Friday, February 29, 2008

10 more months

Despite the hemming and hawing, the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act was extended by the U.S. Congress for another 10 months. Democrats had pushed for longer, but Republicans want it tied more to passing a Colombia FTA. I take this to mean that if no FTA is passed this year, the Republicans (I assume in the Senate, given the ability to prevent a vote, though maybe there are also enough wavering Democrats in the House) will block the next renewal.

But, of course, that means passing a new and controversial FTA in the midst of a presidential campaign, which itself is occurring the context of a sluggish economy, during which voters are naturally going to be even more leery than usual of trade deals.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Military intelligence

I’ve criticized Venezuelan (and Chilean for that matter) spending on arms, but the recent Senate Arms Services Committee hearing is still nuts. We have National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell and DIA chief General Michael Maples offering up our best intelligence on Venezuela:

  • Venezuela might be helping the FARC, but all the evidence suggests the purchased rifles are going into armories
  • Venezuela “could very well be” destabilizing neighbors, but we have no evidence of it
  • Chávez might have bought the weapons for domestic control, but we have no evidence of it
  • As a topper, in Cuba the move from Fidel to Raúl may spark mayhem, but we have no evidence of it

This is just from a short news story—who knows how many more would be in the original transcript. I’m glad to see that intelligence dollars in the U.S. remain so well spent.

What else do we have no evidence of?


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

LASA letter on Cuba

I am a member of the Latin American Studies Association, so I have my own little stake in the letter sent to President Bush by LASA and several other groups asking for a change in Cuba policy. As everyone who has even glanced at this blog knows, I am in favor of lifting the embargo. However, I don't agree with the rationale the letter uses to argue for easing of some restrictions:

I write on behalf of the organizations listed below to urge you to lift the restrictions that you imposed on academic and family travel, as well as remittances, to Cuba in 2003 and 2004, in recognition of Cuba’s first presidential succession in nearly 50 years and as a way to increase U.S. contacts with Cuba as it now begins a transition to a new generation of leadership.

First, we should not view the transfer of power from one old dictator to his equally non-democratic brother as anything but dynastic succession, so this is not something deserving “recognition.” Second, given the old guard choices made by the political elites on Sunday, there is no “transition to a new generation,” at least not as of now.

Instead, the letter should have emphasized that the restrictions strengthen the Castro regime and hurt the average Cuban, and as such are counterproductive and isolate the United States unnecessarily. Yes, we should increase contacts, but that should occur whether or not there is any "transition."


Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Alvaro Uribe’s Foreign Minister says the president is willing to talk to Hugo Chávez, and that Colombia would really like the Venezuelan Ambassador to return to Bogotá. I’ll be interested to hear Chávez’s reply, because his opponents believe he wants to use enmity with Colombia for his own benefit. Some sort of rapprochement with Uribe would deflate that argument. My impression is that they don’t like each other much personally, but friendliness is not a precondition of diplomacy.

This can work in Chávez’s favor in another way, because the United States likes to use the Venezuela/Colombia tiff as a means of criticizing Chávez. Smoothing the rough edges between the two leaders (to the extent possible) would also deflate that to some degree. Uribe, meanwhile, will be able to retain good relations with the U.S. while opening up talks with Venezuela about border problems. A hostile neighbor definitely does not benefit Colombia.

So let's see what the Venezuelan response is.


Monday, February 25, 2008

Graham Greene's Getting to Know the General

I read Graham Green’s Getting to the Know the General: The Story of an Involvement. It is a highly laudatory and quite quirky view of Panama under Omar Torrijos, who invited Greene (then in his 70s) to visit several times and brought him along to the Panama Canal Treaty signing ceremony in DC. One thing I appreciate about reading Greene’s various treatments of Latin America is that a non-Western Hemisphere viewpoint is not so common.* I would put it on my sidebar, but apparently Amazon doesn’t even have an official image for it.

He spends most of his time with a trusted Torrijos aide named Chuchu, and essentially they careen across the country, with short forays into Belize (Greene is not even entirely sure why Torrijos sent him there), Nicaragua and Cuba, meeting a wide variety of people. What he finds is a moderate leftist populism, though he doesn’t like calling it that.

