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Under The Radar – 27 August

This week, we discuss:

  1. America’s $3.5 trillion budget blueprint

  2. Tunisia slides back into tyranny

  3. The Rise of Social Justice Unions

House narrowly passes $3.5 trillion budget blueprint following internal strife within the Democrat party

What happened?

On Monday the Democrats overcame significant internal rifts in order to advance a $3.5 trillion budget blueprint, a critical component of President Biden’s domestic agenda.

What does it mean?

The vote to advance the budget plan passed 220-212 along party lines, setting the stage for Democrats to push forward with Biden’s ambitious Build Back Better plan. The budget showdown has highlighted the fractions within the Democrat party – with factions of progressives, moderates and conservatives all attempting to flex their muscles. These are issues the party are likely to face going forward as they attempt to push through the bulk of their spending package this autumn. At the heart of the standoff is a grapple for leverage over the future of the multi-trillion dollar bill. The moderates declared victory following the deadlock, having been promised a set date for the infrastructure bill and to be included in the drafting of the spending package. Speaker Pelosi, however, downplayed these claims. Biden praised the vote passing, calling it an “historic investment that’s going to transform America”. The procedural motion has also paved the way for the House to vote on the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would require states with a recent history of discrimination to gain federal clearance before making changes to their voting laws. This is particularly significant given the accusations of voter-suppression in the recent Presidential election, as well as potentially strengthening the Voting Rights Act.

Tunisia Slides Back into Tyranny

What happened?

On July 25th President Saied of Tunisia sacked the Prime Minister, dismissed parliament, lifted the immunity of lawmakers, all whilst granting himself 30 days of emergency powers. As his self-imposed deadline loomed, Saied has announced parliament will remain suspended and has refused to give up emergency powers until further notice.

What does it mean?

Tunisia was the only country to emerge from the Arab Spring with some sort of functioning democracy. It was the catalyst for the widespread uprisings across the Middle East which saw regimes toppled and dictators deposed, including Gadaffi in Libya and Mubarak in Egypt. However, while Syria, Libya, Yemen and Egypt descended into chaos or authoritarianism, Tunisia was the only nation to be able to claim any level of success and has hosted free and fair elections since 2011. However, a decade on, the elections have seemed to deliver weak governments, unable to improve living standards and address the severe economic problems facing the North African nation. Thus, a frustrated electorate turned to political outsider and former law professor, Kais Saied, to fix the country. The populist leader was elected in 2019 with a landslide victory, following a campaign where he promised to fight the rife corruption within the political elite. By taking full control of the state, President Saied has fulfilled his promise, targeting and defenestrating lawmakers. Like many populist leaders across the globe, Saied is using the pandemic to justify seizing full power. While this might be of concern to the West, the majority of Tunisians reportedly back their President in his fight against the elite and efforts to put Tunisia back on the path to prosperity (rather than democracy).

The Rise of Social Justice Unions

What happened?

Last week, 15 aggrieved Apple employees publicly announced they were forming a union, ‘AppleToo’, alongside a press statement detailing their aims focusing entirely on “patterns of racism, sexism, inequity… and unchecked privilege”, and the alleged “gaslighting” from higher-ups in the company.

What does it mean?

AppleToo is not the first labour union to entirely disregard its members’ financial concerns in pursuit of redressing identity-based grievances. Google’s Alphabet Workers Union was formed last year under the exact same ideological remit. A union which has nothing to say about material conditions, such as pay and hours, is certainly at odds with a union’s traditional raison d’être. However, it represents a significant trend both within the professional-managerial classes – especially in Silicon Valley – and the mainstream Left. Namely, the increasing dominance of identity politics in how institutions conceive of their purpose. Advocating for ‘social justice’ causes – ideally armed with the technical jargon of academic journals and NYT op-eds – are the new markers of belonging and status in progressive circles. It is clear the class struggle of yesteryear no longer has the romantic allure to self-styled leftwingers it once did. As progressivism has increasingly become a movement of the upper-middle classes, a concomitant shift in emphasis away from pecuniary gripes, was perhaps to be expected. After all, employees of Big Tech are not exactly struggling to make ends meet. Looking forward, expect to see more unions dedicated towards values, not economic interests. Meanwhile, the chasm between the Left and its former voting base – the deindustrialised working class – grows ever larger.

This Week’s Must Reads

  1. ‘Bolsonaro pushes the limits of democracy in Brazil’ by Brian Harris for The FT

  2. ‘Nike’s End of Men’ by Ethan Strauss for House of Strauss

  3. ‘Four mega-trends that condemn the West to irreversible decline’ by Allister Heath for The Telegraph

  4. ‘Is this justice? Why Sudan is facing a multibillion-dollar bill for 9/11’ by Nesrine Malik for The Guardian


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