1 October, 2020

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Republicans Defeat American Democracy

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

Trump scores big on economic recovery and Supreme Court confirmation: Republicans defeat American democracy

“A calculated, orchestrated hit, fuelled by pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons, and millions of dollars from outside left-wing opposition groups”. Judge Kavanaugh; Senate testimony

“With unemployment down and economic growth up, Populists’ argue warnings by elites and liberals of dangers of Populist economics are baloney”. Harold James, Princeton University.

The previous week was one of the best for Donald Trump and the Republican Party (GOP or Grand Old Party); a chilly wind is blowing across America. With the addition of Kavanaugh to its highest level Trump won but the judiciary lost its legitimacy and the foundation of its authority. The ethos of checks-and-balances between the three branches of state – executive, legislative and judicial – that underpin democracy has come unstuck. As per the quote above Kavanaugh has shown himself a partisan and whatever the truth of the rape allegations he is unfit sit on the Court. Retired Justice John Paul Steven was so outraged that in an unprecedented comment on the appointment of a new justice he remarked “Kavanaughs’s emotional angry testimony disqualifies him from being able to serve effectively on the Court”.

There have been massive demographic and generational shifts in the US which have made the body politic sensitive to liberal, environmental and socially permissive attitudes. If for example 60% of Millennials were to vote they would decide Presidential and Congressional choices. Conservatives, religious traditionalists, social reactionaries and big-money, always powerful in America have seen their control decline. A strategy had to be found to limit democratic clout and popular intervention in political spaces. GOP control of both Houses of Congress in unlikely; the freak in the White House is a response to having gone so far as to elect a black man to the presidency so early in historical time. Hence the last desperate stand of moneyed conservatism was to fix the Supreme Court (SC) for a generation. Temporarily the goal has been achieved.  

It is of course possible that Chief Justice Roberts, the only occasional swing vote in the Court may take alarm if public outpouring of alarm is large. He may find reason, from time to time and on issues that outrage the public to swing to a less rightist-reactionary position and use his vote to contain indignation which may do the Court’s credibility harm. This would be only a cosmetic fix. The way out is to amend the US Constitution and end lifetime appointment of Supreme Court justices; a 10 year term and retirement at the age of 70 or 75 is quite good enough.

What will be the public response to an SC that it no longer trusts? Protests by women’s and student groups may reach the streets and if they do it would be the first-time since the 1960s. Protests may dovetail into the ongoing election campaign and are likely to receive a further flip if the GOP is defeated. If Republicans lose both the House and the Senate (it seems certain Democrats will win the House) on November 6, politics will turn ugly and America will drift into uncharted seas. Populism would have come full circle and it would be open season in US politics. The prologue to the coming battles will be multiplied by the aggression of Trump and his associates who are determined to trim the scope of American liberal democracy as practised in the decades since the victory of the Civil Rights movement. Their confidence stems from a pronounced upswing in the economy.  

The stamina of populism

Harold James, Professor of History and International Affairs at Princeton says in Road RunnerPopulism: “Populist Economics has rarely had it so good. The US economy is roaring, the stock market is soaring, and the Trump administration’s protectionism has had negligible impact on growth. His dictum that “trade wars are good” is catching on and confounding his critics. Critics still insist tariffs are undesirable but now concede such measures could be useful to stymie China’s rise”.  Growth in Q2 2018 was 4.2%, the highest since Q3 of 2014. Unemployment is down to 3.9%, the lowest in 49 years. Trade made a big contribution to growth due to an increase in the export of soybean and other goods before tariffs take full effect. 

However the Federal Reserve, the Congressional Budget Office and even the White House anticipate that growth will settle down to an unspectacular 2% by 2020 and beyond.  It is likely that US interest rates will go up to 4-5% to contain possible inflation which if it get started is hard to control; then the 10-year treasury yield rise to over 4-5%. If this happens, market buffs will tell you alarms bells will go for fear of a fall in asset prices and leveraging of stock markets unwinding. This is how the much feared second recession could commence.   

After 2016-2018 flush it will settle down to the post-recession average of 2%

There is something more important that James says in Road Runner Populism in a blog called Project Syndicate. He draws a provocative parallel between the rise of Trump Populism and the Nazis.

