Trump and the 1% lead America back to its past, to its dark roots

Summary: Look to the past to see the future of the Trump revolution. That means seeing through the half-truths of both the doomsters and the panglossians. Here’s a brief look at the bad news and the good news. Draw your own conclusions.

Donald Trump's Revolution

The Trump “revolution” is a moment in the wave of history carrying the US to the right. Most Americans do not understand because of their amnesia about our history. Much of what we love about America was true only for a moment. Most of American history is dark. Slavery of Africans. Treaty-breaking, enslavement, and genocide of American Indians. Colonial wars. The long destruction of the craftsman and farming classes. The centralization of power and wealth in the 1%.

Our history is too dark; we do not want to see it. So we manufactured myths to replace facts. We cheer the triumph of “John Wayne in Chisum, the opposite of actual sad events in the Lincoln County War (the cavalry arrived to help the bad guys, as it so often did).

The post-WWII era was an anomaly in our history, a new beginning created by the fires of the Great Depression and WWII. The campaign rhetoric about American exceptionalism, our role as a force for good in the world, our love of social mobility and equality — all was true (in the incomplete fashion of the real world) for a few decades after WWII. Now we have the inevitable counter-revolution, a reversion to the mean of America driven by the immeasurable power and wealth of the 1%. Beginning in the 1970’s they laid plans, which they have lavishly funded and skillfully executed.

I have written warnings about this since 2003. Commenters overwhelmingly said I was exaggerating our danger. Now my predictions appear on the front pages as generations of progress are erased. The 1% has built its political power for four decades; now they have begun to use it. Mother Nature does not care about right and wrong; the 1% deserve to win by her cold logic. Slow and stupid are sins she always punishes.

The old America is resurgent: rule by the exploitative plutocracy backed by domestic force, with an unprincipled and extractive foreign policy. They have just begun to reshape America.

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Payback time! Will Trump and conservatives crush their foes?

Summary: Op-eds about the Trump administration discuss people and policy, as if Washington were run by Vulcans. They seldom mention the desires for revenge and to crush their foes. What role will these motives play in the actions of Team Trump? Much of the Left’s hysteria is fear that he will to do treat them like they’ve treated the Right. But the situation is more complex than it looks.

This might become conservative’s theme song for the Trump years.

Payback band's official logo

“Many great ones through the ages
have attained to earthly power.
Yet they all but had their hour,
…Still the mill wheel turns, it turns forever,
though what is uppermost remains not so.
The water underneath in vain endeavor
does the work but always stays below.

— From Bertolt Brecht’s “Ballad of the Mill Wheel”. See this book of his work.

For decades liberals have maintained the moral high ground due to their hold on key institutions in academic and government. They deployed this power to delegitimize conservatives, calling them deniers, racists, anti-Semitic, and sexists — often with little or no factual basis. It worked well for years, but even the sharpest sword dulls with overuse. Liberals unleashed fifteen months of invective on Trump, a hate bombardment with few precedents in US history. It failed.

Now the wheel turns, as Trump brings new players to Washington who don’t respect the game as it has evolved since the 1960’s. Now comes the opportunity for the GOP to get payback. Much of the Left’s hysteria about Trump comes from their fear that he will do to them what they’ve done to conservatives during the past few decades. But the situation is more complex than it looks.

First, there is an element of revenge. The GOP Congress could defund the climate scientists who attacked and mocked them (leaving untouched the immediately valuable weather forecasters). Congress and the President could investigate Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation as persistently and irrationally as they did the Benghazi Benghazi BENGHAZI incident. Congress and the President could uproot the social justice warriors in the Federal bureaucracy, ending their crusades (e.g., against the fake “campus rape culture”). This could be a long list.

Second, striking back at foes is sound political strategy. Game theory shows that Tit for Tat is among the most effective strategies in situations like politics. Gandhi and Jesus provide wonderful ideals, but it is not necessarily survivable advice for the life in Washington.

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Three things to expect from the Trump era

Summary: What can we expect from the Trump era? The internet overflows with guesses fueled by imagination plus Trump’s vague and contradictory statements. Here are three more, but better founded. Trump will make the 1% happy. Populism is toast. Congress will set the agenda. See the reasons; put your reactions in the comments.

Trump: Make America Great Again

Key #1: Trump the outsider becomes an insider

“What might President Trump’s defense policy look like? We have few solid facts to go on. But one is of overriding importance: because Trump is anti-establishment…”
William Lind.

History teaches that events make opinions. As I said in January (when he Wise said Trump’s odds of winning were a joke), Trump’s rise will resemble events in March 1815, when Napoleon broke his exile on Elba and marched to Paris. See the headlines in Le Moniteur Universel reporting his progress.

