Thursday, November 10, 2016

Will Trump's words guide his actions?

This week’s edition of the Seattle Weekly went to print before the final results of Tuesday’s presidential election, and it elongated editorial on the election process was rife with indignation and disordered thinking. “Clinton was the vastly more appropriate, educated and prepared candidate, with a deep working knowledge of Washington, D.C., and innumerable policy positions and plans to bring those policies to fruition,” the Weekly declared.  Some people might take issue with most of those claims,  but the Weekly went on to admit that in the last few weeks Clinton’s campaign was devoted to “playing on voters fears” and generally adding to the “degrading” nature of the election. Despite this, Clinton’s main “troubles” were the result of “manufactured scandals” by the Republicans and the fact that she is a “woman.” Again, this is deliberate misrepresentation of the facts; the late William Safire wrote in the New York Times the following about Clinton:

Americans of all political persuasions are coming to the sad realization that (Hillary Clinton) -- a woman of undoubted talents who was a role model for many in her generation -- is a congenital liar. Drip by drip, like Whitewater torture, the case is being made that she is compelled to mislead, and to ensnare her subordinates and friends in a web of deceit… Therefore, ask not "Why didn't she just come clean at the beginning?" She had good reasons to lie; she is in the longtime habit of lying; and she has never been called to account for lying herself or in suborning lying in her aides and friends.

This could have been the conclusion that many have reached since the email server business, but this was written in 1996, when Clinton was First Lady. 

Yet the Weekly also opined that progressives rightly viewed Clinton as a “continuation of the less appealing aspects of the Obama and Bill Clinton administrations, her hawkish foreign policy stances and coziness with Wall Street at odds with their ideals. Unlike Trump, Bernie Sanders was unable to surmount the machinery of his chosen party and, with the help of super delegates and favoritism from party leadership. Clinton prevailed.” We need a more “robust” election system that allows for major party voters unhappy with the chosen candidate to vote for their true preference rather than vote for an unpopular nominee. 

This might include a parliamentary type system in which a party’s representation would be “apportioned” by the percent of the popular vote, and somehow this would be translated into the true preference of the population for the office of president.  This could lead to the marginalization of a candidate like Trump, who is an “outspoken brute” for the “most hateful, most bigoted parts of the voting populace,” and these “deplorables” need an “exit ramp” where they will be then sidelined in a fringe party. Of course, none of these “reforms” has even the remotest chance of serious consideration in this country.

For his part, Donald Trump in his acceptance speech went against the grain of what his right-wing supporters on hate talk radio believed would come to fruition under a Trump administration, now backed by a continuing Republican domination of Congress and soon to be again U.S. Supreme Court. Trump’s tone was surprisingly modest and “humble” as he proclaimed that

Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division; have to get together. To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people. (tepid applause). 

It’s time. I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans, and this is so important to me. (more tepid applause).

For those who have chosen not to support me in the past, of which there were a few people.  I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country.

As I’ve said from the beginning, ours was not a campaign, but rather an incredible and great movement made up of millions of hard-working men and women who love their country and want a better, brighter future for themselves and for their families.

It’s a movement comprised of Americans from all races, religions, backgrounds and beliefs who want and expect our government to serve the people, and serve the people it will.

Working together, we will begin the urgent task of rebuilding our nation and renewing the American dream. I’ve spent my entire life and business looking at the untapped potential in projects and in people all over the world. That is now what I want to do for our country.

Tremendous potential. I’ve gotten to know our country so well and tremendous potential. It’s going to be a beautiful thing. Every single American will have the opportunity to realize his or her fullest potential. The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.

We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals. We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none. And we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it.

This wasn’t the man described in an article this past summer in The New Yorker; for Trump ghost writer Tony Schwartz, “the prospect of President Trump terrified him. It wasn’t because of Trump’s ideology—Schwartz doubted that he had one. The problem was Trump’s personality, which he considered pathologically impulsive and self-centered.” Yet having won the election and no longer feeling the need to make bizarre, offensive and outrageous comments and accusations, to beat down his opposition into submission to his will and whim, Trump took a more conciliatory and positive tone about bringing the country “together.” This sounds like a man who is congenitally wired to win at whatever cost, and having done so, wants to be “magnanimous” an to return to his former “celebrity” status as a charismatic man “admired” for his business “smarts.” He wants to be “liked” by everyone, and he knows he needs to back off on the rhetoric that made him a viable candidate to begin with. Having “won,” he can cast aside those elements that were of use to him before, but now something of a hindrance to his quest to be “popular” again to “everyone.”

The problem with this is that we’ve heard this flowery rhetoric before, say in 2008. And words and the actions do not necessarily match-up, if Trump’s list of potential candidates for his cabinet are any clue. It shouldn’t be surprising that Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama is one of them, since he was an early Trump supporter; this extreme-right Republican was naturally attracted to Trump’s nativist and xenophobic rhetoric. Everyone on Trump’s list is both male and Republicans with no trace of “moderation” in their political and social stances, and again this shouldn’t be surprising since these supporters were naturally attracted to Trump’s “message.”       

It is thus difficult to believe that Trump’s “inclusive” message in his acceptance speech is anything but of a man who may or may not be in over his head and needs “everyone’s” help so he doesn’t look like an incompetent buffoon, likely his greatest fear. Trump’s most vociferous supporters would also be disappointed to learn that Trump’s made a fool of them by using them and then discarding them for being a hindrance to his desire to be “popular.” Trump has to be one thing or the other. If he is the type whose self-image is defined by how people view him, he may be more “progressive” than people give him credit for; after all, Richard Nixon in his first term was remarkably “progressive” on social and environmental policy than what people give him credit for.

What does Trump’s first 100 days have in store for us? What does it mean that it is “so important” to him that he represent all Americans. It’s not like that everyone has a “choice” in the matter, since he will be the president whether they like it or not. Where will he get the money to “rebuild America” which will put millions back to work? Obama couldn’t do much even with Democratic majorities; Trump can expect to do much less with his Republican majorities. Trump would need considerable Democratic support for his project to “Make America great again,” since for Republicans this only translates into making America “white” again. What Trump outlined in his speech may be how he hopes the country as a whole views him, but “rewarding” his early fringe-right supporters rather than sidelining them suggests that the policy novice Trump may well be subject to their whims.

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