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Trump’s ‘spoiler’ campaign for the Clintons is turning into a fierce feud for the US Presidency

Prof. Murray Hunter

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Over the years, the New York Billionaire property developer and TV personality famous for The Apprentice Donald Trump has made a number of remarks about running for US President.

Until 2015, many close to Trump have interpreted these remarks as being in jest, with little seriousness. When trump flirted with running for President in 2012, CNN reported that he donated $541,650 to the Federal Democratic Campaign.

However within a period of just over a year, Trump relatively new to the Republican Party, with no previous political experience, and holding views outside the mainstream Republican movement, has demolished the other Republican candidates for the republican Presidential nomination. Trump now stands on the verge of gaining Republican nomination in what is shaping up to be one of the most unusual and potentially bitterly fought presidential election campaigns in recent history.

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What makes this current situation even more strange and ludicrous is the close relationship that the Clintons have enjoyed with Trump, and the number of mutual acquaintances who are also involved in this coming Presidential campaign that have worked for both political sides.

The events of the last twelve months point circumstantially to the possibility that Trump originally intended to be a spoiler within the GOP. The BBC went further and called Trump a Democratic secret agent. The Nation Review called Trump a ‘bogeyman’ , stating that ‘he couldn’t help the Democrats more if he were trying”.

According to The Washington Post, former President Bill Clinton had a private telephone conversation early 2015 with Donald Trump about a run for the Republican candidacy for the US Presidency. Insiders said that Clinton strongly encouraged Trump to run for Republican nomination. Although Clinton’s personal office confirmed the discussion took place, the Clinton spokesperson was silent on what was discussed other than generalities of the current political landscape.

The Washington Post stated that according to four Trump allies, the call was about Trump’s final decision to make a run for the Republican Presidential nomination. The Trump allies according to The Washington Post mentioned Clinton’s desire to rouse the GOP base. One person who had knowledge about the Clinton side of the call said that Clinton was “upbeat and encouraging during the conversation”.

This was one of many calls and meetings over the years between Clinton and Trump, who have a close working relationship. Clinton and Trump have played golf together, Trump had donated to the Clinton Foundation, and the Clintons had attended Trump’s 3rd wedding in the front row to Melania Knauss way back in 2005.

Thus circumstantial evidence points to the Trumps close ties with the Clintons.

Hillary Clinton’s own announcement that she would seek the democratic nomination for the US Presidential race on June 16th leads to many questions about Bill Clinton’s discussions with Donald Trump. These questions have never really been asked by the media, so remain unanswered.

Donald Trump is by no means a traditional Republican, and only joined the party in 2009 after being registered as a democrat back in 2001. He may best be described as a ‘New York liberal’ with a smattering of extremist views. Many Republicans like House Speaker Paul Ryan as a consequence have actually held back their support for Donald Trump, only giving a lukewarm promise to support him if he wins the nomination. Republican Party elders George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Mitt Romney, and Bob Dole, have not given any support to Donald trump.

Nevertheless, Trump has had a rapid and almost comical rise among the ranks of the Republican Party in what some pundits describe as a ‘hostile takeover.’

His harsh views on immigration are likely to cost votes within the Mexican community. He has changed his views regularly on issues like abortion. Trump is also advocating increasing social security with cuts from military spending. Trump is staunchly against trade agreements like Nafta, and may put to bed forever the fairy-tale of the TPP, if elected.

However his views on immigration aren’t too far away from Ted Cruz who favours the strengthening of the border and upholding of the law on immigrants. Like Trump, Cruz in his official webpage also talks about illegal immigrants being drug smugglers, child abusers, murderers, and other dangerous criminals entering the United States. Opinion within the Republican movement itself is changing towards allowing legal abortion. Trump shows out his pragmatism in social security, where cuts are deeply unpopular with voters. In trade, Trump is actually going back to old traditional republican values of tariffs to balance trade and isolationism in foreign affairs that were prevailing within the Republican Party pre-WWII.

So how is Trump helping the Hillary campaign?

Trump’s Primary campaign was so successful that he took away all the oxygen from the other candidates in the debate. His outrageous statements sucked up all the media time, letting the other candidates suffocate.

Trump was figured as a Republican candidate that the Clintons could easily defeat. That was in the early reckoning. However the Trump bandwagon has become the biggest media asset in the campaign so far.

