US Presidential election

Will America be able to bounce back from such a venomous presidential campaign?

by Azam Gill,  The Express Tribune, November 10, 2016: with permission.

Mr Trump’s successes have raised alarms among international observers. PHOTO: REUTERS

Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States of America, now has to make ‘America Great Again’. The ‘what’ is clear, the ‘how’ has yet to come and much hinges on his ability to “bind the wounds” as he said in his victory speech.

Speaking in Manchester, New Hampshire on November 6th, Hillary Clinton had already said that Americans must choose between “division and unity”. On November 8th, The Daily Telegraph called it the “…most divisive election in history” and The Guardian the “… most divisive campaign in memory.”

So now the winner has just over two months to ensure that he does not preside over a nation polarised by the hard-fought electoral campaign that has left the world agape at its virulence. He should also be able to find out ‘what the hell is going on’ before Inauguration Day. The period is too short to expect a quick fix, yet adequate to dull sharp edges for manageability. Competent politicians always embed an escape hatch in their campaign declarations and promises.

George H W Bush’s ‘read my lips’ at the Republican National Convention in 1988, and Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign promise to close down the Guantanamo Detention Centre slid out through the trapdoor. Mr Trump has precedents to follow.

Accordingly, pork barrel politics should now realign the alienated opposition and shed the excess baggage of supporters extraneous to the post-election period to lessen the cynical campaign hostility.

Pessimists would assert that only a saint could reconcile the bitterness of such a venomous campaign. Optimists would retort that this year’s campaign fits the framework of several precedents, and they’d be right. US Presidential campaign history is replete with no-holds-barred nastiness.

Thomas Jefferson made it to Mount Rushmore, his granite face carved amid illustrious company. But not his campaign etiquette.

During American democracy’s infancy in 1800, the Jefferson camp called John Adams:

“A hideous hermaphroditical character which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”

Adams retaliated by asking voters:

“Are you prepared to see your dwellings in flames… female chastity violated… children writhing on the pike? Great God of compassion and justice, shield my country from destruction.”

1828 saw the nastiness of the Andrew Jackson versus John Quincy Adams campaign. Adams’ team said Jackson, of working class origins, was unable to spell Europe and his wife, Rachel was a bigamist and a “dirty black wench… convicted adulteress…open and notorious lewdness.” Jackson’s supporters claimed that Adams had sold his wife’s maid to the czar of Russia to become another one of his concubines!

Negative campaigning embroiled even Abraham Lincoln in his 1860 campaign against Stephen Douglas. The Douglas team described Lincoln as:

“A horrid-looking wretch, sooty and scoundrelly in aspect, a cross between the nutmeg dealer, the horse-swapper and the nightman… the leanest, lankest, most ungainly mass of legs and arms and hatchet face ever strung on a single frame.”

The Lincoln team’s Lost Child flyers proclaimed that five feet four inch Douglas “answers to the name Little Giant… talks a great deal, very loud, always about himself – about five feet nothing in height and about the same in diameter the other way.”

Lincoln, too, is a Mount Rushmore inhabitant.

In the 1884 Cleveland-Blaine contest, Stephen Grover Cleveland’s illegitimate child was an issue and the chant, “Ma! Ma! Where’s my pa?” reverberated against accusations of corrupt dealings with the railroad. Nevertheless, Cleveland won the election and became the first Democratic president.

In 1928, Herbert Hoover uninhibitedly exploited Al Smith’s Catholicism, accusing him of being a Papal figurehead and planning to extend the Holland Tunnel under the Hudson River between Manhattan and Jersey City by 3,500 miles to reach the Vatican.

Once in office, though, they lost their vitriol and got down to the business of leading America as best as they could. And therein lies the political space between the cup and lip which may accommodate a slip — or an upturn all the way to Mount Rushmore.

Accommodating divisions without being divided against itself is fundamental to a democracy. The time when the dust settles between the election results and the inauguration is crucial to the future of the presidency. Residual bitterness has the potential to inspire obstruction for the sake of it rather than the positives of different analyses.

Domestically cornered leaders seek to address their insufficiencies by holding up short-term, international foreign policy scoops. Republicans and Democrats become unhesitatingly interventionist in their search for bones to throw to backyard wolves. Thus, the US regularly faces blow-back with which it smears its overseas partners.

