A smarter successor to Trump is even scarier, but it's coming


Social media are jam packed with analysis of the rise of Donald Trump these days. Most of us in what we would view as the intellectual and educated community are asking not just why Trump is a success, but as Trevor Noah asked, "Why is this even a contest?" Clinton may not be, as the Democrats claim, the most qualified person ever to run, but she's certainly decently qualified, and Trump is almost the only candidate with no public service experience ever to run. Even his supporters readily agree he's a bit of a buffoon, that he says tons of crazy things, and probably doesn't believe most of the things he says. (The fact that he doesn't actually mean many of the crazy things has become the primary justification of those who support him.)

But it is a contest, and while it looks like Clinton will probably win it is also disturbing to me to note that in polls broken down by race and sex, Trump is actually ahead of Clinton by a decent margin among my two groups -- whites and males. (Polls have been varying a lot in the weeks of the conventions.) Whites and males have their biases and privileges, of course, but they are very large and diverse groups, and again, to the coastal intellectual view, this shouldn't even be a contest. (It's also my view as a foreigner of libertarian leanings and no association with either party.)

The things stacked in favour of the Republican nominee

There have been lots of essays examining the reason for Trump's success. Credible essays have described a swing to nationalism and/or authoritarianism which Trump has exploited. Trump's skill at marketing and memes is real. His appeal to paternalism and strength works well (Lakeoff's "strong father" narrative.) The RNC also identified Hillary Clinton as a likely nominee 2 decades ago, and since then has put major effort into discrediting her, much more time than it's ever had to work on other opponents. And Clinton herself certainly has her flaws and low approval ratings, even within her own party.

It is also important to note that the chosen successor of a Democratic incumbent has never in history defeated the Republican. (In 1856 Buchanan defeated the 1st ever Republican nominee, Fremont, but was Franklin Pierce's opponent at the convention.) This stacks the deck in favour of this year's Republican. Of course, Wilson, Cleveland, Roosevelt the 2nd, Carter and Clinton the 1st all defeated incumbent Republicans, so Democrats are far from impotent.

The specific analysis of this election is interesting, but my concern is about the broader trend I see, a much bigger geopolitical trend arising from technology, globalization, income inequality and redistribution among nations as well as the decline of religion and the classic lifetime middle class career. This big topic will get more analysis in time here. I was particularly interested in this recent article linking globalization and the comparative reduced share for the U.S. middle class. The ascendancy of the secular, western, technological, intellectual capitalist liberal elite is facing an increasing backlash.

Where Trump's support comes from

Trump of course begins, as Clinton does, with a large "base." There is an element of the Republican base that will never tolerate voting for Clinton almost no matter how bad Trump is. There is a similar Democratic contingent. This base has been boosted by that 2 decade anti-Clinton campaign. Trump has gotten where he is by combining that base with a new movement of voters he stumbled upon, almost by accident. It is this cadre of disaffected conservatives who crave a candidate who says "screw you" to the establishment, both Democratic and Republican. The establishment has left them behind and they want no part of it. These voters also know Trump is an unqualified buffoon, but that doesn't matter -- he gives them a chance to say "screw you" and they need it. The global trends are leaving them behind, and we intellectuals don't see that very well. Alone, neither group is large enough for victory, but together they might be. The outsider group was enough to get Trump the nomination, and now they have combined their voting power with a large fraction of the base. This has overcome the unease and defection of some establishment Republicans upset over Trump's buffoonery.

Even so, Trump is too much of a buffoon and will probably, though not certainly, lose. (His poor choice of slogan, which the Democrats turned into him repudiating American exceptionalism isn't helping.) He appears to be on a self-destructive path at present, though we still have 100 days to go. The Democrats crafted their convention superbly and stole classic Republican memes for themselves, combined with their own classic memes and a progressive platform to bring in the Sanders supporters -- another "screw the establishment" group.

What if Trump weren't an idiot?

The disturbing question I am asking is, "What if Trump were better at this?" I believe Trump stumbled into this movement mostly by accident. He has limited self-control, and he felt he could say whatever he wanted on the campaign trail. He said many things which in the past would have been viewed as sure campaign suicide. That Mexicans were rapists and a wall is needed. That Muslims should be banned. The list is very long. He discovered that many of these things ended up getting him more support rather than less, thanks to the movement he discovered. He remarked on how surprising this was, observing how he felt that he could "shoot somebody on 5th avenue" and get away with it. But he is not a genius, he was discovering these things to some degree by luck, and over time he's said things that cost him support, particularly recently. He may be feeling that any far-out thing he says will find some segment that likes it, and has been waiting to hear it, and that they will join him. He's wrong.

But what if he were smarter? What if a more calculating candidate, now that this new body of voters has been discovered, knew better what to say and what not to say? What if there were a candidate who applied advanced political techniques, testing and polling new positions, rather than just throwing pasta at the wall to see what sticks and depending on an imagined invulnerability to get away with it?

