Trumpery

Donald Trump enters the Oscar De LA Renta Fash...
Donald Trump enters the Oscar De LA Renta Fashion Show, New York. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, as politics goes that was great theatre. Trump won when no one thought that he had a chance of even getting the nomination for the Republican Party. Trump as president is highly scary, not only for the US, but for the whole world.

Given that Trump is the man that he is, why on earth did anyone vote for him, let alone around half the people who voted? People have been puzzling the answer to this one ever since the election, and while it is clear from the statistics that there was a big swing to Trump by white non-college male voters – blue collar America.

Blue Collar Radio
Blue Collar Radio (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It would easy to attribute this swing to gullibility and malleability of the non-college voters male voters. It would be easy to suggest that Trump’s evident charisma appealed to this sector of the electorate, but there must be more to it than that. Much more.

Notably the statistics seem to show that no other group of people fell for the Trump’s braggadocio like the white male non-college voters. Of course he turned off female voters to some extent by his behaviour and attitude towards women, but really, there was no huge backlash in that respect.


Embed from Getty Images

It seems that Trump’s call to “Make America Great Again” (trademarked by him in 2012) resonated with many Americans in this election, but it is not the first time it has been used. Several previous presidential candidates have used it. It implies that things were better in the past, but in general, that view is illusory, and one sees the past through rose-tinted spectacles.

“How many people long for that “past, simpler, and better world,” I wonder, without ever recognizing the truth that perhaps it was they who were simpler and better, and not the world about them?”
R.A. Salvatore, Streams of Silver

Another button that Trump pressed for many people, not the white, male, non-college voters alone was the race button. Technically one should not be called racist if what one says is the truth. Trump in many peoples’ opinions went a long way past that point.

English: A racist drawing of blacks in the 189...
English: A racist drawing of blacks in the 1890s, made by whites. The caption says “Last one in’s a nigger.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While labelling Mexicans as all being drug dealers and rapist, he definitely went well past the point of propriety, but it appears that many people believe that there is a grain of truth there. In an American post-911 many people are wary of all immigrants, especially those from the Middle East. Again many people resonate with this.

Trump’s stated policies are ridiculous. Building a wall between Mexico and the US and making the Mexicans pay for it is silly, though I note that there are fences along much of the border already. A wall can be climbed over, tunnelled under, flown over or merely circumvented. All known walls of this type, Hadrian’s Wall, the Great Wall of China, the Berlin Wall, have all failed.

English: Hadrian's wall just east of Greenhead...
English: Hadrian’s wall just east of Greenhead Lough, Northumberland in October 2005. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Trump threatens to catch and extradite all illegal immigrants in the US. Not only would this be fabulously expensive, it would cause immense upheavals and distress to many in the US, especially those families are mixed with legal and illegal immigrants. Apart from that the economy of California would collapse as many of the lower paid workers are illegal immigrants.

The threat to extradite all Muslims is not only silly, it is probably not legally possible. Many Muslims have been in the country legally for generations. A Muslim grandfather who came to America to escape conflict and even religious persecution in his homeland may face extradition merely because his sons or grandsons may at some time in the future become radicalised.

English: Turkmen Moslem Mullah, Nohur village,...
English: Turkmen Moslem Mullah, Nohur village, Turkmenistan, 21 April 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Trump’s policies may be ridiculous, they may be very expensive, but above all they may be impossible to carry out. Trump cannot write the laws himself, and there are some things that it may be legally impossible to do, and there may arguably be things that are constitutionally impossible to carry out. Trump’s policies may fail when confronted with political reality.

Trump appears to be passing off at least some of his powers to his Vice-President Michael Pence. This makes sense because Trump is a political novice and Pence has years of experience. At best this could make Trump look weak, and at worst, it could turn him into a puppet. As it is it seems that Trump is softening his stance on the issues that have assisted him to the Presidency.

Official portrait of Congressman (R-IN)
Official portrait of Congressman (R-IN) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This raises the question of what happens at the next election in 2020? If the Republicans don’t make any progress in addressing the issues that the white male non college voters have, if they don’t produce jobs, if people don’t see any progress in handling the illegal immigrant issue or the issues around Muslims in the US, it is hard to see him or the Republicans retaining the presidency and their ascendancy in the Senate and the House.

