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Casualties of the Trump Presidency

The Death of Political Satire

Pagun

(VANCOUVER ISLAND) Many years ago mathematics professor and musical political satirist Tom

Tom Lehrer

Lehrer demurred when asked to return to satirical songwriting and performing. His reason for refusing? Henry Kissinger having been awarded the Nobel Peace prize was the last word in political satire and that absurdity had made any further attempts unnecessary. Lehrer is now eighty nine years old and has long since retired from both stage and lecture hall; one wonders if he still feels that politics can’t get any more ridiculous.

Late night talk show hosts and stand-up comedians have been buried in raw material for their monologues and club acts for over a year now; the Trump ascendancy has been a bottomless source of raw material and they have benefited mightily from the insanity in Washington since Trump first descended on his gilded escalator to warn threaten announce his candidacy for the presidency. Every day, it seems, the American president says or does or tweets or neglects to do something that is so outrageous that one can’t help but suspect for a moment that the report is satire and not an actual piece of news. The debacle that is US politics could not have been foreseen by the most cynical and pessimistic satirist. Tom Lehrer used to say that he always followed a friend’s advice:  “Always predict the worst and you’ll be hailed as a prophet.”

Samantha Bee

Nevertheless what is actually happening in Washington staggers even a prophet’s imagination.

Donald Trump and the GOP spent years and tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer’s money investigating and desperately seeking evidence of criminal behaviour in Hillary Clinton’s handling of her official emails. Despite coming up dry, the Republicans tried to enact legislation that would refuse the former Secretary of State access to classified material as, in their view, she was too careless to be trusted with the nation’s secrets. And yet, as I write this, there is no indication that any Republican in Congress or any White House staffer sees the irony in the recent disclosures of Donald Trump’s farcical fuckups over highly classified intelligence.

As we know, it started with reports of Trump banning any journalists from attending an unprecedented meeting with Russian officials in the Oval Office. Any journalists except Russian state media, that is. And at least one of those officials is known to be an intelligence officer. The White House said they were “tricked” into allowing Russians and their photographers free rein in the Oval Office. But the story didn’t stop there. It turns out, as more and more information leaks out of the rather porous White House, that Trump actually disclosed to the Russians some top secret material that came from the highest levels of Israeli intelligence, and that it compromised at least one undercover agent who had infiltrated ISIS, almost certainly condemning him to a very unpleasant death. How do Republicans respond to this outrage? They remind us of the fact that the President has the authority to declassify anything at any time; hence he wasn’t sharing classified material. Shades of Nixon’s view that if the president does it, it’s not illegal!

No satire, no humorous dystopian fiction, no pessimistic prophet could top what’s happening as a result of a large number of fearful white voters casting their ballots for an ignorant, racist, mentally ill billionaire. This could never have been written. Not for laughs and not as a dire warning. Nobody actually thought this could happen.

The impeachable offenses committed by Donald Trump and his loyalists are piling up; nothing like this has ever been seen before. In just the last few weeks, we have seen abuse of power, rent-seeking, influence peddling, perjury, and now treason. Of course treason has long been suspected of Trump and his campaign; further investigation will almost certainly bring those details to light. But now it’s overt, and in-your-face. And yet the Republican party line is: Get over it and move on. No situation in American history has so clearly demanded an impartial investigation than the current one, and yet Republicans steadfastly refuse even to consider a special commission, much less the special prosecutor they insisted upon when it looked like a Democratic president had been on the receiving end of an intern’s blowjob. Never has a political party worn its venality, its disdain for rule of law, its contempt for the country and its citizens, and its breathtaking hypocrisy so blatantly on its sleeve. The GOP isn’t even pretending very much anymore to believe in truth, in justice, in the constitution, or in anything other than their sworn mission to dismantle the fabric of the US government and to transfer as much wealth as possible from the majority into the endlessly greedy hands of the 2%. Their obstructionism in the face of the obvious criminality of their leadership reminds me of a bad guy running for the exit with his bag of swag and twitching furniture behind him into the way of his pursuers. They know that this assault on the nation can’t last forever; so on their way out, they’re running roughshod over social programs, environmental initiatives, education, health care, human rights legislation, and every other good thing their predecessors have done – all to finance the greatest upward redistribution of wealth the world has ever seen.

The question used to be: What will it take to shake the GOP out of their sullen refusal to uphold their oaths of office and put their country before their party? That is no longer a reasonable question, because by their inaction the Republicans have answered it. There is nothing whatsoever that Donald Trump can do that would alienate his solid base of support. He said it best when he said he could shoot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue and not lose a single voter. Except it’s not voters who will stand by him; it’s members of Congress. The GOP has such contempt for the people of the United States that they don’t even care about the 2018 midterms or even the general election in 2020. As long as they fill their pockets and offshore accounts between now and then, they will not turn against Trump. Some believe they can carry the con even further and survive a vote; others don’t care and are happy to retire in insulated wealth while the country crumbles into 3rd World chaos.

In the world of political punditry, rumours of sealed indictments by several grand juries are circulating. We now have to wait and see. If those indictments are real and if they are indictments of Donald Trump and others in the White House, there will be an unimaginable constitutional crisis; what would actually happen if federal marshals were to serve the papers on the President and slap the cuffs on him? What kind of an upheaval can we expect if justice is served and those at the very top of the food chain in US politics were to be charged and arrested for their crimes? No one knows. But we are now at a point where it has to happen and we will find out; or we can sit on the sidelines and watch the United States of America collapse under its own greed.

ENDITEM….

 

A bang or a whimper? Either way, it ends.

A Tangled Web

Pagun

 

(VANCOUVER ISLAND) When I taught journalism at universities, I would always put All the President’s Men by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward on the reading list. For other courses I

Redford and Hoffman in
All the President’s Men

taught in which journalism was touched upon, if not the primary focus, I would often assign the movie version of that book (Dir. Alan J. Pakula, starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford) as outside viewing. The book and movie are wonderful examples of dogged investigative journalism at its best and serve as templates for how the fourth estate can act as a critical part of any democratic system of government, and be in the US at least, as important as the legislative, the judicial, and the executive, the three constitutionally mandated branches.

I have always been astonished at the complexity of the cast of characters and roles they played in the Watergate conspiracy and cover-up; even more impressive is the way Woodward and Bernstein put it all together and sorted it all out into a comprehensible narrative. When the last domino fell, even those among us who weren’t obsessive US politics junkies were able to follow the story and make sense of what happened in the most multifaceted and intricate criminal conspiracy in US political history. And without the work of a free press, dedicated journalists, and courageous publishers, the “cancer on the presidency”[i] would never have been exposed and excised.

The concern that I and many fellow journalists share is that, in today’s political zeitgeist, there is neither the will nor the skill to expose an even more serious cancer on a different presidency. The scandals that will ultimately bring President Donald Trump down are by orders of magnitude farther-reaching, more tangled, and more damaging to the country than anything Richard Nixon did or approved of. There are literally dozens of confirmed and suspected criminal acts attributable to the president and his men (and one or two women), ranging from soliciting bribes and influence peddling to espionage and treason; in between are money laundering, abuses of power, and obstruction of justice. The whole mishegas is so vast that it is unlikely that it will ever be encapsulated in a single book, movie, or impeachment hearing. When Donald Trump goes down, it will be because some investigation has focused exclusively on a single or small number of related criminal acts and decided that these would be the easiest to prove. But what won’t happen in today’s world is the daily exposure of the President’s crimes in a clearly explicated, step by methodical step exposure and explanation by the Fourth Estate.

