Monday, November 21, 2016

Other views - resistance in the time of Trump

Trump wants to deport Latinos. Check. Trump wants registration for Muslims. Check. Trump wants a tax break for the wealthy. Check. Trump abuses women. Check. Trump is a con-man. Check! Trump is a pathological liar. Check!! Trump wants an infrastructure program. Check? Trump wants to resurrect the Glass-Steagal firewall. Check???

We are all familiar with the first half dozen items on that list. But continuing to attack Trump for his faults gives him more free publicity and reflexive sympathy from those who voted for him. That’s the view from a native Italian who saw Trump coming and saw what happened in Italy with Berlusconi as a model, The Right Way to Resist Trump.

Five years ago, I warned about the risk of a Donald J. Trump presidency. Most people laughed. They thought it inconceivable.

I was not particularly prescient; I come from Italy, and I had already seen this movie, starring Silvio Berlusconi, who led the Italian government as prime minister for a total of nine years between 1994 and 2011. I knew how it could unfold.

Now that Mr. Trump has been elected president, the Berlusconi parallel could offer an important lesson in how to avoid transforming a razor-thin victory into a two-decade affair. If you think presidential term limits and Mr. Trump’s age could save the country from that fate, think again. His tenure could easily turn into a Trump dynasty.

Mr. Berlusconi was able to govern Italy for as long as he did mostly thanks to the incompetence of his opposition. It was so rabidly obsessed with his personality that any substantive political debate disappeared; it focused only on personal attacks, the effect of which was to increase Mr. Berlusconi’s popularity. His secret was an ability to set off a Pavlovian reaction among his leftist opponents, which engendered instantaneous sympathy in most moderate voters. Mr. Trump is no different.

We saw this dynamic during the presidential campaign. Hillary Clinton was so focused on explaining how bad Mr. Trump was that she too often didn’t promote her own ideas, to make the positive case for voting for her. The news media was so intent on ridiculing Mr. Trump’s behavior that it ended up providing him with free advertising.

Unfortunately, the dynamic has not ended with the election. Shortly after Mr. Trump gave his acceptance speech, protests sprang up all over America. What are these people protesting against? Whether we like it or not, Mr. Trump won legitimately. Denying that only feeds the perception that there are “legitimate” candidates and “illegitimate” ones, and a small elite decides which is which. If that’s true, elections are just a beauty contest among candidates blessed by the Guardian Council of clerics, just like in Iran.

The politicians who finally defeated Berlusconi “focused on the issues, not on his character.” The author of this op-ed in the NY Times (Luigi Zingales, a business professor at the University of Chicago) advises us to do likewise. I am sympathetic to his point. I’ve had this feeling for some time that we denizens of the blogosphere, and members of the broader media, are reacting reflexively (as in Pavlov) to every little thing that Trump tweets. And those conditioned responses just divert attention from the real issues about which we must eventually do battle. (Take Ryan’s attack on Medicare as just one example.). Trump’s many outrageous behaviors make for good satire and biting criticism but we have to focus on the bigger picture if we want to avoid a Trump dynasty. All this came to a head for me when protests erupted across the nation. What is being protested? Trump, I guess, or the electoral college. Trump won the election in accord with our system. He is now our President. Period. Full stop.

There are some areas where I suspect even Trump’s bitterest foes will find themselves in agreement with Trump’s proposals - like the last two items on the list at the start of this post. I don’t see Elizabeth Warren, for example, fighting against those proposals that, if carried through, will help consumers with jobs and financial protection.

… There are plenty of Trump proposals that Democrats can agree with, like new infrastructure investments. Most Democrats, including politicians like Mrs. Clinton and Bernie Sanders and economists like Lawrence Summers and Paul Krugman, have pushed the idea of infrastructure as a way to increase demand and to expand employment among non-college-educated workers. …

… with Mr. Trump’s encouragement, the Republican platform called for reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act, which would separate investment and commercial banking. The Democrats should declare their support of this separation, a policy that many Republicans oppose. …

No, your Scriber has not lost it. After whatever policies we can agree about, there will still be much room for satire and criticism and political maneuvering and even legal actions. Consider the blatant conflicts of interest posed by the status of Trump’s children as managers of his many businesses. The cabinet nominations already made offer plenty of room for criticism just based on the records of the nominees. Jeff Sessions, the nominee for Attorney General, is a seriously bad dude. I anticipate more nominations to be just as bad. But recall the words “advise and consent.” Unless something draconian happens, like blowing up the super majority rule needed for senatorial consent, there will be plenty of opportunity for the Senate to play its constitutional role. There will therefore be opportunities for us to apply pressure on our senators to achieve checks on Trump’s actions.

Lastly, we should never forget Trump’s primal flaw - he has nothing but contempt for the vast majority of Americans. This is from NY Times report on Trump’s biographer’s tapes.

Who earns his respect? “For the most part,” he said, “you can’t respect people because most people aren’t worthy of respect.”

If he behaves accordingly, there will be plenty of issues for us to fight.

h/t Sherry Moreau

No comments:

Post a Comment