We keep hearing that Democratic officials are being polite and deferent to president-elect Donald Trump because they respect America’s tradition of smooth transitions of power. Given what Trump has said during the campaign, and the people he has appointed so far, however, that may not be appropriate.
It began with the global economic crisis.
All around the world, millions of people who had nothing to do with the stock market crash — who didn’t earn enough money to save, much less invest, that much less speculate — lost everything nevertheless. They lost their jobs, then, in short order, their homes. They were scared.
The failure of democratic governance transformed their completely understandable fear into savage, uncontrolled anger.
Presidents and parliaments dithered. Part of the blame lie with the Constitution. It provided for a strong executive branch. Rather than grease the skids of government, it prompted members of the congress to dig in their heels, blocking every initiative they could because it was the only way to stay relevant.
The politicians knew they had a terminal systemic crisis on their hands, but they couldn’t agree how to respond. So they didn’t. The misery deepened.
The economy recovered. A little. Not much. But almost all the gains fell into the pockets of the wealthy and well-connected. Almost everyone else felt left out. They seethed.
Seeing opportunity amid the armies of the alienated and dispossessed, the perennial almost-candidate of the nationalist, nativist far-right began campaigning in earnest. Breaking all the rules of conventional campaigning, he drew huge crowds with a simple message:
Trust me, he assured his audiences, and I will make the country great again.
He was short on specifics and liberal with insults. Idiots, he called the incumbent politicians. They were losers — losers whose stupidity had betrayed a once-great country.
“People from this country can’t find a job. They can’t earn a decent living,” he ranted. “Foreigners must be expelled so our people can work!”
Forward-looking leaders within the establishment parties worried about the growing popularity of this strongman in the making. His intentions, after all, were dangerously radical — and they’d been published years before in a bestselling book. He was, he said himself, a “militarist.” Wars, fragmentation, scapegoating were all in the cards if he were allowed to come to power. But the parties weren’t motivated to respond. The system couldn’t save itself.
Some establishment analysts thought he was a flash in the pan, a buffoon whose appeal would fade in good time of its own accord. “The ranting clown who bangs the drum outside the…circus,” The Guardian called him.
The future tyrant’s natural ideological opposition couldn’t get it together. During key elections, they split their votes between the socialist Left and moderate liberals. Ultimately, however, historians blamed the Right most of all, for failing to rein in one of their own.
Traditional conservatives had played a dangerous game for years, using political “dog whistles” to appeal to citizens’ bigoted views of foreigners and ethnic minorities. As the economy worsened, this approach became more effective. Conservatives doubled down, setting the stage for what came next.
What the old guard didn’t understand was, that given a choice between half-hearted racism and the genuine article, the electorate would choose the authentic candidate. “He tells it like it is, and we need that now in a president,” 44% of voters told a major newspaper.
The conservative establishment faced a choice too: support a candidate of the left, or forsake true conservatism in favor of a fascist. To a man, they went with the fascist.
A tone of increasing violence accompanied the demagogue’s rise in the polls. Not only did he personally condone violence against his movement’s political opponents, his party offered its lawyers to defend partisans arrested for beatings in its name. Even his close associates were implicated in violent assaults; when they were, the Leader stood by them. “I think it’s a very very sad day in this country when a man could be destroyed over something like that,” he said.
The aging president was reluctant to issue an outright condemnation. “Troubling,” he called the gathering storm clouds.
The Leader’s authoritarian movement attracted a plurality of the vote — yet he wasn’t popular enough to consolidate a simple majority. Had his opponents set aside their personal ambitions and ideological biases, and united in favor of the national good, he could have been denied the chancellorship.
Alas, twelve years later, all would be ruins.
(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. “Bernie” is now on sale online and at all good bookstores.)
My secret is contrarianism. Since the conventional wise men of the corporate mainstream media are almost always wrong, you’ll almost always be right if you bet against them.
