Smart Ideas: ISIL’s Weakness, Turnout in November, and Rob Ford

People gather at a memorial for victims of attacks in Brussels on Wednesday.
AP Photo/Valentin Bianchi
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March 23, 2016, 8 p.m.

Paradoxically, the Brussels attack shows ISIS's desperation

Colin Freeman, writing for The Telegraph

Despite Tuesday’s successful terror attack in Brussels, “many of the signs are that ISIL’s campaign to bring slaughter to Europe is already on the wane.” For starters, it seems to have been carried out by the same network that attacked Paris late last year, “not some entirely new outfit.” Secondly, it was a “routine bombing,” not something befitting “an organization that prides itself as the world’s most diabolically innovative urban guerrilla force.” Finally, ISIL hasn’t been successful in spurring an uprising of “lone wolf” actors. “Given the millions of Muslims that ISIL is trying to reach out to in America and Europe, the take-up rate is not very high.” Would-be terrorists traveled to the Middle East “to be part of a gang, not to act all alone.” Return them to Europe, “and they may be less like lone wolves, and more like sheep lost from their herd.” ISIL attacks in Europe, while tragic, are no more an existential threat than school shootings are in America.

Rob Ford: The precursor to Donald Trump

Stephen Marche, writing for Esquire

Former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who died this week at age 46, was “the inventor of a new and virulent style of politics composed of equal parts comedy, rage and celebrity culture. The man rewrote the political playbook without trying.” His legacy is that “he identified a bizarre longing” in affluent voter bases “with dysfunctional governments, and that longing is much more evident in the United States than in Canada right now.” And those voter bases will forgive much: Ford’s poll numbers increased after he confessed to smoking crack. When Ford stumbled into the spotlight, “other, more self-aware, more skilled, politicians were watching. Other politicians—ones with more cynical hearts and fewer self-destructive addictions—were learning. And so here we are in 2016 when the most salient political fact in the world is that the next Rob Ford could easily be the next President of the United States.”

Time for U.S. to come clean about support for Argentinian junta

Elisa Massimino, writing for the Miami Herald

During his visit to Argentina, President Obama is expected to announce that he’s unsealing records pertaining to U.S. support of the military dictatorship there in the 1970s and 80s. “Opponents of further declassification may be concerned that new revelations could embarrass the United States. But embarrassment is not a threat to national security and doesn’t justify denying Argentines information that could help them heal and seek accountability.” Moreover, this is “how a strong, self-correcting democracy should operate. … By coming clean, the President will honor the victims of the Dirty War and enable the United States and Argentina to recommit to a shared future grounded in respect for human rights.”

President Obama talks to young Argentines at a town hall meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Wednesday. AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko

Democrats needn't worry about turnout this fall

Margaret Talbot, writing for The New Yorker

In many primary states so far, Republicans are enjoying historic levels of turnout, while Democrats are struggling to match their turnout numbers from 2008. This doesn’t mean, however, that Democrats should worry about an “enthusiasm gap” for the general election. According to the University of Florida’s Michael McDonald, turnout spikes when a race is competitive. And despite Bernie Sanders’s resiliency, the Democratic race “has clearly been much less competitive than the Republican one.” In the fall, Democrats will likely be aided by another driver of turnout: when voters “see a significant difference between the candidates.” This condition applies in particular when voters “are so horrified by a candidate that they come out to register their opposition, even when they’re reasonably confident he or she will lose.” It’s quite possible, says McDonald, that “we’ll be looking in November at one of the highest turnouts we’ve seen in a hundred years of American politics.”

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