Some of the populism seems almost mean spirited, as Torrijos listens to the demands of yucca farmers for better wages. He had already decided to raise their wages, “All the same, he added, he would keep the peasants guessing for a while—for his amusement and theirs” (p. 75). That is not the “social democracy” Greene keeps claiming Torrijos practices, which he also calls “direct democracy.”

“To me it seemed that the General was practicing a direct form of democracy, though the General’s enemies would have called him a populist, a word which is now commonly misemployed and used as a sneer” (p. 106). He bases this on the fact that his Oxford Dictionary’s definitions don’t jibe with what in fact everyone else agrees is populism. Nonetheless, someone who at one point labeled himself the “Maximum Leader” and was never elected can hardly be called democratic. It is, however, certainly preferable to Manuel Noriega.

If there is one thing we learn about Graham Greene, it’s that he loves his cocktails. He writes repeatedly about sucking down rum punches, and complains when he finds himself at lunches where only water is served. After any teetotaling lunch he then must go find some rum punch. On one of his later trips, he is distressed to find that the bar where he got the best rum punches had become a bank. No alcohol at lunch was simply uncivilized.

*Along these lines, not long ago I started reading Spanish author Manuel Vázquez Montalban’s The Buenos Aires Quintet, a novel centered on the effects of Argentina’s Dirty War, but found it too wandering and uninteresting to finish.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

WOW, Major Political Change in Cuba!

Made you look. Raúl is officially the new president.


Calling for policy change

This is a few days old, but 104 members of Congress from both parties signed a letter (here is a PDF through the WOLA website) asking for a complete review of U.S. policy toward Cuba: “Our policy leaves us without influence at this critical moment, and this serves neither the U.S. national interest nor average Cubans, the intended beneficiaries of our policy.” That is almost 25% of all members, an impressive total that likely will continue to grow, though perhaps only gradually as people start paying more attention. But also look for more governors to work behind the scenes to expand the existing agricultural trade program. Further:

Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the acting chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, announced in a statement he would hold hearings to determine what impact Castro’s retirement could make on the island.

Apparently Democrats also have what they believe are strong candidates running against the South Florida embargo stalwarts. They are well entrenched, so I have no idea how realistic the challengers’ chances are.


Saturday, February 23, 2008

McCain Cuba response

Quote from John McCain about Barack Obama’s Cuba policy prescriptions:

'Obama said that as president he'd meet with the imprisoned island's new leader `without preconditions,' '' McCain said. ``So Raúl Castro gets an audience with an American president, and all the prestige such a meeting confers, without having to release political prisoners, allow free media, political parties, and labor unions, or schedule internationally monitored free elections.

''Meet, talk and hope may be a sound approach in a state Legislature,'' McCain said in a dig at Obama's experience as a state senator before his 2004 Senate election. ``But it is dangerously naive in international diplomacy. . . .''

I take this to mean that McCain will also refuse to meet with the leaders of countries like China and Saudi Arabia, where they are not doing all the same things that Cuba is not doing.

Oh, I forgot, those countries are not on the State Department's State Sponsors of Terrorism list so that means they're OK.


Friday, February 22, 2008

Debating Cuba policy

In the debate last night, Obama and Clinton addressed Cuba policy. I like the Obama quote: “But I do think that it's important for the United States not just to talk to its friends, but also to talk to its enemies. In fact, that's where diplomacy makes the biggest difference.”

Further, he supports loosening travel restrictions for family members and remittances, which shows he is reaching out to that new generation of Cuban Americans that is less ideologically rigid. It is also bold to come out and say current policy is a failure:

OBAMA: I support the eventual normalization. And it's absolutely true that I think our policy has been a failure. I mean, the fact is, is that during my entire lifetime, and Senator Clinton's entire lifetime, you essentially have seen a Cuba that has been isolated, but has not made progress when it comes to the issues of political rights and personal freedoms that are so important to the people of Cuba.

So I think that we have to shift policy. I think our goal has to be ultimately normalization. But that's going to happen in steps. And the first step, as I said, is changing our rules with respect to remittances and with respect to travel.

And then I think it is important for us to have the direct contact, not just in Cuba, but I think this principle applies generally. I recall what John F. Kennedy once said, that we should never negotiate out of fear, but we should never fear to negotiate. And this moment, this opportunity when Fidel Castro has finally stepped down, I think, is one that we should try to take advantage of.