Trump’s outlandish statements often came at times when the Hillary campaign was floundering. His media focus saved the democrats when they were in trouble a number of times. According to Noah Rothman of Commentary Magazine Trump’s outlandish comments always came when the democrats landed in controversy.

This was figured that Trump’s behaviour would help Hillary escape close scrutiny over the email and Benghazi issues, as well as flaws in some of her decisions and outright allegations of corruption dating back to the Little Rock days when her husband Bill Clinton was Governor. Trumps personality flaws would cover the character issues that Hillary must hide if she is to win the 2016 US Presidential election.

However, the biggest assistance Trump has been providing Hillary is ‘putting her in the victim’s position. As Jeb Bush claimed “she is good at playing the victim”. Trump’s attacks on Hillary would seem to give her a political advantage. This could help rallying women to the Hillary side according to Democratic Strategist Steve McMahon. Hillary can use these attacks to seek empathy from professional women, something she did very successfully back in 2000 and 2008.

Then there are the campaign personnel connections. The George Soros connection is interesting as he is both close to Trump and the Clintons. Trump’s new finance chairman Steve Mnuchen supported Hillary Clinton against Obama and is very close to George Soros.

Justin Raimondo in his blog Antiwar.com was the first to raise the hypothesis that Trump was running as a ‘spoiler’ candidate to run havoc within the GOP ranks during the primaries. Debra J. Saunders claimed that Trump’s role in the GOP was to disrupt party harmony in the lead up to the democratic Presidential Nomination Convention due to be held in July 2016. Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo of Florida called Trump a “phantom candidate ….to create a political circus.”

Trump’s original motivation could have been ego and the chance to play a national role through the media. Trump loves to play presidential. At first this could have been seen as the ultimate TV role, which he enjoys. The primaries and attention have been a ‘buzz’ for Trump, who as enjoyed being the non-politician politician. His personal imperfections have made human acceptably human and the messages he has been sending out are hitting raw nerves within the electorate.

Although Trump’s actions were meant to benefit his good friend Hillary Clinton, Trumps sudden electoral popularity in his own right has complicated things. Trump’s persona has been enlarged through the primaries into a force that cannot easily be contended with. Trump originally wanted to help Hillary, but know realizes he can carry away this election in his own right, and thus go against the informal understanding with the Clintons.

The Clintons are now facing-off with a monster persona they helped deliver to the US electorate.

Over the first few months of the primary season, Trump’s electoral popularity was low compared to Clinton. In July 2015 Trump polled 34% to Clinton’s 53%. However in September and December last year Trump came within 2 percentage points of Clinton in national polling.

Ronald Reagan was seen as a joke when he first made his run for the presidency. And as in the Reagan experience, Trump is shoring up in the opinion polls to where on 13th may he was just 2 percentage points nationally behind Hillary Clinton. The One America and Gravis Marketing poll shows the democratic presidential front-runner with 48% support while the GOP nominee at 46% in a head to head general election fight. Some polls actually put Trump in front. This is a position from where Trump can win.

With Trump showing overall strength in the California primary and Clinton struggling to gain a strong lead over Sanders, the momentum for Trump is rapidly growing. Trump is also winning over the conservative professional women vote, winning 57% of the women’s vote in the recent New York primary.

Hillary so far has campaigned on traditional Democratic issues such as Obamacare, guns, free speech, progressive policies, the economy and climate change. These issues aren’t working this time round as the Obama era was a great disappointment for many voters. Hillary is just not connecting to the electorate this time round. There is an air of change away from the failure of the Obama era towards something new, which Hillary has failed to grapple with.

In addition the Clinton-Sanders primary fight has divided the Democratic Party, where Sander’s supporters may not fall behind Clinton if she clinches the Democratic Nomination outright with a majority of delegates. Exit polls suggest that almost half of Sanders supporters will defect to Trump in a general election.

Trump has been abrasive during the primary season, which worked well for him. Trump is attacking the corrupt Hillary. However Trump also knows that too much negativity towards Clinton will benefit her. Trump is comical in his attacks, but he is also well disciplined.

Hillary is also in a quandary. She is living in a ‘glass house’ where attacks on Trump could backfire, even though Trump has provided her with so much material to potentially attack with, i.e., immigration. Consequently, she cannot attack Trump on women, policy, or integrity without expecting very damaging retaliation from the Trump camp.

Clinton’s attacks on Trump have been weak and haven’t had much effect to date. In addition Clinton personally doesn’t look comfortable attacking Trump on the hustings.

