Not With a Bang…
Rather than blow up with a bang, American democracy may wither with a whimper. That insight lies at the heart of David Frum’s frightening but invaluable Atlantic essay, “How to Build an Autocracy.” It’s the best analysis I’ve read of the damage Donald Trump could do.
Frum is no innocent observer of presidential overreach. A former George W. Bush speechwriter, he coined the “axis of evil” line his boss employed to justify the Iraq invasion. Nevertheless, respect the messenger along with the message this time around. Frum flagged the threat from the outset last year. He warned of the then-candidate bucking the courts if elected, long before Trump started attacking judges.
The Age of Trump could usher in troubling trends and practices we used to only associate with foreign kleptocracies.
That’s the core message of this perceptive blog post by Professor Bonnie Palifka, a corruption expert at a leading Mexican university. The problems start with the Trump Administration’s “possible conflicts of interest, nepotism, insider trading, and other types of grand corruption,” which could trigger a ripple effect of other harms. Drawing on both international research and her knowledge of Mexico (but one of many countries where high-level corruption is pervasive), Palifka warns us of what we might expect from a White House that houses a cornucopia of conflicts of interest.
Do you want to disconnect from some unpleasant realities these days? Move to France!
No, I’m not talking about escaping to or through the wine, the food, the lifestyle, the whatever.
Instead, as this article explains, France has a new law that allows employees limited rights to disconnect from work communications outside of office hours, without penalties from their employers. The emphasis here should be on “limited,” since it’s unclear whether or how the law will even be enforced.
What’s more, I can’t’ help but wonder whether there will be all sorts of informal pressure on employees to be available. Miss an email and maybe you’re seen as less committed to the company? Ignore a group text and you’re then outside the loop on a big project?
Paul Krugman is no friend of Donald Trump or the Republican Party, to put it mildly. Yet while his January 2 New York Times op-ed is extremely hard-hitting, his argument is incomplete in a way that understates the challenges they might constitute for our democracy.
One challenge he airs is whether America will turn into a Trumpistan, along the lines of the Central Asian states (the names of which all end in “stan”), formerly parts of the USSR, that are controlled by corrupt, crony-capitalism strongmen pushing personality cults. (Pardon my nit-picking, development professional digression, but Krugman gets this wrong when it comes to Kyrgyzstan, the only one of those five states that is a functioning though flawed democracy – not that we’re ones to judge these days. It should not be lumped in with its neighbors.)
Having some trouble contemplating the next four years? If so, skip ahead to 2020 and this Washington Post piece on early jockeying by likely presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker. The article discusses their snagging Senate committee slots that boost their foreign policy credentials. It also sketches what several other presidential wannabes are up to, and provides a bit of extremely preliminary polling data.
The saddest song Bruce Springsteen wrote about 9/11 was “Empty Sky.”
It’s about the loss of the planes that day. It’s about the loss of so many lives. It’s about the loss of a loved one.
And most of all, it’s about the loss of faith.
To borrow the best line from Bruce’s song, I woke up this morning to an empty sky.
I’m not yet certain what I’ve lost faith in. My fellow Americans who picked Trump for president? Our democracy? Our future? America itself?
How did this happen? Pundits and political scientists will spend years analyzing Trump’s shocking win. I’ll do some speculating myself. And sooner or later I’ll seek ways of rebuilding from the ruins of this election.
Some of my most powerful overseas memories are of seeing folks in Sri Lanka and the Philippines roast in the tropical sun for hours, just waiting for a chance to vote. In places where people have far too little control over their lives, the opportunity to have some sort of say – however minimal – can be inspiring.
Contrast that with the same sight in the United States, where we have long lines of voters before and on Election Day. As this article explains, those lines are part of a Republican effort to discourage turn-out. They are much more about voter suppression than inspiration.
Do you know any anti-Trump types who might pick a third-party candidate or not vote at all this year? Perhaps they’re not in a swing state, and figure their votes therefore won’t affect the electoral college. Or maybe they dislike Hillary, or just can’t be bothered to cast their ballots.
Regardless, please consider sending them this great piece by The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank.
Milbank’s main point? “Donald Trump is running against democracy itself.”
Trump’s charges of vote-rigging and threats to deny his likely loss make this an election unlike any we’ve ever witnessed – as do his blatant bigotry and misogyny. As Milbank maintains, it’s crucial to humiliate him in order to take the foul wind out of his post-election political sails.
Addressing a tumultuous rally in Sparta, Wisconsin today, Donald Trump called on “real Americans” and the U.S. military to overthrow the government and “install me as president of the United States.”
“We have to stop Demon Hillary and her rigged election,” Trump declared. “She’s got all those tricks up her sleeve, you wouldn’t believe it. She only has a chance to even make it look close because women can vote. I’m not saying we should ban that, but I’m told lots of very bright people, including many women, think so.”
Confused by Hillary’s email or Clinton Foundation scandals? Late night comedy to the rescue! John Oliver’s show sums these up well, and certainly better than “serious” cable news outlets have.
The bottom line: Yes, there’s been poor judgment and questionable conduct; Hillary is neither the most ethical nor most astute of politicians. But in the end, there’s really less bad news here than meets the eye. It’s an educational and funny 10 minutes.
Now, if you want to dig deeper, this July piece from Slate expertly explains the email affair. Unlike any other coverage I’ve seen, the essay addresses what Hillary’s smattering of classified messages were about and why, even if hacked by Russia or whomever, it wouldn’t really matter.
STEP UP FROM THE MISSTEP
Hillary Clinton’s pneumonia and her resulting September 11th stumble has the press fretting about her health, her campaign and her reputation for a lack of transparency. Taken together with other steps, however, the Clinton campaign must turn this political and literal misstep into an opportunity.
Here’s why: The Great Debate Expectations Game. Heading into the first presidential debate on Sept. 26th, Clinton must change any media expectation that she will trump Trump. It’s a forecast that even her own campaign has cultivated – witness a New York Times report that she hopes “to crush Mr. Trump on live television.”
Hillary Clinton will never be a great orator. But she still gave a great, important speech last night. Its main theme: She blasted Donald Trump for the racism he promotes and the racists he embraces.
Here’s a video of the speech.
And you can find transcript here.
Some of what she said may not be new to you. But the speech is still notable for several reasons:
First, she provided as good a summary as I’ve seen of the reasons Trump is so dangerous.
In addition, she said so much about Trump and so little about herself. The speech could have been delivered by any number of Clinton allies. But it was still savvy for her to do so, because the indictment of him gets the most attention by virtue of Hillary delivering it.