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The unthinkable has happened. Donald Trump has won the presidency

Emanuel L. Paparella, Ph.D.

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] O [/yt_dropcap]h, my God, they did it” were the headlines of a European newspaper, echoing those of the Brexit. The journalist pundits and experts, with eggs all over their face, just as in the case of Brexit, are now busy in explaining what went wrong and in predicting what will go wrong in the future, stopping short of explaining why they got it wrong this time around.

I have yet to see at their tables’ one of those secret voters who voted for Trump (they claim that there were many secret admirers who came out only on election day and now refuse to come forward and acknowledge their vote, thus offering another bizarre and absurd explanation.

Indeed, this will continue for days and weeks, in an attempt to cover up their colossal failure at analysis, not to speak of insights. It is reminiscent of those conferences on poverty attended by experts on poverty (usually academics and politicians) where one never sees a poor and disadvantaged sitting at the table, but the analysis and the post-analysis go on for days and weeks while no general consensus is ever reached on a possible reasonable solution.

And yet there was somebody who predicted the outcome of this election weeks ahead and sounded the alarm. Just as with Cassandra, nobody listened. His name is Michael Moore. He simply pointed out that both in Michigan and Wyoming, the primaries were won not by Hillary Clinton but by Bernie Sanders, and that the young, the millennials were not in favor of Clinton but of Sanders. He himself ails from those regions from working class parents. He also observed that most of those people who had voted for Sanders were working class, poorly educated, low income kind of people who had actually voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. So, perhaps the motivation of well half of the people of the country to vote for Trump was not exclusively racism or bigotry, as many experts on the left of the political spectrum had vociferously speculated. Those experts are living in the bubble or a privileged comfortable class earning salaries three or four times larger than those of the average citizen who is struggling to make ends meet from paycheck to paycheck and working harder than ever.

Moore predicted that ignoring the discontent of a middle class who had seen its wages stagnating since the 80s, the Regan years, while the rich and well-to-do tripled and quadrupled their income within a system rigged in their favor, was equivalent to ensuring that they would have nowhere else to go and that Trump would win the election. Bernie Sanders of course had already been eliminated by tipping the scales in favor of Clinton within the Democratic Party. So, those working class people who had understood Sanders’ argument about bad distribution of income and distributive injustice, decided to take their grievance somewhere else. They were left with Trump who, con-man that he is, promised them radical changes, and turning the tables on the privileged and the powerful in Washington.

Of course they are misguided: they have failed to reflect that Trump, somebody born in privilege, who had stiffed the middle class all his business life, who paid no taxes, could not and would not suddenly become their champion. And so they have deluded themselves and, out of desperation voted for him anyway, while the pundits continued talking ponderously about resurgent racism and xenophobia and sexual deviancy in America. They continue to do so, expecting the leopard (who is 70 years old) to change its spots and begin acting presidential and become the white in shining armor, champion of the poor and underprivileged. Good luck.

To be sure racism remains a persistent virus of the American political body-politic. But those issues, at best belong to some 20% of the population (the so called basket of deplorable mentioned by Clinton before the election) not to the whole Republican Party. The real issue is ultimately philosophical. It has to do with the wrong paradigm; that of positivism: the belief, since the 19th century, buttressed by the Enlightenment, that science and extreme rationalism will give us the answers to the ultimate end and purpose of life and that science and science only will solve all our problems, even those existential problems of survival of the species. The belief that progress always arrives at the end and change is always for the better. It is progressive, in other words. But, alas, if history teaches us anything it is that sometimes change is not for the best is regressive. Such was the case of the election of Hitler. Such is the case of the election of Trump. But most people that voted for him do not know it yet. They will soon find out and be sorely disappointed.

If there is a new political movement in America and elsewhere when the silly analysis of the experts is over, it will not be due to Hillary Clinton, or Donna Brazil, or Wesserman Shultz, but to Bernie Sanders. So, the ghost of Bernie Sanders, whom I branded as the best possible candidate for the Democratic Party to nominate for president in a past article, hangs over this election.

Let me end with a final thought. In the famous 1956 novel by Giuseppe di Lampedusa Il Gattopardo (then made into a movie in 1963 by Luchino Visconti, which is about the unification of Italy), there is a conversation between the prince of Salina and his nephew Tancredi about the new imminent social changes about to happen in Italy and where their class (the aristocracy) belongs. Tancredi at one point says to his uncle: “uncle, we must change everything so that nothing really changes.” That is to say, the people must be fooled into believing that change and progress is coming. In reality nothing will have changed and the rich and powerful will retain control, and things will not only not get any better but will get much worse. Those who have ears to hear, let them hear.

