Labour sleepwalking towards a nightmare election

Labour really needed to start election year strongly. There is no sign of that so far.

Labour had a fairly ordinary year in 2016. And ordinary wasn’t good enough.

Andrew Little seems to have established himself as unchallenged leader and has kept the Labour caucus under control, but he has failed to grow into the job.

Mid year Labour signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Green Party, with the apparent aim of presenting a joint approach as a government-in-waiting. Some said that it was a game changer. It seems to have changed nothing – to the contrary, it has entrenched Labour as a struggling mid level party that requires another party as a crutch.

Labour had some successes later in the year. They were very pleased with their efforts in the local body elections, especially in Wellington (ex leader Phil Goff managed in Auckland more on his own).

They had a successful by-election in Mt Roskill, with Michael Wood replacing Goff, and they said this was a great trial run for the general election.

The post-by-election confidence turned into euphoria when John Key announced he was stepping down. Labour seemed to see this as a gift from political heaven, another game changer.

But nothing much seems to have changed.

A Roy Morgan poll taken over the period of Key’s announcement showed a recovery for Labour to 28.5% from an outlier low of 23%, but their January poll just out has Labour slipping to 27%, and Labour+Greens dropped 3.5 to 39.5%.

Colmar Brunton’s last poll in November had Labour at 28%.

Little conceded recently that Labour was polling poorly – “I have to lead a party that starts from 2014 at a 25 per cent vote, polling at the moment at late 20s, 30 per cent sort of mark. So we have a lot of work to do, and I don’t underestimate that.”

But the work he has done so far this year is unimpressive.

This week Little announced that he wouldn’t be standing for the safe Rongotai electorate and would go list only. He should have said this as soon as Annette King announced she would  stand down before the Christmas break.

Little also joined the political fray over Pike River, attacking Winston Peters and offering a solution to re-entry. He will present a bill to Parliament that will dispense with responsibility for safety of entering the mine – something he had lobbied hard to embed in legislation.

On social media Labour has put some effort into negative campaigning, attacking Bill English a number of times. This seems to be repeating the failed strategy of attacking Key over a decade.

Labour thought that the Mt Albert by-election in February would be a good opportunity for them to promote themselves, get positive media coverage, and have another trial run for the general election.

But they may have walked into potential jeopardy, with Greens standing a candidate against them.

Standing Jacinda Ardern looks a bit like rearranging the deck chairs. At best Ardern will win the seat with a comfortable majority. That’s what is expected.

But it could be worse than that.If it looks like a jacked up joint publicity between Labour and Greens the voters may rebel.

Julie Anne Genter looks like a stronger candidate, and the Greens will want to put in a strong showing for themselves. They won’t want to just bolster Labour.

If Ardern’s vote slips too much, and if Genter seriously challenges her, it could turn to custard for Labour. The reality is that the best way that Green can grow their vote is to cannibalise Labour support.

Little and Labour really have to up their game. So far this year there is no sign of that happening.

Little has said their will be few if any major policy announcements – they will concentrate on highlighting common policies with Greens.

Little will share his ‘state of the nation’ speech platform with Metiria Turei.

There is no real leadership from Little, there is no real leadership from Labour. They look nothing like a head to head competitor with National.

There may be some big change or some big event that turns out to be a real game changer for Labour. Little may suddenly find a way of engaging and impressing. Plodding along won’t suffice – they need to change their game significantly.

But at this stage Labour looks like they are sleepwalking towards a nightmare election.

Dotcom claims leaked data for election

On Twitter Kim Dotcom has been hinting at disruption and another attempted hit job on next year’s election in New Zealand, and claims there is a mass of emails waiting to be leaked that were the reason for John Key’s resignation, and will be seriously damaging for the National Government.

National looks in a very strong position, especially compared to the alternatives.

Is he claiming to have been responsible for all of those?

Really? That was an overplayed embarrassing fizzer for Dotcom and is likely to have contributed to the poor election result for the Internet Party.

I think he is overrating his influence a bit there.

Yesterday the Spin Bin posted Bombshell Kim Dotcom Exclusive: 2TB of Leaked Govt Data Will Stun New Zealand In 2017 which included:

You have tweeted that an expected release of government information will take down the National Party in the next general election in 2017. What types of material can we expect to see?

Kim Dotcom: Why do you think John Key resigned? This wasn’t about his family. It’s more likely about the next election and 2 terabytes of emails and attachments that were taken from New Zealand government servers. I heard from a reliable source that the Podesta emails seem like cotton candy compared to the amount of disgusting dishonesty the National government will see leaked at the next election.

Why would ‘a reliable source’ tell Dotcom about this (if it is true)?