If Clinton continues her lead and wins, then this candidate is coming in 2024 or even 2020. If the trend described above that works against the incumbent party continues, that candidate will have a head start against Clinton or her Democratic successor and a strong chance at victory.


Best case scenario, Trump acts as inoculation against other candidates that are like him (but more competent)

This will counter it, somewhat. But the public's desire to switch parties (which is strong -- as noted the Democrats have not stopped switches to Republican and the Republicans did it with GHWB but it's rare for them too) goes the other way, as does the increase in strength of this movement.

Sadly, I am positing a successor who is smarter than Trump at exploiting this movement.

As I see it, this is where the Republicans need to step to the plate and get their shit together. Not all Republicans are fundamentalist buffoons. They need to find a solid candidate and shore up theit platform to counteract this fascist crowd they've spawned.

So not all Republicans are fundamentalist buffoons? Are you sure? Do you know many. Maybe most are. Trump will win and the buffoons will laugh at your shock and anger, as you have discounted their suffering for years.
Trump, at the least, appears to care more for his countrymen than foreigners. How many of the important Democrats and Republicans can that be said?

Some of them, I believe, are good people. :-)

Yes, we do get too polarized on these things, and lines like the one above certainly did not set the campaign on a good footing.

"the Democrats have stopped switches to Republican and the Republicans"

This might be a bit unclear. I think what is meant is that no democratic President has ever followed another democratic President. It's rare in the other camp as well, with George Bush following Ronald Reagan. (Two terms for the same President is the rule rather than the exception, but one term or two, the next President is usually from the other party.)

This is highly disturbing. It means that there is a significant number of people who want something else, and perhaps because there is no other realistic choice, opt for the other party.

Sadly, with lack of proportional representation, the USA will see the gulf between the established parties and the electorate continue to increase. The established parties won't change the status quo, and third-party candidates (e.g. Nader) who get a significant fraction of the vote in the end help the worst candidate of the major parties to win.

Correct. Generally incumbents have an advantage, but when they retire (or are term limited out) there is usually a party switch. Always from Democrat to Republican. Less often the other way -- several Republicans, not just GHWB, have followed a retiring Republican. Though a lot of that is from the days when the Republicans were the party of Lincoln and the Democrats the party of segregation.

I wonder how much of this is a product of either the first-past-the-post voting system or just human nature. The Canadian political system has some significant differences (and similarities) to the US system and we see a similar effect. Typically, one party holds power for ~10 years (rarely more than 2 majority governments) before there is a change. It is often said that Canadians tend to vote against a given party rather than for one, and personally, I can agree with that statement. I frequently vote so that party A does not win because I strongly dislike their policies vs because I like party B's policies so much I really want them to win. Brad, you've experienced both systems, your comments?

Yes, there is a strange mix here. Actually, US incumbent presidents of late have usually won second terms, unless things were going particularly badly. Carter, who had unseated a never-elected incumbent (perhaps the lowest bar) was himself unseated by a very strong Republican. A decent incumbent seems to have a very good chance of a 2nd term. But when they retire, and the odds are even, it clearly shifts to interest in a change. I suspect that is true around the world. A century ago, though, the Republicans put several Presidents in office in a row.

The USA moves on small shifts but they are magnified. US elections are all close to 50-50 except in very unusual events like first Black nominee. In Canada, shifts are much bigger. The idea that the Tories could go from a majority in the house to just 2 seats because a tax was unpopular, as happened in Canada in the 90s is completely bizarre in the USA.

Do you think there are fewer swing voters in the US, thus causing the shifts to be smaller? Maybe having so many parties here, and those parties themselves shifting (PC vs Reform to CPC) makes a difference, less strict party loyalty.

Yes, because broadly only a few states are in play at all for the Presidential election, just a handful to perhaps a dozen, and then only the swing voters in those states) and the unlikely voters who can be talked into voting.

I wonder if the primary system in the US and the way you have to sign up for party membership to be able to vote in a primary also entrenches party loyalty in a way that doesn't happen in Canada.

Clinton's unfavorable scores are as bad as Trump's, both near 60%. That more than anything holds answer to "why Trump". When that much of the population does not like you, for whatever reason, those voters have to go somewhere, and Trump seems to be doing a good job of channeling that dissatisfaction. Given how thin the actual qualifications to be president are, we are stuck weighing what are essentially emotional questions. I have found myself thinking lately, that with Trump as the nominee, this election should be a cake-walk for the Democrats, except with Clinton as the nominee, this election should be a cake-walk for the Republicans.

Really nice article Brad. I think you're right to look forward and, looking back, it goes without saying that Trump didn't spring out of thin air. The anti-intellectual spirit of George W Bush appears aligned with the growth of the Tea Party and then Trump. Part of Trump's unique appeal is his instant tweeting -- giving voice to the negative sentiments of his base within seconds of something happening.