Trump has control over the campaign and has led it towards personalities, rather than policy. This is where Hillary is at her weakest, with many personal character negatives with a massive integrity gap to overcome. Trump is well armed with information from Edward Klein who wrote a number of unflattering books about the Clintons.

Trump has only personality negatives to overcome. The leaked recording of Trump advisor Paul Manafort’s presentation to Republican Party insiders revealed that the Trump campaign is undergoing a major strategy change that will not insult or polarize.

Trump worked successfully on the fears of working class voters. These people have great anxieties about change and Trump’s comments about Mexicans sending rapists and criminals over the border and banning all Muslims has tugged at the emotions of this segment of the electorate.

To the electorate, Trump doesn’t sound like a politician. The fact that many of the GOP leaders don’t support Trump can actually be seen as a positive for him out on the hustings. He is not establishment and doesn’t talk like a politician.

Trump’s biggest asset is waiting for the presidential debates which will be head to head with Hillary. Trump’s business rather than diplomatic language will be refreshing to the electorate this time round. Trump has a lot of ideas that can be considered new in defence, foreign policy, and in social-economics. Trump will appear the liberal and Hillary the conservative if she pushes the same directions as Obamaism.

Trump has some new directions in policy which should appeal to the electorate. His views on foreign policy are visionary and modern in contrast to the establishment views. If he wins this could set a new long term direction in US foreign policy. The branding of ‘America first’ is powerful and overturns old directions recognizing that the US doesn’t have the resources to be the world policeman and other countries should also do their fair-share of work in keeping world order. This is a major paradigm shift and will affect how the US conducts its international relationships with countries like China and Russia for many years in the future.

If Trump is successful in November, he may bring in a neo-Republican philosophy that actually encapsulates and modernizes Republican thinking in the 21st century. Let’s see if Trump the visionary comes out during the presidential debates. If he does, then the Clinton campaign could be shattered.

One will expect the members of the Republican Party quickly falling behind Trump at and after the republican Convention. Former Californian Governor Schwarzenegger is expected to lend his support at the convention. He is a winning brand who can give the Republicans another four years in the Whitehouse.

The Clintons have to think very hard about their future strategy. Her battle for the Democratic nomination is not over yet and she must be sure that this does not damage her. When she faces off with Donald Trump, it’s going to be close up and personal. Trump has outsmarted the Clintons from the very beginning. He has become their worst nightmare, where Trump has transformed from being the most unlikely to being the favourite to win the presidency.

This is going to be a very interesting presidential campaign.

Innovator and entrepreneur. Notable author, thinker and prof. Hat Yai University, Thailand Contact: murrayhunter58(at)gmail.com

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The Meaning of a Multi-Polar World

Eric Zuesse

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Right now, we live in a mono-polar world. Here is how U.S. President Barack Obama proudly, even imperially, described it when delivering the Commencement address to America’s future generals, at West Point Military Academy, on 28 May 2014:

The United States is and remains the one indispensable nation. [Every other nation is therefore ‘dispensable’; we therefore now have “Amerika, Amerika über alles, über alles in der Welt”.] That has been true for the century passed and it will be true for the century to come. … America must always lead on the world stage. If we don’t, no one else will. … Russia’s aggression toward former Soviet states unnerves capitals in Europe, while China’s economic rise and military reach worries its neighbors. From Brazil to India, rising middle classes compete with us. [He was here telling these future U.S. military leaders that they are to fight for the U.S. aristocracy, to help them defeat any nation that resists.] … In Ukraine, Russia’s recent actions recall the days when Soviet tanks rolled into Eastern Europe. But this isn’t the Cold War. Our ability to shape world opinion helped isolate Russia right away. [He was proud of the U.S. Government’s effectiveness at propaganda, just as Hitler was proud of the German Government’s propaganda-effectiveness under Joseph Goebbels.] Because of American leadership, the world immediately condemned Russian actions; Europe and the G7 joined us to impose sanctions; NATO reinforced our commitment to Eastern European allies; the IMF is helping to stabilize Ukraine’s economy; OSCE monitors brought the eyes of the world to unstable parts of Ukraine.

