Saturday, August 08, 2015

The Trump phenomenon

An interpretation of the Republican candidates

The 2016 Democratic Party nominee is likely to be Hillary Clinton – and Joe Biden has the highest chance to emerge as a formidable competitor. The Republican field is much broader. Bush, Christie, Fiorina, Huckabee, Pataki, Paul, Perry, Rubio, Santorum, Trump, Walker, and many others appear in the polls and debates.

There certainly exists a perspective from which all these candidates are totally ordinary in comparison with Donald Trump. In a recent GOP presidential debate, Megyn Kelly of Fox News – an unusually smart woman for such an attractive babe: she's at least a peer of the likes of Hannity or perhaps even O'Reilly and I am saying it even though I consider her much less conservative – was one of the three moderators.

The video above shows that Donald Trump got a special bad treatment from her.

He was asked whether it's right for the U.S. president to be as impolite as he has been. Sometime in the past, he has called people such as the fat lesbian activist Rosie O'Donnell "fat pigs" or "dogs" and other things. Well, the style may be controversial but the substance of Trump's description is probably accurate when it comes to Rosie O'Donnell.

Check how a physically and rhetorically balanced woman, Ivanka Trump, should look at the age of 65 according to Trump's calibration. OK, fine, it's their daughter Ivanka Trump and she's 33 but "Ivanka" means nothing else than a "little Ivana" in Czech and your humble correspondent – not a reader of tabloids – needed a few minutes to get sure that they're two different women. ;-)

Donald Trump is clearly not afraid of saying impolite words and fight the political correctness – even if he has to pay a lot of money for that. And lots of people appreciate it. I kind of appreciate it, too, but I think that a vast majority of the readers would overestimate how much I appreciate it. ;-) I actually do tend to think that it makes sense for a president of a civilized nation to speak as a serious character and avoid obscenities, at least in the context that looks sufficiently official. And such politeness makes him sound more appropriate. But it is clearly not a #1 rule for me in any sense.

Trump understood Megyn's selective attack as a hostile act. The blood was coming out of her eyes and other non-convex parts of her body (the so-called "wherever", later identified as the "nose"), he argued. And this graphical description of her blood system convinced some organizers of a conservative event to disinvite him and invite someone else instead – well, Megyn Kelly. ;-) I personally think that there was nothing too shocking or unfair about Kelly's question – and he did pretty well while answering it, too.

As a fighter against the political correctness, Trump is undoubtedly appreciated by many people. That was also obvious in this Megyn Kelly's voters panel:

The blonde in the audience was the only defender of the political correctness. Would you agree that similar social interactions make her look arrogant and unpleasant in comparison with the other people?

By the way, if these are kind of regular average voters, I am impressed by their ability to clearly communicate ideas. This is a positive result of the U.S. education system focusing on the high school debate clubs which consider the format and the self-confidence primary and the content secondary or worse. The negative features of this approach to education have been largely and successfully copied in Czechia – many of the students are stupid as a doorknob – but so far, nothing has convinced me that the positive outcomes have been successfully reproduced as well. ;-)

(The new, female Czech minister of education has just correctly stated that 1/4 of the high school students have failed in the final exam not because of subtleties of the exam but because they are idiots.)

At any rate, you can see that many of the voters treat Donald Trump as their man; or a guy who says what he thinks; an honest man. His wealth isn't a problem. And even his pride about his own wealth doesn't seem to be such a big problem.

Candidates like Hillary Clinton spend much of their time by trying to flatter assorted losers and poor folks, not to mention the working class and similar stuff. Such left-wing populism is something we have known in Europe for more than 100 years. It has created carriers for lots of politicians. But does it really work in the U.S.? For some voters, it works.

But I think that it's generally underestimated how many people fully realize that this attitude of Hillary and many others is just an example of transparent and despicable hypocrisy. What does she know about the life in modest material conditions? And if one admits that almost nothing, how does her talk about the poor people differ from reminding them that they're losers or mocking them? Shouldn't she stop playing to be something she isn't?

The absurdity of this pose is particular clear if you compare Hillary Clinton e.g. to Marco Rubio who grew up in a poor enough family of emigrants from Cuba – unlike Hillary who was born into a wealthy enough family of conservative entrepreneurs. He may be a GOP candidate but he surely has much better credentials when it comes to his knowledge of the issues that poorer folks actually care about, doesn't he? To some extent, the same comments apply to Scott Walker, another Republican candidate, as well.

Hillary doesn't have a closer attachment to the lives of these ordinary people or a better knowledge about their concerns and desires; she is just trying to exploit these people much more than e.g. Rubio.

Does someone really want politicians to often say how much they care about the poorer people? Whom does it help? Has anyone made a psychological research that would imply that such people want to hear such things? I think that it's better to be wealthy and healthy than to be poor and sick. And I think that even the poor people know (or agree) that it is the case! So why should we be saying that the poor people are wonderful because they are poor? Ultimately, what they are is not wonderful and most of them would happily abandon this part of their group identity.

Trump makes it explicit that it's right to be a billionaire and those who are only millionaires suck in comparison – and I don't even talk about the thousandaires and unitaires. You don't really have to be a billionaire to agree with that: it's enough to learn the arithmetic difference between one million and one billion. ;-)

OK, there are advantages of the Donald (yup, I keep on thinking that this usage of "the" is perfectly sound, just like Ivana Trump and every other Czech thought) but – I would agree with Megyn Kelly – his totally different origin and attitude to social conventions and other things has disadvantages, too. To elect a new U.S. president like Donald Trump is a big social experiment. From some viewpoints, it could be as big an experiment (if not bigger) as the election of Barack Obama – who is ultimately a rather regular leftist career politician, his race notwithstanding.

