Monday, March 7, 2016

Wrapped in a Flag and wearing a Red Baseball Cap.

I must say that I enjoyed the irony of seeing the open letter from the Republican national security community (read Neocons) claiming that Donald Trump would "make America less safe" and "diminish our standing in the world".  The signatories included people like Eliot Cohen, Richard Pipes, Max Boot and Robert Kagan who were some of the loudest drum-beaters for the invasion of Iraq and for Bush's ill-conceived "global war on terror".  Can they not see the irony (or hypocrisy) in the fact that the very policies which they promoted did exactly what they now claim Trump will do?  or that policies they suggest Trump will pursue such as "expansive use of torture" were first introduced by the Republican president whom many of them served or supported? 

And I am delighted, too, in the way in which Trump's campaign has spread alarm and fear among the big money backers of the GOP.  He has not accepted money from Las Vegas casino billionaire (and Netanyahu buddy), Sheldon Adelson, or from any of the foundations that the Koch brothers have established and so, if Trump does win, he will not in any way be beholden to them.  Have they bet on the wrong horse?  Will all of their "Dark Money" as author Jane Mayer has called it, be money down the drain?  And it is a lot of money.  According to The Guardian last year alone Super Pacs funded by oil and gas companies "invested" $100 million on candidates they thought likely to win the White House.  The Super Pac backing Ted Cruz got 57% of its money from the energy industry.  Chris Christie's got 39% and Jeb Bush's got 26%.  Even Hillary Clinton's Super Pac received 7% of its funding from fossil fuel industries.  

Besides Big Bad Money, Trump is also loathed by social conservatives.  They tend not to like his serial marriages and trophy wives.  Also he won't unequivocally speak out against gay marriage - in fact he now refuses to speak about "marriage equality" at all.

On the principle that  "my enemy's enemy is my friend" I should be a big supporter of Donald Trump.  Indeed some  of his policies I much prefer to those of his rivals.  For instance he repudiates much of the foreign policy of the Neocons, who now constitute the the "foreign policy establishment" of the Republican party.  He was against the Iraq war;  says he would be prepared to negotiate with Israel and its Palestinian victims without the precondition that the US will support whatever Israel demands; is against the "carried-interest" tax loophole which saves the very wealthy tens of millions in tax; and has even echoed Warren Buffet in saying that the ultra-rich do not pay their fair share of tax.  In comparison to Rubio and Cruz these seem like enlightened liberal policies.  Indeed, even in comparison to Hillary Clinton they seem pretty good.  

Rubio would be simply a puppet of the Neocon, Dark Money crowd, reducing taxes even more on the super-wealthy, starting more wars in the Middle East, repealing Obamacare and scuttling any hope of real action on climate change.  Cruz would abolish Obamacare and the IRS and introduce a flat tax across the board, decimate the Federal Government (except of course the Pentagon), support Israel whatever it does and become a champion of the fossil fuel industry, from which he has received so much funding. 

As David Frum put it the Republican establishment is promising fewer benefits, more immigration and more foreign wars while Donald Trump is offering more benefits, less immigration and fewer foreign wars 

It has been said of Hillary Clinton, that she sees no problem with the extreme and growing wealth and income inequality, provided that some of the super-rich are women and minorities.  In other words she is on the side (or in the pocket of) Wall St. and Big Money, but uses the issues of gender and racial identity to help her electorally.  She is also pretty popular with the Neocons when it comes to foreign policy and Israel - some (e.g. Robert Kagan, Max Boot) said that if Trump gets the nomination they will support her.  Judging on her performance as Secretary of State, she seems to fit right in with their agenda. She seemed happy to use military force in Libya and wanted to use American air power to oust al Assad in Syria.  She appointed Victoria Nuland (wife of Robert Kagan) to a senior position in European affairs and backed Nuland's aggressive campaign for regime change in Ukraine.  As with pretty much every neocon regime-change endeavour it has ended (or rather continues) badly.  

So I should be happy that Trump doing so well, shouldn't I? At least he promises to shake up some of the ensconced power groups and special interests, and to take America in a new direction.  But could he really do it?  Is he to be trusted?   He has said some reprehensible things - Latino immigrants are rapists and murderers; US forces should use torture techniques far worse than waterboarding.  He has encouraged people at his rallies to turn on protesters, especially those of colour.  He has whipped up fear and hatred of Muslims.  

Trump's character is very questionable.  Besides being a braggart and a blowhard, he seems to have little respect for the unspoken rules that keep our societies from degenerating into racial and sectarian conflict and chaos.  I suspect that if elected he would have little respect for due process in law; and little respect for treaties and international obligations, not to mention human rights.    

He seems to be a politician in the mould of some earlier "charismatic" strong men, who promised to restore their countries to greatness, but who led them, and much of the world, to disaster and depravity. Sinclair Lewis is reported to have said "When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross." Perhaps he got it wrong  - no cross, perhaps a flag, but certainly wearing a red baseball cap.

How did American democracy sink to this level?  Can it recover? Would it be at this low point if the US Supreme Court hadn't gifted the 2000 election to George W. Bush?  

Not being an American, I don't have to make a choice in this election. But we all have a stake in the result.  I can't foresee a good ending. But perhaps we are at a turning point.  

1 comment:

  1. It scares me that the US electorate have come to this point. Disappointed Americans are looking for a way out. I am genuinely scared of Trump and of what he represents. Fascism is on the rise.