David Coates

Political Blogger and Author of Answering Back and Making the Progressive Case

America in the Shadow of Empires
Who is David Coates?
September 30, 2016

Treating Donald Trump as Just Another Republican Presidential Nominee

  Just because Donald Trump is so unconventional a presidential candidate, it does not automatically follow that we should immediately abandon our conventional criteria for judging his adequacy for the position. On the contrary, the reverse is more likely to be true: that the more unconventional he attempts to be, the more determined should we […] read more »
August 25, 2016

Donald Trump: the Politics of Fear and Violence

American presidential politics is always a contact sport. The stakes are invariably so high that being polite to the opposition is normally difficult, and is often honored only in the breach. The 2012 “there is a village in Kenya that is missing its idiot” bumper sticker offended me at the time for its ongoing birtherism […] read more »
August 1, 2016

Extracting the United States from a Condition of Permanent War

The scale and character of US military action overseas didn’t figured much in the Democratic Party’s internal debate on the choice of a presidential candidate, but with that choice resolved it needs to figure now. Indeed, the question of what constitutes a progressive foreign policy needs to move center-stage – and to do so with […] read more »
July 9, 2016

Tony Blair’s Day of Reckoning

The very long (and indeed very long awaited) report of the Chilcot Inquiry was finally published in London on July 6th. Set up in 2009, its much-delayed arrival allows us one last large-scale public examination of the key event that so profoundly destabilized the modern Middle East – namely the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. It […] read more »
June 9, 2016

History Once as Tragedy, Twice as Farce? American lessons from a British referendum

The United States is not alone in being in campaign mode. The United Kingdom is as well. Not for the British a general election in November, as here. Rather, a June 23rd referendum on whether to remain, or whether to leave, the European Union – the 28 member economic-political union headquartered in Brussels. But though […] read more »
May 18, 2016

Democratic Primaries in the Shadow of Neoliberalism

There is an understandable tendency, when in the thick of a long set of presidential primaries, to treat all of them simply as exercises in the choice between individual candidates, and to make them as much about character as about policy. There is also an understandable tendency to assume that what is at stake in […] read more »
April 13, 2016

Horses for Courses? The Candidates and the Economy.

It may be difficult to believe right now, but eventually the nightmare will be over. The race for the presidency will end, and we will be free of the daily media diet of who is ahead, who is behind, and who might get ahead as others falter. Time and again right now, the bulk of […] read more »
March 19, 2016

The Democrats and the Donald

People of all kinds of political persuasions are rightly horrified by the violence erupting at Trump rallies,1 and by the demagoguery of the candidate himself.2 People of a more progressive predisposition are often equally disturbed by the hold that Donald Trump appears to have on the support of at least sections of the white working […] read more »
February 25, 2016

The Housing Crisis of the Young

There was a time, not very long ago, when housing was high on the political agenda, and understandably so.1 By 2008, the inadequate financing of it – first in the United Kingdom and then massively in the United States – had triggered the worst economic crisis in over six decades. The bitter fall-out from that […] read more »
January 25, 2016

Common Weaknesses in the Republicans’ Tax Proposals

Though for understandable reasons the leading Republican presidential candidates continually emphasize the things that divide them, we would do well to concentrate rather on the things that do not. The televised-debate format accentuates differences. It did so on tax policy, for example, when last the candidates met – Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio clashing sharply […] read more »
January 1, 2016

Working Class Anger and the Problem of Progressive Politics

The start of a new year – especially the start of an important election year as this one happens to be in the United States – is a good time to reflect on the broad strategic choices facing progressive forces on both sides of the Atlantic. One reflection in particular seems relevant in the US […] read more »
January 1, 2016

How Best to Separate Donald Trump from his Base

If there is anything currently uniting most political commentators in contemporary America, it is surely their on-going fascination with the presidential campaign of Donald Trump. The common agreement on both sides of the political aisle through most of 2015 appeared to be that his campaign was eventually bound to fail – the reason being some […] read more »
December 9, 2015