The MSM take on Donald Trump is a rare exception to the rule. They’re scared and so am I. They’re right to be frightened. He’s an unconscious fascist, less like Hitler the careful schemer, more like Adolf’s mentor Mussolini, who cobbled together a little bit from the socialist left and a lot from the nationalist right, winged it as he noted which lines got the most applause, and repeated those.
The trouble with Trump isn’t his policies. He hardly has any. Those he has are so vague as to be laughable (see: the Mexican-financed border wall, mass deportations, etc.)
His temperament is the threat. Hillary Clinton hasn’t met a war she didn’t like, but it’s easy to imagine Trump starting one — maybe a big one — accidentally. Trump has so much contempt for the system, the job he’s running for, and the American people, that he hasn’t bothered to study up on the issues. If he took real estate this seriously, he would have gone bankrupt even more often.
Here’s some irony: America finally elects the magic businessman as president — which we’ve been told for years would be awesome — and securities markets tank in reaction to the uncertainty he creates.
Trump, used to getting his way all the time, is a bully. A president convinces. An authoritarian orders you. Do what he says, or else. This November, nothing less than the American political system is at stake.
So it’s time to get real.
The establishment types are still in denial. Wake up, idiots!
At this writing, Trump is my odds-on favorite to win in November. Things could change. But that’s where we’ve been for months and where we are now.
Looking back, pressuring Trump and the other candidates promise to support the eventual nominee and forswear a third-party/independent candidacy rates as one of the stupidest political maneuvers of all time. Now the Republicans are stuck with the dude.
Not that the Democrats are blameless. Barring a miraculous EmailGate-related indictment or the eruption of some new scandal-in-waiting, Hillary Clinton will probably be the Democratic nominee. Thank you, DNC! And she’ll be a disaster. Head-to-head match-ups have consistently shown that she’s weaker against Trump than Bernie Sanders.
Trump is hardwired to find the weak spots in his opponents. He’ll have a field day demolishing Clinton’s candidacy, which is constructed on a pair of fantasies: that her long resume equals a list of impressive accomplishments, and that her record of supporting right-wing wars and trade agreements means she’s secretly a progressive longing to race out of the gate to keep “fighting for us.” Remember what he did to Little Marco Rubio.
Trump will blow up Hillary’s BS over and over and over. And there’s a lot of BS to blow up.
Hillary’s support is wide but shallow. Sure, some Bernie voters will dutifully Feel the Hill. But many Democrats, the ones who got into the Bern because they couldn’t abide Clinton, will not. DINO Hillary is to Trump’s right on war and trade and probably on Israel too. The #BernieorBust movement could leave enough progressives sitting home on election day or casting their votes for the Green Party’s Jill Stein to put Trump into the White House.
Should/can Trump be stopped? Yes, but not by the Republican Party. The GOP’s Stop Trump stampede — the anguished editorials, the cable-news rants, the pompous insider scolds, tens of millions of dollars in SuperPAC-funded attack ads that even smear his wife as a slut — is counterproductive, playing into the framing of a guy who sells himself as an establishment pissing-off outsider.
The Stop Trump movement within the GOP is undemocratic to the point of making me want to retch. Trump has a commanding lead against rival Ted Cruz (680 delegates to 424, 37% of the popular vote to 27%). Considering that Trump began the race against 18 other candidates, the establishmentarian talking point that he can’t get 50% of the vote is absurd. 37% is a commanding lead, and talk of pulling out some nothing guy who didn’t even run (Ryan, Romney) in second-round voting at the Republican convention is an insult to those who voted for Trump and to democracy itself.
The raison d’être for GOP anti-Trumpism is insane: he’s not a “real conservative” — this proto-fascist, they say, is too far left for their party.
If Republicans are serious about stopping Trump, they should pledge to support the Democratic nominee for president — with their votes, their PR machines, their SuperPACs and campaigning in person.
If the Democrats are serious about stopping Trump, they should Stop Hillary.
(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. “Bernie” is now on sale online and at all good bookstores.)
Originally published by ANewDomain.net:
America, they tell us, is exceptional.
Exceptionally wrong about how exceptional it is.
