Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Electoral Theatre: Tragedy and Farce

Elections are often accused of being a distraction. The choices offered are superficial and it doesn't really matter too much which political faction gets the majority and who gets the top spot. Society will continue ticking over, the powerful as a group (the capitalists since this is the 21st century) will still be dominant in society (though to be honest a few will lose out) and we'll get to go through it all again in a few years.

It looks like 2016 will be a more transparent example of this then we usually get. Remember how Trump portrayed himself as an outsider and vowed not to be beholden to lobbyists?

“I don’t want any strings attached,” Trump said. “I turned down $5 million last week from a very important lobbyist because there are total strings attached to a thing like that.
 “He’s going to come to me in a year or two years,” he added. “And he’s going to want something for a country that he represents or a company that he represents. That’s the kind of money I won’t take.”
That was on the 23rd August 2015.

Well, guess Trump did what Americans call a pivot because his transition team is stacked with corporate lobbyists.

But the Trump transition team is a who’s who of influence peddlers, including: energy adviser Michael Catanzaro, a lobbyist for Koch Industries and the Walt Disney Company; adviser Eric Ueland, a Senate Republican staffer who previously lobbied for Goldman Sachs; and Transition General Counsel William Palatucci, an attorney in New Jersey whose lobbying firm represents Aetna and Verizon. Rick Holt, Christine Ciccone, Rich Bagger, and Mike Ferguson are among the other corporate lobbyists helping to manage the transition effort.
Looks like big business is back in business already.

And looks like we can forget about the banning of Muslims

Before: Mr Trump initially promised to ban all Muslims entering the US, but switched to "extreme vetting" after he became the party's presidential candidate.
In a campaign statement in December 2015, he said a "total and complete" shutdown should remain until the US authorities "can figure out" Muslim attitudes to the US.
In August 2016, he said he would enact "extreme vetting" of immigrants.
After: The immigration section of Mr Trump's website makes no mention of this pledge.

Oh an remember how pundits and journalists in the UK and the USA, (and probably elsewhere, I'm sure I saw a few German and French magazine covers on the same lines) were calling this the most bitter and acrimonious Presidential election campaign in history? With Clinton calling Trump un fit to be President and his supporters were `a basket of deplorables`

You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic -- you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people -- now 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks -- they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America."
And of course Trump wasn't shy in dishing out the insults, I honestly lost count of the times Trump publicly called Clinton corrupt and threatened to put her in jail so here's just a random example from their second debate.

Trump, embracing the spirit of the “lock her up” mob chants at his rallies, threatened: “If I win I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation – there has never been so many lies and so much deception,” he threatened.
Clinton said it was “awfully good” that someone with the temperament of Trump was not in charge of the law in the country, provoking another Trump jab: “Because you’d be in jail.”
“She got caught in a total lie and now she is blaming the lie on the late, great Abraham Lincoln,” added Trump as Clinton attempted to defend leaked Wall Street speech transcripts.

And of course current President Obama waded in saying;

“I think I was right and Mitt Romney and John McCain were wrong on certain policy issues but I never thought that they couldn’t do the job. And had they won, I would have been disappointed but I would have said to all Americans: this is our president and I know they’re going to abide by certain norms and rules and common sense, will observe basic decency, will have enough knowledge about economic policy and foreign policy and our constitutional traditions and rule of law that our government will work and then we’ll compete four years from now to try and win an election.
“But that’s not the situation here. And that’s not just my opinion. That is the opinion of many prominent Republicans. There has to come a point at which you say enough. The alternative is that the entire party, the Republican party, effectively endorses and validates the positions that are being articulated by Mr Trump. And as I said in my speech last week, I don’t think that actually represents the views of a whole lot of Republicans.”
Emphasis added.

These are all just a few examples I skimmed from memory, and as someone who doesn't live in America I was thankfully spared the constantly hourly barrage of election coverage of the past year, so this is really just the tip of the bickering ice berg.

But that was a pre November 8th world, after the election things are very different. After Clinton conceded this is what President Elect Donald Trump had to say

I've just received a call from Secretary Clinton. She congratulated us. It’s about us. On our victory, and I congratulated her and her family on a very, very hard-fought campaign.
I mean, she fought very hard. Hillary has worked very long and very hard over a long period of time, and we owe her a major debt of gratitude for her service to our country.
I mean that very sincerely. Now it is 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.
Emphasis added

And this wasn't a one off attempt to appear gracious in victory, a few days later in an interview Trump continued dishing out the compliments.

