I guess I am not alone in saying that for the last few months I have been mesmerized by the increasingly bizarre antics of the Donald Trump circus as this singularly unqualified and totally self –centred rich property tycoon and media star boasts, promises, blusters and directs a tirade of hate and bigotry to any who question his attitudes or experience.
When he first came on to the scene, Trump had an extraordinarily appeal to the large number who felt their concerns were being overlooked. The media moved in behind him supplying an incredible volume of free publicity. Certainly analysts and students of the American Political process were only too well aware that Trump’s claims were frequently wrong and his shaky grasp of economics and politics quite inappropriate for one wishing to control a nation, but the frequent uncovering of scandal, the lurid accusations and the unpredictability of his outbursts tapped into the need of the media outlets to capture market share. The basic premise that an individual free from past baggage of flawed political process could simply burst onto the scene and enact all the necessary corrections by edict might have been totally odds with what anyone with knowledge of recent political process would say, but as entertainment, the fact is that people have tuned in.
The control system in practice is probably about as far removed from the ideals of democracy as it is possible to be. The biggest barrier facing the disenfranchised is the one that neither of the major parties is anxious to expose, namely the curious art of gerrymandering. Electoral boundaries are redrawn state by state to place all the negative votes in confined areas (often with convoluted boundaries) with those in favour of the map drawing party assigned more electoral districts. The consequent result means that total votes State by State often turns out to be less significant than the total of representatives. The Republican party used gerrymandering to great effect in 2010 in gaining control of both the Senate and the Congress and then using the consequent veto power to block every substantive effort of the President to introduce major legislation.
There is a degree of irony in the fact that some of the very same factors that make people suspicious of Government in the US are the very factors that have made it possible for an outsider with no practical experience seem a viable contender for the highest political post in the land. A system that has built in safeguards for affording individuals or groups from gaining too much power means that establishment power bases cannot easily wrest control of key positions in favour of their own.
Similarly the American political process has evolved through the years to give hidden power to those with access to money. A 2014 study from Princeton and North-western Universities concluded that the US Government is measurably able to be shown to be controlled by the rich and powerful. Oligarchy is the technical name for the form of Government in which power is vested in a dominant class to enable a small group exercise control over the general population. The study entitled “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens” analysed how something like 1,800 US policies enacted between 1981 and 2002 showing that the general pattern was that the resulting legislation followed the wishes and influences of the economic elite.
While Trump arrived fulminating about the loss of control on the part of the people, the thrust of his campaign is totally ironic in that his main message appears to be that if we look after the rich and the powerful, and if we agree with the need to give more power to the energy lobby eg the Koch Brothers, the NRA, and remove power from those groups who are seeking to assist minorities ie the Democrats then all will benefit.
Trump’s message was designed to appeal. Hearing messages like there is too much big Government, too many taxes, not enough jobs, too little reward for the middle classes clearly resonated with those who had been losing hope. He certainly exuded confidence with his authoritative sounding: “Jobs – We’re going to fix that!” “ISIS – they’re gone…” “Those dangerous refugees and illegal immigrants will be sent back” The more tricky issue of precisely of how change is expected to translate to action is still awaiting resolution.
The Trump promises seem unlikely to survive the realities of budget and trade-offs between the interests of powerful lobbies. Regardless of the rhetoric, very real vestiges of pork-barrel politics are still a defining characteristic of US political processes. And yet sooner or later policies need to be explained and examined. Once his policies were more carefully checked, Trump found the sympathies of mainstream media beginning to desert him. It was all very well to drip-feed the detail of his policies for the media analysts to examine and fact check, but unfortunately it turned out his facts were frequently wrong and sometime seriously so. His frequent authoritative sounding policy statements flatly contradicted his previous policy positions and were often at odds with statements by others in his team. Trump’s grasp of detail, particularly in his analysis of what was happening in the economy and in the Middle East had become steadily more embarrassing.
