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Ramblings on the 2016 POTUS Election

By Ray Johnson –

Ray was a participant in our ‘Art of Thinking’ 10 week course’ run at Attenborough Arts, Leicester.

When analysing the politics of a foreign country, it is always tempting to view it from the perspective of our own political landscape. Tempting but wrong. Republicans and Democrats are not merely Tory and Labour with an American accent. Such an attitude leads us to misunderstand very real differences between the political cultures of the two countries. The various parties have different cultures and roots based on class, geography, ethnicity, and so on. This is particularly salient to me, even though I have never visited the US. However, I don’t think it is fanciful to believe that the US and British political landscapes are now more similar than at any other period of history. To use an example: most Americans would have had little idea of what the European Union is, and how it operates. The vote for ‘Brexit’, coming as it did in the middle of the Presidential election, had an electrifying effect on the election. For Trump supporters, it acted as a tonic for what had become a flagging campaign.

Nigel Farage was introduced to Trump rallies as an all-conquering hero. If Britain could vote for Brexit, against the wisdom of pollsters and the machinations of the British establishment, why couldn’t Trump beat the odds and administer a similar defeat to the US establishment? There are even striking similarities in the rise of Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn. One caveat, however, remains: whilst debates over issues such as gun control and abortion resonate to some extent in Britain, the debate is nowhere near as divisive (and even murderous) as in the US.

41052231 - london, uk - may 7th 2015: ukip (uk independence party) on a ballot paper for a general election, on 7th may 2015.

Whilst there may be similarities between UKIP and the Tea Party, care must be taken in not viewing them as twins. The policies proposed by the Tea Party flow from a coherent right-wing philosophy which includes such issues as a single-rate income tax (which would favour the wealthy), balancing the Federal budget, the abolition of government-run health care, the exploitation of all forms of energy irrespective of their effect on the environment (climate change being considered to be a conspiracy to deny the US of its right to exploit its natural resources) and generally anti-regulation policies wherever feasible.

UKIP, on the other hand, is a mishmash of populist issues and policies with its supporters bound together only by their dislike of the European Union and immigration. Whilst most UKIP supporters may be instinctively right-wing, it is a truly populist party in that it seeks support from across the political spectrum. One example is over the question of the National Health Service: UKIP’s one-time and future (and even possibly present) leader, Nigel Farage, has called for the abolition of the NHS in favour of a US style insurance scheme. This would have been very unpopular with Labour Party supporters. Subsequently, and probably consequentially, UKIP policy is now for a much strengthened NHS. This twisting and turning over issues has created some amusing moments such as a press conference in 2014 during which Farage denounced his own 2010 manifesto, which included, among other delights, a demand for a taxi driver dress code.1

The success in Europe of populist parties demonstrates that notions of ‘Right’ and ‘Left’ can and do alter according to the political fashions of the age. As a generality, the major issue that divides the two wings is the role of the state. For the Left, the state should be strong and be the major provider of services, as well as provide strong regulations on business. For the Right, the private sector is more efficient and, as far as possible, should be left as the main provider of services. Regulation should be as light as is feasible. The only functions of the State should be to maintain law and order, as well as a strong military force.

For the Left, taxes are an essential tool for wealth redistribution, as well as revenue, whereas the Right prefers to tax as low as possible. As an example of changing attitudes, until the 1980s, virtually all politicians in Britain considered utilities to be rightfully within the public domain. Under Margaret Thatcher, there was a massive privatisation programme.2 Nowadays it is considered quite natural for gas and electricity to be supplied by the market.

I remember Edward Heath, the Conservative Prime Minister between 1970-1974, was taking part in a televised discussion program during the Thatcher years when the political pendulum had swung heavily to the right, particularly in matters concerning the role and size of the State. On the program were representatives of the major parties, along with Heath. At one point, Heath exclaimed that his views were well to the left of all the other panellists and he semi-humorously commented that the only politicians more left-wing than he were revolutionary communists. Heath was at pains to explain that this was. In actual fact, his political beliefs had remained steadfast, even though the country had moved to the right.