Washington lobbyists work overtime at each presidential change, tripping over themselves to prophecy the incumbent’s foreign policy, its effect on their foreign clients and how they can tweak it to their advantage. By exclusively focusing on American foreign policy during this critical period, the foreign offices of America’s allies will engender their share of miscalculations. The roots of the US’s foreign policy lie in its domestic governance, good or bad, strong or weak. Pundits, lobbyists and foreign office staffers would be well advised to keep their ears to the home ground and listen to the ticking of the American heartland. Hillary’s lads and lassies didn’t, and look what happened.

While Trump’s challenge is to convert disunion to a workable consensus, Clinton can still build “bridges instead of walls” as her campaign posters promised and put her considerable talent at the disposal of the nation she so obviously loves. That is achievable by forswearing obstructionism and turning herself into a national watchdog to ensure against Trump’s isolationist tendencies.

Trump’s spin doctors will be kept busy by their boss striving to deliver on most of his strategic promise of making America great again. That said, just by letting go of ‘again’ and setting himself up as an example of integrity would be greatness enough.

Both candidates battered their country’s dignity into the ground.

If they so wish, both have the opportunity to make it right.

It is said that there are vacant spots on Mount Rushmore

Azam Gill

Azam Gill

The author is a novelist, analyst and retired Lecturer from Toulouse University. He served in the French Foreign Legion, French Navy and the Punjab Regiment. He has authored nine books.

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Is Trump’s Popularity A Growing Revolt Against The Deep State?

This article appeared on Swarajaya Magazine on  March 14, 2015: a prophetic analysis that explains why Donald Trump was elected. The author, Dr. Subhash Kak is Regents professor of electrical and computer engineering at Oklahoma State University and a vedic scholar. It is reproduced with the author’s permission. pmhttp://swarajyamag.com/world/is-trumps-popularity-a-growing-revolt-against-the-deep-state

Is Trump's Popularity A Growing Revolt Against The Deep State?

People are willing to forgive Donald Trump his failings, his egoism, his record as a businessman, his language, because they think he is the only one that can and will fight the elitist Deep State.

In America and Europe, voters are abandoning establishment politicians in favour of outsiders. In the US, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and the socialist Bernie Sanders have capitalised on the general unease with experienced candidates like Jeb Bush, John Kasich, and Hillary Clinton.

Across the Atlantic, the European project is increasingly seen as being run by bureaucrats in Brussels who are not answerable to citizens or even politicians. In spite of its obvious benefits of a single currency and free movement across the continent, many people wish to free themselves from the suffocating embrace of the European Union.

Some of this is reaction to the difficulties created by the economic stagnation, mass immigration, and terrorism, and the perception that governments have not done enough to change things. The theories, which guided the economic policies of the last 10 years, have not worked out.

In spite of the increase in the money supply, unemployment remains high and the prices of commodities, including minerals and oil, are going down. With ever-increasing automation and AI (artificial intelligence), it is not clear how lost jobs will ever come back.

The politicians on the left and the right have responded to the economic gloom by hardening their positions. Greece voted for the left-wing Syriza, the Labour Party in Britain elected the radical Jeremy Corbyn as its leader.

SYRIZA party chairman and Prime Minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras
SYRIZA party chairman and Prime Minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras

In the United States, people are flocking to Trump for they are dissatisfied with what has been called the Deep State, which comprises of the elite associated with the major political parties, the corporations, especially of the finance sector, and the entertainment world.

The common man thinks that the elite are concerned only with their own well-being, and neither of the major political parties has the capacity to go against them, and Trump is perhaps the only person who can. His unscripted style and statements that are politically incorrect reinforce this assessment.

The Deep State is facilitated by the revolving door between Congress, the Executive Branch, corporations, and Washington DC think tanks. It is a car with three wheels: first, a neoconservative, interventionist view of foreign policy; second, a neoliberal view of domestic policy; and, third, increased immigration into the developed world.

New communications and computing technologies that have interconnected economies and people across the world have helped the elite strengthen their hold on power. Complex system theory tells us that in such a system attraction basins form and these become the stable states of the system.

Once you are in an attraction basin, it is very hard to pull away from it even though it may not be the optimal basin in the sense of providing the most good to most people. Once a stable state has been arrived at, individuals do not have much freedom or capacity to go against the consensus.

This is true both at the personal and the national levels. Even the president of the United States cannot do much when it comes to decisions related to international finance. This imperative of the attraction state is reinforced by the web of expectations and aspirations that ensnares most people.

The president needs millions of dollars to create the Presidential Library, which requires good relations with captains of industry. It is also difficult for most to simply fade away when their stint at power has ended. Professional politicians are perpetually at the trough, and, to give just one example, in the last 14 years the Clintons have received $153 million  in speaking fees alone.