Sadly, another part of his appeal seems to be crypto-racism (and sometimes not so crypto), one example being his comments about Ghazala Khan not "being allowed to talk" -- he carefully said he wasn't saying that, but "others" were. That is something that Bush didn't even have the beginnings of as far as I remember.

Looking forward, the increasing replacement of people by technology, which is just as important as globalization (both bringing much cheaper labour to compete with workers), simply has to be addressed. In even 50 years, it will be a much bigger issue than today and it will take a long time to adjust so we need to start soon. Ideas such as a guaranteed minimum income (as just rejected by Switzerland -- http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/swiss-referendum-guaranteed-income-1.3617059) could be part of the solution but clearly that's got a long way to go and I expect you wouldn't think that worth considering. What happens to all the people replaced by technology? In the Star Trek world, they appear to pursue creative activities. In Soylent Green, they're recycled into food. In Spielberg's "A.I.", they celebrate the destruction of robots (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMbAmqD_tn0)


I notice in my politically inclined friends a tendency to view the process of politics as well controlled. Outcomes are ascribed to planning, charisma, villainy, stupidity and so forth, but never to chance. I think it's more accurate to see politics as having highly chaotic components, with poor information and poor modeling contributing greatly to unpredictable outcomes. To the extent this is true, a 'smart Trump' is less of a concern than a 'lucky Trump'.

The actuality is that when you have mainstream vs. mainstream you have political machine vs. political machine. There, both machines are good at what they do, and roughly matched. They do careful polling, and they adjust their public position to get 51% of the vote (but not much more as that's too much adjustment.) Thus you get calculated near-tie results.

That changes for black swan events, like Obama, Trump and even Clinton II. That has made the results harder to figure. Trump is not using the usual machine, and while it will offer him its services, he will not obey it.

Yes that theory can explain the variability, and there are plenty of others that can as well. Each such theory makes a kind of sense and appeals to a group that prefers to believe a particular story about political struggles. But like economic theory, theories of political strategy are essentially all post-hoc constructions that apply an accessible narrative to a pre-existing set of observations. They have essentially no predictive power so, objectively, there's no reason to believe any of them. Why shouldn't we instead prefer the simplest explanation that fits the facts?

Gore vs Bush is a perfect example: the election was so close that it went to the Supreme Court. If Gore had won, so many things in 2000-2008 could have gone differently.

I started worrying about this after the first primaries. I think the best thing we can do is to really understand his supporters and what they would need to see in order to lose interest in this kind of politics. Will some be done if the economy improves? If immigration is slowed? What if a modern version of "It can't happen here" came out and was popular?

States where Trump is popular are probably screwed.

Unfortunately we have to admit that a huge number of Americans don't react that negatively to an obvious authoritarian, tribalist, bullying con man who isn't even that bright. And I don't know how long it takes to fix that.

Meanwhile, if I were an American ally, I would already be hedging my bets and I wouldn't stop just because Clinton wins this year.

This is happening in other countries. Trump made it more obvious because as much as I called him a buffoon, that is only in contrast with other prominent people. When he stumbled on the ability to take radical fringe ideas and get mainstream support for them, he embraced it. He tapped, but did not create the vein.

The key is that they don't love Trump. I think they realize he is a bit of a dick. They like somebody who comes from outside the system, is famous, presents a case that he's a strong leader and successful businessman, and offers them nationalism, authority, strength and most of all an alternative to "the system" which has failed them.

What strikes me is just how much Trump is Obama 2.0--or maybe Obama was Trump 0.95 beta. You have someone who's on a massive personal ego trip (selfies at Nelson Mandela's funeral), convinced that he knows everything ("I'm a better political advisor than my political advisors."), surrounded by syncophantic yes-men, contemptuous and vicious toward fellow citizens who disagree with him ("bitterly clinging to guns and religion"), shamelessly exploiting racial and cultural tribalism for personal gain (exploiting Ferguson and Trayvon Martin, blaming the rise of ISIS and the Orlando shooting on Christianity), uninterested in observing constitutional limits on political power (all he needs is a phone and a pen!), supported by a fawning press and hordes of deluded fanboys ("...a Lightworker, that rare kind of attuned being who has the ability to lead us not merely to new foreign policies or health care plans or whatnot, but who can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet . . . .") who expect he'll fix the world by pure awesomeness ("I won't have to worry about paying my mortgage!").

Honestly, given all the similarities, I can't figure out why the Obama fans aren't flocking to Trump's banner.

One would think that the rise of Trump would give the Left pause at the wisdom of their consistent advocacy of government control. It's not too fun when someone you disagree with wields the hammer you brought to the party, huh?

Individual rights and liberty are the answer. Everything else is suicide.

"One would think that the rise of Trump would give the Left pause at the wisdom of their consistent advocacy of government control."

