Saturday, November 12, 2016

November 12, 2016

Among the hazards of criticizing our politics is that one runs out of superlatives. Dub something the worst, the most egregious, the most baffling, and soon something arises that better deserves those pejoratives. Just when the ultimate seems to have been reached, there is a new record. I have in mind, of course, the advent of Donald Trump as President.
In 2000, the electoral college produced a President thought to be unsuited to the job, although more people had voted for his opponent. This year it produced one who is unequipped by experience, temperament or intellect; again, his opponent received more votes. At least this time the partisan Supreme Court didn’t have its thumb on the scale. I referred the other day to our recapture of the prize for electoral folly. Implicit in that contest was the notion that in 2004 George W. Bush was the worst imaginable choice as President. No longer.
Many voters were angry and anxious, and felt that a liberal elite, undefined but somehow in charge of government, did not understand them or care about their concerns. (Congress is in Republican hands, but never mind). Once the contest was framed in those terms, Hillary Clinton was at a disadvantage, being regarded as part of that uncaring set. How Donald Trump, a self-centered financial manipulator, became accepted as their champion is a mystery. One only can assume that his followers did not regard him as a potential president but only as the spokesman, the outlet, for their anger. It would be interesting to know whether many of them actually expect that he will change conditions in their favor.
We’re in the odd position of having to hope that someone who never should have been nominated will perform well, or at least not disastrously. It’s almost impossible to guess whether he will be better, worse, or simply different from the Donald Trump of the campaign. As one of his advisors put it, a Trump administration "is basically a blank slate that needs to be filled in."

Thursday, November 10, 2016

November 10, 2016

I woke up Wednesday morning feeling that I was on another planet, or at least in another country. The new one was ugly, hostile, frightening. I suppose that sense mirrors the pre-election feelings of those who voted for Trump, and why they did so. They wanted change, but may learn to be careful of what they wish for.  
Twelve years ago, following the (re)election of George W. Bush, London's Daily Mirror asked, "How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?" The Brits lost their ability to denigrate our good sense by voting for Brexit, but it didn’t take long for us to recapture the lead in self-destuctive folly.
It remains to be seen whether the rise of Trump causes any rethinking on the part of the Republican Party. His victory and Republican retention of Congress probably will discourage any such movement but, if it were to happen, it might be more serious than the 2012 exercise. It might, as in 1964, be the product of a wing of the Party.
In the meantime, the Democrats need to do some soul-searching. Hillary Clinton was not a good choice as their standard-bearer. Among other problems, she represented the wing of the Party — neoliberal, centrist, New Democrat, whatever — which is too cozy with big business and too much into globalization to convince ordinary people that it is on their side. She represented staying the course when many voters, Democrats as well as Republicans, wanted a new direction.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

November 5, 2016
In late 2012, the Republican Party, noticing that it hadn’t won the presidential election, produced a report entitled "Growth and Opportunity Project," which acknowledged, grudgingly and in limited fashion, that it had a problem: "Public perception of the Party is at record lows. Young voters are increasingly rolling their eyes at what the Party represents, and many minorities wrongly think that Republicans do not like them or want them in the country." Most of the report dealt with perception and messaging, rather than substence, but it took its task seriously enough to make some progressive recommendations, such as this; "We have to blow the whistle at corporate malfeasance and attack corporate welfare. . . . We should speak out when CEOs receive tens of millions of dollars in retirement packages but middle-class workers have not had a meaningful raise in years."
However, the report, while criticizing the Party at the national level, praised its record in state government. "Republican governors are America’s reformers in chief. They continue to deliver on conservative promises of reducing the size of government while making people’s lives better." The only part of that which is accurate is reduction of government. "Reform" is used in an odd sense; the report holds up as examples Sam Brownback of Kansas, who has proved that "conservative" economic theory doesn’t work, and Bobby Jindal, whose state became a fiscal and environmental mess, along with Chris Christie and Scott Walker, none of whom should be a role model. There isn’t a new age visible there.
It will be interesting to see what sort of report, if any, arises out of the Party’s capture by Donald Trump.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

November 1, 2016
To say that this is an unusual presidential year would be a substantial understatement. The race for office is closer than it ought to be, given the Republican candidate, in part due to a populist revolt against perceived misgovernment by elites, but also due to the virtual absence any discussion of issues in media coverage, and due to the unpopularity of the Democratic candidate.
The primary season was odd: on the Republican side, there were multiple candidates, none very impressive but some preferable to the winner. On the Democratic side, the — to me still baffling — inevitability of Hillary Clinton limited the race to four, quickly reduced to two. Bernie Sanders, for all his merit, hardly would have been predicted, a few years ago, as a viable candidate. Mrs. Clinton was lucky in both races: few challengers for the nomination and an ignorant, clumsy extremist as the final opponent.
Mr. Trump has obliterated any record, at least in modern times, for offensive comments by a nominee for the presidency. Early on much of that had little play, partly because of the tendency of most of the media to strike a pose of neutrality, and partly because of the sheer volume of his outbursts, giving rise to an "oh, that’s just the Donald" response. Eventually, he became too gross to be given a pass.
The debates were, on the whole, a disaster for Trump. Although he made some effort to be under control in the second and third, his character by then was too well known for redemption. Certainly the low point was his threat to jail Mrs. Clinton, an indicator of the dismal state of politics in this country. Contrast 2008. At McCain rally, a woman in the audience said, "I can't trust Obama. I have read about him and he's not, he's not uh — he's an Arab." McCain, having none of that, retook the microphone and replied: "No, ma'am. He's a decent family man [and] citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that's what this campaign's all about. He's not [an Arab]."[75]  How far we have fallen in eight years.
Mrs. Clinton’s defects as a candidate, both as a campaigner and personally, virtually faded from view in the storm over Trump’s attitude toward women, but now she is again under the microscope thanks to the baffling disclosure by the FBI director of e-mails on a computer used by a Clinton aide. Even leaving aside the usual reluctance by officials to make controversial announcements just before elections, Comey’s action is odd: no one seems to know whether the new items are significant, or even really new. The effect of the announcement was to stir up the media and aid Trump, an effect Comey must have anticipated.
One of the ironies of the treatment of Mrs. Clinton, by the media and by the Trump forces (Fox would fall into both categories) is the focus on the e-mails while overlooking more serious matters. One of my greatest concerns is her attitude toward military intervention. We all know by now that she voted for the invasion of Iraq (and for the panic-induced Patriot Act). There hasn’t been much attention to her role in the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi in Libya, which has led to chaos and the establishment of an ISIS outpost. Apparently having learned nothing from the results in Iraq, Secretary Clinton supported intervention in Libya. After Qaddafi was hunted down and killed by rebels, she quipped, inanely and flippantly, "We came, we saw, he died," and then laughed: regime change as comedy.[76]
At a lecture we attended a few days ago, the speaker declared his support for Mrs. Clinton, joined no doubt by all of the audience, but portrayed her in terms which conjured up an image of Joan of Arc. Those of us who will vote for her need to be realistic, and acknowledge that this is very much a matter of choosing, if not the lesser evil, then the less flawed candidate. Both parties have serious work to do if we are not to be faced with this situation again.


Posts © 2011-2012 by Gerald G. Day