Posts Tagged ‘election 2016’

Endorsement: Hillary Clinton is the only choice to move America ahead. The Arizona Republic editorial board endorses Hillary Clinton for president.

We reproduce the following with comment or embellishment.

“Since The Arizona Republic began publication in 1890, we have never endorsed a Democrat over a Republican for president. Never. This reflects a deep philosophical appreciation for conservative ideals and Republican principles.

This year is different.

The 2016 Republican candidate is not conservative and he is not qualified.

That’s why, for the first time in our history, The Arizona Republic will support a Democrat for president.

What Clinton has (and Trump doesn’t)

The challenges the United States faces domestically and internationally demand a steady hand, a cool head and the ability to think carefully before acting.

Hillary Clinton understands this. Donald Trump does not.

Clinton has the temperament and experience to be president. Donald Trump does not.

Clinton knows how to compromise and to lead with intelligence, decorum and perspective. She has a record of public service as First Lady, senator and secretary of state.

She has withstood decades of scrutiny so intense it would wither most politicians. The vehemence of some of the anti-Clinton attacks strains credulity.

Trump hasn’t even let the American people scrutinise his tax returns, which could help the nation judge his claims of business acumen.

Her flaws pale in comparison

Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of State was a mistake, as she has acknowledged. Donations to the Clinton Foundation while she was secretary of State raise concerns that donors were hoping to buy access. Though there is no evidence of wrongdoing, she should have put up a firewall.

Yet despite her flaws, Clinton is the superior choice.

She does not casually say things that embolden our adversaries and frighten our allies. Her approach to governance is mature, confident and rational.

That cannot be said of her opponent.

Clinton retains her composure under pressure. She’s tough. She doesn’t back down.

Trump responds to criticism with the petulance of verbal spit wads.

That’s beneath our national dignity.

When the president of the United States speaks, the world expects substance. Not a blistering tweet.

Whose hand do you want on the nuclear button?

Clinton has argued America’s case before friendly and unfriendly foreign leaders with tenacity, diplomacy and skill. She earned respect by knowing the issues, the history and the facts.

She is intimately familiar with the challenges we face in our relations with Russia, China, the Middle East, North Korea and elsewhere. She’ll stand by our friends and she’s not afraid to confront our enemies.

Contrast Clinton’s tenacity and professionalism with Trump, who began his campaign with gross generalities about Mexico and Mexicans as criminals and rapists. These were careless slaps at a valued trading partner and Arizona’s neighbor. They were thoughtless insults about people whose labor and energy enrich our country.

Trump demonstrated his clumsiness on the world stage by making nice with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto only a few hours before appearing in Phoenix to deliver yet another rant about Mexican immigrants and border walls.

Arizona’s been there on immigration (it doesn’t work)

What’s more, Arizona went down the hardline immigration road Trump travels. It led our state to SB 1070, the 2010 “show me your papers” law that earned Arizona international condemnation and did nothing to resolve real problems with undocumented immigration.

Arizona understands that we don’t need a repeat of that divisive, unproductive fiasco on the national level. A recent poll shows Arizonans oppose both more walls and the mass deportations Trump endorses.

We need a president who can broker solutions.

Clinton calls for comprehensive immigration reform, a goal that business, faith and law enforcement leaders have sought for years. Her support for a pathway to citizenship and her call for compassion for families torn apart by deportation are consistent with her longtime support for human rights.

Clinton’s equality vs. Trump’s lack of respect

As secretary of state, Clinton made gender equality a priority for U.S. foreign policy. This is an extension of Clinton’s bold “women’s rights are human rights” speech in 1995.

It reflects an understanding that America’s commitment to human rights is a critically needed beacon in today’s troubled world.

Trump’s long history of objectifying women and his demeaning comments about women during the campaign are not just good-old-boy gaffes.

They are evidence of deep character flaws. They are part of a pattern.

Trump mocked a reporter’s physical handicap. Picked a fight with a Gold Star family.Insulted POWs. Suggested a Latino judge can’t be fair because of his heritage. Proposed banning Muslim immigration.

Each of those comments show a stunning lack of human decency, empathy and respect. Taken together they reveal a candidate who doesn’t grasp our national ideals.

A centrist or a wild card?

 Many Republicans understand this. But they shudder at the thought of Hillary Clinton naming Supreme Court justices. So they stick with Trump. We get that. But we ask them to see Trump for what he is — and what he is not.

Trump’s conversion to conservatism is recent and unconvincing. There is no guarantee he will name solid conservatives to the Supreme Court.

Hillary Clinton has long been a centrist. Despite her tack left to woo Bernie Sanders supporters, Clinton retains her centrist roots. Her justices might not be in the mold of Antonin Scalia, but they will be accomplished individuals with the experience, education and intelligence to handle the job.

They will be competent. Just as she is competent.

If a candidate can’t control his words

 Never in its 126-year history has The Arizona Republic editorial board endorsed a Democratic presidential candidate over a Republican.

Trump’s inability to control himself or be controlled by others represents a real threat to our national security. His recent efforts to stay on script are not reassuring. They are phoney.

The president commands our nuclear arsenal. Trump can’t command his own rhetoric.

Were he to become president, his casual remarks — such as saying he wouldn’t defend NATO partners from invasion — could have devastating consequences.

Trump has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, a thug who has made it clear he wants to expand Russia’s international footprint.

Trump suggested Russia engage in espionage against Hillary Clinton — an outrageous statement that he later insisted was meant in jest.

Trump said President Obama and Hillary Clinton were “co-founders” of ISIS, then walked that back by saying it was sarcasm.

It was reckless.

Being the leader of the free world requires a sense of propriety that Trump lacks.

Clinton’s opportunity to heal this nation

 We understand that Trump’s candidacy tapped a deep discontent among those who feel left behind by a changed economy and shifting demographics.

Their concerns deserve to be discussed with respect.

Ironically, Trump hasn’t done that. He has merely pandered. Instead of offering solutions, he hangs scapegoats like piñatas and invites people to take a swing.

In a nation with an increasingly diverse population, Trump offers a recipe for permanent civil discord.

In a global economy, he offers protectionism and a false promise to bring back jobs that no longer exist.

America needs to look ahead and build a new era of prosperity for the working class.

This is Hillary Clinton’s opportunity. She can reach out to those who feel left behind. She can make it clear that America sees them and will address their concerns.

She can move us beyond rancour and incivility.

The Arizona Republic endorses Hillary Clinton for President.”

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It is rumoured that the hard heads in the GOP have already given up any hope of Donald Trump winning the Presidential election in November and are casting their minds to 2020 with increasing attention. They were hardly helped by the laughable plagiarism scandal of Donald’ Drumpf’s poor wife reading a speech written for her that was in part lifted holus bolus from a previous Michelle Obama speech – really, who is running this shambles? – but today’s appearance by beaten candidate Ted Cruz was a killer.

Just look at this:

 

We are by no means fans of Cruz. We just honestly don’t think he’s an awfully nice guy, and he’s a few light years to the right of our own opinions. Mind you, it was hard to disagree with any of the platitudes he delivered in this address. And watching a bunch looney-tunes red-necks booing him for sympathising with the child of a dead Dallas policeman was not the most edifying thing we’ve ever seen.

But today the chickens came home to roost as he very obviously did NOT endorse the equally loathsome Trump as the GOP’s candidate, ripping any semblance of party unity to shreds. Hardly surprising when Trump attacked his wife on a very sexist and personal basis during the campaign and also dubbed Cruz “Lyin’ Ted”. Probably a bit much to expect them to kiss and make up, although the managers of the GOP obviously lived in hope. If we had been running this convention we would have given all of Trump’s critics inside the party a week’s free vacation somewhere without Twitter or journalists, but hey, what do we know?

Anyhow, as you can see in the video, he was booed off stage at the Republican National Convention in Oklahoma after failing to endorse newly elected presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Now Cruz has been accused of ‘snubbing’ Trump during his speech, after finishing in second place in the primaries. And while his speech initially began with a standing ovation from the audience, the mood quickly changed after Cruz noticeably neglected Trump from his address.

 

Ted Cruz took the stage at the Republican convention. Photo: Getty

“I want to congratulate Donald Trump for winning the nomination last night. And like each of you, I want to see the principles our party believes prevail in November,” Cruz began.

But that was the first and last reference of Trump’s name.

So as he continued, an increasingly restless audience began to realise an endorsement for their leader was not on the cards.

