Trump

There is an article online that has published this graph:

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 15.41.59

May I say both?

Donald Trump is an interesting character in many ways. My own view of him has been somewhat coloured by reading a blog written by Dilbert creator Scott Adams (example here, but he’s written a lot on it for the last year or so). Adams can be inclined to be a bit mad. He proposes making the world much better with schemes to cut carbon by making everyone’s car-based commutes involve driving downhill instead of more obvious solutions like trams. (Although Tashkent has just decided that car space is better than sucking up to the tram lobby so, you know, Adams may have a point.)

With this sort of thing in mind, he attempts to play what can only be assumed to be Devil’s Advocate on Trump describing a judge as Mexican. The remark is given a certain additional effect by Trump’s previous remarks about Mexicans. Certainly the judge may self-define as a Mexican. It is also the judge’s job to have sufficient compartmentalising skills to decide on things without being affected by any Mexican ancestry he may happen to have. If he can’t refrain from judging as though considering his own case he shouldn’t be a judge. The concept that someone can put preconceptions to one side is of course something the US may find hard to consider when reviewing its justice system. The British jury approach is that anyone who does not know defendant, victim, witnesses or persons otherwise directly related to a case can sit on a jury. The US likes to weed out a bit more, asking arrays of questions to detect biases (taking a presumption that people are biased and that even when discussing the facts before them they will excessively bring these biases into play). The scenes earlier this year where US politicians explicitly argued over the open political allegiances of a Supreme Court judge on the basis that the judge would make decisions based on these allegiances were verging on disturbing. (It could of course be argued that in the UK Lord Denning merely had the decency to pretend not to be acting on personal biases when he re-wrote the system of equitable remedies in his image. Then of course he went on to say rude things to the Birmingham Six of wrongly-convicted Irish non-terrorists, just to prove UK judges are capable of bringing different approaches to cases.)

Adams claims to be merely following Trump’s marvellous persuasion skills. It is hard to say if they are marvellous or not. They are admittedly somewhat different to Tony Blair’s persuasion skills. Blair wandered around claiming to be a shimmering angel who would make everyone nice and everything perfect. It is ironic that he left the world stage having converted several disagreeable dictatorships that shot people for disagreeing into failed states that shot people for being people, but that’s perfection for you. The shootings, bombings and tortures are at least now equally applied without fear or favour to all races, creeds and genders.

(Incidentally, my mildly cynical views of Adams calling Trump a “Master Persuader” were made very cynical when Adams said nice things about Jeremy Corbyn. For any Americans reading, any British politician who likes to seem moderately competent would say what Corbyn said. Any British politician who is competent said something rather blunter.)

Trump seems to consider that the world bequeathed by Bush and Blair is sub-optimal in many ways. For example, he appears to reckon the US blows up too many people and throws its weight around too much. For those of us still feeling scarred by the Bush years, this is a nice thought.

When asked whether he supported the Iraq War (back at the time, as opposed to last week), he said “Yeah, I guess so”. The “Yeah”, simply quoted on paper, sounds very amiable to warmongering. On actually listening to him saying it, he sounds like a man who doesn’t actually believe in the war but doesn’t feel it’s socially acceptable to say so. (He does foreshadow his current campaign by saying he wishes he knew who the enemies are. His policies to create more of them until he can spot a few in a crowd seem less sensible.)

When not worrying about the US throwing its weight around too much he considers that the US kow-tows to too many people, accepts too many migrants and is too nice to places like Iran and Cuba. It would be interesting to see him launch another war on Cuba. Cuba has not really lost a war with the US for some decades, and it is probably time someone made up for the Bay of Pigs fiasco. As far as Iran is concerned, there is no doubt a body of thought that takes the view that it is better to be enemies than friends with countries that want to sell oil and have a tourist industry.

This body of thought, being a body of thought, is entitled to vote on that basis and be represented at a level proportionate to the number of people who subscribe to that body of thought. They are idiots and the world is a much better place when we are talking nicely to Iran, but they are still entitled to be represented. Government of the idiots, by the idiots, for the idiots and all that. Iran is a much nicer place when we’re talking to them too, since it gets tourists and feels a need to be nice to them, and its residents can go on holiday to places where women don’t feel obliged to cover up and everyone can make a balanced decision on which option they prefer. (The Iranians may stick with what they have, but they can do so with the open-mindedness that comes from seeing how other people live.) Also the Government of Iran can feel less need to buy enormous nuclear weapons systems to defend themselves and spend the money on healthcare, education or infrastructure instead. Finally, the zealots who want to become Government of Iran to better launch terrorist attacks on the West can’t so readily argue for bloody revolution and that the West is a scourge on the world that causes of all their problems when we’re wandering the Grand Bazaar, buying their tat and being friendly.

