Tag Archives: presidential election

Donald Trump leads us back to the future, to the dark days of US history

Summary: Every election gives us the opportunity to shape America. We do not choose the specific national policies of the next four years, since Presidents often don’t do what they promised. Rather we give a nudge to the evolution of America; we influencing what we become. Those who vote make that decision. The choices, however unappealing, are unusually clear in 2016.

On September 22 Donald Trump attended at 45-minute long rally at Rochester, New Hampshire, speaking to about 3,000 people. Anyone who believes America is not in serious trouble should read these remarks as reported by The Hill.

“We have a problem in this country, it’s called Muslims. We know our current president is one — you know he’s not even an American. But anyway, we have training camps growing where they want to kill us. That’s my question, when can we get rid of them?”

Trump responded: “We’re going to be looking at a lot of different things, a lot of people are saying bad things are happening, we’re going to be looking at that and plenty of other things.”

A second man stood and made the same claim. “I applaud the gentleman who stood and said Obama is a Muslim born abroad and about the military camps, everyone knows that,” he said.

“Right,” Trump responded, before quickly moving to the next questioner.

… {A woman in the audience} told him that there is a “new holocaust” in New Hampshire and that people are being loaded into boxcars and beheaded by members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. “I just wanted you to know that,” the woman said. Trump moved on without addressing the woman’s claim.

The remarks from the people are unexceptional; every society has people on the fringes with such views. Hatred of people different from ourselves is a sad but widespread phenomenon around the world and across history. It is an endemic “disease” that has errupted again in America, as reported by the NYT: “New Poll Finds Anti-Muslim Sentiment Frighteningly High“.

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Why did we elect Obama, “the World’s Most Important Spectator”?

Summary: Today we have an article by Prof Bromwich painting a portrait of Obama. As his term slides to its end and the 2016 election begins we must learn from our experience. Yet again we elected as President someone with inadequate experience but a powerful image, as if we vote for the best float in the Memorial Day parade. So long as we remain uninvolved in the political machinery, as consumers, our elites will serve us only choices that meet their needs — not ours.

Obama: Hope


The World’s Most Important Spectator

David Bromwich (Professor of English, Yale)

London Review of Books, 2 July 2014

Reprinted with the permission of the author and LRB


The first year and a half of Barack Obama’s second term has been preternaturally unlucky. The stymied enrollments for his healthcare plan, the multiple errors of computer co-ordination that forced people to wait days or weeks in front of blank screens, marred the new faith in government the plan had been intended to affirm. Just when, around the end of April, the trouble seemed to be halfway resolved, with millions finally insured and several deadlines put off, there emerged stories of faked records of treatment and months-long waiting lists at Veterans Hospitals. It was another failure of managerial competence, in another branch of government to which Obama had professed the warmest commitment. And there has been nothing resembling a success in foreign policy to offset the embarrassments at home. The United States, which always needs to be doing something, was in no position to do much about the Russian annexation of Crimea or the conflict in Ukraine.

A common feature in all these events was that Obama himself seemed far from the scene. He was looking on, we were made to think, with concern and understanding. But in matters like these, one could easily feel that a conspicuous sign of a ‘hands-on’ president was needed. Apparently Obama was startled by the bad rollout of healthcare – shocked and dismayed like all Americans. But shouldn’t he have known more about it than most Americans? Again, the Veterans Affairs scandal was something he learned about when he read the papers, but why only then? His show of injured trust and surprise had been received more charitably on the still obscure earlier occasion when four Americans were killed in Benghazi on 11 September 2012. He was notified at the time, but he was in the middle of campaigning and left the crisis to the State Department. Absent and accounted for. Yet there has been, all along, an airy and unnerving quality about these absences. Obama launched the bombing of Libya in March 2011, having previously signaled that he intended no such action, in an emergency speech during a state visit to Brazil.

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What will Obama do in term II? He’ll finish the great work of term I!

Summary:  Today we guess about Obama’s next term. Post your thoughts in the comments. I expect him (or Him) to finish the great work of this first term, moving the US political spectrum decisively to the Right by committing the Democratic Party to conservative policies. His first term did that with Bush Jr’s national security and financial regulation policies.  Now he’ll do the same by slashing the New Deal’s safety net and firmly extending the Bush Jr’s flattish taxes (ie, only partially undoing them).  First in this series about the results of Campaign 2012; see the other posts listed at the end.