“We want Trump! We want Trump!” fans shouted out over Cruz, as he reminded everyone to vote in November.

 

Cruz was jeered off stage after he failed to endorse Trump. Photo: Getty

“If you love our country and love your children as much as I know you do, stand and speak and vote your conscience and vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the constitution,” Cruz went on.

The final minutes of his speech were virtually drowned out by booing and chanting, leaving him to simply smile ironically and wave as he made his way off stage.

A reporter for CNN said other members of the Republican party were infuriated by the speech.

“The anger is boiling over. So much so that I am told by a source, who was in a donor suite, when Ted Cruz walked in after he said his speech, the people were so angry at Cruz that they were calling him a disgrace to his face,” reporter Dana Bash said.

 

Donald Trump looked unimpressed as he stood at the back of the arena with his family. Photo: AFP

“A state party chair was yelling at him so angrily that he had to be restrained. That gives you a sense of just how intense the anger is now on the floor.”

And Cruz’s wife Heidi had to be escorted from the audience after her husband was jeered off stage, while US Political media site FiveThirtyEight labelled the speech as a “giant middle finger to Trump”.

During the end of Cruz’s address, Trump appeared at the back of the stadium where he waved to his fans before being seated with his family.

Pass the popcorn. This party is unelectable. Not only will Clinton beat Trump hands down – a remarkable achievement for a women who has been ruthlessly pursued, pilloried and calumnised for years now, and as a result is toxically unpopular with vast swathes of the population – but it’s very likely Republicans will lose seats “up and down the ticket”. Exactly how this will play out nationally is as yet indistinct, but it’s an effect that scares Republican grandees and candidates mightily. They will lose good people, vital if the drift of their party to the wilder outreaches of the political wilderness is to be resisted.

And frankly, more fool them. After years of pandering to the “anti-politics” mob in their own party, (of whom Cruz was a leading light), Republicans have been warned again and again and again that they are converting their once great party into a basket case, and effectively transforming America into a one-party-dominated country that is bitterly – very bitterly – divided between “everyone else” and the beaten down, angry, marginalised white working class, the lower middle class, and the elderly.

The Republicans are eating themselves. It’s going to get uglier before it gets better, if it ever does.

TurnbullOne feature of the Liberal National Coalition’s nail-bitingly close win in the Australian election that deserves comment – especially as the knives are at the very least being sharpened for Mr Turnbull’s back by the right wing in his party, even if they are currently going back in the sheaths for a while – is that the Coalition didn’t just get a bare majority of seats, (or at least that’s how it looks currently, and Labor have now officially conceded defeat) but it also looks increasingly likely that they also won the popular vote.

That fact gives their election (and mandate) added credibility, unlike when then ALP leader Kim Beazley famously won the popular vote (in October 1988) but still lost.

With about 80 per cent of lower house ballots counted the Coalition has received 50.13 per cent of the vote on a two-party preferred basis to Labor’s 49.87 per cent.

What that obscures, of course, is two very important issues: firstly, that the ALP’s primary vote remains rooted in the mid-thirty percents (currently about 35%) putting them a long way behind the popularity of the Coalition, and far from being able to claim to be a natural party of government in any meaningful sense. And secondly that although the Coalition vote fell by about 3.4% (about .4% more than we thought it would) a substantial percentage of that fall went to third parties, and not the ALP.

Apart from a slight uptick for the Liberal’s National Party partners, we also saw increases for the Nick Xenophon Team, various “Christian” parties, and a rat-bag collection of right wing independents, notably the One Nation “party” of Pauline Hanson and the likes of “The Human Headline”, Derryn Hinch, in Victoria, and Jackie Lambie in the Tasmanian Senate, not to mention the libertarian Liberal Democrats in NSW.

Far from being a ringing endorsement of Labor’s strategies and policies, not to mention leadership, the election result actually suggests that the ALP has a great deal of work still to do. For one thing, the Greens will continue snapping away at their heels in inner urban areas (and less obviously in so-called “doctor’s wives” seats) and there are rumours they may yet take the eternally Labor seat of Melbourne Ports from its long-standing ALP member, Michael Danby, although we doubt it. This stubborn Green campaign success may well continue to cost Labor key seats at both Federal and State levels, blunting their appearance of recovery at the very least. And despite their best efforts, Labor seem so far pretty much unable to inspire enthusiasm either for Shorten personally, or for their brand of conservative social democracy.

After all, a swing to the major Opposition party – in a period of worldwide electoral upheaval – of less than two people in a hundred is hardly earth shattering. And at least some of that tiny swing can undoubtedly be accounted for by the factually and morally highly dubious “Mediscare” campaign, which might have produced a tiny increase in Labor votes, but the longer term impact may be that it also painted the party as relentlessly negative and dodgy.

Attempting to sell a “positive programme” at the same time as the most relentlessly pursued negative campaign in recent memory just rang untrue in voters’ ears.

And the Coalition’s subsequent fury over what they perceived as dirty pool will have struck some sort of chord with the wider electorate, if not with ironed-on Labor supporters, especially if the Coalition avoids anything that looks remotely like privatisation of Medicare in the next three years, just as “Kids Overboard” haunted the Coalition ever after, even after it had delivered them victory in 2001. It hung like a dead albatross around the neck of John Howard until he was swept aside by the fresh face of Kevin Rudd in 2007.

The result also reveals how vulnerable Federal parties are to wayward behaviour by their State counterparts, and especially for the Labor Party. There is little doubt that the furore over the State Labor Government’s handling of the Country Fire Authority matter cost Labor seats in Victoria, normally their strongest state. And probably cost them Government.

shortenSo whilst we admire Shorten’s hutzpah in visiting winning Labor seats in the election aftermath, we wouldn’t be entirely certain he is long for this world.

There will be no immediate move to replace him, to be sure, but the hard heads in the ALP – and there are plenty – will be looking at this result very carefully, including both the campaigning role of the Leader, as well as policy development. Anthony Albanese is one of the most loyal lieutenants any party leader could want, and Tanya Plibersek won’t toss her hat into the ring unless she’s sure of victory, but the greasy pole will be beckoning them both. And that’s before we factor in the ambition of a Chris Bowen, and others.

Any stumble by Shorten, any sign that he isn’t continuing to make ground on Turnbull, and pretty damn fast, too, and he’ll be gone. But if he doggedly pursues his agenda, and manages to ease up a little in front of the cameras instead of always seeming so earnest, he may yet get the top job one day.

 

 

 

 

eu puzzle

We have a habit, Dear Reader, of predicting elections (and referendums are a bit like elections, aren’t they?) BEFORE the result is known. We do this for a number of reasons. When we get it right (which is almost always – although some would argue we didn’t pick a majority for the Tories at the last British General Election, whereas we would argue we did flag it as at least a possibility) we like to stick it up those less perceptive types who think we know nothing – childish, we agree, but very satisfying – and also it’s just plain fun to try and get it right. Everyone’s gotta have a hobby, right?

We have said, all along, ever since the referendum was announced, that Leave will not win. Our reasoning was and is very simple, and quite different to all the other reasons advanced by pundits.

It is simply this.

The “Steady As You Go” argument

 

Electorates are inherently conservative. They tend to vote for the status quo, and especially when they are uncertain of the advantage of changing things. That is why, for example, that the received (and correct) wisdom is that Governments lose elections, Oppositions don’t win them. (And that’s why the Coalition will be returned to power in Australia, incidentally, as they have not done enough cocking up, in enough people’s opinion, to actually lose the whole game.)

In the EU referendum, in our view, the Leave campaign have done an excellent job of ramping up xenophobia and leveraging generalised disgruntlement in the electorate. They have worked on crystallising the anti-politics fever that seems to be gripping most Western democracies, as people rail against the admitted inadequacies of representative democracy. We see it everywhere – the visceral hatred from some for President Obama, the embrace by Trunp by those in America who feel themselves disenfranchised by “Washington”, the rise of the far right in Denmark, Austria, France and Russia, the apparently unresolvable divide in Thailand, the growth of micro parties and third parties in Australia, (reportedly about to push towards nearly 30% of the vote at the July 2nd poll), and so it goes on.

Brexit has leveraged this angst effectively through a ruthless application of rabble-rousing.

In our view the support for Brexit – which has risen by between 5-10% over the last 12 months – is at least as representative of a general mistrust of the establishment as it is a reflection of genuine anti-EU sentiment. In this context, the EU is just the establishment writ large, and the Leave campaign knows this, and has presented it as such with commendable, if amoral, consistency.