On other fronts, Trump has managed to end up on record saying women who have abortions should be punished. He may have made the remark quickly and without thinking, as some commentators like to argue. It is an odd remark to make without thinking; in parts of the world where abortions are accepted as something that happens, and which we would prefer not to discuss too much, it seems odd that someone could possibly say “yes” to the concept of punishing women who have one. The more usual without thinking answer to such a question in a lot of other parts of the West is “No” – but it is worth reflecting how much variety on this there is within the United Kingdom. Free access to abortions is still banned in both parts of Ireland and Trump would be very much at home there. He backed down in the face of uproar, no doubt losing much support across Ireland in the process. But he said it. All it does is raise questions about what else he thinks and what he might say, accidentally or not, when his opinions do sort of matter.

Pausing for an interesting thought. He did not feel he could justify a position enjoying wide-scale popularity in other evangelically Christian countries (as opposed to secular with Christian heritage and institutions) and nor did he sound that in favour of the Iraq war, but said he might be. He says he is saying what he thinks. Is he actually doing so? Does he really, beneath the flopping hair, have any confidence in his real convictions? Does he know what he wants to do if he’s president or has he just worked out a few things that some other angry people want him to say?

Trump does have policies on infrastructure and movement. He’s against it, largely because he completely overrates the risk of terrorism. A certain German co-pilot last year demonstrated that the risks of easy access to aircraft cockpits are partly outweighed by the risks of loony co-pilots locked in alone in aircraft cockpits. People who can grow up feeling appreciated, wanted and generally not marginalised, unless totally irrational (which is another matter entirely), will be less open to people edging up to them and offering lots of imaginary virgins in exchange for striking a blow against the bullies. When Trump marches around announcing that Muslims aren’t nice people and will be banned from entering the USA until “we’ve figured out why they hate us” (or words to that general effect) he is sort of answering his own question. (He isn’t of course explaining why some of them hate the USA now, nor why that hatred might be demonstrated by blowing up Belgium, but he is suggesting a answer as to why some Muslims might be browned off with him if he’s elected.) When people go around making sweeping unamusing generalisations about the British I go off them a bit. If someone is verging on pledging to throw a large and disparate grouping of people out of their homes if elected for no better reason than that someone loosely associated with a fringe of the loony end of this disparate grouping has committed an unusual atrocity then more persuadable members of this disparate grouping can be introduced to the ideas that a) they will be thrown out of their homes and b) the solution is bombs, guns and other non-problem-solving options.

The worrying bit is when the US media suck up to this sort of thing, with that infamous Fox News sequence a couple of years ago being the prime example. Americans who have never looked up Birmingham and watch too much Fox News can come away with an idea that this sort of thing could happen in their back yard.  There are some alarming comments under Scott Adams’s blog, from which one would think my walk to work in a British provincial town involves passing balaclava-wearing Kalashnikov-wielding men cutting the hands off any schoolgirls who aren’t wearing their burkhas correctly. They are not alarming so much for the vision that they present, much as it is an undesirable vision of a world beyond dystopia. More alarming is that anyone honestly believes, to the degree of voting entirely on that basis, that Western Europe has turned into that sort of place. I was wandering North-Western Europe this time last year. It was boringly lacking in any form of violence and aside from sporadic outbursts appears to be remaining that way. It’s hardly the world of the 1970s Troubles on the British mainland, let alone in Northern Ireland. (When the Prime Minister is blown up during a party conference then some of us may get a trifle more anxious.)

Nonetheless people perceive there to be a problem and Trump is their answer. They then vigorously ignore anyone (like, for example, the French Ambassador) who politely points out that the problem doesn’t exist. There are places where I prefer not to go at night and there are places where I’m happy wandering around at one o’clock in the morning. This is based more on familiarity, whether the locals leave their cars parked in the road with the windows wound down and general built environment than the number of Muslims walking the streets and the ease of procuring a non-Halal takeaway. Perception of a Western Europe violence problem has been much increased by some idiot Government ministers who walked their London constituency in flack jackets, which nobody ever did work out the point of.

Banning Muslims from entering the US means that to Muslims the US becomes some vague and horrible Other, and much easier to hate. The US, by contrast, will have less general contact with them and fail to understand that the number of violent Muslims bent on terror is minimal to the point to ludicrousness. It happens that some of the violent ones are better organised than the average criminal gang and more concerned with death than honourable Great American Crimes like robbing banks. But they’re hardly on the level of the Irish Republican Army (which some Americans happily funded while they tried to blow up the British Government). The IRA actually blew people up. More recent British terrorists make an amusing sideline when the authorities tow away illegally parked cars without noticing the explosives stuffed inside. British border security, notoriously lax as it apparently is, seems to be no less effective (touching wood) than the USA’s habit of asking visitors if they’re terrorists or spies. (Both are better than the French – at a trip from St Pancras last year, entering France at one of their few remaining guarded borders, the French authorities seemed less bothered about who they were letting in than the British were as to who they were letting out.) Happily, Muslims can at least be reassured that Trump is not using them entirely as centrepieces for his flack. He also has his campaign for Mexico to build a wall along the Mexico/ USA border if he’s elected. He also says Mexico will pay for it. They will too. They’ll have to keep the ex-USA migrants out somehow.