Hillary Clinton on the same topic, emphasizing the need to keep current policy going:

CLINTON: Well, Jorge, I hope we have an opportunity. The people of Cuba deserve to have a democracy. And this gives the Cuban government, under Raul Castro, a chance to change direction from the one that was set for 50 years by his brother.

I'm going to be looking for some of those changes: releasing political prisoner, ending some of the oppressive practices on the press, opening up the economy.

Of course the United States stands ready. And, as president, I would be ready to reach out and work with a new Cuban government, once it demonstrated that it truly was going to change that direction.


But there has been this difference between us over when and whether the president should offer a meeting, without preconditions, with those with whom we do not have diplomatic relations. And it should be part of a process, but I don't think it should be offered in the beginning. Because I think that undermines the capacity for us to actually take the measure of somebody like Raul Castro or Ahmadinejad and others.

CLINTON: And, as President Kennedy said, he wouldn't be afraid to negotiate, but he would expect there to be a lot of preparatory work done, to find out exactly what we would get out of it.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

McCain and Fidel

See Mike Peters' site for this and other cartoons


State sponsors of terrorism

In my U.S.-Latin American relations class yesterday, we discussed Fidel’s retirement, and a student asked if this would change the issue of Cuba being on the State Department’s State Sponsored Terrorist list. I remembered that Cuba was on there for harboring members of the FARC, but my student Kelby emailed me about the various other reasons. This isn’t new, but I hadn’t paid much attention to the rationale, which makes for some weird reading.

Nowadays only Iran, North Korea, and Cuba are on the list. Gadaffi is a good guy now, so Libya is off. Sudan is said to be cooperating and so is not a full member of the list anymore either—no, I swear I did not make that up. Genocide, apparently, is not state sponsored terrorism. But I digress.

Here is the State Department link, and check out the very first sentence:

“Cuba continued to publicly oppose the U.S.-led Coalition prosecuting the War on Terror.”

--So Cuba is a state sponsor of terrorism because it speaks out against the U.S. By the way, since when did “War on Terror” become All Capital Letters? Since the Iraq War is part of that, then I suppose much of Western Europe must also be in this category.

Cuba also “maintained close relationships with other state sponsors of terrorism such as Iran.”

--I take it that Russia should also be on the list.

“The Cuban government continued to permit U.S. fugitives to live legally in Cuba and is unlikely to satisfy U.S. extradition requests for terrorists harbored in the country.”

--I guess the U.S. must also be on the list, since we harbor Luis Posada Carriles and refuse to extradite him. Oddly enough, the report mentions him and fails to see the irony. Instead, it uses that case to claim Cuban hypocrisy.

BTW, the report also notes that “Venezuela is the only nation certified as "not fully cooperating" that is not a state sponsor of terrorism.” The next of these terrorist reports will likely be in April. You know many in the Bush administration want to get Chávez on that list. Will they realize that doing so would be so blatantly political that it would likely only help Chávez?

This deserves my very first poll—check out the side bar.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Taxis in Chile

I just happened to run across report of this poll from that ranks Santiago taxis as the worst in the world. The thing is, I have indeed had taxistas asking me where to turn, etc. They have, however, been very friendly about it...

I can't imagine they are the worst in the entire world, though.


How long for reform?

In their annual address to the Utah legislature, the state’s two senators (Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett, who were on opposite sides of McCain-Kennedy) predicted that Congress would likely not address immigration reform for at least another five years. As I take it, the upshot is that the issue is just too difficult, so we aren’t going to bother. The abdication of responsibility never ceases to amaze.

Nonetheless, it is interesting that McCain is now going to be the nominee, despite all that pandering that Romney et al did by making a big deal about immigration. People are simply not as worked up about immigration—even illegal immigration--as the media makes it seem.

h/t Bender's Immigration Bulletin


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Fidel's retirement

So Fidel has resigned the presidency of Cuba, and is retiring, thus making official what had become de facto. Here is the official statement published in Granma (they seem not have translated it into English quite yet). He will now be a “soldier of ideas” who will continue writing his “Reflexiones” column.

You have to admire the way Fidel and Raúl have managed this long transition, which has been amazingly smooth and has consistently kept their enemies off balance and guessing while still still reassuring their supporters in Cuba.

Trivia question: how many dictators step down to become journalists?


