This is the fourth in my series on the US Presidential Election.
Barring a fluke – Hilary Clinton getting indicted, Donald Trump being assassinated – America will go to the polls in 2016, faced with an unpalatable choice between a woman who is surrounded by scandal and a man who is very definitely a demagogue. Correctly predicting a Trump nomination – I don’t see how he can lose it now – gives me little pleasure, nor does watching the humiliation engulfing the RNC or the very different humiliation looming threateningly over the DNC.
I’ll say this now, right from the start. I blame the elites.
Donald Trump is not the cause of the problems besetting the Republican Party. He is a symptom, an antibody thrown up by the widening gulf between the RNC and the Republican Base. The RNC has consistently failed to defend the principles of conservatism, let alone take a stand against the endless series of disasters fostered on America by President Obama; indeed, it has taken a side against its own base. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that the voters have rejected the establishment candidates and chosen a man who is very definitely not part of the system. The GOP’s failure lies in its refusal to recognise the growing anger and frustration faced by its voters and respond to it. Trump is precisely what they deserve.
Hilary Clinton, by contrast, is a major cause of the problems facing the DNC. The idea that a candidate can still run for President when she is beset with as many scandals as Hilary – ranging from the Clinton Foundation’s foreign donors to a FBI-led investigation into her email server – is absurd. Anyone lesser would have been in jail long ago, a point made time and again by her enemies. The DNC was dangerously unwise to allow Hilary to run with no competent opposition – Bernie is almost certainly unelectable – and its failure to provide an acceptable candidate is going to cost it badly.
But I will discuss these issues later. First, a look at the candidates.
The problem facing Hilary Clinton is that she is both unlikable and untrustworthy. She has proven herself willing to shift her stance on everything from Wall Street to the Iraq War, constantly angling to maintain her electability. This may make political sense, but it creates the very strong impression of a woman who has no values at all. Where Bush stood his ground in Iraq, Hilary flip-flopped. She is surrounded by people of dubious repute, including at least one person with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. Her reluctance to release the transcripts of her Wall Street speeches suggests, very strongly, that there is something in those speeches that will end her campaign overnight. And yet, not releasing them only enhances the aroma of scandal surrounding her.
By any reasonable standard, Hilary Clinton is unsuited to be President.
She has been part of the establishment well before she married Bill Clinton. Her supporters claim that this has given her a great deal of experience, but it cannot be denied that she has failed to learn from mistakes, both her own and others. She was, among other things, the prime mover pushing for intervention in Libya, yet it did not occur to her that the result of overthrowing the government would be chaos. When Bush invaded Iraq, he had an army on the ground – Clinton did not. The problems plaguing Libya and the Middle East now owe a great deal to Hilary Clinton.
This is not her only foreign policy disaster. Referring to the Falklands as a ‘colonial’ issue alienated the British Government and gave strength to Argentina factions who want to invade the islands, completely ignoring the will of the islanders themselves. It might have sounded good in America (did it?) but it caused no end of problems outside the United States.
Furthermore, what we know about her conduct in Benghazi is enough, on its own, to reject her for any position of power. I did not believe – and I was not alone in this – that the attack was a spontaneous response to a movie that hardly anyone had heard of. We now know that Hilary preferred to lie, to blame the attack on a movie rather than admit that the administration’s plans for Libya had gone off the rails. Hilary was prepared to create a ‘grievance’ narrative rather than remember that we are at war and our enemies see no reason to uphold the conventions of warfare.
But let us assume, for the sake of argument, that Hilary was actually telling the truth (or believed she was.) A more disturbing picture arises. Hilary was prepared to surrender the right of free speech – the right of free expression – to a bunch of terrorists. Muslims do not have the right to riot and kill ambassadors – or anyone – merely because they feel that their religion is being insulted. To concede that this is not the case, for whatever reason, is merely doing the bad guy’s work for them. Her conduct – both during the attack and afterwards – suggests a mentality that refuses to either accept blame or learn from experience.
