Wednesday January 18, 2017
At the conclusion of the leaders' summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Peru last week, the Pacific Rim trade group reasserted the importance of free trade in a joint communiqué. The APEC economies, including the United States, further committed to "keep our markets open and to fight against all forms of protectionism" - an intentional pushback to the growth of protectionist rhetoric, especially from the incoming administration in Washington, D.C.
President-elect Donald Trump has vowed, most recently in a YouTube video released on Monday, to make America's withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the U.S.-led flagship free trade deal in the Asia-Pacific, a top priority for his administration. Trump's vitriol has already eliminated any chance that Congress will ratify the pact during the remaining lame-duck period of the current administration.
In the free marketplace of ideas, true ideas are supposed to compete with false ones until the truth wins -- at least according to a leading rationale for free speech. But what if the rise of fake news shows that, under current conditions, truth may not defeat falsehood in the market? That would start to make free speech look a whole lot less appealing.
The rise of fake news therefore poses a serious challenge to our basic ideas about the First Amendment. Much of the debate in recent weeks has focused on social media and search engines. But whether the market for ideas is failing is more fundamental than whether Facebook or Google can be blamed for algorithms that promote and spread false stories.
Start with the famous metaphor introduced by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes almost 100 years ago, in a dissent in the 1919 case Abrams v. United States. Holmes argued that "the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market."
Donald Trump has often been linked to some authoritarian rulers and compared to others. Strictly speaking, he hasn't done much to deserve it yet. But this is a dangerous moment -- some current authoritarians started in this way too, and were pushed toward the dictatorial path.
Volumes have been written about Trump's supposed affinity for, and connection to, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Guy Verhofstadt, a top Brexit negotiator for the European Union, has called Trump, Putin and Erdogan "a ring of autocrats" looking to encircle Europe. Apart from that, Trump has been likened to Iraq's Saddam Hussein, Kenya's Uhuru Kenyatta , India's Narendra Modi -- all authoritarians to different degrees.
While we're still analyzing the election results and debating the importance of different factors to the final outcome, everyone agrees that white working class voters played a key part in Donald Trump's victory, in some cases by switching their votes and in some cases by turning out when they had been nonvoters before.
And now that he's about to take office, he's ready to deliver on what he promised them, right? Well, maybe not so much, according to The Washington Post's Karen Tumulty:
"President-elect Donald Trump abruptly abandoned some of his most tendentious campaign promises Tuesday, saying he does not plan to prosecute Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email system or the dealings of her family foundation, has an "open mind" about a climate-change accord from which he vowed to withdraw the United States and is no longer certain that torturing terrorism suspects is a good idea."
On Thursday, about 1,000 Carrier workers and their families should be rejoicing. But the rest of our nation's workers should be very nervous.
President-elect Donald Trump will reportedly announce a deal with United Technologies, the corporation that owns Carrier, that keeps less than 1,000 of the 2100 jobs in America that were previously scheduled to be transferred to Mexico. Let's be clear: It is not good enough to save some of these jobs. Trump made a promise that he would save all of these jobs, and we cannot rest until an ironclad contract is signed to ensure that all of these workers are able to continue working in Indiana without having their pay or benefits slashed.
In exchange for allowing United Technologies to continue to offshore more than 1,000 jobs, Trump will reportedly give the company tax and regulatory favors that the corporation has sought. Just a short few months ago, Trump was pledging to force United Technologies to "pay a damn tax." He was insisting on very steep tariffs for companies like Carrier that left the United States and wanted to sell their foreign-made products back in the United States.
The real goal behind President-elect Donald Trump's proposed draconian measures against the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States is not forceful expulsion, but mass self-deportation: to make life so wretched and untenable that immigrants have no choice but to uproot, returning to their countries of origin, unwelcoming as they might be.
And they will be unwelcoming. In the past eight years, many immigrants who have been deported during the Obama administration's record-setting removal of 2.5 million people have struggled with re-assimilation once they're sent out of the United States. Some have tried to begin life anew in cities they no longer recognize and that offer no opportunities or respite. Others haven't been as lucky.
"The Emperor (of Lilliput) holds a stick in his hands, both ends parallel to the horizon, while the candidates, advancing one by one, sometimes leap over the stick, sometimes creep under it backwards and forwards several times ... whoever performs his part with most agility, and holds out longest in leaping and creeping, is rewarded with the blue-colored silk ... and you see very few persons about this court who are not adorned with one of these girdles."
-- Jonathan Swift, "Gulliver's Travels," 1726
Never mind that president-elect Trump and his keenest supporters have gone from boasting to whining in a short two weeks. "Mommy, they're making fun of me on TV. It's not fair!" Nor that the world's rudest man purports to give etiquette lessons to the cast of a Broadway play. Nor even that Trump appears on pace to set a new American record for the most campaign promises broken in the shortest time.
As Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin -- states that once were the stronghold of the nation's industrial union movement -- dropped into Donald Trump's column on election night, one longtime union staff member told me that Trump's victory was "an extinction-level event for American labor."
He may be right.
A half-century ago, more than a third of those Rust Belt workers were unionized, and their unions had the clout to win them a decent wage, benefits and pensions. Their unions also had the power to turn out the vote. They did -- for Democrats. White workers who belonged to unions voted Democratic at a rate 20 percent higher than their non-union counterparts, and there were enough such workers to make a difference on Election Day.
Much has been said about how we Americans, particularly we Americans in the mainstream media, should not "normalize" Donald Trump. I think it's way too late for that.
Look around. Most Republicans already have normalized Trump. So have the independent swing voters and even disgruntled Democrats who helped to get him elected. Either he was normal enough for those voters or those voters didn't want "normal." They wanted change. They wanted what President Barack Obama offered as a candidate in 2008: hope and change.
It's hard to change people's minds about someone they have normalized. Yet some things need to be abnormalized.
For some of us, Trump's attempts to win votes by any means necessary are jeopardizing our ability to get along across racial and ethnic lines. We must not normalize his racial dog-whistle rhetoric that appears to have fed a spike of more than 700 incidents of hateful harassment and attacks since Election Day, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
On Thanksgiving, Americans sat down to dinner, looked at the big turkey and thought about Donald Trump.
OK, that was totally the wrong attitude. We’re supposed to be having a reset. The president-elect has been going out of his way to build bridges. He came to The Times this week for a long conversation, during which he was extremely amiable. He blasted the alt-right twits who celebrated his victory with Nazi salutes. (“Of course I condemn. I disavow and condemn.”) He had nothing but praise for Barack Obama (“I really liked him a lot.”) He has no desire to see Hillary Clinton prosecuted. (“She went through a lot. And suffered greatly in many different ways.”)
Policywise, he was still the guy who’s not all that into position papers. In discussing climate change alone, Trump use the phrase “open mind” seven times. This is one thing you can count on. We haven’t had a mind so open in the White House since Warren Harding.