Auē Tēnei Wiki: The Dangerousness of The Donald

May 2016 Fave vs UnfaveA new national poll came out from Fox News last week. Though it’s within the margin of error (+/- 4%), for the first time it shows Donald Trump beating Hillary Clinton in a head to head match up 45% to 42%. It also shows, again for the first time, that Clinton has a higher unfavourable and lower favourable rating than Trump.

This may be a result of the state of the primary race in their two parties. Trump has become the GOP’s presumptive nominee and the party is starting to rally around him. On the other hand, Sanders is continuing to act as if there’s a chance he could be the Democratic nominee and that is likely driving up Clinton’s unfavourables. At the time Obama became the Democratic Party nominee in 2008, 40% of Clinton’s followers said they would never vote for him. She worked hard to change that and soon had most of them enthusiastically supporting Obama. She is expecting Sanders to do the same for her. He has said he will, but in the meantime there are still many Democrats opposed to Clinton.

This poll makes the possibility that Trump will become US president slightly higher. A combination of demographics and the way the electoral college works means I still don’t think it likely but as I’ve said before, it would be very dangerous to consider Trump an easy-beat.

And Dangerous is the word that comes to mind most often when thinking about the possibility of a Trump presidency. Clinton calls him a “loose cannon,” but sometimes there’s a certain amount of slap-stick comedy people associate with that phrase and President Trump would have charge of the world’s biggest nuclear and conventional weapons arsenal. That is a genuinely dangerous proposition.

The New Yorker published an article by Adam Gopnik on Friday: The Dangerous Acceptance of Donald Trump. There’s that word again. Gopnik points out that out that despite their reservations, the GOP are falling into line behind Trump and thinking they’ll be able to control him. But that’s not going to happen:

Columnists and magazines that a month ago were saying #NeverTrump are now vibrating with the frisson of his audacity, fawning over him or at least thrilling to his rising poll numbers and telling one another, “We can control him.’

No, you can’t. One can argue about whether to call him a fascist or an authoritarian populist or a grotesque joke made in a nightmare shared between Philip K. Dick and Tom Wolfe, but under any label Trump is a declared enemy of the liberal constitutional order of the United States—the order that has made it, in fact, the great and plural country that it already is. He announces his enmity to America by word and action every day. It is articulated in his insistence on the rightness of torture and the acceptable murder of noncombatants. It is self-evident in the threats he makes daily to destroy his political enemies, made only worse by the frivolity and transience of the tone of those threats. He makes his enmity to American values clear when he suggests that the Presidency holds absolute power, through which he will be able to end opposition—whether by questioning the ownership of newspapers or talking about changing libel laws or threatening to take away F.C.C. licenses. To say “Well, he would not really have the power to accomplish that” is to misunderstand the nature of thin-skinned authoritarians in power. They do not arrive in office and discover, as constitutionalists do, that their capabilities are more limited than they imagined. They arrive, and then make their power as large as they can.

USians are constantly told, and many therefore believe, that they’re the greatest democracy in the history of the world. They think that their system of checks and balances can stop Trump from becoming the type of president many are warning about. But it won’t. In an analysis of New Zealand’s political system, Vox had this to say about the US system:

We in the US tend to assume that — however awful we might think our politicians are — our political system is excellent. The Constitution is held in high esteem across the political spectrum, and Democrats and Republicans alike pay lip service to the “genius” of the Founders. But our system, combining two powerful legislative bodies with a strong executive, is pretty rare internationally. Indeed, it appears to be a weaker model than most; the US is the just about the only country to sustain a presidential system for a long period without descending into dictatorship.

Republicans are constantly complaining about President Obama’s use of executive orders at the same time they’re thrilling at the idea of a President Trump taking control of Washington. They’re excited at the idea of him getting in there and creating a New Order with him in charge that destroys the current system. As Gopnik pointed out:

He’s not Hitler, as his wife recently said? Well, of course he isn’t. But then Hitler wasn’t Hitler—until he was. At each step of the way, the shock was tempered by acceptance. It depended on conservatives pretending he wasn’t so bad, compared with the Communists, while at the same time the militant left decided that their real enemies were the moderate leftists, who were really indistinguishable from the Nazis. The radical progressives decided that there was no difference between the democratic left and the totalitarian right and that an explosion of institutions was exactly the most thrilling thing imaginable.

He continues:

The American Republic stands threatened by the first overtly anti-democratic leader of a large party in its modern history—an authoritarian with no grasp of history, no impulse control, and no apparent barriers on his will to power. The right thing to do, for everyone who believes in liberal democracy, is to gather around and work to defeat him on Election Day. Instead, we seem to be either engaged in parochial feuding or caught by habits of tribal hatred so ingrained that they have become impossible to escape even at moments of maximum danger. Bernie Sanders wouldn’t mind bringing down the Democratic Party to prevent it from surrendering to corporate forces—and yet he may be increasing the possibility of rule-by-billionaire.

Nixon, Richard sweatGopnik’s is an excellent analysis of what’s going on. The extreme bi-partisanship in the US, partly created by their system of government, has allowed a character like Trump to hijack one of the major political parties. With his lack of a core and ever-changing values, it could almost as easily have been the Democratic Party he took over. When John F Kennedy won the presidency, it was put down to how much better he appeared in the first ever televised presidential debate. (See here.) Now we have a candidate who has no policies behind his positions, which is difficult when they frequently changed anyway, but has almost universal recognition. Trump’s ability to brand himself as a success despite his lack of substance may be the key to his increasing popularity. He seems to be made from Teflon as the most appalling behaviour, which would see any other candidate destroyed, is shrugged off by his followers as, “telling it like it is.”