Actually, his — Obama’s — regime, had conquered Ukraine in February 2014 by a very bloody coup, and installed a racist-fascist anti-Russian Government there next door to Russia, a stooge-regime to this day, which instituted a racial-cleansing campaign to eliminate enough pro-Russia voters so as to be able to hold onto power there. It has destroyed Ukraine and so alienated the regions of Ukraine that had voted more than 75% for the democratically elected Ukrainian President whom Obama overthrew, so that those pro-Russia regions quit Ukraine. What remains of Ukraine after the U.S. conquest is a nazi mess and a destroyed nation in hock to Western taxpayers and banks.

Furthermore, Obama insisted upon (to use Bush’s term about Saddam Hussein) “regime-change” in Syria. Twice in one day the Secretary General of the U.N. asserted that only the Syrian people have any right to do that, no outside nation has any right to impose it. Obama ignored him and kept on trying. Obama actually protected Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate against bombing by Syria’s Government and by Syria’s ally Russia, while the U.S. bombed Syria’s army, which was trying to prevent those jihadists from overthrowing the Government. Obama bombed Libya in order to “regime-change” Muammar Gaddafi, and he bombed Syria in order to “regime-change” Bashar al-Assad; and, so, while the “U.S. Drops Bombs; EU Gets Refugees & Blame. This Is Insane.” And Obama’s successor Trump continues Obama’s policies in this regard. And, of course, the U.S. and its ally UK invaded Iraq in 2003, likewise on the basis of lies to the effect that Iraq was the aggressor. (Even Germany called Poland the aggressor when invading Poland in 1939.)

No other nation regularly invades other nations that never had invaded it. This is international aggression. It is the international crime of “War of Aggression”; and the only nations which do it nowadays are America and its allies, such as the Sauds, Israel, France, and UK, which often join in America’s aggressions (or, in the case of the Sauds’ invasion of Yemen, the ally initiates an invasion, which the U.S. then joins). America’s generals are taught this aggression, and not only by Obama. Ever since at least George W. Bush, it has been solid U.S. policy. (Bush even kicked out the U.N.’s weapons-inspectors, so as to bomb Iraq in 2003.)

In other words: a mono-polar world is a world in which one nation stands above international law, and that nation’s participation in an invasion immunizes also each of its allies who join in the invasion, protecting it too from prosecution, so that a mono-polar world is one in which the United Nations can’t even possibly impose international law impartially, but can impose it only against nations that aren’t allied with the mono-polar power, which in this case is the United States. Furthermore, because the U.S. regime reigns supreme over the entire world, as it does, any nations — such as Russia, China, Syria, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, and Ecuador — that the U.S. regime (which has itself been scientifically proven to be a dictatorship) chooses to treat as an enemy, is especially disadvantaged internationally. Russia and China, however, are among the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and therefore possess a degree of international protection that America’s other chosen enemies do not. And the people who choose which nations to identify as America’s ‘enemies’ are America’s super-rich and not the entire American population, because the U.S. Government is controlled by the super-rich and not by the public.

So, that’s the existing mono-polar world: it is a world that’s controlled by one nation, and this one nation is, in turn, controlled by its aristocracy, its super-rich.

If one of the five permanent members of the Security Council would present at the U.N. a proposal to eliminate the immunity that the U.S. regime has, from investigation and prosecution for any future War of Aggression that it might perpetrate, then, of course, the U.S. and any of its allies on the Security Council would veto that, but if the proposing nation would then constantly call to the international public’s attention that the U.S. and its allies had blocked passage of such a crucially needed “procedure to amend the UN charter”, and that this fact means that the U.S. and its allies constitute fascist regimes as was understood and applied against Germany’s fascist regime, at the Nuremberg Tribunal in 1945, then possibly some members of the U.S.-led gang (of the NATO portion of it, at least) would quit that gang, and the U.S. global dictatorship might end, so that there would then become a multi-polar world, in which democracy could actually thrive.

Democracy can only shrivel in a mono-polar world, because all other nations then are simply vassal nations, which accept Obama’s often-repeated dictum that all other nations are “dispensable” and that only the U.S. is not. Even the UK would actually gain in freedom, and in democracy, by breaking away from the U.S., because it would no longer be under the U.S. thumb — the thumb of the global aggressor-nation.

