Trumpism: bigger than Trump?

trump_03-donald-trump-democracy-threat-w710-h473-2x_250Paul Waldman in The Washington Post warns Republicans are now vowing Total War. And the consequences could be immense. This warning is coming from multiple sources and has to be taken seriously.

Republicans, it seems, will deny the legitimacy of a Hillary Clinton presidency. They have actually been saying that she would have no mandate because people would only vote for her to avoid Trump. They will immediately take steps for Congress to impeach her, will not co-operate on any legislation she might propose and will refuse to endorse any appointments she might seek to make to the Supreme Court.

That is, of course, assuming that she wins.

In the past week or so since the FBI bombshell about re-opening the investigation of her emails, Trump has gone from a 16% chance of winning to a 36% chance, according to Nate Silver. The only joy is that Clinton’s vote seems to have stabilised. Silver said that most of the change has come from Trump gaining ground rather than Clinton losing ground.

Clinton 64% chance of winning the electoral college vote (or 65% on the latest update), but has a 76% chance of winning the popular vote. She’s doing well in states that traditionally vote Republican, without doing well enough to win them.

One American commentator pointed out that only LBJ has been elected president after being in public life for more than 16 years. Hillary has been a public figure for about 30. Also it is rare for one party to win three times in a row.

Early voting may be in Clinton’s favour, especially Latinos in Florida, where in the polls she’s even. She can afford to lose Ohio and still win, also perhaps Florida, but if she wins Florida, Trump can’t win. Also the greater controversy in this election may produce a bigger turnout, which is likely to favour Clinton, because Trump only leads significantly in one demographic – white males without a college education.

There is a view that those left behind by globalisation do not explain what is behind Trumpism. Zack Beauchamp at Vox sees Trumpism as part of a move to the far right in many Western democracies which gave us Brexit, and a whole new kind of politics in many European countries.

    These politicians share Trump’s populist contempt for the traditional political elite. They share his authoritarian views on crime and justice. But most importantly, they share his xenophobia: They despise immigrants, vowing to close the borders to refugees and economic migrants alike, and are open in their belief that Muslims are inherently dangerous.

    These parties’ values are too similar, and their victories coming too quickly, for their success to be coincidental. Their platforms, a right-wing radicalism somewhere between traditional conservatism and the naked racism of the Nazis and Ku Klux Klan, have attracted widespread support in countries with wildly different cultures and histories.

    And it is this anger, this fear of difference and social change, that drives them — not, as the conventional wisdom would have it, some kind of backlash to globalization.

It’s a long article, worth a read, based on the following headings:

    Table of contents
    I. How the resentment of the privileged can change politics
    II. Meet the father of today’s far right
    III. It’s the xenophobia, stupid
    IV. Making the hard right great again
    V. Their first major victory: Brexit
    VI. Right, what about the economy?
    VII. Can the far right be stopped?

The father of the far right, he says, is Jean-Marie Le Pen, where the backlash began in backlash began in earnest in France in 1984.

Jonathon Chait sees Trump as representing authoritarian conservatism, deeply distrustful of government which has been around forever, but found expression in the white South in the racist religious politics of Goldwater in the 1960s. Since then:

    Over that half-century, a thriving ecosystem of think tanks, media, magazines, talk radio, newspapers, and pressure groups arose — first to influence the party and ultimately to define its thinking completely.

    There is no longer any such thing as a Republican who is not conservative. The collapse of the George W. Bush administration was greeted among his party not as an indictment of its fanatical tax-­cutting, deregulatory agenda and failed effort to privatize Social Security, but as evidence that Bush was not conservative enough. During the Obama administration, a spate of right-wing primary challenges eradicated what was left of the party’s vestigial moderate wing and cowed its remaining mainstream members into submission.

