Thursday, November 17, 2016

Normalising Trump? Don't worry he won't allow us to do it !

There is a danger of falling into the trap of believing Donald Trump can be normalised  - like some sort of latter day Ronald Reagan. "Mr Trump is a big-government conservative" writes Tim Montgomerie in The Times today (perhaps with his fingers crossed). It sums up the dilemma up well. It is an oxymoron of course. Earlier this year, on holiday, I met a couple of Californans - rich, well-educated, articulate. One told me "Trump is a New York liberal". Another oxymoron. 

The thing is that (as with Brexit) the people have been duped. Trump did it on his own (much of the GOP establishment shunned him) whereas the "Leave" campaign had the tabloid media on its side as well as a handful of charismatic proponents on the make. Hardly anyone who was honest and in their right mind backed Trump or Brexit unless, in the case of the latter, they were fulfilling a lifelong ambition. Here the analogy was with a football team. You stick with your team through thick and thin. If you're a lifelong Eurosceptic the same - you don't suddenly change just because the overwhelming evidence, supported by every rational authority, is that the UK would be mad to leave the EU.

Back to Trump. He had even less credible support than the Brexiteers. For good reason. Normally reliable Republican figures, media etc. did not support Donald Trump. He was a loner backed only by the extreme Right - including the Klu Klux Klan and Far Right white supremacists. And grotesque political failures like Gingrich and John Bolton (who will now get jobs).  Now, of course, the Republican tribe is  salivating at the prospect of one of theirs (sort of) in the White House.

Trump is a Bozo, a freak, a fool - an infantile clown who in any rational world would never be given any of the levers of political power. And indeed he hasn't been. No political experience at all. Uniquely so. (Incidentally Dwight Eisenhower is cited  by some as being the only other political tyro in the White House - but you don't have Ike's military record without consummate political skills as well!).

Trump is not Ronald Reagan either. Ronnie was no fool or freak. He was not an egotist either (well no more than most actors). He employed good people. A capable decent Vice President. And he had genuine political experience. No liberal is a fan of Reaganomics, but it in hindsight had its merits. And even liberals can salute Reagan's charisma, leadership and decency.

Trump cannot last. His defective personality, pea-sized brain, and unpleasant friends will surely do for him. How and when, though,  I've no idea. When cataclysmic  political mistakes happen they often take a long time to unravel. Iraq anyone? When an Emporer has no clothes he can still strut on the stage for a while. But politics is tough and if you are unfit for a job (or, like Thatcher or Nixon have become unfit) then you are generally ousted one way or another. Before the inevitable happens to Trump all we can do is try and minimise his damage.  

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Will the "Founding Fathers" restrain Trump's madness?

"For almost a century in the west, democracy has meant liberal democracy: a political system marked not only by free and fair elections, but also by the rule of law, the separation of powers, the protection of basic liberties of speech, assembly, religion and property. In fact this latter bundle of freedoms-what might be called constitutional liberalism-is historically distinct from democracy. Today the two strands of liberal democracy, interwoven in the western political fabric, are coming apart in the rest of the world. Democracy is flourishing; constitutional liberalism is not."

The above, written in 1997 by Fareed Zakaria in Prospect Magazine, was part of an article which commented on what was seen as a trend in the growth of elective democracies unaccompanied by a parallel growth in constitutional liberalism. He explained:

" 'Suppose the election is declared free and fair,' said Richard Holbrooke on the eve of the 1996 elections in Bosnia, and those elected are “racists or fascists, publicly opposed to peace. That is the dilemma.” Indeed it is-not just in the former Yugoslavia, but around the world. Democratically elected regimes routinely ignore constitutional limits on their powers and deprive their citizens of basic rights. From Peru to the Palestinian Authority, from Sierra Leone to Slovakia, from Pakistan to the Philippines comes the rise of a disturbing phenomenon in international life-illiberal democracy."

The democratic election of those who later become tyrants is a historical phenomenon that is disturbingly common - notably with Hitler but also more recently with Marcos in The Philippines or Mugabe in Zimbabwe. Perhaps Vladimir Putin (the iffiness of Russian elections notwithstanding) is another. 

Which brings us to Donald Trump. There are two problems. Was his election truly democratic ? Clinton won the popular vote by a substantial margin - only the archaic US electoral system denied her. The second question is will Trump do what he said he would do?

There is little merit in railing against the Electoral College. It's daft, designed for a different age but it can't be changed retrospectively. It applied to the 2016 election and that's it. 

But what about Trump? He isn't a politician. His election platform and his speeches were rants full of impractical proposals. Some of it was bigoted, vile nonsense. It was certainly not "constitutionally liberal" If he attempts to implement half of it he will move into tyranny. He will certainly struggle to do this as the American constitution does have checks and balances from Congress and the Judiciary. The hands of the President are tied - the Founding Fathers were smart enough to see the need for this. No President has slipped into dictatorship - Richard Nixon (dysfunctional but not a tyrant) had to go.

The Trump election is a disaster. But I doubt that the American people have elected a man who will ride roughshod  over democratic processes and checks and balances. Not because he might not like to, but because the Constitution won't let him.  That said perhaps they said that about other elected tyrants ? 😱