Only one global poll has ever been taken of the question “Which country do you think is the greatest threat to peace in the world today?” and it found that, overwhelmingly, by a three-to-one ratio above the second-most-often named country, the United States was identified as being precisely that, the top threat to world-peace. But then, a few years later, another (though less-comprehensive) poll was taken on a similar question, and it produced similar results. Apparently, despite the effectiveness of America’s propagandists, people in other lands recognize quite well that today’s America is a more successful and longer-reigning version of Hitler’s Germany. Although modern America’s propaganda-operation is far more sophisticated than Nazi Germany’s was, it’s not entirely successful. America’s invasions are now too common, all based on lies, just like Hitler’s were.

On November 9th, Russian Television headlined “‘Very insulting’: Trump bashes Macron’s idea of European army for protection from Russia, China & US” and reported that “US President Donald Trump has unloaded on his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, calling the French president’s idea of a ‘real European army,’ independent from Washington, an insult.” On the one hand, Trump constantly criticizes France and other European nations for allegedly not paying enough for America’s NATO military alliance, but he now is denigrating France for proposing to other NATO members a decreasing reliance upon NATO, and increasing reliance, instead, upon the Permanent Structured Cooperation (or PESCO) European military alliance, which was begun on 11 December 2017, and which currently has “25 EU Member States participating: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden.” Those are the European nations that are now on the path to eventually quitting NATO.

Once NATO is ended, the U.S. regime will find far more difficult any invasions such as of Iraq 2003, Libya 2011, Syria 2012-, Yemen 2016-, and maybe even such as America’s bloody coup that overthrew the democratically elected Government of Ukraine and installed a racist-fascist or nazi anti-Russian regime there in 2014. All of these U.S. invasions (and coup) brought to Europe millions of refugees and enormously increased burdens upon European taxpayers. Plus, America’s economic sanctions against both Russia and Iran have hurt European companies (and the U.S. does almost no business with either country, so is immune to that, also). Consequently, today’s America is clearly Europe’s actual main enemy. The continuation of NATO is actually toxic to the peoples of Europe. Communism and the Soviet Union and its NATO-mirroring Warsaw Pact military alliance, all ended peacefully in 1991, but the U.S. regime has secretly continued the Cold War, now against Russia, and is increasingly focusing its “regime-change” propaganda against Russia’s popular democratic leader, Vladimir Putin, even though this U.S. aggression against Russia could mean a world-annihilating nuclear war.

On November 11th, RT bannered “‘Good for multipolar world’: Putin positive on Macron’s ‘European army’ plan bashed by Trump (VIDEO)”, and opened: Europe’s desire to create its own army and stop relying on Washington for defense is not only understandable, but would be “positive” for the multipolar world, Vladimir Putin said days after Donald Trump ripped into it.

“Europe is … a powerful economic union and it is only natural that they want to be independent and … sovereign in the field of defense and security,” Putin told RT in Paris where world leader gathered to mark the centenary of the end of WWI.

He also described the potential creation of a European army “a positive process,” adding that it would “strengthen the multipolar world.” The Russian leader even expressed his support to French President Emmanuel Macron, who recently championed this idea by saying that Russia’s stance on the issue “is aligned with that of France” to some extent.

Macron recently revived the ambitious plans of creating a combined EU military force by saying that it is essential for the security of Europe. He also said that the EU must become independent from its key ally on the other side of the Atlantic, provoking an angry reaction from Washington.

Once NATO has shrunk to include only the pro-aggression and outright nazi European nations, such as Ukraine (after the U.S. gang accepts Ukraine into NATO, as it almost certainly then would do), the EU will have a degree of freedom and of democracy that it can only dream of today, and there will then be a multi-polar world, in which the leaders of the U.S. will no longer enjoy the type of immunity from investigation and possible prosecution, for their invasions, that they do today. The result of this will, however, be catastrophic for the top 100 U.S. ‘defense’ contractors, such as Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and Raytheon, because then all of those firms’ foreign sales except to the Sauds, Israel and a few other feudal and fascist regimes, will greatly decline. Donald Trump is doing everything he can to keep the Sauds to the agreements he reached with them back in 2017 to buy $404 billion of U.S. weaponry over the following 10 years. If, in addition, those firms lose some of their European sales, then the U.S. economic boom thus far in Trump’s Presidency will be seriously endangered. So, the U.S. regime, which is run by the owners of its ‘defense’-contractors, will do all it can to prevent this from happening.