(A road-runner is slender fast running bird; I don’t understand what parallel James sees!)

In 1939, James says, Cambridge economist Claude Guillebaud argued in The Economic Recovery of Germany that the German economy was robust and would not collapse in the event of war. He was vilified. The Economist, then bastion of liberalism (and in a Pinochet-Regan-Thatcher era mouthpiece of neo-liberalism), James says: Pilloried him in an unprecedented two-page review claiming that even chief Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels could not have improved on it. The Editors lamented this was emblematic of a “dangerous tendency to play the Nazis’ game”. The point that James is using Guillebaud to make is that liberals see the ‘evil’ in Trump and alt-right populism but are hopelessly out of depth in understanding its political-economic roots and likely durability. This was a mistake that Trotsky did not make when he tore his hair out warning Europe and the Left that if the fascists took power they would pulverise every independent organisational form (political, social, religious and learned society) and establish a new dark age. 

No one including James suggests that Trumps obscene government is fascist, but how long the effects of the changes he has wrought will survive needs reflection.  Although the US economy is powering ahead Market Analysts (commentators on business TV and press) call the surge in US equity prices giddy and speak of an “ominous outlook for the global economy”. There is escalating gloom that Sino-US spat will worsen. They are apprehensive that Chinese state-owned companies are gearing up to challenge US dominance in computing and AI. The IMF warned last week “Investors are underestimating the risk of a financial shock” and predicts lower global growth in 2019.

Finance-capital and alt-right neo-populism 

I have a somewhat different take on some of this. Endurance of fascism and global depression was just what the world went through in the 1930s. Likewise a scenario of a global slump coexisting with neo-populist, mainly alt-right political instability, is possible. The Trump Base is fired up not only by reactionary and racist sentiments but also by a deep sense of alienation, of not being listened to by the Washington elite and by inequality of wealth and income. People no longer have a stake in the system. Trump is a businessman from the billionaire class but the unwavering loyalty of the Base proves that sometimes you can fool all the people all the time. Trump is praying that agitated #MeToo hating white males will outnumber distressed women at the elections.

Finance-capital is the name of the instrument that manages the new financial order on behalf of the wealthiest classes. The organs of wealth management are banks, investment banks, aggregators and fund placement vehicles that bring together colossal amounts of money, bonds, stocks, mortgages, leveraged holdings and derivatives that go by an alphabet soup of names. The modern capitalist game is played in financial markets not production enterprises. I recall hearing on Bloomberg that 80% of profit in America is generated in the financial “industry”. The other side of this same coin is global indebtedness; global debt is 50% higher than it was 10 years ago. Asset-price inflation and debt servicing cost tens of billions and cut into jobs, education, welfare and the things the Base, along with the rest of the populace wants.

Ideologically, alt-right anger and the expansion of finance-capital are compatible. It’s not like an exploitative employer at whose factory gates famished workers congregate demanding more wages. Bankers don’t send out cops and thugs to beat up depositors. The class struggle happens elsewhere, it is sublimated into abstract political space. European fascists of the inter-war years did coexist happily with not yet globally dominant European and American finance-capital. In modern times this has gone further. Therefore the crunch will come financial-capital suffers a fit; 2008 was a foretaste of what is possible. To that extent Guillebaud and James are right; the splintering of alt-right neo-populism will not come because of liberals snivelling about the hollowing out of democracy; it will be heralded by big events in the financialsphere. The storm in the teacup murder of Jamal Kashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul will subside and come to nothing; the US will ensure that Turkey sweeps the scandal under the carpet. Hence whatever happens on November 6 in America is a bit of a side show. The real McCoy is still to come.

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Latest comments

  • 5
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    It may be the feel for you and like-minded elites, not for us who loves the United States of America. I voted for TRUMP in 2016 and I will do the same in 2020 too.

  • 4
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    Its indeed tragedy that the writer, who is a whole lot better than the average Lankan writer, misreads and misunderstand the populist revolution in the US. American people have thrown the elite, privileged, entitled political class out, both Democratic and Republican, and selected businessman as President. And Trump is delivering on his promises to the American people. Other countries including China should realise that Trump means business, and make necessary adjustments.

