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A sober look at the US elections

November 9, 2016

Many people will be relieved that Donald Trump is to become the 45th US president after a stunning victory over Hillary Clinton and even more will feel gratification and schadenfreude. This is an upset more severe than Brexit, a smash in the face of the elites and their propagandists. The vastly outspent candidate Trump, universally ridiculed since he declared his candidacy in June, constantly slandered and maligned, opposed not only by the Democrats but also by the establishment of his own party has humiliated the pundits, experts, insiders, the ones who profess to be well informed and in charge, the ones who thought to be the masters of the universe.

Who couldn’t be deeply satisfied about such an outcome?

Trump’s victory proves four things:

a. One cannot always buy an election and democracy occasionally works.

b. The mainstream media machine is loosing its grip on the populace.

c. A good performer and con-man still easely wins against a talked up but terribly flawed contender.

d. Dissatisfaction and unrest in US society reach a level which is just short of open revolt.

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a. Trump’s campaign committee spent about 238.9 million US$ through mid-October, compared with 450.6 million US$ by Clinton’s campaign. That equals about 859,538 US$ spent per Trump electoral vote, versus about 1.97 US$ million spent per Clinton electoral vote.

While the Trump campaign increased spending on TV ads in the final election push, it still used this traditional campaign tool much less than Clinton. As of late October, Clinton spent about 141.7 million US$ on TV ads, compared with 58.8 million US$ for Trump TV ads.

That disparity extended to campaign payrolls. Clinton’s campaign had about 800 people on payroll at the end of August, Trump’s campaign only 130.

b. The mass media outlets tried their best to bad-mouth Trump and made him the third prominent target behind Assad and Putin. One could not open a newspaper without being informed about new Trump blunders, embarrassments, scandals, and there was no question about Clinton becoming president and Trump just being a fluke, a short time phenomenon, an annoyance and distraction which would fortunately being over and done with after election day.

The propagandists were humiliated like never before. Thomas Frank was fuming in the Guardian:

The woman we were constantly assured was the best-qualified candidate of all time has lost to the least qualified candidate of all time. Everyone who was anyone rallied around her, and it didn’t make any difference.

Yet, Frank also acknowledged:

Clinton’s supporters among the media didn’t help much. It always struck me as strange that such an unpopular candidate enjoyed such robust and unanimous endorsements from the editorial and opinion pages of the nation’s papers, but it was the quality of the media’s enthusiasm that really harmed her. With the same arguments repeated over and over, two or three times a day, with nuance and contrary views all deleted, the act of opening the newspaper started to feel like tuning in to a Cold War propaganda station.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/09/donald-trump-white-house-hillary-clinton-liberals

c. Trump is a billionaire real estate tycoon (3.7 billion US$ worth according to a Forbes estimate), a former reality TV host (The Apprentice, where he famously told the losing candidate: “You’re fired”), and a political newcomer who never run for office and never served in a political position before.

Trump is a gifted communicator, Elton John reportedly said of him he’s the best live performer who doesn’t sing and doesn’t play a musical instrument. Trump has shown more wit, humor, and common sense than his contenders in the primaries and he easily outwitted Hillary Clinton in the three presidential debates. Clinton was apparently better prepared for discussing details but Trump nevertheless cam over as more trustworthy.

Trump is by all accounts egoistic, rude, insensitive, undisciplined, and impulsive, but one cannot be sure how this plays out in his new job. He seems to be not very knowledgable in foreign policy matters and in science, he is a climate change denier and doesn’t care about the environment.

Clinton is corrupt, channeling as Secretary of State millions of dollars from foreign governments to the Clinton Foundation. She is a war hawk, her enthusiasm for more wars in the Middle East is due at least in part to heavy Saudi Arabian support of the Clinton Foundation. Qatar also gave the Clinton Foundation a one million US$ donation in connection with Bill Clintons birthday.

Clinton was paid $675000 for three speeches to Goldman Sachs, all together she earned 21.7 million US$ in speaking fees in two years.

Clinton plays every dirty game and prefers backroom deals, like sidestepping her primary contender Bernie Sanders in collusion with Democratic Party leaders.

She set up a private email server in violation of government rules, evading transparency and oversight.

d. Trump’s offensive attitude is likely to have proved his independence and outsider status at a time when much of the US public reviles the Washington political elite and blames it for income inequality and increased social tensions.

The Democrat’s hopes largely rested on their strength in the Midwest. Those were states that had always reliably voted for Democrats, based on the support of black and working-class white voters. But those working-class white people, particularly ones without college education, deserted the party in droves. Rural voters turned out in high numbers, as the US-citizens who felt overlooked and short-changed by the political elite made their voices heard.

Trump fired up white, working-class voters who were angry at the Washington establishment and felt left behind by globalization. Donald Trump recognized the fury of blue-collar America that felt the country was heading in the wrong direction; the concern of people who felt that immigration had gotten out of control, that trade deals had left US workers at a disadvantage,

One thing that never was reported were the huge crowds turning up at Trump’s rallies, hoping that he was the answer to their prayers.