However, right now, Chris Hedges reports that Ecuador is in the process of killing Julian Assange, who is a major and well-known bane of America’s sellers to the U.S. ‘Defense’ Department. Hedges wants to keep his American aristocratic funder (the owner of Truthdig), and so he doesn’t say that — nor how — the U.S. regime itself is actually forcing Ecuador’s Government to do this. Hedges seems not even to care much about the ultimate perpetrator of this slow murder that he describes as being in process. Hedges instead focuses only against what Ecuador’s President, Lenín Moreno, is doing, that’s slowly murdering Assange. He also implicates Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the U.K. government, and U.S. V.P. Mike Pence. But actually, the top decision-maker, who ordered this crime, this murder, is Donald Trump, who won the U.S. Presidency with Assange’s investigative-journalism help. That’s the kingpin, and all the others are merely soldiers in the U.S. President’s organized crime. They all represent the U.S. aristocracy, but only Trump is the commander here. The U.S. regime — first under Obama, and now under Trump — is 100% of what’s forcing Ecuador’s Government to kill Julian Assange inside its London Embassy. Ecuador is doing this job, for the U.S. regime, so excruciatingly that Assange will either soon be committing suicide, or else he will die more slowly, from the ever-increasing “torture” that Ecuador’s Government is applying, and which is also destroying Assange’s health. Or else, he will give himself up to the American ‘justice’ system (which Assange’s mother, Christine Ann Hawkins, explained on November 3rd would likely mean either to charge him with ‘espionage’, or else to apply indefinite detention at Guantanamo, without charge, trial or any access to the public). There will then be ‘news’-coverage by the American propaganda-media, to demonize him. Ecuador’s President wants to do his job for his U.S. masters (the U.S. aristocracy) but not to get blame for the inevitable result. All along the line, the aristocracy know how to preserve deniability, and advise their agents so as to shift blame downward, whenever they can’t succeed in shifting it to the victim that they’re destroying. However, the ultimate blame belongs truly to the owners of the U.S. regime. Even most ‘alternative news’ media might not (and they, in fact, do not) report this fact (because most of even the ‘alternative’ media are owned by aristocrats), but it’s clearly the case. And most of the public don’t care much about it, anyway, and continue to subscribe to those ‘news’ media, which the aristocrats are actually controlling, and to buy the products they advertise, producing yet more income for the aristocracy. The public thus helps the aristocracy to fund the aristocracy’s propaganda-vehicles, to control the public, to vote for the aristocrats’ candidates, and so control the government.

A multi-polar world could enable this to change. But it can’t change in a mono-polar world. Julian Assange has been trapped by, and in, this fascist mono-polar world. He is its enemy, and they are murdering him; but, above all, Donald Trump is murdering him.

But this is not a partisan operation on behalf of only a faction of the U.S. aristocracy. The Hedges article links through to an important June 29th news-report in the Washington Times, titled “Mike Pence raises Julian Assange case with Ecuadorean president, White House confirms”. It makes clear that Moreno is doing the bidding of the White House, and that the White House is “heeding calls from Democrats wary of Mr. Assange.” America, after all, is a two-party dictatorship: both parties represent the same aristocracy, and murdering Assange is in the agenda of both of its factions, not of just one of the two parties. The U.S. aristocracy are united on this matter. And that’s how this mono-polar world is being run.

Author’s note: This piece first posted at The Saker

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Trust: Lessons from my Brazilian driver

Jennifer Richmond

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Trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair– Anonymous

Be safe. That’s what we’re always told when we travel. It could be a short drive to another city or a flight to another state. Just be safe.

It’s usually said with about the same emotion as, “good morning”. It’s almost obligatory and carries little meaning. A courtesy. It’s said with a little more sincerity when you’re traveling overseas. The unknown could be dangerous – pay attention, be aware…be safe.

I nod and smile, because what else do you say? What does it really mean to “be safe”? Of course, some things are obvious – don’t go running down the street naked waving a flaming Molotov cocktail in your hand. Check. Keeping your clothes on in public is probably always a good idea. You’re pretty much always safer with clothes.

Don’t hitchhike drunk. Check. Although I did do that once with a friend in Nanjing, China and the friendly (and confused) garbage truck driver picked us up and dropped us off at the foreign student dorms, per our request in broken Chinese. But still, in general, not a good idea.

I generally stifle a giggle at the well-meaning “be safe” when I’m traveling to Asia. For sure, there are incidents against foreigners in Asia; the Abu Sayyaf terrorist incident in the Philippines was shocking. But typically, Americans are much safer in Asia than many large American cities (I’m looking at you Detroit, Chicago and New Orleans). If you accidentally leave your wallet on the table, or your cell phone in the bathroom, most likely a “good samaritan” is not going to turn it into a manager. Being safe means being aware of your belongings, not your actual being.