Whatever one's positions on the issues, your statement implies that if one is losing, the tactic should be to ape the opposition. In other words, getting elected for its own sake, not because one stands for certain positions. If the left is suffering because more Duck-Dynasty style libertarians want less government control, then the logical conclusion is that they have failed to get their message across, that the electorate is stupid, or both.

The most cynical thing in politics seems to be what you are advocating: do whatever will get you elected, regardless of what you believe in.

Certainly by 2024 and probably by 2020, we'll no longer have meaningful elections. If all else fails, enough illegal aliens will have been granted the right to vote that no Republican will ever have a chance. We're one Supreme Court appointment away from a ruling that it's unconstitutional to deny aliens the right to vote.

We are one Supreme Court appointment from learning that the entire Democratic platform is mandated by the constitution.

I am not sure this commenter really wants this question, but yes, seriously, why should legal, tax-paying, hard-working aliens not have the right to vote? Was this country founded on opposing taxation without representation or wasn't it?

I know the practical arguments against it -- that this would be granting power to these legal aliens, and why would those who have the power want to give some of it away, as that will only bend things away from their interests.

But what's the moral argument? Why do some human beings have different fundamental rights form others, just because of the accident of their birth?

The point is that there are rights and responsibilities. People who want the right to vote can become naturalized if they want it. When the draft comes back, they have to serve. Since the USA allows dual citizenship, there is not even the disadvantage of having to give up the original citizenship. So, anyone who is taxed and wants to be represented can be.

Are you a US citizen? If not why not?

Even in countries where one has to give up the original citizenship to become naturalized, I think it is fair to say that only citizens can vote. Turning your argument around, why should some people be able to have dual citizenship just as an accident of birth?

Also, how long do you have to live in a country in order to vote? Why this specific period and not another?

"why should legal, tax-paying, hard-working aliens not have the right to vote?

But what’s the moral argument? Why do some human beings have different fundamental rights form others, just because of the accident of their birth?"

By the same token, those who are legal are legal because of an accident of birth. By your logic, every nation should admit anyone who wants to come in (with the possible exception of those known personally to be security risks), since not doing so would discriminate based on accidents of birth.

Think of it this way: in an ideal world, yes, there would be no police. But getting rid of the police will not move us closer to that ideal world. Quite the opposite. Similarly, in an ideal world, everyone would have equal opportunity. But we won't get closer to that ideal world if we give legal aliens the right to vote with the justification that lack of opportunity is the reason they don't have it.

There are many countries for whom immigration is easy. In fact, a century ago, passports and immigration barriers barely existed in a lot of the world. Yes, today, the world is more mobile.

But if a foreigner is willing to move to a country, get a residence, pay taxes and take up the other duties of citizens (including draft as you say) then what's the moral opposition?

One proposal is that any foreigner wishing to move to the country may do so if they will pay an annual minimum tax above some level, such as above the national average, or even in the upper 10%. This assures they are a boon, not a drain, to the country.

It is sometimes proposed even in the USA that non-citizens be allowed to vote in school board elections (where their children are being educated or where they pay school taxes) or local elections. Why not? Why should I not have a say in who is the mayor of the town I immigrate to?

There is one big difference in the USA compared to the rest of the world. It is almost unique in taxing its citizens on their worldwide income even if they leave the USA. Almost no other major country does that. This makes it less compatible with a world of free movement.

"But if a foreigner is willing to move to a country, get a residence, pay taxes and take up the other duties of citizens (including draft as you say) then what’s the moral opposition?"

In that case, what is wrong in requiring such a person to obtain citizenship? Especially in a country which doesn't require a previous citizenship to be given up? Someone doing as you say (though in most countries (except if there is a Foreign Legion) draft is only for citizens) has no objective reason at all not to apply for citizenship, so it rightly creates the impression that they want the benefits without the duties.

"One proposal is that any foreigner wishing to move to the country may do so if they will pay an annual minimum tax above some level, such as above the national average, or even in the upper 10%. This assures they are a boon, not a drain, to the country"

Maybe a boon to the adopted country, but such policies encourage brain drain from other countries, leaving the poor, badly educated, and so on behind, exacerbating the division between the first and third worlds.

"It is sometimes proposed even in the USA that non-citizens be allowed to vote in school board elections (where their children are being educated or where they pay school taxes) or local elections. Why not? Why should I not have a say in who is the mayor of the town I immigrate to?"

Same argument as above: apply for citizenship.

"There is one big difference in the USA compared to the rest of the world. It is almost unique in taxing its citizens on their worldwide income even if they leave the USA. Almost no other major country does that. This makes it less compatible with a world of free movement."

If one pays tax elsewhere, though, then one can deduct it. I think that this is an excellent idea. Otherwise, people could benefit from US citizenship and take up residence in a tax haven.

Getting citizenship first requires crossing whatever bar is put in front of the green-card equivalent, and then waiting several years of taxation without representation.

