Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Nightmare of Clinton versus Trump: Hillary is not a shoo in

Is a dream a lie if it don't come true, or is it something worse?   
"The River" - Bruce Springsteen 

The failure of the economy to deliver real progress to middle-class and working-class Americans over the past 15 years is the most fundamental source of public anger and disaffection in the US.  BBC News 
Forty years of hurt has driven some people to answer Springsteen's question, that the American dream is something worse than a lie, and from that bleak answer they are looking for a political leader who echoes their anger. So my answer to presenters' questions whether Trump can win, is now and was before the primaries started: "Yes."  Michael Goldfarb - BBC

As of Today

In this the strangest of presidential election years, a poorly flushed Donald Trump pops up out of the backed up drains of the American psyche and the only thing standing between him and the Republican nomination is Senator Ted Cruz, who could pass as Boris Karloff's baby brother. 

Republican debate has now moved from the size of Mr Trump's penis to whether the evangelical Mr Cruz sleeps around. And this, far from hurting Trump, is fattening his lead in the polls
Mr Trump has succeeded in breaking down the boundaries of political debate. He has drained all civility from politics and licensed a discourse that elides bigotry with patriotism, is derisive of women, scornful of minorities and permissive of racism. The Republican primaries have become a contest in which it is acceptable to throw a punch at those who happen to disagree, to threaten to muzzle the freedom of the press and to make jokes about those with disabilities. Mr Trump has tossed overboard any idea that politics and public service can serve a moral purpose. Philip Stephens - Financial Times
If The Donald wins the nomination, which as of today, seems probable, he will, unless a kind providence intervenes, end up facing the most soiled politician in America... except for her husband, of course: Hillary Clinton.

For no one, not even Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush, has objectively done more to turn Bruce Springsteen's dream into a lie than the Clintons.

Here is how Thomas Frank lays it out:

Ukraine is considered the most corrupt nation in Europe

After the bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2000, the corporate scandals of the Enron period, and the collapse of the real estate racket, our view of the prosperous Nineties has changed quite a bit. Now we remember that it was Bill Clinton’s administration that deregulated derivatives, that deregulated telecom, and that put our country’s only strong banking laws in the grave. He’s the one who rammed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) through Congress and who taught the world that the way you respond to a recession is by paying off the federal deficit. Mass incarceration and the repeal of welfare, two of Clinton’s other major achievements, are the pillars of the disciplinary state that has made life so miserable for Americans in the lower reaches of society. He would have put a huge dent in Social Security, too, had the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal not stopped him. If we take inequality as our measure, the Clinton administration looks not heroic but odious. Thomas Frank - Salon

The Skinny
Assuming, as now appears most likely, that Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic nomination and that either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz becomes the Republican nominee, the general-election ballot is set to feature a choice between two candidates more negatively viewed than any major-party nominee in the history of polling. Ruth Marcus - Washington Post
The only thing standing between such a nightmare choice for American voters is Bernie Sanders.

No two human beings could be more different than Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump and the most fundamental difference between them is that Trump is a very bad man and Bernie is a very good man,

However what they both have in common is that their campaigns are both propelled by the passionate anger that so many Americans feel at the failure of the "American Dream" and their mounting distrust of the "Establishment", Wall Street, the media and of course the government itself.

Hillary Clinton's basic problem is that no one incarnates that Establishment so much as she does.

If it's Hillary versus Trump, America and a watching world will be treated to probably the dirtiest, most depressing campaign imaginable and with the probable, massive abstention of grossed out voters of both the left and traditional conservatives too and therefore with a result infinitely more unpredictable than anyone can now imagine.

However if Bernie Sanders manages to pull off an upset and the race is between him and Trump, the world will be treated to an all-American, Hollywood-esque spectacle of good versus evil, Batman pitted against The Joker, Saint George kicking the dragon's ass.

Not only would it change America and the world, it would be tremendous fun.