The urgency to “be safe” was greatly intensified when I told my family, I’m going to Brazil. Be really safe. Like, this time, I mean it.

My dad is a test pilot. When he gets nervous on a plane, I freak: not safe, not safe my brain screams. My husband is in law enforcement, with quite a bit of international experience. Contrary to what you may think, he infrequently tells me to be safe. When he worries, I pay attention. Brazil worried him.

Despite a lifetime of traveling and living abroad, namely in Asia, this is my first time to Brazil. Brazil, more than anywhere I’ve been, including Europe, “looks” like America. Like America, Brazil is an immigrant country. A Multicultural Mecca.

In my attempt to “be safe” I hired a car and a bilingual driver to take me around São Paulo. I hit the jackpot. Before turning 10 years old, Ricardo picked up an English dictionary and taught himself the language. And he didn’t stop there. Given that his Protestant family didn’t believe in TVs he became a voracious reader and spent hours in the library reading political philosophers such as John Locke and Antonio Gramsci. And so it happens that my driver was also a political philosopher of sorts, with a view from the streets (literally) of the Brazilian socio-political landscape.

Everything I learned from my Brazilian driver shed light on the challenges not only in Brazil but also in America and around the world: we have a trust deficit.

There are many similarities between Brazil and the United States, especially in their multicultural heritage, but its geography and history put it on a completely different trajectory.

Brazil’s rugged terrain and lack of viable ports make economic development difficult. As a result, the development necessary to take advantage of Brazil’s agriculture and commodity opportunities needs massive capital expenditures. This higher cost of development meant only the wealthy were involved in setting up towns and plantations. Low-skilled labor was imperative for working plantations, and slavery was the norm.

When slavery was abolished (Brazil was the last country in the Western Hemisphere to abolish slavery in 1888), low-skilled immigration was encouraged and flourished. Brazil’s Gino Coefficient highlights the income inequality and stark division between the rich and poor that continues to define Brazilian demographics, even into the modern era. It is also visible in its high crime rate, giving Brazil the title of Murder Capital of the World. Brazil has the most cities (17) in the top 50 dangerous cities in the world.

Brazil’s geography shaped its economy and in turn, its politics. The wealth disparity and need to develop the interior were components that eventually led to the rise of a military regime in the 1960s. The regime kept order and was able to command the resources for development through force, if necessary. As the interior developed, there were more opportunities for smaller landholders and a rise in the middle-class – the classic underpinnings for political liberalization.

Under these circumstances, in 1985 the military handed over control to the people in an election. In 1988 a new constitution was written. Thirty years of democratically elected governments later, and many of Brazil’s problems remain. The oligarchs – the powerful and wealthy – prevail. Justice usually reflects who you know and is unevenly applied. A string of politicians, including the current President Temer and past Presidents Lula and Rousseff, among others, have recently been implicated in the huge “car wash” scandal.

People are fed up with the corruption. And now, many are looking for a political “outsider” to shake up the establishment.

In this fraught landscape emerged Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro started his career in the military while the military still held power. He is neither a land-owner nor a peasant, and to many, is seen as a “vote for change”, outside of the elite power structure. Sound familiar?

He is the Brazilian Trump.

His fame is growing, and people show up en masse to hear him speak. His focus is a return to law and order in a country that seems out of control. Bolsonaro’s message resonates at a time when there are an increasing number of people nostalgic for the order under the former military government.

Rounding out the similarities, Bolsonaro, like Trump, has been called out for scandalous behavior, which hasn’t dampened his support. In 2014 he told a Congresswoman that he wouldn’t rape her because “she didn’t deserve it”. This is the little quip seen here in the anti-Bolsonaro propaganda picture. Note the cartoonish Hitler‘s tache too.

The allure of more right-wing traditionalists, nationalists and populists is a global trend in a world rapidly changing. Whether due to the growing individualism leading to the breakdown of social cohesion in the United States, the growing anti-immigrant sentiment and the resulting Brexit in England, or the ubiquitous corruption in Brazil, wistful notions of stability and order are endemic.

