Dynasty versus Populist Politics: The Sad Truth of Hillary versus Trump

It’s like watching a train wreck about to happen knowing that there isn’t much you can do. The Republicans have been fueling the anger of Americans for the past eight years. Somehow they’ve managed to erase any memory of George W’s involvement in the financial collapse in 2008 as well as his disastrous move into Iraq. Everyone is angry today including people who can’t find jobs, those who are underemployed, students with huge student loans, blacks who feel afraid to drive for fear of being pulled over, and religious fundamentalists who see the world changing and can’t adjust.

So, it definitely is a year when a populist is bound to do well. Promise you’ll fix everything and blame everyone who currently is in office and you’re guaranteed to find voters willing to vote for you. Donald Trump has seized on the public’s angry mood and played voters by appealing to their basest instincts. He’s managed to avoid having to provide concrete solutions because many of his most fervent followers are looking for a strong leader who will do whatever is needed. By shouting over others during debates and using a lot of four letter words Trump has managed to convince his followers that he is strong.

Conversely, 2016 is a terrible year for the political establishment and for political dynasties. Take Jeb! for example. People see him as Crown Prince Jeb, the next anointed member of a family where both his father and brother have been presidents. Americans have a deep-seated fear of dynasties going back to the Constitution’s restriction of two-term limits for that office. Bush never had a chance against a populist opponent because none of the conventional tools work this year. Throw lots of money into ads? That didn’t work. Get lots of endorsements from establishment politicians? That didn’t work either. Bring in his brother and mother? That only made it more apparent that he was a dynasty candidate.

What about Hillary? She’s really a very sad figure. I believe she always wanted to be the first female president and prepared herself for that role. She usually was the smartest and best prepared person in any room filled with politicians because she worked the hardest. Unfortunately she is not just a sad figure, but a truly tragic figure much like one of Shakespeare’s tragic heroes. All of her ability cannot mask or ameliorate her weaknesses as a politician. She’s just plain awkward unlike her gifted husband. When she gives a speech, she brays rather than vary the pitch of her voice. She clearly is not comfortable glad-handing the common folk the way her husband did. She has been so burned by Clinton haters and hostile reporters that she tries to shield herself behind a protective wall. Her need for privacy caused her to make the wrong decision and use her own personal server; that gave the Republicans who own the House and can investigate anything they want a golden opportunity.

The drip drip drip effect of her email investigation will go on forever. At the same time, she has been on the scene so long that everyone has made up their mind about her as a person and as a candidate. She has a ceiling as far as votes because she has such huge negativity ratings. To put it bluntly, around 47-50% of likely voters will not vote for her under any circumstances. Based on recent election demographics, the vote of white women over 45 will not make up for the loss of blue collar white men and women under 45 as well as students. She just doesn’t inspire enthusiasm the way Bernie Sanders does. Her supporters are trying to to portray her as the inevitable Democratic nominee much the same way they did in 2008 against Barack Obama. How did that go?

I would not be surprised if the super delegates, the Democratic establishment, doesn’t start to wonder if Bernie isn’t the only possible candidate who can defeat Trump. After all, what can Trump call him besides a socialist? He can’t attack him personally because Bernie has always been pretty consistent and pretty transparent. Maybe he could infer that the country isn’t ready for its first Jewish president, but that might backfire. So, no Benghazi, no email scandal, no talk of all the old Clinton scandals, no mention of Clinton’s vote on the Iraq war or her decision to push for government change in Libya. Presumably President Obama would rally African Americans to vote to go along with students and others.

Did you notice the dirty little secret of Hillary’s South Carolina landslide? While she received over 70% of the vote and received around 43 delegates, Bernie wound up with around 11 delegates. In other words, the Democratic Party’s decision to make its primary elections proportional allocation of delegates means that it is extremely difficult for one candidate to receive the necessary votes for nomination if the other candidate does a good job in smaller caucus states as well as puts up a reasonable fight in the midwest and east coast states. I would not be surprised if Hillary does not quite get to the magic number, particularly if the FBI begins making noise about their own investigation of her email server.

It would be ironic if Trump triumphs in the primaries and doesn’t have to worry about a smoke-filled convention while Hillary succumbs to behind-the-scene efforts to find a candidate who actually can have a chance against Trump. In other words, I’ve come to the conclusion that it takes a populist to beat a populist and the days of dynasty politics might be over in this country.

My Take on Last Night’s Republican Debate

Great theater last night watching the Republican debate on Fox. Trump was worth the price of admission. When all is said and done, though, little changed. Trump’s followers will see their hero as a man who stood up to that nasty Megan when she asked the “unfair” question about women.

So, what are the take-a-ways? Kasich is a real threat to Jeb Bush. He comes across as very self-assured while Bush seems disinterested. Marco Rubio came across as articulate while Cruz displayed his customary angry expression. Rand Paul failed to win much traction.

What is deeply disturbing is that we now have one political party so far to the right that they are advocating killing the mother to save the child. Huckabee’s assertion that an unborn child has full Constitutional rights is very disturbing indeed.