By choosing the wayward buffoon Boris Johnson, the plainly odd Michael Gove, and the determinedly esoteric and individualistic Nigel Farage as their lead acts, Leave have presented themselves as the natural anti-establishment choice.

But despite Leave’s efforts, at least 14% of the British electorate still report themselves to the pollsters as “Don’t knows”. Abut 5 million people entitled to vote in the referendum apparently haven’t got a clue what they think, despite literally years of coverage of the matter.

One has to have sympathy with them. Both sides in the debate have fudged statistics and relied on barbed soundbites rather than any serious appeal to the intellect to sway the electorate. There has been a deal of outright lying going on.

In fact, this referendum has been an appalling example of the comprehensive trivialisation and failure of British political leadership, and almost no major player comes out of it with any kudos.

But assuming these 14% are not simply too embarrassed to embrace either of the sides, it is highly likely that the majority of them, if they vote at all, will lump (without any great enthusiasm) for Remain. “Don’t knows” nearly always overwhelmingly back the status quo. (For the same reason, the bulk of Independents in the USA will break for Clinton, not Trump. “The devil you know” is a powerful motivation.)

Yes, there is a chance they are enthusiastically pro-Remain but don’t wish it to be known because they are frankly confronted by the aggression of the Brexit camp and yes there is a chance that they are enthusiastically pro-Leave but don’t want it known as they fear being painted as irresponsible. If either of those things turn out to be true then the winning margin will be much higher for one side or the other than is currently predicted.

The current Daily Telegraph poll of polls has Remain leading Brexit by 51-49, having had Brexit ahead for at least some of last week. If those “undecideds” break very strongly one way or the other that calculation could be way wrong.

When the dishes are all washed at the end of the night, we think they will break disproportionately in favour of the status quo, and also that a good proportion of them won’t vote at all.

For that reason, we feel more comfortable with a prediction of about 55%-45% in favour of Remain, and if that turns out to be the result then everyone in the Chardonnay-sipping commentariat will throw their hands in the air and say “Well, what was all that fuss about? It was never really close, no one got that right!” Except we did. Today.

The ‘Polling Discrepancy’ argument

Our second reason for making our prediction is that telephone polls overwhelmingly favour Remain by a bigger margin than the overall polling is showing, because online polling has the two sides much closer.

Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 12.24.00 pm

As the chart above highlights, polls where people answer questions on the phone suggest higher EU support than polls conducted on the internet. Since the start of September last year, phone polls suggest a nine per cent lead for Remain, while online polls have it at just one per cent. Why would this be? Well, that depends really on whether one is a conductor of phone polls versus online polls. A lively debate has been going on between the polling organisations.

In our view, it is because people respond differently in different social situations.

They may feel more encouraged to speak their mind to a real person, for example, or exactly the opposite, they may feel less free to state their views.

They may be more inclined to tell the truth when clicking on a survey question on a screen, or they may be more prepared to give a tick to something they actually don’t intend doing when they get into the polling booth proper. There will be a difference between phone polls where you actually speak to someone and where you use your keypad to respond to recorded questions.

Bluntly: polling is an inexact science.

What polling does do very well is track trends accurately. On that basis, there has undoubtedly been a move towards Leave in the last two-to-three weeks, but it may well be that Leave support peaked a week early, as it now seems to be weakening again. It is as if voters walked to the brink of the abyss, had a look, and stepped back. If this turns out to be the case it will be promoted as a triumph of campaigning by the Remain camp, but that would be a mistake. It’s simply the innate fear of change kicking in again. It’s one thing to tell a pollster you are voting Leave when it doesn’t matter because Leave has no hope of winning. Quite another to tell them that when it appears you may carry the day.

Two other factors, we believe, has bolstered the Remain cause.

The ‘Nigel Farage Gaffe’ argument

Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 12.35.23 pm

The first was the badly judged UKIP poster promoted by Nigel Farage that showed a huge queue of universally black and brown immigrants waiting to enter the UK. (They were actually photographed trying to enter Slovenia, but that’s splitting hairs.)

Tory, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Scottish Nationals and Green MPs immediately united to condemn the poster, accusing Mr Farage of ‘exploiting the misery of the Syrian refugee crisis in the most dishonest and immoral way’. Popular Scots Nats leader Nicola Sturgeon called it “disgusting”. Others lined up to condemn it as “reprehensible”, “vile”, and “quite revolting”. Even Farage ally Michael Gove said the poster made him “shudder” and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne also aid the poster was “disgusting” and compared it to Nazi propaganda. Social media lit up with actual examples of the poster set against eerily similar Nazi propaganda from the 1930s to make the point.

The poster will play well with the neo-racists, anti-immigrationists, Little Englanders and out and out racists that make up the majority of UKIP’s dwindling band of supporters. But that’s simply Farage shoring up support for his views amongst people who were never going to vote for Remain anyway. We strongly suspect that the majority of Brits, who are, at their core, a fair minded people, will recognise the poster for what it is – an intimation of what Britain would be like under a hard-right Government that could well follow a successful Brexit vote. We think a small but significant number of people will have moved back from Leave to Remain as a result.

The ‘This Has Got Out Of Hand’ argument

Our last reason for suspecting Remain will win with relative comfort is the near-universal shock we have observed over the death of Labour MP Jo Cox, who was callously shot down while going about her daily business, allegedly simply because she held pro-refugee and pro-EU views. This awful event has shaken the British people rigid. Attempts to wave off any connection between the shooter and far-right groups, let alone the Brexit camp, and to characterise him as merely “mentally disturbed”, have, it seems to us at least, failed. Just as the Farage poster offended the British sense of fair play, at least for some people, so the assassination of Jo Cox has driven home to many how divisive and ugly the whole EU debate has become. Families have descended into recriminations, lifetime friends have fallen out with each other, and there have been multiple examples of violent fractiousness from all over the country.

The British people have now had more than enough of this unpleasant debate, which was foisted on them by a bitterly divided Conservative Party and a weak and vacillating Prime minister, and they heartily wish to be rid of it.

Staring down the barrel at what could be years of a messy dis-integration from Europe starts to look like a very poor option to a majority.

In 24 hours, Europe will be calmer again. With Britain inside it, and by then, presumably, permanently.

You heard it here first.

Like her, love her, idolise her, mistrust her. That’s not what today’s post is about.

Please spare us “she’s a witch/she’s a God”. She is neither. She’s just a very hard working, driven, senior politician, with all the faults and foibles and strengths and pluses and minuses which that implies.

What she is, without question, is the first female major party nominee for President since American Independence. And that, in itself, is hugely noteworthy. And she should be praised for crashing through that particular glass ceiling, just as Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Corazon Aquino, Julia Gillard and even Isabel Peron did before her. In doing so, she empowers women everywhere to strive for the top – to strive to be the best they can be.

Our opinions on these women will vary dramatically. That’s not the point. In rising to the position she has in one of the most small-C conservative countries in the world, Hillary Clinton’s achievement should be praised. The American election has been dragging on so long, and Hillary is such a familiar figure, that it’s easy to forget that she is blazing a trail for others.

So well done, her. Let it be noted.

 

Clinton NY Post

We have long tried to explain to the more breathless of our right wing friends in America why Trump can secure the Republican nomination easily and still get trounced in a match up with the Democrats.

This article from Anthony Zurcher of the BBC does a better job than we could.

Donald Trump’s Hispanic voter ‘doomsday’

trump san jose

Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente should probably be a Republican. The walls in the lobby of his San Diego, California, office are dominated by photos in which he’s smiling alongside Republicans – Presidents Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush and George W Bush, and 2008 nominee John McCain.

He’s donated thousands of dollars to Republican politicians over the past several decades.

When the self-made millionaire talks about government meddling in private industry – his car dealerships, currency exchange stores and real estate ventures – he takes a page right out of the Republican playbook.

“In my business 30% is owned by the United States government and 10% is owned by the state of California. I didn’t pick them as partners, but they sure know how to mess in my business,” Mr De La Fuente says. “It appears that the more people are trying to be productive, the more government tries to disrupt.”

The Rocky De L Fuentes of the world ought to have been easy pickings for a Republican Party whose leaders just over three years ago acknowledged that they were facing a demographic doomsday scenario if they didn’t broaden their appeal to the growing numbers of Hispanic voters.