Probably the most fascinating, indeed endearing thing about the USA is the "let it all hang out" transparency of such a huge beast. What is missing today, unfortunately, is someone like Upton Sinclair, Sinclair Lewis or Norman Mailer to write about all of this. DS

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Republican Primaries: The Voyage from Eisenhower to Trump

"Oppressed beneath the weight of their own corruption and of military violence, they for a long while preserved the sentiments, or at least the ideas of their free-born ancestors."  Edward Gibbon, "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire"

I think people are making a mistake if they treat the Republican primaries as serious politics. They obviously aren't, but at the same time it seems to me that they are a more than serious symptom of levels of unhappiness, frustration and confusion among the citizenry that border and frequently cross the border of collective insanity.

Under Richard Nixon's guidance the Republican party executed the "Southern Strategy" and took know-nothing, racist-populist America to its bosom and began to win majorities sufficient to implement policies that have led that same voter base of know-nothing, racist-populist Americans to even greater degradation.

Now the Republicans are trapped in a nut house of their own creation.

Just as an exercise of political science fiction, try to imagine Dwight D. Eisenhower in the midst of these Republican primaries, try to imagine him on Fox news. 

Impossible, right?

When I was a boy the Republicans that lived around me were mostly pallid, though vigorous, high church Episcopalians, solid, smug types who struggled mightily with golf and sedately clipped stock coupons. As to the younger ones, crew cuts and white bucks, energetically embalmed in stifling, Pat Booney squareness come immediately to mind.

I cannot think of a better bellwether of America's malaise then that of the party of the formerly priggish, self-contented, self-righteous, self-satisfied, conventional and sensible becoming the party of the paranoiac, the exasperated and the kooky

A century from now, the years between Eisenhower's and today's Republican party will seem a brief interlude and I'm sure that Chinese historians will puzzle over the swift deterioration of America and its institutions in that time frame.

I am neither Chinese nor a historian and I am puzzled as hell. I was a kid when Ike was president and I am an old man now... Blessed with an extremely good memory, I have trouble associating the America I was born into and the America that withers before my eyes today, as if it were being struck down by a wasting disease.

I would think it important to separate this new "conservatism" from the traditional variety. Remember the American vice is to use language to hide meaning. 

One of the most disturbing things about America is the incoherence of American language, the endless euphemism-laden double talk. American terminology is confusing and perhaps the confusion is deliberate.

For example, everywhere but in the USA, “red” is the color of the left, but in America, the term, “red state”, means one that is right-wing and “blue”, which is a color that in most countries is associated with the right, to ultra-right, in the US is used to label what Americans call “liberal”, which in the USA means the left, but which everywhere else is used to label the economic right-wing… These examples are just the tip of a semantic iceberg.

This brings us to the word, “conservative”.

The new conservative is, in plain English, in fact, a neo-fascist and the personality traits we observe on the American right these days are those of a fascist.

What is the difference?

If a person is born into a well to do, stable family, where the parents respect and perhaps even love each other and treat the child kindly and his/her exposure to traditional religion is benign. He/she is likely to accept the family’s traditions and values unquestioningly.

From that point his/her attitude will be one of prudence, of not spoiling  (for him/her and his/her family) a good thing… and his/her attitude toward the less fortunate than himself/herself may even be benevolent and paternalistic and be expressed in contributions to charity and other good works.

What we are seeing in the Republicans now, has little or nothing to do with that kind of conservatism. We are looking at exasperated, paranoiac, xenophobic, racist nastiness, in short a fascistic mentality of crippled personalities in reaction to changing mores and a failing economy.

All the unhappiness and frustration are searching for moral absolutes. Moral absolutes are what allow people to kill each other... if only in their imagination. All this hateful speech and dippy ideas are pregnant with death, they are about to give birth to a monster, but the Republicans are only the midwives... They are helpless in the face of the spirits they have invoked from the country's inner darkness. It is that darkness not any individual like Trump that should worry us, something very, very nasty is cooking in it. DS