Friday, August 26, 2016

In the United States we are a Month Away from Early Voting

Roman coin minted 63 BCE, showing voter casting ballot
63 BCE was a momentous time in the history of Rome, says Mary Beard. Cicero, the orator, philosopher, politician, priest, and poet, defeated Catiline in an election for the Senate. Catiline organized a revolt, but Cicero managed to have the plotters arrested and summarily executed without trial. A mere 14 years later Ceaser crossed the Rubicon and put an end to the Republic.

In the United States we are a Republic still. But the potential for revolutionary change is in the air. We are just a month away from the first votes being cast. In Minnesota early voting starts 46 days before the November 8 general election; several states will start 45 days before; California will start 30 days before.

In this election it appears that more than fifty million voters will cast their vote for Donald Trump, a would be emperor. It is a jarring number. Even though Hillary Clinton is predicted to win (83% chance of winning as of this writing), the sound of 50 million votes for a would be emperor will reverberate.This sound hints at problems that must be addressed: not like Cicero did, but through good technocratic governance, and civic engagement.

Who will vote for Donald Trump? Will you? Or will you waste your vote on Jill Stein or Gary Johnson who have nothing to offer because they will win no electoral votes? Not now, not ever.

Donald Trump is popular with white voters, albeit less popular than Mitt Romney was. See, e.g.  NPR. He is particularly popular among whites without a college degree, and popular with right wing whites.  See e.g. the Jonathan Rothwell Gallup Study, based on 87,000 voter interviews over the last year.  Josh Marshall at TPM says Trump is exploiting uncertainty and fear: "the erosion of white privilege, supremacy and centrality in American life."

Trump won out over Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, and the other also rans of the GOP primary by overtly pandering to white privilege, white supremacy, and white fears of lost centrality

Pessimism plays a role. "There is evidence," says the Gallup study, "that whites are unusually pessimistic about their well-being." This pessimism is particularly acute among lower income whites and older whites. Middle aged whites have experienced a rise in mortality rates over the past 15 years. It's a fact that makes the GOP scorched earth opposition to health care reform for the last 25 years especially obscene.

None of the support for Trump is rational. Supporters say he speaks his mind, says it like it is. They mean they agree with what he says; they like what he says. Yet there is no coherent program. Trump supporters say they could never vote for "crooked Hillary Clinton" because she lies. This is not a rational stance because on any objective measure Clinton is relatively honest in her pronouncements and Trump is off-the-scale flagrant in his disregard of the truth.  If Trump lies 76 percent of the time and Clinton lies 28 percent of the time and you say you like Trump because Hillary lies, there is something else going on.

A vague desire to blow up the system without any plan or understanding for what will replace it is not rational. It's like voting 60 times to repeal Obamacare.

Is it white nationalism?

Don't call Trump support "nationalism"(of any stripe) pleads Brad DeLong: U.S. nationalism means celebrating a nation of immigrants, freedom, and setting a moral example to the world--the essence of U.S. nationalism could not be further removed from the xenophobia Trump is exploiting.

What's shocking about Trump is that he has become the Republican standard bearer, and may garner in excess of 50 million votes despite extreme rhetoric, boorish and crass behavior, bullying, narcissism, crude sexism, ignorance of world affairs, and an utter lack of relevant experience. What's scary about Trump is his volatility, irrationality, utter contempt for the truth, apparent fondness for Putin, and the fact that he surrounds himself with scoundrels.  His first campaign manager Corey Lewandowsky, reported Karen Tumulty in the Washington Post, like Trump, "hit(s) hard, play(s) close to the lines — and occasionally step(s) over them, disregarding the foul calls." Lewandowsky was eventually forced out after assaulting a female reporter walking next to Trump attempting to ask him a question, and grabbing a protester by the collar at another rally. Trump's next campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was a friend and highly paid consultant (more than $12 million) to the corrupt pro-Putin Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich.  Trump's latest campaign CEO, Stephen Bannon, is the head of Breitbart News, a far right news site [see e.g. How Breitbart Unleashes Hate Mobs... ] whose "visceral hatred of the left and self-righteous desire to destroy it frequently appears to overwhelm whatever other moral or ideological beliefs he holds," says Conor Friedersdorf at the The Atlantic.

Bannon speaks in apocalyptic and revolutionary terms. Here he is speaking to a group of conservatives in 2013, as reported by Friedersdorf:
“This is going to be a very nasty, long, protracted fight.... There is a permanent political class in this city that dominates it, and by that dominates the country. And there is a dedicated group of libertarians and grassroots conservatives and Tea Party conservatives and limited government conservatives that are here to destroy that. And that is going to be ugly tough work. That’s just reality. People are not going to give up on aristocracy easily.”
Bannon hints at violence, "marching on people's houses." In the meantime, Trump is laying the groundwork for street violence by warning that the only way he could lose the election in Pennsylvania (a key swing state) is if the election is rigged. "I hope you people can sort of not just vote on the 8th, go around and look and watch other polling places, and make sure that it's 100 percent fine," Trump said. Pat Buchanan joins right in.

Elect Trump and the worst elements will rise to the top. He's off to an inauspicious start. And consider Michael Flynn.

Trump entered national politics by leading the "birtherism" movement, alleging President Barak Obama was not born in the United States, despite the fact that the State of Hawaii vouched they had his birth certificate [not to mention that his mother was undeniably a U.S. citizen]. "Birtherism" was a movement to delegitimize our first black President because he was "from Africa." Trump started his campaign for president by slandering immigrants from Mexico as "rapists." He has vowed to expel all illegal immigrants, setting up a police program to round up and expel more than 11 million people from our midst--many of whom have been among us for decades leading productive lives. Who will step forward to do it? Who will stand-by and do nothing? There is that wall he's promising to build.

Trump is a man comfortably joking about the assassination of Hillary Clinton, joking about encouraging Russia to hack the DNC, and musing that "Honestly, I wish I had that power; I'd love to have that power."  Wait seventy-six days and he may.

It's up to you and me.

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