“It was a lovely call and it was a tough call for her,” Trump said in the interview, that will air Sunday. “I can imagine. Tougher for her than it would have been for me.”
“I mean, for me, it would have been very, very difficult,” he continued. “She couldn’t have been nicer. She just said, ‘Congratulations, Donald, well done.'”
Trump revealed that former President Bill Clinton called him on Thursday night to offer his congratulations.
“He couldn’t have been more gracious,” the president-elect said. “He said it was an amazing run. One of the most amazing he’s ever seen.”
And I've had a look at Trump's proposal for his first one hundred as a full fledged President, and so far I've not been able to find any reference to locking up Hillary Clinton, or even run her out of DC on a rail. It's almost like he's forgotten one of the main reason he argued the American people should vote for him over her.

And again Trump is not an exception her, indeed the spirit of peace seems to be catching like a winter flu. Clinton is now calling for unity under President Trump.

Last night I congratulated Donald Trump and offered to work with him on behalf of our country. I hope that he will be a successful president for all Americans.
Remember during the campaign trail she sad that Trump was the head of a movement that had empowered "The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic -- you name it." now though she's prepared to work with deplorable coalition?

And Obama the man Trump is replacing in January had this to say

"We are now all rooting for his success in uniting and leading the country," Obama said in the White House Rose Garden.
"Everybody is sad when their side loses an election, but the day after we have to remember we're actually all on one team. We're Americans first, we're patriots first, we all want what's best for this country." 

What happened to you thinking Trump was worse than Romney and McCain, and how you'd be prepared to work with them (whatever that means) but not Trump?

Now this may seem a bit small given that Trump's election win has spurred on an increase in hate crimes since he broke the 270 threshold. But its worth bringing up because this a pretty transparent case of the big three politicians in the United States lying. They lied to their base, they lied to the poor sods who put time effort and money into their campaigns, they lied to the US public, and they lied to the world.

If Obama and Clinton were being sincere before the elections then what they're doing is capitulation to the greatest threat to American democracy they've ever seen. If they're being sincere now after the election than they were deliberately smearing an opponent in a divisive and potentially dangerous fashion.

On the other hand if  Trump was being honest before the election than his inviting of lobbyists into his inner circle and lack of interest in locking up Clinton (a woman who he said repeatedly was the greatest threat to America at present) is just an early sign of his capitulation to the status quo. Making his populist outsider status void after two days (at best) of celebrating, and two months before he's even in the job proper.

Or alternatively his post election moderation is closer to how he really feels, and like the Democrats he's guilty of the same under handed scaremongering and manipulation of his own support base. People who dedicated a significant portion of their time energy and money into getting him a lucrative and powerful new job.

 Still there is something of a silver lining in all this. This additional example of politicians being slippery then a barrel full of jellied eels seems to be a case of diminishing returns. The overall number of votes cast was slightly higher than in 2012, but turnout was down, and both the Republican and Democratic vote dropped, with the Democrats plummeting losing around 6 million votes.

It should be kept in mind that this was an election where both sides were painting the other as an inherent danger to the Republic and practically the antichrist. Hell some in the Republican party went a step further and said Hillary Clinton was literally the antichrist.

That provocative question headlines a new Jennifer LeClaire column for Charisma, which promotes what she calls a “documentary” titled “Hillary Clinton – The Antichrist Or the Illuminati Witch?”
 So for so the lack of response by so many people to these tactics is kind of surprising. Whether this is evidence of trend leading towards a rupture between the people and the political machines that run America remains to be seen. Though another more encouraging sign is the response of ordinary citizens.

Currently much of the news coverage from the USA has been dominated by the Anti-Trump protests that have erupted all over the country.

The protests have clearly rejected the conciliatory overtures of the Democratic establishment and its reassuring to see that the rise of a man like Trump isn't going unopposed. In many countries elected governments have been brought down or forced to shelve key policy ideas in the face of such opposition. It's often said that Richard Nixon the most hated President in American history(so far anyway) went from the most Conservative President ever to the most liberal because the domestic opposition was so severe he was forced to attempt to break by making multiple concessions (ending the Draft, forming the Environmental Protection Agency, d├ętente with the Soviet Union and reconciliation with China etc.) and Trump has already indicated that he's abandoning or at least watering down a number of his key platform pledges without any opposition at all.

I think overall the lesson of 2016 with examples from France, Poland and now the USA is that workers have a lot more power than they realise and its a mistake to leave it to professional politicians, even the ones telling you what you wanted to hear when touting for votes.

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