27 January, 2020

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The US Presidential Election: Death Of A Salesman Or The Reincarnation Of The Salesman As Politician?

By Jude Fernando

Jude Fernando

Jude Fernando

The first presidential debate between a ‘salesman’ and a lawyer ended up with the lawyer winning the debate because the ‘salesman’ proved that he not only lacks the knowledge, skills, and etiquette to engage in a public forum, but also cares very little about morals and social responsibility in doing business. Trump was either too arrogant, self-righteous or intellectually incapable of learning from his debating consultants and campaign managers, worth millions of dollars. The skillful lawyer outsmarted the slick ‘salesman’ and crushed him. But the salesman refuses to accept the loss—and certainly the presidency is not guaranteed for the lawyer.

The debate may not have killed Trump’s chances of being the next president of the United States, even though he was unapologetic about his well-documented deplorable comments and his controversial legal and moral history. One would expect that in the United States, a country that is hypersensitive about political correctness, inclusivity, diversity, and multiculturalism, that Trump-like behavior would make a politician (or even a civilian) a social outcast and that the pre-election polls would predict a landslide victory for Clinton. The allegations against Clinton are nothing compared with those against Trump. Additionally, during the presidential debate, she took personal responsibility for some of those allegations, though she fell short of making a sincere apology. The debate, however, did little to reduce the risk the Democrats took by fielding a candidate who is unpopular both inside and outside the Democratic Party- the risk of losing an opportunity to win a hat trick of democratic presidencies.trump-and-clinton

Certainly, Trump is not an anomaly in today’s world. Nor can his popularity be explained by the absence of better candidates among the Republicans or Clinton’s unpopularity. If we are to understand Trump’s ascendancy, we need to look beyond the personalities and personal histories of Trump and Clinton. We must look beyond the way they have conducted their respective campaigns and the first debate, and the taken-for-granted differences between the Democratic and Republican political parties. We need to look at characteristics within the American political culture that have remained unchanged, and that politicians and the general public are unwilling and/or unable to disrupt. This culture is not a lone creation of politicians but also of the society’s obsession with global control, excessive of political correctness, religious conservatives, liberal institutions, and the mainstream media.

Hegemony and Security

Trump appeals to the emotional side and Clinton appeals to the intellectual side of the national-security concerns of the American public, although neither challenge the origins, goals, economic bases, or realities of national security that continue to be rooted in Dean Acheson’s assertion that “no challenge can be tolerated to the power, position, and prestige of the United States.” America’s global hegemony is a deeply ingrained ideal in the minds of most Americans, and its preservation still holds strong appeal for the American public. This is not only a political ideal but also an economic and cultural ideal that is promoted by politicians as well as educational and religious entities. What underpins these ideals is a global expansionist agenda of American security and economic and political interests, which many countries widely perceived as acts of aggressive imperialism-even when they appear in the form of ‘humanitarian imperialism’ or the principle of the ‘right to protect’. These policies have inadvertently contributed to security threats to American interests and to the lives of ordinary people in not only America but also the rest of the world.

Security threats to human life have taken many forms and, in fact, gained a life of their own and can that can no longer be traced back to their original causes. Unaccustomed to thinking about freedom and security outside the narrative of global dominance, Americans are trading their freedom for temporary security and a willingness to risk both. Hence, people lose patience with diplomacy as the main mechanism for addressing the perceived root causes of these insecurities. Under these circumstances, anyone who promises to be a spokesperson for fear and anxiety and advocates using aggressive measures to safeguard security by taking ‘control’ has a good chance of winning the presidency.

Not all Americans are unaware of the negative consequences of this global dominance narrative. Not all Americans endorse the narrative, either. In fact, many do not. Rather, they are deprived of an alternative narrative derived from ethical and moral foundations that would be more humane, equitable, and just for the entire world. Certainly, Clinton is neither structurally positioned nor willing to take political risks by providing a space for a substantive ideological shift in America’s engagement with its security issues. Trump’s reckless, unintelligible, and even dangerous national-security policies don’t seem to turn votes away from those whom security is the crucial issue. Perhaps, these voters prefer a Trump because a ‘strong and wrong’ president is better than one who is ‘weak and right’.

Liberal Media

Given the persistently negative publicity surrounding Trump in the mainstream media throughout the GOP primaries, stories that would have been considered scandalous and career ending for most other candidates, one would have expected to see Trump make an early exit from the Presidential campaign- well before the conclusion of the GOP primaries. Instead, the media proved to be an unwitting ally of Trump because he understood how to seduce the media with sensation, unconventional styles, and hyperactivity on Twitter, sound bites, and aggressive negativity. Thus, during the presidential campaign, overemphasis on the negative stories about Trump, at the expense of positive stories about Clinton, might well benefit Trump, in the long term.