Like most of us, when USians vote, they vote their pockets. We New Zealanders watching the US election are at least as concerned about what it means for the rest of the world. The idea of the most powerful country on the planet being led by Donald Trump is simply horrendous. Republicans think their country’s reputation has diminished under Obama’s presidency (the opposite is actually true). If they elect Donald Trump, that will be true.

12 Responses to “Auē Tēnei Wiki: The Dangerousness of The Donald”

  1. Martin Fuller says:

    Interesting post Heather. From so far away is is hard for us to understand why Hillary has such a high level of unpopularity especially as it has not come through in our national press. People who have recently traveled overseas and talked to travelling Americans about this say that some Americans express the view that they would rather not vote for anyone rather than than vote for Trump or Clinton. I guess that this affects the polls.

    However, let’s hope that the appalling spectre of a Trump presidency will sway the vote at the end of the day.

    Heather, you are quite right to raise the issues you have researched including the possibility of important issues being dealt with by under executive orders by order of Trump. Frightening!

    Thank you for your informative and thought-provoking post.

    • Ken says:

      Martin, basically the Clintons are fake progressives. I don’t know where you are, but think third way Tony Blair, only far worse. The charge that both are pathological lairs would appear to have a lot going for it. Christopher Hitchens wrote a book called “No One Left to Lie To” in 1999 laying out the evidence quite convincingly.

      They are what used to be called blue-dog Democrats, from the right wing of the party, and were enabled by the conscious rightward move of the party in response to Reagan, so much so that the blue dogs took over and the term doesn’t hold much meaning any longer. Before that they probably would have become moderate Republicans, which is where Hillary started.

      Hillary has particularly pissed off progressives, because she is even more neocon in her foreign policy than Bill was, completely pandering to Israel and the military-industrial complex that fund her. One of the Koch brothers recently said he could probably live with Hillary as president and this is the reason why. Because she and Bill have spent their careers triangulating, she has never shown on just what principles she would make a stand. There appear to be none, hence her trustworthiness is near zero.

      There are two ironies of a Clinton/Trump contest. One is that Trump is the one Republican Hillary might easily beat. The other is that Hillary might be the only Democrat that Trump might propel Trump into the White House.

      Sanders is attempting to return the party somewhat to it’s roots and unfortunately for Hillary, he’s chosen a time to do it when people seem to be most receptive, while she got into the race promising more of the same. Here’s an article that puts the Democrat’s dilemma pretty well.

      • Ken says:

        Should be “…the only Democrat that might propel Trump…”

      • j.a.m. says:

        “Sanders is attempting to return the party somewhat to it’s [sic] roots”

        With respect, LOL. Poor Andy Jackson is spinning in his grave. He couldn’t imagine a weasel like Sanders.

      • j.a.m. says:

        The Kochs are mostly libertarians. They’re no neocons by any stretch. Charles Koch was clear about the rationale for his comment that Bill Clinton was “in some ways” better than George W. Bush: “As far as the growth of government, the increase in spending, it was 2½ times under Bush that it was under Clinton,” he said.

        The blue dogs (formerly known as yellow dogs) did not take over anything; they went extinct as the national party lurched leftward.

        • Tom Snow says:

          I’m afraid I have to agree here; the Blue Dogs have been nearly extinct since the 2010 “wave” when most of them were voted out and replaced by Tea Partiers.

        • Ken says:

          Fair enough about Koch. Doesn’t change the thrust of the comment though. Same for blue dogs. I didn’t realise the term was only coined in ‘94. I seem to remember it being used earlier than that.

          But yellow dog Dems are voters so loyal to the party, it was said they would vote for a yellow dog if it ran as a Democrat. The term dates from the 19th century. It may have inspired the blue dog term, but isn’t otherwise related to it.

          • j.a.m. says:

            I don’t know that these things are precisely defined, but both expressions usually refer to Southerners. “Yellow dog” refers to the era of iron-fisted one-party rule. “Blue dog” refers primarily to Southern politicians who tried to stay in the Democrat party after they had to compete for votes and were saddled with an unrecognizable national party led by the likes of McGovern — weak on defense, soft on communism, crime, drugs, pornography, etc. and of course pro-abortion. The party went downhill from there and the blue dogs met their fate. I would suggest that is the association.

  2. Thanks Martin. Fox News has been piling it on Clinton for almost two years now, presumably because they assume she would be the nominee. After a while the constant pressure starts to work I think. Also, Sanders supporters are often pretty anti-Clinton – there’s a lot of vitriol there too. Most people don’t think for themselves – they let other people tell them what to think. If Sanders starts telling his supporters Clinton’s fine, I suspect they’ll change their minds.

    I want to do an analysis of Trump’s foreign policy based on that speech of his. His pronouncements on NATO are especially frightening. The former deputy-commander of NATO was on Q & A this morning talking about his new book which predicts war with Russia, starting in the Baltic states, unless some stuff can he sorted out. It’s actually something I’ve thought was possible too and I’ve mentioned in comments on another post, and a Trump presidency would make it more likely. So it was really interesting to see this. I suspect there’ll be a clip from the interview on One News tonight as he said some pretty thought-provoking stuff.

  3. Lee Knuth says:

    Thanks for your perspective on our election. I hope more persons here read it.

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