Questions that go unanswered as we drift to a State of Permanent War

As the main US media outlets report and amplify each and every outlandish assertion by Donald Trump and his fellow contenders for the Republican presidential nomination, major damage is being done to the underlying quality of the dominant political discourse in the United States. That damage has two main characteristics. By giving so much airtime […] read more »
November 27, 2015

TPP Time in America

Every political system has its own local economic agenda. The UK’s clearly currently includes the Osborne commitment to austerity politics, with its potentially devastating impact on the plight of the low paid in contemporary Britain. Here in the United States, that austerity agenda is enthusiastically advocated by the Republicans who control the US Congress, but […] read more »
November 5, 2015

Waiting for the TPP

Figures on US economic performance continue to disappoint. Seven years out from the greatest financial crisis since 1929, economic growth is sluggish, levels of unemployment and under-employment remain unacceptably high, and real wages for most Americans are still trapped at 1970s levels. Not that the United States is alone in any of this. Globally, important […] read more »
October 4, 2015

Challenging Republican Premises: On the Cutting of Taxes

One of the great dangers of the seemingly never-ending media coverage of the Republican presidential circus is that it facilitates the steady drip into the popular consciousness of a set of problematic conservative assertions that any serious progressive politics needs to question and refute. This media-induced steady slippage of Republican cliché into received truth was […] read more »
September 10, 2015

Getting ready for Trump

  There is a growing realization, not to mention a creeping fear, in the upper echelons of the American political establishment that Donald Trump might actually win the Republican Party nomination for President in 2016. There is less fear that, if he does so, he will then go on to win the Presidency itself: Republican […] read more »
September 4, 2015

Taking Donald Trump Seriously

The initial response to Donald Trump’s pursuit of the American presidency, certainly among many more moderate members of the Republican Party, was to wait for his pursuit to implode. It seemed to many seasoned observers of such campaigns that this one was not serious; or that if it was, it was inherently flawed. There was […] read more »
August 26, 2015

Jeremy who? The Bernie Sanders Phenomenon at Home and Abroad

If you watch virtually any major American news channel right now, you could be forgiven for thinking that the only political development worthy of note was the on-going presidential campaign of Donald Trump. But you would be wrong. Key sections of the American press are currently playing Trump’s main calling-card for him by giving excessive […] read more »
August 7, 2015

The Republican Juggernaut Marching Us to War

The over-riding temptation in the wake of the first debate between Republican presidential hopefuls may be to focus on the Trump opening gaffe, or to join the mainstream media in ranking candidate performance and picking winners. But the temptation to focus on the differences on display in Cleveland should be avoided – by progressive commentators […] read more »
June 20, 2015

Trade Deals and the Importance of Political Gridlock

For a political capital renowned for gridlock, there are times when Washington DC looks poised for too much action rather than for too little. This is one such time. Moves seem well underway in the Republican-controlled Senate to fast-track the vote on fast-tracking – maybe as early as this coming Tuesday – a move that […] read more »
May 17, 2015

UK Foreign Policy

Comments at a roundtable discussion on UK foreign policy, held at the University of Hull, May 13 2015. UK foreign policy always strikes me as post-imperial, and weaker/more problematic for still being more ‘imperial’ than ‘post.’ You can see the legacy of empire in the frozen international architecture in which we still operate. The settlements […] read more »
May 14, 2015

Labour’s Historic Defeat: Learning the Right Lessons

If there was any doubt on this matter before the election, there can be none now: those of us making the case for a progressive reconfiguration of advanced capitalisms now start from a position of incredible weakness. The immediate conversation in the UK will no doubt turn on the character of Ed Miliband’s leadership, and […] read more »
May 10, 2015

The U.K. Election: U.S. Lessons

Watching the UK election from Glasgow and not due back in the U.S. until next week, several thoughts seem worth sending home ahead of us. Please remember that this result was entirely unexpected by everyone – including the Conservative political leadership who ended up with a small but working majority. Every major political party here […] read more »
May 4, 2015