Trump’s popularity also demonstrates the inability of the liberal media to represent its own liberal values. The public no longer believes in the wisdom of the liberal media, which held the view that Trump’s candidacy would wane as the primary season progressed. The media was more obsessed with and gave more publicity to his outrageous and unconventional campaign than it did to the campaign of Bernie Sanders. The media bias against Sanders benefited Trump by making Clinton unpopular among both Democrat opponents and independents.

During the primaries, the media did so much to discredit other Republican hopefuls as ‘political hacks’ that it helped Trump to establish his credentials as a non-politician, making him attractive to those who think that politicians are the main cause of all America’s woes, which can therefore, only be resolved by a non-politician. For his supporters, Trump epitomizes success (e.g., a billionaire real estate developer, a celebrity, a best-selling author, a relentless name-merchandiser, and a reality show star). The liberal media cultivated and subsequently elevated Trump to his current status virtually outside the boundaries of the traditional parties’ apparatuses until Trump was competing with the media. The media’s construction of Trump as a non-establishment outsider is completely false. His fortunes came from the politics of the very politicians he now despises. In fact, he offered several such politicians patronage in the past.

The media that ridicules Trump’s economic and foreign policies rarely provides space for a dialogue on policies grounded in alternative norms and values. The media that supports corporations and opposes unions, holds similar views about the suffering of the American people as Trump and Clinton and believes that economic crises are mainly driven by political crises rather than by the logic internal to the corporate economy. The media worries about Trump disrupting America’s relations with the rest of the world but rarely provides space for those who challenge the moral basis of American ‘control’ around the world, which the world does not voluntarily embrace. It is hard to escape the fact that Trump’s populist, and often racist national security paradigm is partly a creation of the media.

It was precisely the media’s penchant for personalities like Trump that made the first debate a record breaker, watched by 84 million people, the highest in 36 years. The reason is simply that negative coverage brings more viewers, hence advertising income. Trump will be the winner, if the ‘liberal media’ continues to provide more coverage to Trump’s failings than to exposing the fundamental policy differences between Clinton and Trump.

Political Incorrectness

The one thing that stands out in Trump’s campaign is his war against political correctness. Unapologetic use of highly offensive, politically incorrect language did not deprive him of the GOP nomination. Trump’s charge that political correctness is an enemy of freedom of expression, one’s’ ability to take bold action against terrorism and immigration, and that it stands on the way of making ‘America great again,’ struck a chord among his followers.

However, society’s hypersensitivity to political correctness does not move beyond language. “What we’re learning from Trump is that a lot of people have been biting their lips, but not changing their minds,” argues William A. Galston, of the Brooking Institute. Some may use politically correct language simply to prove their inclusivity rather than engaging in self-criticism of their own sense of sexism and racism. Those who use gender-inclusive language may feel threatened by the idea of a female president. In general, political correctness applies only to political and cultural rights, not to economic rights. Many commit to socially and politically inclusive policies, as long as those policies do not undermine their economic privilege or way of life. The even playground created by political correctness loses its progressive power when such language fails to bring substantive social and economic change.

Corporatism and Politics

A majority of the Democratic and Republican voters expect answers to problems arising from corporate capitalism through means that would not disrupt its ideological core. Policies that benefit everyone regardless of their ability to pay are scorned as socialist and parasitic, even though they are far from being socialist policies. Thus, most voters, and indeed the media, construe economic crises as political crises and naively hope that changes in political leadership will automatically effect economic changes.

The culture of blaming politics for all social ills then enhances the popularity of candidates like Trump, who is a political outsider. Voters are attracted to outward personality traits due to the mutually reinforcing individualism of the political culture, and the individualism of neoliberal capitalism, which distracts voter attention from the root economic causes of the issues that they are most passionate about. Similarly, the culture of blaming others is far more popular than the political will to commit to structural changes.

While Clinton may be more palatable for self-righteous corporations and liberals who consider themselves socially responsible and green, Trump might have an edge when it comes to winning the election. Trump proposes to nationalize/domesticate the economy, which would only benefit legal Americans by erecting a wall between the United States and Mexico, blocking immigration, reducing taxes and government regulations, and perhaps even withdrawing from NAFTA. Regardless of the ethical and legal issues involving his business dealings, his claims about his experience in creating jobs appeal to his followers, who mistakenly think politicians are the ones solely responsible for job losses. Trump appeals to white blue-collar workers who are virtually ignored by the Democratic party, although Trump and Clinton are not pro-labor candidates in any sense of the word.