Because of population growth rates, if the Republican presidential candidate won the same percentage of the Hispanic vote in 2016 as nominee Mitt Romney did in 2012 (27%), according to a study by Republican strategists, he would have to win 64% of the white vote. No Republican has done that since Ronald Reagan’s re-election landslide in 1984.

Hispanic and white voting percentages for Republicans
  • 2012 Mitt Romney reiceved 27% of the Hispanic vote and 59% of the white vote
  • 2008 John McCain received 31% of the Hispanic vote and 55% of the white vote
  • 2004 George W Bush received 44% of the Hispanic vote and 58% of the white vote

 

An even more daunting estimate, from UCLA researchers, finds that if Mr Trump wins the same percentage of the white vote that Mr Romney did (59%) he would have to carry 47% of the Hispanic vote – a number only George W Bush in 2004 approached.

If the party were to thrive, Republican National Committee analysts wrote in their 2012 post-mortem, they would have to find a way to make their party more welcoming to minority voters – particularly Hispanics. Immigration reform should be a priority. Outreach efforts must be improved. Off-putting rhetoric should be adjusted.

Instead the party nominated Donald Trump. And a few months after Mr Trump launched his presidential campaign with a sweeping condemnation of a Mexican nation that he said allows its drug-dealers and rapists to enter the US, Mr De La Fuente – who was born in the US but grew up and attended university in Mexico – announced he was also running for president.

As a Democrat.

Since then Mr De La Fuente has used his personal fortune to get on the ballot in dozens of states and has received nearly 60,000 votes – good enough for fourth place behind Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley.

Mr De La Fuente may be an unusual man with an unusual reaction to Mr Trump’s calls for mass deportation of undocumented Hispanic immigrants and a wall on the US-Mexico border, but his actions reflect the high price the Republican Party is paying for embracing Mr Trump.

“Trump needs to be stopped at all costs,” Mr De La Fuente says, repeatedly referring to the Republican by his derogatory Spanish nickname, “pelos del elote” (corn hair).

“The United States was founded by immigrants who were trying to leave Europe because they had rulers who were making a mockery of people’s rights,” he continues. “That’s why we created the Constitution of the US.”

He says that while Mr Trump treats undocumented immigrants as a menace, he views them as assets.

“There’s 12 million immigrants currently in the US, with or without papers, with or without the right to be here,” Mr De La Fuente says. “I did not ask them to be here. But they’re here, and they’re doing the work other people don’t want to do.”

Doomsday arrives

The animosity of Hispanic voters – 77% of whom have a negative view of Mr Trump according to a March national poll – is a development that has Republican Party officials increasingly concerned.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Mr Trump could be damaging the Republican Party among Hispanic voters the same way 1964 Republican nominee Barry Goldwater’s stand against civil rights legislation led to generations of blacks moving to the Democratic Party.

“It did define our party, for at least African-American voters, and it still does today,”he told a television interviewer. “That was a complete shift that occurred that year, and we’ve never be able to get them back.”

mexicans

 

Hector Barajas, a Republican strategist from California, agrees. He’s seen record numbers of Hispanics register to vote in his state over the past few months – an indication that Mr Trump’s rhetoric could drive unprecedented turnout among this voting bloc.

“Elections are about addition and multiplication, not subtraction and division,” he says. “And as long as you have divisive language, you’re making it more difficult not just for yourself to win but for other individuals who are also campaigning, whether you are running for Senate or congressional seats or even down the line for city council.”

Barajas co-founded Grow Elect in 2011, an organisation that recruits and trains Hispanic Republicans in California to enter politics. He says Mr Trump is making the task increasingly difficult, as Hispanics in the US wonder why their ethnicity is being singled out for Mr Trump’s opprobrium.

“Here you have a group of individuals that are willing to come to this country, work as hard as we work, join in the military, work the long hours just to try to provide a better place for our family and for our society,” Barajas says. “Yet at the same time they’re targeted with this type of language which is very divisive.”

California redux

Barajas should know about the political dangers of words and policies that can be branded as anti-Hispanic. He had a front-row seat in the 1990s, when Proposition 187 – a state ballot measure that sought to deny government benefits, including healthcare and public schooling, to undocumented workers and their children – helped cement the views of Latino voters there against the Republican Party.

“With Proposition 187 you had a very strong campaign that seemed to blame a lot of the ills of California on Hispanics,” Barajas says. “You’re looking at two generations that have been lost because of that rhetoric.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger waves at a campaign rally in 2003

Arnold Schwarzenegger is the only Republican to win statewide election in California since 1994.

The initiative passed in 1994 with 59% of the vote and was credited with helping Republican Governor Pete Wilson win re-election – but it was eventually overturned by the courts. And the only Republican to win a statewide race in California since then was Arnold Schwarzenegger, in a quirky 2003 special election following Democratic Governor Gray Davis’s recall,

The spectre of 187 is still used in elections to this day – as Democrats try to paint Republicans, and even some fellow Democrats, as sympathetic to those efforts in the 1990s.

For California Republicans, Barajas says, the tragedy is that they were just starting to put the damage from past battles behind them by focusing on an economic message that could unite a diverse electorate.

“In California, we have a tremendous amount of new jobs that have been created,” he said. “But a lot of these jobs are part time and they pay lower wages, and they don’t have health insurance or they tend to be in service or in retail. That doesn’t do much to provide a leg up for families.”

Instead, the Republican Party is left playing defence – in California and in essential general-election battleground states with large Hispanic populations, like Florida, Nevada, Virginia and Colorado.

Barajas worries that even traditionally conservative states like Texas and Arizona could be fertile terrain for Democrats.

Trump undaunted

If the electoral reality confronting the Republican Party is clear, it hasn’t changed Mr Trump’s views – or his rhetoric.

“We are going to have a strong border, and we are going to have a wall,” Mr Trump said at a rally in California last week. “And you know who is going to pay for the wall? Who?”

“Mexico!” the crowd shouted in reply.

“One hundred percent,” Trump said. “Not even a question.”

Mr Trump has caught particular heat over the past few days after he highlighted the ethnicity of Gonzalo Curiel, the US-born Indiana judge who is presiding over the fraud case against the now defunct for-profit Trump University.

The judge, Mr Trump said, has a conflict of interest because he is the son of Mexican immigrants.

“We’re building a wall,” Mr Trump said in a television interview. “He’s a Mexican.”

The comments have been criticised by Mr Trump’s fellow Republicans and featured in a Clinton attack video.

Raul Grijalva, a Democratic Congressman from Arizona, says that Mr Trump’s comments are the latest example of his strategy to use the Mexican-American community “as a foil”.

“Trump is playing his Trump card in this election, and that is to introduce a level of racism in this race that continues to frighten people and he hopes drive supporters to his side,” he says. “It is a rhetoric and strategy that further divides this country, and it’s not good for anybody.”

Raul Grijalva speaks at an immigration rally in 2014.

Congressman Raul Grijalva says Donald Trump is trying to win votes by using Mexican-Americans as a foil

He doesn’t see a way the Republican Party can avoid a long-term electoral disaster from Mr Trump’s campaign.

“The Republican leadership has become like the Vichy French,” he says. “They’ve kind of given up.”

Efforts to get Mr Trump to moderate his tone are “clearly not working right now,” Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona said on Monday.

Unlike most senior Republican officeholders, Mr Flake has yet to fall in line behind his party’s nominee. At this point, the #NeverTrump movement is on life support, and the Arizona senator’s words are tinged with resignation not resistance.

Mr Trump’s remarks on Curiel were offensive, he said, and “if he doesn’t change, we’re in big trouble”.

Canadian Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in a Montreal Metro station Wednesday and took part in a random act of kindness when a person with a disability was having difficulties because of a broken down escalator.

trudeau

 

Like everything he has done so far, very classy. Note, this is not a semi-official “photo op”. The snap was taken by a passer by and posted on Twitter.

Americans are apparently so impressed with Trudeau’s leadership of his country that many are begging him to come South and run for President. Apart from that being a legal impossibility, we strongly suspect he’d have more sense.

And Liberals in the UK, still smarting from electoral near-destruction, view him as something akin to a Messiah. Especially as he took his party from third to winning a majority in one leap. A move is afoot to get him to address their autumn conference in Brighton later in the year.

Good looking, charismatic, humble, compassionate, well-educated. Little wonder women in particular find his allure almost irresistible. This is the man, remember, who almost single-handedly re-set the public debate about countries taking in Syrian refugees fleeing the conflict, and just last week spontaneously explained quantum computing to a smart-arse journalist.