Key must know. He’s taken the parachute. He can’t stomach the kind of embarrassment that Clinton had to endure with daily releases of dirty emails. And this time even his media cronies couldn’t have saved him. The Internet and alternative media of reputable truth-telling websites are taking over. Leaks are the new political reality. Over time this will be the cure against dishonest politicians. They just can’t survive in this new environment of information.

So hackers and political activists will decide elections, including next year’s New Zealand election?

Despite the drip feeding of emails by WikiLeaks into the US election it was still a close win for trump, and that was probably swung by James Comey’s intervention.

Many people believe that Donald Trump may be of the same ilk as Hillary Clinton. Would a Labour-led coalition government in New Zealand really be a material difference to your case or any significant improvement for the wider public in general?

Current polls suggest that Labour is nowhere near credible as an alternative government. Dotcom/Wikileaks/whoever would have to seriously discredit National and Winston Peters to ensure a Labour+Greens win.

And there would be a good chance of it backfiring, as happened last election where despite Nicky Hager’s book and Dotcom’s ‘Moment of Truth’ the Internet Party flopped and Labour dropped to a record low.

Kim Dotcom: Donald Trump and Brexit are the punishment the elites deserve. Will the Donald drain the swamp? We will have to wait and see. The swamp is exactly what led to the unlawful destruction of my business and the military-style raid and illegal spying against my family.

A Labour government in New Zealand would have no incentive to drag out the monstrosities committed by John Key and his Attorney General Chris Finlayson against my family.

If so what good would it do helping Labour into power? Dotcom just wants to disrupt everything?

The Attorney General is using every tool of power at his disposal to prevent the unavoidable legal victory that is coming my way. He will fail and he might end up in jail himself.

I won’t stop until the truth about the real Mega conspiracy is fully unearthed. And I expect a Labour government will want an independent inquiry into my case which will see the National Party in disarray and embarrassment for years to come.

That’s contradicting his “no incentive” claim – unless he intends giving Labour an incentive via some generous donations?

This will be a brutal and costly experience for New Zealand but it will also be necessary so that something like this can’t happen again.

Something like Dotcom’s legal and extradition problems?

It appears as if he is prepared to ‘disrupt more than ever’, be brutal and inflict a ‘costly experience’ on New Zealand for his own purposes. I’m not sure how voters would view that but I doubt they will play his game for him.

Dotcom lost credibility last election and failed. On election night he admitted his brand was a significant problem with voters. I don’t think that has changed – all that has changed are his tactics.

I don’t know how he will engineer an electoral swing as big as his ego.

FBI, CIA agree Russia helped Trump win

NBC News confirms: the FBI agrees with the CIA’s assessment that Russia intervened in the election in part to help Trump win

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During the election Trump claimed the election was rigged against him.

When the CIA recently came out and said they thought Russia had deliberately helped a Trump win he dismissed it as nonsense.

Will he now dispute both he CIA and FBI assessments?

The US is stuck with the result they have but their already flaky democratic processes will take a further hit unless this is investigated properly. Surely Trump can’t prevent an investigation.

And here in New Zedaland we should be very wary and perhaps worried, especially given what some like Kim Dotcom are claiming.

Russia, FBI and hacked elections

Two articles of inter from last week on the US election – one saying that the consensus view of the CIA was that “Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected”, and the other a detailed analysis of ’10 crucial decisions’ that affected the presidential election.

Washington Post: Secret CIA assessment says Russia was trying to help Trump win White House

The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.

Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances.

“It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on an intelligence presentation made to U.S. senators. “That’s the consensus view.”

During the campaign Trump said a number of times that a rigged election was a serious concern, but he doesn’t seem to think this is a big deal – see Trump: Claim of Russia Meddling “Ridiculous,” Dems Making Excuses.

(With Kim Dotcom claiming that WikiLeaks may target next year’s New Zealand election this should be of some concern here).

Looking back through the presidential campaign Glenn Thrush at Politico: 10 Crucial Decisions That Reshaped AmericaNothing about the most dramatic campaign in memory was a foregone conclusion. The inside story of the pivotal choices that got us to President Trump.

It should be remembered that the election was eventually decided by I think about 50,000 votes in three states, so it was very close.

When deciding whether to contest the presidency Trump rated his chances at 10%.

This is a detailed analysis that’s worth reading if you are interested in what lead up to the result that shocked the world. The ten ‘crucial decisions’:

1. Hillary Clinton copies the Obama playbook. December 12, 2013.

But, in the end, Brooklyn simply failed to predict the tidal wave that swamped Clinton—a pro-Trump uprising in rural and exurban white America that wasn’t reflected in the polls—and his candidate failed to generate enough enthusiasm to compensate with big turnouts in Detroit, Milwaukee and the Philadelphia suburbs.