Trump’s claim of being a political outsider gives the appearance that his political decisions will not succumb to partisan politics. One of Trump’s main claims is that under Clinton, the status quo is likely to prevail. This appeals to his voters who fail to see that Trump is hardly an outsider to Washington, but rather, that he has a long history of manipulating and benefiting from partisan politics. Meanwhile, those who supported Sanders and vehemently oppose Clinton may vote for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson or abstain from voting altogether. Some may even vote for Trump hoping that the space for more radical politics will be wider if the country’s situation gets worse under Trump.

American society is fearful of radical political action beyond rhetoric. No economic or social support networks exist for those who suffer due to engagement in radical politics. While the basic civic freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution are far greater than those of many countries around the world, society cannot enjoy those freedoms. Civic freedoms are undermined by the economic inequalities upon which civic freedoms are predicated. The job insecurity, debt, and consumerism that sustain the economy discourage people from participating in radical politics. No economic or social networks of support exist to compensate for the losses of those who engage in radical politics. Thus, political apathy reigns, as people are busy and engaged in personal consumption. Consequently, countercultural forces against consumerism and political apathy do not coalesce into broader political movements capable of challenging the status quo.

Trump as God

Trump continues to garner support from evangelicals, despite some prominent evangelicals questioning the sincerity of his faith and worry about his religious illiteracy. Trump’s popularity among these conservative evangelical Christians has a lot to do with the fact that they consider Trump the savior of their religious values, values that are synonymous with their economic, social, and cultural values. These Christians worship a God constructed in the image of America’s political, economic, and cultural narratives-narratives that contradict fundamental moral teachings of the Bible. For these religious conservatives, defending ‘national interests’ is synonymous with defending their faith in God, regardless of the contradiction of the two. They seem more than willing to compromise the morals and ethics found in their respective doctrines in favor of their narrow and selfish economic and nationalistic interests. Trump’s policies threaten to isolate Americans from the rest of the world, perhaps even leading to the persecution of fellow Christians elsewhere.

The secularists’ failure to reach out to religious Trump supporters is a failure to understand and accommodate the social transformative potential of faith. In fact, secularists kill secularism and play into the hands of the religious right when they fail to give equal space for religion and other ideologies. The secularists may quite correctly hold the evangelical right in contempt, but they often derive their ideals from values that differ little from those of religious conservatives.

The Democratic Party and the liberal media maintain a distance from any serious discussion on religion and politics among the Trump supporters, whereas religion is an important basis for Christians to rationalize their support for Trump.

Minorities

The idea that most minorities support the Democrats is a myth. Many minorities feel a sense of betrayal by both the Democrats and Republicans. Democrats do not command the minority support as they once did. One important reason is that some members of the minority communities, too, believe in the economic, social, and political ideals of Trump. A number of my minority friends told me that they plan to vote for Trump because he will provide jobs for those willing to do hard work, and he has the resolve to stop the illegal immigration and fight Islamic terrorism. Pro-Trump minorities act in the same way as the pro-Trump blue-collar working class, who see so-called illegal immigrants and welfare dependent minorities as a menace.

No real Winner

American society will be the loser, regardless of who wins the presidency. Clinton’s superior debating skills are not robust evidence of her having the capacity to manage the country. Nor would the blatant falsehoods and inaccuracies of Trump’s claims and him losing the first debate, necessarily turn voters away from him. The way Clinton and Trump avoided truthfully addressing the substantive issues is typical of how lawyers and salesmen act within their respective professional cultures.

The final decision of voters lies outside the contours of the debate. Americans from time to time have taken risks by electing Trump-like presidents. In this election cycle, a Clinton or Trump presidency would only confirm that America is in need of a political movement based on a radically different political and economic ideology. Corporatism and its’ academic and media allies, and the right-wing evangelicals are certain to stand in the way of such a political movement. Corporate media, the academy, and right wing evangelicals will certainly stand in the way of any such movement.

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Latest comments

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    Oh Please, Jude Dude spare us, this is long winded and silly. Fact is at least women will be winners with Clinton and that is a big one.

    Trump’s appeal to republicans is on anti-immigration rhetoric, and while both are corrupt because the SYSTEM of Capitalism that US has exported world wide is totally corrupt with corrupt banks that are too big to fail and have been bailed out by US govt. just as Trump was.

    • 0
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      yes, the article should have been shorter.