“Barack Obama broadly follows Ronald Reagan’s (second term) security policy, George H.W. Bush’s spending policy, Bill Clinton’s tax policy, the bipartisan Squam Lake Group’s financial-regulatory policy, Rick Perry’s immigration policy, John McCain’s climate-change policy, and Mitt Romney’s health-care policy.”
— A charitable view of Obama by good liberal Brad DeLong (Prof Economics, Berkeley), 10 Sept 2012


  1. Term two will take us further to the right
  2. Michael Hudson explains
  3. Valuable articles about the election, and term II
  4. This series about the results of Election 2012
  5. For More Information

(1)  Term two will take us further to the right

All public policy in America remains uncertain until adopted by both major parties. FDR’s revolutionary new deal and internationalist policies were finalized by Eisenhower and Nixon.

Bush Jr’s revolutionary policy changes were too soon, too large for Obama to absorb in one term:  global interventionist military, low taxes for the rich (undoing much of the progressive tax structure), “unitary executive” (few practical limits on Executive power).  But he did yeoman work, quashing the opportunity for regulatory reform of the banks and stimulus programs to start the rebuilding of America — expanding Bush Jr’s wars into new lands (especially Africa), and continuing the historic rollback of civil liberties that took centuries to achieve.

Quite an accomplishment for four years.  More change than the 1% hoped for!  The next four years might prove even more rewards, showing their massive expenditures in Campaign 2012 successfully shifted the Overton Window to the Right — allowing Obama to drag the Democratic Party to the Right.

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The hidden major party, the key to political control of America

Summary: Non-voters are our largest political “party”, mostly ignored by gurus in the new media. Neither the Left or Right has successfully appealed to them. The first to do so with even modest success will dominate our government, perhaps for generations.

Andrew Gelman, 8 Nov 2012

Graph of the silent plurality by Andrew Gelman (Prof Statistics & Political Science, Columbia) from his website.


  1. About our largest party…
  2. … the key to political dominance
  3. About those demographics
  4. A mass movement that captures a party
  5. This series about Campaign 2012
  6. For More Information

(1) About our largest party …

From “Refusing to vote either red or blue” by Andrew Gelman, New York Daily News, 8 November 2012 — “Some 40% of eligible voters stayed away on Tuesday or cast ballots for third-party candidates”

When it comes to public opinion, the story is different. The Democrats may well benefit in 2014 and 2016 from the anticipated slow but steady recovery of the economy over the next few years — but, as of 6 November 2012, the parties are essentially tied, with Barack Obama receiving 51% of the two-party vote, compared to Mitt Romney’s 49%, a split comparable to Al Gore’s narrow victory in 2000, Richard Nixon’s in 1968, and John Kennedy’s in 1960. Over the next few months, you will be hearing a lot about Obama’s non-mandate, and rightly so.

But here I want to talk about a slightly different split of the voting-eligible population: the approximately 30% who voted for Obama, the nearly identical number who chose Romney, and the 40% who did not vote at all or who voted for minor-party candidates.

Update from the comments: SDW points us to “Nonvoters: Who They Are, What They Think“, Pew Research, 1 November 2012.

(2) … the key to political dominance in America

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Invaluable guidance to read before you vote

Summary: Here are three excerpts from articles that perfectly express my view about the election, doing so far better than I could. Please read them in full.  This is an important election, although in different ways than believed by partisans on both sides.

Cast your ballot!



  1. The Politics of Fear“, Mark Danner, New York Review of Books, 22 November 2012
  2. Yes, Virginia, the election is almost over …“, Stephen M. Walt (Prof of international relations, Harvard), Foreign Policy,
    5 November 2012
  3. Obama, Romney & Enthusiasm“, Mike Kimel, Angry Bear, 4 November 2012
  4. Is democracy a good system of government?
  5. For More Information about Campaign 2012


(1)  The Politics of Fear” by Mark Danner
From the New York Review of Books, 22 November 2012

It’s brilliant, but too long & complex to excerpt. Please read it in full.

Mark Danner is a Professor of English, Journalism and Politics at UC Berkeley and a Professor of Foreign Affairs, Politics & the Humanities at Bard College. He currently teaches at Al Quds University in East Jerusalem. His most recent book is Stripping Bare the Body: Politics Violence War.  His next, Torture and the Forever War, will be published in Spring 2013. See his writing and other work at his website.