Either way, there was something missing that technocrats couldn’t fix: The candidate herself was deeply unappealing to the most fired-up, unpredictable and angry segment of the electorate—middle-income whites in the Middle West—and she couldn’t inspire Obama-like passion among her own supporters to compensate for the surge.

2016 wasn’t 2012 because Obama wasn’t the nominee.

2. Jeb Bush decides to run for president. December 16, 2014.

There wouldn’t have been a President Donald Trump without Jeb Bush. A rebel needs a crown to crush, and the wolfish insurgent found his perfect prey in this third Bush to attempt to claim the White House, a princeling of a family that by 2015 had come to represent everything angry GOP voters hated about their own party.

3. Donald Trump taps Corey Lewandowski as his campaign manager. January 7, 2015.

It was probably the single most important decision Trump made early in his campaign for the presidency and, true to form, the candidate made it without much consultation or due diligence, and without quite knowing what he was getting into.

“What do you think of my chances?” Trump asked Lewandowski as soon as he sat down in Trump’s office, according to a person familiar with the interaction.

“Five percent,” Lewandowski replied.

Trump countered with his own assessment: 10 percent.

“Let me propose a deal,” Trump then joked. “Let’s settle on 7½.”

4. Bernie Sanders doesn’t attack Clinton on her “damn” emails. October 13, 2015.

The second problem was more durable, utterly avoidable, entirely self-inflicted and ultimately damning: Clinton’s enemies were starting to weaponize the murky tale of her private email server, an issue that would do her permanent political damage, sap public trust and, eventually, hand Trump a winning issue. “It’s a cancer,” a longtime Clinton insider told meas her campaign was ramping up. “She’s her own worst enemy,” another said.

Lucky for Clinton that Sanders wasn’t her worst enemy. Sanders, an (uncommonly) principled politician who was as intent on running the campaign he wanted as in winning, attacked Clinton on the issues he felt were the most important. Under pressure, he would eventually bash Clinton on her refusal to release the text of her Wall Street speeches, her cozy relationship with fat cat donors, her late-in-the-day conversion to an opponent of trade deals. But that was only in later debates, and only after Clinton and her team had savaged Sanders on his gun control record.

Most of all, he flummoxed his own advisers by steadfastly refusing to attack Clinton on the issue that would hurt her most: the emails.

5. CNN shows Trump’s empty podium for 30 minutes. March 3, 2016.

This was symbolic of how obsessed media became with Trump coverage – in this case remarkable focussing on his absence rather than his presence.

But if Trump’s time was, literally, money for the networks, the cable-Trump marriage was also unprecedented in a way that threw the political coverage dangerously out of balance.

The absurdity of the situation was laid bare on March 3, 2016, when CNN, Fox and MSNBC prepared to air what was billed as Trump’s much-anticipated rebuttal to Mitt Romney’s claim that the GOP front-runner was a “phony” and a “fraud.” Trump was supposed to start talking at 1:30 p.m., but he was strategically, playfully late.

The live shot of a flag-backed podium in Maine sat empty for five, 10, 15, eventually 30 minutes of Donald-free empty space that illustrated the vacuity of the celebrity-driven frenzy that defined Trump’s early campaign. CNN officials dismissed the incident, arguing that the image was just that—a static picture—that provided a backdrop for a stream of talking-head banter, much of it critical of Trump.

For Trump, the point was clear: He was so much more important than any of his rivals that even his absence was more newsworthy than their presence, and the networks did nothing to dispel that view, airing his speeches in their entirety when no other candidate or even President Obama was afforded that privilege.

6. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio play patty-cake with Trump at the debates. August 6, 2015.

The only two candidates who ever really had a real chance to stop him—golden boy hawk Marco Rubio of Florida and Tea Party icon Ted Cruz of Texas—made the calculation that ignoring Trump, and letting him run amok in the early debates, was their best chance at self-preservation.

The decision by the two young senators—they are both just 45 years old today—may well go down as one of the most consequential wimp-outs in recent politics.

But it seemed to make perfect sense in the summer of 2015, when Rubio’s Capitol Hill-based circle and Cruz’s Houston-based operation simultaneously decided on a hands-off-Donald approach.

7. Trump insults the parents of a dead war hero. July 28, 2016.

The final night of the convention was supposed to be Clinton’s big night, and many of the reporters who crammed into the press section in the early evening of July 28 were busily pre-writing their big Hillary speech stories when Khizr Khan and his wife, Ghazala, walked onto the stage.

“Donald Trump: You’re asking Americans to trust you with their future. Let me ask you: Have you even read the United States Constitution?” said Khizr Khan, whose son, a Muslim-American Army captain, had died protecting his fellow soldiers from a suicide bombing in Iraq in 2004.

