Finding Sobriety in 2016: Sanders, Clinton & Trump: “We’re going to grab and grab…” Edition
“The malice of the wicked was reinforced by the weakness of the virtuous.” ― Winston S. Churchill
Donald J. Trump went several ugly places in his Nevada victory speech. I wrote about one ugly bit here, and am now turning to the other one:
Transcript of Donald J. Trump’s Nevada victory speech by Quartz Media
To say that this hearkens back to the “Greed is good” of the 1980’s would be an understatement. While it most certainly includes that ethos, one must ask many questions in order to fully grasp the meaning and implications behind Trump’s statement and the reason why he even made it. Contrast Trump’s recent statement above, to a 1990 interview he did on the old Joan Rivers Show.
Did Donald Trump undergo some kind of metamorphosis or is this an act? What about Ted Cruz, whom many call a “true believer?” If you dig enough, you will find that he, too, used to sound more reasonable, although with him, it is more likely that his current persona is closer to his true self.
Today, in order to understand Trump’s appeal, one must read economist Moises Naim’s explanation. His life experience as someone who was raised in the Perons’ Argentina, uniquely qualifies him to offer us a contemporary glimpse into what attracts masses of people to authoritarianism, even as the environment in which they were brought up might intuitively preclude such a disposition:
“But this phenomenon doesn’t only afflict individuals. It also affects political groups and even entire nations that get enthralled by leaders whose ideas have already been tried and exposed as failures. These bad ideas, which should be dead and buried, have a way of periodically reappearing and gaining popularity.
Several years ago, I called this condition “ideological necrophilia”: “Necrophilia is a sexual attraction to cadavers. Ideological necrophilia is the blind fixation with dead ideas. It turns out this pathology is more common in its political rather than sexual form. Turn on your TV tonight and I bet you will see some politician passionately in love with an idea that has already been tried and failed, or defending beliefs that have been proven false by incontrovertible evidence.””
On Peronism, Naim has this to say:
“Peronism is another example. Argentina has the dubious distinction of being the only country that managed to “un-develop” itself after reaching standards of living equivalent to those in developed countries. Prolonged national enthusiasm for Peronism in its many forms is largely to blame for this devolution. President Juan Domingo Perón, who led the country in the 1940s and 50s, and then again in the 70s, was a prodigy of the populism that has become so prominent in Latin America and beyond. He and his imitators stoked nationalism, made promises that were impossible to keep, exploited wedge issues along racial, ethnic, or religious lines, and distributed resources in the name of the poor in ways that in the long run made everyone poorer.”
We’ve not yet experienced a full-fledged kind of Peronism here in America. We’ve never elected a larger than life authoritarian figure like Peron. But what we have had are the precursor conditions in which a Peron is made. The last eight years have brought this nation much in the way of change – much of it bad, but not all. The bad, however, has included the further solidification of “ideological necrophilia” by way of it being baked into our legal system, creating the “political necrophilia” that is money in politics, namely, Citizens United and McCutcheon v. FEC.
At the same time, a different kind of political necrophilia, a much more pernicious one was taking hold in the halls of Congress. That necrophilia is the plans for obstruction and nullification that a gang of Republicans drew up and swore to institute on the night of Barack Obama’s first inaugural. The GOP’s plan to deny a man his presidency, much like a cancerous growth, has evolved into denying a nation its full recovery from the second-worst economic disaster it has ever experienced, all the while assiduously working to dismantle democratic institutions that have been established over the last century, through the suffocation of government agencies vital to the daily function of our nation.
In parallel, forces within the opposing Democratic party have been busily preparing the foundation for a neoliberal power grab, with the intention of smoothly paving the way for the coronation of its presumptive nominee, Hillary Clinton. But smooth sailing wasn’t in the cards for Clinton in 2016, anymore than it was in 2008. Between heavy losses in the 2014 election due to voter disaffection, ongoing GOP efforts to disenfranchise entire communities through voter ID laws, the Democratic party has its work cut out to ensure the highest possible voter turnout. But what has had even more of an effect is the general feeling that the system is rigged, including the Democratic party apparatus, and voting doesn’t change the conditions voters continue put up with. Confidence in the leadership of the DNC is at an all-time low and the party in need of reorganizing and reform.