In a later piece Chait says we wanted Trump to win the nomination, and then get thumped in the election. However:

    By March, my point of view had changed. The main piece of evidence that turned me around was a rediscovered interview Trump gave to Playboy in 1990, in which he had praised the Chinese government for its crackdown in Tiananmen Square the previous year. The comments fit in with a long-standing pattern of praise he had offered to various dictators for their ruthlessness. I’ve mentioned this frequently because, while every Trump critic has their own favorite evidence, this, to me, encapsulates his most alarming trait. Through every iteration of his political profile — left-ish to far-right, pro-Democrat and Republican — and every issue flip-flop, from “core” beliefs on trade and immigration to abortion and everything else, Trump has never wavered in his belief that strong leaders dominate and put down their opponents. He’s never had any externally driven motive to say these things. He genuinely believes it.

Without taking anything away from Beauchamp’s analysis, I think I prefer Chait’s narrative of how things played out in the USA.

Chait also says that there is not a struck match between Trump’s policies and those of Paul Ryan, leader of the house for the GOP, who distanced himself from Trump after the 2005 tape showing Trump’s attitude to women became public.

One of the core policies at stake in this election is women’s reproductive rights, and the strategy to appoint Supreme Court judges that will allow those rights to be undermined. Win or lose, the Republicans will filibuster in the Senate to prevent any faintly pro-choice judge to be appointed.

In late breaking news, the FBI have cleared Clinton in relation to the latest email investigation. But get this:

    Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Preibus said that while the probe had not led to criminal charges, it produced evidence that Clinton broke the law and “repeatedly lied to the American people about her reckless conduct.” (Emphasis added)

They will also seek to impeach Clinton on dealing with the Clinton Foundation, which is ironic, because Trump does not intend to put his business dealings into a blind trust if he wins, he would just get his family to take a larger role.

In other election news it is claimed that Melania Trump worked illegally in the US when she first arrived in 1996.

And this:

    Washington-based Canadian correspondent Daniel Dale has made it his mission to count every Trump lie every day – by Day 33, in mid-October, he had reached incident 253 in what he describes as the GOP candidate’s “avalanche of wrongness”.

    By Dale’s reckoning, Trump’s most truthful day included just four lies; at his worst there were 25 – and that doesn’t include the first two candidate’s debates, in which Trump uttered 34 and 33 falsehoods of varying degrees in just 90 minutes.

No doubt the whole world will be glad when the US election is over, but it won’t be over when it is over. Politics in the US has changed forever, demonstrating, I think, that the system cooked up in the 18th century to bring 13 former British colonies together in a federation is not robust enough to deliver democracy in the 21st.

16 thoughts on “Trumpism: bigger than Trump?”

  1. Free market globalization was supposed to benefit places like the US. However, for many Americans the converse has been true. The men who were depended on to be reliable breadwinners got their reliable work in areas like heavy manufacturing that have now gone overseas. In addition, the weakening of the union movement has undermined their security and their ability to maintain a fair share of the country’s wealth.
    It is not only these men who are losing. Most of the women who are married to these men are losing as a result of what is happening to their men despite the relative improvement in access to women to jobs and fairer pay.
    Trump and his ilk are good at attracting so much attention that we have heard very little about what Clinton proposes to do about the problems facing the US.
    It is also worth noting that Sanders got a lot of support too because he was supporting real change. If you add the Sanders and Trump primary votes there an awful lot of people who want real change out there.

  2. I forgot to mention this little gem.

    Many State and local Republican officials are engaged in widespread and systematic efforts to suppress the votes of African-Americans and other groups likely to vote disproportionately Democratic. In  Wisconsin, Ohio, Texas, and North Carolina State officials have simply ignored court orders to cease these activities. This is the kind of thing that’s happening:

     Zack Moore, a 34-year-old homeless African-American man who moved from Chicago to Madison, was turned away from the DMV without a voter ID despite bringing an Illinois driver’s license, Social Security card, and proof of Wisconsin residency. He was told to go back to Illinois and get his birth certificate, or else it would take six to eight weeks for him to get an ID for voting, despite a sign in the DMV that said, “Get your ID to vote! No birth certificate? No problem!”