Khan spoke, in a quavering monotone, about the injustice of Trump’s proposed Muslim immigration ban. By the time he pulled out a tiny dog-eared copy of the Constitution from his suit jacket pocket, the audience was on its feet, and reporters on press row were plucking out their ear buds to hear what he was saying. “I will gladly lend you my copy,” Khan told Trump, as his wife silently stood next to him, fighting back tears.

It was a critical moment in the election, or so it seemed at the time—“an appeal from a regular person for Trump to show some human decency,” in the words of former Jeb Bush adviser Tim Miller, “which he never does.”

Privately, Trump fumed about the Khan speech—he hated to absorb any insult without responding—even as the people around him, including Manafort, encouraged him to let it go. But there was, as always, no controlling Trump.

This is a concern about Trump as president, especially internationally. Some think that Trump a ‘telling it like it is’ tough guy stance will allow the US to dominate countries like China, others dread what it could precipitate.

The public hated it. A Fox News poll taken in the first week of August signaled to GOP leaders (wrongly, as it turned out) that Trump was cooked and could never recover: He dropped from running neck-and-neck with Clinton to 10 points down over the course of two weeks. “I thought that was it,” said one former Trump aide.

“If he loses,” Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager, told me at the time, “his attack on Khans was the turning point.”

But here’s the thing: At that very moment, Mook’s own internal data was showing that Trump’s negative message overall—his “diagnosis of the problem” as Brooklyn called it—was resonating.

Clinton’s team laughed off Trump’s nomination speech. Yet her pollster John Anzalone and his team were stunned to find out that dial groups of swing state voters monitored during the speech “spiked” the darker the GOP nominee got.

8. Clinton decides to take a summer break. August 1, 2016.

Trump wasn’t dead. And the polls clearly showed that whatever he said or did, he still commanded between 36 and 43 percent of the national vote. The partisan divide was simply that stark, the animosity toward Clinton that real.

But it was a genuine boot-on-neck moment for Clinton’s Brooklyn operation.

Too bad it was the height of summer, and the Clintons had made plans they refused to change with their rich friends. So, the race almost, seemingly in the bag, Clinton came off the road, for a work-and-play semi-hiatus to regroup for the big fall push that saw her take four consecutive weekends off the trail, post-convention.

So at this moment of Trump’s maximum vulnerability, Clinton was work-vacationing with the likes of Jon Bon Jovi, Paul McCartney and Jimmy Buffett in the manses of Long Island, Beverly Hills, Martha’s Vineyard and Silicon Valley.

But Trump, surprisingly resilient and coachable when he needed to be, was to make masterful use of Clinton’s absence.

9. Trump goes scorched earth after Access Hollywood tape. October 7, 2016.

One month before Election Day, Donald Trump was hit by a bombshell that would have spelled instant electoral death for anybody without his chutzpah (or even a human-apportioned sense of shame).

On a Friday morning four weeks before the voting, the Washington Postobtained a hot-mic tape from a 2005 appearance on Access Hollywood in which Trump described in gross detail an incident in which he had sexually assaulted a woman who resisted his romantic entreaties.

The fallout was swift, damaging and seemingly campaign-killing.

The candidate’s daughter Ivanka, two people close to the family said, was mortified, and urged him to apologize immediately.

Trump’s natural instinct—stoked by Bannon’s attack-when-attacked attitude—was to give as little ground as possible.

One longtime adviser to Trump described the strategy this way: He couldn’t do anything about the tape—it was out there for everybody to hear—but he could stick with “his core brand” by reinforcing his refusal to play by the usual rules of politics.

Trump came out of it seen as he wanted to be: a defiant candidate who flouted rules of “political correctness” and whose in-your-face candor consistently registered in polls as the perceived attribute voters liked most about him. And anyways, it was a classic Trump move: When you’re caught doing something indefensible don’t even try to defend it—attack.

Trump, a guy who couldn’t seem to shut up, urged his surrogates to “go dark,” according to a former aide.

Trump’s numbers collapsed again, but Bannon never doubted that his pal could pull it out and urged Trump to indulge his most brazen showman’s impulses by turning damning on-tape proof that he was a sexual harasser into a populist crusade against the “rigged system.

10. Jim Comey sends a letter to Congress. October 28, 2016.

Clinton wanted to run her campaign her own way. To the frustration of her staff, that often entailed less retail campaigning: She insisted more often than not on flying back to her house in Chappaqua on most days, and held her debate prep sessions at a nearby conference center instead of doing them on-the-fly in battleground states, so she could combine cramming and campaigning.