  • The cannibal has left his lair. — March 9.
  • The Corsican ogre has just landed at the Juan Gulf. — March 10.
  • The tiger has arrived at Gap. — March 11.
  • The monster slept at Grenoble. — March 12.
  • The tyrant has crossed Lyons. — March 13.
  • The usurper was seen sixty leagues from the capital. — March 18.
  • Bonaparte has advanced with great strides, but he will never enter Paris. — March 19.
  • Tomorrow, Napoleon will be under our ramparts. — March 20.
  • The Emperor has arrived at Fontainbleau. — March 21.
  • His Imperial and Royal Majesty entered his palace at the Tuileries last night in the midst of his faithful subjects. — March 22.

Americans love a winner. Doubly so for our journalists and courtiers in the Versailles-on-the-Potomac. Trump the outcast will become Trump the star. So our leaders will work with Trump.

Trump’s campaign put him in opposition to our ruling elites. Will that be the pattern of his Presidency, or will he pursue policy changes they both want?  They have a long list of shared goals, a list to keep Washington busy for four years (see the next section).

We know two facts about Trump. First, his history shows no signs either of strong ideological convictions or of rebellion against his fellow plutocrats. Second, he is a master of the deal. Both imply good news for America’s 1%! Perhaps the deal has already been made…

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Stratfor: Manufacturing Is A Campaign Promise That Trump Cannot Keep

Summary: Trump made big promises during the campaign. Now they come due. Some solutions will be difficult, some unconstitutional, some impossible. Stratfor explains how his promises about manufacturing and trade are the latter. America’s businesses are enmeshed in the world economy, a world regulated by a web of treaties. Stepping out of those without ripping the world probably can’t be done.


Manufacturing: A Campaign Promise That Trump Cannot Keep
Stratfor, 11 November 2016.

Throughout the race for the White House, President-elect Donald Trump vowed to renegotiate trade deals to restore the manufacturing jobs that have all but vanished from the U.S. economy. In making this promise, he was not breaking new ground; President Barack Obama made similar assurances in his 2008 run for office. And much like his predecessor, Trump will face considerable challenges in fulfilling his pledge, constrained by the geopolitical, structural and institutional forces surrounding him. Without a doubt, the next president will usher in changes to U.S. economic and trade policies. But he will likely find a wide gap between theory and practice as he tries to deliver on many of his campaign promises.

Despite Trump’s threats to unilaterally pull out of NAFTA, any attempt to do so would meet with legal and constitutional objections and resistance from the U.S. business community. The NAFTA trade bloc is one of the largest in the world, and the trade partnership it affords Mexico and the United States is vital to both countries. Mexico is not only the United States’ third-largest source of imports but also its second-largest export destination, accounting for almost $250 billion in 2015. Furthermore, much of the United States’ trade relationship with Mexico, unlike its trade ties with most other countries, is heavily integrated into American supply chains, providing auto parts, raw materials and energy for use in manufacturing.

In addition to the problems it would cause with the Mexican and Canadian governments, a sudden withdrawal from NAFTA would hurt U.S. companies with significant operations in Mexico, such as Ford and Wal-Mart. At the same time, pulling out of the free trade agreement and slapping hefty tariffs on imports would likely prompt Mexico to take similar action against the United States, diminishing export revenue. Consequently, the next administration will probably take a slow, methodological approach to its trade relations with Mexico, focusing on the country’s compliance with environmental standards regulations and rules of origin.

Trump may highlight a few industries for scrutiny to goad Mexico City to the negotiating table. But the new president will have more important things to worry about than severing trade ties with Mexico — like appointing a Cabinet and filling the vacancy on the Supreme Court with a weak Republican majority in Congress.

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Clinton lost because fear failed, and voters disliked her Social Justice Warriors

Summary: Political gurus gush forth with explanations for Trump’s victory in the Electoral College (although more Americans voted for Clinton). They discuss arcane strategy, the effect of the media, personalities, and scores of other things (mostly trivial). But there are two elephants in the room. First, Clinton relied on the politics of fear, which surprisingly failed. Second, Social Justice Warriors (her shock troops) terrified voters — who realized the power SJW’s would wield as commissars in an HRC administration. Together these two factors account for her support dropping by the tiny margin that led to defeat in the Electoral College.

Hillary Clinton

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

No Fear

(1)  Clinton’s politics of fear failed

“He who has overcome his fears will truly be free.”
By Aristotle, from Joannes Stobaeus’ Florilegium.

The Democrats ran the anything but issues campaign on the fear Trump platform. Fear climate change, fear sexism, fear racism, fear nativism, fear Russia, fear fascism, fear NAZIs, etc.  These created a weak foundation for Clinton’s campaign, especially as she spent so little effort describing an alternative great future for America.

The Putin connection was only weakly supported and extremely speculative. The non-Left majority of Americans was skeptical about the odds of severe danger from climate change. The -ism’s became ineffective after decades of the Left using them as generic attacks on all their foes. Saying Trump was Hitler just triggered Godwin’s Law, probably ending many people’s interest in her message.