You can call it a brain drain, I would call it jurisdictional competition...

The USA is special in taxing worldwide income. You get credit if there is a tax treaty for foreign taxes, and that means you pay the maximum of the taxes of your citizenships in this case (which means the nation discourages the world's brightest nomads.) As noted, the rest of the world taxes you on the income you make while in their country.

Of course, one other solution to this are some alternate tax forms, such as land value tax.

OK, what are the criteria? Working in the country? For how long? Who documents it? As an employee, or is self-employed OK as well? How many countries should one be allowed to vote in?

I think if you are a tax resident in a country in this or the prior year, voting should be allowed. Generally tax presence laws require spending at least 4 months, sometimes more, in a country. (The USA considers citizens taxable no matter how much time they are in the USA.)

OK, but what criteria determines whether one is a tax resident? Can one be a tax resident in several countries at once?

The rules for who is a tax resident are usually well defined in each country. There are rules in particular for who must be a tax resident -- usually anybody with income in a country can file a return, sometimes even with no income, but the important rule is the one that demands it. Typically countries demand it of all resident citizens and immigrants, and also of non-immigrants who are present for more than a certain amount of time, which ranges from 3 to 6 months.

One can be a tax resident of more than one country, but usually not more than 2 or at most 3, I would guess. Nobody actually ever does that because it means paying more taxes, though with treaty, usually the highest of the taxes of the different countries.

The principle is this, though. If you must pay taxes in a country, then you deserve a say in how it is governed. That is the principle that created the American Revolution, in large part.

"The principle is this, though. If you must pay taxes in a country, then you deserve a say in how it is governed. That is the principle that created the American Revolution, in large part."

In the case of the 13 original colonies, many of the people, or their parents, had come to America for various reasons, some voluntary, some not, but it was essentially a part (a colony) of Great Britain. It was Great Britain who taxed them, though, not the colonies. This is really not people where people move to a sovereign country and are taxed by that sovereign country, since in the latter case there is the option to become a citizen, which brings with it more rights and more responsibilities. The colonists were, unless I am mistaken, British citizens. They were certainly subjects of the Crown.

My view is that the right to vote, since it potentially affects everyone in the country, should only go to those who have some sort of commitment to the country, above and beyond just working there. There are people who work somewhere because they earn more money there, but a) don't spend it locally and hence don't really contribute to the economy and b) despise (somewhat hypocritically) their workplace. Especially in a country which, like the USA, allows dual citizenship, I don't see any problem in requiring people to become naturalized in order to vote. If they don't like it, they can go elsewhere.

I understand this position and it's a reasonable one. The original thread began simple to illustrate there are other ways you could do it, and the real core issue is the morality of having some fundamental rights -- the right to reside, to work, to vote and sometimes many others -- depend on the accident of where you were born. After all, many countries won't even let you make the commitment to them required to get those rights, and most make it pretty hard. In some cases they make it hard for somebody who moved to the country as a a baby and can recall no other country to get those rights, because they came out of the womb on the other side of a line on a map.

In general, I agree. I would argue, though, that the goal should be to implement reasonable naturalization laws, rather than giving some rights usually reserved to citizens to people on the basis of their paying taxes.

Of course, while society should work for equal opportunity (one can almost define progress as the increase in equal opportunity, i.e. eliminating accidents of birth), one can't short-circuit this by making immigration and naturalization too easy. An ideal society would have no police, but eradicating the police will not move us closer to such a society (probably the opposite).

One component of my approach, which I did not describe, relates to this. I think a very simple immigration process would be to allow (almost) anybody to immigrate to a country (and eventually become a citizen) if they commit to a minimum tax while resident there. That minimum tax would perhaps be something above the median tax paid by existing residents. For the first few years, you would pay that minimum tax, even if your actual tax burden was less. This allows two types of immigrants: Those who are highly productive, and those who are wealthy enough (or hungry enough) to pay high taxes on low income. You can be assured neither will be a burden on the society's social programs etc. You could exclude those with certain criminal records. Nations with national health care would probably (and perhaps cruelly) exclude the old and the sick who would become such a burden even with the minimum tax, or you could raise the minimum tax to include the cost of health insurance for somebody of that age and condition.

With this done, the reasons to oppose immigration of these people vanishes. Let them all come and contribute. You can of course also let in others who don't meet the minimum tax requirement using whatever metric you like. For example, the USA bizarrely lets people come to US universities and do very well and then forcibly kicks them out.

Here I am talking about residency for those who promise a minimum tax, not citizenship, but citizenship can result.

This removes some objections, as you indicate. Something similar exists in Cyprus and Spain and some other countries, where one can get citizenship easily by investing a certain amount, buying a house, etc. This has resulted in Russian oligarchs getting EU passports, which might help financially the countries in question but brings with it its own set of problems.

