Gordon Campbell on the US election outcome

Well um.. on the bright side, there (probably) won’t be a TPP. In fact, you could argue that the cheerleaders of free trade have now succeeded in delivering the planet into the hands of someone who believes in the unlimited use of American military power, and who has called climate change a fraud invented by the Chinese.

Thanks, guys. Ultimately, voters in the Rust Belt states didn’t accept that the destruction of their jobs and communities really was the inevitable price of progress. Mind you, as Jonathan Freedland has noted, not all of the people who voted for Trump were the victims of free trade.

He won 63% of white men and 52% of white women. Not all of those were the left behind. A lot of them were people drawn to a message that was, in part and however thinly coded, about reinstating white privilege.

How bad is this outcome? Forget the dulcet tones of his victory speech last night – Trump was trying to project a sweet Reaganite ‘morning in America” tone – and nor should you be lulled by the generosity he extended to the woman he had vilified and has threatened to imprison. Donald Trump has never had a problem with women who concede to him. (It’s the bitches who don’t that make him so mad.) There’s no getting away from the fact that Trump’s victory makes the world a more dangerous place. Particularly so for the 11 million undocumented migrants he has threatened to deport. Trump has vowed to roll back Obamacare. He has promised massive tariffs on China’s exports. He has threatened to “punish” women who seek an abortion. His Vice-President Mike Pence had already passed draconian restrictions on reproductive rights while governor of Indiana, and these should probably be taken as a sign of what a Trump presidency has in store for all American women, who can expect to see abortion rights dialled back to the 1950s.

On that score, look at the list of terrible nominees Trump has flagged to fill the current and upcoming vacancies on the Supreme Court.

Who can be blamed? The pollsters have had a bad year. They got this one wrong, they got Brexit wrong and that peace referendum in Colombia as well. Dumping on the pollsters though, would be unfair. Nate Silver did warn us on election eve that the 4% lead Clinton enjoyed was occurring in the popular vote, and that things weren’t looking so good for her in the Electoral College. It panned out exactly that way. More people voted for Clinton than for Trump; but unfortunately, too many of them were located in California and New York, and not enough in the rural parts of the swing states. In the end, Trump won the presidency with the lowest share of the popular vote – only 47% – since Bill Clinton won the White House in 1992. Fun fact: no Democratic President has passed on power to another Democratic President (assassinations aside) since 1856.

Some observers are saying that Joe Biden would have done better in the Rust Belt (hardly; he would have been seen as the acme of Washington insiderism) or that Bernie Sanders would have won in a head to head with Trump. (To believe that, you’d have to believe that Sanders’ caucusing with the Obama administration, his “socialist” tag, his patent lack of support in black communities and his expensive holiday home wouldn’t have been fodder for Trump.)

More fairly, Clinton can be criticized for avoiding the media. Between the Democratic Convention in August and election day, she shunned the media and went into what Fox anchor Megyn Kelly has memorably called a virtual “Presidential Protection Programme”. Trump by contrast was always media available, always on Twitter, always making his case. Unwisely, Clinton relied on massive spending on TV ads, endorsements by celebrities and her vaunted “get out the vote” machine. By refusing to engage day by day, week by week, with the campaign, Clinton allowed Trump to bounce back from his many gaffes and several low points. He held rallies, she placed TV ads. He won.

In the process, the Trump methodology told us quite a bit about what it takes to motivate people who normally don’t vote. In 2013/2014, Labour talked a lot about mobilizing the 800,000 who don’t vote in this country. Subsequently though, Labour acted as if simple variations on policy-as-usual and a bit of energetic door-knocking could get hitherto alienated people to the polls. Trump showed what it really takes. Mass rallies with uncomfortable echoes of the 1930s, rampant stigmatising of minority groups, the monopolizing of the media discourse… if the populist likes of Gareth Morgan think they can emulate Trump’s success, they’re dreaming. The conventional politics of competing policy ideas won’t deliver the outcome that we saw yesterday.

From here on of course, Trump has to deliver. Yet compared to the obstructions that Obama faced, he’s on easy street. The Republicans now have a clean sweep: majorities in the House and the Senate and with an imminent Supreme Court majority that’s likely to increase if and when Ruth Bader Ginsburg and/or Anthony Kennedy retires. All Trump has to do now is switch his rhetoric on the economy and the war in Iraq. Economic and military situations that were never as bad as he has painted them will soon be rebranded, as personal Trump successes.

