Donalds are Trumps: going deeper after the breast-beating

There is so much being said on the US election result that we are not going to add to it (yet). Except to say three things:

  • roughly half of eligible Americans did not vote;
  • roughly a quarter of eligible Americans voted for Trump (and roughly a quarter for Clinton);
  • a major cause of voter disgruntlement in the US and elsewhere – wealth and income inequality – is not going away unless governments change direction. Honest History has been collecting relevant resources on inequality for a couple of years. It has an Australian orientation but there is international material there as well. The most notable feature of it is how many reports are being produced yet how relatively little impact they have.

As for the United States, there is a rough parallel between Obama today and Lincoln in August 1864, except this time it may not just be the Union that is at stake.

Then it will be my duty [Lincoln wrote] to so co-operate with the President elect, as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he can not possibly save it afterwards.

David Stephens

10 November 2016 updated

Update 10.00 am

There are three perceptive articles on the Pearls and Irritations blog by retired diplomats John Menadue, Tony Kevin and Cavan Hogue. John Menadue is one of Honest History’s distinguished supporters.

And one from Geraldine Doogue on how compulsory voting makes it more difficult to ignore the grass-roots.

Update 12.30 pm

Naomi Klein: ‘A good chunk of Trump’s support could be peeled away if there were a genuine redistributive agenda on the table. An agenda to take on the billionaire class with more than rhetoric, and use the money for a green new deal.’

Update 5.30 pm

And this piece from August by Richard Denniss is worth another look: old categories of left and right don’t make sense any more. A political commentator-politician called Mark Latham made that point a number of years ago, we recall. His replacement categories were, again as we recall (chasing the reference) ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’.

Sean Kelly in The Monthly Today has some good points.

Update 9.00 pm

There’s a bundle of non-MSM commentary on New Matilda.

Update 12 November

Interesting material on the US site Foreign Policy. Former foreign minister Bob Carr in Guardian Australia on trade policy prospects in the Pacific.

For those who need cheering up.

Update 14 November

Tina Grandinetti in New Matilda on some Australian parallels. John Passant in Independent Australia in the same groove. Joe Camilleri in The Conversation about foreign policy possibilities. Dennis Glover in Fairfax on lessons for Australian Labor.

Update 16 November

Five or six new articles on New Matilda on Trump from the Australian angle. Plus Mark Beeson in The Conversation on foreign policy possibilities.

Update 17 November

A collection of articles from the Pearls and Irritations blog, mainly on foreign policy implications, plus Raimond Gaita and Earl Shorris.

Update 18 November

Jeff Sparrow in Guardian Australia on class and identity politics in the light of Trump victory and bandwagon-jumping elsewhere. Piketty on the need to rethink globalisation.

Update 21 November

Long article in The Atlantic from James Kitfield on foreign policy possibilities under Trump. (Sorry PM, Australia not mentioned.) New Matilda has Binoy Kampmark on trade and protectionism, Ben Eltham on Trump, Clinton and the end of liberalism, Michael Brull on how our American cousins voted, and Max Chalmers on Australia’s rush to stitch up the refugee deal with the United States while there is still time. In The Conversation there is another view on the vote from Clive Hamilton plus Brian McNair on whether the media is capable of tracking a slide into fascism. (Links to a bundle of short articles from around the world.)

Regarding fascism, we have been here before but there is a bundle of resources here if you want to do your own tracking. Don’t treat the measures as ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ but as gauges: How much of this characteristic do we exhibit? How far can we go on this dial before we reach the point of no return? Or is the current unpleasantness just a slight bump in the self-correcting history of Western liberalism? (See also below.)

Update 22 November

Mark Beeson in The Conversation asks whether, in the era of Trump, global stability will depend on China. Mack Williams, former diplomat, considers similar questions in Pearls and Irritations. Sean Stinson in Australian Independent Media Network on Trump as a kindler, gentler fascism.