Note: this article appeared in Ovi magazine on 11/13/2016

Professor Paparella has earned a Ph.D. in Italian Humanism, with a dissertation on the philosopher of history Giambattista Vico, from Yale University. He is a scholar interested in current relevant philosophical, political and cultural issues; the author of numerous essays and books on the EU cultural identity among which A New Europe in search of its Soul, and Europa: An Idea and a Journey. Presently he teaches philosophy and humanities at Barry University, Miami, Florida. He is a prolific writer and has written hundreds of essays for both traditional academic and on-line magazines among which Metanexus and Ovi. One of his current works in progress is a book dealing with the issue of cultural identity within the phenomenon of “the neo-immigrant” exhibited by an international global economy strong on positivism and utilitarianism and weak on humanism and ideals.

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Americas

Ground Wars and Star Wars: Trump in Hog Heaven?

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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Four weeks and counting the shutdown continues except the Trump-Congress tit-for-tat is fast approaching kindergarten level.

The Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is third in line for the office of President.  The Democrats having won back the House she is a Democrat, and Donald Trump just canceled her morale-boosting trip, together with a congressional delegation, to the soldiers in Afghanistan.  He was able to do that very simply by denying the use of the military aircraft scheduled to fly them there; he cited the shutdown.  He even suggested they could fly commercial to Afghanistan, but disclosing plans to a war zone by such a high-level elected official has left some dismayed.

A day earlier, Ms. Pelosi had urged the president to postpone his State of the Union address, which is hosted by the House, again because of the shutdown.

Meanwhile some Federal workers are having difficulty buying groceries — some 800,000  either continue to work without pay or are just sitting at home waiting to return.  Many, if they can, are taking on temporary jobs.

As the cost of the shutdown rises, so does the political cost.  A new Marist poll finds 54 percent blame Trump for the shutdown while 31 percent believe the Democrats are the cause.  But, cutting across party lines, 70 percent do not like the shutdown and agree it is a bad negotiating strategy.  It looks like it might cost all incumbents, and Republicans are likely to suffer worse.

The latest shot fired is a threatened investigation by Democrats.  It is alleged that Mr. Trump instructed his former lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.  The House Intelligence Committee will investigate the claims according to its new chairman Adam Schiff, a Democrat, adding that suborning perjury before this committee is the most serious charge to date against the president.

From ground wars to space wars:  President Trump has now announced new missile defense plans.  A layer of space sensors to detect missile launches anywhere on earth is the intent.  “Our goal is simple:  to ensure we can detect and destroy any missile launched against the United States — anywhere, anytime, any place.”  Inevitably the new plan invites comparisons with Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars” concept introduced in the 1980s but later shelved because of its inordinate cost after the Soviet Union dissolved.

The Pentagon’s Missile Defense Review notes four countries (China, Iran, North Korea and Russia) that could be possible threats with missiles capable of hitting the U.S.  “We have some very bad players out there,” according to Mr. Trump, though it is almost impossible to imagine any of the four countries mentioned launching a missile strike.  Given the consequences, including a nuclear winter to threaten the planet as a whole, it is difficult to envision circumstances leading to nuclear war.  And Russia warns of a new arms race.

Naturally, Mr. Trump wants immediate funding for these plans.  But the House holds the purse strings.  Oops!  It’s back to Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  The game continues.

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Americas

Nancy Pelosi and her dual approaches

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In her remarks, the United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, asserted that Trump’s border wall campaign has nothing to do with border security. She said it’s one of the US President’s plans for energizing his conservative base, and in this way, he aims to distract the country from the various scandals dogging his administration.

“I don’t even know if the president wants the wall. I think he just wants a debate on the wall. And he’s having some difficulty with it,” Pelosi said during a press briefing at the Capitol.

“He keeps increasing the amount of money; increasing the amount of beds; increasing the obstacles to finding a solution — because I don’t think he really wants a solution,” Pelosi said. “I think he loves the distraction that this is from his other problems,” She added.

Pelosi, along with Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer, noted that they disagree with Trump over building a physical border wall, which according to them, would be expensive and ineffective.

“Democrats and the president both want stronger border security. However, we sharply disagree with the president about the most effective way to do it … Most presidents have used Oval Office addresses for noble purposes. This president just used the backdrop of the Oval Office to manufacture a crisis, stoke fear, and divert attention from the turmoil in his administration,” said Schumer in answer to Trump’s recent remarks.

On the other hand, Pelosi is among those who are seriously standing against Trump’s impeachment. This dual approach taken by Pelosi towards the White House, and the fact that the House speaker and other Democrat leaders have argued against the serious consideration of Trump’s impeachment, may lead to conflicts inside the Democratic Party in the future.

“We have to wait and see what happens with the Mueller report. We shouldn’t be impeaching for a political reason, and we shouldn’t avoid impeachment for a political reason. So we’ll just have to see how it comes,” Said Pelosi.