Robin Hanson proposed an interesting concept the other day -- granting the right to people to sell their citizenship, or perhaps exchange it. This is related to the countries that, as noted, are willing to "sell" citizenship or visa status. Of course most people recoil at this idea and consider citizenship to be unalienable, but it's not always viewed that way. (And even today many countries refuse dual citizenship and will strip you of a citizenship or deny you one if you attempt it.)

If you did allow sale of citizenship, you would probably not want to have it result in statelessness, as the world is not set up to handle that very well. That would mean you would only allow sales by dual citizens, or those doing trades. Of course, people would match it to slavery -- rich people getting the poor to sell their very birthright. It is still an interesting exercise to think what bringing markets to citizenship would mean.

A pretty likely scenario would be people trading away "valuable" citizenships at retirement, in exchange for cash and/or citizenship in less valuable lower income countries. They would then retire to those countries and live very well on resources that would only offer them a modest existence in their home country. I mean, people already retire like this, without the citizenship trade, and if they could pick up an extra $400k to use to retire in Mexico or Indonesia, I think many would. In exchange, their former country would get a new, resourceful immigrant and avoid the need to support the retired expatriates.

Probably more a topic for another thread...

Why is Trump doing so well among the segment of the population that's treated with utter contempt? Gee, I don't know. How could that possibly be?

The buzz-words being used here are self-explanatory. Calling someone who built a multi-billion dollar business a "buffoon" is a start. Not agreeing with someone and not liking his tone doesn't mean he's an idiot. It just means you don't agree with him.

"Anti-intellectual" in this post means "someone who I don't agree with."

And "authoritarian" involves using the executive power to override congress. That's already standard practice. Good Lord, that started with Woodrow Wilson and has been taken to the next level by the current occupant of the White House.

Both parties have been dismissive of a large swath of the American people and have treated them with contempt and you're surprised that the people are returning the sentiment?

Besides, the memes being employed against Trump are nothing more than "fill in the blank" memes. They would have been employed versus whoever wound up with the Republican nomination. That's why they've lost their power. You can only scream, "Look, HITLER!" so many times before folks figure out it's garbage.

I think his spontaneity is a large part of his appeal, and a candidate taking his same positions from a position of calculation, polling and testing won't attract the voters who see themselves as disenfranchised. Any position taken from calculation will be abandoned once the calculations change, and we all know how good the wealthy, powerful and elite are at changing those calculations.
It's not the specific things he says that are appealing, it's the fact that he believes them (at least in the moment) and they're not being fed to him by the party or his advisers. That's his appeal.

(Note that I'm not a Trump supporter, and won't be voting for him, but I have thought about why one would and what is different about him.)

You are correct.

"The RNC also identified Hillary Clinton as a likely nominee 2 decades ago, and since then has put major effort into discrediting her, much more time than it’s ever had to work on other opponents."

This is just a bogus Clinton talking point, and facially absurd.

Look, suppose that the GOP really did have the prescience to identify a Democratic nominee 20-25 years in advance, and the resources and drive to conduct an unrelenting smear campaign against that future nominee for decades.

Why would they just do this to the Clintons? Why not conduct similar operations against other possible nominees? And yet, who else has this kind of long term reputation for corruption? Nobody. You get your occasional "Freezer cash Jefferson", or Rangle and his Irish cottage, but it's minor stuff compared to the Clintons' trail of dirt.

Occam's razor: The reason the Clintons have this decades long string of scandals, that nobody else in the Democratic party comes near duplicating, is not that they're the target of a vast conspiracy.

It's because they're corrupt.

I have to say if they are as corrupt as I have heard alleged, they must be particularly brilliant in their ability to evade being convicted of it.

However, I think both parties work to discredit their likely opponents. But frankly, I think HRC is quite unusual in this regard -- I think everybody, in her party and outside, has known she has ambitions at the Presidency for a long time, and that she's had a lot of supporters and so would likely go somewhere with those ambitions. If not from the time she was FLOTUS, certainly by the time she entered the Senate.

I can't think of another candidate we've know about this strongly, this far in advance. While there are always people on the shortlists, nobody has so clearly led the shortlist the way she has. Indeed, without the arrival of the even more historic, and far more charismatic Obama in 2008, I think almost everybody would have said years before that the nomination was hers to lose, if not a lock.

I was not aware this was a democratic talking point, I came the conclusion on my own.

See you are still lost. Any intelligent person who says Clinton is even mildly qualified is lost, completely lost without a clue. If elected she will become the most corrupt individual to ever be elected to high office. And this is only the corruption we know about that is out in the clear. We know nothing about the hidden corruption at the Clinton Foundation.

You hit on a few themes here, but miss the other major theme is that a majority of the voters no longer believe one word that comes out of any major elected official's mouth. Period. Ryan a shill for inside DC interests. McConnell, same. And Democrat, only a mouth piece for Gov't, gov't, gov't.

Back to the drawing board for you.