Monday, February 18, 2008

The politics of credible threat part 3

As Boz notes in a new comment to last week's post, Hugo Chávez has backed off his threat to cut off oil exports to the United States, but rather said that such an outcome would occur if the United States attacked Venezuela. I wonder whether he will refrain from making that same threat again.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Baseball bullets

A brief break from Latin American politics to remind everyone that baseball is back.

  • Padres pitchers and catchers have just reported to spring training and the first game is February 29. Finally!
  • Am I the only one who thinks the “body language expert” analyses are rather annoying? With Roger Clemens on 60 Minutes and in Congress, these experts have analyzed every lip licking, shoulder shrugging, head bobbing and ear scratching. I wonder if my students can use this to determine if I am lying in lecture.
  • The Padres will be playing in China next month. I find this very cool in theory, but hope it does not generate injury in addition to good will.
  • I read Cait Murphy’s Crazy ’08, the story of the 1908 baseball season, when after an intense pennant race (and a famously disputed game when Fred Merkle failed to touch second base) the Cubs won the World Series. Great book for anyone into baseball history.
  • Will anyone sign Barry Bonds? Even Barry Zito, who defended Bonds, admits he’s glad Bonds is no longer a Giant


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Daniel and Barack

Steven Taylor mentioned this IHT story about Daniel Ortega endorsing Barack Obama, saying he is laying the foundation for “revolutionary change.”

Further down, however, the article also notes that Ortega is sending Nicaraguan soldiers to WHINSEC, formerly called the School of the Americas, even though he believes that it was tied to torture in the past. Last October Bolivia announced it would no longer send soldiers (if you’re interested, see my post, which includes comments from WHINSEC staff).

Ortega did not explain why he approved the training, but said he would try to ensure officials did not turn into "torturers and killers."

The current Ortega incarnation is really pretty fascinating.


Friday, February 15, 2008

New Colombia march

Adam Isacson has a great discussion about the anti-paramilitary violence march planned for March 6 in Colombia. At first glance, the idea seems uncontroversial, but then the Uribe government denounced the idea, saying it was planned by the FARC.

“I personally will not participate, as I did enthusiastically in the march against the FARC,” was the response of José Obdulio Gaviria, a presidential advisor considered to be President Uribe’s chief ideologist. “It will be difficult for Colombian society to participate in this type of event, when we just finished marching against the people who are convening it.”

Gaviria’s words are terribly unfortunate. Not only does a top Colombian government official reject the March 6 protests, he alleges that its organizers, the National Victims’ Movement, are indistinguishable from the FARC. This is the worst sort of slander, and the Colombian government must not let it stand.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Normal blogging to resume shortly

I've been sick and am now trying to catch up on a million tasks and emails that I've been neglecting. Back soon.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The politics of credible threat Part 2

Following up on yesterday’s post about Chávez threatening to cut off oil exports to the United States, it occurred to me that recently he has been making a wide variety of domestic nationalization threats as well. I hadn’t paid close attention, but they really start adding up:


Milk plants

Food distributors

Asphalt companies

Idle land

So we have a string of relatively recent threats but no actions taken. Chávez may be painting himself into a corner with this combination of escalating rhetoric and inaction. Capitalism is thriving in Venezuela, but in large part because investors and business owners believe their private property to be safe. Acting upon all those threats would cause a serious ripple effect. On other hand, not acting on them makes him more and more like a paper tiger, in a domestic environment in which the opposition is feeling stronger after the defeated constitutional referendum.


Monday, February 11, 2008

The politics of credible threat

Thinking through Hugo Chávez’s recent threat to cut off oil exports to the United States, which he has made numerous times, it seems like a strategic mistake to make a threat that isn’t credible. Even the markets largely ignored him.

I can’t help but think there is a crying wolf angle to this situation. Unfortunately for Chávez, Venezuela remains heavily dependent upon the United States, which despite rhetoric has not changed significantly since Chávez first took office. Cutting off exports would hurt Venezuela much more than the United States, which would exacerbate already existing domestic political tensions.

Making threats you cannot follow up on ultimately leads to being ignored and taken less seriously, which then weakens Chávez politically. If he carries it out, I will eat my words, but it is hard to imagine.