Margaret Thatcher

To understand what is happening in politics now it is necessary to examine two moments in the past which are economic in essence, but have had large political implications. In 1986, Prime Minister Thatcher announced what was known as ‘the Big Bang’, whereby electronic trading would be permitted in the City of London. Although it sounded arcane to most of the populace, it was to have a profound effect on their lives and (indirectly) the lives of Americans as well.

Accompanying the computerisation of trading were a number of changes, including abolishing minimum fixed commissions on trades and allowing foreign firms to own UK brokers for the first time. The first of these measures, along with computerisation, meant that trading became much cheaper and hence more frequent. The second measure meant that Wall Street and foreign banks were to flood into the City and compete aggressively. No doubt all of this came as a shock to the expensively educated ‘chaps’ who had always enjoyed a more tranquil (and profitable) life.

Prior to the Big Bang, the City of London had been a rather sleepy backwater when compared to the megalithic Wall Street. Now it was different. Rather than the complacent and rather dozy gentlemen competitors they had been used to, Wall Street traders were confronted with men (it was nearly always men in the early days) who were competitive and aggressive – just like themselves. Suddenly it really was NYLON – the two stock markets competing on equal terms (which were often companies operating equally from the two centres).

The other moment was in 1994 when the US signed a trade deal with Mexico and Canada which was named the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The US already had a trade deal with Canada but the new agreement, as it concerned trade with Mexico, was contentious. Given Mexico’s inferior wages and working conditions it was understandable that workers and their unions would be concerned that American companies would be unable to resist the lure of a low pay, lightly regulated workforce. Although initiated by George Bush (the grown-up one), the agreement was signed off by Bill Clinton after he had inserted amendments protecting jobs and the environment. NAFTA was to play a key role in the 2016 election as both Sanders and Trump exploited Clinton’s uncomfortable defense of it.

Although neither Reagan or Thatcher could be remotely described as socially liberal, it is arguable that their economic policies created a new type of elite: one which was both socially and economically liberal.

The conservative, sober, largely public school educated City of London gave way to a new type of stockbroker: brash, competitive, ambitious, and, worst of all from the perspective of the old elite, sometimes state-educated (or public school educated in American parlance). This new breed had no appetite for the pursuits of the previous elite: the traditional pleasures of hunting, shooting, fishing or owning a manor in the country. Rather these young men (as most of them were) aspired to fast cars, heavy drinking and an expensive apartment in a fashionable part of the city.

In the UK, they tended to be Tory, fearing that Labour may tax their new-found wealth, but unlike the traditional Tory, they tended to be liberal, even libertarian, in moral matters. Similarly in the US, Wall Street financiers were of a different stripe to their predecessors: more predatory and competitive, as exemplified by the fictional character Gordon Gekko in the film ‘Wall Street.’ Gekko’s philosophy was effectively a manifesto for the real life financial world:

In the intervening years, these agreements have been profitable for the wealthy but have inevitably led to reduced incomes and unemployment for much of the working (“middle” in American nomenclature) class. The political and financial elites have acted as cheerleaders for unfettered international free trade, which has served only to further enrich wealthy individuals and organisations at the expense of their societies.

Until recently, Right Wing economists put forward the theory that as the rich get richer, the wealth will cascade down through society as they spend their money. This was known as ‘trickle down’ economics. This theory is no longer employed – mainly because there is no evidence that it works. All that happened is that the wealthy got wealthier and simply hoarded their wealth. Either that, or they imported expensive cars, yachts etc, thereby exacerbating the balance of trade.

Interestingly, there is better evidence that wealth should be given to the poorest in society as they have no choice but to spend all of their income, thus spreading it around. Generally, their consumption is based on locally produced goods rather than imports. For some reason, this thinking has failed to find favour with mainstream economists and their wealthy sponsors.

At first, the new financial world appeared to have no relevance to most people: words such as globalization and free trade were far removed from their daily experiences and in any case, conjured up nice, positive images. Gradually however, their jobs were shipped to lower cost countries and wages began to stagnate, usually falling in real terms. Workers were constantly informed by their governments that economic liberalism was a good thing and would spread wealth.

It certainly didn’t seem that way to communities which began to experience mass under- and un- employment.

In addition to industrial jobs being destroyed through companies outsourcing to cheaper labour markets abroad, there was an influx of immigrants. This undercut lower skilled workers. To many people in Britain and the US, it appeared that their jobs and housing were being taken by outsiders. Globalization offered nothing to the millions who were adversely affected by it. The corollary was that third world countries were often stripped of key workers who had been educated and trained at great expense.