The Clinton Foundation represents another major liability for Hilary. It is hard to be certain that the Foundation is really nothing more than a giant money-laundering operation, but there are good reasons for believing that that is indeed the case. Just who was giving the money to the Clintons, back when Hilary was Secretary of State, and what did they expect in return? I rather doubt that anyone was prepared to shell out millions of dollars just to hear Bill Clinton speak. There was a quid pro quo involved.
And, finally, we have the email server issue.
Hilary’s conduct in setting up a server to store emails – and classified documents – during her period as Secretary of State is utterly impossible to justify. People have been fired and jailed for breaking regulations on a far smaller scale. There is, quite simply, no way Hilary did not know that what she was doing was criminal. Given that the server was supposed to have been wiped, it is impossible to be certain just how many such documents might have been on the server, or who might have had access to them. Indeed, charges of high treason – that server was probably not secure – are not impossible.
The server itself, as has been noted online, is the smoking gun. Bernie Saunders might have been right when he asserted that the country was sick of hearing about Hilary’s emails, but I suspect that people were sick that she hadn’t been removed from the campaign and jailed. The server alone is proof of criminal activity – and a disregard for rules and regulations more suited to an absolute monarch than a presidential candidate. Hilary’s constant attempts to dismiss the entire issue are merely prolonging the agony.
Quite apart from those scandals, Hilary is simply out of touch with the average American. To assert that the Clintons were broke when they left the White House is thoroughly absurd. It was either a bald-faced lie or proof of gross financial incompetence. She has been part of the establishment for so long that she doesn’t know what it is like to have to struggle to put food on the table, or cope with a groaning government bureaucracy run by people who could pass for Dolores Umbridge.
Furthermore, there are far too many other unanswered questions. Her health is a matter of some concern – Hilary is 68 years old, while Obama entered the Oval Office at 46, George Bush at 55 and Bill Clinton at 47. (Donald Trump is 69, but I don’t believe similar questions have been raised.) There are plenty of suggestions online that her health simply isn’t up to the stress of the job, regardless of her other qualities. Being President puts a colossal strain on the incumbent. Obama, Bush and Clinton have all aged decades over their terms in office.
A secondary problem is that Hilary is the wife of a former President. Quite apart from the problems of tacitly accepting a political dynasty – Jeb Bush lost quickly, at least in part, because he was the third Bush to run for office – Bill Clinton will cast a long shadow over her campaign. He may do something that will undermine his wife – there are suggestions he did precisely that during the 2007-8 period. And even if she wins, quite a few of America’s enemies – and so-called allies like Saudi Arabia – will assume she’s nothing more than a mouthpiece for her husband. The misogyny that pervades Saudi Arabia will make it hard for them to believe that she is actually President in her own right – and that doesn’t even take into account the simple fact that such cultures look down on women.
This leads to another point. To argue that Hilary will be good for women is to ignore the simple fact that she not only stood by her husband when he was accused of having an affair with an intern (and lying under oath, which was the rather more serious issue behind it), but effectively served as her husband’s enforcer in trying to keep his other lady-friends out of the public eye.
And as for the suggestion that this is somehow her ‘turn,’ I can only roll my eyes. The President of America is the single most powerful person in the world. It is not a post that can be or should be handled out according to some arcane notion of ‘fairness.’
The possible outcomes for Hilary Clinton are not good.
· She may be indicted prior to the formal nomination or the election (or the Justice Department will refuse to bring charges, leading to resignations, leaks and a massive scandal). If that happens, I don’t see how she can continue to run for President. And if she did, Trump would make mincemeat out of her.
· Alternatively, Obama may pardon her for any or all of her actions. If so, Trump will brand it a colossal case of political corruption – and he will be right.
· She may win the election, if the investigation can be stalled indefinitely, only to find herself facing savage threats and attempted impeachments from the Republican-dominated Congress.
· She may win the election, only to find that she is a lame duck. Her credibility, already shot to hell, would take a nosedive. Putin (and other enemies) will have plenty of leverage to bring to bear on her, including threatening to accuse her of taking Russian money. (She may well have done, but even if she didn’t … who’s going to believe her?)
