Thursday, November 10, 2016

America's democracy is being tested!

I’ve been thinking about the election of Trump for the past 48 hours.  Its hard to judge, but its clear that after today’s meeting between Obama and Trump that most of Obama’s achievements will be canned by Trump.  He may even have an agenda; although its hard to figure out what it is from his comments over the past 12 months — has it really been that long.

My fear is that with the assistance of Congress, Trump may make some major changes to the “America of our forefathers”  I suspect that any issues that were on the GOP agenda (EPA clean energy etc etc) is on the block.  There is no doubt that he is pro- “clean coal” and fracking and against alternative energy.  Although the latter probably requires less help than the first two (its not only federal regulations here).  I think that within the next four years we will see some major shift in the American legal framework — this is the GOP’s chance to full the numerous vacancies on the bench, starting with the top (Supreme Court) all the way down.  He has an anti-democratic streak, that the US system seems ready to adopt (or at least is willing to give up in the name of greater "security").  Too many of our friends take the attitude “I don’t care about the invasion of privacy, I’ve not done anything wrong”  As the French revolution (and the Russian) have showed today’s friends may be tomorrow’s enemy.

On race I don’t think he cares that much, sure he’s happy to let the alt-right do its thing, but I don’t think he cares that much.  He’s a 70 year old real estate guy who thinks that white people pay their rent on time and that black people smoke crack and are on welfare (sure its racist), but he probably doesn’t see it that way. This could be a problem (especially if the Police get additional powers).

The fourth estate is in real trouble, they don’t like him and he’s probably looking for some payback — Trump is a guy who likes to have his revenge!  He’s said so on many many occasions.  He’s always hated the first amendment and would love to be able to sue newspapers for real and perceived wrongs.  He’s already said that he’s got a long list of targets.

On making America great again his plan to bring back coal (the economics are simply not there) and the get more manufacturing in the country — is a clear indication that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.  Manufacturing in the US is higher today than it was 30 years ago, but productivity (and robots) have changed the narrative.  I wish him luck with NATO, OECD, IMF, World Bank and NAFTA.  There are a lot of players that have many different interests.  

There is no doubt that Trump admires “strong leaders” such as Putin and Kim Jung Un, his instincts seem to be anti-democratic and the US pump is primed for such a shift.  Snowden and Wikileaks showed how much data the American government has on its own people.  In fact, its not really a mystery; if Wal-Mart can figure out that you are pregnant from your shipping habits (at Wal-Mart) what do you think the US government can figure out when it has access to ALL your information.  They don’t need to know the details; they can have an educated guess.  The militarisation of the National Guards and of the Police across the country over the past 16 years has been dramatic — if you think that even Stanford University’s police department was offered anti-riot trucks… The implication for civil rights being “high jacked for the greater good” is ominous.

Now Trump’s way ahead is not all a bed of roses, granted he probably wants to get the ACA out of the way, and reverse most of Obama’s executive orders.  However, the question that Trump (and Congress) will have will be what to do about healthcare in America.  Right now the Freedom Caucus is gunning for repeal and do nothing, it is a very expensive solution that will increase the deficit — prevention is much cheaper than curing!  Trump’s relationship with the GOP and Congress will be difficult.  Very few in Congress supported Trump, and some opposed him!  In the last few weeks of the election the GOP stopped supporting Trump entirely — damage limitation.  That is a big problem for Trump and for Congress — Paul Ryan has the worse of both worlds.  Also Trump is very keen on re-building America’s infrastructure (from roads, viaducts, power distribution etc ) but Republican congress are not there for him.  It brings all kinds of conflicts between the executive and the legislative (we assume that Trump’s judicial appointments will “work his way”).

If we take the wider view of the election of Trump and the Brexit vote are something very serious could be afoot.  One way to look at the Trump’s win could be a serious lack of enthusiasm for Democrats only 48 million voted for Clinton, whereas in 2008 almost 58 million voted for Obama.  In truth, Clinton lost Michigan that has been Democrat for a long time.  Therefore the other way of looking at the two votes would be to take the view that the middle class doesn’t trust the elite. The people don’t believe the elite, and possibly with good reasons, they were lied to as they saw no benefits from the trade liberalization – instead they saw wage stagnation and job insecurity.  

For the majority of the working class “proles”  the past 40 years have been a disaster.  Trade was supposed to bring wealth — it did, but only to the elite.  The changes to the financial systems was suppose to bring benefits to the people — it didn’t, instead it was costly bailout and the financial deregulation has been a great way for players to tilt the field in their advantage (virtually every market in existence has been rigged by its participants).  The opening of the market to all investors has reduced (dramatically) the number of public companies — now only rich people have access to these opportunities (via the private markets).   THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN, and they are ready to punt down the field — they believe that the status quo was against them (not entirely incorrect) that by electing Trump and Brexit they opened a new door (could be worse, but the current system is not working for them).  Sure the economy may get fried and relationship between races in America could be inflamed, but its worth a try, because what they have now is not working for them!

I don’t know Trump and have no real opinion on the man; my only interaction with him has been via his TV show, and his habit to name every building he owns after himself.  Stories during the election of his intellectual laziness were too numerous to entirely discount; his obvious lack of understanding of the START treaty, of the invasion of the Ukraine by the Russian and his complete lack of understanding of the reasons for alliances is breathtaking, but not unusual among American businessmen (surprisingly).  This is probably the most important aspect of his failures as a leader.  You have to go a long way back to find a candidate to the presidency displaying such level of ignorance about world affaires.  

Finally, this election like many election has shown that if you are not promoting a positive message (Clinton) and only have the “at least I am not him” as a mantra, then “your people” will not be excited and will not take the trouble to vote.  Clinton got nearly 10 million votes less than Obama did in 2008, and about 8 million less than he did in 2012.  Finally, I guess that the pollsters missed a significant ingredient in the polls they conducted.  Its not clear what it was, maybe people said they would vote for Clinton and in fact voted for Trump, but the more believable outcome seems to be that people (read Democrats) were not excited by Clinton, and on the day decided that they had better things to do.

The future is unknown, but I suspect that it’s not good for the Republic as a bastion of democracy


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