Trump could be a great president or middling president or useless president. While it is hard to read the future, going by his character, his lack of political abilities, the possibility that he will have roadblock after roadblock placed in front of him, and the almost impossible task of “Making America Great Again”, and the need to retain the loyalty of white, male, non college voters, I’m going to predict that he will most likely achieve very little, and will not get a second term.

US Navy 040611-N-9319H-054 USS Ronald Reagan (...
US Navy 040611-N-9319H-054 USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Sailors salute the American flag during the memorial service for President Ronald Reagan on the flight deck aboard his namesake aircraft carrier (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the mean time, while he is trying to actually achieve some of his goals, the Democratic Party has time to reflect, make changes especially to the party hierarchy and structure, and to win the loyalty of the voters. In particular they can reflect on what went wrong.

Would Bernie Saunders have done any better than Hillary Clinton? It is unlikely. The fact that Trump got selected for the race shows that voters wanted change and Saunders would most likely have provided a softer target for Trump.

Should the Democrats select Saunders for President next time? Well, he is 75 now and will be 79 by the time of the next election, and that is ten years older than Ronald Reagan was when he became President. Incidentally Trump will become the oldest President to be elected when he is inaugurated.

I see some people are calling for Michelle Obama to stand in 2020. This doesn’t address any of the issues that this election has raised, so she would probably fail. In any case, she wisely says that she would not stand.

First Lady Michelle Obama visits with Former F...
First Lady Michelle Obama visits with Former First Lady Nancy Reagan at the White House on June 3, 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Democracy – maybe we should try it sometime


Embed from Getty Images

We in the rest of the world are watching the run up to the Presidential elections in the USA in November. It has now been decided who the two main contenders will be, Hilary Clinton for the Democrats and Donald Trump for the Republicans. In the USA, there are no significant other parties, so it is very highly likely that the next President of the United States will be one of these two people.

An extraordinary fact is that many US citizens dislike both candidates, with one Republican commentator saying that people might be choosing the lesser of the two evils. Trump is seen as brash and unversed in politics and Clinton is seen as being untrustworthy.

US President Bill Clinton (center with hand up...
US President Bill Clinton (center with hand up), first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton to right of photo; their daughter Chelsea Clinton to left. On procession in public. The President, First Lady, and Chelsea on parade down Pennsylvannia Avenue on Inauguration day, January 20, 1997. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, how did the US voter get left with a choice between two unpopular candidates? The US has a candidate selection process which is complex and unwieldy. A special subset of voters vote on the candidates who present themselves, and the sequential nature of the selection process turns the selection into a horse race, with candidates vying to “collect” the delegates in each state and achieve a threshold which means that they cannot be beaten by other candidates.

Each state selects the candidates using a different method, and there are different numbers of “delegates” in different states. Of course a mining state may and often does prefer a different candidate to the candidate preferred by a farming state. Commentators try to out guess each other in predicting the results, state by state.

Map of number of electoral votes by state afte...
Map of number of electoral votes by state after redistricting from the 2000 census. Modified by User:Theshibboleth for the font to be consistent with electoral maps. Edited with Inkscape. Reuploaded by User:King of Hearts to correct spelling (vs. Image:Electorial map.svg). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The wonder of the system is that it often throws up a candidate who has a reasonable amount of public support, in spite of the complexity of the process. This time however, it appears that the selection process has thrown up two candidates who don’t appear to appeal to the electorate. The voters do indeed have to select “the lesser of the two evils”.

In most democracies around the world things tend to be simpler. A candidate puts him or herself up for election, and he or she gets voted for or not as people choose. Of course, a candidate who aligns with a party needs to get the party’s approval, and cannot stand under the party banner without it.

English: National Awami Party (Muzaffar) banne...
English: National Awami Party (Muzaffar) banner at opposition rally, Dhaka. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However the above describes the process for electing a local representative. A presidential election raises extra problems. For instance, in the US the president is always a member of a political party. In countries where the president is preferred to be independent and outside of party politics issues arise in his/her selection.