The Deep State has strategic alliances with the feminists, socialists, communists, and diverse minorities that want the government to take charge and solve problems.

It supports the Left when it speaks of the need for justice, which it uses to counter the right’s insistence on respect for laws. The Left recruits people to its cause through narratives of inequality. The alliance of the Left is based on group identity and feelings of victimhood and grievance and it leaves it to technical experts to manage the complexity of society.

It has co-opted the Right by using the old conservative meme of the collective wisdom emerging from the personal decisions of the many individuals and the folly of the yearning for utopia. All it asks for is the acknowledgement that the experts have this wisdom.

In certain areas, the elite support attitudes that began with the Left but have now been embraced by the Right. Sexual revolution is one of the hallmarks of the post-socialist Left. This is in opposition to the attitudes of most educated women until the 1960s that were changed with the introduction of the contraceptive pill. Fears of overpopulation legitimated a contraceptive ethic throughout middle-class society in the West. China, India and other countries quickly adopted these ideas.

Likewise, no-fault divorce, first adopted by the Bolsheviks following the Russian Revolution of 1917, was eventually widely embraced. This began to undermine the idea of marriage as a binding mutual contract oriented toward the procreation and nurturing of children.

As populations have begun to decrease in Europe, all sides of the establishment want greater immigration.  The Left, to reduce the political power of entrenched groups, even at the cost of wages going down; the Right, for cheap labour.

The establishment media has become a mouthpiece for the elite. But new information and computer technologies are a double-edged sword. While they are making it easier to exercise control over people, social media has reduced the power of the pro-establishment media. To come back to the disillusionment with the Left and the Right, more and more people believe that in actual governance both parties do the bidding of the powerful corporations.

People are willing to forgive Trump his failings, his egoism, his record as a businessman, his language, because they think he is the only one that can and will fight the elite. It also explains why he is being attacked with great vehemence by both the left and the right.

For going against the unwritten consensus, he has been called the most dangerous man in the world. The growing revolt does not have a grand plan. It is born of desperation against political correctness and it has taken different guises in different countries.

Senate Report on the CIA’s Enhanced Interrogation Techniques— lose-lose for the USA

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Torture is abhorrent — Azam Gill

Change of Guard at the CIA in the offing

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A serious change of guard at the CIA is in the offing, stentoriously led by Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence since 2009. Heads will roll on the issue of the CIA’s post 9/11 use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” (EITs) to pave the way for new heads to await their own turn.

Torture as the instrument of a democratic, civilized society in the pursuit of its goals deserves to be investigated and condemned in such a way as to ensure against its recurrence.  Since the apple reportedly fell on Newton’s head, attention has been focused on the natural law of gravity retrieved from the incident. To date, this law having stood unchallenged, it should be applied with rigor in the current media spectacle over the American CIA’s EITs. Blame-shifting torture on the next lower echelon is only an enhanced version of ‘secretarial errors’, hiding behind which cowardly managers have historically pushed their subordinates over cliffs to cry victory and step up the career ladder.

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Since the dawn of civilization, countries have had to rely on a smattering of rough men and women chosen to soil their hands so that others can keep theirs clean and wax eloquent, perched on high moral ground in warm living rooms without a thought for the price of this moral comfort.

These bruisers flit in the shadows cast by moral standards raised aloft by those who have never had to make such ethical choices. As long as such operators do not employ their dark arts for personal gain, they are considered loyal servants of the state. Their place in the gloom is secured by their employers. The contract is not a one-way street.

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That, of course, does not mean they can torture people at will.

These employees are subject to a code of conduct. If breached, they are punished.

That’s the what, but demons dance gleefully in the how.

The punishments, which might consist of a variety of administrative measures proportionate to the crime, are administered in camera. Since in this case the over-zealous operators failed to obtain the desired result, they may also be charged with professional incompetence. In camera.

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Making a public spectacle for moral ascendancy on the afternoon before a presidential election should raise more eyebrows than this writer’s. In the short-term, it might appease an avid public’s vicarious need to wash it’s morally dirty linen in public, feel good and then bite into a twinkie.

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In the long run, this public confession-fest will insufficiently balance out the collateral damage from Mr Obama’s drones.

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Instigating public indignation for political gain on one issue opens the door for opponents to enter the fray.

With the United Nations’ special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism taking a supervisory look at the CIA, that’s what’s called a lose-lose situation.