David Coates

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

The Progressive Case Stalled
Who is David Coates?
November 1, 2017

Donald J. Trump and the Slow Arrival of Buyers’ Remorse

(co-authored with Lauren Tarde) You might be forgiven for thinking – given all that has happened since Donald J. Trump defeated Hillary Clinton for the US presidency in November 2016 – that buyers’ remorse would be rampant in contemporary America. But it is not. It is true that Donald J. Trump started his presidency capturing […] read more »
September 18, 2017

The Anglo-American Centre-Left and the Problem of Agency

(first posted on speri.comment) Re …. The primary problem faced by the Centre-Left in both the US and the UK is not ultimately one of programme. Adequate policy proposals abound. The problem lies rather in the lack of electoral support for such proposals, and in the internal weaknesses of the political parties available for their […] read more »
September 16, 2017

Taking Supper with Trump – The Need for a Very Long Spoon

The Democratic Party leadership in both the House and the Senate spent last week congratulating themselves on the deal they supposedly struck with the President on legislation to protect dreamers,1 and presumably took some pleasure too from the adverse impact of that supposed deal on Trump’s relationship with Congressional Republicans and his base. They should […] read more »
September 1, 2017

Trump and Afghanistan: Old Problems and New Dangers

Keeping track of important policy developments with Donald J. Trump as President is difficult and yet vital. There is so much noise and distraction surrounding everything that the current President does, and such a perplexing mixture of bombast and bigotry in so much of what he says, that the important things going on quietly behind […] read more »
August 3, 2017

Donald J. Trump as a “Morbid Symptom”

The great Italian revolutionary, Antonio Gramsci,1 when struggling to understand the rise to power of Benito Mussolini, once wrote this of Italy’s interwar crisis: that it “consists precisely in the fact that the old order is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum, a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.”2 For Gramsci, […] read more »
July 10, 2017

Taking Comfort from the Success of Others

With the wisdom of hindsight, it is now clear that the sheer quality of the Obama intellect, and the solid integrity of his character, lulled many of those who twice voted for him into a false sense of security. It was as though we forgot, with too great an ease and for too long a […] read more »
June 11, 2017

American Lessons from a British Election – Progressives, take heart!

The focus of most American commentary on the results of the general election held in the UK last Thursday is likely to be on the potential instability of Theresa May’s now much weakened Conservative Government, and on any impact that instability will have on the UK’s divorce negotiations with the European Union. Much ink is […] read more »
April 16, 2017

Wishing the Democratic Party a Healthy Easter Recess

Watching developments in American politics is rarely enjoyable these days. Indeed many of us periodically stop watching because the wear and tear on our nerve ends is so severe. So, it may be churlish to warn against taking too much pleasure from the Republican failure thus far to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. […] read more »
March 15, 2017

Pulling the Trump Problem into Sharper Focus and Full Vision

We are becoming so acclimatized to government by crisis that it becomes slightly disorienting when one or two days goes by without a new Trump travesty on which to report and ponder. But the last couple of days have been rather quiet on that front. The President seems to cause fewer waves, the more golf […] read more »
February 16, 2017

The Politics of Business, and the Business of Politics, in the World of Donald J. Trump

  The Chinese curse, “may you live in interesting times,” has a renewed resonance this side of January 20th. As we now all presumably realize, there is never a dull day in American politics with Donald J. Trump in the White House, and there is never likely to be one. Oh, that there was. And […] read more »
January 24, 2017

Unpacking the Inaugural Address of Donald J Trump

The Trump Inaugural Address last Friday was so full of Kellyanne Conway-type “alternative facts”1 that the bulk of the intellectual energy subsequently devoted to it by its progressive critics has been directed towards fact-checking – questioning the new president’s claims on drugs, crime, manufacturing, and the leakage of American wealth abroad.2 And what energy that […] read more »
January 13, 2017

Ten Things to tell Donald Trump

Watching Donald Trump prepare to take office is not a pleasant experience for American liberals. We can already anticipate a plethora of policy-initiatives emerging from the White House with which we will need to do political battle, such that the daily exchanges between Trump supporters and ourselves will increasingly focus on questions of policy design, […] read more »
December 30, 2016

Troubling Omens as We Approach the Presidency of Donald J. Trump

These are early days of course. Nothing has happened yet to directly justify a rush to judgment. But enough happened during the campaign, and enough is happening now in the interregnum between the election and the inauguration, to give genuine cause for concern. These three large concerns at the very least. THE PROSPECT OF BAD […] read more »
December 14, 2016

Reflections on the Obama Presidency: (4) Leaving Bipartisanship Behind

  (This is the last of four linked postings. The others are here,i hereii and hereiii) After all, it always takes two to tango, and the Republicans are now refusing to dance. Their ranks are too riddled with birtherism, conspiracy theories and latent racism to permit them to participate in any dance that moves to […] read more »
December 12, 2016

Reflections on the Obama Presidency: (3) The Price of Moderation

(This is the third of four linked reflections. The first is available herei, and the second likewiseii) When examining the gap between promise and performance in the Obama years, the bit that isn’t the Republican Party’s fault is the bit that is Obama’s. And there is one – certainly from a progressive point of view […] read more »
December 9, 2016

Reflections on the Obama Presidency: (2) The politics of gridlock

  (The second of a series of four reflections observing the Obama presidency in real time; for the first, see ‘The gap between promise and performance’i) It was never going to be easy to govern America in a progressive fashion, given the scale of the economic crisis left in place by the Bush Administration and […] read more »
December 7, 2016

Reflections on the Obama Presidency: (1) The gap between promise and performance

  There will no doubt be many reflective essays written on the Obama presidency in the months and years to come; and in time, as more information becomes available, some of our initial judgments on the quality of that presidency will need to be reset. But there is great value in setting down contemporary reactions […] read more »
November 15, 2016

Second Thoughts on the Victory of Donald Trump

(First posted on the blog site of the UK Political Studies Association) You were good enough to let me share with you my first thoughts on the Trump victory, and I am hoping that you might be equally kind a second time. But this time, I want to share thoughts not about those who supported […] read more »
November 10, 2016

First thoughts on the Trump Victory

(First posted on the SPERI blog site, in the UK) There are times when being right is a luxury too far. This is one of those times. It was possible to see Trump coming,i but it was also possible – until about midnight on November 8th – to hope that his coming would be aborted. […] read more »
October 27, 2016

Minimizing the Legacy of Donald J Trump

When Elizabeth Warren was campaigning with Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire last Monday, she expressed a wish that so many of us now share, when she promised Donald Trump that “on November 8th, we nasty women are gonna march our nasty feet to cast our nasty votes to get you out of our lives forever.”1 […] read more »
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 »

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