There are two reasons for this. The first is that journalism no longer resembles the respected, admirable, nearly sacred calling it was during Watergate and its aftermath. I and every other budding journalist I know of in those days saw our profession as a vital and valued component of a democratic society. We sought out the truth; our loyalty was to facts. We saw ourselves as watchdogs who kept politics honest and protected the people from unscrupulous or corrupt leaders. But something happened; journalism became entertainment. Ratings became more important than honest, fact-based reporting. Sensationalism, not truth was what reporters tracked down. And at the same time, with the advent of Fox News, objectivity and balanced reporting began to disappear from the airwaves and never made a strong appearance on the Internet. Fox was a de facto propaganda arm of the Republican Party and showcased the rantings of assorted right wing and evangelical Christian nutjobs. Conspiracy theories proliferated on the ‘Net and with Trump, the last vestiges of old school fact-based reporting were labelled “Fake News”. All news is now suspect unless it is a partisan claim that happens to reinforce an already held belief. It is hard to imagine who could write a genuinely objective summary of the entire Trump presidency when all the dust has settled. (My money would be on Rachel Maddow and her team, but even though she is scrupulous and thorough in her reporting, she will be dismissed as partisan. She’s right, but that won’t matter in today’s world of binary politics).

The second reason is the scale of the malfeasance this time around. The Watergate dust-up seemed byzantine at the time. It all started with a bungled break-in at the Democratic Party’s national headquarters in the Watergate complex in Washington. It turned out that the burglars were paid out of an illegal slush fund traced back to the Committee to Re-elect the President (identified by one of the all-time greatest acronyms: CREEP). Ultimately it turned out that the president and his closest advisors were aware of the fund and the criminal activities it financed; the trail led right to the top. But, as we all know, the cover-up is what ultimately undid President Nixon.

This time around the crimes that are being investigated are nothing like the vaguely comical bungled break-in organised by the cartoon figure, G. Gordon Liddy. Today’s crimes make Watergate look like a particularly puerile frat boy’s prank gone wrong. Here we have international espionage and treason. We actually have the certain knowledge that the president was helped along in his campaign by Russian dirty tricks. It is virtually certain that his people have coordinated with the Russians to swing the election away from his opponent. And we have a Republican Party that acknowledges all that but doesn’t believe it’s important enough to appoint a special commission, let alone a special prosecutor. Bear in mind that this is the same party that spent years and millions of dollars on an investigation, prosecution, impeachment, and failed attempt to convict a Democratic president over an illicit blowjob.

Entangled in this mess is the possibility, even the likelihood that the president is compromised because the Russians have videos of his aberrant sexual acts with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel. We know for certain that his national security advisor was a Russian agent; we know for certain that the president was aware of that. We also know that his campaign manager was a foreign agent. His new Attorney General, who helped run his campaign, is in charge of the agency tasked with investigating espionage in the country. And none of this even touches on Trump’s paying off favours to industrialists by letting them mine and otherwise lay waste to national parks. Or using his office to pimp his daughter’s line of apparel. Or his family selling visas at inflated rates to Chinese businessmen.

The web is so vast and so tangled that today’s ineffective and defanged press will not hold anyone’s feet to the fire. There will continue to be hysterical shouts from clickbait producers and accusations of snowflakery in response, but this time we need to see if the system still works. Only the political system as defined by the US Constitution will be able to bring this despicable and hateful regime down and take its leaders to task. So far it has failed. If the nation’s last hope, Congress that is dominated by political hacks who always, always, put party before country, the great experiment in democracy will have failed in a spectacularly obvious way. And that is happening in front of our eyes in real time. I have very faint hope indeed that the United States of America will survive their national idiocy in having elected Donald J. Trump.

ENDITEM…

 

Meet the new boss, completely different from the old boss…

The Genie’s Out of the Bottle

Pagun

(VANCOUVER ISLAND)  Any rational person who is aware of actual – as opposed to ‘alternative’ – facts will acknowledge that the Trump presidency thus far has been a chaotic clown show. At one time I believed that the vast majority of people fell into the category of being rational and fact aware; now I continue to believe it is a majority, but only by a razor thin margin. One of the most perplexing facts about the Trump phenomenon is that, at this writing, the percentage of acknowledged Trump voters who now regret their vote is somewhere between 3 and 5. You heard that right. Despite the many anecdotal instances of regretful Trump supporters, 95 to 97 percent of them say they would vote for him again if there were to be an election tomorrow.

This is despite his failures to keep any of his campaign promises, from the Muslim ban, to the Mexican wall; from repealing and replacing Obama care with something better to ‘draining the swamp’. This is despite the almost daily reminders of his utter ignorance of how government works; of what is actually in the trade agreements he claimed were terrible; of diplomacy; of American or world history; of the US Constitution; and of the limits and extent of presidential, judicial, and congressional powers and responsibilities. The Trump base is comprised of the people most affected by losing Medicare, Medicaid, and any of the other social programs to which this administration is laying waste. Well, except for the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts and the subsidies for Public Broadcasting. They won’t miss those. That all those programs are being eliminated or severely hamstrung by budget slashing is being done specifically to help pay for tax breaks and incentives that only apply to the very wealthiest Americans doesn’t even seem to annoy them.

And most bewildering of all, his rock-solid base is not perturbed in the slightest that it’s becoming more and more apparent with each passing day that his election was largely due to illegal interference in the process by Russia. Moreover, his people continue to resist the very idea of a genuinely impartial investigation into what is almost certainly treasonous activity on the part of his closest and most powerful inner circle, and very likely on the part of Trump himself.

What is going on here? How can this scorched earth model of governance be accepted by the very people who are inhaling the smoke and being barbequed by the flames? Why, apart from commentaries like this one being run on the Internet and published in print, is there so little outrage when one would expect there to be millions of villagers with torches and pitchforks assaulting the White House?

The answer is oddly paradoxical. The lack of overwhelming grassroots backlash to Trump’s appalling agenda is due both to the outrageously unprecedented nature of the 45th US president’s shambolic administration, and to the fact that the insanity surrounding and permeating the administration is becoming normalised.

For any constitution or other formalised plan of government to work, the consent of the governed is necessary, and much of the quotidian activity carried out in the halls of government is not covered by a constitution, but is managed and directed by precedent, by tacit agreement, by convention, and by tradition. These need to be respected by both those in government and by those governed; it is impossible for even the most prescient document to anticipate every eventuality and address it with specific rules or even guidelines. For example, the US Constitution does not require candidates for high office to release their personal income tax returns for public scrutiny. The self-evident need for that disclosure was not a failing on the part of the Founding Fathers; there was no income tax at the time and none was foreseen. The first such tax was the Revenue Act of 1861, a century after the signing of the constitution, and it was a temporary wartime measure. The 16th Amendment passed in 1913 established the tax as it is known today. But candidates, by convention and tradition, have been expected to disclose their returns since the post-war period. There is therefore no mechanism (yet) to compel presidential candidates to disclose.