More worryingly, there will now be no check whatsoever on Donald Trump’s appetites and id. There isn’t any reason at all to assume that Trump will become more moderate, once he’s in the White House. As Freedland says:

….Surely he will see this victory as proof that he was always right, that his instincts are perfect and never to be challenged. There is no reason for him to moderate at all. The office of Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt and John F Kennedy is now his playpen. He can do what he likes.

This will be America’s ordeal primarily. But it will affect all of us. A reality TV star with no experience of either politics or the military will have the nuclear button as his toy. This, remember, is the man who reportedly asked several times, during a military briefing, why the US didn’t use nuclear weapons since it had them. This is the man who has said “I love war”. Whose proposed solution to Isis is “to bomb the shit out of them” and steal the oil.

No doubt, Trump will try to use the unpredictable aspects of his personality to his tactical advantage. Richard Nixon used to call it the “madman theory” of politics, and he explained it this way to his aides:

I call it the Madman Theory, Bob….We’ll just slip the word to them that, “for God’s sake, you know Nixon is obsessed about communism. We can’t restrain him when he’s angry—and he has his hand on the nuclear button” and Ho Chi Minh himself will be in Paris in two days begging for peace.

Nixon though, was intelligent enough to treat that perception purely as a pragmatic tool. Right now, the world should be justifiably worried that Trump isn’t that smart. He may not see the way – or the need –to back down when the time comes – and it will, inevitably- that his threats are challenged.

Footnote: Where do the Dems go now? Good riddance to the Clintons. Biden, Sanders and Elizabeth Warren (she would be 71 in 2020) will be too old to be contenders for the nomination in four years time. Russ Feingold, who was the only senator to oppose the Patriot Act, got defeated in his Senate comeback race in Wisconsin. Jason Kander almost won against the odds in Missouri but didn’t. Too bad. In the age of Trump, he seemed to be a Democrat with the right qualifications:

Kander is a military veteran who was viewed as a long shot…..But he surged in the polls after releasing an ad in which he put together an assault rifle while wearing a blindfold, trumpeting his support for a background check law and taunting his opponent over who really knew their way around firearms in this gun-loving state.

Footnote Two: Trump may well be the death knell of the TPP. But that shouldn’t be taken for granted. After all, New Zealand would swallow any amendments that the US will now demand, but other countries (Japan, Malaysia, Singapore) would probably baulk at the extension of medical patent terms, the axing of tobacco exemptions, and the imposing of currency manipulation restrictions. A few months ago, Canada trade expert Peter Clark wrote a somewhat upbeat article on global trade under a President Trump.

As Clark says, candidate Obama once painted a bullseye on NAFTA but went on as President to become its champion, and has been a staunch supporter of the TPP. On this, as on everything else, Trump is entirely unpredictable. He’s been given fast track powers on trade; would he really choose not to use them ? Trust me, he could well say to his supporters. It was a bad deal. I fixed it. I made all those foreign leaders – some of them, friends, are Asians – line up and swallow it. All part of Making America Great Again.

And the song for today….

President-elect Trump promises to heal wounds, bridge divisions, fulfill dreams etc etc. With that in mind, here’s a possible contender for his inauguration song:

I think you’re gonna like it
I think you’re gonna feel you belong

A nocturnal vacation
Unnecessary sedation
You want to feel at home
Cause you belong

Welcome to my nightmare, yeah
Welcome to my breakdown
I hope I didn’t scare you
That’s just the way we are
When we come down

23 Comments on Gordon Campbell on the US election outcome

  1. Clarification : on the transition between Democratic presidents mentioned above, I should have said no LIVING Democratic President has ever handed over to another Democratic President since 1856. FDR was succeeded by Harry Truman, but only after FDR had died in office.

  2. “There’s no getting away from the fact that Trump’s victory makes the world a more dangerous place.”
    What utter rubbish Gordon! Clinton called Putin “Hitler”. Donald Trump wants to sit down and talk with Putin. The American voters against starting WWIII.

  3. ….and the three reasons Gordon gives for the world becoming a dangerous place are just laughable!
    “Particularly so for the 11 million undocumented migrants he has threatened to deport”. What part of Illegal don’t you understand Gordon? “Trump has vowed to roll back Obamacare”. Good, its disaster with most Americans seeing their Insurance Premiums doubling along with huge deductibles. We Americans want a single payer system like you Kiwi’s have. “He has promised massive tariffs on China’s exports”. America will go bankrupt with the current imbalance of trade. Tariffs make sense. “He has threatened to “punish” women who seek an abortion.” You know Gordon that RoevWade will never be overturned. Hardly a danger to the World.