For a while, the drop in living standards was ameliorated by the availability of cheap credit as central banks sought to keep interest rates low. There was an inevitable price to pay for the artificially low credit costs and the 2008 banking crash signaled the end of the party. This was a crash largely caused by the financiers and their negligent (to put it mildly) regulators. Unfortunately, once again, as the music hall singer Billy Bennett had complained many years before:

It’s the same the whole world over,

It’s the poor what gets the blame,

It’s the rich what gets the pleasure,

Isn’t it a blooming shame.

45084898 - tony blair - meeting of german chancellor with the british pm on 13 february 2007, the federal chancellery, berlin-tiergarten..

Ex Labour Leader Tony BlairBy 1997, the Left Wing ruling parties in the US and Britain were attracted to what was described as ‘The Third Way’. The main political proponents were Blair and (Bill) Clinton. Basically, the Third Way rejected the idea of re-distribution as a means of ensuring equality, believe efficient and compassionate managerial ism would be sufficient to effect change. In effect, Blair and Clinton were seeking to move their respective parties into the Centre ground of politics in order that they would become the natural parties of power, forcing the Conservatives and Republicans into a Right-wing cul de sac.

The response of the Right was very different in the two countries. The new UK Conservative leader, David Cameron, declared himself to be the ‘heir to Blair’ and positioned his party largely in the Centre, especially as far as Social Policy was concerned (in Economic Policy, the Tories moved well to the Right). Against the instincts of his own party, he supported legislation to introduce gay marriage. In the US the response of the Republican Party was very different. Under pressure from the Tea Party the Republican Party has moved further to the Right, both in social and economic policies. The move to the ‘Third Way’ has in large measure led to a disillusionment on the part of the workers who felt they have been abandoned by parties of the Left.

Following the 2008 financial crash, populist parties of Right and Left have competed to fill the existing vacuum. This was particularly striking in Greece where Syriza, a coalition of left-wing parties which had only existed since 2004, supplanted the centre-left PASOK. The latter party had first formed a government in 1981 following the overthrow of a military dictatorship.

Initially, it was popular, but over time it was seen as corrupt with the leadership of George Papandreou being mired in controversy. It had also supported the imposition of austerity after 2008 and had supported the Third Way philosophy.3 A measure of how quickly political sentiment can shift following the financial crash is demonstrated by the decline in the popular vote gained by PASOK between 2009 (43.92%) and 2015 (4.75%).4

This then was the background to the 2016 US Presidential Election.

In the primaries, Hillary Clinton was faced by a more left-wing opponent, Bernie Sanders. For commentators and Democrat leaders alike, Sanders was little more than a gadfly to be swatted aside. For one thing, he was an avowed socialist and conventional wisdom was that socialism would always be reviled by the great majority of the electorate, and he would only pick up a desultory number of votes. The truth would be rather different.

Throughout the primaries, Sanders’s policies found favour with an increasing number of Democratic-leaning voters. He appeared to be offering fresh solutions to their problems, whereas Clinton was still offering the same nostrums as had caused the economic mess in the first place. Poll after poll indicated that Sanders would have buried Trump, had he won the Democratic nomination. Whereas Clinton was always neck and neck with the Republican Donald Trump. There is also polling evidence that Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden would have been stronger candidates than Clinton. But Clinton was the Centrist candidates and ‘the route to the summit lies through the centre ground.’

Many apparently believe this axiom must be true. Maybe because it belongs to Tony Blair.

Like most Centrist politicians on both sides of the Atlantic, Clinton had been in denial about the true causes of the financial crash, allowing politicians to take most of the blame rather than rampant bankers and supine regulators. Much of her financial support came from Wall Street corporations, and she supported (NAFTA), two institutions which were by then noxious for many Americans, particularly in the rust-belt states where they were held responsible for the economic predicament. This disillusionment wasn’t understood at the time by the DNC which saw only an unelectable socialist, followed by an unimpressive array of Republican hopefuls. Everything looked set fair for the Establishment sweetheart to cruise to an easy victory in the Presidential race.