That hesitation about “the campaigning part” was why, despite their confidence Clinton would pull out a win, many in her camp came to see the campaign as a high-stakes game of musical chairs: The candidate who had the worst final news cycle would probably lose.

It was Clinton.

On a sleepy Friday afternoon 10 days before the election, FBI Director James Comey sent a letter informing Congress that he had obtained a big new batch of emails pertaining to Clinton’s email server. It was a revelation widely (and inaccurately) cast as his decision to “reopen” the case, after having announced in early July that Clinton had been cleared of wrongdoing but had been reckless in setting up her private email server.

Top officials for both campaigns said the revelation—which turned out to be an inconsequential cache of previously parsed emails kept on the laptop of Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s estranged husband, Anthony Weiner—was a game-changer in a race in which Clinton had little margin for error.

A campaign that was notable for Trump doing everything not by the book which kept shocking many, and for Clinton’s flawed candidacy and flawed campaign, two of the biggest deciding factors turned out to be Russian and FBI involvement.

It’s nothing new that Russia and the US interfere in elections of other countries but the extent Russia has allegedly done this in the US to this degree is unprecedented.

The way hacked emails have been used should be a concern around the world.

It’s not new – hacked emails and other communications featured in Nicky Hager’s ‘Dirty Politics’ book launched early in New Zealand’s 2014 general election, as it turned out unsuccessfully. But I suspect that how that was done will have been noted and learned from.

WikiLeaks tried a different approach in the US election, drip feeding emails over a period of time. This certainly had an impact.

Ultimately FBI head James Comey’s interference probably swung the election in Trump’s favour at a crucial time, but that situation was set up and enabled by the hacking and the drip feeding.

Democracy is at real risk of being trashed by hacking.

Labour’s turn?

There has been unrestrained glee from Andrew Little and the Labour camp at the resignation of John Key, but they need to be careful.

Labour have long seen Key as the thing stopping them from having their turn in Government again. They have persisted in trying to batter Brand key, without much success.

Labour came away from last weekend’s Mt Roskill successful by-election with confidence, and Key leaving looks like the icing on their general election campaign cake.

But they should be wary of becoming overconfident and thinking that they can now cruise to ‘their turn’ in Government.

A change of Prime Minister doesn’t fix Labour’s problems.

Little has shown glimpses of confidence and less impersonal parrot approach over the last week but he has a way to go to look like a possible Prime Minister.

Labour ranks still don’t look strong. Their most prominent MP over the past year, Phil Twyford, has raised a few eyebrows over his behaviour. He publicly attacked journalists (who aren’t likely to return the favour with favourable coverage) and has done some odd things on Twitter.

Twyford is heading Labour’s campaign team.

Labour have to earn the trust of voters. One of their weaknesses for years is their sense of ownership of votes, their assumption that when National has done their dash Labour will automatically benefit.

I don’t think Labour is seen yet as deserving of ‘their turn’.

Little has to improve his public performances. He has to appear as better informed about issues and he has to appear has himself more, not as a reciter of political platitudes and PR.

And it would help if a few other Labour MPs stepped up markedly. While signs of friction have diminished there are few signs of a team working together that is capable and confident.

Winning an election is not just a matter of people warming to Little when they see he looks like a decent well meaning guy.

Labour still have to portray themselves as worthy of running a government and managing the economy – so Grant Robertson has a lot to do if he wants to contribute.

Labour as a party has to look capable, but they also have to appear able to be the real deal alongside Greens, who they have become co-dependant on.

And they also have to convince voters they could manage a coalition with both Greens and Winston Peters.

The prospects have improved for Labour, a little bit.

But ‘their turn’ won’t fall into their laps next year. Whenever the general election is it will be as much a challenge for Labour as it is for National with a new leader.

I’d currently rate Little 6/10 at the moment, and Labour 5/10. They have to get closer to 8/10 to earn a victory.

The next election?

It’s fascinating to contemplate when our next election will be. It could be anywhere from March to November.

Will Bill English want to get another budget done and dusted before an election? Or will he seek a mandate first?

If David Shearer resigns as seems likely, will they go for a by-election and then a later general election?  If there is no by-election there will have to be a general election within 6 months, which would make it mid year (winter time).

English won’t have fond memories of the winter election in 2002 when he led National to a horrible result of 20.93%.

The options look like:

  • General election as soon as possible, say March
  • General election mid year, June/July
  • By-election in My Albert, then a general election in September/October

Key and English will already have known about Shearer’s possible resignation and are likely to have already considered these scenarios.

key would probably like an early election now he has decided to go, as would David Cunliffe and possible others who have decided not to stand again.

Given National’s reliance on polling it may come down to whether their support holds or drops in the short term.