  4. Wow Gordon, insight and humility just aren’t for you, are they?
    Quoting Jonathan fuckin Freidland..? If your bubble ever pops, we’ll hear the sucking in of air across the country.
    Glenn Greenwald and Michael Moore have absolutely nailed the issues today.. you’re still dissembling.
    Pretty damn sad actually to see Scoop lowered to the level of the rest of the MSM.

  5. Appropriate to mention that Trump asked in a military briefing why he couldn’t use nuclear weapons. Does he not know that military and nuclear strategists have long put forth the ‘nuclear deterrence’ theory? He should have known that would be the response. There is some (probably unintended) honesty about that as there is no such thing as ‘nuclear deterrence’; that is just a figment of a collective insanity. But he is surely serious about using them. Ever since the end of the cold war it has been universally understood that there is no reason to have them except to use them.

    So where would he use them? North Korea? It’s hard for me to guess. If the use offends or threatens some large nuclear power, such as China or Russia, it would not surprize to see them respond with a nuclear blast somewhere. The target? Likely some country out of the way, small, and an ally of the USA. Oh, and just for good measure, an anti-nuclear country; nuclear nations see anti-nuclear as a threat.

  6. Fear mongering and warmongering go hand in hand . Both are symptoms of an insane mind.
    Keller, Why fear monger and speculate about the new puppet of the warmongers oligarchy, they already have a perpetual war going .
    These people that you let( vote for) rule you profit off war.
    To be ignorant and not think that they will stand to financially profit more from a bigger war and not know this banking cabal that governs Trump is insane and they do not care about the earth or people just profits and control .

  7. @ Dennis Merwood
    Wow. You’re laughing at the rollback of women’s reproductive rights promised by the kind of justices Trump has already put on his Supreme Court shortlist and that Mike Pence advocates? I guess that’s one form of privilege.

    And @ Andrew… dissembling ? Hardly. I’ve been writing against the Clintonite trade and welfare reform agenda for 20 years. I assume you’re annoyed because I don’t share the faith that Sanders would have saved the day. IMO he would been caricatured as viciously as Clinton was – and even less fairly, although he would have been spared the vile misogyny – but the outcome would have been the same. To repeat what I said in the article above, good riddance to the Clintons. Yet to argue that Hillary Clinton, terrible as she would have been on Israel etc would have done worse than what Trump will now implement is untrue, IMO. She was the lesser of the two evils on offer, just as Al Gore was in 2000. Holding a hatefest on the Clintons right now seems like weirdly misplaced energy. Yes, the Clintons (and Obama) share some responsibility for enabling Trump to succeed – but Trump and his minions are worse, and they’re the entirely culpable agents of the shitstorm now imminent.

  8. Gordon, It doesn’t not matter who is president what matters is who is controlling him/her i.e the war profiteers/moneylenders.
    Look at the shadow govt, the banking cabal, the same people who were behind Bush, Clinton,Obama and Trump.
    The presidents are just emblems for the banker’s corporation that profits off the perpetual wars,uses people as debt slaves and has global control of resources. If your economy is looking “austere” the reason is these moneylenders have imposed a constriction and your govt is just a corporate tool.

  9. Gordon. I notice you didn’t address Denis Merwood’s main point-how do Trump’s politics make the world a dangerous place? I guess if he had said he would stand up to Putin instead of negotiate you would consider that to make the world safer.

  10. @ Richard A and Dennis Merwood. More than happy to respond. The options aren’t either to confront Putin militarily or to “talk” to him.. In case you haven’t noticed, the US talks to Putin all the time – Kerry with Lavrov etc – on Syria, and more directly a myriad of other issues including on the dis-armament that Trump now plans to reverse. In this case, Trump’s stated admiration of Putin was coupled with him saying that any response to Russian aggression in Europe should be on a pay-for-play basis ie. it would become dependent on whether the states in question have previously been sufficiently compliant to US interests. Add to this Trump’s demonising of Islam and calls to ban Muslims, his rejection of climate change as a serious issue, his stated readiness to allow more countries to obtain nuclear weapons, his readiness for the US to at least consider the use of such weapons, his campaign’s winking support for domestic hate groups (and the related applause with which his victory has been greeted by European neo-fascists) the virulent rhetoric he has levelled at China, his readiness to re-embrace torture, his willingness to bomb civilian populations in the Middle East and steal their oil …none of that sounds to me like a laughing matter. All of it IMO, makes the world a more dangerous place.

