Tag Archives: presidential election

Prof Danner looks at “The Magic of Donald Trump”

Summary: Here’s a gem amidst the flood of nonsense that is Campaign 2016. Berkeley Professor Mark Danner gives a sensible liberal analysis of the Trump phenomenon, with its strengths and biases.

“Like Hercules, Donald Trump is a work of fiction.”
— From “An Open Letter to Trump Voters from His Top Strategist-Turned-Defector” by Stephanie Cegielski at xoJane.

A bien pensant Professor of English at Berkeley looks at Trump and sees only his biases — but he makes some powerful points…

Excerpt from “The Magic of Donald Trump

By Mark Danner
at the New York Review of Books

Review of Crippled America:
How to Make America Great Again


About the business of Campaign 2016

If television is the business of delivering audiences to advertisers, Trump has delivered audiences as no candidate ever has or could. Twenty-four million pairs of eyeballs mean real money. Trump brings those numbers, no one else. And if it is true that the networks have lavished upon him $2 billion worth of airtime in the jocosely named “free media,” then surely they’ve made it back and more. Television has covered him wall to wall, for he means money. …

About foreign policy

{Trump’s criticism of our allies} gains credibility for turning on its head the entire drift of post–World War II American propaganda that said the country acted to rebuild Europe and protect the free world not out of national self-interest but out of good old exceptional American generosity. Trump, a baby boomer who was born in 1946 and imbibed this story with his breakfast cereal, clearly takes this roseate version of history as gospel truth and regards any country that would act in such a self-sacrificing way as a sap. …

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Trump wins because he says some sensible things which journalists can’t conceal

Summary: Political gurus have mocked Trump, run silly pictures of him, and dissected his soundbites without finding the source of his appeal to so many voters. Now they’re descending into hysteria, surprised by his predictable primary wins. Instead let’s look at what he says. Surprisingly to those that rely on journalists for news, Trump says some sensible things with broad appeal — including a few that appeal to Left and Right. No matter if he wins or loses, 2016  might start a populist redefinition of America’s political coalitions. Whether for good or ill is up to us.

Donald Trump with American flag

By Ethan Miller; Getty Images.

Since the foolish rebuttals have failed to derail Trump’s campaign (e.g., running silly pictures of Trump, mocking his soundbites while ignoring his policies, and stern condemnations), let’s try hearing what Trump says. Perhaps it might explain some of the popularity that has brought him so close to the GOP nomination — and so close to Hillary in the polls.

The CNN-Telemundo Republican Debate on February 25

Excerpts from the Washington Post’s transcript

Trump’s Opening: explaining his goals

My whole theme is make America great again. We don’t win anymore as a country. We don’t win with trade, we don’t win with the military. ISIS, we can’t even knock out ISIS … We don’t win in any capacity with healthcare. We have terrible health care … You look at our borders, they’re like swiss cheese, everybody pours in.

We’re going to make a great country again. We’re going to start winning again. We’re going to win a lot, it’s going to be a big difference, believe me. It’s going to be a big difference.

… I’ve been a big contributor to Israel over the years. I’ve received many, many awards from Israel. I have a great relationship with Israel. And I’m going to keep it that way. And if I could bring peace, that would be a fantastic thing. It would be one of my greatest achievements as president.

WaPo reporter Aaron Blake comments: “Trump’s heart didn’t seem to be in this. He almost seemed tired and bored of saying the same thing over and over again.” This probably reflects Blake’s  boredom with such sentiments, instead of the trivia that excites sophisticates like him about soundbites, polls, and the horse-race.

Trump’s statement probably appeals to a wide range of Americans who remember post-WWII America. We helped win WWII and established the first international order based on law and justice (however imperfect). An America of rapid growth of GDP and education, improvement of civil rights, and bold ventures such as Apollo.  We’ve lost all that (left and right miss different aspects, of course).

Caring for our fellow Americans

… the insurance companies take care of the politicians. The insurance companies get what they want. We should have gotten rid of the lines around each state so we can have real competition. We thought that was gone, we thought those lines were going to be gone, so something happened at the last moment where Obamacare got approved, and all of that was thrown out the window.

The reason is some of the people in the audience are insurance people, and insurance lobbyists, and special interests. … The insurance companies are making a fortune on every single thing they do. … That’s going to solve the problem.

That’s quite daft, of course. Pure conservative voodoo economics. But demonizing insurance companies is smart politics.

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Populism carries Trump to the nomination. He’s completed 1 of 4 steps to victory.

Summary: With Trump leading in polls for most of the coming primaries, let’s review his success in the four keys to winning in November. Equally important is the reaction of Democrats to his success, and what it tells us about the potential for a new broad coalition (like the New Deal) that can defeat the 1%.

The New Deal is as dead as FDR. But a new coalition can be built for the 21st C.

New Deal Button

On January 7 I listed four keys to a possible Trump victory.

  1. Build political organization that gets votes — Done.
  2. Craft a message that appeals to majority of Americans.
  3. Strike a deal with America’s ruling elites. Now they see Trump as a disruptor of a political game that they own. But Trump is both one of them (2nd generation) and a consummate deal-maker (his big book is The Art of the Deal). The necessary alliances will come easily if he wins the nomination.
  4. Luck, such as a recession in mid-year, which could easily happen.