But if that was what conventional wisdom thought, then conventional wisdom was wrong. If the commentators and politicians had looked across at Europe, they would have seen the old order being overthrown in country after country.

One of the most surprising features of the US Presidential election (from a European perspective) has been to hear a viable candidate describe himself as a socialist. For many years even to describe themselves as a liberal would consign Democrat politicians to political oblivion. Even FDR, possibly the most left-wing president of the 20th century would be unlikely to describe himself this way, if indeed he actually considered himself to be a socialist.5

Yet in 2016, we heard a candidate openly avow that he was a ‘democratic socialist’ and instead of having opprobrium heaped upon him, he was actually garnering millions of votes, especially from the young and well-educated. Even the demographic of young white women were convinced by Sanders’s message. Their attitude appeared to be ‘a woman president, yes, but not that woman’, preferring instead an elderly white man with a radical message. Rather than the shoo-in anticipated by Clinton and her supporters, the DNC had to work furiously (and not always scrupulously) to deny Sanders the primary victory he looked capable of winning.

Like the young women who chose Sanders over Clinton, many Americans, including lifelong Democrats, found themselves unable to vote for Clinton. She has come in for especially bitter criticism because of her actions as secretary of state. Her role in the attempted ousting of Assad in Syria and the fiasco of her Libyan policy were widely reviled (as was the case with Blair in Britain). Her attitude towards the mass deaths incurred both through aerial bombardments and destabilizing of societies appeared callous and cynical.

By now, most American and British voters were finding the constant warfare since the Twin Towers attack on 9/11 difficult to stomach. Much support from Sanders and Trump must have been assisted by their refusal to countenance the interventionist wars which had cost so much in blood and US dollars. Unlike her political opponents, Clinton was promising more of the same, especially in the Middle East, most of it directed against Iran or its proxies, in favour of Israel and Saudi Arabia (both countries being client states of America).

Her actions in using a private server rather than the secure federal server she should have been using when communicating about foreign affairs raised suspicions among both Left and Right wing critics that she was using her office for improper purposes. This was compounded by her actions in deleting thousands of emails even after they had been subpoenaed by the FBI. Cynically, Clinton employed the ‘shoot the messenger’ technique to divert attention away from her misdemeanours. Rather than offer a reason as to why she had used her personal server, she attempted to shift blame to the Russians and Wikileaks for publishing the emails.

At this point I call for the prosecution one Karen Straughan.

Karen is a Canadian who (perhaps unusually) is a female who disseminates anti-feminist opinions. She works mainly through the medium of video blogging. She is a supporter of the Mens’ rights movement (MRM), an organization which claims that feminism has swung the pendulum too far in support of women’s rights. Although the movement is well-established in America, it is largely unknown in Britain, although the issues raised by ‘children need fathers’ overlaps it to some extent. The best known British woman who articulates similar views to Karen Straughan is Erin Pizzey. Pizzey is famous for having set up the first shelters for battered women, and was dismayed when Feminists complained that her shelters contained beds for men.6

Straughan is articulate and argues her case persuasively. She acts as an unofficial spokeswoman for what the media like to term ‘angry white men’.

Health warning: feminists with high blood pressure are well advised not to view her vlogs concerning feminism.

In this article, I will be referring to a (relatively) safer v blog in which Straughan effectively demolished Clinton’s defense of using her own server. This vlog is entitled: ‘Why Hillary’s emails mattered’.

In relation to the email issue, Clinton has claimed that she was entitled to use her personal server as the e-mails didn’t contain classified material. Straughan’s retort to that defense, even if it was the case that no classified material was involved, it was irrelevant – Clinton had a legal duty to use the Federal server just as any employee would have had to.

The federal servers have two functions: they tend to be safer than private servers and they are accessible by the State to ensure that the emails are being sent and received for legitimate reasons. In claiming not to know the regulations, Clinton was either being incompetent or too arrogant to care. Whichever was the case, she was unfit to be POTUS.

To this extent, the contents of the e-mails was irrelevant. There could be no exception to the rule. Rather colourfully, Straughan suggested that even if Clinton’s e-mails merely described the optimum speed of a personal vibrator, it would have been required to have gone through the Federal server. Based on the known facts of the case, Ms Straughan’s argument for the prosecution appears to be valid and also validates the calls from Trump supporters for Clinton to be indicted.