Update: I hadn't seen Boz's post, which makes a very similar argument.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

The ambassador answers

On Monday I mentioned that the U.S. Ambassador to Colombia would be answering questions submitted by email. I had been thinking of a potential question but then, I have to admit, I completely forgot about it. For your edification here are the questions and answers he gave.

They start off with a questioner who cannot spell “Colombia.” Then they move to some really hard hitting stuff, like what college major you should have to enter the foreign service, what travel warnings exist, how much visas cost and whether he likes being ambassador.

To be fair, he does take questions about human rights, including one asking about government abuses, but even then the answer moves off to how great the FTA would be, and how U.S. exporters would benefit.

We can all feel good that he really likes being ambassador, though.


Saturday, February 09, 2008

Blogging and conferencing

Many thanks to Russ Bither-Terry from Rulablog, who invited me to come to the UNC-Duke Consortium Latin American Studies conference—yesterday’s sessions were at Duke. This is a great example of what blogging can do. I would never have known Russ otherwise, and would not have attended without him. Not only did I get to meet him in person, but also got to see some old friends as well (since I got my Ph.D. at Chapel Hill).

The day’s panels ended with Ariel Dorfman, who gave the keynote address. I had not met him before, but yesterday had the opportunity to chat with him a few times, and to tell him I use his play Death and the Maiden in my Latin American politics class. If you have not read the play, you should (you can also watch the movie with Sigourney Weaver et al, but I didn’t think much of it).

Dorfman’s talk really centered on the idea of telling the truth. At the end, he read the article (“Letter to an Unknown Dissident”) he published in February 2003, shortly before the Iraq invasion. Here is a copy I found online. I had not read it before, and it is really powerful. As he said in his talk, it has the potential to anger everyone. But it is the truth as he sees it, as someone who was hunted by a dictatorship and anguished about what to do.


Friday, February 08, 2008

Bachelet not moving up

The latest Adimark poll puts Michelle Bachelet’s approval rating at 43% for January, down two points from December (but up from November). They tend to get slightly higher results than CERC, but still pretty close. All polls show her stuck in neutral. Her last cabinet shuffle was just last month, but I really doubt it will resonate in her approval. We're now past the halfway mark in only a four year term, so with each passing month political recovery becomes more and more remote.


Thursday, February 07, 2008

Protesting the FARC Part 2

Thanks to Ana-Isabel, a Colombian student of mine who sent me some photos emailed to her by friends back home. She also gave me this link to more photos at El Tiempo. In all, impressive stuff.


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The latest Caravan of Death case

An active duty Chilean army general, Gonzalo Santelices, has resigned because he was implicated in the Caravan of Death (for a great book on that topic, see Patricia Verdugo’s Chile, Pinochet, and the Caravan of Death). Commander in Chief Oscar Izurieta praised him for retiring, which takes the scandal out of the active ranks (there is, however, a fund for officers who need lawyers in human rights cases). Nonetheless, such a quick army response is positive, and there are no longer the typical “close the ranks” responses from the army.

Under questioning by a judge, Santelices had acknowledged that as a young lieutenant in October, 1973, he followed orders and transferred 14 prisoners from a jail in northern Chile to a desert area where they were executed by firing squad. He said he did not take part in the executions.

However, there is an interesting twist. The presiding judge in the case said he believes General Santelices bears no criminal responsibility. Given his age at the time, as someone who just graduated from the Military Academy, he would have quite possibly been shot had he not obeyed the order.

Gutierrez said Santelices directly participated in the killings because "he selected the 14 victims, handcuffed and blindfolded them and then took them in an army truck" to the execution site.

If you are a family member of the one of the handcuffed, blindfolded, and ultimately murdered victims, then the issue of criminal responsibility is not so vague. We'll have to wait and see what the current judge decides.


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The different faces of Daniel Ortega

Daniel Ortega met with State Department and DEA officials in Nicaragua and announced he is “committed” to the war on drugs. An interesting angle is that he wants to affirm Nicaraguan control over islands/waters claimed by Colombia.* He brought up the issue with the U.S. officials, emphasizing that patrolling for drugs will require going beyond Colombia’s claimed boundaries.

Ortega is doing quite the balancing act. There aren’t many presidents who will chat it up with Hugo Chávez one week and the DEA the next. There also aren’t many presidents who would try to use the U.S. to get something out of Colombia.