One reason "intellectuals" didn't see Trump coming is that they tend to get too caught up in ideas and ideologies. I didn't see him coming, because I overestimated the support for Ted Cruz's strong constitutionalism.

But, another reason he was missed is that intellectuals seem to miss (or, for too many, applaud) the extreme power of modern political correctness, and thus the strong backlash against it. Many progressives signal their virtue by following the latest PC trend, as if it were a new clothing style. They feel good about themselves because they are doing "good" - it substitutes for charitable giving, which is very low among progresives.

Modern PC has either gone off the rails, or its promoters are correctly confident that they have the power to smash half of the country.

The best example of this is the transgender bathroom mandate and the reaction of the bien pensant intellectuals to the slightest objection. This mandate goes strongly against reason - let's offend half the population so that .04% of the population is less offended. Let's crush what is left of our society's sexual discomfort at nakedness before strangers of the opposite sex (a discomfort I don't feel, but I do understand). Let's make sure that every school district in America knows that its masters, even in such a personal area, are in Washington, D.C., not the local, locally elected school board.

The transgender mandate wasn't a result of suddenly discovering a discomfort by a tiny minority. It is a result of cold calculation - that now is the time to enforce cultural dominance over "stupid," "fundamentalist," "anti-intellectual," "superstitious (religious)" people in fly-over country. It is a living example of 1984's forcing Winston to say that four fingers are really five, and even wanting to believe it.

When ordinary people see this sort of thing, they react viscerally. They know that their cherished country and culture is being destroyed, even if they don't know the ideology and tactics of those who are doing the destroying.

And when this sort of insanity happens more and more frequently, those people get more and more upset and angry.

I am one of them.

I will vote for Trump, not because he is good, but because he may be my last chance to vote for anyone with a prayer of doing anything about this.

Your perception of the motives of the left is as erroneous as their perception of the motives of the right. I am with neither side but I study both sides. And of course, those who know my history will know I used to be the most well known person on the internet for political correctness, so Trump's appeal for that did not surprise me.

Remember, Trump does not believe what he says, I have that from those who know him. And more to the point, we hear that many of his supporters also don't think Trump believes or plans what he says, and in fact that's the only way they can support him because there are very few who don't feel reviled at some particular thing or another he's proposed. (Many Clintonites also hold their noses in supporting her, but they don't rationalize it by declaring she doesn't really believe it.)

That this strategy would succeed, that is the surprise.

Hillary's unpopularity isn't due to some long lasting nefarious Republican plot. It is because she obviously has a criminal personality, and she obviously feels better than everyone else.

If she weren't the "first woman" nobody would pay her any attention. She got where she is through her husband, and a lot of people see that. They see that she isn't a symbol of true feminism, she is an affirmative action candidate aided by celebrity. She is a woman who put down other women sexually abused by her husband.

The is also the "champion of the poor" wearing a $14,000 jacket.

She also has no real accomplishments. She did nothing in the Senate. Her time as Secretary of State produced only negative results, as should be obvious by the poor state of the world and the way our adversaries no longer respect our power.

She is a phony as a three dollar bill.

And, she simply is unlikable.

This post typifies the blindness that exists within Democratic circles. I'm not talking about the assessment of Donald Trump, which I largely agree with. The only quibble I have there is that Brad glosses over, almost to the extent that he seems unaware of it, the fact that all of the outrageous things Trump says relate to issues where many voters have legitimate concerns and which the leadership of both political parties have been doing their best to ignore for a long time now. But that's more an issue for the Republicans to address - they are the party that has sometimes pretended to be against the status quo on those issues without ever doing anything to actually change government policies. What I'm talking about here is the amazing blindness to how truly awful Clinton is as an alternative.

I cast my first presidential ballot for Ronald Reagan's first term, and have never yet voted for a Democrat, but I would love to be able to do so this year. If the only reason to vote against Clinton were her liberal statism she'd have my vote - I expect once in office Trump will govern mostly like a liberal statist himself, just a more nationalistic one. (And no, I don't consider that a plus.) If Bernie had been the Democratic nominee I very well might have voted for him, and he's an avowed socialist. If I only knew now what I knew about Clinton in 2008, I'd probably vote for her. Back then I thought of her as personally unappealing, far to the left of me, moderately corrupt and dishonest, but competent.