Different elections, similar issues: the UK and the US at the polls

As the United Kingdom comes to the end of its very short general election cycle, the United States is gearing up for the start of its next very long one. Yet, for all the differences of electoral timing and length, the main lines of the US debate on domestic policy are ones that a UK […] read more »
May 1, 2015

Judging Presidential Candidates against our criteria rather than theirs (1) Poverty

If the events in Baltimore tell us anything general this week, it is surely that policies are more important than personalities, and that the solutions to our core problems require more than sound-bites. Yet so far, the 2016 presidential campaign has been remarkably short on policies. To date, it remains a campaign full of sound-bites […] read more »
April 10, 2015

The Invisibility of Class, and the Hegemony of Conservative Ideas, in Contemporary America

The next long race to the White House is now upon us, and those who comment professionally on the comings and goings of American political life already have an emerging list of potential presidential candidates to follow around yet again. And as they do so, if the past is any guide, the important issues that […] read more »
March 9, 2015

Weighing the Arguments on U.S. Military Action against ISIS

  In an earlier posting, the case was made that what we desperately need in contemporary America is a national conversation about the appropriate direction of our foreign policy, and about the adverse impact on conditions at home of excessive military activity overseas.1 As the military campaign against ISIS builds in both Syria and Iraq, […] read more »
February 27, 2015

Hammocks and Ladders: The Poverty of Republican Thinking on the Poor

‘The American Dream has become a mirage for far too many.” (Jeb Bush)1 These are early days in the upcoming run for the White House in 2016, but already – among would-be Republican candidates at least – we see evidence of a tentative willingness to explore a set of contemporary ills that normally only figure […] read more »
February 6, 2015

The Case for Slowly Getting Out of the Empire Business

If all you witnessed late last month were the speeches of Republican presidential hopefuls at the Freedom Summit in Iowa, you could be forgiven for thinking that the main thing wrong with US foreign policy these days is that, in countries far from these shores, too few people are currently being killed by American weapons.1 […] read more »
January 21, 2015

The President’s “Queen’s Speech”- Too Little, Too Late?

The United Kingdom and the United States are divided by more than a common language. They are divided too by the different character of the political systems prevalent in each. They do however share a propensity for political theater. The UK has a major example of that theater once each year, when the Queen gives […] read more »
January 1, 2015

New Year Reflections on the US Global Role.

The first hours of a new year are always an ideal time for people across the globe to reflect on their contemporary condition. They are an ideal moment to look back, in the hope that serious reflection now can improve conditions going forward. And it is particularly vital that we in America take this moment […] read more »
December 1, 2014

Taking the Imperial out of American Imperialism

“You can do many things with a bayonet, except sit on it.” (Talleyrand) There is never a good or easy time to argue that the United States should begin to completely reset the character of its foreign policy, especially when the argument being made – as here – is that a key element in that […] read more »
November 19, 2014

The Mid-Term Elections: Taking the Longer View

  In the wake of an electoral setback on the scale experienced by the Democrats two weeks ago, the temptation to immediately rush to judgment is enormous. So also, if my e-mails and robo-calls are any guide, is the temptation to engage in yet more fundraising, as though money was the big thing of which […] read more »
October 28, 2014

The American Economy at Mid-Term

It is mid-term season in America: time for the Administration to talk up the strengths of the economy. The President did so a week ago, wanting “people to know that there are some really good things happening in America.” And since in economic terms, it is also bleak mid-winter in the Eurozone, it is additionally […] read more »
October 9, 2014

Hype & Reality: American Economic Numbers

  It is mid-term season in America: time for the Administration to talk up the strengths of the economy. The President did so in Evanston a week ago, wanting “people to know that there are some really good things happening in America.”[1] The worst of the recession is at last behind us. Since in economic […] read more »
September 12, 2014

Playing Defense and Still Losing

  You don’t win football games by only playing defense. And you don’t win mid-elections that way either. Perhaps somebody should remind the Democrats that winning elections, like winning games, requires you to take the game to the opposition, and to take it to them on your terms – not on theirs. I Political parties […] read more »
September 2, 2014