Trump has completed the first task (as I expected). Now he’s working on the second, to more effectively tap the resurgent populism that catapulted him to the top of the GOP.

CNN says that “Trump has hammered Wall Street in recent speeches, wants to raise taxes on the rich and has embraced policies that will hurt many multinational companies.” Michael Tesler (Asst professor of political science, UC Irvine) describes the results as showing “economically progressive positions, combined with Trump’s harsh rhetoric about minority groups, seem to have created a powerful populist coalition that has made Trump the front-runner…”

Polls show the result: broad appeal among Republicans and independents. Even the good liberals at Slate have noticed (“Think Hillary Clinton Will Crush Donald Trump in the General Election? Don’t Be So Sure“). RAND’s Presidential Election Panel Survey (PEPS) shows his success. Slowly our political gurus see this. Bernie Becker in Politico writes about “Trump’s 6 populist positions“. Even more insightful is Jonathon Chait in NY Magazine

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Journalists close their eyes as Campaign 2016 reshapes America

Summary: There are many astonishing aspects of Campaign 2016. The resurgence of populism, with slightly fascist overtones. The unabashed racism. The overthrow of the lavishly financed dynasties candidate of the GOP establishment, and the strong insurgency from the Left against the Democratic Party establishment’s lavishly financed dynastic candidate. But journalists disinterest in these issues is perhaps the most amazing. Campaign 2016 is a choice, not a horse race.

Slate’s home page yesterday: it shows why the news makes us ignorant.

Slate Covers Campaign 2016 as a carnival

Slate’s mindless cover page on 21 February 2016.

It’s difficult to even list all the powerful cross-currents of this election. The resurgence of populism powers the rise of Trump, although the Left refuses to see it, preferring to mock Trump and run funny pictures of him.

Unfortunately populism has now as always has its dark side: nativism, racism, and even fascism. The good news is that we begin to see that we are sliding towards fascism (the first step to resisting it). Instead of dealing with these things, our journalists and political experts discuss the most trivial — even mindless — aspect of the election: the horse race among the candidates.

This election did not just happen; it’s the surfacing of stresses that have accumulated over decades, opening a too-large gap between rulers and the ruled. Such as the numbers about immigration that fuel Trump’s campaign. No matter who wins, 2016 will be a revolutionary election (Trump, not Sanders, is the revolutionary).

Instead of analysis of how this Campaign 2016 happened, with powerful rebellions in both major parties, we get this vapid warning from darling of the Left Ezra Klein:

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Hillary’s weakness: traditional & charismatic leaders attack her bureaucratic authority

Summary: Hillary is the establishment’s nominee for the Democratic ticket by virtue of seniority, dynastic succession, loyalty to the 1%, and service in the State machinery. An elderly statesman, Sanders, challenges the power of these institutions’ bureaucratic authority by a call to follow traditional authority (unlike in the GOP, where Trump’s appeals with charismatic authority) . We can only guess at what lies ahead. This is a follow-up to Max Weber explains Campaign 2016: we want a charismatic leader to restore America. Charisma in the deep sense, meaning a source of authority.

“With Hillary sometimes you get this feeling that all of her sentences are owned by someone.”
— Olivia Sauer, 18, a college freshman from Ames, Iowa quoted in the Feb 5 NYT.

Hillary Clinton - official Secretary of State portrait -300


The planned 2016 contest between Hillary and Jeb would have marked the descent of US politics into the last of Max Weber’s three forms of authority, from traditional to bureaucratic.

Republican voters appear to have successfully rebelled, with Bush polling at 4%. The Democrats still remain loyal to who they’ve been given — albeit with a strong insurgency from Sanders’ attempts to roll back the Democrat’s clock, asserting traditional authority and values.

Too see the bureaucratic nature of Hillary’s candidacy, see Jackson Lears’ review of the second volume of her autobiography, Hard Choices. It’s well-worth reading in full: it is more informative than her speeches and more revealing of how she’ll govern than any or all of her campaign’s white papers.

“The intellectual bankruptcy of the Democratic Party is nowhere more evident than in the looming presidential candidacy of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Assumptions of the inevitability of her candidacy tend to ignore policy matters, focusing instead on her gender and her twenty years as a Washington insider. Many usually thoughtful people can find nothing more substantial to say in her favour than ‘it’s her turn.’

“…In slogging through it, one is reminded of why the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency is so dreary. … Nothing could more clearly illustrate the merger of economic and political power in the oligarchy that dominates American public life. Were Clinton to win, her victory would ensure the continuation of business as usual in Washington. The only change would be the return to power of the Clinton machine, an army of loyalists who have been milling about the capital for two decades but whose command has now shifted from Bill to Hillary. Despite their differing styles, the intent is the same: rewarding friends and punishing enemies, the latter with such precision that one of her staffers fears Hillary will come to seem little different from ‘Nixon in a pantsuit’.

“The sense of continuity is reinforced by the blizzard of worn buzzwords and market-researched phrases regurgitated by Clinton as she races round the globe…”

For those who can stand it, Joseph Lelyveld’s review at the London Review of Books provides even more evidence that Hillary is the ideal candidate for a bureaucratic President serving the 1%, equaled on the stage only by Jeb Bush.

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