Sunday, May 22, 2016

Trump is victorious. On to Act 2.

I've been posting less and have missed some opportunities to ridicule the pathetic plans of the GOP also-ran candidates. Did Cruz and Kasich really think they could overturn the clear result of the primaries? Maybe they did, and that shows how politicians lie to themselves. Maybe they didn't, and that shows how politicians lie to the people. It's probably some of both.

So now that Mr. Terrible-Horrible Trump is clearly going to be the GOP nominee, we'll seeing several new story lines emerge. The most ironic is the dance between Trump and reluctant GOP pols. Most will support him in the end, but supporting him is fraught with risk--the biggest risk being what will come out of Trump's mouth. So politicians like Paul Ryan are delaying their support, watching if Trump will avoid being a complete boor.

We'll also see who continues to resist Trump, and how Trump responds. Will he tear into them as he had before, or will he temper his response as a potential president should? Stay tuned.

It didn't work out that way...

Extras. "I coulda been a contenda" -- Ted Cruz complaining that Rubio wouldn't team up with him. Cruz doesn't seem to realize that he is extremely repellent, so being his No. 1 best buddy isn't a job many people will want. Ted Cruz's long history of being repellent.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The ability, the desire, and a receptive audience

This is how Trump won.

  • He had the ability to deliver messages that resonated with disgruntled Republicans. 
  • He had the desire to keep at it. I didn't think he would, but then he didn't face strong competition or very much pushback. 
  • Most of all, a lot of Republicans liked what they heard from Trump. Turnout for the GOP primaries, which was lacklustre in 2012, strongly rebounded in 2016
Trump was smart to make immigration his top issue. Politicians have been ignoring this growing problem for decades. They've had good political reasons not to tackle it, as I've said before. Finally this year, there was a major contender who wasn't a weasel on immigration. That had a huge appeal.

I also speculate that GOP voters have been primed for Trump and his kind of rhetoric by the many conservative talk radio commentators. In fact, Trump sounds like a less intellectual Rush Limbaugh. Just think of the similarities--insulting women unless they're beautiful and supportive, ridiculing the disability of a public figure, quickly blaming convenient scapegoats with no analysis of the real problems.

Trump very much resembles a conservative talk radio hack. One difference is that Trump had enough reserves (of income and prestige), so he could give up his show (a reality TV show, not a radio show) and go out to campaign. Maybe a lot of talk radio jocks are wishing they had done it first, but they weren't egotistical enough, whereas Trump was.

I'll probably never know whether talk radio was as influential as I think it was. Therefore, I can keep on believing! Nothing will stop me this time! Yes! Make America Great Again!


Extra. Jonathan Chait fuming on why Trump won.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

No one solves the problems

Trump is promising to bring good jobs back to the US. He doesn't say how this will happen, but we're supposed to trust him because he knows how to make good deals.

Is he different from other politicians (both right and left) who have promised good jobs? Were the earlier politicians (right and left) different from one another when they promised good jobs?

In many ways, they weren't different. Both sides failed. Their promises were half-baked words meant to get them elected, but not suitable to be implemented. Trump's promises look a lot like this.

I'm not an economist--not that economists have delivered all that well on their predictions/solutions (i.e. promises). I haven't seen an economist discuss which economies in the world are working well, and whether the US can emulate their success. I suspect that the US can't emulate their success. If we are to recapture our former higher level of economic success, we'll have to figure out our own path there.

The GOP path was tax cuts for 'job creators' and the trickle-down economy. Since Bush Jr., that path has clearly been a failure. The Democratic path seems like a hodge-podge of security nets programs and tax increases on the wealthy. How that brings more jobs isn't clear. I'd have to classify as a redistribution program, not a jobs-creation plan.

The failure of both the GOP and Dem plans have left the door wide open for Trump, and he has taken full advantage. I don't know how many of his supporters actually believe him. But for sure, they know that the GOP and the Dems have failed, so maybe it's time to try something else.

Ask the question: Is this working?

Worst of all, neither the Dems nor the GOP have grappled with their failures. Dems are doubling-down on the social safety net, while the GOP continues their trickle-down fantasies. Dems, for electoral reasons, won't consider that large-scale immigration has hurt average Americans. Many in the GOP elites won't talk about it either because they benefit from cheap immigrant labor, and they're looking at electoral demographics too.

So, it is no surprise that Trump wins the GOP presidential nomination, since he is the only candidate who will talk about immigration in forceful, if ugly, terms.

As for the general election, I'm not confident that Trump will lose. Hillary represents one failed plan, so she certainly doesn't deserve to win. Trump doesn't deserve to win either. No one seems to deserve the office. No one has strong, new ideas.