Nevertheless, tradition, etiquette, and convention is so important to the smooth running of government that even Donald Trump assured voters that he would disclose his returns should he choose to run for office. Later, as a candidate, he promised to disclose them as soon as a routine audit was completed. Later still, as president, through his spokesperson Kellyanne (Alternative Facts) Conway, he told the country that he wouldn’t be disclosing them, as his victory demonstrated that the people weren’t really interested. The brazenness of that lie, combined with the tortured logic behind it had no precedent in US federal politics prior to Donald Trump’s appearance on the scene. It was outrageous; it was an in-your-face middle finger to the US citizens and the rest of the world. But it wasn’t out of character. Trump had made a successful presidential candidacy out of outrage and running roughshod over tacitly understood mores, customs, and traditions. Just to demonstrate how outrageous and beyond the pale Trump was prepared to venture, let’s remember Trump’s straight faced assertion that sitting president Barrack Obama, with the help of former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, had founded ISIS. Not in any figurative sense, not meaning that their policies had led to the formation of ISIS; no, he insisted that they were the actual and literal founders of the radical Islamic terrorist army.

We have to remind ourselves of that because it is so profoundly delusional. It causes a certain cognitive dissonance because there is nothing in our collective memory to reconcile the fact that such a clearly insane accusation could have been made, repeated, expanded upon, and doubled down on by a man who was only months later elected to the presidency of the United States of America.

Whether by design or by accident, the Trump approach to politics has normalised the shocking, the despicable, the outrageous. Actions taken by this administration, had they occurred under the authority of any previous president, would have sparked a backlash that probably would have removed him from office. The brazen profiteering and self-enrichment that is commonplace under this administration would have led to investigations and impeachment motions. Ditto for the scenario in which a political appointment recuses himself from an investigation into activities in which he was involved, but nevertheless is able to fire the person responsible for leading the investigation. It is even business as usual when Congress, under the control of the President’s own party, refuses to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate charges of espionage and treason at the very highest levels of the administration, despite the overwhelming evidence of a massive conspiracy against the nation.

The problem, no matter what happens next, is that the unspoken rules of the political game have all been changed now. And they won’t be changed back. Just like the first time the word ‘fuck’ was spoken out loud in a movie, a certain Rubicon had been crossed. It has now become normal. Thanks to Trump and his idiot diehard supporters, American politics have been coarsened, campaigns have become blood sports where policy means nothing, promises have no meaning, debate means character assassination, and governance means personal enrichment. Even if Trump and Pence and half the cabinet were to be impeached and imprisoned, the face of political discourse in the US has been forever disfigured. The genie is out and he’s not going back in.

ENDITEM…

The scent of desperation

Incompetence? Or a Wild Gamble?

Pagun

 

(VANCOUVER ISLAND) The current atmosphere in Washington and especially in the White House is so chaotic and fraught with cliques, factions, and competing interests that pinpointing the exact and

The White House at Work

proximate reason for President Trump’s decision to fire FBI chief James Comey is a pointless exercise. Suffice it to say that, love him or loath him, Comey is one more piece of collateral damage in the clusterfuck that US politics has become.

But if there is anything more coordinated in the White House than could be seen at an unsupervised gathering of spoiled, over-privileged, hyperactive pre-adolescents, today’s news is breathtakingly sinister.

James Comey

The Deputy Attorney General’s letter to Trump includes the following paragraph:

“Over the past year however, the FBI’s reputation and credibility have suffered substantial damage. . . I cannot defend the Director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgement that he was mistaken.”

 

Rod Resenstein

It is abundantly clear that by “the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton” emails” Resenstein is referring to Comey’s conclusion that, while her handling of those emails was extraordinarily careless, her culpability didn’t rise to the level of criminality and that no responsible  prosecutor would pursue criminal charges. It should be clear to anyone watching this drama that the groundwork is being laid and the stage is being set to find some way to charge Hillary Clinton with some serious criminal offense(s).

The idea of a manifestly incompetent and power hungry head of state preparing to fulfil his campaign promise/slogan to lock up his opponent in a national election – one that is universally recognized to have been influenced by a hostile foreign government – is terrifying. Nothing could scream “Banana Republic” louder or clearer than the pretender to the presidency orchestrating the incarceration of his more popular one-time rival on bogus charges. But that’s the thing with populist demagogues like Donald Trump; somehow they persuade their devoted and even fanatical followers that they are actually saving the nation, while they strive destroy its very foundations.

Donald Trump is ignorant of virtually everything with which a national leader should be conversant. “Who knew health insurance was so complicated?” “People should know that Lincoln was a Republican.” Pretty much everyone in the world did, of course, except for the president of the United States. To be as uninformed as the American President requires a significant lack of intelligence. To remain that way, as Trump has, demands an even greater degree of stupidity. But although Donald Trump is both unintelligent and ignorant, he is a master at manipulation through the media. And this might just be his greatest feat of sleight of hand.

The walls are closing in on the president and his team of pillagers ensconced in the White House. Despite the valiant efforts of the entire GOP to thrust a stick into their spokes, the various investigations into the Russian influence on the election are uncovering more and more evidence of what looks like treason on the part of President Trump’s closest advisors. Despite the GOP’s refusal to appoint a special prosecutor to carry out a thorough and non-partisan investigation, it is only a matter of time before the President himself is identified as having colluded with Russia to swing the election in his favour. The evidence is overwhelming and it is piling up.

So, while the entire criminal edifice that makes up the Trump administration frantically tries to cash in; while the President’s family and friends brazenly use their official and non-official statuses to solicit bribes and special favours for their various personal companies, the administration throws up this frightening smoke screen. This may well be the desperate move of a failing dictatorship. It may well be the sudden panicky attack mode of a rat that finds itself cornered. But if the GOP faithful don’t soon – immediately – each grow a pair, it could be the masterstroke that establishes an overt dictatorial oligarchy as the new political paradigm in the United States. This may be a wild gamble on Team Trump’s part; it may be pushing its pile of chips to the centre of the table and going all in.

It’s important to remember that the ultimate decision as to whether an indictment be sought or charges brought against Ms. Clinton is in the hands of Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General and Trump toady. Attorney General Sessions is a mean spirited, vindictive little sycophant who will do whatever he believes Donald Trump wants him to do. If the White House, overtly or covertly, signals him that it’s time to move, he will order one of the law enforcement agencies under his control – probably the FBI – to go ahead and slap the cuffs on her. If that happens, the world will know that the coup d’état is underway and Ms. Clinton is the first of many to find themselves in the cross hairs of the new regime.

Whether this is just another example of desperate flailing about or, on the other hand, a reckless gamble with the future of the country will soon become clear. Better buckle up. It looks like we’re in for a bumpy ride.