If the president is elected directly by the populace the potential candidates will need to campaign countrywide when seeking election, and this will be expensive. The candidate therefore has to be very rich, sponsored by some organisation or be aligned with a party. The last two options work against the requirement for the president to be independent, and the first option restricts the field to those who have a large amount of money, which may be unacceptable or not achievable in a poor country.

English: Seal of the Executive Office of the P...
English: Seal of the Executive Office of the President of the United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many countries, including India and the US have got around this by using an electoral college system, though few systems could be as convoluted as the US method of selecting a candidate to stand for election as president. Such a system uses the fact that the population has already elected individuals to government, and uses the already elected individuals to decide on the candidates for president or select the president directly.

While this means that the most powerful political parties select and maybe elect the president, the representatives are doing what they are elected for, which is to make decisions on behalf of their voters. The elected representatives often select someone who may not be the most preferred by the grass roots electorate, but generally the selected person is not too disliked.

English: Sheep pasture The sheep have eaten th...
English: Sheep pasture The sheep have eaten the grass down to the roots, and must appreciate the fodder put out for them in these wheeled feeders. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the case of the latest selection process for US president, the Democrats have selected Hilary Clinton as the most likely Democrat candidate to win, and while this is true, polls show that there is a lack of trust in her at the grass roots level. It is unlikely that this factor will weigh too heavily with the voter come the election, though.

The Republicans have selected Donald Trump, in spite of the belief early in the process that he stood no chance. The Republicans believe that he is the best choice of prevailing over Hilary Clinton, but many people dislike his brashness. On the other hand, many people like his approach to some of the issues that are hot topics in the US, such as immigration and the threat of terrorism. The real issue is whether or not his solutions to such topics are reasonable or will be effective.

While the people get to vote for the person that they want to be president, the process seems to me to not be overly democratic. The sheer number of people in the US and in most other countries means that direct election of a president is never going to be possible. There is always going to be a distance between the President and the populace and this dilutes democracy. As it is, voters can only vote for a few candidates in the election. They have little say in who gets selected to stand.

How much does this dilute democracy? Hmm, good question, Cliff! It depends. Given that “representative democracy” like in many country puts distance between the electorate and the elected, if people do not like the candidates very much, this could reduce voter turn out at the election as people decide not to vote for either of them. If, however, enough people on one side hate the opposition candidate strongly enough this may encourage them to turn out and vote. The president is likely to be elected by the vote of only a few of those allowed to vote.

Italiano: Diluizione-Concentrazione
Italiano: Diluizione-Concentrazione (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is likely that the apathy effect is going to override the hate effect, in my opinion, and voter numbers are likely to drop. If only a small number turn out to vote, then has either candidate got a real mandate? Not really, I suggest.

The US form of diluted democracy means that only a favoured few get to stand for president. Up until Obama, all previous presidents back to the early days have been rich white men. Standing in an election for president of the US costs billions of dollars and few people are able to afford the price.

English: Total public debt outstanding, United...
English: Total public debt outstanding, United States, 1993-2011 (billions U.S $) Français : Dette publique totale des États-Unis en milliards de dollars, prix courants, 1993-2011 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So we have a rich businessman vying to become the most powerful man in the world, and making ridiculous promises, like a wall between the US and Mexico, and the wife of a previous president vying to become the first female president. While Hilary Clinton is not enormously rich, she is much richer than most of us, and she and Bill Clinton have powerful friends.

US-Mexico border barrier near Monument Road, S...
US-Mexico border barrier near Monument Road, San Diego, California, USA, looking into Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico. Commonsing ok. knoodelhed 17:53, 4 September 2007 (UTC) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Politicians


Embed from Getty Images

(Photographs of politicians below are not intended to imply that the pictured politician is any way corrupt or discredited. Even Trump.)

Donald Trump appears to be on the verge of being named the Republican candidate for President of the United States. While it is unlikely that he will become president, his rise has been amazing, and his appeal surprises many, in the USA and elsewhere.

He has made some astounding promises but it is unlikely that people really believe that he is going to be able to achieve them. However, as a many shared post on Facebook has it, people are really looking more at the direction he is promising to move the country.

English: Donald Trump's signature hairstyle
English: Donald Trump’s signature hairstyle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Trump is not a politician in the usual way. A politician would normally take great care not to upset people, not to rock the boat as it were. Politicians almost always try not to promise anything, as they might not be able to deliver what they promise and that will harm their re-election chances.