There was no discussion of the disparity between the rich and the poor or the power of Wall Street, although Trump did bring up the unholy alliance between Wall Street and politicians. There was no discussion of the environment, of course, except for the baying for a pipeline that won’t solve anything or bring jobs.

The most frightening aspect of the debate is the push for war. Listen to the amateurs like Cruz and Walker talk about how they would talk tough to Iran and “lead” is frightening indeed. They ignore the fact that American sanctions were not what brought Iran around; it was sanctions by our allies. We won’t get them to keep those sanctions in place.

The Republicans would like to believe that the U.S. has a God-given right to tell the rest of the world what to do. We don’t. I would argue that it is the concept of American Exceptionalism that has caused us so much trouble. Remember how we would bring democracy to the rest of the world, including Iraq?

I like Bernie Sanders a lot, but polls show that he has not excited the blacks or Hispanics. His basic support is from the progressive wing; that’s not enough to be elected even if he carries San Francisco, New York City, and Austin, Texas.

Hillary just keeps digging a hole for herself; the Republicans will keep forcing her to appear before committees up until the election. Her disapproval ratings will continue to climb because the oligarchs in this country will spend billions in advertising to cast doubt about her “character.” It’s Hillary’s nomination to lose, and that’s a real dilemma because imagine a world where the clowns run everything, including Supreme Court appointments.

Forget voting rights, women’s rights, higher educational standards, the environment, and health care. Also, because budget hawks will be in power, imagine our country cutting social services, Social Security, and Medicare while pumping still more money into the military industrial complex. Imagine also a push for a national right to work law that will destroy unions.

So, from my perspective, we need Trump to stay in or become so upset with the Republican party that he runs as a third-party candidate. Rubio or Kasich probably could defeat a severely wounded Hillary. Remember the importance of both Florida and Ohio when it comes to determining who will be elected President.

I don’t see Hillary getting stronger once all the Koch brother ads start running. I do see Democratic ads cutting into whatever favorability ratings the Republican candidate has.

So, this is likely to be an election where it will be difficult to get people to the polls (particularly if it’s a Bush/Clinton dynasty race). Hillary is likely to pick up some women voters, but she is not likely to get the same number of black voters who streamed to the polls to vote for the first black president. She also might lose some very right-wing Jewish voters.

I think the only way for Hillary to win is make this coming election a referendum on the growing disparity in this country between the very rich and the poor. I think Elizabeth Warren could make a better case for this disparity, but I’m not convinced she really is ready to run for President or that she could attract independent voters.

If the election becomes a choice between help for the middle class and the poor versus the Koch brothers and if women and minorities can be enticed to vote in huge numbers, there is a chance the Democrats can win despite a severely wounded Hillary.

I also think that the Democratic party needs to emphasize what the future would hold if the Republicans hold all three parts of the government. That might include detailed lists of all the crazy bills they proposed that failed to become laws. Let’s also make this an election about the tax breaks for hedge fund managers. We probably also need to look at all the wars the Republicans have advocated including boots on the ground in Syria, more boots back into Iraq, boots on the ground in the Ukraine, etc. It might be nice to show a graph that compares this country’s military spending with that of the rest of the world. Last night the Republican candidates outdid themselves in demanding we build up the Army, Navy, and Airforce to their numbers during the peak of the cold war.

So, let’s see more Republican debates with more emphasis on who God is talking to and how mothers need to be killed. Let’s have more emphasis on cutting the taxes for the very wealthy and for eliminating Obamacare for a non-specific alternative. Let’s have more talk of war and saber rattling by the group of amateurs. Maybe, God willing, they’ll sabotage the best chance they’ve had in years to seize the reins of power.

 

The “Sharing Economy” is the GOP’s New Snake Oil

Our current employment numbers do not reflect the unfortunate reality. The Republicans in Washington have pushed the economy in the direction that would have thrilled  the robber barons at the turn of the 20th century. First of all, companies’ profits are increasing because they are part of a buyer’s market. They can keep wages low because their Republican friends in power are doing everything they can to break the strength of labor unions.

If you’re just out of college, lots of luck finding a full-time job with benefits. Many kids in their 20s are still living at home while balancing two part-time jobs, neither of which has health benefits. My friends who are in the 50s and are laid off have a better chance of hitting the lottery than they do of finding another comparable job. Instead, they now have to list themselves as “consultants.” That means occasional gigs with no security, no benefits, and steady source of income.

It’s utterly stupid for the wealthy to believe that they are smart in keeping wages down because that means there are less middle-class people to buy their products. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out. Still, with a pre-occupation on short-term gains, employers  continue to push for contract workers rather than full-time employers. Sure, it gives them more flexibility in hard times, but it’s a two-way street. I remember years ago working for a private company headed by a guy with vision. He treated his employees fairly. The result was that no one left at five. People left when they felt they’d finished the job. They cared about the quality of their work because they knew their leader cared about them.