If their support drops quickly National may prefer to try to build it back up before going to an election.

If their support holds up they are more likely to go to an early election.

The public won’t get to see much polling over the next month or two.

Green beats anti-immigration in Austria

James Shaw distances the Greens from populist politics:

Trump/Brexit nationalist populism isn’t an inevitable trend: former Green leader beats far-right candidate in Austrian presidential election

Opinion polls suggested that the re-run Austrian election could be too close to call but ex-Green independent candidate Alexander Van der Bellen looks to have defeated far right anti-immigration candidate Norbert Hofer by what looks like a reasonably comfortable margin.

Will Shaw consider leaving the Greens and standing as an Independent? That would be a bit tricky under our party dominated MMP unless he won an electorate seat, but one vote amongst about 120 is unlikely to hold much sway.

The Austrian presidency is just a ceremonial role but there was international interest in whether the far-right ‘populist’ candidate would win.

BBC: Austria far-right candidate Norbert Hofer defeated in presidential poll

Far-right candidate Norbert Hofer has lost Austria’s presidential election.

On Facebook, he described himself as “infinitely sad” and congratulated Alexander Van der Bellen, former head of the Greens, on his victory.

The elections had been seen as a sign of how well populist candidates might do in upcoming elections in the EU, though the post is ceremonial.

The result is sure to be welcomed by establishment parties and officials in the EU.

France, the Netherlands and Germany all face elections next year in which anti-mainstream and anti-immigration parties are gaining ground.

A referendum under way in Italy is being closely followed for further signs of anti-establishment populism, with polls suggesting a setback for centre-left Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

Polls were a wee way off again…

…the Austrian results surprised many.

Opinion polls in the run-up to Sunday’s vote suggested the result was too close to call.

Projections based on early results now give Mr Van der Bellen roughly 53% to 46% for Mr Hofer. The margin could change, but officials said the result would not.

…showing that they can only be used as a guide, not a prediction.

And this result suggests that elections around the world are not following any particular pattern, even if there is an increase in anti-immigration support.

Interesting that Van der Bellen doesn’t sound very Germanic, and while the President-elect was born in Vienna, according to Wikipedia his family are immigrants who were refugees:

…an aristocratic Russian-born father of mixed Baltic German, Dutch, and Estonian descent, Alexander Konstantin (1898–1966), and an Estonian mother, Alma (née Siibold [Siebold, Sieboldt]; 1907–1993), who were both refugees from Stalinism. His parents successively held Russian, Estonian, and Austrian citizenship.

More on Van der Bellen:

Van der Bellen is professor emeritus of economics at the University of Vienna. A member of the Austrian Green Party, he served as a member of the National Council from 1994 to 2012, and was chairman of the parliamentary club and federal spokesperson of his party from 1997 to 2008.

He ran as a nominally independent candidate supported by the Green Party in the 2016 presidential election, and finished second out of six in the first round before winning the second round against Norbert Hofer, a member of the Freedom Party of Austria.

US marijuana ballots

A number of states in the US voted on marijuana issues. From the Fivethirtyeight election blog.

(This is a work in progress, I’ll update it as more results become available.)

Over the last 20 years, 25 states and Washington, D.C. have legalized or decriminalized medical marijuana, 15 have legalized the use of cannabis oil and four (plus D.C.) have approved recreational marijuana entirely.

And today, nine more states are voting on marijuana measures — five (Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada) to legalize recreational marijuana, and four (Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota) to legalize medical marijuana.

Amidst all the legal changes, the country has become a whole lot more comfortable with the idea of legal pot: a Gallup poll shows support climbing from 25 percent in the mid-90s to 58 percent in 2015. Support has increased in all age brackets, and young adults now overwhelmingly support legalization (71 percent of them). “It’s our generation’s Vietnam,” said Brian Vicente, an activist and partner at the marijuana law firm Vicente Sederberg, of the current push to legalize the drug.

Medical

Florida

If the ballot measure in Florida passes, it will legalize medical marijuana for specific debilitating diseases. Florida is particularly interesting because low-THC marijuana is legal in the state when consumed by a method other than smoking. The ballot measure would make it more widely available to patients.

The marijuana ballot measure in Florida passed by a landslide, legalizing medical pot for specific debilitating diseases. 76.9% in favor, and 29.1% opposed.

When Florida voters legalized medical marijuana tonight, it became the 26th state (plus D.C.) to legalize or decriminalize the drug. That means over half of all states in the U.S. have made medical marijuana legal. Now activists are looking toward California, where polls have not yet closed, to sway societal attitudes. The state could be massively important for the movement to legalize marijuana.