(2) Yes, Virginia, the election is almost over …“, Stephen M. Walt (Prof of international relations, Harvard), Foreign Policy, 5 November 2012

What makes it easy is looking at the other side. The Romney campaign’s critique of Obama’s foreign policy is about as factually accurate as its fairy budget proposals. It’s also schizophrenic: The Romney campaign wants you to think Obama has been too hard on our allies and too easy on our foes, yet in the third debate Romney agreed with almost all of Obama’s policies. Moreover, his campaign’s reliance on a bunch of neoconservative retreads tells you he’s either craven or a bad judge of talent, and neither is an especially appealing quality for a future leader.

If you’re still undecided, all you need to do is contrast Obama’s pitch-perfect foreign tour in 2008 with the gaffe and pander-filled Romney tour last summer. On foreign policy grounds, therefore, this decision is a no-brainer.

(3) Obama, Romney & Enthusiasm“, Mike Kimel, Angry Bear, 4 November 2012 (red emphasis added):

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Last week’s dark prediction becomes this week’s news about the campaign

Summary: Forecasting the next stage in the decay of the Second Republic becomes more difficult as it accelerates. Last week we posted Putin’s ads today are those of America’s future, describing the likely evolution of campaigns into entertainment — like Wimbledon, a fun stylish competitive event — as the policy differences between the candidates diminishes. Last week’s prediction has become this week’s news.


October 19th’s post looked at advertisements for Putin’s campaign and concluded that the Second Republic has fallen into a process of decay. The 2008 election allowed us to choose between different candidates with almost identical policies. That was not obvious to those that voted for Mr. Hope And Change. Four years experience has shown that Obama’s economic and national security policies are almost identical to Bush Jr’s.

Now we have a new election, new choices. The banality of the 2012 slogans — Romney’s “Believe in America” and Obama’s “Forward” — cannot be exceeded, and the reality-free nature of this campaign will prove difficult to top. The news media expect little (rightly so), and cover the election as they do figure skating at the Olympics.

So what is the natural evolution of elections in the post-Constitutional era, as we slide from the Second Republic into plutocracy? We can look to Russia to see our future, where they run campaigns — but few expect anything serious from them.

Not much of a prediction; more like advance reporting. Now we have the confirmation: Joshua Keating at Foreign Policy flags this new YouTube ad from the Obama campaign featuring Girls star Lena Dunham, and explains the similarity to Putin’s ads.



The similarity Keating mentions is to a series of advertisements from Putin’s campaign with the theme “Putin — the first time is just for love.” Such as this one, eerily evocative of the Obama as savior hysteria from 2008 (which the ad with Dunham attempts to recreate). The translation (from a Huffington Post article):

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Under the cloak of liberalism America slides to Fascism

Summary: Today’s post shows that another American has become aware that our two major parties have broadly similar policies, differing mostly in the speed with which they’ll take us to oligarchy and empire. That’s not to say that the choice is unimportant. Speed is deadly for us, allowing less time to resist.

This is the 7th in a series of posts about the possible death of the Second Republic, and the evolution of a new political regime.

Under the Cloak of Liberalism – America on the Cusp of Fascism

By Norman Pollack, CounterPunch, 12-14 October 2012.

It’s well worth reading in full. This excerpt looks at the choice offered us in 2012.

Obama is unassailable, enjoying the protective cloak of the state secrets doctrine (which, also as the National Security State, he invokes constantly), the liberal glossing on all policy matters, thanks to the extremely able spinmeisters Axelrod and Rhodes, and an adoring, submissive, uncritical base, in deep denial and for whatever reasons unwilling to examine the administration’s record. That record confirms the long-term political, economic, and moral bankruptcy of the Democratic party, whose differentiating character setting it apart from the Republicans lies in the magnitude of skilled evasion and/or deception surrounding policies which themselves replicate the central elements in those of their opponents.

Republicans sincerely criticize Obama because they are too ignorant to recognize, in their rush to antigovernment rhetoric, that he takes the same position as they smoothed out to please a base at best composed of pretend-radicalism and, equally, to ward off criticism from those who desperately want to believe his earlier promises. This comes down to political theater at its cruelest.

The list of actual betrayal is long and virtually covering his public policy without exception. (A good start can be found in the critical essays in Hopeless, a true icebreaker for the uninformed prepared to listen.) Let me select several obvious examples.
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