ENDITEM…

Left is Left and Right is Right…

And never the twain shall meet…

Pagun

(VANCOUVER ISLAND) Republicans are all upset and feeling betrayed because 92-year-old former

US President George W. Bush (C) stands with President-elect Barack Obama (2nd L), former President George H.W. Bush (L), former President Bill Clinton (2nd R) and former President Jimmy Carter (R) in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, on January 7, 2009. Bush, acting on a suggestion by Obama, invited the former Presidents and President-elect for lunch, the first time since 1981 that all living presidents have been together at the White House. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB        (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Hell, no. Never Trump!

president Bush the Elder has made it clear that he cannot support Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Actually, none of the Bushes intend to support Trump. In fact, no living former president will endorse him, and a good number of them and their families have made it clear that they intend to vote for his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. True to form, the Trump campaign has responded to that news by launching Twitter attacks on the turncoat Republicans and calling the reluctance of their fellow GOP members to endorse bigotry, xenophobia, racism, misogyny, paranoia, compulsive lying, ignorance, and hate speech “a slap in the face”.

            Leaving aside for a moment the observation that the Republican nominee richly deserves a slap in bush-hillarythe face and more, the Trump campaign’s reaction tells us a great deal about the state of polarisation in American society. Trump interprets anything short of adulation and unconditional approval to be treachery and betrayal. When he hears of any prominent figure who has publicly disagreed with him or even failed to praise him with sufficient fervour, his reaction is to tweet an insult, usually dismissing his critic as a loser, or a lightweight, or a failure, or as unintelligent. Then he will tweet several more attacks,trumptwitter now incorporating a new nickname, typically projecting one of his character flaws on his new enemy; “Crooked Hillary”, “Lyn’” Ted”, “Little Marco”, or the like. Not for a moment does it occur to him that someone may not support him because of a fundamental disagreement with one or more of his policies; in Trump’s universe, it’s always personal.

            Of course he has good reason to reject the notion of a policy-based lack of support; he hasn’t articulated a single policy that he hasn’t walked back, flip-flopped on, said he was only joking about, or flat out lied about advocating. It’s pretty hard to support a policy that is as elusive and vague as some of his are; or as utterly unfeasible constitutionally, financially, or logistically as the rest are. It is hardly reversalssurprising that many people are attracted to Hillary’s proposed policies simply because they are laid out in detail and are available for scrutiny, for discussion, and for clarification if needed.

            For Trump, these are tedious irrelevancies. For Trump, policy, platforms, and plans are all tedious irrelevancies. All that matters to him is blind loyalty. He is unabashedly striving to create and enlarge a cult of personality. And, like all narcissistic demagogues, to Trump, you are either blindly and devotedly on his side, or you are an enemy to be crushed and destroyed.

            The man claims to be a uniter of people, and the only one who can rescue the nation from his imaginary precipice of humiliation and defeat at the hands of foreigners who laugh at the country’s weakness; that weakness, of course, being the result of the failure of Barack Obama’s leadership. He claims to be dedicated to restoring the country’s greatness. To make that claim resonate, his entire campaign is based upon manufacturing an image of the United States as being downtrodden among the community of nations, of having slid into a cesspool of uncontrolled violence and swamped by parasitical and criminal illegal immigrants bent on imposing Sharia law on good, upstanding bible bashers. Thanks to foreign-looking people, the economy is in the toilet and people have no hope of escaping their misery. The country, in politics-of-fearTrump’s dystopian fiction, is little more than a battleground in which the white, Christian, hard-working, poorly-educated, salt-of-the-earth, “real Americans” are fighting a rearguard action against violent, atheistic yellow, brown, and black thugs. Christians, in this fantasy, are a persecuted group suffering discrimination that is far worse than any other group has endured, including African Americans under slavery. The inner cities, he has claimed with a straight face, are more dangerous than Afghanistan. For Trump to position himself as a saviour, it is necessary for there to be something from which to save the people; hence the hellish depiction of contemporary America.

            The right wing, especially the “alt right” represented by Donald Trump, is desperate to embrace the absurd and factually inaccurate vision of America because to do so confers upon them the right, even the obligation, as the only patriotic Americans to speak and even to act upon their latent racial and cultural animosity. Trump’s hardcore base needs his doom and gloom rhetoric because it is the only thing that legitimises the cold, dark, hatred at the centre of their damaged souls.

            The fact that Obama has done everything the Republicans have promised over the years but failed to deliver is simply brushed aside in a wave of denial. The economy was turned around under a Democratic White House. Obama presided over the longest unbroken streak of job creation in history. More people were raised from poverty last year than at any other time; more people are now covered by health insurance, the Dow Jones has risen past the point it was at before the bubble burst; the balance of trade is beginning to reverse itself, Bush’s deficit has been reduced by half a trillion dollars. By every measure, including crime statistics, the United States is in better shape than when George W. Bush left office; the Obama presidency is an unadulterated success. Nevertheless, none of that makes anydenial-1 difference to Trump’s people, because they need to believe in Trump’s nightmare to justify voting for the most overtly racist candidate since George Wallace, and the most self-evidently unqualified candidate in US history. And as long as they get to express their fundamental hatred, they’ll deny the truth and ignore the facts; they’ll even believe a narrative that, deep down, they know to be unadulterated bullshit.

            On the left, however, there is another dynamic at play. By and large, left leaning voters tend to be persuaded by things that mean little or nothing to the right wing. Things like voting records, histories of public service, knowledge and understanding of the constitution, foreign policy, economics, history, and proven diplomatic chops. They will never vote for Trump; but that doesn’t mean they are committed to Hillary Clinton. For whatever reason, many will lodge protest votes, write-in votes, or simply abstain. Nothing will sway a Trump voter but Hillary is held by traditional Democratic voters to a higher standard. She is actually expected to speak and act like a president; Republicans are satisfied with voting for a blustering ignoramus.

            For that reason, when a Republican defects and expresses support for Hillary, the Trumpies go batshit-crazybatshit crazy; they can’t understand how one of their own has abandoned their race-baiting and nonsensical worldviews for policy and a promise of good governance. This election comes down to just a few things: how many Republicans will decide to leave the dark side and vote responsibly; how many centre and left of centre voters will actually come out and vote against the evil represented by Trump. If, as Trump seems to believe, there is a significant block of closeted Trump voters, poll respondents who are embarrassed to voice their position, and at the same time a lack of enthusiasm among Democrats to support Hillary, we may well be looking at a Trump victory and the very real cataclysmic results of his ascension to the most powerful office in the world.

ENDITEM…

 

 

 

The Psychological Perspective

Cognitive Dissonance

Pagun

(VANCOUVER ISLAND) It’s an accepted scientific observation, that has been repeated many times and has never been falsified by any reputable study that, in general, people who hold right wing views are brainsconsiderably less intelligent than those who identify as liberal or progressive.  That comes as no surprise to any liberal or progressive, although making that statement has been known to strike some right leaning conservatives as provocative for some reason. Go figure.

Evidence of this observable tendency is to be found in abundance at rallies for the Republican presidential candidate. Simple observation inclines one to suspect that many of Trump’s most fervent supporters are engaged in deliberate acts of self-parody as they labour strenuously to perpetuate the stereotype of being ignorant, bigoted, violent, and profoundly stupid rednecks. But a closer look, and any attempt to engage one of them in conversation quickly reveals that theirs is no act. They are for real. Their right wing views include racism, religious fundamentalism, climate change denial, and rejection of evolution. A significant percentage also adhere to flatly idiotic theories including birtherism, faked moon landings, the 9/11 inside job theory, and the notions that vaccinations cause autism and that Donald Trump is a suitable presidential candidate.

believersThat the real knuckle dragging mouth-breathers and inbred hillbillies subscribe to those views is not a particular surprise. We have always known that those people exist, it’s just that up until recently, most had the laudable instinct to remain hidden from public view and only to share their cretinous views with one another. Trump has legitimised their moronic ideas and given them permission and a platform from which to shout them out to a bemused and somewhat bewildered normal world. No, the real surprise is the Trump-supporting demographic that doesn’t get all the press: the people that believe themselves not to be racist or xenophobic, but support him because they claim seriously that he would be a better president than his opponent.