On paper he offers total action. On reflection he offers empty promises. As recently as 28 September he finally released his policy on roads. It sounded good. The central feature was immediate release of 1 trillion dollars for roads through the US. The only problem was that by following his promises for cutting back on taxes for the rich and promising to increase the salaries of lower paid federal workers, this roads policy would merely place further pressure on debt.
The other aspect of the policy which is likely to be unworkable is that each change to the budget has to work its way through the entire political and financial system whereby the current system of satisfying competing interest groups eg defence, NRA, the energy sector etc etc has to be balanced against the individual needs of the various States which traditionally have only agreed to support any new measure on a quid pro quo basis. As even President Obama discovered to his cost, the simplest of policies providing the most obvious solutions cannot be achieved by edict.
At the outset Trump’s main election technique appeared to be to identify and pander to deep seated worries and even prejudice as revealed by mainstream polls while he made vacuous and often contradictory fact free promises about his assumed solutions to genuine complex problems. That many of his shifting policies are now signalled first on Twitter, given that a huge proportion of US election feed comments on Twitter are now generated by Bots, it makes it difficult to see his policies as serious. It might even be argued that the most worrying aspect of his campaign is the way he seeks to turn his claim to the most powerful position in world Politics into a personal and unpredictable reality show starring – guess who?
It is undeniable he knows how to go about setting up a pageant of beautiful girls to smile at the cameras and follow the expected script – to declare their undying wish to conquer hunger, poverty, their heartfelt need work for world peace and of course their love for orphans and small animals. No doubt some of these contestants would eventually follow genuine ideals later in life but surely no one ever seriously believes that one who’s recent life experience has been of necessity dominated with cosmetics, clothes, diet and personal grooming is the automatic sensible first choice for the leader of the peace-keeping mission. In the same way, why would we assume a seventy year old who has spent his entire life to date focussed on trying – and apparently successfully -to make his fortune without paying his share of tax is likely to have developed the skills and knowledge to deliver on what he promises to deliver..
If the POTUS job description only required experience in Casino construction using Chinese steel instead of supporting local US steel industry, or success in avoiding tax, then Donald would be a plausible front runner. The tricky bit is to reconcile his new found ideals with his practice to date. It is all very well boasting of a large secret bank balance, but if his real values actually included seeing to the needs of the most vulnerable in society, why did he not use some of this vast surplus to pay off his debtors in his highly publicised failed projects instead of ruining many of his workers. Is the new untried POTUS Donald Trump now somehow entirely different?
So what should Hillary say?
Perhaps one obvious problem with Donald’s policies is that they appear to change from day to day on the very same issues. A vote for Donald will not give any indication of the policies which will be implemented. . Google the changes in Donald Trump’s policies and there you will find an extraordinary mish-mash of contradictory statements (sometimes issued on the same day) and in many cases demonstrating a total lack of comprehension of the key factors for each policy.
Just to take one simple example, he said in the third debate he was strongly opposed to the woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy. Here he was presenting a typical standard conservative view which would resonate with many in the Bible belt. No problem… well …. apart from that those who have tried to follow his policy shifts would note that this is his fifth contradictory statement on abortion, and that is just this year. He further said that Hillary’s position continues freely allows termination anywhere up to the last day of pregnancy. Someone ought to teach him how to begin to research if only on the Net. 43 states forbidding termination past the twenty-second week AND nation-wide State policies which only resulted in about 1.8% of terminations past the 23rd week doesn’t sound like wholesale slaughter of the final term foetus to me. Leaving aside his previous statements in favour of termination justified on medical or religious grounds, his views on abortion which have obviously shifted significantly from the beginning of the year and we are left with the uncomfortable conclusion that he shifts policy on a whim to appeal to different conservative groups.
A good question for a Trump supporter is which of his different policies on the same issue do you think you are voting for?
Perhaps Hillary might reflect carefully on the Trump themes that are revisited time after time and the way leaving onlookers with some serious puzzles. Donald keeps insisting that Hillary should be locked up for using her private Email for State sensitive issues. As is now clear after the FBI investigation, at the time she was probably at least guilty of continuing the out-dated practice of her predecessors as Secretary of State in an age where hacking was only just becoming a serious and credible issue.