Tea Party Time on both sides of the Atlantic

    There is always a complex but close relationship between economic conditions and political options, such that the understanding of one invariably requires an understanding of the other. That is particularly true in periods of sharp economic or political change of the kind we have known since 2008. The decision by the MP, Douglas […] read more »
August 5, 2014

Responding to David Brooks: The Question of Poverty and Character

  David Brooks’ recent essay on “The Character Factory” would have us believe that “nearly every parent on earth operates on the assumption that character matters a lot to the life outcomes of their children” while “nearly every government anti-poverty program operates on the assumption that it doesn’t.” Assertions like that, coming in the wake […] read more »
July 19, 2014

Defending Trade Unions while the Justices are Away.

The nine justices of the Supreme Court are now in recess, leaving the rest of us the summer in which to reflect upon and digest their latest set of rulings – particularly the two handed down on the last day before they took their break. Quite properly, given its reactionary nature, their 5:4 ruling on […] read more »
July 15, 2014

Economics and the Gathering Storm

One lesson that you kind of learn the hard way in American politics is that it is always a mistake to think that, from a progressive point of view, things are so bad that they can’t get any worse. You only have to think it before the ground shifts under your feet again. I know […] read more »
July 8, 2014

Reflections on Economic Under-performance on Both Sides of the Atlantic

One of the most intriguing problems in any form of contemporary analysis – political or economic – is to judge whether contemporary trends are best read as a glass half-full or a glass half-empty. The events themselves rarely dictate which view should prevail: almost always the judgment call (and it is necessarily a matter of […] read more »
June 12, 2014

Winning in November by Defending the Affordable Care Act Now.

Lindsey Graham’s recent warning that Republicans might yet push for a presidential impeachment serves to demonstrate, if further demonstration was still required, of just how brutal Washington politics could get if his party ends up in control of both Houses of Congress after the mid-term elections in November. In progressive terms, the achievements of the […] read more »
May 13, 2014

Progressives Politics after Piketty: Making the Case for Managed Markets

It is very rare for the Left to have a best-seller but we have one now. The French economist Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century is currently being both widely read and even more widely discussed. That is great news. The question it leaves us with is how to put all that reading and […] read more »
April 14, 2014

Dozing through “the Great Moving Right Show”

            The greatest danger currently facing all of us in America, and particularly progressives, is one of drift. As an economy, the United States is drifting along a low-growth path that is acclimatizing all of us to levels of unemployment which only a decade ago would have been treated as an outrage. As a society, […] read more »
March 16, 2014

Paul Ryan as the Prince of Paupers

Given the scale and depth of poverty in the United States, it is not surprising that periodically debates about it should surface in Washington DC. What is more surprising is that the issue of poverty is not permanently center-stage. It did return there briefly last week because of the publication of a report on the […] read more »
March 13, 2014

The Poverty of Policy on Poverty

            Earlier this month, those who govern us – and those who would govern us – each laid out their vision of how to alleviate poverty in the United States. Since there is currently a rather large amount of poverty around that ideally would be rapidly alleviated,[1] you could legitimately expect that the proposals that […] read more »
February 16, 2014

The Cost of Empire? Extracts from “America in the Shadow of Empires” (forthcoming)

Extract (1) From Chapter 1 THE U.S. GLOBAL MILITARY FOOTPRINT One thing that is definitely building up around us is the scale, extent and cost of America’s military role overseas. Historically, that scale was modest and the role was limited – mainly to the Americas and to a number of Pacific islands – but no […] read more »
February 16, 2014

The Long-Term State of the Union – Counting the Cost of Empire?

              There is something desperate about the current quality of politics in Washington DC. It is not that our elected representatives steadily avoid any discussion of key issues. It is rather that – on far too many occasions – the way in which they choose to discuss those key issues trivializes them to the […] read more »
January 30, 2014

The State of the Union Address – Taking the Longer View

It is presumably unreasonable to expect any modern President of the United States to use his best prime-time moment, the annual State of the Union Address, to tell Congress and the American people that on his watch the state of the union is not strong – even if that is the truth. No politician these […] read more »

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