This persuasive indictment of Clinton was followed by a vblog in which Straughan examined the reasons for Trump’s victory:

In this vlog, Straughan claimed that Trump would be a ‘good president, maybe not a great one.’ Although Straughan is persuasive regarding Hillary Clinton’s unsuitability to become POTUS, I think she is less persuasive concerning Trump. She correctly claims that many opponents, particularly on the Left, dismiss Trump as a fascist rather than debate his policies. Even George Clooney described the would-be president as a ‘xenophobic fascist’.7

Straughan has a sense of what constitutes fascism, even if she fails to define it. I subscribe to the pragmatic view that if something looks like fascism, smells like fascism and tastes likes fascism, then it probably is fascism. Words such as authoritarian, corporatist, militaristic come to mind as do scapegoating of the ‘other’ which may include Jews, gypsies, the mentally retarded, communists, socialists, and trade unionists, gays.

These are all groups that were rounded up by the Nazis in pre-war Germany.  That is not to say that it is necessary to have all these features for a regime to be fascist. Conversely, a regime which incorporates all or most of these features is not necessarily fascist (I am thinking here of Franco’s Spain which had the support of the fascist group Falange but was really an extreme right-wing Catholic regime). I appreciate that others would appropriate Franco as a fascist, which shows the difficulty of labelling regimes.

In any case, whatever a fascist is, Straughan is certain that Trump isn’t one. If Trump was a fascist, she questions, why would he support States Rights, be opposed to gun control and consider scrapping federal education?

Certainly, an essential feature of fascism is a totalitarian control on all aspects of society and Trump’s position on the three issues raised by Straughan do point in the opposite. But surely Trump was obeying the first rule of politics: when seeking votes, don’t piss off your key constituency. If he had advocated strong federal government and gun control, does any one seriously think we would be discussing President Trump?

Even Bernie Sanders skirted around the issue of gun control.8 As for education, Ronald Reagan had promised to abolish the Department of Education decades ago.9

The DoE is an organisation much loathed by many Republicans and even considered to be unconstitutional by them. To have argued in favour of the DoE would certainly have lost votes from Right Wing Republicans. Most of Trump’s pledges need to be seen in the context of electoral necessity.

Support for Straughan’s opinions regarding the appeal of Trump came from an unlikely source – John Harris whilst he was covering the primary campaign for The Guardian.10

55272654 - 21 february 2016: republican presidential candidate donald trump speaks to several thousand supporters at a rally in atlanta, georgia.

21 february 2016: republican presidential candidate donald trump speaks to several thousand supporters at a rally in atlanta, georgia.

Like Straughan, Harris noted that most of Trump’s speeches were actually concerned with issues of unemployment and housing rather than the more outrageous, throwaway comments reported by most of the media. Most especially, Trump hit the sweet spot when decrying NAFTA. This and other free trade agreements are for many poorer voters in fact probably the main issue separating Clinton and her Wall Street supporters on one side, and Trump and Sanders on the other side.

Harris does note however that many of the people intending to vote for Trump were doing so in spite of his more outlandish comments rather than because of them. This strongly suggests an anti-Clinton, anti-establishment sentiment rather than any great enthusiasm for Trump. Indeed, reading his article, it appears that there is a crossover between support for Trump and Sanders, suggesting that the election was not wholly a Left versus Right debate but rather establishment versus anti-establishment. Once again, we see a resonance with Brexit, as Harris had interviewed Brexiters during the referendum campaign and received a very similar message. It is important however to note that whilst Harris has sympathy for the real plight faced by his interviewees and understands why they intend to vote for Trump, unlike Straughan, he believes it to be a misplaced choice.

Straughan attempts to portray Trump as a ‘normal’ politician whose beliefs are not far from the political mainstream. This is a heroic project on Straughan’s part, especially as Trump’s every action and speech serve to deny his normality.

Do I think Trump is a fascist? No.

There is no consistent philosophy with Trump, he doesn’t even appear to know himself what he believes in and in fact changes his opinions as regularly as the rest of us change our clothes. Do I believe the Trump presidency could be authoritarian or even create fascist political movement? Given his manner and behaviour thus far, most certainly. Trump’s psychological make-up suggest he is a swaggering bully who will brook no opposition to his views.