We note that Donald Trump had similarly not raised the issue earlier – and certainly did nothing to identify which Republican appointed Secretaries of State had been guilty of the same carelessness. Hillary along with virtually all her contemporaries, with the wisdom of hindsight, now realises that we now live in more dangerous times, and she has clearly stated that she regretted her past actions even although she says that to the best of her knowledge there were no serious of breaches of security in what was stored on her computer. The Atlantic City Casino builder Donald Trump and student of the female body is convinced from his vast knowledge in computer hacking that despite her subjecting herself to that one year FBI investigation whose expert investigators had concluded the case should be closed, at every election meeting he still insists she should be locked up. Perhaps he sees no need for procedures of justice to be used, but there is a much more serious issue.
It is not just that he is slow on the uptake. After all it took Trump years to finally accept Obama was born in the USA despite Obama providing a long form birth certificate back in 2011. No the point is this. For whatever reason Donald is certain Hillary’s computer files do indeed contain sensitive files…… but get this…. he wants her to make them public knowledge!
Have I missed something? Even if he were right, and I would have to say his hazy grasp of issues and past track record makes him a less than credible judge, if there were even one file that might cause a problem for international relationships surely the last thing any serious contender for high office would want it that the file be made public.
Trump’s next most common criticism of Hillary’s campaign is that Bill Clinton made moral mistakes that eclipsed Trump’s failings – therefore Hillary can’t be trusted. Evidently despite the fact that Bill repaired the failing economic system of the American nation, in Donald’s eyes, Bill Clinton’s past moral failings means that somehow this disqualifies Hillary from the top job.
Well it seems to me this is indeed hazy logic. Unlike the women in Donald’s life surely she should be allowed to make her own decisions. In the second debate Trump said we should not even be talking about things like his attitudes to women. This surprised us because we thought that only second to his fixation on “Crooked Hillary”, based on the frequency of the times he mentions it in his speeches, Donald’s attitude to women was a key focus of his campaign.
Adultery on the part of one’s husband (even if with a woman who initiated the relationship) would and does endanger any marriage. In the real world this happens from time to time. Donald Trump’s reluctantly acknowledged affairs certainly endangered at least one marriage. How many is that now? But why would someone who has had very public marriage breakdowns and many accusers of inappropriate behaviour outside marriage think that this qualifies him to criticise the Clintons’ restoring a marriage when contrasted with his own stalking off in a rage. Is a hissy fit really evidence of more mature behaviour. If it comes to that, is it mature to boast in excruciating detail about how celebrities like him are entitled do revolting things to women because of one’s status, and then, despite a host of witnesses agreeing that this indeed was his behaviour, later say that it was just all talk? It’s strange but I would have thought even if the witnesses were unable to prove their case, his frank admission of what might only be interpreted as frequent lying may not be the best qualification for future trustworthiness.
Perhaps Hillary might wonder why a man like Donald would claim deep respect for women and in the next breath call his wife a liar. He initially claimed he had apologized to his wife and had been forgiven. Donald presumably encouraged Melania to go public with her support. She also stated to the National media that Donald had apologised to her about his so called locker room boasting and said she had forgiven him. Then a few days later, knowing this had been splashed over the national and international media he walks into the third debate and calls his wife a liar in front of the world. He had not apologised to Melania he claimed, because there was nothing to forgive!!!!
So what then are the attributes of someone who is marked for high leadership? Contrary to popular opinion, with literally hundreds of issues confronting the politicians, Donald’s fixation on Hillary’s occasional failure in the fraught area of Middle Eastern politics is missing the point. He ignores all basic research. What’s Aleppo? Hasn’t it already fallen?? Would you take on even the most junior Intern into foreign affairs if he or she had missed what virtually every educated person in the West has been reading for months?
He says Hillary is to be condemned for voting for entering Iraq? Terrible judgement he called it. Leaving aside his now faulty memory on his own public statements at the time, if he genuinely believes that someone should be rejected to high office on the basis of bad judgement about entering Iraq then why choose a deputy for himself who is on record as doing the same?