    John Kehoe in the AFR Points out the Trump has some traction because congress and the political class seem to have forgotten them. Ironically, however, Congress has simply refused to cooperate with the Obama administration for the last eight years:

    Throughout Obama’s reign, Republicans opposed, blocked and stymied the Democrat at every turn. Government shutdowns, sovereign debt default threats and legislative gridlock ensued.

    Republicans convinced an angry and white grassroots base that Washington was broken.

    It poisoned the well, enabling a deal-making real estate spruiker to waltz in and say only an outsider could fix the mess.

    His tirades against globalisation, especially trade and immigration, struck a chord.

    Trump is the human Brexit and represents the global populist revolt against the elites in the post-financial crisis, post-industrial modern economy.

    A Democratic president can’t work through Congress unless they have 60/100 senators, to avoid a filibuster, and a majority in the HoR, which since 2013 has been heavily gerrymandered to prevent a Democrat majority.

    So a Democratic president has foreign affairs powers and the ability to govern to a certain extent by presidential orders and regulations, but can’t seriously change laws or get a budget passed.

    They didn’t try to evict Obama, but they will Hillary.

  3. An optimistic view is that thinking Republicans will reject the Tea party takeover and start behaving like independants again.

    John, I don’t know enough about the Republican Party, but if Trump got absolutely thrashed there would be more chance of something different happening. A near miss will encourage them.

    I’d agree that preferential voting could make a big difference, along with establishing in independent commission to establish boundaries and run the election.

  4. Chris Uhlman had this to say about the Trump/Brexit exercise at the end of an interesting article:

    There the new conservative Prime Minister, Theresa May, has got the message.

    In her address to the Conservative Party she described Brexit as a “quiet revolution … in which millions of our fellow citizens stood up and said they were not prepared to be ignored any more”.

    “It was about a sense — deep, profound and let’s face it, often justified — that many people have today, that the world works well for a privileged few, but not for them,” Ms May said.
    Because the truth is that governments have overstated the benefits of free trade and underestimated the costs.

    The truth is, the benefits of globalisation are largely reaped by the rich and the costs fall disproportionately on the poor.

    It is a truth that is slowly being recognised by policy makers from Washington to Canberra. But there is one more truth — they have no answers.

    Mr Trump does not have any answers either. If he was elected, his prescriptions would, no doubt, cause more pain and solve nothing.

    Howard’s battlers, Abbots Tea Party and One Nation are similar examples of the right wing taking advantage of working class angst.

  5. John, I can’t say that what Chris Uhlmann says is wrong, but Zack Beauchamp in the Vox article is saying, yes there has been an economic problem (see section VI. Right, what about the economy?) but correlation is not causation. He points tot recent research on Europe with 294,000 respondents:

    Earlier research suggesting the European far right draws support from globalization’s losers was simply wrong.

    “The strongest populist support,” they write, “remains among the petty bourgeoisie — typically small proprietors like self-employed plumbers, or family owned small businesses, and mom-and-pop shopkeepers — not among the category of low-waged, unskilled manual workers.”

    He says that only one of five economic variables correlated with support for the far right, but all five cultural variables, like anti-immigrant attitudes and authoritarian values, did.

    I’m inclined to think that the story is a bit different in the US, but correspondents like John Kehoe, who lives there, reckon we are dealing with white identity politics in this case.

    So I don’t know.

    Alan Kohler tonight said the US economy is going so well an interest rate rise was virtually certain, and the demographic with the least unemployment was ‘white male’.

  6. Brian:

    “The strongest populist support,” they write, “remains among the petty bourgeoisie — typically small proprietors like self-employed plumbers, or family owned small businesses, and mom-and-pop shopkeepers — not among the category of low-waged, unskilled manual workers.”