Among that group, we can disregard the Republican politicians like Paul Ryan, who are simply party hacks for whom their positions within the party take precedence over the nation, or who are, like Chris Christie,

katrina

Katrina (hand me a spoon) Pierson

nothing more than sleazy opportunists who are rolling the dice on a Trump victory and hoping for some of the scraps that would fall from his table. We can’t assume that their views are held out of stupidity, since it is impossible to say what their views really are, beyond expediency and personal ambition. Ditto with their surrogates and party spokespersons; guns for hire who would cheerfully eat a plate of Trump’s turds on CNN for the right paycheque.

The ones that cause real head scratching are the rest. The ones who have bought into the hate propaganda that paints Hillary Clinton as everything from a serial killer to a man with AIDS in drag, and intend to vote for Trump because they genuinely hold that he is the lesser of two evils.

One of the indicators of lower intelligence or mental instability is a high tolerance for cognitive dissonance. Those with higher intelligence and healthy psyches instinctively seek to resolve paradoxes and align theircalvin thinking and behaviour with the information available. For anyone at this point in September 2016 to argue that Donald Trump isn’t a racist, or that he is refreshingly honest, or that he is a uniter of people, requires at least one of three things: 1) That he or she is willfully and woefully ignorant and simply has been living under a rock for the last year, or 2) They are simply liars and don’t care if you know it, or 3) They are capable of tolerating cognitive dissonance of breathtaking dimensions.

It is no longer possible, if it ever was, to separate the man from his baggage. One cannot support Trump and dismiss his racism, his constant and habitual lying, and his unparalleled record of reversing himself, of claiming statements were only sarcasm and then that they weren’t, while insisting that one is not a racist or that one values the truth. The vile and hateful facets of Trump’s character cannot be isolated from one’s decision that he ought to be the president of the United States of America. The level of cognitive dissonance required to hold both that Trump would be a good president and, at the same time, that he is what he has unrelentingly demonstrated himself to be, is beyond the capability of a mentally healthy human being. Lewis Black said it succinctly: If you vote for Trump you’re going to hell.

The human mind is hard wired to resist cognitive dissonance; where it exists, tension builds and inclines cognitive-dissonancea healthy person to seek to resolve the paradox. An unhealthy mind (or a stupid person) can tolerate the dissonance with less stress because they have no problem with holding contradictory beliefs. (There are those who can, for example, believe in the literal truth of every word of the bible despite the glaringly contradictory stories in Genesis 1 and John1: 1-13.) But healthy and intelligent people use their higher faculties to resolve paradoxes, not to accommodate them. It is this drive that motivates physicists to delve deeper and deeper into higher mathematics and theoretical physics in an effort to resolve the apparent paradoxes that crop up in the quantum realm. It was that drive that led Einstein to say ironically that god doesn’t play dice with the universe.

From a standpoint of rationality, following the logic of an argument to a paradoxical conclusion demonstrates the fallacy of the argument; a conclusion that entails a logical absurdity is a flawed argument. A paradoxical conclusion means you have to go back and question the premises and try to detect fallacious argumentation. But the conclusion cannot stand. To look at the painfully obvious facts about Trump and still conclude that he should be elected to the most powerful office in the world is to arrive at an absurd and paradoxical conclusion. It cannot stand in a healthy and reasonably intelligent mind.

It is clear that one can support Trump if one is a supporter of his most salient traits: his disdain and contempt for the truth, for facts, and for pretty much everyone but himself. But if one rejects racism, misogyny, Islamophobia, fundamental dishonesty, ignorance, and hatred, one has to reject Donald Trump, the personification of those things. The cognitive dissonance of rejecting those things and accepting Trump is simply too great to accept.

ENDITEM…

The Bulletproof Candidate

Why Even Kryptonite Wouldn’t Work

Pagun

(VANCOUVER ISLAND) Rational people everywhere are bewildered by the 2016 presidential election. It’s astonishing that the occupancy of the White House for the next four years is being contested by two bewilderedpeople who are, each for their own reasons, detested by a majority of the people in the country they are seeking to lead. It’s hard to understand how a campaign, that should be about weighing and comparing the track records of governance and legislative successes and failures of the candidates, so rarely even touches on substantive issues. It is mired instead in re-litigating phony scandals that have been investigated ad nauseum and laid to rest countless times on the one hand, and, on the other, fact checking and exposing an endless series of lies that keep being repeated, also ad nauseum. But despite all the mud that’s being slung and the apparently bottomless pit of sleaze in which Donald Trump insists on wallowing, the most astonishingly incomprehensible aspect of this clown show is that Donald Trump continues to be a viable candidate with a narrow, but still substantial, path to victory.

            Pundits, professional political operatives, seasoned pollsters, and the public at large are constantly expressing their bafflement that the Republican candidate is able to commit every sin against politics, social interaction, and human decency imaginable and still manage to put up a respectable showing in the polls. Trump has offended every minority group in the nation from African Americans, Muslims, and Latinos, to veterans, the disabled, and women. Those groups, in aggregate, form a large majority of the population of the United States, and yet Trump continues to be a threat to win the presidency.

            Donald Trump has lied with such frequency and regularity that it is literally the case that, if he trump shootsmakes a statement of fact that is actually true, it becomes a news story. Donald Trump has done and said so many idiotic things that would have disqualified any other human being as a legitimate candidate, that I doubt if anyone would be astonished if he decided to prove his assertion that he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and not lose a single vote. Short of actually doing that, he has managed to prove that his followers cannot be swayed by any normal means of persuasion.

            Take cheap shots at a war hero? They love it. Blow kisses at the Russian dictator? No problem. Claim that his business acumen qualifies him for the presidency, despite it being public knowledge that he has failed more often than he has succeeded? Irrelevant. Call his opponent crooked while he is under indictment for fraud and RICO conspiracy and under investigation for bribing a state governor? Chants of “Lock her up!” Nothing can dissuade his fans.

flip flop            He can vacillate, flip flop, and babble incoherently on matters of policy. He can double down and reaffirm his commitment to promises that everyone knows are the purest unfeasible fantasy and still command their loyalty. And rational people can only shake their heads in confusion, and wonder what on earth it would take for him to lose that vast wellspring of support he delights in whipping into a homicidal frenzy at his rallies.

            It is apparent that all the lists of people he has defrauded, contractors he has stiffed, employees he has exploited and refused to pay, bribes he has paid, and taxes he has evaded will have a zero net effect on his unthinking and vocal followers. They simply don’t care. And they don’t care despite the obvious fact that they would explode with righteous indignation if his opponent had committed even one of his countless outrages.