    Trump should be emulated by other countries and they should elect their own Trumps (somewhat like Philippines) and they may have better days. Alternatively if they want to elect barren women like Angela Merkel who cannot relate to her own people (how could a woman who never bore a child feel the anxieties of her country and its women) and let Islamic fanatics to invade her country or as in Lanka if the people elect as their leaders truly stupid mediocrities like Sirisen and Wickremsingh, then they have all elected misery and mediocrity. They should not thereafter cry and whine, they decided their future and they have to live with it. Their votes have consequences and they have to live with them. Pity those who voted against this misery, but the majority prevail.

    Trump will go down as the greatest President ever in the history of USA and one of the truly great leaders humanity ever produced. Just watch the show, you will see for yourself. Don’t get distracted by mobs of socialist thugs wearing masks who destroy property and attack innocent people in liberal cities in America. Very soon they will be unmasked as agents of George Soros and people will hate them for the destruction.

    I wish the Lankans will come together around a strong and true leader like Gotabya, because this country deserves a lot better than the incompetence, disdain and mediocrity of Sirisen and Wickremasingh. Every time I visit Lanka my hear goes out to its wonderful people.

    • 1
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      Jay Chambers,

      Are you the other Sri Lankan who worked the nightshift with Gota in the Seven Eleven?

      • 1
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        Why should Gotabya’s work at Seven Eleven matter? What has that got to do with his ability to reshape and manage a country?

        There is nothing wrong in working in whatever capacity. Dignity of labour is a very important thing. If indeed Gotabya did work a night shift in a Seven Eleven that actually makes for a better person. He would know the travails of a hard worker who has to juggle shifts and a low wage and still be strong and productive.

        Your have a sick mindset my friend, remember, Dignity of Labour. And that is what Lankans need too.

        • 3
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          Jay,

          Very true – dignity of labour is a critically important concept that Sri Lankan’s fail to appreciate.
          .
          However, for the issue at hand, I certainly would have complemented Gota, if indeed he worked his way up from the night-labour to corporate or political apex entirtely by proving capabilities, achieving success at his work and getting steadily elevated on that basis.
          .
          It is an entirely different situation when one low-capacity worker whose best work option is as a night-worker at 7-eleven at the ripe age approaching or exceeding 40, but entirely based on political patronage and nothing else, gets elevated to Defence secratary of a nation where he had previously proved incapable of even handling the lowest levels of defence employment and have had to leave the country on that count!
          .
          There is an enormous difference between the two!

    • 3
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      Jay,

      Don’t let myopic views blur the foresight towards durable progress, effective development and social responsibility.
      .
      Trump is a proven liar and an exceptionally manipulative deceiver who delivers short-term “local” (personal) wins at great cost to society. That is aside from the miserable chauvinist, vicious sex-fiend (grabbing pussies, walking into girls dressing rooms) among many other despicable character flaws abhorred by decency and culture.
      .
      His personal income tax situation (no-taxes paid and grotesque lie to hide it) confirms his deceptive business practices. He has successfully instituted several legitimate-looking businesses, skimmed off profits and ran the companies to the ground leaving tax payers holding the bag! After many rounds of this increasingly blatant deceptions and when no respectable bank would give credit, he conspired with Russian, East European and Middle Eastern oligarchs to open the massive pipelines of money-flow by laundering massive troves of hidden ill-gotten money.
      .
      That is not an economic miracle – but sheer thievery at unheard of global proportions. If you think that trait enables good governance, durable prosperity, social fairness and global leadership, I am truly frightened that even educated could be so easily duped.
      .
      The ideology of Democracy is not the problem, but the practice (voting process) of that has some significant weakness. Banda got a “block vote” by invoking fear and racism. Trump did that same thing – thus getting a 30% block-vote of economically affected and gullible. In the two-party system, The non-block Republicans who had absolutely no respect or regard for anything Trump stood for pre-2016 elections, now have no choice – either prostrate in front of Trump and keep the Republican party alive or oppose Trump and lose the 30% block that would decimate the Republican party forever.
      .
      Don’t mistake that for majority support under fair Democracy.

