanese fighters scramble to counter Chinese incursions into the airspace above the Senkaku Island Chain in the East China Sea. The pace of such incursions has accelerated over the last half decade. The Japanese scrambled a high of 1,168 times in 2016, mostly in response to Chinese activity. The sight of active afterburners on a U.S. commercial runway would be shocking. In Okinawa, it’s everyday life.