· Or she may lose, in which case her enemies will start trying to bring her down as she takes the blame for the defeat.
In short, I’m thrilled that a woman can run for President. But does it really have to be her?
And it says a great deal about Hilary that Donald Trump seems the stronger candidate.
It is difficult to form any sort of coherent and accurate impression of Donald Trump.
I blame this squarely on the media. The media loathes Trump, which has ensured that vast numbers of increasingly-alarmist pieces have been written, attacking Trump and trying desperately to discredit him. Every little gaffe he has made has been converted into a towering mistake that dooms his campaign, only to have the media recoil in horror as Trump keeps going. Indeed, this has long-since passed the point of rationality. Trump’s intention of appointing people who actually knew what they were doing was roundly mocked, even though it was quite a sensible suggestion. The smartest man in the world could not hope to keep abreast of everything facing the US Government.
The words ‘racist,’ ‘sexist, ‘bigot’ and ‘fascist’ have long since lost their meaning, simply because far too many others – who are very clearly nothing of the sort – have had those charges hurled at them. It is very difficult to argue convincingly that Trump is a fascist when the word has been used so often that people are simply tuning it out. The media has cried wolf so many times that, like the villagers in the story, the population is no longer listening. If Trump is a monster, his rise owes a great deal to the media paving the way.
Before we go on, therefore, it is necessary to acknowledge that Trump has done the United States two vast favours.
First, he has soundly discredited the media’s claim to be arbiter of a political campaign, the ultimate judges of who is and who isn’t worthy to sit in the Oval Office. As I noted before, the media watched Republican candidates for ‘gaffes’ and then built a mountain out of a molehill, forcing candidates to either grovel before the cameras (and thus discredit themselves in the eyes of their voters) or withdraw from the campaign (thus depriving the GOP of candidates who might actually have appealed to their base.
Second, he has called attention to a great many elephants in the room. The constant problems – ranging from job losses to increased crime rates – caused by illegal immigration can no longer be ignored. Nor can the government’s reluctance to do anything about it, even though ‘illegal immigration’ is a crime by definition. Candidates who tip-toe around the issue of Black Lives Matter (with the obvious collery that white lives don’t matter) and Islamic Extremism have watched in horror as Trump pointed the finger squarely at the elephant, the problems that politicians prefer to pretend don’t exist.
And it has paid off for him. Trump’s constant rise in the polls is a reflection of just how much those matter to ordinary voters – and just how ignorant the other candidates are of ordinary voters. It is dangerously unwise to dismiss a man who has engineered a successful insurgency against a strongly-entrenched elite. Trump is many things, some good and others bad, but he is very far from stupid.
Trump does have his good points. He has considerable experience of business (he has had successes and he has had failures) and he is used to high-level discussions. He is smart enough to know when to delegate, when to hire someone more experienced to handle specific matters; he’s tough enough to keep going, rather than backing down and surrendering at the slightest hurdle. His tough persona will be a very definite advantage when dealing with foreign affairs – President Obama is seen as a feckless weakling and Hilary will be seen as more of the same – allowing him to negotiate from a strong position. And his blunt refusal to be politically correct will make it easier for him to identify problems and tackle them.
And, it should be conceded, he doesn’t have anything like the baggage that Hilary Clinton will bring to the White House.
It is hard to get a sense of just how capable he is, thanks to the media. Did Trump mess up in Colorado or did he deliberately allow Cruz to win an unopposed contest (calculating that he couldn’t win) so he could claim, with some justification, that the rules were rigged against him? A dangerous mistake or a brilliant political coup? Is his blustering style the mark of a bully, a braggart … or merely a strong negotiator making it clear that he will not be a pushover? (I’ve known hagglers who often deliberately overacted before allowing themselves to be talked down.) We simply don’t know.
Trump’s weaknesses, however, are legion. He is blunt, in-your-face; he’s a bad winner, let alone a sore loser. His experience of working with the elites is considerable, but he has never been a governor or even a senator. He can be incredibly crude and, while his refusal to allow his gaffes to define him is admirable, it is often off-putting. At base, Trump is capable of being inspiring, of speaking to the crowds in a way Hilary cannot match, but is there any substance under the style?