All human interactions involve politics to some extent. When a group of people forms, be it a family or a tribe or a nation and selects one of their number to represent them in an interaction with another group of people, that’s politics.


Embed from Getty Images

Human nature being what it is, the representative feels empowered by this responsibility, and often becomes arrogant and domineering. This may or may not result in the representative being replaced by someone else.

However there are advantages in having someone as figurehead in interaction with other groups. The elevation of someone to be the group’s representative can become permanent, with the representative becoming the chief, the king, the emperor. Or even the President of the United States.

The figurehead and prow of the SS Great Britain.
The figurehead and prow of the SS Great Britain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Politicians in general do not have a high reputation. Mark Twain once said “Politicians and diapers must be changed often, and for the same reason”. The implication is that while politicians may start off idealistic, they may often come to become arrogant and believe that they are better in some way than the people who gave them the power.

Lord Acton’s dictum often appears to be true of politicians. The more power that they have, the more they consider themselves to be more important than the average man in the street. They may come to believe that they are above the law, and eventually fall foul of it. While power does not directly corrupt, the feeling of importance and the ability to wield power sometimes does.


Embed from Getty Images

Politicians do recognise this fact and, if they are sensible, try to  avoid this trap. They try to remain “grounded”. They talk about getting back to the roots, keeping in touch and other such phrases, but it is very hard to do this as when they try to interact with those who put them in power, those people treat them as special, and tend to address the role and not the person.

Politicians are overthrown all the time. It may be that they no longer serve the people who selected them, or it may be that they have become arrogant and have been caught doing something illegal or dubious.


Embed from Getty Images

Often these peccadilloes are things that would not get a normal person into too much trouble. An insulting email, maybe, or perhaps an affair with a person that the politician works with. Or getting someone to paint the roof, when the politician is in a position to help the painter.

Sometimes, though, the politician takes advantage of their position in ways which are very wrong. Sometimes they accept money to advance someone’s business, or they may divert money to their own bank accounts, when it should be spent to further the aims for which they were selected. They might take holidays overseas or travel to conferences for which their seems little justification.


Embed from Getty Images

It’s no wonder then, that people look on politicians with distrust. They are aware of all the temptations that beset politicians and they are aware that such temptations are hard to resist and that some politicians may be corruptible.

That’s why we surround our politicians with laws and rules above and beyond those that apply to the man in the street. We want our politicians to be above reproach, but we know that they are fallible.


Embed from Getty Images

But we do not hold them to their promises, which is why Trump can get away with promising that he would build a wall between the United States and Mexico, if he gets elected, when everyone knows that such a wall is very unlikely to be built. Even if it is, illegal immigrants from Mexico to the United States will find ways around it. Or under it. There are already tunnels under the border between the two countries.

The electors in the United States know that Trump’s promises are hogwash, but they like the way that he promises something towards dealing with the problem of illegal immigration. It shows that he is thinking about it, and may well do something.

English: American politician Hubert Work.
English: American politician Hubert Work. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The same goes for Trump’s promise to prevent Muslims entering the United States for a period. It will never happen, and if it did, it would not be effective, as many potential IS terrorists are already in the country, and such a move would likely persuade them to actively attack the United States from within.

But Trump promises something to deal with the entry of terrorists into the country. Once again, while he probably will not do anything like this, people hope that he will do something.


Embed from Getty Images

However, the big thing that Trump has going for him is that he is not a politician, in the sense that he has not had a career in politics, he has not worked his way up in politics. No, Trump has started at the top. Trump is a businessman. If he does get elected he will probably find that his business skills don’t really equip him for a life in politics, and persuading people to go along with his schemes will make herding cats look easy.

After all, in the business world Trump may be able to hire and fire as he wishes, but in government, the other elected representatives cannot be fired and he will need their cooperation. Trump’s (apparent) bullying tactics will not work in government. In some ways it would be interesting to see if he could achieve anything if he were the POTUS.

Plaque of the Seal of the President of the Uni...
Plaque of the Seal of the President of the United States on the southeast side of Hoover Tower on the campus in Stanford, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)