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What does Trumps victory mean?

One really doesn’t know. A victory for Donald Trump has been widely seen as negative for developed economies because of his protectionist rhetoric. Trump talked about imposing tariffs on Chinese imports (45 percent), on Mexican imports (35 percent), he proposed to punish companies which outsource production overseas.

Expectedly regional markets closed lower, the US$ was diving, with money flowing into safe haven stocks, gold, and currencies which are deemed as stable. Wall Street futures plunged by 5 percent. Overall the reactions though were restraint and most stock markets have recovered in the meantime.

Globalization — Free trade

If Donald Trump follows through on his trade policies it will be the single biggest change to the way the USA does business with the rest of the world since WorldWar II. He has threatened to scrap a number of existing free trade agreements, including NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) between the US, Canada, and Mexico, which he blames for job losses. He has even suggested withdrawing the US from the World Trade Organization.

Senior European politicians and the markets are horrified, which should be good news for everyone. Europe will maybe get the chance to escape the US political and economic embrace, European nations maybe will learn to stand on their own feet and decide their fate by themselves.

Climate change

Trump has said he would cancel the Paris climate change deal signed by 195 countries in December 2015. He has also said he will stop all US payments for United Nations global warming programs. No individual country can scrap the Paris deal but if the USA pulled out of it, or abandoned domestic measures launched by President Barack Obama, it would inflict a significant blow to the pact. Trump has called for more drilling for fossil fuels, revitalizing the coal industry, approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada, and fewer regulations. “Regulations have grown into a massive job-killing industry. The regulation industry is one business I will absolutely put an end to on day one,” Trump said in September.

Middle East — Russia — NATO

It is not clear how much Trump will be in control of foreign policy. Vice President elect Mike Pence (a hardline conservative) and the still to be picked Secretary of State will be involved in the decisions.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Senator Bob Corker, and former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton are possible candidates for Secretary of State, neither of these persons would significantly reform or redirect present US policies. At least the neocons (Ashton Carter, Samantha Power, Susan Rice, Victoria Nuland, Robert Kagan, Michael Morell, John Allen) are out now after they wholeheartedly endorsed Clinton.

Trump said that he believes he can ease tensions with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and has praised Putin as a strong leader with whom he would love to have a good relationship. He’s said little about what this might involve beyond a desire for a joint fight against the IS (Islamic State) terrorists.

Trump surely will not support Islamist militants and likely will end support for the so called “moderate rebels,” while increasing support for the Kurds. He will maybe disengage further from the ME after IS is finished.

Trump has castigated NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) as obsolete and characterized its members as ungrateful allies who benefit from US largesse. He says the USA can no longer afford to protect countries in Europe and Asia without adequate compensation, suggesting he would withdraw US forces unless they pay up. He also promised reduced military spending.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, an ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, described the election result as a “huge shock” and questioned whether it meant the end of “Pax Americana,” the state of international relations overseen by Washington that has dominated global affairs since World War II. One can only hope that her worries are justified.

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Trump promised for his first hundred days in office:

Deporting “criminal, illegal immigrants
Denying visa-free travel to countries who refuse to take back their citizens
Repealing every Obama executive order
Restrictions on White House officials becoming lobbyists
Term limits for members of Congress
Cancellation of all payments to UN climate change programs
Using that money to fix US infrastructure
Labeling China a currency manipulator

Trump is likely to spend his first year, and  maybe his entire presidency, with all of the Democratic party and enough of the Republican party against him to stymie him, fighting for the right to govern. And that assumes he has an agenda beyond the very few goals he has articulated consistently which are: getting out of “bad” trade deals; reducing immigration and deporting many undocumented immigrants; investing heavily in infrastructure; making NATO members pay their share of NATO’s budget, cutting back involvement in overseas conflicts; cutting taxes; and repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

There is one more Trump campaign promise that will serve as an important early test of his seriousness as well as his survival skills: investigating Clinton. Even if Obama protects her or pardons her, it will be critical for Trump to carry out a probe of the Clinton Foundation’s business while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State.

If Trump is to eliminate the cancer of the neocons from the policy establishment, he has to have them on the run. As mentioned already, it is a reasonable surmise that Clinton’s enthusiasm for war was due at least in part to heavy Saudi support of the Clinton Foundation. Showing that US escalation in the Middle East, which Obama tried with mixed success to temper, was due in part to the personal corruption of the Secretary of State, would keep the hawks at bay, particularly if other prominent insiders and pundits were implicated in Clinton Foundation influence-peddling.

To sum it up: Trump is probably less dangerous than Clinton and nuclear armageddon seems now a bit less likely, but he is not the savior of mankind. His neglect of environmental problems is frightening and one can only hope that the impending (and unavoidable) environmental catastrophes will change his mind.

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