“In a mad world, only the mad are sane.”
As the election draws near, the mere fact that Trump has more than a tangible chance of winning has several in the commentariat a little unnerved. This is shown by the bevy of op-eds and columns written in recent days and weeks which all conveyed a similar point: Please, America, don’t vote Trump – We value stability more than anything else.
Alan Dershowitz, a prominent expert on the law and Harvard Law professor crystallized this sentiment this morning, speaking with Maria Bartiromo, saying:
Let me tell you why I’m supporting Hillary Clinton: We’re living in a world of extremes, the right is getting stronger, the left is getting stronger, the center is weakening. We need a centrist president to stabilize the world, Hillary Clinton promises more in terms of being a stabilizing force than Donald Trump.
On the surface, this sounds reasonable. But Dershowitz showed exactly why it isn’t less than a minute later, when he said:
Look, the problem in American politics is that donors always get special treatment – from Republicans and Democrats. Pay to play is unfortunately a sickness within the American political system, equally applicable to republicans and democrats. Let’s end that – let’s strengthen the laws, let’s de-politicize the laws.
In admitting the politics of the status quo is broken, Dershowitz renders his support for Clinton, on the basis of her ‘stability,’ an endorsement of a broken political world. This is a world which has bestowed upon Clinton a $250 million fortune, incredible power, and a shot at being the first woman to be president of the United States, forever etching her name in history. Does Dershowitz, or anyone else for that matter, really think that Hillary Clinton, having been forged in that broken political world, is going to change it in any material way? Considering her now Wikileaks-revealed duplicity vis-a-vis her public statements and those given privately to the corporate donors which back her, the idea of her being a change agent stretches credulity, to put it mildly.
And make no mistake – change is needed. The political status quo has overseen America’s slide into over-indebtedness, declining educational standards, endless war and destruction in foreign lands, record poverty levels, multi decade lows in labor force participation, and even record lows in fertility.
Indeed, America as it stands today is merely a nominal representation of the colonial experiment which commenced just over 240 years ago. It could be said that the genesis of America as a country was the biggest tax revolt in human history, yet today the populace will at the most grumble angrily to themselves as they pay ever higher taxes on an annual basis.
In its early days, America debated the merits of a monetary system based on gold and silver versus central banking and fiat currency. After some trial and error, it settled on the former. Today’s American economy now relies on the latter, to such an extent that the mere differences in language used from one public statement to the next are said to have big implications on the fate of our economy.
The Federal Government has grown to such an extent that the population as a whole expects certain things from it. This, in comparison to a Federal Government which was once small, and stayed mostly out of the way.
It is telling that quickest way to be laughed out of a ‘serious’ political conversation in 2016 is to seriously advocate an abolition of the federal income tax, a return to the gold standard, and a vastly smaller government that balances its budget, let alone all of the above. As these things were once part of the formative fabric of America, it is fair to say that we currently live in a sort of Post-America.
This is further buttressed by the fact that the Constitution has been treated as toilet paper for a very long time now. Exactly how long that is depends on the individual, but one can cite many occurrences which marked the waning influence of the Constitution. The Civil War, 16th Amendment, Federal Reserve Act, the New Deal, Executive Order 6102, the 1971 closing of the gold window, the Patriot Act, and the Affordable Care Act, among others, are all examples of the government riding roughshod over the Constitution.
I am not going to scrutinize the merits of each individual instance. I only bring them up to highlight the fact that going by strict Constitutional originalism, the document has been violated, several times, and well before June 16, 2015, the day Trump’s campaign began. In other words, from the perspective of the principles underpinning America’s birth, and continuing on through its ascent to world power, America as it currently stands is a Mad World.
Yet it is precisely those already-departed American principles, wrapped in platitudes about our 240 year Republic and its democratic heritage, that many commentators cite when declaring Trump to be the most dangerous political force in our lifetime. Consider this from David Frum:
The lesson Trump has taught is not only that certain Republican dogmas have passed out of date, but that American democracy itself is much more vulnerable than anyone would have believed only 24 months ago. Incredibly, a country that—through wars and depression—so magnificently resisted the authoritarian temptations of the mid-20th century has half-yielded to a more farcical version of that same threat without any of the same excuse. The hungry and houseless Americans of the Great Depression sustained a constitutional republic. How shameful that the Americans of today—so vastly better off in so many ways, despite their undoubted problems—have done so much less well.