      • 0
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        Hi Kumar,
        Looked at from the point of view of a non-US born person (I was born in England myself, so I can relate to it) your viewpoint makes sense. Because of the civility you have displayed (unlike many other “know-all” Lankans) I am going to respond to you at length.
        The situations in the US is much more nuanced than you think. Going back in time US was populated by various European races (by driving the native American “Indians” away from their land). The European people were more advanced and they had the fire power and a desire to “tame” the vast North American continent. They succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, drove out the British overlords, and after the tremendous growth following the world wars of the last century, they became a dominant world power.
        Around 1964 the US amended their immigration policies and for the first time it allowed non-while races to migrate to the US. But a promise was made to the white people that this will not lead to a situation that will see them become a minority some day or anything even remotely close to that.
        That was JF Kennedy who started it all. Deep down the leaders of the Democratic party had the plan to let migration grow exponentially so that with stories of Republican racism (most of which is untrue – I suggest you read the material from DInesh D’Souza for more info on this) they can get the overwhelming majority of migrant to eventually become their voters. They saw that in a future when the Europeans become less dominant they can usurp the power and remain in power for ever.
        This plot worked for the most part, except for interludes such as Ronald Reagan. Others privileged and political families who want to see their progeny become future leaders (the Bush family for example) were successful in getting their family members to rule America.

        • 3
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          Dear Jay,

          I am not entirely unaware of Dinesh’s work, his knack for conspiracy theories, his motivations or the criticisms his work has invariably and legitimately invited. To me, it is preposterous to believe that so far ahead in the 60’s Democrats had such foresight that not only they would be unable to convince the future Caucasians majority of the benefits of liberal views but could surly convince the still-to-immigrate unknown non-Caucasians!
          .
          Also, the idea that uniquely Democratic leaders had pre-planned aspirations for family-control is baseless. History has repeatedly proved that aspirations for such family and generational control is a natural extension only after a political leader finds himself firmly placed in power. Kennedy, Bush, Clintons, and even Marcos, Nehru, Senanayake, Banda, Premadasa, Rajapakse succumbed to that. It is nonsensical to uniquely identify Democrats as susceptible to that honey-trap.
          .
          Trump has unquestionably proved to be a blatant shameless liar, a fraud and an unethical businessman (many bankruptcies, income tax dodger), a grossly narcissistic and chauvinistic personality (“all pussies are for grab if only you had the money and power”). Please tell me if any of the above traits suggest a “progressive, responsible, worthy” leader. Alternatively, suggest one good leadership quality that you think stands out that makes him a good leader.
          .
          You may be tempted to point out “economy and jobs” – you would do that only if you had not seen the direction and the dynamic of the economy that Trump inherited. What is more critical is that there is no one who can get credit for Fast-Tracking China’s ascendance in not just economic, but in global leadership stature as well with such certainty and speed! China should celebrate Trump for bringing the U.S. to its knees!!

  • 1
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    Every country has its own version of ‘democracy’. China has its own. So does Saudi Arabia. Our own version is based on “The majority has it all”.
    The US version of ‘democracy’ is “As is Where is”.
    The US Supreme Court consists of the Chief Justice of the United States and eight associate justices who are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Once appointed, justices have lifetime tenure unless they resign, retire, or are removed from office. Appointments to US Supreme Court Justices have become more and more contentious. The most recent appointment shows this.

    Let US rethink the future appointments to US Supreme Court.
    We may spare some thoughts as to the vulnerability of our version.

    • 0
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      K.Pillai, Democracy is a ball of dough in your hands. You could shape it to your fancy.
      .
      US democracy is a sham. So is SL’s. The only difference is the minds that shape these two countries.
      .
      The nominees to the US Supreme Court is decided on party lines. Their rulings are made on the rationale of their parties.
      .
      Is Kavanaugh suited to be on the Bench. Temperamentally he is a wreck. That never entered the minds of the Republican Senators.
      .
      Is Trump suited to be a President. That question never entered the minds of the Republican voters.
      .
      These are the blessings of our good old Democracy.