      I am yet to meet any serious feminist or anyone working on women’s issues (especially, minority women, women of color, Palestinian women, Haitian Women) says that Clinton Presidency is a winner for women. (Just talk to women in college campuses, you will know what I am saying) This debate has been there for some time. If most women consider Clinton as a Champion of women’s rights, by now Trump would get votes only from his hardcore supporters. At least, women who do not think Clinton as a Champion of Women or Winner for women, have a far more sophisticated understanding of women’s rights. Right now the real danger is these women who have doubts about Clinton will abstain from voting or vote for the small candidates. I am not talking about Republicans, others will never vote for Trump.

      There is no argument that Trump is not fit to be the President. But we must understand and counter his popularity!

      I agree capitalism is the central cause of all these issues. It will take many more years for the US population to understand it. That is reason why corporations love Clinton.

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      I think it would be nice to point out the silly ideas of the article. That ought to be the spirit of comments. Otherwise we become like Trump who makes blanket claims!

      That said, it is not easy to reduce everything to capitalism (I think you did not mean it). In fact, Marx refers to those as Vulgar materialists.

      Cheers
      Jude

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    Get a life JF!

    The world will take note when the US President is a WOMAN and this is the best thing that happened to women of the world. You need to do a better job, especially as you seem to preach about minority rights and all politically correct.
    Women’s rights matter, but I guess not to people like you?!

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      I am yet to meet any serious feminist or anyone working on women’s issues (especially, minority women, women of color, Palestinian women, Haitian Women) says that Clinton Presidency is a winner for women. (Just talk to women in college campuses, you will know what I am saying) This debate has been there for some time. If most women consider Clinton as a Champion of women’s rights, by now Trump would get votes only from his hardcore supporters. At least, women who do not think Clinton as a Champion of Women or Winner for women, have a far more sophisticated understanding of women’s rights.

      There are plenty of women who did not support Clinton during the Primaries!

      Right now the real danger is these women who have doubts about Clinton will abstain from voting or vote for the small candidates. I am not talking about Republicans, others will never vote for Trump.

      There is no argument that Trump is not fit to be the President. But we must understand and counter his popularity!

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        blah, blah, blah..
        JF, please learn to listen, rather than repeat yourself ad nauseum, ad infinitum.. You react like a kid though you think that you are authority on all subjects preaching to the illiterate.
        Get a life and start listening to women before you become an academic joke.

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          Your replies are just like what Trump would say.

        • 0
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          I hope you too will read what plenty of US feminist have been writing about the Choices that they in this election, also listen to women at grass roots, these are the women I meet on a regular basis. What I say, reflect what they say.

          Jude

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    Bernard Shaw famously remarked that Honour sinks where commerce long prevails!
    This should fit Donald Trump like a glove.

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      Shaw’s ideas are too sophisticated for average US voter who glorify the wealthy/commerce.

  • 0
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    Trump had some grudge against the Catholic church. there was osme word exchange. On the other hand Clinton is pro-jewisih, so very much in the catholic church.

    I don’t think Jude Fernando would ever advertise for Trump.

  • 0
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    If you want real data analysis try Nate Silver. These polls have swung both ways on a daily basis and is probably the most reliable on Nov 7th night. There are 2 more debates to go and anything can happen. What is clear is the revolution on both sides that started as an anti-establishment movement. Trump and Sanders both captured different demographic segments.

    Follow this link on a daily basis. Like I said the election comes down to a few Key battleground states. Early results in any of those battleground states can give a good signal as to who will win. Republicans carry a lot more states but those states except Texas do not have too many Electoral votes. Barring Wikileaks revelations or some shock to expose Hillary Clinton she has a lock on CA, NY, and OR and WA. Trump has a lock on all the Confederate states and Texas. NC has been leaning towards Trump. It went to Obama in 2008 but went to Romney in 2012.

    In 2012 Romney polled 47.32% of the popular vote and Obama received 51.19%. Gary Johnson only polled 0.9% and this time so far in EVERY POLL and Nate Silver’s assessment too, he is polling 7.5% to 8.0%. That is enough to damage either candidate in a close election. So data should be used if you want to render an opinion on the US election. A lot of Bernie supporters may go to Gary or Jill Stein of the Green party but a lot of old fashioned conservatives may also go to Gary. The race can be summed in two ways; This is Republicans to lose and they will lose only because of Trump and Democrats will lose only because they nominated Hillary who seems to bring out the rage and anger amongst Republicans of all hues more than anyone else. So barring Wikileaks expose’s about Hillary’s emails or her Clinton Foundation quid-pro-quos with corrupt foreign governments, this is going to be an interesting election. If I were a betting man I will still give the electoral college advantage to Hillary. But there are 2 more debates to go.

    http://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2016-election-forecast/?ex_cid=rrpromo

    As for your assertion Minorities will not break for Democrats, trends in the previous 4 election cycles say otherwise and when you make blanket statements like that it will help if you analyze data from results of 2004 election rather than 2008 and 2012 which were different. But surprisingly native Hispanic voters in Nevada are now at 30% support for Trump. Yet you must be careful with making statements and asserstions without data to back them up. Nate Silver does a poll of polls and has been right in the past 6 or 8 election cycles including mid-term elections and senate elections. Also in Texas there are many generations of real Americans who are hispanic because of the border and a lot of them are traditionally conservative. Bush won in 2000 because he got a significant proportion of Hispanic American votes.