North Dakota

A yes vote on the ballot measure in North Dakota is a vote to legalize medical marijuana to treat specific debilitating medical conditions. A similar measure failed to reach the North Dakota ballot in 2012 after thousands of fraudulent signatures were found.

North Dakota’s ballot measure regarding marijuana has passed, legalizing medical marijuana for specific debilitating medical conditions. The Associated Press called the measure with 69 percent of precincts reporting, saying 64% voted in favor and 36% were opposed.

Arkansas

If the ballot measure in Arkansas passes, medical marijuana use for patients with qualifying conditions will become legal. A medical marijuana initiative was defeated in Arkansas in 2012. The marijuana would be taxed, with half the revenue going to vocational training and the other half divided among the general fund and other state programs.

The marijuana ballot measure in Arkansas passed, legalizing medical marijuana for specific debilitating medical conditions. 53% percent in favour,  47% opposed.

Montana

If the ballot measure in Montana passes, it will repeal the three-patient limit for medical marijuana providers, giving qualifying patients easier access to the drug. Voters have had a wild ride with marijuana legalization in Montana.

Medical marijuana was legalized in 2004, and the rules were amended in 2011 to stop advertisements for it and limit the scope of the business for providers and prescribers. Advocates tried unsuccessfully to repeal it in 2012. Then, after the 2011 bill was tied up in courts for five years, it went into effect in August.

Recreational

California

If the ballot measure in California passes, adults age 21 and older will be able to possess up to 28.5 grams of marijuana or 8 grams of concentrated marijuana, as well as grow up to six plants and consume marijuana it privately. Medical marijuana is already legal in California.

If the measure passes, it will create two new taxes: one at $9.25 per ounce for flowers and $2.75 per ounce for leaves, with exceptions for certain medical marijuana sales; the second would be a 15 percent tax on the retail price of marijuana. Revenue from these taxes would be spent on drug research, treatment and enforcement; health and safety grants addressing marijuana; youth programs; and preventing environmental damage resulting from illegal marijuana production.

The marijuana ballot measure in California passed, legalizing recreational pot for adults ages 21 and older. 55% in favor, 45% opposed.

Marijuana is now legal on the Pacific coast from Mexico to Canada.

Massachusetts

If the ballot measure in Massachusetts passes, adults age 21 and older will be able to possess up to 10 ounces of marijuana, grow up to six plants for personal use and consume marijuana privately. Its use would be regulated similar to how the state handles alcoholic beverages. Medical marijuana is already legal in the state.

If the measure passes, the state will create the Cannabis Control Commission to oversee marijuana legalization. A 3.75 percent tax would be placed on marijuana sales. Revenue would be placed in a Marijuana Regulation Fund to pay for administrative costs. Cities and towns would be allowed to add a local tax of up to 2 percent.

The marijuana ballot measure in Massachusetts passed, legalizing recreational pot for adults age 21 and older. 54% in favor, 46% opposed.

Maine

If the ballot measure in Maine passes, adults age 21 and older will be allowed to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and consume it privately. Medical marijuana is already legal in the state.

A 10 percent tax would be placed on marijuana sales.

Colorado

While the state of Colorado has already legalized recreational marijuana and statewide ballots there don’t feature any questions about marijuana legalization, the ballot in the county of Pueblo sure does. Voters are weighing two marijuana issues there today. If issue 300 passes, voters will ban recreational marijuana sales in the city of Pueblo. If issue 200 passes, all marijuana facilities across the county will be shut down by Oct. 31, 2017.

Nevada

If the ballot measure in Nevada passes, adults age 21 and older will be able to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana and consume it privately. Adults who do not live within 25 miles of a marijuana retail store would be allowed to grow up to six plants.

Medical marijuana is currently legal in the state.

A 15 percent tax on the drug would be spent first on enforcing the measure; remaining funds would go to K-12 education. As in many other states voting this into law, current medical marijuana facilities in Nevada would be encouraged to transition into recreational marijuana facilities.

The marijuana ballot measure in Nevada passed, legalizing recreational pot for adults ages 21 and older. 54% in favor, 46% opposed.

Colorado’s End of Life Options Act

From the US election (Fivethirtyeight):


Colorado Votes ’Yes’ On Medical Aid In Dying

ABC News has called a win for Colorado Prop. 106, the “End of Life Options Act.” This makes Colorado the fifth state with legislation to allow terminally ill people access to medication to humanely end their lives.