Now, at the twilight of President Obama’s presidency, we are witnessing a struggle on the left between progressive populist forces led by the unlikeliest of all candidate and a neoliberal establishment that had been gearing up for an easy take-over by its dynastic queen. To neoliberals who have refused to acknowledge the growing groundswell, Bernie Sanders came out of left field. To tens of millions of Democratic voters, Sanders is the Gandalf they’ve been waiting for to rescue them from the evil eye of Sauron.
A very different struggle is taking place on the right. Regardless of what the punditry has been touting, it is clear that the presumptive establishment nominees all have been overwhelmingly rejected by the Republican voter base in favor of dark horse candidate Donald J. Trump. Out of the original 15-strong stable of billionaire-backed establishment candidates, the top favorites were vanquished by voter indifference and scorn. The “most viable” among those remaining consist of one weak candidate in Marco Rubio, and a loose atomic cannon in Ted Cruz. The struggle is for which set of interests will be preserved: the plutocrat and theocracy alliance, or the pure plutocracy vote? In the sharply polarized America we live in, I think the purists on both sides of the aisle are the likeliest to win.
If Trump is the purist, then one must ask exactly whom Trump would be grabbing from? With his promise to hand trade and economic policy to the likes of Carl C. Icahn and other corporate raiders, who would they be in charge of “grab and grab and grab” from? In all likelihood, they’d continue to grab from the only people they’ve ever known to grab from: us.
But our tour of the main contenders in this presidential race isn’t over. There is one more, dangerous potential contender to review. Former mayor of New York City and media magnate, Michael Bloomberg has been making it known that he is losing confidence in the candidacy of Hillary Clinton and that he is in the final stages of deciding whether or not to run as a self-funded independent candidate in Election 2016. If one ignores the pro-Clinton media analyses of her performance and takes a sober look at how poorly she’s done in slowing Bernie Sanders’ progress, then it is highly likely that Bloomberg will decide not to leave it to chance that she will recover. As I’ve previously written, Bloomberg fancies himself as the savior candidate. Savior from whom, you might ask? Both Sanders and Trump, both of which he deems dangerous.
What dangers does the entry of an independent candidate with money pose this cycle? For some answers, we look to the Los Angeles Times’ Bruce Ackerman:
“Nevertheless, before succumbing to centrist temptation, the former New York City mayor should take a hard look at the Constitution. He will find that his run for the White House could precipitate one of the worst constitutional crises in American history.
The problem is the 12th Amendment. Enacted in 1804, it establishes the rules for presidential selection if no candidate secures a majority of 270 electoral votes — a distinct possibility should Bloomberg enter the race. The sphere of competition will then move from the states to the House of Representatives, where Bloomberg will confront formidable challenges. He will have to persuade Republican and Democratic lawmakers to betray the tens of millions of loyalists who voted for their party’s nominee. But he’ll have to do more than gain a majority of House members. Under the amendment’s special rules, each state delegation casts a single vote, and the winning candidate must convince 26 delegations to support him. Even if Bloomberg carries a few key states in November, his fate will be determined by representatives from regions that rejected his candidacy. In addition, there are 11 states with only one or two House members — and their idiosyncratic views will have a disproportionate say in the final choice.”
I cannot stress enough the importance of reading Ackerman from start to finish. I agree with his assessment that a win by Bloomberg would throw us into a destructive Constitutional crisis. With political necrophilia and Republican obstructionism as entrenched as they are, we would be ill-equipped, as a nation, to resolve a crisis of such magnitude.
What we need from our next leader are breadth of vision and the wisdom with which to pull us back to safety and rebuild a broken economy and political system. By all accounts, our economy still has a sound foundation. Its growth was stunted by the political plundering that corporate interests have purchased the right to inflict on an entire nation. It is the nation’s job now to end the plunder not only by electing an honest president, but also a congress aligned, in sync, and ready to faithfully follow their new leader. This is war. We need a peace-builder.
I close as I began, with Winston Churchill. Who is wicked? Who is virtuous?
“In War: Resolution,
In Defeat: Defiance,
In Victory: Magnaminity
In Peace: Good Will.”
― Winston S. Churchill
Message to readers:
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Berndalf and Hillary with Trumpron (or is it Saurump?) and Bloomron in the background 🙂