Here comes today’s New York Times to re-re-re-reconfirm that with an Opinion piece headlined “The New Dictators Rule by Velvet Fist.”
“In recent decades, a new brand of authoritarian government has evolved that is better adapted to an era of global media, economic interdependence and information technology. The ‘soft’ dictators concentrate power, stifling opposition and eliminating checks and balances, while using hardly any violence,” write Professors Sergei Guriev and Daniel Treismanmay. “These illiberal leaders — Alberto K. Fujimori of Peru, Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, Viktor Orban of Hungary, Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia and Hugo Chávez of Venezuela — threaten to reshape the world order in their image, replacing principles of freedom and law — albeit imperfectly upheld by Western powers — with cynicism and corruption.”
“Imperfectly upheld,” indeed.
They Depose Democratically Elected Presidents, Don’t They?
Like, for example, how the democratically elected president of Venezuela – the above-mentioned Hugo Chávez was overthrown by a corporate junta backed by the CIA and the Bush administration, as well as the slobbering editorial page and front page of — ahem — the New York Times.
Or how Judith Miller used the Times to convince the American people who Saddam had WMDs, used to justify the disastrous Iraq War.
“The West needs to understand how these regimes work and how to confront them.”
We Do the Same Exact Stuff
Read on, and it doesn’t take long to see that the West, and in particular the United States, well understand how these regimes work – because the US deploys many of the same strategies and tactics to quash opposition.
“The new autocrats often get to power through reasonably fair elections. Mr. Chávez, for instance, won in 1998 in what international observers called one of the most transparent votes in Venezuela’s history,” Guriev and Treismanmay admit. This, I suppose I should concede, is different from the American model, which included two consecutive presidential elections widely viewed as having been stolen: the 2000 judicial coup d’état precipitated by the Florida recount, and the stealing of the pivotal state of Ohio in 2004 via poll manipulation, both to the benefit of George W. Bush.
“The new autocrats use propaganda, censorship and other information-based tricks to inflate their ratings and to convince citizens of their superiority over available alternatives,” say Guriev and Treismanmay.
Here, in the meat of the matter, it is difficult to see any difference between the United States and these so-called “soft dictatorships.” No American newspaper, for example, employs a socialist opinion columnist, much less a communist one – even though these leftist ideologies are very popular among American citizens. Instead, in the United States, the only acceptable “mainstream” ideological discourse takes place on what is, by global standards, the far right: militantly procapitalist, contemptuous of such liberal ideals as leniency in sentencing, opposition to the death penalty, anti-militarism, and basic social safety net policies, like paid parental leave.
“They dominate the Internet by blocking access to independent websites, hiring ‘trolls’ to flood comments pages with pro-regime spam, and paying hackers to vandalize opposition online media sites,” Guriev and Treismanmay point out. How awful! But the same thing happens here, as numerous reports of trolls hired by the Bush and now the Obama administrations attest.
A “Pocket of Democratic Opposition”…to Hillary
“The new dictatorships preserve a pocket of democratic opposition to simulate competition.”
Um…Bernie Sanders, anyone?
“The new autocrats are not squeamish — they can viciously repress separatists or club unarmed protesters. But violence reveals the regime’s true nature and turns supporters into opponent.”
See, for example, the Obama Administration-coordinated police crackdown on the nonviolent Occupy Wall Street movement.
“And violence is not just costly — it’s unnecessary. Instead, the new authoritarians immobilize political rivals with endless court proceedings, interrogations and other legal formalities.”
My favorite part comes at the end: “Western democracies should provide objective native-language news broadcasts to counter the propaganda and censorship.”
Can we start with the US? That would be…exceptional.
Are you male? The odds say you’ll be arrested by the police at least once.
What happens to Americans after the cops slap on the cuffs, therefore, is not an intellectual exercise, or a matter of liberal guilt. It doesn’t just happen to other people.
You. It could happen to you.
It’s happened to me twice in the United States, and more times than I can count in foreign dictatorships. (In Third World countries, it’s usually corrupt cops shaking you down for a bribe.) On each occasion, I was thunderstruck by an overwhelming sense of helplessness.