His father was a remarkable man. It looks like the son is even more so.

 

Not his time. But just maybe, it's time for us all to be very concerned.

Not his time. But just maybe, it’s time for us all to be very concerned.

In that curious vignette that seems to happen so often when politicians lose an election or end their careers, Marco Rubio finally managed to say something really important as he suspended his presidential campaign in a heartfelt speech on Tuesday night American time, after suffering a crushing defeat to Donald Trump in Rubio’s home state of Florida.

“America is in the middle of a real political storm, a real tsunami. And we should have seen this coming,” Rubio said. “Look, people are angry and people are really frustrated.”

While not mentioning Trump’s name, Rubio attacked the Republican frontrunner and called for a more inclusive party that’s “built on principles and ideas, not on anger, not on preying on people’s frustrations.”

“Tonight, while it’s clear that while we are on the right side this year, we will not be on the winning side,” Rubio said.

Rubio, as we have been saying for some years, is absolutely right. The Republican Party has been captured by a coalition of discontents, that first reared their head way back in the early 1960s, who reject the general consensus at the core of American politics that America is essentially a well-governed, mixed economy with a balance of private and public enterprise, and an internationalist outlook, a consensus that had held in place since long before the Second World War.

These discontents span a variety of motivations and types.

The new American revolution

On the one hand, we have the extreme free marketeers – the right wing small government libertarians that have made a virtue of damning central government as inevitably incompetent, if not corrupt, and for whom a Democratic administration is automatically to be opposed at every turn (even if it creates national gridlock) because the Democratic party believes in wielding Government’s levers of power, where the libertarians believe those levers should essentially be abolished.

libertarian-howlDriven by a tiny, minority economic view and a perfectionist view of what constitutes individual freedom, which purports to be as anti-Republican as it is anti-Democrats, but which invariably feeds support to the right in reality, they want nothing more nor less than a re-writing of the social and political compact for the American Republic, and all existing power structures are fair game.

Because of their fundamental opposition to both taxation and public expenditure, they find it impossible to even acknowledge, for example, that Obama has done a credible job of slowing the growth of public debt, and has been a fiscal conservative compared to previous administrations.

Nothing Obama could have done would elicit a cheer from them to balance their continual, canting scepticism. He could have run a Federal government surplus and they would complain that was merely gathering funds for future irresponsibility.

Instead, they argue fiercely that Government itself is the problem, which is always reduced in populist terminology to”Washington”, largely ignoring the huge levels of both public debt, and expenditure, by State Governments and local Government, for example. Because no one ever bothers to check the facts – and don’t even believe them when they are presented to them – the assumption is that their criticisms are valid, and they gain traction in the wider debate sphere even though they represent a tiny fringe movement as far as economic thinking goes.

The second major grouping are the “Tea Party” rightists, who ape the libertarian’s concerns about tax and spending but without any real intellectual rigour behind their position and really have no alternative to propose to the current system beyond wanting a tax cut and savagely cutting expenditure and – with a strong streak of Protestant work ethicism – assuming that everyone in sight is not working hard enough to improve their lot.

Politics.TeaParty-600x438Whilst enjoying common cause with the libertarians they are a distinct group because they are limited in their effectiveness by their essential incoherence: they have little vision of a future besides knowing in their bones that they dislike the present.

In America, this grouping is also overtly involved in two related but non-economic issues.

They are fervently pro-guns and pro-evangelical Christianity, and their religiosity is very often focused on their opposition to legal abortion. They are the hunters and shooters and the religious right organised into a loosely co-ordinated grassroots movement that is larger than the sum of its parts in publicity terms, but less effective as a co-ordinated organisational force as different parts of its base get turned on by different things.

The movement is also extremely American exceptionalist and internationally isolationist in its outlook.

Thus, these are people who simultaneously believe that America should not be involving itself in overseas wars, but should nevertheless be “kicking the shit out of” whoever opposes American hegemony at any one time.

The incompatibility of these goals, which go back to the later 1930s in their genesis, is never tackled. The same crowd that chants “USA! USA!” when an Osama bin Laden is killed will, in the blink of an eye, be waving its fists and bitching and moaning that their taxes are so high – a vast amount of which, of course, go to maintain America’s ludicrously bloated military services, but they perceive no irony in that – and they will also complain furiously that any American defeat is the result of a Government that doesn’t know what it’s doing, instead of a perfectly natural and concomitant price to be paid for endless overseas adventurism.

In short, the Tea Party is a badly organised and illogical anti-politics populist front.

hate

The third group are what we call the “Ultra Anti Democrats”. These people are not just anti the Democratic Party, or even anti the conservative central managerial structure of the Republican Party, but they are anti the very concept of American democracy as it functions now. For them, their view of the American dream is that it has turned, emphatically, into a nightmare.

In effect, they have simply lost faith entirely in the efficacy of the system to address their woes.

And their woes are essentially (a) we have no job, (b) we can’t afford the lifestyle dream we have been sold, (c) we are disconnected and unsupported, (c) other people get all the benefits, we get none, (d) politicians are lazy, feckless, untrustworthy and corrupt, and (e) we’re “mad as hell and we’re not going to take it any more”.

The worldwide appeal of populism

Importantly, in order to understand precisely what “we should have seen coming”, we need to examine these people. This latter group of voters transcend traditional party dividing lines, and they are simply not amenable to a fractured and incompetent central governmental system seeking to mollify them.

They are very largely working class, poorly (not tertiary) educated, they have rarely (if ever) travelled outside their home area, (and certainly not overseas), and they only consume media that plays to their frustrations.

And there’s one simple reason why they are not amenable to mollification.

Their complaints are very often justified.

(We will return to this point further down the article.)

The danger is, of course, that this complete disgust with the status quo makes them ripe pickings for any populist politician without a core plan to fix things for them, but with a good understanding of what ails them, and the ability to translate that into easily-consumed slogans. And indeed, if they can deliver those slogans in a strangled and muddled syntax that emphasises their outsider status, then so much the better. “Look!” says the lightning rod candidate, “I am as incoherent as you are! Vote for me!”

We can see this “anti intellectualism” and “anti politics politics” being repeated all over the world, in the popularity of parties (and most importantly, individual leaders) that seek to leverage the discontent without addressing the causes of it, and entirely careless of the long-term effect of doing so.

Piero Ignazi divided right-wing populist parties, which he called “extreme right parties”, into two categories: traditional right-wing parties that had developed out of the historical right, and post-industrial parties that had developed independently. He placed the British National Party, the National Democratic Party of Germany, the German People’s Union and the former Dutch Centre Party in the first category, whose prototype would be the disbanded Italian Social Movement; the French National Front, the German Republicans, the Dutch Centre Democrats, the former Belgian Vlaams Blok (which would include certain aspects of traditional extreme right parties), the Danish Progress Party, the Norwegian Progress Party and the Freedom Party of Austria in the second category.

Right-wing populist parties in the English-speaking world include the UK Independence Party, Australia’s One Nation – although that has now mainly been supplanted by a consolidated hard right faction in the ruling Liberal Party, just as UKIP have been outflanked by concessions made to Eurosceptics in the British Conservative Party – and New Zealand First.

And in the ultimate irony, the success of the anti-austerity Syriza party in Greece is an example of the exactly similar phenomenon on the other side of politics.

The role of immigration in this movement

Importantly, especially in the historical context, most of these parties have an overt or coded anti-immigration stance. It is the one core strand that unites and binds nearly all populist movements.

They blame someone else for the mess. And immigration (or the demonisation of a minority group) is the easiest target of all, because immigration is both the least understood economic factor in our societies and simultaneously one of the most easily noticed.

trump muslims

If there is one thing that unites the Tea Party supporters and the Ultra Anti-Democrats it is that they are furious about immigration, and anti-immigrant rhetoric excites them to fervour. “Look at these immigrants taking our jobs!” they cry, “Chewing up our welfare payments, living in our houses, not speaking our language!”, and on and on it goes.

Make those immigrants from a non white Anglo-Saxon background – call them “Muslims”, for example – and the rhetoric becomes almost unstoppably powerful.

American.Muslim.girl_.flag_.face_picThis has always been how fascism happens, from the slaughter of the Hugenots in France in 1572, through to the murderous fascist, statist regimes of Stalin, Mao and Hitler. Someone else is always the cause of the problem.

In social studies, “Othering” is the term used by some to describe a system of discrimination whereby the characteristics of a group are used to distinguish them as separate from the norm.