It is easy, absurdly easy, to carp and criticize when one is not charged with actually Doing Something about the problem. Anyone in opposition can gleefully harp on and on about the President’s mistakes, unaware – or uncaring – of the limitations facing the President. Trump is quite right to point to many problems in modern-day America, but can President Trump actually handle them? Trump – a businessman – has better reason than Obama or Hilary to know that Rome wasn’t built in a day, yet is he willing to do the hard work to create long-lasting solutions? Or, like Obama, will he opt for the ‘quick fix’ in the certain knowledge that future generations will have to pick up the bill?
His enemies have charged that he is a ‘racist,’ ‘sexist, ‘bigot’ and ‘fascist.’ Such charges have been ignored by his supporters, for the very simple reason that they too have endured such attacks. They know, at a very basic level, that such charges depend on the actual situation. ‘Bigotry’ requires irrationality. To hate the French on the grounds they eat frogs and snails is irrational (and stupid), to dislike and distrust immigrants because the crime rate goes upwards sharply after their arrival is rational.
The fundamental question, now that Trump has effectively secured the nomination, is … what now? Trump will have to grapple with issues of policy, rather than merely pontificating – there comes a time when mere demagogy is not enough. Trump will have to switch from crushing his rivals in the GOP to proving that he can best Clinton as a President. He will need to take his very vague – and sometimes contradictory – policy ideas and turn them into something reasonably concrete.
The best outcome is that Trump matures into a Reagan-like politician, selecting capable people for his cabinet (his choice for VP should make a good indicator of how he intends to proceed) and proves that he can work with Congress to address the concerns of his voters. It will not be easy, but it should be doable. If he will, of course, is a different question.
The worst outcome is that Trump will be blocked at every move – or threatened with impeachment more or less immediately. If that happens, Trump will probably follow Obama’s path and start issuing executive orders of questionable legality, turning the federal government against his critics. Trump would not need to be a Hitler-style dictator, in this position, to create a nightmare. Bear in mind that a sizable percentage of the country supports him – what will they do, one might ask, if Trump is effectively knifed in the back by the GOP before he can do anything? Obama has created very dangerous precedents for the future of the United States.
Or it could be something in between.
I don’t think I like Donald Trump very much. Bluster is one thing – and Trump is good at bluster – but actually governing is quite another. I will watch the next few months with interest.
The elites – the RNC and the DNC – have no one to blame for the current mess but themselves (and the media).
It was a dangerous mistake for the GOP to work so effectively against the Tea Party – but really, it was merely the culmination of a series of disastrous domestic policy errors. The GOP has allowed itself to be cowed by the liberal media and, to a very large extent, unduly influenced by radical factions. Opposition to gay marriage, for example, was largely pointless. If I may use a playground analogy, the GOP wanted to join the ‘cool kids,’ which meant turning away from its roots. The failure to provide an effective basis for conservative thought – and the willingness to betray the Tea Party – alienated large numbers of republicans.
Worse, because the GOP was so completely immersed in the political elite, it lost touch with its voters. Party members elected GOP majorities into office – and then discovered that the GOP was unable or unwilling to push back against the liberal elite. Jeb Bush didn’t have a hope of winning because he didn’t speak to voters. The backing of the GOP elite was nowhere near enough to push his campaign into high gear. Their voters wanted a candidate who was not part of the establishment (or, at least, successful at convincing people that he wasn’t part of the establishment.) Jeb Bush is just as much an establishment figure as Hilary Clinton.
The GOP now has nowhere to turn. If the RNC supports Trump, he is unlikely to be grateful; indeed, he may see it as his due. Why should he be grateful when the GOP elite has worked hard to sabotage his campaign? In the meantime, the RNC will be tainted with Trump’s brand – the Democrats will accuse them of being Trump supporters. But if the RNC doesn’t support Trump – perhaps by running a third-party candidate – Trump will cry foul (and he will have a point.) Should Trump lose, under such circumstances, the elites will be blamed – and probably correctly. The GOP elite is screwed. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t.