No one knew where I was.
I was trapped. Think this is a democracy? Think again. Whether you’re in Turkmenistan or the United States, victims of arrest are every bit as “disappeared” as if they were living under Orwell’s dystopian Big Brother.
Your family doesn’t know where you are.
You don’t show up to work — so you might lose your job.
If you need medication to live, you may die because the cops won’t give it to you.
When I was arrested, the policemen could have done anything they wanted to me — beat me up, rape me, even murder me — and get away with it. They didn’t. But they could.
That’s not a good feeling.
It’s certainly not a feeling you should have to experience for trivial offenses. (My case #1: arrested for possession of marijuana. Not mine. My friend’s. Because he was in the same car as me when I got pulled over for forgetting to turn on my headlights at night. My case #2: pulled over for speeding. Arrested for a suspended license. Which had been suspended in error.)
This kind of thing should not be a death sentence. A Justice Department study found that more than 2,000 criminal suspects died in police custody over a three-year period. Fifty-five percent were ruled as homicides by police officers.
Christopher J. Mumola, who authored the study, notes that most people make it out physically unharmed. “Keep in mind we have 2,000 deaths out of almost 40 million arrests over three years, so that tells you by their nature they are very unusual cases,” said Mumola.
But that’s still too many. And jail is still a gratuitously terrible experience. Guaranteed constitutional rights — to legal representation, a speedy trial and to communicate with the outside world –are routinely denied. Detectives bully and harangue suspects past the limit of human endurance, frequently extracting false confessions from innocent men and women. Basic needs, including access to medication, are often ignored.
Some conservatives will counter that the police shouldn’t coddle suspects. That if you do the crime, be prepared to do the time. But that’s precisely the point: under U.S. law, suspects haven’t done any crime. Until a judge or jury delivers a guilty verdict, arrestees are innocent under the law.
The Miranda decision — the last major reform that improved life for those who get arrested — is a half-century old. It’s time to update the rules to bring the experience of getting arrested in line with the high-flying rhetoric of human rights enshrined under U.S. law and with common decency.
You have the right to communicate.
Or you should. In New York City, for example, suspects being processed through Central Booking are supposed to be allowed to place three local phone calls for free. In New York and most other municipalities, this right is routinely delayed.
“Disappearing” people is unworthy of a modern nation-state. It’s also dangerous. What happens to children waiting for their parents to pick them up after school when they don’t show up?
“Prepare yourself and your family in case you are arrested. Memorize the phone numbers of your family and your lawyer,” advises the ACLU. But in the age of the cellphone, many people don’t know important phone numbers by heart.
Suspects should be permitted to keep their cellphones, and use them as much as they want, while waiting to be indicted or released.
You have the right to your meds.
Cops are extraordinarily cavalier about the health of the people they arrest. Members of Occupy Wall Street arrested in 2011 reported that jail guards in Manhattan routinely jeopardized their health. “At one point,” wrote Dave Korn, “the cops wheeled out a stretcher holding one of our girls; she was lying motionless, oxygen tubes connected to her face. She had been denied her medication and was now unconscious. The stretcher was left in the hallways, and cops were either walking past or photographing her.” A 22-year-old Washington state man was arrested for misdemeanor marijuana possession and sent to jail. He told the authorities that he had an extreme food allergy. Cops fed him oatmeal anyway, and told him it was safe. “Over the next half hour, the video shows other inmates looking in Saffioti’s cell as he jumped up and down. The legal claim says he pressed his call button and was ignored,” reported local TV. He died.
Congress should pass a federal law guaranteeing Americans’ right to keep their medications with them if they’re arrested, as well as access to food conforming to their medical, dietary and religious needs.
You have the right to be speedily processed.
Anyone arrested in the U.S. is entitled to respect. Which includes the right to be charged or released quickly. In many jurisdictions, the 24-hour rule before seeing a judge is ignored — especially if you’re nabbed on a Friday night. Then it goes to 72 hours. Which is stupid. Jails don’t suspend business over weekends. Neither should the courts.
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