These are the sorts of policies which I feel – or hope – would not generally appeal to the Americans that I know. Certainly I work with two Americans who shudder when Trump is mentioned – albeit Americans who have married Europeans and crossed the Pond. But they evidently appeal to some Americans, and not that being disliked by Americans that I know inconvenienced George W. Bush in any way. It is not evidence of persuasion however. It is not persuasion to sell people something that they want to buy. It is not persuasion to promote a message that disconcerted people who worry too much about over-hyped inaccurate news already believe. It is called preaching to the converted. Massive Trump rallies are not a sign of massive conversion to his cause but simply that there were a few stadiums-worth of loonies to start with. A particularly enthusiastic preacher can carry more of the converted than a bog standard bore of a preacher. Enthusiastic preachers can get across their message and enthuse the audience into coming out to vote for them – although perhaps it is telling that Trump’s style can become rather wearing and repetitive that his daughter Ivanka wasn’t sufficiently inspired to register to vote for him.

The Sprogs of Trump point is perhaps worth dwelling on for a moment as an amusing aside. When Trump is not shouting calculated insults at people, he appears on the US version of The Apprentice. The British version is of course hosted by Lord Alan Sugar. Lord Sugar began his career by borrowing a barrow and working his way up. He made lots of money in the 1980s tech industry – which it was possible to do, but Sugar managed the harder task of still being around into the 1990s making money in some form of tech. His show is hosted with the help of his business friends and contacts, of whom he clearly has plenty. The Trump show is hosted by a man born with millions, who has frequently grumbled about in reality having no money at all, who employed someone who cashes 13c cheques (or does so himself), who largely attempts to make money from property (not difficult if you can afford to get in on the racket) and whose co-hosts are his children.

So much for equal opportunities.

Trump’s redeeming feature is that he is a man of no political experience to speak of who has pursued an existence in an outside field but now wants to round things off with the presidency. His earlier line about being too rich to be bought was good. It also seems to mean he’s rich enough to be unpleasant about it, but this is unfortunate. The thing is, one of the benefits of a structure where the head of whatever authority you have in mind is elected directly and independently of any other office is that anyone can run for it. No party affiliation should really be required. Even if a party affiliation manages to end up being desirable, think of the transport journalist Christian Wolmar running to be Labour’s candidate for London Mayor last year. Certainly there is no obligation, as there is to become UK Prime Minister, to construct and manage an almighty machine to get at least 325 lackeys elected across the country in order to claim some form of mandate for you personally. Instead, Trump can walk up to the candidate registration office, declare himself as a candidate and go on the ballot paper to run the country based on his qualifications elsewhere. The successful businessperson can bring their skills home to give something back to the nation by developing its prosperity. It is so much better than the usual loyal party member thing that would bring the UK President Boris.

Trump’s imperialist bombastic approach to the world does not really sit well with an ostensibly anti-imperial nation. His precise success as a businessperson is periodically questioned. Unfortunately, all this suggests is that perhaps having to rise through a party machine and get 325 lackeys elected is a good way of weeding out the people who can’t work with anyone. Persuading the 325 lackeys to vote for you usually requires some positive thinking. From this distance, apart from vague cries of “Make America Great Again!” Trump is weak on detailed positivity. Clinton’s cries of love and offers of feminist progress may prove better for people who think life is okay and have lower blood pressure.

This feeds into one ground for avoiding concern that a man who wants an unpredictable approach to a consistent foreign policy (expect the unexpected and all that) will ultimately be elected. He is apparently moderately popular with somewhere under half the Republican’s supporters. The field was fairly unimpressive. The originally-leading Republican candidate could have resulted in three successive Republican presidents called Bush (and not coincidentally either). It is not wholly clear how the remaining, largely sane, non-affiliated voters will respond when, privately secluded with their automatic vote-counting machines, they have to decide if they can actually face The Donald running the place.

And for any Americans who follow foreign policy enough to realise that Clinton wouldn’t be the world’s first female leader and that female leaders can do economic growth (Thatcher and Merkel come to mind), there will be something else to jog thoughts. By November Britain may be on its way out of the EU, with all that entails for European unity, the European economy, NATO, the attentiveness of the EU to world affairs and the USA’s relationship with both the EU and UK. This may prove effective enough at breaking the system. The candidates’ response to such an outcome will be interesting and informative.

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One thought on “Trump

  1. gawainsmum June 10, 2016 / 08:30

    Interesting food for thought. It is worrying that many democratic voters seem to hate Clinton more than they hate Trump. However, yesterday on Facebook I noticed a few signs that they may be facing up to reality at last.

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