            Here’s why they don’t care: they don’t love him for his policies, his track record, or even his politics. They love him for his attitude.attitude

            That’s it. That’s all there is to it. Trump has always been insulated from the opinions of others or any real consequences of his words or actions by his inherited wealth. He used the vast fortune he inherited to raise himself to media prominence by pushing the envelope of public tolerance by giving interviews in which he said things that were right on the borderline of acceptability. He cultivated a reputation as an enfant terrible while he stickhandled one high profile business disaster after another; masterfully manipulating the media, he burnished his persona as a brash playboy, and created the myth of his Midas touch and enormous personal fortune. His acolytes eat that up. They like it when he goes on Howard Stern’s shock radio show and uses language and expresses misogynistic and racist sentiments that were even offensive back in the 50’s before people fully recognised their trump-women-360x220inherent ugliness. They think it’s cool that he impersonates an employee and gives himself a standing ovation for his infidelities. They hero worship his braggadocio with reference to his wives and mistresses, whom he refers to as “beautiful young piece(s) of ass”. And Trump himself has never felt any negative feedback for his adolescent attitudes. It was there, but he never felt it because, as a textbook narcissist, he only hears what supports his pathologically inflated self-image.

            Donald Trump has always been a racist. Or at least he has long been a practitioner of racial discrimination. It’s entirely possible that his discriminatory housing practices were the result of greed; he might have believed that refusing to rent to African Americans was simply a business decision to increase the profitability of his New York housing developments. If so, that is arguably even more contemptible than simple anti-black prejudice. In any case, when he tapped into a rich vein of racial hatred among his base, he kept hitting the race-baiting button to get his fix of adulation.

            It was, of course, inevitable that his committed base of followers would have a discernible streakwall and trump of race-based animosity; he announced his candidacy with a speech in which he characterised Mexicans as rapists, murderers, and drug dealers. Reacting instantly to the positive response sparked by his bigotry and offensive language, he spent the next year and more ramping up the racist rhetoric and expanding the cast of targets of his vitriol. Before he charged to the front of the pack of the GOP primary candidates, he had expressed his contempt for pretty much every identifiable minority group in the country, and his angry and marginalised hardcore followers were ecstatic to hear him voice the hatred that they had all been suppressing since their kindergarten teachers had taught them how to behave in civilised society.

            And that’s why he can’t do anything that would disqualify him, or even lose the vocal support of his base. They don’t care about his policies; he has none. They don’t care that the wall that formed the lynchpin of his candidacy is utter nonsense; they only care that they heard someone they wish they were (or were married to) give them permission to express their frustration as violent hostility to visible minorities they can now feel good about persecuting. A ban on Muslims entering the country? Whatever. Just let us hate them openly and treat them with discriminatory contempt.

            The bottom line is that Trump cannot alienate his followers as long as he keeps the heat up on his rhetoric of hatred and contempt for his opponent, for the incumbent president, and for everyone who is not white, male, and poorly educated. He has no plans, he has no foreign policy, he has no domestic policy. He hasn’t any knowledge or even interest in any of the subjects with which a president should be thoroughly conversant. What he has is attitude. And that’s not about to change. And neither will the loyalty of those for whom attitude is everything in this election.

ENDITEM…

What If…

 

The Stuff That Nightmares Are Made On

Pagun

(VANCOUVER ISLAND, CANADA) In my last column I proposed an answer to the question of what exactly is motivating Donald Trump to run for the presidency of the United States. I deliberately left out one of the possible answers to that question because it is not at all impossible that it is the correct one, and if it is, the repercussions would be almost unthinkable.

As Trump himself might put it, “Lots of people are saying…” that Trump is, quite simply, an old school fascist with ambitions to place himself at the head of the most powerful country in human history and rule it and, by extension, the world with an iron hand. The notion isn’t as far fetched as one might hope. His campaign so far appears to have been modeled (at least insofar as it has had any conscious planning) on the paths of the 20th Centuries two best known populist fascist demagogues. Both Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini appealed to the fears and hatreds of their electorates. The were rabid populists who identified other, inferior races as both the cause of their countries’ problems and as the biggest threat to the nation. They painted dismal pictures of the conditions of their countries and offered themselves as the only solution to those problems.

They were both strongmen who were quite prepared to whip their followers into a frenzy and then turn them loose to do violence to their opponents and to the minorities they had designated as scapegoats. They both demanded loyalty and basked in the adulation of the massed crowds. They both were clinical narcissists and were convinced that they were superior to ordinary people and were destined for historical greatness. They both managed to parlay their fanatical minority support into political power and then took control of their governments and systematically eliminated any opposition until they were the unquestioned seat of all political power; they made themselves dictators.

Adolph on lies

Sounds very familiar

Significantly, from the perspective of decades later and a better understanding of the mechanics of the usurpation of political power, when we watch old newsreel films of the two fascist dictators, they are comical in a morbid kind of way. Hitler, foaming at the mouth and contorting his face and body in passionate paroxysms while in full rhetorical flight would be laugh-out-loud hilarious if we didn’t know what followed from those hate rallies. Mussolini, in his comic opera persona Il Duce, lapped up the cheers and chanting of the crowds below while he puffed out his chest and preened and postured. If we weren’t Benito_Mussolini_in_Yugoslavia_croppedfamiliar with mid 20th Century history, he too would be a source of mirth. Charlie Chaplin satirised both demagogues in his brilliant and hilarious The Great Dictator. So transparently buffoonish were those two populist fascist leaders that a good many reasonable people couldn’t really take them seriously at first; when they realised that they had succeeded in their power grabs, it was too late.

Trump is clearly cut from the same cloth. He talks the same law and order game; he paints a false but horrifying picture of the nation’s condition; he tells his loser followers that they are not to blame for their failure to thrive; he points to “others” as the real cause of the problems he exaggerates; he offers himself as the only solution to the problems he inflates; he encourages his followers to commit violent acts against anyone who doesn’t chant his name with sufficient fervour. He doesn’t offer policy specifics. He simply persuades his followers that what is needed is his strong hand on the tiller of the ship of state, and someone like him with the courage to face up to reality and eschew the lily-livered weak kneed, politically correct failures who have reduced the nation to its current deplorable state. He is every bit as narcissistic as the Fuhrer and Il Duce and, like them, his favoured interaction with the people is at extravagantly organised and choreographed rallies where he can bask in the worship of the faithful.the-great-dictator-1940-wallpapers-9

But Donald Trump is not a carbon copy of the two European fascists. He differs in a way that might be very significant. He is lazy and he is not very smart.

He is virtually a savant when it comes to media manipulation. In fact, that may well be his only real talent. He has been demonstrated to be a particularly lousy business man; his multiple bankruptcies and the level of debt that he has been shown to be carrying all testify to that. His ignorance of anything donald-trump-face-outside of his short-fingered immediate reach, from history and geography to economics and constitutional law is breathtaking. His refusal to bone up on subjects that are indispensable to a head of state is a clear testament to his laziness. In fact, it has been widely reported that, while he was desperately searching for a politician willing to tank his own career by accepting the vice-presidential nod, he tried to sell some prospects on the job by promising them complete control over domestic and foreign affairs, leaving him to be a figurehead doing little more than taking credit for successes and addressing the rallies that he thrives on.