Update 23 November

The late perceptive Richard Rorty in 1998 on demagogues who appeal to disgruntled workers. Jason Wilson in the Guardian on some right-wing websites that everyone should get their heads around. Joel Mokyr in The Atlantic on the non-inevitability of progress, an issue which may seem particularly apt at this juncture. Mungo McCallum in Independent Australia (and Pearls and Irritations) on Turnbull, Trump and the US Alliance.

Update 24 November

Waleed Aly in Fairfax on the temptation in Australia (and elsewhere) to emulate Trump.

The past fortnight seems to have cast a strange pall across Australian politics, as though we must now proceed beneath the veil of Trump’s election.

Just about every Australian gesture since has been vaguely pathetic. From the bizarrely exuberant media coverage of the fact that our Prime Minister actually got to speak to the President-elect on the phone, to the Prime Minister’s own proud comparisons of himself to Trump, to Labor’s instant reheating of its 457 visa anti-rorting campaign. Then finally came Peter Dutton’s declaration that the Fraser government made “mistakes in bringing some people in the 1970s” – those people he later specified as Lebanese Sunni Muslims.

Update 25 November

Former prime minister, Paul Keating, says Australia should not invest the American alliance with a sacramental quality.

Update 28 November

Lots of posts from expert guest bloggers on Pearls and Irritations. The focus is on ANZUS under Trump.

Update 4 December

Four articles on what Trump and related events tell us about the state and currency of democracy.

Update 6 December: a final burst before we move on (it’s a month since the Trump election)

This final (for now) bunch of links highlights the breadth of the musings triggered by Trump’s election.

Victoria Rollison in the Australian Independent Media Network asks how did ‘post-truth politics’ happen and admits that her answer might seem condescending. But her conclusion is a guide to action.

Those who feel left behind by the establishment, who hate that they’ve been left behind, aren’t going to be convinced by your reasoned arguments that they’re voting against their best interests when they are unable to assess the information in front of them and draw logical conclusions. When they’ve wedded themselves to Trump and they believe everything he does is wonderful and everything his opponents do is corrupt and immoral, they’re not going to be convinced to listen to your point of view, to your rational analysis of why they are mistaken. Your dot points of facts is going to bounce right off them. This is not about Trump supporters being dumb. This is about them being uneducated. You want to make sure Trump doesn’t get elected again? Then educate the masses. Not just the privileged people who can afford it.

Christos Tsiolkas in The Monthly has a long, wide-ranging article that makes a similar point:

We – and I include myself here, as someone who has consistently written in defence of multiculturalism for over two decades – have been slow to realise how traumatic the loss of communal, familial and national bonds and self-respect has been for working-class people. I should have been listening; members of my family and their peers have been voicing these concerns for years. That pride matters: in place, in community and in work. In my bubble, in the progressive inner city, such concerns seemed old-fashioned, traditional, even reactionary. Identity politics, and the cultural politics that arises from it, has little or nothing to say about the destruction of opportunities brought on by the end of the manufacturing sector.

Then, Joseph Camilleri in The Conversation reckons the elite-mass gap in Australian politics goes far beyond any superficial comparisons with the advent of Trump. ‘What’s needed’, says Camilleri, ‘is a narrative that tackles the profound transformation of Australia’s economy, society, culture and environment over the last 20 or more years. It must respond to the seismic global shifts in geopolitical, civilisational and economic relationships, as well as in the planet’s fragile ecology.’

In the New Yorker, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie roundly criticises ‘false equivalence’ in the reporting of the rise of Trump.

Now is the time for the media, on the left and right, to educate and inform. To be nimble and alert, clear-eyed and skeptical, active rather than reactive. To make clear choices about what truly matters … Now is the time to counter lies with facts, repeatedly and unflaggingly, while also proclaiming the greater truths: of our equal humanity, of decency, of compassion. Every precious ideal must be reiterated, every obvious argument made, because an ugly idea left unchallenged begins to turn the color of normal. It does not have to be like this.