*Interesting case, since the argument is that when Nicaragua signed agreements in the late 1920s, it was occupied by the U.S. and therefore the agreements are invalid. This is similar to the arguments Cuba uses about Guantánamo.


Monday, February 04, 2008

Ask the ambassador

The U.S. Ambassador to Colombia, William Brownfield, will answer questions about U.S.-Colombian relations submitted online. His answers will be posted on Friday.

h/t Plan Colombia and Beyond


Protesting the FARC

The Associated Press has a story about today’s Facebook-led global “One Million Voices Against FARC” march (which includes a noon meeting in Charlotte—I would consider checking it out but have class at the same time) and how it reveals some of the splits within Colombia about how to deal with violence and even who exactly to protest. In particular, the Democratic Pole will hold a separate rally to protest all violence, including the paramilitaries. Families of hostages also do not support the protest, saying it should be pro-freedom and not simply anti-FARC.

Meanwhile, the FARC wants Hugo Chávez back into the mix and so has announced they will release three hostages who are in poor health. Everything is fine as long as the FARC continues to release people without conditions but it’s hard to see the situation improving much otherwise.

And so the question becomes: does all of this change anything or do we remain on square one?


Sunday, February 03, 2008

U.S.-Argentine relations

According to Clarín, Thomas Shannon (Asst Sec of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs) will soon visit Argentina as part of a broader strategy to strengthen U.S. ties with the country and put the Maletagate scandal to the side.

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner seems to be playing this very well. On the agenda will be Argentina’s desire to renegotiate its debt without being forced to sign an agreement with the IMF. I suspect that the U.S. will make that work. It’s like a Latin American non-aligned movement, where governments can play the two antagonists off each other, benefiting from both.

But the U.S. benefits as well. There is nothing to be gained by alienating Argentina, and much to be lost. Just basic signs of diplomacy—so long missing—can go a long way.


Saturday, February 02, 2008

UNC Charlotte Homecoming 5K

I ran the UNC Charlotte Homecoming 5K this morning, a fun race through campus that I do every year. Unfortunately, there were too many good runners in their 30s so I won no prizes (small races with limited competition are really my only hope of placing). It was a good opportunity to see all the new construction in parts of campus I don’t get to very often—we’re growing very rapidly.


Friday, February 01, 2008

The impact of local government

Rebecca Weitz-Shapiro, “The Local Connection: Local Government Performance and Satisfaction With Democracy in Argentina.” Comparative Political Studies 41, 3 (March 2008): 285-308.

Abstract: In light of extensive decentralization in much of the world, analyses of citizen satisfaction with democracy that treat citizens as subjects of their national governments alone are incomplete. In this article, the author uses regression analysis of unique survey data from Argentina to explore the relationship between local government performance and citizen satisfaction with democracy. She demonstrates that there is indeed an important link between local government performance and citizen system support but also that citizens distinguish between qualitatively different types of government performance. Certain measures of local government performance, such as corruption, have ramifications for citizens' evaluations of the functioning of their democracy and even for citizens' faith in democracy per se. At the same time, other types of local government performance, such as local bureaucratic inefficiency, do not reverberate beyond the local sphere. These results suggest mixed implications for future democratic stability in Latin America.

So local government performance plays a very important role in determing an individual’s support for democracy (i.e. Tip O’Neill’s “All politics is local”) but not all local issues are of the same magnitude. She also differentiates between support for the country’s democratic institutions and democracy in the abstract.

Merely getting bad service (measured here with the variable long line) probably upsets local residents, but the results shown in Tables 1 and 2 suggest that this alone is unlikely to alter a resident’s evaluation of how her government works or her democratic beliefs. At the other extreme, local government corruption seems to decrease an individual’s satisfaction with how democracy works in her country and is even capable of shaking her faith in democratic government. In between, substantively important (but not criminal or morally questionable) government behavior such as poor information provision is correlated with how a citizen evaluates her government’s performance but not the value she places on the principles underlying that system of government.

This made me wonder about a slightly different line of inquiry that would be worth an empirical study: what aspects of local government performance affect presidential approval ratings? Which local variables most/least affect an individual’s perception of a particular president, as opposed to democracy writ large? To some degree—I am not sure how much—this could help explain persistently high approval ratings in the face of national scandal, but perhaps also dropping approval even when the national scene is free of serious problems. We would also have to control for whether the party of the local government was different from that of the president.


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