I recently read a history of the US from 1932 to 1972 (The Glory and the Dream by William Manchester). It was enlightening how Roosevelt tackled the depression. The problem is that the US is so much larger now with so many more layers of spending. Can we actual do anything major now? I have strong doubts.

Nonetheless, I wish more politicians were making big proposals that are outside of the same-old partisan failures. Instead of Trump vs. generic-Dem, we should have had the choice of a half-dozen new ideas. But we didn't, and that's the shame and the pity.


Extras. Are there countries we can learn from? HuffPost's top ten. US News and their ranking of 60 countries. Also by quality of life.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

By request: Trump's America First

Dangerous (a regular commenter) sent me this email:
...I thought you might post something about Trump’s invocation of “America First” as a guiding principle of his foreign policy. 
I knew a little about that particular slogan – which is completely consistent with both Donald Trump’s personal brand and his affinity for the movement which created it – and there’s not a lot there to like, despite it sounding good to a lot of people. This is, of course, why the racist, anti-Semitic demagogues deployed it as an early form of deceptive spin on their intentions... 
So I thought this topic in particularly would be right up your alley for research and analysis because it thematically hits on everything you talk about – history, politics, truth, reason. Of course our government should put American interests first, but the problem has always been to accurately determine what those interests are in a complex world, and how exactly to protect or promote those interests without all those nasty unforeseen consequences. Hence it’s easy to question our recent policy decisions in Libya or Syria or Iraq and propose all sorts of un-provable but also impossible to disprove cause and effect (or blame / credit) assertions either. 
This process in the hands of a Donald Trump will probably see our interests as matching his personal interests – looking and acting tough and seem to be “winning” – when that will rarely be the case and will likely damage our long-term interests and standing. Similarly, he would never intervene in a humanitarian crisis in, say, central African because what possible interests would it serve to help dark people half way around the world with no payback. In the hands of Hillary Clinton, America’s interests first would mean roughly equal shares of immediate interests and political consequences, long-term interests and doctrine setting, and all of the other chess moves her experienced team would weigh for any action or choice not to act. Bernie would probably err on the opposite side of Trump’s impulsive me-and-now approach, assuming any action would result in awful consequences while not recognizing that action might actually reduce those consequences. For this reason, lots of people she Hillary as a hawk simply because she will consider use of military and/or aggressive diplomatic actions (e.g. economic sanctions) with domestic politics in mind and the recognition that failure to act will be spun as weakness. 
Europe and the rest of the U.S.-allied world should pay more for its own defense, but it makes no sense to talk about increasing military spending to be the biggest bad-ass when we already spend more than the next 10 countries combined. Why should they bother? And they do pay in accepting the U.S. dollar as the exchange currency, and giving us all sorts of breaks that aren’t as obvious, but allow us to have gas at half the price of the rest of the developed world. It makes no sense to talk about non-intervention when we would also go around making all sort of demands on both allies and foes which would not be in their interests. 
I’ll be interested in reading what you think about this.
So, what I think... Trump always goes for the simplistic slogans, so "America First" fits that pattern. But I actually didn't pay much attention to the discussion of his foreign policy speech on April 27. Now, to answer the question, I'm forced to.

As usual, Trump is short on specifics. One key policy is that he won't let US jobs go overseas. Instead, he'll strengthen the economy here and reduce the trade deficit. But how, exactly? Will he pull the US out of many of the trade agreements, or maybe renegotiate them? He doesn't say. 

He'll also get rid of ISIS, and very quickly. He doesn't say how because he's not going to give ISIS that information. If his anti-ISIS plan is anything like his plan for Mideast oil, it's a total incoherent hodge-podge.

He's clearer that he won't destabilize any regimes that are stable. So he won't repeat our policies in Iraq and Libya. Well, I don't think many candidates are going to repeat those policies anyway. But, if he needs to use troops, he will and he'll win... if you believe Trump will miraculously avoid all past and future mistakes that seem to attend most of our Mideast policy. Yeah, sure, Donald will somehow thread that needle.

He'll negotiate a great agreement with Russia or walk away... but exactly what issues are we negotiating over? Oops, he doesn't say.

Trump has some reasonable points about loss of prestige, poor policy decisions, loss of jobs, the importance of military strength, etc. He's not a total liar about those problems. However, it's a big leap of faith to think Trump can change all of that. Unfortunately, we don't get a trial run with presidents, with a redo option when a president turns out to be horrible. I can understand why people want Trump to have a chance to carry out his ideas. But it's a big risk that I wouldn't take on his say-so.

Dangerous, I'm sorry if this didn't focus on his slogan "America First." I think it's more important to try to figure what he would do than analyze if a slogan appeals to certain groups and why.


Extras. The NY Times critique of the speech. Snarky comments about the speech.