  • 0
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    There is no Blue Wave coming.
    I am guessing Republicans are poised to make at least 2 gains in the Senate; possibly 3. I think polls are wrong
    Trump openly declared he is a NATIONALIST yesterday(Oct 22)
    Bernie Sanders, one of the few honest leaders in USA also said there does not seem to be a blue wave
    Voter suppression legally authorized by the US Supreme Court is happening in North Dakota where Native Americans who live in reservations(and in poverty) do not have street addresses but mostly post box numbers. The ND law saying you need street addresses to get IDs blocks most of them. Without their votes, Heidi Heitkamp who suprisingly won her senate seat cannot win.
    In Geogia where voter suppression of blacks was part of the system those days, the man who manages the election system is the candidate for the Republicans For Governor(secretary of state). He has purged mostly black voters using all sorts of devious schemes including “exact match”. and a bus carrying elderly poor to early voting was blocked on the guise that the bus registration was not up to date. In Kansas a polling station in a poor hispanic area was shut down citing “budgetary reasons”. . why just now? In GA the entire election database was hacked a few years ago. But the Secretary of State got the servers erased to cover up before any federal investigation.

  • 0
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    The Umpire in cricket match can also bat for the home team?

    Only in the USA can an election referee can become a candidate too. So much for claiming to be a democracy. No shame No shame No shame.
    NPR.org excerpt below.
    Tens of thousands of Georgians who haven’t voted in recent elections may show up at the polls on Nov. 6, only to learn they are no longer registered to vote and cannot cast a ballot.

    In July 2017, more than half a million people were removed from Georgia’s voter rolls. Of those, 107,000 were purged because they had decided not to vote in previous elections and they failed to respond to mailed notices from the state.

    That’s according to an investigation from APM Reports, the podcast and radio show Reveal, and public radio station WABE.

    The purge was overseen by Secretary of State Brian Kemp, a Republican candidate for governor, months after he declared his intentions to run for higher office. Kemp is one of three secretaries of state who are refereeing their own elections this year.-End

  • 0
    0

    President Donald Trump says he is “absolutely a nationalist,” and says that he’s never heard of the term being associated with white nationalism

    Nationalism is spreading in lots of nations in the West too now. Mostly in response to the refugee problems they face and fears of being overrun by us “brown hordes”

    Trump has a winning formula to drive fear and divisions. He is more than likely to win; the economy is doing tremendously well so far; The Russia investigation has so far not indicated they have any evidence of direct collusion. And Democrats are floundering like eels with no message. Trump is driving fear and hate and it is working. This is the same America that people look upto as a beacon of liberty and diversity. Not anymore. The whitelash is here to stay.

    The stupid Caravan coming in from the South will hurt Democratic chances. All Trump needs to mobilize is his evangelical christian white base most of whom are racists and not real christians and the working class whites who used to be Democrats but are now Trumpistanis. They actually even voted for Obama and felt let down. SAD reality. US Diplomats in Sri Lanka should stop being hypocrites in preaching shit that is not true of this great nation any more. Press is labeled enemy of the people and he relentlessly insults women and a lot of men too. Anyone he does not like he insults in low down ways. It works for him. His lies are the new Gospel for the low IQ voters too. But reality is even educated Suburban WHITE voters are still with him including white women…

    I think he will win in 2020. Nationalism and racism work. It worked in so many powerful nations before World War II

    • 1
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      M_R
      Trump is more of a Racist and Sexist than a Nationalist.
      US imperialism, like God, works in mysterious ways. Trump is just one.
      *
      You say “His lies are the new Gospel for the low IQ voters”.
      They are Gospel to many with claims to high IQs as well.
      Blaming the low IQ folk for everything does not make one any wiser.

  • 1
    1

    Where to start – Prof Kumar David needs professional help for his Trump Derangement Syndrome in my opinion.
    *
    He still doesn’t understand what is going on. Completely clueless despite my attempts to explain it to him.
    *
    There is a concept called innocent until proven guilty – it’s the cornerstone of all Western Justice systems. Kavanaugh was not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
    *
    The whole thing was nothing more than a Political hit by the Democrats who are desperate to hold on to power at any cost. If I and my family were being publicly destroyed I would respond emotionally as well. It means I’m human and says nothing about my fitness to hold any position.
    *
    The hypocrisy of the Regressive Left is on full display as are their double standards.
    *
    No “Blue Wave” in November. Trump will win easily in 2020.
    *
    Populism = Democracy. The will of the people.
    *
    I’m tired of self appointed elites telling me what to do, what to think and how to vote.

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