When he has been challenged on his actions or words, he has verbally hit out at his challenger.

Two incidents come to mind: when he was called out for insulting a dead military hero, instead of apologising, he compounded the crime by insulting the dead soldier’s mother and her religion. Likewise, when he was publicly criticised by Meryl Streep for imitating the involuntary limb twitches of a disabled journalist, he denied that he was mimicking the journalist. Having seen a video of the incident, I find it difficult to see what alternative interpretation can be put on his behaviour:

He went on to describe Streep as an overrated actor. If Donald J Trump considers Meryl Streep to be an overrated actor, he was certainly wise not choose a career as a film critic! Of course, politicians have right to reply in kind to their critics but Trump’s response was more akin to the petulance of a teenager than the response of a PEOTUS. It may be unfair but, as Jeremy Corbyn has found in Britain, the public expect politicians to rise above provocations.

We can get some understanding of Trump from his pre-candidature career. The people he has nominated to be in his cabinet provide clues as to how he will conduct himself as President. Politically, his has been a steady march from left to right, but he has not shown any sign of a coherent political philosophy. Insofar as he has a political ideology, it appears to be close to that preached by Gordon Gekko.

He is a political opportunist who has reversed his views on issues such as abortion. From being pro-choice, he has switched to pro-life and switched from gun control advocate, to libertarian on the matter. The suspicion must be that Trump has no moral compass other than utilising social issues as counters to be bargained with, in order to gain advantage. The word ‘opportunist’ probably best describes his political manoeuvres or perhaps, Trump has digested Walt Whitman’s poetry:

‘Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. (I am large, I contain multitudes)11

His sole interest in environmental matters appears to consist of requesting the Scottish government to refuse permission for an off-shore wind farm on the grounds that it would detract from the views of his wealthy golfing customers.

We also mustn’t forget that Trump is a political virgin. He has never held office at any level of government, whether State or Federal. As such he will be reliant on advice far more than any of his predecessors. Those who he has nominated for his cabinet and advisers appear to be exclusively from the far Right of the Republican Party and/or Wall Street. Remember his anti-Wall Street rhetoric during the campaign?

Not to mention his family. Allied to his known short attention span, as with Ronald Reagan, his government is shaping up to be conventionally Right Wing: promises of tax cuts for the wealthy and cuts in corporation tax for example.  This is not looking like the Karen Straughan portrayal of Trump: a ‘regular guy’ who shares the pain and anger of the ‘angry white men’ at the treatment they have received from Government and contempt from the liberal elite.

Furthermore, he has publicly condoned and encouraged violence by his supporters. Indeed, there is a violence implicit in his general demeanor. He has already demonstrated his willingness to play fast and loose with the constitution, when he announced before the presidential election that he would not necessarily accept the result, should he lose.

Although Trump won the electoral college vote, he lagged behind Clinton in the popular vote by some 2.8 million votes.12 It is argued by Trump supporters that he played according to the mathematics of the system by concentrating on certain states and it was open to Clinton to do the same. Indeed, Clinton was accused by Democrat officials of neglecting the states of Michigan and Wisconsin, both of which she needed to win and didn’t. Nevertheless, I suspect this popular vote divergence from the Electoral College result may become significant during the Trump presidency, depending upon whether he is sensitive to it or not.

As an aside, both British and American politicians would do well to look to how the French conduct their elections, which in my opinion is both simpler and generally seen to be fairer. Briefly, their president is elected by a simple majority of its voting citizens. Should no candidate receive more than 50% in the first election, there is a further vote with just the two highest voted candidates taking part.13 National Assembly elections are similar albeit there is an electoral college. The principle in each case is that to succeed to office, the winning candidate must achieve 50% of the popular vote. But that almost certainly isn’t going to happen.

One notable feature of the election was the lack of policies or issues. Especially after the primaries, both Clinton and Trump preferred yeah-boo politics to debating their competing visions of how the major issues should be addressed. On the question of foreign policy, it is worth comparing the efforts to secure peace in the middle east of the estimable John Kerry, in contrast to the policies of both Clinton and Trump. Kerry has been patiently involved in seeking a diplomatic solution by building coalitions whilst for the two would-be presidents, foreign policy in the region is all about supporting Israel and, to a lesser extent, Saudi Arabia.