I have no illusions about Hillary Clinton. I expect policies that will seem to me at best counter-productive, at worst actively harmful. America needs more private-market competition in healthcare, not less; lighter regulation of enterprise, not heavier; reduced immigration, not expanded; lower taxes, not higher. On almost every domestic issue, I stand on one side; she stands on the other. I do not imagine that she will meet me, or those who think like me, anywhere within a country mile of half-way.
Not only is it true that America has eschewed its strict Constitutional Republic roots, it is not true that America successfully avoided the authoritarian temptations of the 20th century. Indeed, the America that entered the fights with the Axis dictatorships and then communism looked very different to the America that came out of them. Karl Marx’s 10 planks have been more or less instituted in America. America’s Authoritarianism, however is of a softer variety. While it doesn’t have a definitive figurehead in the shape of Mussolini or Hitler, it does have a definitive ideology spearheading it: the worship of nebulous concepts such as Equalism, Diversity and Fairness.
The most heinous crimes in today’s society are that of racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia, and so on. Transgressors are drawn out into the public square for admonishment via social ostracism. You could even lose your job over an ‘offensive’ post on Facebook or Twitter.
The rub is that the threshold for what constitutes offensive behavior is seemingly lowered by the day. The march to describe every slight as Hate Speech increasingly encroaches on that traditional American right of free speech. With respect to the election, and Trump in particular, even being neutral on his positions could get one in hot water.
That’s what happened to Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic series. According to this Washington Post piece, Adams’ once lucrative speaking engagements and licensing deals have dried up, owing to his attempts to explain to the public why Trump’s campaigning has been effective, from the perspective of well known Persuasion techniques. He has become a pariah for this.
Indeed, Donald Trump’s real sin has been his refusal to give in to the Oversensitive Mob and give it what it wants – an acknowledgement of their frivolous charges of racism and sexism – preferably via some sort of tear-laden press conference at the mercy of the same journalists who regularly excoriate him in their columns.
What is particularly interesting about Frum is that he lists several things which in his view would be good for America. All of these things line up with what Trump plans to do, even though Frum doesn’t give him credit for that. The problem for the likes of Frum is that Trump is seemingly too mean in the way he is going about his campaigning.
What this simplistic analysis misses is a lot of the outrage generated by Trump has been intentional – a ploy to draw attention to his ideas. Trump is nothing if not a shrewd marketer and astute media manipulator. He writes about it in his books, and has had 40 years of experience with the media under his belt.
Many have been in the media have been critical of the media itself for giving him so much attention, thereby legitimizing him. You’ll often see a statistic bandied about that suggests that Trump has been given $2 billion in free exposure. The reality is that Trump earned that exposure through his media exploits of well over three decades. When Trump announced his candidacy, he instantly had 100% name recognition. News agencies really couldn’t ignore him, because they’ve never ignored him. Trump is a ratings goldmine – and media corporations live on ratings.
To be sure, the media has countered by covering him negatively, to the tune of 90% of the time according to a recent study. This has both revealed the inherent bias the mainstream media has as well as confirmed the reason why Trump campaigned the way he has. His message is an anathema to a leftist media, and as such the only way to get his message across was to wrap it in a tactical outrage.
Recall the Star of David ‘controversy’ from this summer. It started with Trump re-tweeting this image:
The media fell over themselves to use this image as evidence of Trump being an Anti-Semite, owing to the fact that the ‘Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!’ text is in an apparent Star of David.
Of course that star could easily be a sheriff star, or a normal star you would find in Clip Art. Yet the media frothed at the mouth, pushing this story for almost a week.
This meant that all over TV and the internet, this image was shown, an image which conveys a message that Hillary Clinton is a criminal.
Through enshrouding his real messages in a layer of outrage, knowing a lapdog media would spread it far and wide for him, Trump has done nothing more than display his penchant for good marketing and media manipulation.
Indeed, Trump’s initial foray into the campaign was controversial, perhaps still his most controversial episode to date. Yes, I’m referring to the moment when he ‘called all Mexicans rapists and drug dealers.’
That was the spin, and the perception that the media spread far and wide and is still used by man as a talking point to declare Trump a racist. What Trump actually did was say that a non-zero subset of those who entered the country illegally committed further crimes once in the country, and that it was a problem. His words were objectively true. However the way in which he said them cause untold outrage which reverberates to this day.