Othering plays a fundamental role in the history and continuation of racism. To objectify a culture as something different, exotic or underdeveloped is to generalise that it is not like ‘normal’ society.

Europe’s colonial attitude towards Africa and the Orient exemplifies this.

It was thought that the East, for example was the opposite of the West; it was feminine where the West was masculine, weak where the West was strong and traditional where the West was progressive. By making these generalizations and othering the East, Europe was simultaneously defining herself as the norm, further entrenching the gap.

Africa in its turn was violent, tribal, feckless, disorganised, and uncivil where Europe was the opposite. (Precisely what the Africans thought of the tribal nature of Europe as demonstrated in, for example, 1914-1918 was never asked, of course, but we digress.)

Much of the process of “othering” relies on imagined difference, or the expectation of difference. Spatial difference alone can be enough to conclude that “we” are “here” and the “others” are over “there”. Imagined differences serve to categorise people into groups and assign them characteristics that suit the imaginer’s expectations.

But the problem with anti-immigration rhetoric, of course, apart from its inherently nonsensical nature, is that it is based on an essentially flawed economic model.

Because as the OECD have noted:

Labour markets

 Migrants accounted for 47% of the increase in the workforce in the United States and 70% in Europe over the past ten years.

 Migrants fill important niches both in fast-growing and declining sectors of the economy.

 Like the native-born, young migrants are better educated than those nearing retirement.

 Migrants contribute significantly to labour-market flexibility, notably in Europe.

The public purse

 Migrants contribute more in taxes and social contributions than they receive in benefits.

 Labour migrants have the most positive impact on the public purse.

 Employment is the single biggest determinant of migrants’ net fiscal contribution.

Economic growth

 Migration boosts the working-age population.

 Migrants arrive with skills and contribute to human capital development of their receiving countries.

 Migrants also contribute to technological progress.

Understanding these impacts is important if our societies are to usefully debate the role of migration. Such debates, in turn, are essential to designing policies in areas like education and employment that maximise the benefits of migration, especially by improving migrants’ employment situation.

This policy mix will, of course, vary from country to country. But the fundamental question of how to maximise the benefits of migration, both for host countries and the migrants themselves, needs to be addressed by many OECD countries in coming decades, especially as rapid population ageing increases demand for migrants to make up shortfalls in the workforce.

The great failure of politics in America today (and elsewhere) is that no one has had the political will to address the legitimate complaints of the disenfranchised, but with facts, and with ideas.

For example: if one is living in a sector of the economy, or a geographic location, with mass unemployment – say 10% or greater – then one has a perfectly legitimate complaint that the “system” isn’t working. Not for them, at least.

unemployed

One of the basic roles of any governmental system must be the provision of a balanced, stable economic environment that provides enough work to satisfy the essential needs of the mass of the people. But employment is a stubborn problem to fix as it relies on expanding the economic activity of the state.

Ironically, this is one reason that fascist governments immediately embark on grandiose public works spending to create employment – it is to satisfy the hunger of their natural supporters for work and wages. Such Governments invariably rely on either conquest or domination of other societies in order to fund such largesse, or the forced exploitation of natural assets by the underclass, as nothing else fills the financial gap. Coming soon to your neighbourhood – the Trump Highway to nowhere.

Basically, such regimes either eventually invade next door, or send their population down the mines.

How much more durable, and effective, it would be to explain to the un- or under-employed that immigration actually boosts economic activity (the studies are virtually unanimous and incontrovertible) and they they, too, will benefit from this growing of the overall pie.

The problem is, those arguments are somewhat esoteric, and the mass of politicians simply do not attempt them in a media environment where a mindless soundbite and appeal to prejudice works faster and possibly better, and where those in the media demonstrate the same inability to understand the thrust of the argument as the public does.

The elite thus fails to make the case against populism, and as night follows day, populism invariably sweeps it aside.

So much for jobs and immigration. Let’s return to the Ultra Anti’s list of complaints.

(b) we can’t afford the lifestyle dream we have been sold,

(c) we are disconnected and unsupported,

(c) other people get all the benefits, we get none,

(d) politicians are lazy, feckless, untrustworthy and corrupt, and

(e) we’re “mad as hell and we’re not going to take it any more”.

It’s very easy to see, again, how the elite genuinely have failed this group.

Until the 1960s, the expectation of what constituted a “happy” life – a fulfilled life, a successful life – was much more limited in its horizons than since the social revolution that swept the world in that decade. The growth of consumerism in the sixties, matched to the new ability of TV to emotionally communicate the rewards of luxury and comfort, has vastly up-rated our view of what is both valuable and normal. We should all be tertiary educated. Every family member must have an automobile. The home must be crammed with every possible labour-saving device. Holidays should be regular and fully-catered. We should all live way past our previous life expectancy with premium health care and comfortable, funded retirement. Entertainment, both in-home and out-of home should be continuous and constantly improving. And so on, and so on.

consumerismSome commentators and candidates have called this “the American dream”, or “Morning in America”, or various other platitudes. Very few – and certainly no successful ones – have had to courage to say “You know what? We f****d up. We didn’t realise that we couldn’t keep endlessly expanding the size of the economy. You need to get used to the idea that you might not be able to get everything you want handed to you on a plate. You might not be able to afford it. Times have changed.” In fact, quite the opposite. The media elite, aided and abetted by their supine acolytes in politics, constantly promote and celebrate ever more garish celebrity lifestyles, which are held up as an example of what can be achieved. When it proves entirely impossible for “ordinary people” to mimic those lifestyles, even minimally in some cases, they completely understandably become restless and disenchanted.

The elite thus fails to make the case against populism, and as night follows day, populism invariably sweeps it aside.

Disconnected and unsupported? They certainly are.

We no longer live in villages where people know our business and we know theirs, and people rally round in times of trouble or distress. Most people dont even know their neighbours’ names. And expenditure on Government’s attempts to create “community” through social services, healthcare and other levers are the very first “soft” items to be stripped from spending budgets.

detroit

We have an entire underclass now cast adrift from support that we thought – wrongly – would always characterise a “modern” society. The state was expected to step into the breach and “help”, where previously communities would have done it for themselves. It did, partially, for a while, but inefficiently, and expensively. Our staggering inability to attune Government activity (at all levels) to the legitimate aspirations of ordinary folk is a failure that all politicians, of all political skews, need to “own”. It’s not excessive for people to expect their kids to go to school in buildings that aren’t falling down, where they are protected and safe, and where they achieve a minimum level of development. It’s not unreasonable to want to live in a town with properly maintained roads and pavements, where one sees a tree from time to time, where the very fabric of society is not crumbling around us. And it is completely fair to assume that if one falls through the cracks of life – whether in terms of health, or marital discord, or violence, or financial – then SOMEONE will be there, not to offer a handout, but a hand up.

Instead, we demonise the underclass and provide it with fewer and fewer ways of fixing things up for themselves. Not only do we not offer a hand up, we surround all activity to address personal or communal disconnectedness with such a mind-numbing and stultifying collection of rules and regulations that even if people want to help themselves, they can’t. Not unsurprisingly, the people rail against such an arrangement, and those in power ignore their pleas.

populism

The elite thus fails to make the case against populism, and as night follows day, populism invariably sweeps it aside.

Someone else gets all the benefits? Well, there is benefit fraud, to be sure, and a sensationalist media does an excellent job of publicising it.

But in reality, benefits are set at a much lower level than people realise (even in the benefit-rich societies of Western Europe, and certainly in America and Australia) and benefits are generally handed out parsimoniously and sparingly. What is truly sickening is that politicians find it easier to go along with the “unmarried mother with six kids lives in a penthouse on your taxes” stories than they do to make one very simple point – without a social support structure, people cannot get back into work, cannot fix their addiction problems, cannot successfully re-enter the community having paid their debt to society in prison, cannot deal with mental illness, and a hundred other barriers to full participation, without a bit of judicious guidance and help.

The result of that guidance and help – just as the result, for example, of a healthier and better educated society – is greater productivity. Greater wealth to go round. Why does not one frame the discussion of social support in those terms? You tell us. In our view, simple cowardice is the answer.

The elite thus fails to make the case against populism, and as night follows day, populism invariably sweeps it aside.

organisedcrimePoliticians are lazy, feckless, untrustworthy and corrupt? Well, that’s half the problem, right there, isn’t it? How can anyone seriously argue that they are not, when time after time they are clearly shown to be exactly that? The complaints of the governed against the mindless yahoo-ism, corruption and rank incompetence of those we elect to rule us are bitterly and utterly justified.