On the face of it, the DNC appears to have done a better job. The establishment candidate – Hilary Clinton – has probably secured the nomination. But the DNC has good reason to fear for the future. If Hilary is indicted, the DNC will have to scramble to find a replacement at such short notice; even if she isn’t, she simply isn’t a very likeable candidate.
Worse, perhaps, there is no guarantee that Bernie Sanders voters will switch to Hilary, assuming that Sanders doesn’t attempt a third party run. (If he does, he will split the Democrat vote and probably hand victory to Trump.) The perception that the nomination process was rigged in Hilary’s favour (and that the DNC was prepared to use all sorts of dirty tricks to push Sanders out of the contest) will encourage Sanders voters to either stay home or cast their vote for Trump. Why should they not? The idea that Hilary can just claim the nomination without having to fight for it, particularly with criminal charges hanging over her head, is outrageous. And if the DNC chooses to accept her, it would be hard to blame their voters for walking away.
This is, I suspect, an inevitable result of the two-party system. The only thing holding both parties together is the awareness that one party splitting, while the other remains intact, will ensure that the intact party is dominant for the foreseeable future. America might well be better off if there were four or five parties, instead of two, but it is hard to imagine such a system arising without serious consequences.
Furthermore, the elites live in isolated communities and echo chambers. How many of them actually meet ‘commoners’ outside carefully-controlled media events? How many of them are actually aware of just how many problems face those who don’t get to swim in a slush fund of money, passed around by corporations who are hoping to influence the candidates? Their ignorance of the real world blinds them. They cannot hope to grapple with the problems facing the country because they don’t know what those problems are!
In short, perhaps it is time for the elites to step down and allow new blood to enter the political mainstream. But I doubt the elites will go quietly.
The mainstream media (MSM) adds another nasty wrinkle to the growing political crisis.
Put simple, the MSM long since lost sight of its job – to report the facts. The media chose, instead, to shrill for the candidates it liked and deliberately slant its work against the candidates it didn’t like. There was no comprehensive vetting of Barrack Obama’s suitability for office back in 2007-8, while Sarah Palin was hacked apart by the media. Sober, responsible journalism is dead – the media establishment killed it.
It is ironic that the MSM, choosing to slander the GOP by turning Trump into their poster boy for the republican side of the election, actually boosted his presence. But that is not surprising. The media is trusted so little, I suspect, that every hit piece they wrote on Trump only boosted his support. Trump looked like the plucky little underdog who stood up to the big bad media complex – and it worked. One may argue that Trump is nothing of the sort, but it hardly matters. In politics, perception is all that matters.
In choosing to lash out at any GOP candidate who made a gaffe, a tiny slip of the tongue, the media cleared the field of prospective GOP nominees who could have bridged the gulf between the RNC and its voters. In doing so, they ensured the rise of Donald Trump …
… And if Trump really is the monster they claim, they are not long for this world.
And now we come to the final question, perhaps the most important one. Why are so many people committing themselves to Donald Trump? And, for that matter, Bernie Sanders?
In some ways, this is an easy question to answer. In others, it’s very hard. And, if you don’t mind, I’m going to address it in a somewhat roundabout fashion.
The term ‘quantum of solace’ brings to mind the James Bond movie. But the term actually comes from a short story by Ian Fleming, a story that barely features James Bond. The morale of the story, made explicit at the end, is that any relationship can last, can survive anything, as long as the partners still have mutual feelings for each other. But when that feeling, that ‘quantum of solace,’ is gone, the relationship is over. Indeed, the partners become horrendously cruel towards one another.
And the relationship between the American population at large and the political elite has eroded to the point where that ‘quantum of solace’ is gone.