Whether that was the deal he cut with his VP ticket partner, Mike Spence, isn’t clear, but it does seem likely. And that’s why Trump as a strong man leader with anything approaching a mandate in November would be such a nightmare. Trump, for all his bluster, is a weak man. He is a bully and his wealth has always insulated him from any consequences; but his inability to absorb criticism, his instinct to lash out at any perceived slight, and his tissue paper thin skin demonstrate his fundamental fragility. As long as his ego is fed, he would be easily manipulated by someone stronger, smarter, and willing to work behind the scenes. Dick Cheney’s control of American domestic and foreign policy while George Dubya vacationed at his ranch for over 850 days of his presidency demonstrates that such an arrangement wouldn’t even be unique in presidential history.

But where it gets really frightening is not the concern that Mike Spence would really be running the show during a Trump presidency. Spence is a far right conservative who ticks all the boxes: anti LGBTQ; pro-life; trickle down believer; climate change denier; etc. etc. If given any genuine power, his impact could set the United States back decades and his Supreme Court nominations would be hair-raising. Nevertheless, the real fear of some eminence grise employing Machiavellian tactics behind the scenes of a Trump regime has more to do with Vladimir Putin and the crush that Trump has on him.

bromance-between-trump-and-putin

Trump has repeatedly demonstrated his admiration for Putin and has regularly expressed a desire to get closer to the Russian dictator. Given Trump’s aversion to doing the actual work of governing, given his intellectual vacuity, and given his vulnerability to ego-stroking, he would be an absolutely perfect candidate for manipulation by the right person. And that person, were Trump to be elected, could very well be Vladimir Putin.

We are very fortunate that, as things stand, Trump is unlikely as hell to be elected. The foregoing doomsday scenario has very little chance of playing out. But think about it. If anybody thinks that not voting for Hillary Clinton is a good idea, consider the possibility. Then try to sleep at night.

ENDITEM…

Peering Inside the Candidate’s Head

Just one question: Why?

Pagun

(VANCOUVER ISLAND) The world of punditry has been thrashing around for about a year now, asking, and answering one another with speculation and educated guesses, why Donald Trump is running for the presidency of the United States. It seems strange under the current circumstances, but that’s a question that I can’t remember ever having been asked of or about any other candidate in any other its-a-mystery-500x325presidential election year. Much of the discussion about the most discussed presidential election campaign in recent memory can be distilled down to that one fundamental question: What is behind Trump’s decision to throw his hat into the ring and take a run at achieving the highest office in the country? A multitude of possible answers has been proposed, ranging from the preposterous to the ridiculous, and each answer tells as much about the person proposing it as it does about the candidate himself. As the Republican candidate’s campaign flounders, reboots, flounders again, reboots yet again, and then repeats the sequence, the question becomes less and less academic. At the time of this writing we appear to be watching the imminent implosion of the most bizarre campaign in US presidential history. Here then is a sampling of some of the answers to that question; it is far from exhaustive, but it is indicative of the inscrutability of Trump’s motives and, therefore, his endgame…if he has one.

marketing-plan

  • From the beginning, there were suggestions that Trump never expected to succeed to the extent that he has; his campaign was supposed to raise his already considerable public profile to another level, increase the value of his personal brand, and wrap things up early in the primaries. It was, according to this suggestion, another publicity stunt intended only to increase his income in much the way other Republican candidates have used their candidacies as little more than book tours paid for by their supporters; Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee come to mind. Things got out of control, though, and Trump couldn’t just walk away. Now he’s doing his level best to sabotage his own campaign by alienating every demographic he can think of, with some success.

TV land

  • Trump, clearly uninterested in actually governing, is laying the groundwork to create his own TV network. Since Trump is largely a creation of the media and his only real expertise is in its manipulation, further incursions into that world make some sense. According to this theory, his penchant for trashing the media, even Fox News, and cozying up to the bosses at Breitbart and even recruiting alt right hero Stephen Bannon to chair his campaign are all indications of his plan to start up a network that appeals to the extreme fringe right. Judging by his rallies, there is an audience for that kind of hate speech.

spy

  • Trump is a witting or unwitting pawn of Vladimir Putin. He is being pushed toward the White House by Russian apparatchiks so that Russia will effectively control the Western world by having their puppet agent in Washington. Trump’s unrelenting praise for Putin, his Russian financial connections, his previous campaign manager, Paul Manafort’s history of working for the Russian government are all supporting evidence for this hypothesis.

worried-trump-hands-headache

  • And this is the one to which I subscribe: Trump did indeed expect to increase his celebrity and drop out early in the primaries. So, not trying to be elected, he simply blurted out whatever crossed his mind. Since what crossed his mind was a fetid jumble of racism, bigotry, misogyny, paranoia, hatred, and incoherent but revolting ideas, he resonated with a group of Americans who share his xenophobia and hatred. They responded with fervour bordering on worship; Trump, being a textbook narcissist, experienced an orgasmic ego boost and found he couldn’t get enough. Although the more outrageous his rhetoric, the more support he loses; on the other hand the more fervently his hardcore supporters respond. Trump prefers rallies to any other form of campaigning because he can do no wrong, as long as he keeps whipping up the hatred. He doesn’t appear on the daytime talk news circuit; he phones it in. He hates town halls. He is trying to find ways to avoid debates. He doesn’t care about polls; he cares about the reaction he gets at rallies. He wants the shattering ecstasy he experiences when his frenzied base chants, roughs up protesters, and sings his praises.

The only reason he hasn’t dropped out at this point, with a landslide defeat looking probable, is that he needs the fix. He will likely tough it out as long as he can get it; he has already laid the groundwork for his excuse for losing. The system, you see, is rigged. As long as even a relatively tiny slice of the demographic pie is big enough to fill a venue and can be relied upon to speak in tongues and scream his name, he’ll stay in.

Of course, what’s missing from this brief list of possible reasons Trump is running for the presidency is the answer that applied, to a greater or lesser extent, to virtually every serious contender in US history: That the candidate has ideas and policy suggestions that he believes would be beneficial to the people of the country, and that he genuinely believes himself to be the best person to work with Congress in an effort to enact them.

DonaldTrump2Trump has no genuine economic plan; he has done nothing more than trot out shopworn and long since debunked trickle down theories and promises to cut taxes and create jobs and win in trade negotiations. No plan, no actual understanding of even the basics of economics. He has no conception of foreign policy beyond promising to get tough with foreign countries he doesn’t like, abrogate international treaties, and perhaps employ nuclear weapons in a first strike. All he has is absurd and unworkable promises to build a border wall, to round up more than 10 million undocumented residents, to block Muslims and to register them…a series, in other words, of illegal, unconstitutional, and logistically impossible proposals intended to fire up the latent hatred and prejudices of his poorly educated base. Even Richard Nixon, another mentally unstable Republican narcissist, had a plan, knowledge and understanding of the things with which a president needs to be familiar, and a conviction that he was the person to make it all work for the country.

That a desire to serve the people of his country has never been proposed as a reason for the Trump candidacy by any serious analyst says a great deal about the nature of Trump’s campaign and about Trump himself. It is clear to America, and to the world, that Trump is in the race for some motive that devolves entirely to Donald Trump. The question of the consequences to the country of a Trump presidency only amounts to opinions as to whether it would be catastrophic or merely disastrous.

apocalypse

ENDITEM….