The great tragedy is that many politicians are well-meaning, hard-working, and “clean”. But in continually demonising them (as we just did, right there, and be honest: your head was nodding, too) we make it impossible to see through the fog of despair that clouds our opinion of their performance and their motives.

The elite places no pressure on itself to perform more creditably. To speak more plainly, To deal more honestly. To resist baleful external influences more firmly. Just as one example, whenever campaign finance reform is seriously mooted in America it is simply howled down. Corporations are people, remember. They have rights. No responsibilities – except to their stock holders – but they have rights. Pffft.

The elite thus fails to make the case against populism, and as night follows day, populism invariably sweeps it aside.

Faced with no leadership worth the name, the people are very, very angry indeed at the turn of events. And those who would exploit that anger are in the ascendancy, flirting with an increasingly rabid populace with terrifying disregard of the consequences of unleashing their anger on the very institutions of society, and our fellow citizens. Our response should be evidence-based, principled answers to the legitimate concerns they have. Instead, we are flinging up barricades and passing out scythes and pitchforks.

Morning in America? More like a deeply darkening dusk. And those with torches to mark our way back from the brink are too cowed to light them.

Quite right, Marco Rubio. You should have seen this coming. But you – along with your cynical, power-hungry colleagues – tried to ride the wave rather than break it up. To mix our metaphors, you grabbed a tiger by the tail, and now it’s well and truly turned back to bite you.

So thanks for your words – finally – but also, frankly, shame on you.

It’s not morning in America. We just hope it’s not goodnight.

trump handsWe love presidential election year in the USA, but this year it is especially rewarding for all election freaks with the universal excitement/horror at the elevation of Donald Trump to current front runner in the Republican stakes.

As we have opined as recently as yesterday, the Trump phenomenon is really not new – we have seen it all before – although never with such a marked disrespect from any major candidate for either facts, analysis, talent, civility, truthfulness or knowledge.

The hard fact that everyone has to bite down on is that Trump is, in truth, a classic fascist populist – an “anti politics politician” – and whilst that may play well with the disenchanted and ignorant, and it is also evidenced in election results elsewhere in the world – it is extremely dangerous for the fabric of democracy and the civil good.

He is the end product of a country that has dumbed down its civil discourse to a level far below where it has ever been before, and where “entertainment” is now generally little more than the endlessly mindless repetition of idiotic reality TV shows and celebrity-for-celebrity’s-sake. Cheap, stupid pap. Donald Trump is the archetypal candidate for a society where cheap, stupid pap is the new normal.

Yet despite our distaste for what he represents, we see him, essentially, as a paper man – simply incapable of winning a general election. (Mind you, they said the same about Hitler.)

And sure, those who adore him (or the mindless celebrity and nihilism he represents) are merely further driven to greater ecstasies of pleasure when he is attacked and exposed.

But attacked and exposed he is, and frequently it is not the organised political establishment that is rearing up – although belatedly it now is – but rather it is social media that is doing the attacking.

Social media – the rise and rise of interested or concerned individuals expressing their opinions directly to other individuals, singly, in the tens or hundreds, or sometimes in the thousands and even millions – is the great leveller in this election, and, we suspect, all future elections, everywhere. It talks to everyone, not just ironed on supporters of one party or another, and thus its reach is impressive and significant.

Here are a few of favourites from today. We are looking forward to the GOP debate later to see just how vitriolic the Republican mutual slaughter will become. We suspect, very bloody indeed. As we have said to supporters of the right in America for years, “be careful what you wish for”.  Well, this is what you wished for.

Pass the popcorn.

 

Trump2

 

Trump3

 

Trumps wives

 

round up

On this basis alone, Rubio should be ejected from the race for President. Only in America could such blatant lyign and hypocrisy be laughed off.

On this basis alone, Rubio should be ejected from the race for President. Only in America could such blatant lying and hypocrisy be laughed off.

 

Marco Rubio And his family lied about escaping Castro in the 1950s — it simply never happened. What follows is from “Addicting Info”.

Marco Rubio’s staff had to exit the building they were working in when the senator began smoking from the trouser region. Alarms and sprinklers were set off, leading to an investigation the fire chief was able to dismiss as a self-inflicted “liar, liar pants on fire” moment.

The incident happened when Rubio, who tells a wonderful story about how his parents came to the United States to escape the Castro regime, meaning they would have come in 1959.

Unfortunately, records have proven, and Rubio has himself admitted, that the actual date his parents migrated to Miami was 1956. In 1956, Castro was still living and plotting from Mexico. He wasn’t even in Cuba yet.

So why the discrepancy? Rubio says he was passing along the family’s “oral history.”

Yes, oral history. That’s when you don’t like your family’s actual history, so you make something up. That’s like someone’s antecedents landing in New Hampshire, but since nobody cares about anything in the 1620s but Plymouth, saying they’re now a direct descendent of the Mayflower … according to oral history. Phew … that was easy.

Rubio’s ridiculous answer fits in with the motif of the Republican party of lies, beat ups and exaggerations. WHat Carly Fiorina, before her political demise, called “politics is a fact free zone”. Or if something doesn’t make sense, ignore it until it just goes away.

Rubio comes along with his “I appeal to Latinos” mentality, some of which is a direct result of the lies he told. But how much will those same Latinos respect his “plight” when they learn Rubio’s parents came here voluntarily, not on a raft as refugees escaping life in prison or worse.

How will it fit the GOP’s virulently anti-immigrant ethos when they work out that the Rubios the country and asked to start working and were shown a straighforward path to citizenship.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with that story. It’s a similar story to almost every family if you go back to their first generation. But for some reason, Marco Rubio and his family needed to add things that never happened to their lives for effect.

At Wellthisiwhatithink, we suspect people will increasingly be asking him why.

PS Once you start digging, it’s interesting what you find. According to Mother Jones things get even messier: According to a Rubio biographyby Washington Post reporter Manuel Roig-Franzia, Rubio’s grandfather Pedro Victor Garcia was an illegal immigrant to the United States.

Disillusioned by his financial prospects, Garcia reportedly left the United States for Cuba two weeks after Fidel Castro took power in 1959. He flew back to the States two years later without a visa…and was booked by a US immigration official, who stated: “[Y]ou do not appear to me to be clearly and beyond a doubt entitled to enter the United States.”

Garcia was ordered deported, but instead he hung out illegally in Miami, resurfacing in 1967 to petition for permanent residency. Even though Garcia had been in the US since 1962, “The form he filled out then states that he had been a Cuban refugee since February 1965,” according to Roig-Franzia.

Hmmm.

We do love a good F*** Up, as you know, Dear Reader. Mostly (as it’s the business we are in) we have concerned ourselves with glaring errors in commercial advertising, packaging, signs and so on. But with #election2016 in full swing, it’s the pollies in America that are now making some classic mistakes. Such fun.

Case History #1

 

Jeb-Bush

 

It’s really very important, peeps, that you keep your website URL registrations up to date. Not like dear old Jeb Bush, who in keeping with his bumbling campaign for President forgot to keep the registration current of jebbush.com. So Donald Trump grabbed the registration and simply re-directed it his website. D’oh!

Smart move by Trump, as there is an increasing trend for people not to link to websites from online advertising, or even to Google the correct link, but simply to type in what they assume to be the right URL. In America people normally assume that’s the name plus “dot com”, in Australia name plus “dot com dot au”, in the UK name plus “Dot co dot uk” and so on.

People in each domain “learn” their local suffix and assume that’s what the URL will be. Well done Trump and his staff (the only time we expect you’ll ever hear us say that) and big black mark for Bush. Not the last time we’ll say that. (Telling his audience to “clap now” the other day wasn’t all that smart, either.)

Case History #2

 

MARCO-RUBIO-VANCOUVER-facebook

 

Hilarious mistake by Marco Rubio’s campaign.

“It’s unmistakably Vancouver,” the Sun wrote.

The tugboat also features a Canadian flag, according to BuzzFeed News, who first flagged the footage on Monday.

The size and length of the ad buy was not immediately clear. But Vancouver-based videographer Guy Chavasse told CBC News on Monday that he shot the scene last August.

“It’s pretty funny, isn’t it?” he told the CBC. “It’s a good-looking video, no doubt, but it’s pretty recognisable as Vancouver.”