To that end, they have re-created Iran, Israel’s main enemy, as a bogeyman. For them, unlike Kerry, this is a zero sum game: Israel is only strong when Iran is weak and vice versa. This plays into the hands of what has been described by Kerry as ‘the most right-wing government in Israeli history.’ By ‘Right-wing’, I assume that Kerry is not referring to domestic policy but rather that the present government is the most obdurate in opposing the two-state coalition which most of the international community, including Israel formally, supports. Even as they pay lip service to the notion of a viable Palestinian state, the Netanyahu government has been supporting the erection of illegal settlements in Palestinian territory, which has made the prospect of a two-state solution increasingly unlikely.

For Trump, it may be simply that there are US votes to be won in being friends with Israel. Or possibly he sees in President Netanyahu a man in his own image (as he appears to do with Putin). As with many of his domestic policies, there is a contradiction at the heart of Trump’s foreign policy. He is the new best friend of Vladimir Putin and has largely supported Russian action in Syria. However, he must be aware that any threatened action against Iran will incur the wrath of Putin.

Much opprobrium has been heaped on Trump regarding his attitude to Russia and more particularly, Vladimir Putin. There’s a lot of hypocrisy going on here. We are told by the CIA that Russia is attempting to influence an American election. So the United States didn’t interfere with Russian elections after the fall of communism?

You bet your life it did.15

Yeltsin was Washington’s man and they made sure he won the presidential elections. In the process, the Russian economy was virtually destroyed, as wide boys from Wall Street (including an aide of Bill Clinton’s) persuaded the Russian government to have a grand closing down sale. And the oligarchs who were millionaires became billionaires overnight (literally in some cases) as they bought up State assets for peanuts. The only price they paid was to offer unconditional support to first Yeltsin and now Putin.

Don’t believe me? Here’s Time magazine’s cover from the period:

7

Boris Yeltsin on the cover of Time Magazine. July 15, 1996. Vol 148. No. 4 Cover Credit: Phillip Burke.

Perhaps you think ‘but Yeltsin was the good guy’, to which my retort would be: ‘perhaps the Russians think that Trump is the good guy.’

Returning to the discussion concerning the nature of fascism, perhaps Putin is the nearest thing to a fascist in the major league of nations. Nevertheless, the West have to deal with him and it may be that Trump will be the right person to cool the tensions between the West and Russia. It is certainly difficult to envisage Clinton fulfilling the role of peace keeper, given her record as secretary of state (as already stated). But if Trump is going to have a constructive dialogue with Russia, he will need to develop a more coherent middle east policy than appears to be the case at present.

And what is going to happen in the Trump presidential years? What happens if the mood turns ugly, really ugly, if unemployment fail to reverse and real wages continue to decline?  What if the wall is actually a fence, half the height and a fraction of the length?

That is inevitable if Trump continues with his economic plan: reduce Corporation Tax and tax cuts for the wealthy, with nothing for the angry white men.

He may try some Keynsian economics by infrastructure spending to increase employment, but the hard-nosed Republicans and bankers in his cabinet will do their best to  deter him from that. What about when he is ‘advised’ that immigration should actually be increased to prevent wage inflation: far from supporting building a wall to keep out Mexicans, big business has got addicted to cheap, non-unionised labour and will demand a continuing supply. And Walmart along with Apple reminds him that tariffs, particularly against China, will lead to large price increases for consumers: 25% increase on the price of your new iphone, anyone?

To add to these inflationary pressures can be added increases in the prices of gasoline, cars, fruit and vegetables if Trump carries out his threat to scrap NAFTA. Presumably Trump would hope to offset the negative of this through returning jobs to the US. But he will have to take on the big corporations to achieve that.

When Main Street becomes even more Mean Street than at present, Trump won’t be able to blame the Wall Street establishment. He’s got two Goldman Sachs executives advising him, already with rumours of a third joining them. He won’t be able to castigate Hillary for being soft on Wall Street either. Possibly he will extend the scapegoating we have already seen from him. He will require new villains to blame for his inability to to carry out what he has promised.