Mark Danner in the latest New York Review of Books reviews a Trump biography and quotes Trump himself from 1987:

I play to people’s fantasies … People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do. That’s why a little hyperbole never hurts. People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration—and a very effective form of promotion.

Elsewhere, Trump’s gambit towards Taiwan had Perth academic Mark Beeson speculating in The Conversation. Sam Moreton, also in The Conversation, argues for the need for care in the use of language, including the throwing about of the term ‘fascism’. Alana Lentin from Western Sydney University looks (The Sociological Review) at what the arrival of Trump and similar phenomena in Europe (and by extension, in Australia) says about the future of multiculturalism globally.

It is true to say that paving the way for Trump are Le Pen, Wilders, Farage and company; that Europe, far from exempt from the newfound acceptability of openly fascist and antisemitic discourse, is its originator. But it would be a mistake to attempt to explain the current state of either European or US politics without paying close attention, not only to the failure to deal with the legacies of race, but crucially, to the attack on antiracist and decolonial resistance from both the right and the white left as playing a major role in our current predicament.

And that’s all for now from the post-Trump Antipodes. For people who want to keep track of aspects of what is happening, veteran blogger, John Lord, has started ‘Day to day politics: the Trump Report‘ on the Australian Independent Media Network. John sets the tone thus: ‘We have reached the point in politics where TRUTH is something that politicians invent and convince us to believe rather than TRUTH based on factual evidence, argument and reason’.

But just a few more … 8 December

These either took new directions or were ones we’d forgotten previously. Paul Mason points out in the Guardian that the old Soviet Union collapsed virtually overnight, so we should not assume that Western democracy will last for ever. The Daily Mail picks up a study from the (highly respectable) Journal of Democracy, showing a decline in Western democracies, including Australia, in the proportion of people who thought democracy was essential. There is more in the New York Times and the Journal‘s full report will be out soon.

Peter Radford in Real-World Economics Review Blog (mostly radical or non neo-liberal economists) passes on some analytical points from Matthew Dickinson, political science professor at Middlebury College, Vermont. Dickinson spoke about ‘Why Trump won’. He is perhaps a little light on regarding race and misogyny as factor but still makes some good points about how the Democrats missed the point about economic hardship and inequality – and Trump grasped it. Radford offers his own conclusion:

The resentment vented in the election is not a rejection of capitalism as such, it is a cry for the reinstatement of social justice. It is a demand that the outcomes of hard work and endeavor ought to be shared and not simply concentrated in the pockets of the few who control the political agenda and who thus enjoy the privileges that such control confers.

That ought to be a Democratic message.

That a petty and brutish plutocrat understood this and Clinton did not is astonishing. Then again she was a child of the so-called “New Economy” so lauded in the 1990’s. That decade cemented in place the pernicious notions of neoliberalism and created a near consensus on free market ideology. Indeed it was the Clinton era that saw the apogee of neoliberal anti-social thought. Consequently the Democrats are no longer the party of the New Deal.

Keeping it all in context was Suzanne Moore in the Guardian who calls for optimism:

The relentless wallowing in every detail of Trump or Farage’s infinite idiocy is drowning, not waving. The oft-repeated idea that history is a loop and that this is a replay of the1930s induces nothing but terror. Nothing is a foregone conclusion. That is why we learn history.I am not asking for false optimism here, but a way to exist in the world that does not lead to feelings of absolute powerlessness.

That would be a good note to end this round-up, but for the need to mention a piece in Slate by Will Oremus, who warns about susceptibility to the shouts that every piece of unpalatable news is ‘fake’. Oremus hopes

there may still be time for the reality-based community to find enough common ground to tackle the original problem [of news that really is fake, or invented]. If we can’t collectively find a way to counter misinformation so egregious that even its authors admit it’s a hoax, the outlook for the media—and the truth—in the Trump era is bleak indeed.

And that really is all we want to say under this topic – for the moment. We will keep on working in the reality-based community.

STOP PRESS 9 December 2016: Submission to the Minister for Foreign Affairs on the need for a foreign policy that takes account of the new realities raised by the election of Trump.

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