Chavasse estimated the campaign paid $80 for his footage. He also said he’s not a “Republican fan” or Rubio supporter.

Well, if it isn’t morning again in America, at least it’s morning again in Canada, eh?

So dumb it fair takes yer breath away.

For more F*** Ups, from all spheres of public communication, just go to the search box top left of this page and type in F*** Up. Then sit back and enjoy. Innocent fun for all the family. Well, not so innocent really.

PS We have promised various correspondents that we will faithfully report any F*** Ups from the Democratic side of politics, fearlessly reporting Hillary or Bernie burying their heads in a passing bucket of ordureful incompetence. But of course we know that won’t happen, because Democrats are incredibly clever and skillful and unicorns are real and so is magic fairy dust.

 

OK, well, Ted Cruz just beat Donald Trump, especially supported by country voters and died-in-the-wool conservatives, as we proposed was a possibility.

If there is one area where we could consider our prediction lacking it is that Trump’s result was really rather poor by expected standards, and given his demeanour afterwards, lower than he and his team expected. Whilst Cruz was always a possibility to win, Trump looked the more likely until perhaps a few hours ago. Clearly there’s been a late swing against Trump, possibly because Cruz’s “ground game” was better. Cruz actually criticised Trump’s “fly in fly out” campaigning recently, and it looks as though those comments have been justified.

It may also well be the case that skipping the last GOP debate has counted very badly against Trump, with his decision seen as petulant and whiny.

Moving along … third place getter Marco Rubio IS the story of the night as we predicted. The charismatic young man can genuinely claim to be the real winner on the night having been a long way behind the front runners until recently. Clearly the “oxygen” of publicity has done him no harm at all and his vote is right about the upper limit of where we suggested it would be. The charismatic, good looking Floridian is determined and will appeal to Latino voters (as will Cruz, but less obviously) which marks him out as attractive to the GOP establishment, who know they cannot win a general election without Latinos. We have been predicting Rubio to take the nomination for some time now, and nothing that has happened today persuades us otherwise.

Hillary-AngryThe Democrat race is incredibly tight between Clinton and Sanders. Possibly within 1%. We did predict Clinton shading it, although in all honesty before publishing we deleted the word “just” before “shading it” as we thought the Clinton’s ground game would see her home, as well as Democrat supporters being concerned that Sanders cannot win a general election.

In one incredible event Clinton and Sanders tied 61 votes each in one precinct – the result, going to Clinton, was settled by a coin toss. How interesting THAT might be in an incredibly close race. Watch the video of that most unusual – and completely legal – event here: https://twitter.com/FernandoPeinado/status/694345745420320768?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

As we write – right now – apparently both Clinton and Sanders are about to declare victory, which would be closer than even we imagined. Our money’s still on Clinton.

Whomever finally stumbles over the line, such a tight result cannot be considered good news for Hillary Clinton, and New Hampshire looks an awkward test for her with Sanders polling well there. The Democrat race may trundle on for some time yet – but we still believe Hillary has a lock on the nomination because of her support from the party establishment, super delegates already committed and so on.

Mind you, if a week is a long time in politics, then a few months is an eternity.

cruz2Ted Cruz, who was not favoured to win Iowa just a few months ago, is delivering his victory speech.

“God bless the great state of Iowa,” he said. “Tonight is a victory for the grassroots. Tonight is a victory for courageous conservatives across Iowa and across this great nation.”

Amid cheers of “Ted! Ted Ted!” he said his win was a victory for “millions of Americans” who have “shouldered the burden” of seven years of Barack Obama’s policies.

In a comment which will cause raised eyebrows amongst just about anyone but the religious right, he commented: “Our rights come from our creator, not any political party”, he said, citing Bible passages.

Given the determination of America’s founding fathers to create a SECULAR state, those words seem odd, even comical. but there’s no doubt they play well with evangelicals.

Whether they play as well with independents and those Cruz needs to lock in both the nomination and election is a different matter entirely.

This might be the most interesting thing we have heard about Rubio since the results have come out, from David Wasserman at 538.com:

DAVID_WASSERMAN
Remarkably, it looks like Rubio may end up winning five of Iowa’s 10 largest counties, and ZERO of Iowa’s other 89 counties. Yet this urban coalition may be his blueprint for victory nationally.
An interesting point, well spotted and well made.

 

cruz2We have an enduring fascination with trying to pick election results before they happen.

And we are nearly always spot on, or at the very least, very close.

So here we go.

Turnout will be very high, and will be the first news story of the night.

A high turnout might suggest a sudden last minute surge for Sanders in the Democrat primary, but we believe the Democrat primary will be won by Hillary Clinton, shading the insurgent Sanders. Thetrump hands more overblown predictions of a Sanders victory will, we think, be shown to be wishful thinking by his supporters and progressives generally, as enough Iowans consider who can actually defeat the Republicans in a general election.

In this, Donald “Bogeyman” Trump and the perennially unpleasant Ted Cruz are actually helping the Democrat establishment to encourage people to coalesce around Clinton.

Hillary-AngryBut Sanders will do well amongst students and young people particularly, and cannot be counted out entirely yet.

Of course last time round she got a nasty shock when she surprisingly got beaten by Barrack Obama.

With Iowans, anything’s possible, but the talk afterwards will be, we think, of how the Democrats folded in behind Hillary when push came to shove. Sanders will, however, fight on, so that the Democratic nomination isn’t just a coronation.

On the Republican side we expect Trump to beat Cruz. That said, Cruz will poll more strongly in the evangelical and country areas where a lot of Iowans live, and where caucusing is a particular social and well-regarded event. So don’t discount a win by Cruz, even though we think Trump will do better. You might see a city/country split between these two, which would be interesting in its implications for the whole Republican race and the ultimate general election.

We expect the big story of the night on the right, though, will be a better than expected showing by Marco Rubio, who we think (have thought for some time) has an excellent chance of being the party’s eventual pick. We wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him poll 15-20%, or even, at a pinch, higher. And interestingly Cruz has turned to criticising Rubio in recent days, perhaps a reflection of a calculation that he is leaking votes to him while Trump’s supporters are staying mainly true to him. But this will be the day that Rubio really “arrives”.

And Trump and Cruz? What would they take out of the night when one of them wins?

Well, just ask Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee how much significancesanders2 winning the Iowa caucuses really has.

Anyhow, that’s our best guess.

We’ll see if we were right soon enough.

Pay close attention to Bremer County. This particular collection of 24,000 Iowans have chosen the right President in the last 9 Presidential elections.

There are any number of good ways to follow the results as they come in, if you are a fellow election tragic. This is one of the better ones, and not being American it will hopefully be a bit less biased and a bit more informative.

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2016/feb/01/iowa-caucus-results-live-county-by-county-interactive-map

The current GOP race is something of an un-reality show, frankly.

The current GOP race is something of an un-reality show, frankly.

Aaaaand … we’re back.

Happy New Year everyone, and yes the holiday was lovely, thank you. Will write more on what we saw – and the conclusions we drew – soon.

Meanwhile. So. Here we go.

Deep breath.

Welcome to a year of trying to save America from itself.

Beginning with:

Trump

 

No apologies whatsoever for posting partisan stuff.

We will seek to make our political commentary and predictions unbiased, but any sane, rational person must surely campaign against the current crop of Republican candidates.

They are universally awful. Even the RNC is terrified of them.

Even worse, for the health of public discourse, it means that Hillary (and almost certainly it will be Hillary, although Bernie Sanders will have a couple of creditable early results) will have a coronation rather than get elected on her merits or otherwise, and that ain’t good for America, or anyone who respects democratic debate and the great contest of ideas.

Oh, and you heard it here first. Trump will NOT be the Republican nominee. But if by some miracle we are wrong, he simply cannot win a general election. Demographically, he has simply no chance.

Mind you, what damage he will do to both the Republicans and the broader American body politic along the way is another matter.

Of course, the only hell-toupee fake tan machine ever to run for President is generating some good jokes. Our current favourites are:

What is Donald Trump telling Barack Obama supporters? Orange Is The New Black.

What plane does Donald Trump aspire to fly on? Hair Force One!

Why are Muslims worried about Trumps immigration plans? Once you deport Juan you deport Jamal.

Trump supporters’ new campaign slogan? “We shall over-comb.”

And then one we actually wrote ourselves:

Donald Trump. Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow.

We feel a t-shirt coming on.

OK.  That’s enough Trump for now – Ed.