You could call this the year of the protest. On every continent except Antarctica, mass movements have been ousting leaders and demanding dramatic political change, in places as varied as Hong Kong, Argentina, Britain, Chile, Ecuador, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Iraq, the Netherlands, Puerto Rico and Sudan. Erica Chenoweth, a scholar of mass movements, and several colleagues explained what makes this wave of protests — which they believe to be the biggest in world history — so easy to mobilize and so difficult to resolve.
TMC took a closer look at a number of these. Chile’s protests — kicked off by a transit fare hike, but encompassing much more, Alisha Holland explains — included a million people marching peacefully in Santiago, and violent clashes between protesters and police in a half-dozen cities. In Bolivia, after protesters unseated the country’s first indigenous president, political scientists Carew Boulding, Raymond Foxworth, Calla Hummel, Jami Nelson Nuñez and V. Ximena Velasco-Guachalla gave us the real story behind the protests, which isn’t the one you’re hearing. In Puerto Rico, citizens were furious at how the resigning governor installed his successor, explained Fernando Tormos-Aponte and Glenda Labadie-Jackson. And Bassel F. Salloukh outlined what the massive protests in Iraq and Lebanon — the latter spurred by a proposed WhatsApp tax — are really about.
2. What’s happening in Hong Kong?
The big hot spot that’s 8,000 miles from Washington keeps getting hotter. As the violence between police and protesters escalates to include firebombs and brutal beatings, a record 2.94 million Hong Kong voters turned out this week for local elections. As Victoria Tin-bor Hui explained, this was a de facto referendum on pro-democracy protests from voters who cannot directly elect Hong Kong’s chief executive. Michael C. Davis, who reported last spring on the controversial extradition bill that kicked off these protests, analyzed a looming constitutional crisis in Hong Kong: Which system gets to decide the legality of Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam’s emergency face mask ban, designed to help police monitor and arrest protesters? A Hong Kong High Court struck down the face mask ban as government overreach — but Beijing objected.
Taiwan is watching all this very, very closely. Shelly Rigger pointed out that Hong Kong’s unrest will affect Taiwan’s January 2020 elections, as Taiwan voters worry more about candidates or parties that discuss reunification with China. And in case you were wondering, China’s elites — a group that likely includes top government and business leaders — have perhaps $330 billion or so safely parked in Hong Kong trusts, as Andrea Binder detailed here in TMC.
3. Brexit is still a mess.
If you’d like to remind friends and family that the United States isn’t the only Western democracy where politics is a mess, just glance across the Atlantic, where the “Battle of Brexit” has British politics in chaos. U.K. voters used to care about political parties — but now they care only about Brexit, as Bryan Schonfeld and Sam Winter-Levy explained, muddying the political system. In September, members of Parliament wanted to pass a bill banning a “no deal” exit from the European Union. To thwart that, Prime Minister Boris Johnson resurrected a 17th-century rule and tried to “prorogue” — or suspend — Parliament; at TMC, Kara Dimitruk explained the history of that approach.
Johnson publicly compared himself to “The Hulk,” and Alister Wedderburn showed us how much that explained about British politics. But the U.K. Supreme Court rebuked Johnson and allowed Parliament to meet. Ministers then did indeed ban the no-deal option, tying The Hulk’s hands and making him want to call an election.
The end finally seemed nigh for about a minute in October. Johnson appeared to have negotiated an exit deal with the E.U., and TMC’s Henry Farrell assessed its winners and losers. Parliament said okay — but did not okay Johnson’s plan to get it done by Oct. 31, as he’d promised voters. Johnson called another election, scheduled for Dec. 12. Will Johnson still be PM the day after? While there are four possible outcomes, results likely hinge on what Nigel Farage — the rogue pro-Brexit politician — tells his followers to do, as Harold Clarke, Matthew Goodwin, Marianne Stewart and Paul Whiteley explained.
Now you have a few options for Thanksgiving conversation. And tune in tomorrow for what you can discuss over leftovers.