With more recent revelations about the activities of the Clinton foundation, I now view her as probably spectacularly corrupt. I know that there probably isn't enough evidence there to convict her. (Even if we could find a prosecutor with enough courage to bring an indictment.) But the circumstantial evidence is extensive and compelling. There was a time when that would have been enough to disqualify anyone running for any public office, let alone president of the U.S. In addition, she is either spectacularly dishonest or delusional. So many of the things she has said about the various scandals that have been dogging her have later been proven to be completely false that it's amazing that anyone takes anything she says seriously anymore. And yet, she continues to repeat many of the lies to this day, knowing that a sympathetic press will mostly fail to call her on it. Finally, she has proven to be spectacularly incompetent. When the most her campaign can point to in terms of accomplishments as secretary of state is the number of miles she traveled you can be sure that there isn't much positive substance there. It's possible that her role in the debacle that is Libya (and I'm not just talking about Benghazi here) was not as central as her opponents would have it. But it is clear that she was at least an active and supportive member of the team. As for the whole e-mail thing, anyone who has ever had a security clearance of any kind knows (or should know) that what she did is inexcusable. The law which FBI director Comey thoroughly demonstrated that she had violated does not exist just to deter people from committing intentional acts of espionage. Keeping secret information secret is difficult, and the procedures established to keep our secrets safe can be time consuming and burdensome. The law exists in part to deter people from taking shortcuts for convenience sake. By refusing to prosecute on the grounds that Clinton was just really careless and didn't really mean to give secrets to our enemies, director Comey has undercut that purpose of the law. And Clinton has to be held partly responsible for that, too. When the kindest possible interpretation of the available facts is to say that Hillary must be both really stupid and rather lackadaisical about national security, I'm not sure how anyone can consider her a viable candidate for president.

I assume that these are the things that Brad was waving away with the phrase "And Clinton herself certainly has her flaws." I'm sorry, but these things are not just the results of two decades of Republican opposition research, except in the sense that the press would have ignored all of it if they could have. The fact is, there are many, many lifelong Republican voters like me who would really like to have a viable alternative to Trump. Unfortunately, Clinton isn't a viable alternative. Since I live in a state (Massachusetts) which is unlikely to be seriously contested I will probably write in someone - I haven't decided who yet. If I lived in a swing state I'm not sure what I'd do. Maybe still write in someone. But I'd very likely vote for Trump on the basis that a probable disaster is better than a certain one. That plus the fact that I think it is more likely that Trump will be held accountable for his actions than that Clinton will.

Republicans do, indeed, need to understand how Trump was able to take over the party. They need to address the legitimate issues that left them vulnerable to such a takeover. But Democrats, like Brad, who are worrying about how close this election appears to be might do better to consider how, in a year in which the Republicans nominated a sure loser, they managed to nominate someone who is not clearly better. This despite a nominating process that is designed to be undemocratic so that party elites can thumb the scales away from bad but popular candidates. Clinton should have been gently steered away from running starting at least a year ago when all of this stuff started coming to light. If she refused to be deterred from running, the party establishment should have found and supported a viable alternative. That this didn't happen is evidence, if not proof, that the party establishment itself is corrupt. In the long run that is a far more serious problem than having a buffoon at the top of the ticket for one year.

Curious as to where this phrase comes from. What makes you think I am a Democrat? (Obviously I have of course never voted for or donated to any Democratic candidate.)

I do live in California these days, and so that means most of the people around me are Democrats, as is true for most coastal intellectuals. But Democrat myself? Classical liberal would be a better description. Democrats plan to increase the size and power of government far too much, and Republicans say they won't, but do it even more. A pox on both of them for that.

Okay, I'll admit I know nothing about you. I'm not a regular reader of your blog, I came to this post through a link from another blog. I'm not sure why you think it should be obvious that you have never voted for or donated to a Democratic candidate - I see nothing in this post that would imply either, or even that you haven't been proudly registered as a Democrat for your entire life - but if you say so I believe you. I admit to jumping to conclusions, and if you say you are classical liberal I will accept that too. I just had a hard time believing that anyone of your apparent intelligence who isn't either highly partisan or getting all of their information filtered through partisan Democratic news sources could imply, as you did, that Hillary Clinton is an acceptable choice for president who is the victim of a vast right-wing conspiracy. I know the major focus of the post was on Trump, but in the first part you certainly seemed to me to be endorsing Clinton as a conventional politician with conventional flaws who is thus the obviously better choice over Trump. Am I wrong to infer that, whatever you have done in the past, in this election you plan to vote for a Democratic candidate? And I don't condemn you for that - I honestly wish I believed that Clinton is a conventional politician with conventional flaws so I could vote for her. As bad as I think she is, I still think it's a tough choice.

To be fair, I might even agree to the description of her as a conventional politician with conventional flaws - I just think she manages to combine all of the worst conventional flaws in a single package and takes some of them to extreme levels. At some point you have to start wondering if unconventional flaws aren't less damaging. In addition, I think she has clearly done things which in a rational world would be considered by everybody to be sufficient reason to disqualify her from serious consideration for the presidency, and that's independent of the question of whether any of it is worthy of criminal prosecution. I also don't think that you have to be an uncritical consumer of partisan Republican media to reach these conclusion about her. Heck, you can get there from just the partisan Democratic news sources as long as you pay attention to the hard facts of the reports and have a good enough memory to notice when the commentary starts to contradict them or to minimize them without adequate reason.

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