 

 

A Glimmer of Hope

Let’s Talk About the People

Pagun

(VANCOUVER ISLAND) I am trying to avoid writing entire columns on Donald Trump for a number of reasons. One is that I, like any other political writer or TV or Internet pundit, have to shoulder some responsibility for helping create the Trump nauseaphenomenon by providing him with billions of dollars of free publicity. Another is that there is very little left to say about the Republican presidential candidate; what hasn’t been said by left-leaning, centrist, and even moderate right-leaning commentators? I have never written the words “fascist”, “bigot”, “racist”, “misogynist”, or a host of other offensive descriptive nouns as frequently as I have since Trump descended on his escalator to announce his intention to vie for the presidency of the United States. But the overriding reason I want to avoid writing specifically about Donald Trump is that I literally feel nauseated when I am forced to watch him in his public address mode. What needs to be examined, given the media’s saturation with Trump, is the people who will vote for him or Hillary Clinton (or cast a protest vote) this November.

Donald Trump is one man; it is the voters who have made him into the threat to the nation and the world that he has become. He is a threat now because it is still possible that he will be elected. If he were to be elected, we go to DEFCON 1. He will represent an imminent existential threat to the nation and the world.

So who are those people who want to see that scenario play out? Why can they not grasp the deadly seriousness of their support for a dangerously unstable and clearly mentally unbalanced candidate?

For one thing, I suspect that, the polls notwithstanding, as things stand with three months to go until the election, Donald Trump is going to be soundly trounced. I also suspect that congressional and senatorial seat losses will be primarily news_election-results-1024x768those currently held by candidates who have failed to distance themselves from Trump. Republican incumbents who have denounced him or somehow stayed above the fray will be relatively safe, while his ardent supporters will face serious challenges; only the GOP’s gerrymandering will save some of them.

This may turn out to be wishful thinking. I may end up feeling like Grover Norquist and other Republican stalwarts who were gobsmacked by Obama’s re-election in 2008, and I reserve the right to flip flop on this right up until the polls close on the 8th of November. Nevertheless, my reasoning has more to do with my unscientific reading of the American people than the empirical data collected by scientific and ever more accurate public opinion data gathering methods.

Because Trump’s campaign relies on the free publicity he is able to garner by his over-the-top pronouncements, his palpable bigotry, his embracing of violent rhetoric, and his willingness to offend, he finds himself having to outdo himself each news cycle to stay in the headlines. Mexicans, women, African Americans, the disabled, veterans, Muslims; all these groups and more have been subjected to his hateful rhetoric; he is systematically alienating one demographic after another. While there are undoubtedly some outliers in each of his targeted groups who will, bizarrely, vote for him, he has narrowed his appeal down to his hardcore base: white second generation or more WASP males with lower levels of education. That block, which used to be sufficient to elect a Republican candidate in past years is simply no longer big enough on its own to elect a president.

There is, of course, another group upon which he can rely on come election day. That is the very wealthy and those who peasants-for-plutocracy-by-michael-dal-cerro2thrive as a result of the corporate control of the United States. Trump’s recent speech in which he outlined his economic plans made it clear that he has no intention of departing from party orthodoxy in this realm. He intends to push the old trickle down policies that devastated the middle class when last tried. He intends to reduce the taxation and regulation of corporations, he plans to reduce or eliminate social programs at the same time as he reduces taxes on the wealthy; nothing new here, just more screwing the working classes and further enriching the top few. The problem is that the top one percent are just that; one percent.

That demographic simply doesn’t wield enough votes to make a big difference; it is those whom they are able to influence that could be a significant voting block. Nevertheless, traditionally, the wealthy and the corporations have been able to persuade millions upon millions of working and poor Americans to vote against their own interests. As John Steinbeck wrote: “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” The have always bought into the myth of the American dream; since before the nation was formed in 1776, Americans have always believed that hard work, thrift, and diligence would be repaid with success and wealth. There may even have been a time when that was true; in 2016, however, it is painfully obvious that those who actually did achieve massive wealth have entered the castle, pulled up the drawbridge behind them, and locked, loaded, and prepared to repel intruders.

The Trump campaign has made that eminently clear. Until his unveiling of the latest soak the poor and reward the rich economic platform, the Republican nominee had offered the voters nothing but encouragement for their darkest impulses.

'I'm taking more responsibility for my actions since I ran out of scapegoats.'

He fired up people who never even think about economic policy but are angry at every ethnic, racial, or social minority they know of, and are ecstatic at finding someone who validates their suspicions. He convinces them that those people are standing between them and what they feel entitled to. He also persuades the less knowledgeable, the truly ignorant, that: A) the problem is those groups, and, B) he alone has a solution.

It has long been part of the rhetoric of the right that Democrats, if elected, would institute draconian and widespread restrictions on their civil rights. They would come for their guns, they would persecute Christians, they would create “death panels” as part of their socialised medical plan. But even the less dazzling intellects among the stalwart Trump supporters must have noticed that despite two terms in office, the Democratic president has never even proposed that sort of legislation and certainly hasn’t used his executive powers to make any such order. There has been not a single attempt, much less a successful assault on their civil rights. The black helicopters never flew, the rednecks still have their guns, and Christian churches still outnumber synagogues, temples, and mosques. But, if any of them take even a cursory glance at news that doesn’t come from Fox, they will see that the Democratic administration has been responsible for an improved economy, steady job creation, and insulating them from the economic disaster they inherited.

So, it is mseeing the lighty belief that before November 8, a critical mass of Republican voters will see through the hypocrisy of promising them whatever vile and repugnant social legislation they support, while asking them to vote for economic policy that is directly and clearly intended to take from them and give to corporations and superwealthy individuals. At some point they will see that they have been sold a bill of goods. They will see that they have been persuaded by a variety of Orwellian doublespeak. They like Trump “because he tells it like it is”. The truth is that, more than any other political candidate in US history, he tells it exactly like it isn’t. His lies are becoming public knowledge. They cheer Trump when he tells them that Hillary Clinton is “unhinged”; they are beginning to see the truth – Trump is clearly mentally unfit for any public office.

Now, Trump is likely not to see this reversal of his political fortunes happening. He lives in a bubble of sycophants and yes-men and the occasional yes-woman, all of whom seem to tell him exactly what he wants to hear. He simply takes in information that feeds his ego and disregards the rest. He gets his quotidian fix at rallies where the hard, small kernel of utterly faithful, the deluded and delusional fanatics respond with hysterical chanting at his prompts, cheer his every personal insult, approve ecstatically of his dogwhistle threats of violence, and salivate in a Pavlovian manner at his racial taunts.

What I believe is happening, though, is that he managed to woo a vast number of people to his side during the primaries, but he reached a saturation point some time just before the convention. As he found his numbers leveling off, he ratcheted up the vulgar, hateful bigotry that had served him so well. The problem was that he was now starting to alienate those supporters who had thought he might simply be a breath of fresh air in Washington; they were seeing that he was dangerously unfit for the presidency and that a hypothetical Trump administration would be a terrifying and chaotic reality.

His hardcore band of enablers and codependent crazies will keep him going, but the American people are better than he believes they are. They are not as stupid as he is counting on, and when push comes to shove, they are not as hate-filled and vicious as he needs them to be to vote for him.

I hope.

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