Consider the fact that Trump’s immigration ideas are now widely considered to be racist and xenophobic by most mainstream voices. However, a rational examination of his plan reveals that the vast majority of it is already codified into US law, including the wall. What Trump seemingly wants to add is a more vigorous application of the law in spots where it is currently halfheartedly applied, and in others where it is actively opposed, such as in the case of sanctuary cities.
The outrage Trump created was needed in order to call attention to an issue which has been largely neglected for many years now. If he hadn’t done it, the discussion would have been lost in the shuffle as it had been before. By raising the temperature so to speak, Trump has forced people into a box. To call Trump a racist and xenophobe for completely reasonable ideas is to explicitly advocate lawlessness. That is precisely what a Mad World does, thus to be considered a madman by that world, as Trump is, is tantamount to being the sensible one.
In a similar vein, Trump has been accused of dividing the country. However, it not Trump, but identity politics which has divided the country. In modern America, there is an increasing trend for Americans to define themselves as such, but with a prefix attached. African-American, Muslim-American, Hispanic-American, Asian-American, and so on. Race, class, religion, and sexual orientation are the lines along which the population is increasingly split.
This ground was tread long before Trump’s candidacy. LBJ may not have said that he’d ‘have those N*****s voting Democrat for the next 200 years,’ but he might as well have said it, given that politics has increasingly devolved to pandering to the varying subgroups in America. The resulting atmosphere is one in which your skin color, gender or sexual orientation becomes your uniform, and it is almost your duty to fight for your team lest you be called a traitor.
Trump’s message is simple: America First. In recent rallies, he has consistently conveyed the idea of Americans ‘working together as one people, under one God, saluting one flag.’ Trump has immediately taken some heat for this, particularly the ‘one God’ part, with critics citing this as evidence Trump doesn’t understand the separation of Church and State, or that it intimates a sort of exclusion for nonbelievers.
This interpretation is of course, nonsense. His words are no different to politicians proclaiming ‘God Bless America’ at the end of speeches. The ‘God’ in both instances is open to interpretation, with the listener free to insert the deity of choice to personalize the line. But recall, we’re living in a Mad World, and as such these minor quibbles are worth vast overreactions.
The interesting thing is that Trump’s words are objectively unifying. America First as a concept should be something that everyone can buy into, because individual identity characteristics don’t preclude participation in America as a concept, at least in theory.
But, again we live in a Mad Clown World, a world in which people can’t let go of Identity, because doing so would forfeit a chance at a slice of the bounty collected by grievances and outrage. It is thus the culture as a whole which has already divided itself, not wishing to unite as one people. It is the culture itself which sees little wrong with immigrants hoisting their home flags on American soil, but increasingly views the stars and stripes as an offensive symbol.
With that as a backdrop, Trump is indeed mad. But that means he is sensible.
And what of morality? Many believe that the Billy Bush tape disqualifies Trump from the presidency. The bottom line on this is that there have been several equally vulgar individuals to occupy the role, including Bill Clinton, who had assistance from one Hillary Clinton in concealing the vulgarity. If we’re being truly honest, neither candidate is clean here.
Furthermore, the culture as a whole is in no state to pass judgement on this score. I chuckled repeatedly watching the torrent of outrage and concern for the youth of America having been exposed to Trump’s words, when the likes of Miley Cyrus trotting around stages performing topless with inflatable male genitalia protruding from her crotch likely elicits little more than a shrug of the shoulders for those same people.
This hypocrisy is mirrored in the perception of Trump as unhinged, as it is pertains to foreign policy. And before I go on, a symptom of the Mad Clown World is evident in the fact that coverage of Trump’s Billy Bush moment dwarfed that of an analysis of foreign policy issues, in an age when nuclear capable world powers are positioning themselves for conflict. Sex sells, I get it, but to upstage potential nuclear war with Russia? I’d call that a bit Mad.
And on that subject, Trump is widely considered by your standard foreign policy expert to be dangerous. More frivolously, he is considered to be a national security risk because his flippant attitude may lead us to military conflict over his Twitter account, or something.
The reality is that these foreign policy experts, along with Hillary Clinton herself, have been responsible for nothing but failure for nigh on 50 years. From our excursions in Vietnam, to Kuwait, to Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and now Syria, these status quo experts have done nothing but cause death and destruction across the globe, in the name of spreading Democracy.