    Historically when a President is a two-termer the new President is from the other party. Obama continues to be popular with his base and some independents. American Youth are notoriously lazy to cast their votes and 2008 and 2012 were anomalies. And even overall the percentage participation rates are very low.

    Voter turnout dipped from 62.3 percent of eligible citizens voting in 2008 to an estimated 57.5 in 2012. That figure was also below the 60.4 level of the 2004 election but higher than the 54.2 percent turnout in the 2000 election

    So do not let Keshap or other US Diplomats some of whom are diplomutts like some of ours too bullshit you on participant democracy. but the beauty is casting a vote generally in the past few cycles does not mean your house will be stoned or you lose your job for even vocalizing opinions unlike in Sri Lanka where no matter what you have to kiss ass to the incumbent government to get jobs because of the system of patronage.

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      Having worked for the Bernie campaign at the grass roots level, I have to agree with what you say. Yes, compared to Trump, Clinton has the edge. But I would not take it for granted due to reason I outlined. Hillary and Media should focus more on policy, not negatives of Trump.

  • 0
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    See how the system works.

    All Fake and fraud.

    An explosive new report reveals how the U.S. government paid a British public relations company linked to right-wing politics and repressive regimes more than $500 million from American taxpayers to spearhead a top-secret propaganda campaign in Iraq.

    Bell Pottinger, a London-based P.R. firm, created fake videos that appeared to be the work of al-Qaida, the Islamist extremist group formerly headed by Osama bin Laden. It also created news stories that looked as though they were produced by Arab media outlets, and distributed them through Middle Eastern news networks.

    The company worked in Camp Victory, the U.S. military base in Baghdad, side-by-side with high-ranking U.S. military officers.

    The propaganda videos were personally approved by Gen. David Petraeus — then the commander of U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq, who would go on to become the director of the CIA. On some occasions, even the White House signed off on the propaganda materials.

    These findings are the result of a major investigation by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a British watchdog organization that is also known for its extensive reporting on the covert U.S. drone wars in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

    The Bureau of Investigative Journalism jointly published its findings in The Sunday Times of London and The Daily Beast. Reporters reviewed government and corporate reports and interviewed half a dozen former officials and contractors involved in the Iraq propaganda campaign.

  • 0
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    Jude,
    I think you wrote this before seeing
    the NYT article about Trump’s near $1 billion tax deduction, possibly paying no taxes for decades. Trump will lose a sizable chunk of the blue collar support he had.

    Even his business ‘acumen’ has been shown to be a joke and the emperor has been shown to have no clothes. Unless there is some new bombshell revelation against Hillary, she will win easily. People on CT shouldn’t sweat it.

  • 0
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    Hey Jude,

    It matters very little who becomes the president of the US – Trump or Hillary or Man or Woman. It is the power behind the power that runs the US. Obama never stopped torture, the endless wars or even shut down Guantanamo with all that rhetoric he expounded about the moral fibre of the US being resurrected. All his talk was just talk and came to naught even after two terms as president.

    So all your analysis and theories are superfluous and your time writing about the US presidency a waste.

    • 0
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      Well, I agree with you about idea about the power behind politics. Actually, the article is about what shapes the power in the United States. That is why I ended the article saying that, there needs to be an alternative political movement in the US. IF and when that will happen I do not know. Until then, whoever goes to DC will be controlled by the powers you and I are referring to.

      Cheers
      Jude

      • 0
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        Jude,

        You are a champ. You have replied to most postings here.

        I just wondered about your get up. You have a sage like beard and look like a sanyasi, yet you indulge in mundane US politicking. What is the story.

  • 0
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    Thanks Mano for the Nate Silver link.Sounds authoritative and statistically tenable.

    By the way if either candidate think they may need to rig the elections,it is simple.Call for volunteers from Srilanka!

    • 0
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      Actually, if you read the history of elections in US, you will find plenty of interesting stuff about rigging elections. Perhaps, rigging tact ticks are little more straight forward in the Sri Lanka.

  • 0
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    There are lot of evidence to prove that the first debate was rigged for the advantage of Hilary. there is video evidence for that.

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