US press: pick of the papers

The ten must-read opinion pieces from today's US papers.

1. An alliance the world can count on (Washington Post)

As two nations that support the human rights and dignity of all people, we continue to stand with those brave citizens across the Middle East and North Africa who are demanding their universal rights, write Barack Obama and David Cameron.

2. India's Democratic dividend (Wall Street Journal) (£)

Last week's election results in five Indian states turned the conventional wisdom on its head. Voters, especially in India's most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, resoundingly favored parties that promised development. The elites are still in a state of shock, writes Barun Mitra.

3. Obama's pump debacle (LA Times)

Obama desperately wants people to think he's against higher gas prices -- at least until he gets reelected, says Jonah Goldberg.

4. Why isn't Mitt Romney "likable enough"? (Politico)

A candidate can attract or repulse in the same way a magnet can. Every time Romney tries to close the distance with voters and draw them closer, he seems invariably, to repulse them, writes J. Ann Selzer.

5. Afghanistan on edge (LA Times)

With each further crisis like that set off by the soldier's actions Sunday, the U.S. loses standing in the eyes of its Afghan government "partners," not to mention the increasingly skeptical population at large, says this editorial.

6. The perils of retreat (Wall Street Journal) (£)

Retreats are messy in warfare, and they can quickly become disorderly when the mission becomes something other than military victory, writes this editorial.

7. America's war on manufacturing (Philadelphia Inquirer)

In the wake of calls for tax breaks and other measures to support manufacturing from President Obama and the leading Republican presidential candidates, there has been an outcry from economists against such industrial policy, writes Clyde Prestowitz.

8. The double-edged health care debate (Oregonian)

It must be a bitter irony for the president that his greatest legislative achievement, a promise kept from his 2008 campaign, has become an albatross, writes Doyle McManus.

9. Obama goes to AIPAC (Plain Dealer)

Obama indeed did parrot the line that all options would be on the table. And he chest-thumped by saying Iran should not doubt his resolve, but he also said that all the war talk has not helped, says Jennifer Rubin.

10. Obama's phony compromise on religious freedom (Washington Examiner)

Obama had no intention of budging on the most critical issue -- whether the government or the church will decide how the church operates, writes this editorial.

Campaign pictures/Office of Jorge Sharp
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Meet Jorge Sharp, the rising star of Chile’s left who beat right-wingers to running its second city

The 31-year-old human rights lawyer says he is inspired by Jeremy Corbyn’s alternative politics as he takes the fight to the Chilean establishment.

Bearded, with shaggy hair, chinos and a plaid shirt, 31-year-old Jorge Sharp does not look like your typical mayor elect. But that does nothing to stop him speaking with the conviction of one.

“Look, Chile is a country that solely operates centrally, as one unit,” he says. “It is not a federal country – the concentration of state functions is very compact. In reality, most of the power is in Santiago. There are many limitations when it comes to introducing significant changes [in local areas].”

In October, Sharp upset Chile’s political status quo by defeating establishment rivals in the mayoral election of Valparaíso, the second city of South America’s first OECD country. He is taking office today.

Often compared to Podemos in Spain, Sharp’s win was significant – not only as yet another example of voters turning against mainstream politics – because it denied Chilean right-wing candidates another seat during local elections that saw them sweep to power across the country.

As the results rolled in, Conservative politicians had managed to snatch dozens of seats from the country’s centre-left coalition, led by President Michelle Bachelet, a member of Chile’s Socialist Party.

Sitting in one of Valparaíso’s many bohemian cafes, Sharp accepts the comparison with Podemos gracefully but is keen to make sure that Chile’s new “autonomous left” movement is seen as distinct.

“What we are doing in Chile is a process that is difficult to compare with other emerging political movements in the world,” he says. “We are a distinct political group and we are a modern force for the left. We are a left that is distinct in our own country and that is different to the left in Spain, in Bolivia, and in Venezuela.”

Sharp’s Autonomous Left movement is not so much a party rather than a group of affiliated individuals who want to change Chilean politics for good. Considering its relatively small size, the so-called Aut Left experienced degrees of success in October.

Chilean voters may have punished Bachelet – also Chile’s first female leader – and her coalition after a number of corruption scandals, but they did not turn against left-wing politics completely. Where they had options, many Chileans voted for newer, younger and independent left-wing candidates. 

“We only had nine candidates and we won three of the races – in Punta Arenas, Antofagasta and Ñuñoa, a district of Santiago,” he says. “We hope that the experience here will help us to articulate a national message for all of Chile.”


Campaign pictures/Office of Jorge Sharp

For Sharp, the success of Jeremy Corbyn, Donald Trump and the pro-Brexit movement are due to people fed up – on a global scale – with their respective countries’ mainstream political parties or candidates. Given that assumption, how would he describe the cause of his own election success?

“The problem in Chile, and also for the people in Valparaíso, is that the resources go to very few people,” he says. “It was a vote to live better, to live differently. Our project for social policy is one that is more sufficient for all the people. It’s a return to democracy, to break the electoral status quo.”   

Sharp – like many – believes that the United States’ Democrat party missed out by passing up the opportunity to break with the status quo and choose Bernie Sanders over the chosen nominee Hillary Clinton. “They would have been better off with Sanders than Clinton,” he believes. 

“The [people] in the US are living through a deep economic crisis. These were the right conditions for Trump. The people weren’t looking for the candidate from the banks or Wall Street, not the ‘establishment’ candidate. The way forward was Sanders.”

Turning to other 2016 geo-political events, he claims Brexit was a case of Britons “looking for an answer to crises” about identity. Elsewhere in South America, the tactics of former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe – who led the “No” vote campaign against peace with the Farc – were “fundamentally undemocratic”.

In the future, Sharp hopes that he and the rest of the Autonomous Left will be better-prepared to take power in higher offices, in order to further reform social policy and politics in Chile.

“For these elections, we weren't unified enough,” he concedes. “For 2017 [when national elections take place], we will have one list of parliamentary candidates and one presidential candidate.”

And while Sharp clearly sympathises with other left-wing movements in countries throughout the world, this is not a call for a unified approach to take on the rise of the right.

“Every country has its own path,” he finishes. “There is no single correct path. What we need to do [in Chile] is articulate a force that’s outside the political mainstream.”

Oli Griffin is a freelance journalist based in Latin America.