Contrast that attitude with a manufacturing company I worked for that paid its employees weekly. One reason is that they cut put in a pink slip of paper that terminated the employee with no other notice. That’s probably where the term “pink slip” came from. No one stood in front of the main doors at five pm because they would be run over by the employees who did not want to give the company one minute more than they were contracted for.

Uber has made a fortune on the backs of employees. If there’s an accident, Uber argues that their driver is responsible because he is not really an employee. Health benefits? You have to be kidding. The hourly wages sound appealing, but employees find that after parking tickets, toll road charges, gas, and car maintenance, they earn less than minimum wage.

I talked recently with a man who used to run a small advertising agency. Now he says people will contract on an hourly basis with a free lancer to produce an ad on a PC. It’s tough for free lancers to plan their lives because they don’t have a steady source of income. How can you buy a house or send a kid to college if you don’t know what you are going to make the next month?

Fat cats argue that we live in the world of free enterprise where people are only limited by their desire and brains. That’s a lot of hogwash. It all ties in with the old Calvinistic theory that God gives people what they deserve. So, if someone is poor, they deserve to be poor because of their own failings. This is a wonderful theory for wealthy folks to have because it implies that God has rewarded them because they deserve it.

This helps to explain Donald Trump’s lack of compassion for the poor. If God thought they were as worthy as he, they would be wealthy. Of course, the poor did not have a father who started them off with a couple of million dollars.

Jeb Bush recently came out with a statement on Social Security that reflected the attitude of traditional Republicans. They never have forgiven Franklin Roosevelt for pushing that bill through. They argue that people should have the opportunity to invest their own social security money. Of course, that benefits the biggest supporters of the GOP, Wall Street. People with no financial training should not be thrown into a financial jungle. Wall Street would take a cut out of every financial transaction. Bush argues he is empathetic for poor people. After all, he fell in love with a Mexican. So much for compassionate conservatism.

So, the sharing economy simply means that the wealthy take an increased share from the poor and the declining middle class. If we don’t do something in the next few years, our country will resemble the poor countries of Central America where a few families are incredibly wealthy and live in guarded communities while the poor have nothing.

The Egyptian Army’s Coup, Democracy, Morsi, and Egypt Rising

Over 500 people have been killed and thousands injured in the latest riots since the Egyptian army deposed Mohammad Morsi and once again assumed the reins of command. Both sides are talking at each other without really communicating, while our Government is in the awkward position of defending democracy but siding with a legally elected leader.

Both sides can make legitimate arguments. Morsi’s defenders point to the fact that most observers felt the election was conducted as fairly as possible in that neck of the woods. Anti-Morsi groups argue rightly that he promised he would listen to input from other groups but scorned them instead. His answer to resistance regarding his pro-Islamic fundamentalist positions was that people could choose to not re-elect him when it was time for the next election. Many pro-democracy supporters felt that the well-organized Muslim Brotherhood had stolen the election and pointed the ship of state towards an Islamic republic governed by Shariah law rather than a democratic government that respected the rights of all its citizens.

The sad truth is that even though Egypt’s literacy rate is high for that part of the world (not including Israel), it still is low. Democracy requires an educated citizenry. Many people in Egypt cannot read, but they can listen to advice from their religious leaders. Once Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood colleagues took office, women began to chaff under new restrictions. Just one example of these actions was the Government’s requirement that   women broadcasting on its television channel had to cover themselves with traditional garb. Western women and Egyptian women who chose to walk the streets in Western style clothes found themselves under attack.

In my new novel, Egypt Rising, I describe the conditions leading up to the Egyptian revolution of 2011. In fact, during that revolution, fundamentalist-leaning men attacked Western reporters such as Lisa Lang. Olivia is far more fortunate since she was able to subdue our attackers. The attacks on Israel-supporters described in the book actually did occur.

Egypt Rising described a creaky Egyptian bureaucracy that survived regime change. Recent reports indicate that this situation is still true. Squeeze and payoffs are engrained in a culture in which they have been part for thousands of years. The Government did shut down all digs near the Sphinx. You can buy the Government’s arguments that digging was undermining the structure, or you can accept my theory (and the theory of many skeptics) that there is far more to the story.

Novels predictably have happy endings in which the author ties together all the loose ends. That’s not going to be the case in Egypt. Neither side can afford to concede, so the fighting is bound to continue. Our Government has a very unfortunate set of options. One choice is to side with the Army and continue our foreign aid while trying to justify going against the Government elected by the very democratic principles we preach. The other choice is to cut off our support for the Army and face the very real possibility that democracy goes away and the people wind up with an Islamic republic where women face all kinds of new restrictions and lose of freedom. When we sever our money connection to the Army, we also sever our influence. We will have no influence whatsoever with an Islamic republic.

The  best policy is to continue to provide financial aid to the Army while pushing it to speed up the process of setting up new elections. The problem, of course, is that there is no guarantee that a party favorable to our interests will be elected.