Clinton vs Trump

We now seem to have decided on our Two Weak Candidates. After a spirited primary season, it comes down to an establishment neoliberal candidate and a populist moderate candidate, both of whom are widely disliked and distrusted outside of their loyal core.

Watching Bernie Sanders’ campaign rattle the jewelry of the increasingly elitist Democratic Party has been an inspiring political story. No, he didn’t win the nomination, but he came out of near obscurity to start a serious progressive movement among the large voting bloc of millenials. He treats his young supporters like adults, and advises that they make their own judgment on the election. Instead of trading his endorsement for a post in the new administration, he is still campaigning for his issues. But has he had any effect on this election?

Continued

Chernobyl after thirty years

Thirty years ago, the staff running a test on reactor #4 at the Lenin Nuclear Power Plant near Pripyat, Ukraine, USSR were reading unexpectedly high radiation levels. They debated stopping the test, but decided to keep going to find the limits. When the temperature readings climbed too high as well, they tried to shut the reactor down by inserting carbon rods.

There was, however, a design flaw, known by upper levels in the government, but not by the staff doing the testing. Inserting those rods somehow increased the reaction, increasing the heat. Containment water became steam, the roof of the reactor blew off and some 12 tons of radioactive uranium became airborne, contaminating a large swath of Europe.

Continued on my blog

Establocrat

In Clinton Needs Sanders, Josh Marshall posted a brief comment from John Judis, who I suppose is the progressive journalist, exhorting Hillary Clinton to up her game:

Clinton’s campaign seems stuck in the mud thematically. I listened to some of her speeches the last week. I heard her appealing to voters to support her because she is a Democrat and Sanders is not really. Look, America isn’t Europe circa 1960. We don’t have membership parties, and partisan allegiance has been declining since the election of 1896. If your main appeal is that you have a D next to your name, you are going to lose.

Maybe that’s why Wisconsin’s left-leaning Independents voted 70-30 in favor of Sanders.

I also heard the appeal from Clinton and her boosters that her programs are practical and pragmatic and that his are airy, grandiose and totally impractical. Clinton seems to be arguing that the test of a good campaign proposal is that it be able to be inserted in the annual budget message that the President sends to Congress in February — a message that is never read and that is inevitably pronounced dead on arrival. It’s no wonder that Sanders is attracting young voters. They know Washington is currently gridlocked, but they want to know where a presidential candidate wants the country to go in five, ten, or fifteen years. What are the larger changes on the basis of which incremental changes could be made?

Sanders’ independent supporters could have been the core of the Democratic party someday, but probably won’t have much use for the Democrats after an election cycle resulting in business as usual. As Green Party candidate Dr Jill Stein recently reminded Abby Martin, third parties have stepped up to replace older parties that have faltered. If the Sanders Independents start their own movement, and if the Trump/Tea Party supporters do the same, the Democrats and Republicans might be relegated to the history books with the Federalists, Democratic-Republicans and Whigs.

Thought Experiment

In The Elbonian Zombie Virus, Scott Adams asks what should happen if one percent of a given nationality of people, his cartoon Elbonians, were infected with a virus that turned them into zombie killers.

There is no cure for the Elbonian Zombie Virus. So what would world health organizations do?

For starters, they would quarantine the entire nation of Elbonia to limit the damage. This is obviously unfair to all uninfected Elbonians but it is also the only practical way to protect the rest of the world. Once the quarantine is in place, the professionals can get to work on a cure.

Now here’s the interesting part. What is the functional difference between the Elbonian Zombie Virus and radical islamic terrorism?

So, Adams established an analogy between a medical quarantine and Trump’s idea to keep Muslims out of America. I’m sure that will please Trump supporters, and doing so would probably reduce the number of Americans killed by Muslim terrorists, which is around three dozen per year. But it wouldn’t do anything about the three hundred other American deaths by non-Muslim terrorists. We’d also have to quarantine Christians, Jews, Sikhs and even atheists. So the Amish would be running things.

But let’s extend Scott’s thought experiment to other dangerous groups, for example, gun owners. Even though some talk about it first, no one knows for sure which gun owners will actually and suddenly start shooting innocent victims – or themselves. No one knows which gun owners will leave their weapons in reach of children. We don’t even know which police officers will start shooting innocent victims.

How would Adams’ approach work against firearms enthusiasts??

So what should world law enforcement organizations do?

For starters, they should quarantine gun owners to limit the damage. This is obviously unfair to all responsible gun owners but it is also the only practical way to protect the rest of the world. Once the quarantine is in place, the professionals can get to work on a cure.

Effectively ending the Second Amendment would not please Trump enthusiasts, but it would reduce the number of suicides, murders and accidental deaths that currently number about thirty-two thousand per year. It would also reduce the eighty-five thousand non-fatal gun injuries every year.

In other words, discriminating against gun owners would save far more lives and makes just as much sense as discriminating against Muslims – which makes no sense at all.