As these and other like forces continue to restructure the global order–politically, economically and socially – no one gets out unscathed. Perhaps the United States is best able to weather the storm, given its unique mix of geography, strong institutions and resources. The Brazilian economy, however, is largely dependent on high commodity prices and Chinese demand. As structural demand trends downward, and the Chinese face their own internal and external struggles, a variety of crises threaten multiple countries, like Brazil.

Further, a Brazilian characteristic – lack of trust – creates its own challenges. The lack of trust in American institutions is also at an all-time low, but as Ricardo reminds me, the American government was formed by the people to serve the people. In contrast, in the Brazilian system, the people are there to serve the state.

In the current climate, despite disparate trajectories, America and Brazil now share some of the same trust issues. As we explored this idea of trust and our distinct cultural experiences further, we came up with a rough theory. America’s free market capitalist economy generates trust. Although there are many currently disillusioned with capitalism and growing income inequalities, which in part is what is generating momentum in the more “right-wing” camps worldwide, consider the aspect of competition. When there is competition, the markets hold corporations accountable. If a company makes a poor product, it loses market share. In an economy like Brazil, based more on elite relationships than competition for gaining market share, this built-in accountability is lost. Trust never has a chance to develop.

By contrast, trust in America did develop, but to a certain degree, has been lost. However, there is a foundation for trust. The question is, can it be regained?

Despite many factors portending some rough patches ahead, Ricardo is hopeful. He doesn’t have any affection for Bolsonaro, but believes corrective measures are necessary to address inherent corruption – after all, the pendulum must swing in the opposite direction before slowing its cadence to a more sustainable groove in the middle.

The “Trump Trend” (and its European predecessors) is not an isolated event, but rather a reaction to global disorder, similarly affecting countries with diverse geopolitical histories; it is a symptom of our trust deficit and truth decay. Further, different political parties worldwide hold their own claims on the truth, making trust more elusive. Confusing the issue, in an internet era replete with fake news, truth and trust alike have become valuable commodities. Hold onto them.

Finally, levels of trust are generally inversely correlated to crime statistics, so… be safe!

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Americas

The U.S. Election and its Aftermath

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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The midterm elections are over, the result … a split-decision.  The Democrats will control the House, raising the possibility of an impeachment attempt.  The Senate remains under Republican control with their majority increased by one seat.  The president reminded us at a post-election press conference that while he could not help in the all too numerous House elections, he did campaign in some of the marginal Senate races with almost universal success.  The prospect of a second Trump term now looms large, especially as a Democrat star failed to emerge.

Among the winners for House seats were a record number of women, including New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who at 29 is the youngest woman Representative ever elected.  Also two Muslim women:  Ilhan Omar, a Somali from Minnesota, who will be the first hijab-wearing woman to sit in the House, and Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian, who does not cover her head.  It should help clarify for people that hijabs are cultural not religious and often a personal choice.  Ms. Tlaib a Detroit native has extended family on the West Bank, who were shown celebrating in some news reports.

For those who expect any serious change in social or foreign policy, a reminder.  Ten years ago, Barack Obama was elected and handed a House and Senate also under his party’s control.  Did we get a decent health care-for-all bill?  Were the banks reined in after causing a world economic crisis by peddling baskets of high-risk mortgage-backed securities and gambling on derivatives?  Did we have peace?  The answer to all the questions is in effect a negative.

The Glass-Steagall Act repealed by Bill Clinton that led to the disaster, was never reintroduced.  We got an anemic version.  It had kept us safe for over six decades from the greed of bankers by separating investment banking activities from commercial banking, and therefore preventing banks from gambling with our money.

Instead of peace, Mr. Obama called Afghanistan the good war and sent another 100,000 troops there causing more loss of life and more Afghan refugees.  That was not all.  He attacked Libya and destroyed the country including a complex water system bringing water from the south to Tripoli.

Libya is in chaos and has recently abandoned any pretext of national government by canceling the December election supposed to have been agreed upon by major factions in the country.  Once a magnet for migrant African labor, Libya’s major export has become refugees, its own and the Africans.  Europe is inundated as refugees stream in from all of America’s wars:  Libya, Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and others.  It’s worth noting also that the Taliban now control most of the Afghan countryside.

What will the young and newly elected do in Congress?  Not much as it takes years to have the seniority to accumulate power.  In the meantime, there is the pressure of elections every two years for a House seat, donors and lobbyists chipping away at any idealism, while the relative impotence of a freshman in this new university of intricate rules and procedures becomes apparent.

There is only one way to survive …

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