Surely a much better indication of effectiveness is whether or not the candidate has a track record of convincing one’s colleagues on the basis of past performance that she should be chosen for the right committees . As it transpired she had a part in solving some of the more intractable issues. And yes, there are some extraordinary non political figures who were also called in to help from time to time, yet it is funny that for all his talk now I never encountered Donald’s name in any of the significant decisions. He was apparently never consulted on the Committee of which Hillary was a part that authorized the taking out of Osama bin Laden. He made no significant contribution to the response to the fall of the Twin Towers, although to be fair he was recorded as being the only person who witnessed the hundreds of Muslim celebrations which he alone remembered in vague detail years after the event. The way I remember it is that his main public response was to strut about pointing out that Trump Tower was now the biggest apartment building in a US city.
If he does indeed win the Presidency, Donald is highly unlikely to be a team player. I am guessing if we read his past school reports the comment “Does not play well with others” would be a constant feature. Think for a moment about who he has fired from his team. Which number campaign manager are we on at the moment? Why does he ignore his advisors and make unworkable policy on the hoof. How many experienced Republican leaders has he rubbished or trash talked? How many have now made it abundantly clear they will not vote for him?
Richard Branson has been quoted as saying the most worrying feature of allowing Donald Trump into the White House is that he is so self obsessed that he focuses on revenge on those who failed to support him rather than the issues. Branson’s evidence for this comes from a meeting when he met Donald who, after one of his bankruptcies had been unsuccessfully seeking financial support from five wealthy potential backers. According to Branson Trump spent most of the evening explaining how he was going to spend the rest of his life destroying the lives of those who had stood in his way.
His public reaction to Republican critics suggests that
What Donald said at the second debate is that, rather than focussing on his attitudes, what we should be talking about were the things like ISIS and Syria. It turns out that not only did he have no coherent policy on either, when it came to those topics he insisted we should see as important he had not bothered to research his self identified key topics or even bother to consult with his Vice Presidential running mate.
Why did then did they have the opposite view on a policy as important as Syria? “We have never discussed the matter!!!!” His words not mine. Remember that when you think about voting for this man. I would have thought that someone who appears to have spent so much time in the locker room would have seen at least some slight advantage in being a team player. And what then might happen if for example apoplexy finally carries away the Donald. If he has not bothered to consult along the way surely it would mean the voters buying into a totally different set of policies from his deputy??
It is interesting to note from the demographics of those who claim to support Donald that the Ku Klux Klan think he is great. 90% of his male support comes from white, non college educated, European males. A majority of Latinos, Blacks and women evidently don’t like him. But in some ways the views of those living outside the States are even more informative. Evidently only 5% of the German public say they trust him and given his German background their views might be worth thinking about. His anti NATO statements presumably mean that he wants to do away with current treaties with Europe. It occurred to me that, after what he has been saying about Mexicans, that it is hardly surprising the Mexicans are retorting he is no longer welcome in their country. That may be a mite tricky when he insists that these neighbours should be responsible for building his multi-billion dollar border wall.
His central election clarion call of “Make America Great Again” conflates two contradictory notions.
Making America great for Americans might in the eyes of Trump’s support base seem to require making the US wealthy and powerful returning a time of prosperity for those now struggling to see hope for their personal prospects and future. Changing allocation of resources helps some and disadvantages others from whom the resources are removed which is of course the basis of the famous economic Pareto Principle.
Given that the world’s resources are limited, in the eyes of those who live outside the US, the economic catch to having a rich and powerful US is that this may only be achieved in practice by disadvantaging those nations outside the US who currently enjoy a more stable and prosperous future precisely because the US is not currently becoming more rich and powerful by taking a greater share of those resources. Until Donald Trump makes it clear that he is aware of the Pareto Principle he should at least be asked to show why the apparent huge majority outside the US are wrong in what they are saying about the likely outcome of a Trump victory.