David Coates

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

America in the Shadow of Empires
Who is David Coates?
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 »
January 24, 2014

In Defense of the NHS

              There has been a lot of talk and writing lately, by Cal Thomas and others uneasy with Obamacare, about the lessons that we can and should draw from what they characterize as the failure of socialized medicine in the U.K. In doing so, the picture they draw of health care in the U.K. […] read more »
January 11, 2014

America’s War on Poverty, America’s War on the Poor

January 2014 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the State of the Union Address in which Lyndon Johnson launched the War on Poverty.[1] This anniversary is leading to much soul-searching here in the United States.[2] Partly that soul-searching reflects the high levels of poverty that persist in contemporary America. The US does not define the poverty […] read more »
December 30, 2013

New Year Reflections: The Character of the Task before Us

 The start of a new year is always a good moment for reflection on the nature of our present condition. It is an even better moment for the adoption of resolutions designed to improve that condition. So perhaps we should try both. read more »
November 27, 2013

Social Security in the Cross-Hairs

(Addressed to a UK Audience)             In the UK, pension reform is controversial enough, though it rarely occupies centre-stage for long and there is often common ground between the parties. In the US, by contrast, the reform of Social Security is a perennial political issue, and it is now heavily-partisan in nature. The language of […] read more »
November 13, 2013

Negative Freedom or Positive Freedom: Time to Choose?

In the seemingly never-ending battle over the scope of government in America – on issues from gun control and climate change to federal spending and the Affordable Care Act – opponents of active government regularly mix detailed criticism of immediate policy consequences with more general arguments about the erosion of basic freedoms. read more »
October 26, 2013

Advice to Progressives in a Conservative State

  The Governor of North Carolina is becoming quite a megastar in conservative circles these days. He was a welcome addition to the gubernatorial campaign of Ken Cuccinelli in Virginia last Thursday, when he was fresh back from an address to the prestigious Heritage Foundation in Washington D.C. The Heritage Foundation hailed Pat McCrory as […] read more »
October 9, 2013

Placing the Affordable Care Act in the Wider Debate on Healthcare Systems

              Right now, hysteria inside the Republican Party about the flaws of the Affordable Care Act is running very high indeed. So high in fact that Representative Todd Rokita (R-IN) was not treated as mentally insane by his party’s leadership last week for denouncing Obamacare as “one of the most insidious laws ever devised.”[1] […] read more »
October 3, 2013

Like father, like son? Ralph Miliband’s political legacy

In the wake of the Daily Mail furor, those of us fortunate enough to have known Ralph Miliband as both an intellectual and a political activist recognize well enough that having him as your father is not a negative for any leader of the Labour Party. It is very much a plus. read more »
October 3, 2013

The American Student Debt Crisis: The Next Financial Timebomb?

In an earlier SPERI comment, Joanne Montgomerie wrote persuasively of household debt being the silent dimension of the financial crisis afflicting both the British and the American economies, and treated that debt as the most telling consequence of the broken Anglo-liberal growth model. She is undoubtedly correct in writing in that manner. read more »
October 1, 2013

Exactly how is the Affordable Care Act an affront to freedom?

 In all the understandable cacophony about the shutdown of government, the underlying trigger to that shutdown – Tea Party opposition to the Affordable Care Act – is in danger of falling out of the public spotlight. But that must not happen. The government is being shut down for a reason, and we need to examine […] read more »
September 17, 2013

The Half-Forgotten Student Debt Crisis

The debt ceiling debate is poised to return to the center-stage of American domestic politics. The Bipartisan Policy Center anticipates that the U.S. Treasury will hit the current debt ceiling sometime between October 18 and November 5, read more »
August 30, 2013

Back to Basics on the Question of Labor

As we prepare to celebrate another Labor Day, we do well to remember that celebrating labor on just one day always runs the risk of implying that every other day is not a labor day. Celebratory days can invite tokenism as equally as they can generate empathy. Celebrating the fact of labor can so easily […] read more »
August 20, 2013

Revisiting “Resisting Republican Excess”

The blog entry Resisting Republican Excess – written as a critical comment on the policies introduced by North Carolina’s Republicans since they captured both the legislature and the governorship in 2012 –  triggered more than a thousand comments in the immediate wake of its posting two weeks ago. read more »
August 6, 2013

Resisting Republican Excess

Very dark political forces stalk the land, and we do ourselves, and those who will come after us, no favors by pretending otherwise. read more »
July 29, 2013

Swopping Conservatives

(originally published on the Comment page of the UK’s University of Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute) read more »
June 30, 2013

Half-forgotten or Totally Forgotten – Poverty in America?

              Successful progressive politics require widespread popular support for progressive programs, and there is no way in which that support can be created without those programs being fully and regularly explained. But on so many important issues, that is simply not happening right now. True, the scale of unemployment[1] is periodically decried by politicians […] read more »
June 14, 2013

European Lessons for an America in Debt

With the Senate currently preoccupied with immigration and the House of Representatives with abortion, you might be forgiven for thinking that there is nothing seriously awry in the American economy right now – nothing so awry at least that it requires determined and detailed political action. But you would be mistaken. There are lots of […] read more »
June 13, 2013

Observing British Labour Politics from Afar

  Reflections on the strategic dilemmas currently facing the British Labour Party, originally published (June 13, 2013) as “Walking Forward, Looking Back” on the Political Insight/Blog webpage of the U.K. Political Studies Association read more »
May 25, 2013

The Half-forgotten Debt Crisis

            The attention span in Washington DC these days is remarkably short, and multi-tasking is something at which Congress seems particularly inept. So right now the focus there is overwhelming on just one thing, scandals – some genuine, some imagined, all minor – while the real business of the American people goes largely unexamined. The […] read more »
May 6, 2013

America’s Half-forgotten Housing Crisis

            On the housing front, the good news is that the President wants Mel Watt to head the FHFA. The bad news is that, precisely because the President wants him, there is no certainty that Mel Watt will be confirmed. read more »

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