It sounds like a great ideal to have, but ultimately, who are we as Americans to impose our way of life on the rest of the world? The interests of the average American, in America, haven’t been served by any of these adventures, for the most part. The only interest which has been served is that of the Military Industrial complex. Eisenhower warned us about this.
With respect to the current challenge that faces us, Syria, we face a choice of war or diplomacy. We are already fighting a proxy war against the Russians, who are assisting the Assad regime, who the US wants ousted. The official reason for this is Assad’s atrocious humanitarian record, but some suspect there is more to the story.
It involves the establishment of a natural gas pipeline, running from Qatar to Turkey, passing through Syria. The reason it is sought by the US is because such a pipeline would allow Western Europe an alternative to the Russian natural gas it currently consumes. The goal is to marginalize Russia economically, as punishment for its refusal to get with the EU/NATO program on many other issues.
It is hypothesized that Assad has denied this pipeline, out of allegiance to Russia, and as a result the US wants regime change in Syria. In response to being attacked, Assad has invited Russian forces to the country for assistance. This is where we stand now.
Hillary Clinton has been consistent in her stance that a No Fly Zone be placed over Syria, despite the only way one could be enacted would be through a declaration of war with Syria, and thus Russia. Clinton was explicitly asked about this again at the third debate a few weeks ago and was unequivocal in her response.
Make no mistake, a Hillary Clinton presidency is most likely the pretense to war with Russia, an opponent with nuclear capabilities. If the true reasoning behind the war is correct, the US would be risking nuclear war to establish a natural gas pipeline overseas. Yet, here at home, the US finds the idea of a pipeline running from Alberta to Texas, with no war required, to be untenable. That’s the status quo for you.
It is in this light that the criticism Trump gets for being ‘friendly with Putin’ needs to be examined. The reality is that the Russians don’t want war, as evidenced by the fact they did nothing when Turkey took down a Russian jet last year. Putin’s greatest sin is his refusal to bow to Western, and more specifically US hegemony in geopolitics and the world order. For that refusal to play ball, the US has tried to hit Russia economically, and it is continuing to do so with its efforts in Syria. It is playing with fire, however, as previously discussed.
Trump wants nothing to do with this, not because he is reckless, but because he correctly understands that the US has little business in directing foreign affairs in the manner it has done for decades. To the extent we already have entanglements, they must be dealt with, but in the future the goal of a Trump administration is seemingly to tamp down American Imperialism. It is too expensive, too deadly, and too historically negative in terms of the prospects for nations who pursue such expansive ambitions.
Once again, the Mad Man is sane.
This election is probably the most stark choice we’ve seen in a lifetime. It is in many ways a referendum on the constructs of the Post World War II West: Keynesian Economics, supranational unions such as the EU and NATO, the sexual revolution, central banking, the Military-Industrial Complex, the Media-Academia complex, among other things.
While Trump doesn’t explicitly repudiate all of these things, Hillary Clinton certainly would be a continuation of them. Furthermore, she would be a continuation of the status quo, a continuation of the cultural preference of Pretty Lies to Ugly Truths, a continuation of the political preference of short term expedience over long term thinking.
Even if one who is on the fence agrees with every word I’ve written thus far, a sheer, base reluctance to change will still stand in the way of pulling the lever for Trump. I completely understand that point of view. For many, the fact that the power grid still works, and we have access to our daily Starbucks means things aren’t so bad, and there is no need to ‘blow up’ the political system voluntarily.
This is akin to inheriting $100 million, blowing $98 million of it on the proverbial hookers and blow, and feeling relieved upon seeing the $2 million bank balance in a sober moment, that relief stemming from the understanding that you are still better off than 99.5% of the planet.
Unfortunately, that is us, as modern day Americans. We inherited a country from a generations of individuals who built it up into a machine which produced untold riches. With us at the wheel, we’ve been in party mode, adopting an ‘anything goes as long as it feels good’ mentality socially and a ‘spend anything – we can print the money later’ attitude when it comes to economics. That is unsustainable. It is our job to recognize that, and correct course before crisis hits.
Trump is indeed a bonafide Mad Man. But we live in a Mad World. Sanity in this context is a continued slide into the abyss, a continued swim by an unaware frog as the temperature creeps to 100 degrees C.
There’s still time to jump out of the pot.