  11. Yip Washington talks to Putin all the time as Putin, like Trump, is part of the banking cabal’s global war machine.
    Ignorance makes the world a dangerous place.

    If people knew who ruled the world ( and knew that they can co create it)they would be less likely to be ” believers”.
    They would not vote or consent for these corporate idiot savages only to have human rights reduced to a set of ‘ privileges” to be granted (or not as it is)by the war-machine’s Crown govt.

  12. Hi Gordon, I think your claims about Sanders having no better chance than Clinton are weak. If your claim is that this is primarily about racism and misogyny then Sanders has an advantage over Clinton in that he is a white man. If, alternatively (and in line with my assumptions) this was primarily about voting for someone to ‘shake up the system’ and respond to economic decline of the working and middle classes then, once again, Sanders would have the upper hand over Clinton in a confrontation with Trump. He could not be attacked as an insider or in favour of the trade and other policies that have partly caused Rust Belt decline. Sure, Trump (or any opponent) would try to ‘caricature’ him but, frankly, a caricature only works if it has some ready-made context in reality on which it can be hung.

    And as for any ‘socialist’ labelling that would only have been a turn-off for the avidly Republican vote. All indications are that independents and Democrats (i.e., the majority of the electorate) tend towards the kinds of policies he was advocating and ‘socialist’ no longer has sufficient bogey-man qualities to obliterate that. Remember that that term of opprobrium was used extensively against Obama (an African American to boot) and it didn’t seem to do the job either in 2008 or 2012.

    I don’t know why you make these arguments about Sanders’ chances against Trump as they are not only highly speculative and hypothetical but seem to ignore obvious counters. Do you have a blind spot on this? Is the wish the father of the thought in this instance?

  13. PS As Ana Avia O’Connor has already pointed out, this world is also now a more dangerous place for the young, for LGBTQ folks, and people of colour.

  14. Why only more dangerous for persons that are media buzz words? What about the world being “more dangerous” for people in the middle east (where NZ have troops and are creating more refugees, destruction waging wars). What about the dangers from lack of compassion and understanding coupled with bankster cuts making the world more dangerous for the disabled, elderly, poor, real journalists, and the sick in NZ?

    Ignorance makes it more dangerous for all life on earth.
    Trump is but another banker puppet in the line of Bush,Clinton, Obama all spouting ignorance, divide and conquer garbage.

    If one person can change the world, lets not do it by fear-mongering for the “divide and conquer establishment” (using its buzz worded select groups).

    With the US having a anti-democratic and corrupt convoluted election system you may just get your personal choice of evils Gordon..

    “the American people don’t actually decide who becomes President – that right belongs to the 538 members of the Electoral College.”
    On December 19, the College will vote for whom they want for President, and they could yet turn their backs on President-elect Trump.
    So will enough of them vote for Hillary Clinton next month?
    It’s possible, but highly unlikely unless President-elect Trump does something so offensive and outrageous between now and the College vote that enough electoral voters change their minds”. *Hub
    ( *foxy propaganda media)

  15. Gordon,
    Good of you to remind us that Trump is willing to encourage other countries to develop nuclear weapons. Would that become another export industry? Does this display a lack of understanding of the destructiveness of a nuclear weapon? Or is it a sign of suicidal tendencies? More the latter I think.
    Those who see that the global economy is dominated by profiteers who benefit from perpetual war are not wrong. But that misses the discussion of the larger cultural/historical flow and the point which is coming to a zenith today. I think we all know what that big picture is but we are almost universally terrified of discussing it.

  16. Keller, culture is but living in the past ( a set of beliefs) and history repeats when we do not learn.
    The victor writes his-story.
    Our history as human beings is one of insanity, of cruelty,pointless wars and unnecessary suffering inflicted by human beings on each other.But history is not written objectively . What is more important is right now as the past and future are just mind made and only the NOW is real.
    All the focus on imagination and fear for the (mind made) future does not help any but those who rule through ignorance.

    Those that point out a banking cabal rule the world and their corporations profit off the perpetual wars,have control of resources,profit off a rigged market and controlling nations economy are not “missing the point”.

    The big picture is that we believe and do not know.
    Our ignorance and beliefs help these world rulers/mind controllers manifest their reality.