For all his clownish behavior and many flaws, Trump offered an action-based plan and a vision for a better America that appealed to many voters. It was a classic case of something beating nothing.

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Breaking the myths about Campaign 2016, so we can prepare for 2020

Summary: By nightfall after Trump’s election we had rationalized away this astonishing event with myths, ensuring that we learn nothing from Campaign 2016, Let’s strip away these pleasing stories and confront the truth — no matter how painful. Then we can start to prepare for a better choice in 2020.

President Donald Trump


  1. Myth: Trump won the election!
  2. Myth: The polls were very wrong!
  3. Myth: The election repudiated US elites!
  4. Myth: 2016 was a victory for populism!
  5. The big lesson from Campaign 2016.
  6. For More Information.

(1)  Myth: Trump won the election!

The final counts are not in, but Clinton currently leads by over 200,000 votes (roughly 0.2%). Estimates for her actual total are well over a million votes. The Electoral College put Trump in the White House, as it did with Bush Jr. in 2000 (Gore won by 440 thousand votes, 0.5%.

Like our bizarrely allocation of votes in the Senate (our version of Britain’s “rotten boroughs“), the Electoral College is a historical artifact of our governing system that has outlived its utility — but we are too lazy to fix. For more about it see this article by Scott Lemieux (Prof of Political Science, College of St. Rose) in The New Republic.

(2)  Myth: the polls were very wrong!

People saying the polls did not predict correctly predict the outcome often point to the surveys in the months before the vote, forgetting what polls do. First, polls measure the public’s current intentions — they don’t predict future votes. The correct comparison is between pre-election surveys and the actual vote. The last average of 4-way polls tracked by RealClearPolitics gave Clinton a 3.3% lead — vs. her current lead of 0.2%. The remaining uncounted votes will narrow this gap, perhaps giving her much larger win. (California has 4.4 million of them; if she gets 62%, that’s 2.7 million more votes.)

Second, polls are statistical tools — not Dr. Strange’s magic spells. They should be presented with error bars showing the uncertainty of the survey. News stories about election polls and forecasts don’t have them, nor do stories about economic surveys, nor do stories about climate data and forecasts. The press want simple stories. Experts who insist about discussing uncertainty get no more calls from journalists. We’re ignorant because we read the news.

Consider the uncertainties in estimating the vote from polls. Only a small fraction of people answer polls, only some of those will answer honestly, and only some of those who answer will vote. Then there are systemic challenges in any polling methodology, such as extrapolating from the sample who they call and who answers to the actual population of people who vote.

The average of pre-election polls missed the actual result by 3.1% (estimated 3.3% vs. actual +0.2%). I have not found the margin of error for the major polls, let alone the average of polls, but I’ll bet that is within the 95% margins.

Third, our whining about the polls is so modern American. We get the poll accuracy we pay for. Journalists could pool their money and have a few large accurate surveys. But polls are fillers between the advertisements, so each corporate media wants its own. So we get dozens of polls, none very accurate. For more about the margin of error in polls see this note by Pew Research.

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Resources to help you prepare for the Trump years

Summary: Trump’s victory surprised the experts. But the potential for radical change, the alienation that caused it, and the resulting rise of populism have all been discussed at the FM website. Here are resources to help you prepare for what lies ahead for America during the next four years. Understanding is the first step. See tomorrow’s post a closer look at what we can expect during the Trump years.

“In preliminary exit polls …voters are expressing more fear than excitement over both a Trump and a Clinton win.”
— “The Country Is Terrified” by Ella Koeze at 538. Fear is the real winner in 2016.

Trump: make Americ great again

Predictions: I relied on the experts’ models and they were wrong, hence these go on the Fails & Smackdows page: Forecast: Clinton will crush Trump in November and The five reasons Trump will lose in November. Maximilian Forte (Prof Anthropology, Concordia U) was correct: An anthropologist explains why Trump will win in November. Here I listed some reasons that Trump might win.

The hidden factor that might have decided the electionMax Weber explains Trump 2016: we want a charismatic leader to restore America and Hillary’s weakness: traditional & charismatic leaders attack her bureaucratic authority.

Significance: This is a massive repudiation of the US ruling class, which was unified behind Hillary to an extent rarely seen in US history, as I described in here and here. Several posts described these dynamics of the election: Trump, not Sanders, is the revolutionary and Why Trump thrives despite the news media’s attacks.

About Trump’s views, ignored or hidden by the press: Trump wins because he says some sensible things which journalists can’t conceal (You must not see populism!), Trump says interesting things about foreign policy that scare our elitesTaxes: one of the bright lines distinguishing Trump from ClintonWhat Trump means by putting “America First”, and Prof Danner looks at “The Magic of Donald Trump”.

“And as a single leaf turns not yellow but with the silent knowledge of the whole tree, so the wrong-doer cannot do wrong without the hidden will of you all.”
— Khalil Gibran in The Prophet (1923).

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