American presidents have always been very good at creating enemies (whether internal or external) to distract the populace. Trump has  shown that he’s already up there with the best (or more accurately, worst) of them in turning victims into villains. This time though, it just may fail and Bernie Sanders is still there, his book of policies under his arm, waiting to show the American people a vision which previously had been largely hidden from them: that of a future in which fairness and equality would replace the winner takes all and the devil takes the hindmost ideologies of Trump and Clinton.

THE END

 

Notes:

 

  1. See http://www.politicsresources.net/area/uk/ge10/man/parties/UKIPManifesto2010.pdf
  2. See http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/watkins/privUK.htm Also see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/alistair-osborne/9980292/Margaret-Thatcher-one-policy-that-led-to-more-than-50-companies-being-sold-or-privatised.html Also see https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/mar/29/short-history-of-privatisation Also see https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/joe-guinan-thomas-m-hanna/privatisation-very-british-disease
  3. See http://fortune.com/2016/06/03/greece-eurozone/ Also see http://www.mintpressnews.com/mess-corruption-neoliberal-austerity-syriza-sells-greece-highest-bidders/220257/ Also see https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/05/23/syriza-m23.html Also see http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/08/14/syriza-votes-for-a-disastrous-new-eu-austerity-program/
  4. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_legislative_election,_2009 Also see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_legislative_election,_January_2015
  5. See http://www.chicagodsa.org/thomasnewdeal.html Also see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-woolner/obama-fdr-economy_b_1441367.html
  6. See http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1215464/Why-I-loathe-feminism—believe-ultimately-destroy-family.html Also see http://fathersforlife.org/pizzey/womenormen.htm
  7. See https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/mar/03/george-clooney-donald-trump-is-a-xenophobic-fascist
  8. See http://feelthebern.org/bernie-sanders-on-gun-policy/
  9. See http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2016/11/mr_trump_get_rid_of_the_department_of_education.html
  10. See https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/may/13/donald-trump-supporters-bigots-left-demonise
  11. See https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/45477
  12. See http://edition.cnn.com/2016/12/21/politics/donald-trump-hillary-clinton-popular-vote-final-count/
  13. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elections_in_France

 

IMAGE LIST:

  1. Cover Image: January 18, 2016: An illustration of a portrait of Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump on sun rays background textured by concrete wall surface. Copyright : Evgeny Gromov  Image ID : 54013914 See http://www.123rf.com/search.php?word=Donald+Trump&imgtype=&Submit=+&t_word=&t_lang=en&orderby=0&sti=ntprji688528kcsxjp|&mediapopup=54013914
  2. Title: LONDON, UK – MAY 7TH 2015: UKIP (UK Independence Party) on a Ballot Paper for a General Election, on 7th May 2015. Copyright : David Fowler Image ID : 41052231 http://www.123rf.com/search.php?word=UKIP&imgtype=0&t_word=&t_lang=en&oriSearch=Donald+Trump&sti=lsc3t8cq53hdv8kzlk|&mediapopup=41052231
  3. Title: London, England – July 1, 1991 – Margaret Thatcher, British Prime Minister, speaks at a conference. Copyright : David Fowler  Image ID : 6889279 See http://www.123rf.com/search.php?word=Margaret+Thatcher&imgtype=0&t_word=&t_lang=en&oriSearch=UKIP&sti=o1e3ey1vs8rgdj3dwn|&mediapopup=6889279
  4. Title: Title: Tony Blair – Meeting of German Chancellor with the British PM on 13 February 2007, the Federal Chancellery, Berlin-Tiergarten. Copyright : mikewaters Image ID : 45084898 http://www.123rf.com/search.php?word=Tony+Blair&imgtype=0&t_word=&t_lang=en&oriSearch=wall+street&sti=norkp8pm7kscz8sqjr|&mediapopup=45084898
  5. Title: February 2016: Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to several thousand supporters at a rally in Atlanta, Georgia. Copyright : actionsports Image ID : 55272654 See http://www.123rf.com/search.php?word=Donald+Trump&imgtype=&Submit=+&t_word=&t_lang=en&orderby=0&sti=ntprji688528kcsxjp|&mediapopup=54013914
  6. Title: Cover of Time Magazine. July 15, 1996. Vol 148. No. 4 Cover Credit: Phillip Burke.

 

 

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