Colorado Votes On An End-Of-Life Measure

In 2014, the story of a young woman with fatal brain cancer began making the rounds online and on TV news shows. Twenty-nine-year-old Brittany Maynard knew she was dying, and she wanted to do so on her own terms, by taking prescribed medication if her pain became resistant to morphine and unbearable. This desire prompted her to move to Oregon, where, by the time she died on Nov. 1, 2014, she had become perhaps the most widely known user of Oregon’s Measure 16, called the Death with Dignity Act. Maynard’s activism brought new attention to right-to-die legislation, and her widower, Dan Diaz, has lent his support to Colorado Proposition 106, the End of Life Options Act, which would make Colorado the fifth state to permit some form of assisted suicide.

Modeled on Oregon Measure 16, Proposition 106 would allow terminally ill patients (those with less than six months to live, as determined by two doctors) to take a lethal dose of medication. To receive the drugs, the person would be required to voluntarily request it three times — twice orally and once in writing — with witnesses present. The measure would also criminalize the coercion of patients.

A September Rocky Mountain PBS and Colorado Mesa University showed that 70 percent of registered voters favored the measure. Advocates include Gov. John Hickenlooper and the Boulder and Denver Medical Societies. A February 2016 survey of members of the Colorado Medical Society, the largest physicians organization in Colorado, found that 56 percent of respondents supported “physician assisted suicide.” The Catholic Church and disability rights groups are among those rallying against the measure, and the Denver Post also has come out against it, over concerns that it could “entice insurers to drop expensive treatments for terminal patients.”

Trump threatens anarchy

The poll slide for Hillary Clinton seems to have paused at least, but still leaving the presidential election result in doubt.

WikiLeaks continues to drip feed what amounts to attacks on Clinton.

And Donald Trump and some Republicans have increased their rhetoric that appears to be an unprecedented attack on democratic processes.

Trump’s campaign has been notable for his threats to investigate and imprison Clinton should he become President.

Added to this are threats of impeachment and constitutional disruption that could make the United States ungovernable.

Clinton’s situation may be precarious, but open threats by her opponent to effectively wreck the US government must be many degrees worse.

New York Times editorial: Donald Trump’s Impeachment Threat

Donald Trump and other embattled Republican candidates are resorting to a particularly bizarre and dangerous tactic in the closing days of the campaign — warning that they may well seek to impeach Hillary Clinton if she wins, or, short of that, tie her up with endless investigations and other delaying tactics.

Of all the arguments advanced by the Trump forces, this has to be among the most preposterous. In effect, what they’re saying is, Mrs. Clinton won’t be able to govern, because we won’t let her. So don’t waste your vote on her. Vote for us.

In a rational world — you know, one that values comity and progress in the national interest — this line of argument would be seen as incendiary at worst and hopelessly wacky at best. Not so in Trumpland, where the candidate himself warns (as he did in Miami on Wednesday) that a Clinton victory would “create an unprecedented and protracted constitutional crisis,” raising the specter that government would be severely hobbled by congressional Republicans’ open-ended investigations and a determination to impeach Mrs. Clinton. All this even if she was fairly elected by a majority of American voters.

“Haven’t we just been through a lot with the Clintons?” Mr. Trump asked. “The work of government would grind to a halt if she were ever elected.”

The tactic is a rejection of the nation’s need of a functioning government.

If Trump is serious this is a very serious threat to the US. And it isn’t just Trump, some Republicans are joining with what amounts to threats of anarchy.

Other Republican candidates in tight races have picked up this theme. The G.O.P. phrase du jour is “constitutional crisis,” depicting a hog-tied executive and a Republican Congress obsessed with perpetuating their demonization of Mrs. Clinton. Senator Richard Burr, campaigning for re-election in North Carolina, took the Trump fantasy one step further, telling supporters: “Could she pardon herself? And the answer is yes.”

Rudy Giuliani, one of Mr. Trump’s most zealous acolytes, echoed this cry to carry the battle forward into a Clinton administration. “I guarantee you in one year she’ll be impeached and indicted,” Mr. Giuliani promised Iowa voters this week. “It’s just going to happen. We’re going to sort of vote for a Watergate.”

…the Republicans’ impeachment threat demonstrates their gathering disrespect for democracy. If they can’t gain control of government fairly, they’ll simply undermine it.

If Clinton loses I can imagine she will find it difficult to say anything like what Gore said in 2000 after the Supreme Court ruled…

...the Florida recount was called unconstitutional and that no constitutionally valid recount could be completed by the December 12 deadline, effectively ending the recounts.

Gore strongly disagreed with the Court’s decision, but said “for the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession.”

Wikipedia

But it appears that Trump has no concerns about ‘unity as a people’ nor ‘the strength of our democracy’.

Trump is effectively threatening anarchy – “a state of disorder due to absence or non-recognition of authority or other controlling systems”.

If Trump ends up losing and backing off his threats he is still likely to leave a an ununited state of chaos, having incited his supporters so much in advance.