Trump's tenure could resemble some of the oligarchies in Eastern Europe and especially the post-Soviet realm – or some of the Hollywood comedies that had funny presidents. I haven't gotten totally excited about the idea of Donald Trump as the U.S. president yet – but it's conceivable that on a sunny day in the future, I will.

There are many other candidates like Cruz or Huckabee and others who represent the standard Christian America – or South. You probably know what I like about them (there's a lot of it) and what may look like a disadvantage, or too provincial and rural, from my viewpoint. I don't want to go into these candidates too much – especially because I haven't gotten too good in distinguishing their political styles and values. They're interesting men with lots of common sense and traditional beliefs. They would probably do great but there's still something in them that makes them more ready to be the presidents of the Confederate States of America rather than the United States of America, something that doesn't quite match the global importance of the U.S. etc.

Rubio is probably great and could become my #1 horse as well – but I haven't become familiar enough with him yet, either.

Rand Paul is an honorable man with great values. I would often count myself a Libertarian (Rand Paul has both embraced and rejected the label at different moments) and this simple attitude to the government – minimize it as much as possible – seems like a complete common sense to me. On the other hand, I frequently do see why the Libertarians often enjoy the fringe status. When I attended a gathering of the local organization of the Party of Free Citizens half a year ago, I couldn't get rid of the feeling that their organization and reasoning is optimized for jumping in between the 2% and 3% support. Their ideals seem to be way too far from the real-world politics.

Much of my similar criticism would apply particularly to his father. Ron Paul defends great things but when it comes to the understanding of the economy, it doesn't look great to me and may be worse than that of the Keynesians. The loyalty to the Libertarian talking points can't replace the true understanding. In particular, his defense of the return to the gold standard is misguided. In some sense, these folks are the mirror image of the naughty Keynesians. Keynesians are skewed and they always want to praise borrowing, overspending, growing debt, and artificial stimuli for the economy. Ron Paul et al. always seem to prefer the savers, the calming effect of rich people who keep their gold in the boxes. Well, the optimum is obviously in some balance between the lenders and the borrowers – and balance among many other pairs of things.

Using the current market prices, all the gold that the people hold is simply not enough to match the cash that needs to circulate, let alone more inclusive layers of the money supply. So it is simply impossible to actually back the cash by gold. Such a backing only makes sense if you promise that the people may get physical gold for their money. But if there's not enough gold for all of them, when they will demand the promise to be fulfilled, it will quickly turn out that the promise was a lie and the financial system will collapse. Because we can easily make this prediction, it is right to say that the promise is a lie already now. So it just doesn't work!

One may think about a future situation in which the price of an ounce of gold is increased so that it does cover all the cash we need. But if someone is able to substantially increase the price of gold relatively to the food and other "real" things that people buy and sell, he is able to substantially increase the price of the pictures of Benjamin Franklin, too! If you have a system that forces the people to assign a greater value to an ounce of gold than what they otherwise assign, it's the political power making people believe that "it's worth more than we thought" that matters. And you may apply this power to the fiat money, too. Most of the value of an ounce of gold would be an artificial political construct just like the full value of the fiat banknotes. So the only role that gold would play – if its price were artificially increased – would be to fool people, to make them think that the value of their money doesn't come from the government's power and convention – even though almost all of it does, anyway.

I find it incredible that Ron Paul and others can't realize all these trivial ideas. It may be an advantage if they think independently of the mainstream economists – but if their conclusions about fundamental questions of this kind end to be this crazy, it may be pretty dangerous for them to control the economy.

Moreover, as I have mentioned, the Libertarians seem to be too one-dimensional and not sufficiently thinking about the tons of real-world political questions that a politician such as the U.S. president simply has to address on a daily basis.

And then you have Jeb Bush – possibly the #1 mainstream Republican candidate in the "normal boring times" if those times will return again. The idea of a third Bush had been greeted with horror when the second one was in the White House. But seven years later, it no longer sounds so controversial. It doesn't sound controversial especially because Jeb Bush is as ordinary a candidate as you can get. Bush – I mean the third one – actually isn't too far from Clinton – the second one. ;-)

Jeb Bush could bring a rather conventional, boring presidency. That's why it's silly to present him as the ultimate horror, despite his two relatives who have been the U.S presidents before. When the politicians are boring, one source of entertainment and inspiration may be absent. On the other hand, boring presidents who don't bring any exciting political ideas are good for the economy – and for the life organized on the bottom-up basis in general. A colorless leader may create even better Laissez faire conditions for the economy than a Libertarian president! To mention a similar example, the U.S. economy was doing very well when Bill Clinton was spending his days by playing games with Shadow Hillary in the Oral Office.

So I think it is not the case that all the GOP presidential candidates are the same. There are some genuine differences in their ideas, backgrounds, styles, plans, and personalities. Americans are offered genuine, inequivalent options, at least if they will vote in the GOP primaries and promote their winners to the White House. I am far from being decided which choice is the best one, however.

What about you?

I am only certain about some things, e.g. that I abhor the comments by a loser whose face I still haven't internalized (Mr Graham) and who wants the central GOP institutions to treat Donald Trump as a heretic. It's obvious that while trying to place himself above Donald Trump, Mr Graham overstates his political value or capital by a few orders of magnitude. And all these comments that Trump is waging a "war on woman" are ludicrous. There's no good reason to look at the sex of Trump's targets.

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