Primary Snapshot II

According to FiveThirtyEight’s delegate targets, here’s where the candidates were on March 3rd, after Super Tuesday when a Trump vs Clinton contest looked inevitable:

Candidate – Won/Target – Percentage of Target
Trump – 338/297 – 114%
Cruz – 236/384 – 61%
Rubio – 112/242 – 46%

Clinton – 609/529 – 115%
Sanders – 412/492 – 84%

Here’s where they are on March 28th:

Candidate – Won/Target – Percentage of Target
Trump – 754/789 – 96%
Cruz – 465/882 – 53%
Kasich – 144/657 – 22%

Clinton 1267/1174 108%
Sanders 1037/1129 92%

Trump is no longer a lock for the Republican nominee, not because of votes, but because the RNC seems to be considering rule changes that would lock him out. Cruz has fallen off pace, Rubio dropped out and the lone remaining establishment candidate, Kasich, has no path to winning on the first ballot.

But the Republicans are truly trapped. If they finagle Trump out, they will openly alienate the blue collar segment of their base, and could become an irrelevant third party. If they allow Trump’s win, though, they risk becoming an extremist American Ba’ath party. They would probably lose the election, but as Michael Wolraich described in a recent Salon interview, even losing elections can signal the start of a powerful movement. Wolraich was talking about progressives, but the Tea Party movement has been smoldering for almost a decade.

Clinton has dropped by seven percent, is out of Southern states, but still is considered the presumptive nominee by both the mainstream and much of the new internet media. Sanders has risen by eight percent, has momentum and solid fundraising, but is out of caucus states. Sanders must continue to win decisively but his main hurdle will be winning New York, which is his home state, but Clinton’s adopted state.

The Democrats are not trapped, but do risk alienating those millennial voters that should be their future core constituency. Since Arizona, the shadow of voter suppression looms large. One of my office friends thinks Hillary will have to ask Bernie to the prom, as VP, to keep her party together. Sanders has already said he would not look to include Clinton in his cabinet, so I would have bet against him being part of a neoliberal Clinton ticket. But she needs him much more than he needs her, and in a recent Young Turks interview Sanders cited a long list of policy demands that would reconcile him with the Clinton platform. So it is at least possible.

The Unwanted Class

I was checking up on Tom Whipple in his hometown paper The Falls Church News-Press, and ran across a perceptive column by Nicholas F Benton. In, Who Wants the Blue Collar Vote? he asks, “So why are these establishment Republicans so adamant to stop Trump?”

An explanation comes from considering not Trump, himself, but his impassioned electoral base. Here’s where the problem really exists for the ruling class. While there is a distinctly racist element to this constituency, it is also marked by other things, most importantly anger and frustration over the failure of their leaders to return them to any measure of the economic gains they’d achieved prior to the Great Recession.

There are deeply troubling statistics showing that the U.S. is at the flat bottom among developed nations in the percentage of the national wealth that’s in the hands of its middle class. The rich are getting richer, faster now than ever before. It’s definitely a state of affairs that no establishment Republican wants to see upended, but fears a national revolt could. …

In other words, Trump is sitting on top of an unprecedented social powder keg that could blow the fortunes of the ruling class to smithereens. …

I have read elsewhere that rich people at the tax money trough, Elon Musk comes to mind, are worried about Trump not continuing the good thing they have going. But many establishment Democrats are quite comfortable, too, and don’t want to see Bernie Sanders rock their boat:

… Ironically enough, so is Bernie Sanders, the ostensible opposite of Trump but appealing to more rational, doable and equitable remedies for the middle class.

The Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, should be thanking their lucky stars for Sanders and his ability to turn the same middle class rage that is animating the Trump campaign into a better Democratic direction.

An argument made by Thomas Frank in his book, Listen, Liberal!, claims that the Democratic Party in recent decades abandoned its historic blue collar base in favor of a more upscale, whiter collar technocratic electorate, creating a vacuum that now accounts for much of the Trump phenomenon, and could undo the Democrats in November.

There are a lot of reasons for this, not the least of which has been, in my view, the ruling class’ social engineering since the early 1970s with a dystopian, cynical and self-centered “post-modern” mindset in the core fabric of our national culture. It has represented a form of class warfare in itself, arising from the proto-fascist theorems of the “New Age” philosophies directed against the “solidarity” of the labor movement and its traditional alliances with the FDR-brand of Democratic Party.

This new paradigm repudiates any notion of legitimate economic class distinctions, and Democrats since the 1980s have fallen for it. Among other things it has undermined an ability to address the economic roots of many of the nation’s and planet’s most challenging foreign policy problems.

That post-modern mindset is often referred to as neoliberalism.

Two Weak Candidates

After This Week and Meet the Press, I caught the second half of Face the Nation, which included a seven minute video of Republican strategist Frank Luntz asking a focus group of Florida voters to explain why they refuse to vote for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

Luntz had obviously worked with the group before, and I wondered if it was a setup against two candidates the Republican establishment hate, but they all seemed to genuinely mistrust each candidate for a variety of familiar reasons. One of the key exchanges was after Luntz replayed a tape of Scott Pelley asking Hillary Clinton whether she had always told the truth, and Clinton answering, “I’ve always tried to. Always. Always.”

One woman commented, “She just … you could turn off the sound, and still see on her face that she was lying. She was the worst liar I think I’ve ever seen in my life.” Another said, “… if the Republicans put Donald Trump up, and the Democrats Hillary Clinton, it will be the worst turnout election ever.”

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