  17. I believe Trump has been vastly more clever than most pundits realized. At the outset, he needed certain constituencies and he needed publicity to gain a solid base. The controversial statements he made at the beginning of the campaign served this purpose, as did his simplistic manner of delivery. At the time I was struck by this contrast between his rally speeches and the depth and detail of his platform as published on his official site. Notice that, in the latter stages, after he had won the traditional Democrat lower socio-economic constituency, he walked a lot of that stuff back and began a different approach. He pilloried Clinton for a period (crooked Hillary). Here he was pitching to a different bloc. Finally he adopted a more measured and Presidential tone. It worked.
    The politician on the hustings is not the private person. We have none other than Hillary Clinton’s admission to Goldman Sachs to prove this.
    I don’t think Donald Trump is a bigot. If there had been any evidence of bigotry or racism in his past life, the Podesta slime machine would have found it. I looked but found only warm testimonials from employees and friends – people who actually know the man.
    I was also struck by the “locker room talk” episode which I thought might have lost him the race. It was a bad look but, in truth, I could not compare it to Hillary’s “We came…..he died” atrocity.
    I was also struck by the incongruity of ignoring Hillary’s participation in the death, maiming and the displacement of millions while Trump was being disqualified for silly sexist talk which is quite commonplace among “blokes”.
    Those of us who have viewed with dismay the deterioration of the political dialogue over the past few decades must at least admit that the Trump phenomenon has given it pause. It has overhauled the Republican Party already and right now the knives must be out in the DNC. That is a plus.
    Main Stream Media are sporting a large black eye. They are exposed, they got it wrong, they colluded with a corrupt system, probably weighted the polls. Thank Trump for this graphic exposure.
    Confrontation with Russia is now not inevitable, intervention in Syria unlikely. These are good things. The entire Middle East policy looks like being re-set. The TPP is dead.
    Big question mark over Israel policy. If Trump takes Bolton on board all bets are off but it seems Trump’s mantra of making other nations pay their way is antithetical to the massive economical and weapons support that country enjoys.
    Scott Adams called this race correctly from the off:
    http://blog.dilbert.com/post/153080448451/the-cognitive-dissonance-cluster-bomb

  18. FYI … John McCain Was 72 and Bob Dole was 73 when they ran for president.
    Age has nothing to do with Good Leadership and Great Policies. As much as I am not a fan of Both Hillary and Donald. And in spite of the number of ludicrous statements by Donald, I shall reserve my judgement of his presidency until he makes any controversial executive decisions. Given the amount of times political commentators have got it so wrong during this election. I really cant see how anyone can really forecast with any certainty. Donald could well be the unintentional spanner in the works of a flawed system which is only getting more transparent by the year.

  19. @ Anabel, I agree the fact of the dictatorship is not “missing the point” in any political discussion .
    Isn’t it ‘terrifying’ that we have become lost in a mis-written history past with fear of the mind made future while remaining as believers in political dogma and propaganda?

    What is the first thing the WCC dictatorship did following their election process? They gave themselves another raise and gave green light to many (democratically rejected) needless costly projects.

  20. Yes and the illegitimate Crown nz govt dictatorship got a little bankster funded org to give itself second place ‘governance” award.

    The Bank of England’s Crown is the profiteer and its govt in NZ passes all the banker’s corporations wishes.
    What you have been told about politics is not true and for positive change to happen the bureaucratic, bloated and parasitic dysfunctional structure of the foreign Crown govt must crumble.
    It will when people see its real purpose and stop supporting it.

  21. For most people in the US there was no real choice in the election. It was between an egotistical buffoon on the one hand and a lying belligerent on the other. Media treatment of these two both pre and post election cleverly managed to avoid much talk of policy. While Trump was the loose cannon with his own agenda, Clinton had already stated she would be ‘more aggressive’ in the Middle East (MORE aggressive?) and would smash Iran. So, that should please Netanyahu and keep the military-industrial complex in the US happy, as well as hauling the world closer to the precipice of World War III. There’s also a perspective that has been conveniently glossed over – America’s systematic demonisation of Russia, a fairy tale of good and evil which has been touted since the 70’s, and which has apparently legitimised almost unlimited expenditure on weapons. Trump is psychopathic, like many politicians (including our own), but if he’s willing to talk to Putin, let’s be optimistic and say there’s a glimmer of hope in that initiative.

  22. @ Hugh, The fact is agent Putin has always worked with the presidents of the USA, they bat for the same team -the Establishment. For EG the Russia/USA talking and co-coordinating the bombing in Syria escalating the conflict.
    For the perpetual wars they need to fabricate and create enemies using the media .
    It was the banking cabal’s Media that tried to demonize Russia/Putin . The American people were not even thinking about Russia or their leader (Masonic level 33 Poo-bah Putin) until the Media brainwashed them.

    Its always good to see and think for yourself not become part of the media created “zombie apocalypse”.

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