The people who vote for Trump feel a multitude of emotions. They feel that they have been disenfranchised by a liberal elite. They feel that their (very reasonable) concerns are mocked and disparaged, when they are not ignored. They feel angry and frustrated at having to do battle with a federal bureaucracy that seems to take an unholy delight in tormenting them. They feel that the rules are different for different people – and that they are on the bottom rung. They feel as though they are struggling desperately to remain afloat, knowing that one disaster will be enough to destroy their lives. And they feel as though they are blamed for each and every evil in the world, as if they have to bear the burden of this ‘original sin’ for the rest of eternity.
Their problems take many forms. It is low-educated people recoiling in horror at unrestricted immigration … because the immigrants are competition for scarce jobs. It is people being told, by politicians who live in gated and guarded communities, that no one ever needs a gun for self-defence. It is rioters on the streets being allowed room to destroy. It is people discovering that their teenage children cannot read and write because the teacher is incompetent, but they cannot have the teacher fired because of some absurd federal rule. It is men having to pay for the upkeep of children they did not sire, or fathers being told they have to keep paying child support while no longer being allowed to see their children. It is collage students being indoctrinated into social justice rather than trained for a proper career. It is people dying because the EPA has poisoned the water, knowing that heads will never roll.
It is people losing their jobs because they say the wrong thing and someone decided to take offense, it is blacks being allowed to hurl racist crap at whites while whites are not allowed the same latitude, it is watching helplessly as jobs are shipped overseas and prices rise, because some ‘green’ governor has decided to invest in so-called renewable energy that is far more costly than nuclear or coal-fired plants. It is regulations that ruin small businesses while big corporations dump on the little guy or replace him with automaton. It is minimum wage hikes that cost jobs. It is ordinary people losing everything, despite doing everything right, because of the banking crisis. It is a thug and a thief being beatified, after their deaths, merely for being black. It is …
I could go on, but why bother?
The arrogance and consension of liberals is maddening. Telling a person who is holding down two part-time jobs (and struggling to keep afloat) that he should ‘check his privilege’ is insulting beyond words. What privilege? Trump voters – or the people who would become Trump voters – have been savaged. Their reasonable concerns about immigration, for example, have been twisted out of shape and used to brand them racists. And yet they know damn well they are not racists! Their concerns are reasonable and yet they are ignored.
For far too long, the elites have been sneering at the common voter. “You can’t win,” they say. “And if it looks like you will win, we will change the rules just to make sure you can’t win.”
Why should they not vote for Trump? He’s the only one listening to them.
It is not an exaggeration to say that the United States is facing the most serious crisis since the civil war.
The root cause of the problem lies in the massive expansion of the federal government and, not coincidentally, the belief amongst liberals that government can be used to reshape the country to their liking. Unfortunately, the more one demands from the government – and the more power one offers the government – the less it can actually do for you. The people who make decisions, therefore, become disconnected from the rest of the population and wind up viewing them as labels or numbers, rather than individuals. This has spurred the rise in demands for ‘social justice’ because ‘social justice’ sees people as groups, rather than individuals. And that is fundamentally unjust.
And so it spurs resistance. Anger is rising. The much-condemned growth of white nationalism is a response to the belief (real or not) that white interests are being sacrificed to please other groups. The average American is sick and tired of being told that evil white men are responsible for all the evils of the world, or that thuggish behaviour is somehow acceptable if the perpetrator can claim to be responding to provocation or grievances that have nothing to do with his helpless victims. In closing down free discussion, in hammering anyone who dares to speak up, the liberals have unleashed a tidal wave of incoherent anger that may be terrifyingly destructive, when it breaks free. The kicked dog, kicked once too often, is now growling warningly. It will not be long before he bites.
Indeed, Hilary and Trump, as I noted above, are symptoms of political decline. On one hand, we have the ultimate establishment insider, a former First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State who hobnobs with Wall Street bankers and takes money from all and sundry, a woman who would be in jail if she was one of the little people. Her candidacy is a joke in very poor taste. On the other hand, we have a demagogue who promises much and may not be able to deliver. His candidacy is a joke in very poor taste.
And if either the RNC or the DNC had actually realised there was a problem before it was too late, the country might not have come to such a pass.
I wish I was sanguine about the future, but I’m not.