However, Pelosi’s remarks were not unprecedented! When Pelosi was the House Minority Leader in the years between 2016 and 2018, she opposed the idea of impeaching Trump. Nancy Pelosi has made it clear that she has a conservative approach towards Trump. This is while with a majority of seats in the House of Representatives, Democrats can initiate impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump. The fact that some Democrat leaders have opposed Nancy Pelosi’s Minority leadership in the US House of Representatives is rooted in the same reason. In any case, it seems that Pelosi prefers scenarios such as “making a political deal with Trump” to “Confrontation with the President”. Nancy Pelosi argues that Democrats’ direct confrontation with Trump, and in particular the impeachment of the President of the United States, will lead to the anger of some American citizens, and the Democrats will be accused of posing a blow to the American political and social equations. However, it seems that some Democrats do not agree with Nancy Pelosi’s opinion! Politicians such as Bernie Sanders believe that Trump is not politically negotiable. They believe that any compromise reached between Democrats and Trump will hold a bad result for them in the US 2020 presidential election.

At any rate, there’s plenty at stake: Amid this crisis, Trump has come with the idea of declaring a national emergency at the border, a move that could free up wall funding without the Congress approval.

“If this doesn’t work out, probably I will do it. I would almost say definitely,” said Trump.

The US government shutdown, which is resulted from the disagreements over border wall funding, is still ongoing. Trump is demanding $5.7 billion for new wall construction; Pelosi and the Democrats have offered $1.3 billion for border security measures, but have opposed construction of any new physical barriers. In spite of this, Trump has previously claimed that he’s ready to hold the shutdown for months and even years! If Pelosi surrenders in the face of Trump’s demands, she would be regarded as a defeated figure inside the US political circles.

First published in our partner MNA

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Americas

Trump is mocking Biden

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News sources in the United States announced that Joe Biden, the U.S. former Vice-President (from 2009 to 2017), and a prominent figure in the Democratic Party will soon announce his run for the president in 2020. Biden has previously said that he’s “the most qualified person in the country” for being president.

Biden mentioned these words in a controversial interview which has attracted the attention of many American analysts. However, Biden’s final decision for participating in the presidential campaigns wasn’t clear. Eventually, a number of Biden’s followers, including his brother Frank Biden, announced his final decision to run for the general elections. Polls conducted in the United States indicate that Biden is currently more popular than other potential candidates of the Democratic Party in the upcoming elections.

Meanwhile, Biden is probably to face rivals such as Bernie Sanders, Senator from Vermont, and Elizabeth Warren, and even Hillary Clinton. During the 2016 presidential competitions, Biden was also scheduled to attend the in-party election competitions, but he changed his mind due to his son’s death and Hillary Clinton’s insistence on attending the presidential campaign. Biden’s remarks, however, show that he’s greatly interested in defeating Trump in the 2020 election.

However, we shouldn’t forget that Biden can’t really count on the current polls conducted among Democrat supporters! We can all remember that during the 2008 presidential elections and inside the Democratic Party, Obama had far less chance of reaching the final round of the elections than those like Hillary Clinton. But his successful speeches in states like Iowa and South Carolina led to Clinton’s final defeat and Obama’s victory.

Hence, the success of Biden’s rival candidates in states like Iowa and New Hampshire (where American in-party elections begin with them) can completely change the equations, and that won’t be to Biden’s advantage.

Accordingly, Trump’s position on Biden’s participation in the presidential competitions are noteworthy. In a phone interview with Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro, Trump called Joe Biden “weak”. He also claimed that he’s not worried about a potential challenge from the former vice president in the 2020 presidential race; “You know, a lot of people say Biden’s doing OK, but he was always a 1-percenter. He was a 1 percent guy. He ran two or three times, he never got above 1%, and then, Obama came along and took him off the trash heap, and he became the vice president. He’s weak. So, we’ll see what happens with him.”

Trump’s words came on the same day that Biden had told some top Democrats that he was definitely running for president. “If I’m walking, I’m running,” said Biden.

Trump’s literature on Biden’s presence in the U.S. presidential race, reflects the U.S. President’s dissatisfaction and anger with the country’s former Vice President and his candidacy. Obviously, Trump preferred figures such as Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren to be his potential rivals in the next general elections.

However, Trump knows well that Biden can challenge his position at the White House by maneuvering again on issues such as public medical health insurance plan. On the other hand, Trump attempts to turn the game into an emotional rivalry through using ugly words against Biden, and this is very much like Trump’s populist personality and approach. However, Biden now has his main focus on Democrats’ inner-party race, and he doesn’t consider direct competition with Trump until he has won his victory in the competition.

First published in our partner Tehran Times

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