    Sounds like Howard’s battlers.
    I am not surprised that white males had the highest employment rate in the US. The pressure is on white males to be good breadwinners which suggests that they would be less fussy than some other groups and still get some preference. The obvious question is: “How many in this group is now forced to accept jobs that pay less than their old job?”

  7. “How many in this group is now forced to accept jobs that pay less than their old job?”

    I’d guess quite a lot. Beauchamp accepts that there is an economic problem. He posts this graph from Piketty:


    and follows it with the comment:

    However you explain these shifts — and there’s huge debate over that — the result is clear: In the developed world, the rich are getting much richer, while a huge chunk of the working class is being left behind.

    I think there is little doubt this leads to scape-goating of minorities and immigrants.

    I think he is arguing that what we have is broader that that. There was another article by Anne Apelbaum in the Fin Review today that I’ll try to find later that identifies a broad ‘Populist International’ loosely connected movement.

    My own guess is that the world changed economically around 1970 (Immanuel Wallerstein has been saying this for over 30 years) which created the conditions for cultural and political changes. Identifying current economic and cultural variables and looking for matches with political attitudes probably doesn’t mean all that much.

  8. The Anne Applebaum article turns out to be a reprint from The Washington Post. She says:

    They share ideas and ideology, friends and funders. They cross borders to appear at one another’s rallies. They have deep contacts in Russia — they often use Russian disinformation — as well as friends in other authoritarian states. They despise the West and seek to undermine Western institutions. They think of themselves as a revolutionary avant-garde just like, once upon a time, the Communist International, or Comintern, the Soviet-backed organization that linked communist parties around Europe and the world. Now, of course, they are not Soviet-backed, and they are not communist. But this loose group of parties and politicians — Austria’s Freedom Party, the Dutch Party for Freedom, the UK Independence Party, Hungary’s Fidesz, Poland’s Law and Justice, Donald Trump — have made themselves into a global movement of “anti-globalists.” Meet the “Populist International”: Whoever wins the U.S. election Tuesday, its influence is here to stay.

    She says they are not so much conservative as reactionary, trying to return us to a past in their imagination which never existed.

    parties that belong to the Populist International, and the media that support it, are not Burkean. They don’t want to conserve or preserve what exists. Instead, they want to radically overthrow the institutions of the present to bring back things that existed in the past — or that they believe existed in the past — by force. Their language takes different forms in different countries, but their revolutionary projects often include the expulsion of immigrants, or at least the return to all-white (or all-Dutch, or all-German) societies; the resurrection of protectionism; the reversal of women’s or minorities’ rights; the end of international institutions and cooperation of all kinds. They advocate violence: In 2014, Trump said that “you’ll have to have riots to go back to where we used to be, when America was great.”

    Sometimes they claim to be Christian, but just as often they are nihilists and cynics. Their ideology, sometimes formalized and sometimes not, opposes homosexuality, racial integration, religious tolerance and human rights.

    The Populist International holds these goals to be more important than prosperity, more important than economic growth, more important than democracy itself. Like the parties that once formed the Comintern, they are eager to destroy existing institutions — from independent courts and media to international alliances and treaties — to obtain them.

    I think most of these movements are led by people who are egotistical opportunists with a lust for power.

    What Bernie Sanders offered was a populist party from the moderate left. In the future that is probably where the hope lies.

  9. Didn’t look like the Dem machine wanted the Bernie version to represent them.
    And the Rep machine could stop the Trump version representing them.

  10. Didn’t look like the Dem machine market wanted the Bernie version to represent them.
    And the Rep machine market could stop the Trump version representing them.

    Fixed it for you (but I think it’s still one “not” short).

  11. Just quoting you, Jumpster.
    We are the society, we are the market, these are indistinguishable, indissoluble, an eternal unity.

    Market and society are identical: zoot is merely applying your Dictum

    No, really, glad to help!

  12. Also following in the footsteps of Baroness St Margaret – there are no collectives (like, oh, I don’t know … society?) only individuals pursuing self interest. It must hold for political parties as well.

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