Archive

November 11th, 2016

The world as we know it 'is crumbling before our eyes'

    Even before the final votes were counted Tuesday night, the United States' closest allies struggled to come to terms with an American election that delivered the presidency to Donald Trump, a political outlier who challenged the global political order that has defined the era after the Second World War.

    The world as we know it "is crumbling before our eyes," Gerard Araud, France's ambassador to the United States, wrote Tuesday night on Twitter, citing the double whammy of Britain's exit from the European Union and America's sharp turn toward isolationist populism.

    "It is an end of an era, that of neoliberalism. It remains to be seen what will succeed it," Araud tweeted in the first flush of the shock results. He later deleted the tweets.

    In the immediate aftermath, leaders of friendly countries from Canada to South Korea issued formal congratulations to the winner and highlighted their hopes of continuing their traditional alliances, many of which Trump called into question during the campaign.

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The Rust Belt was turning red already. Donald Trump just pushed it along.

    Donald Trump won the presidency by turning the Rust Belt red.

    On Tuesday night, he swept Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin - states that voted twice for Barack Obama and that rank near the top in manufacturing jobs. Although his promise to restore the glory days of building cars and pouring steel sometimes made him sound like a guy who learned about past-their-prime factory towns by watching "Roger & Me" and listening to "Born in the U.S.A.," he tapped into a still-strong nostalgia for a time when a young man could go straight from high school to an industrial job that paid enough to support a family.

    When Trump Force One flew into Flint, Michigan, in August 2015 for the Genesee County Republican Party's Lincoln Day Dinner, the man who's now president-elect told an anecdote about seeing "boatloads" of Japanese cars in the Port of Los Angeles, then promised to stop Ford from investing $2.5 billion in Mexican engine plants. He knew his audience.

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The American experiment will soon be put to the test

    What happens when the factories and the steel mills don't come back? When the coal mines fail to reopen? When both a tightfisted Congress and the government of Mexico refuse to pay for his boondoggle of a border wall?

     When the president-elect, Donald Trump, takes office and has to confront inconvenient reality, how will he react? "We owe him an open mind and a chance to lead," Hillary Clinton said Wednesday, and of course she is right. But I wouldn't be honest if I pretended, at this point, to be hopeful. My fear is that the man we saw on the campaign trail is the same man we will see in the White House.

    He proved to be a tremendously effective demagogue. He stunned the world by energizing and mobilizing legions of "forgotten men and women" -- white, working-class Americans living in small towns and rural areas across the nation -- who bought into his pledge to "make America great again." Instead of serious policy proposals, he gave them scapegoats: immigrants, Muslims, people of color living in "inner cities" that he imagined as circles of Dante's hell.

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On this day in history the world watched the Berlin Wall Crumble. Now will they see Donald Trump's wall rise?

    Some 27 years ago today, the world was stunned: On the night of Nov. 9, the Berlin Wall, the living symbol of Cold War divisions, was suddenly breached. After an East German official vaguely announced that travel restrictions would be eased, border guards, confused by their orders, did nothing to stop excited East Germans from crossing over. Soon images of Germans ecstatically swarming the wall, chipping away at it with hammers, and hugging long-separated friends and strangers alike, flooded televisions around the world.

    Few saw it coming. Yet the sudden implosion of the Communist bloc in eastern Europe and the fall of the wall marked what was widely heralded as a historic milestone in the spread of Western, democratic values.

    Now, another surprise moment is playing out, thanks to the stunning victory early Wednesday of Donald Trump, a candidate who began his presidential campaign promising to build a wall on the border with Mexico.

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Now it's Trump's America, but can he deliver?

    President-elect Trump?

    Well, whaddaya know. There really was a "hidden Trump vote" after all.

    For months almost every opinion poll had Democrat Hillary Clinton firmly holding onto her No. 1 position in the presidential race. No problem, said Republican Donald Trump's team, which claimed a "hidden vote": Trump voters who didn't want to admit their choice to pollsters.

    Preposterous thought. Numerous pollsters with sophisticated computers constantly belching out data, there was no way a hidden block of voters was eluding their scrutiny.

    Until President-elect Trump.

    Somewhere, I imagine, Mike Royko is smiling.

    The late Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and champion of working stiffs in his beloved Chicago and elsewhere used to be so annoyed by political pollsters that in the early 1980s he urged his people to lie to them.

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No, Trump voters were not irrational

    Hillary Clinton's use of the word "deplorables" to refer to half of Trump's supporters has taken a familiar tone when it comes to election contests. Partisans often view the other side's voters as immoral, ignorant and irrational.

    While research tells us that humans are subject to any number of biases, shortcomings and prejudices, support for Trump - or Clinton - need not, and probably should not, be attributed to these sources. Instead, the patterns of support for the two major candidates reveal a public that tends, on average, to match their votes to a range of rational, competing interests.

    Some commentators, for example, wondered why white evangelical Christians supported Donald Trump despite his marital record and his remarks and alleged sexual assaults against women. Yet Trump nonetheless was clearly more likely than Clinton to advance the objectives typical of white evangelicals, including the appointment of pro-life federal judges.

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In Arizona, a Cautionary Tale for Trump

    He was Donald Trump before Trump — his political godfather. The racial profiling, the authoritarian streak, the robust defense of easily refutable lies — all are part of the repertoire of Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona.

    On Tuesday, the man who was emblematic — at least in the Southwest — of Trump’s attempt to hold back the demographic tide of the new America was resoundingly defeated. It was a vote for decency, for common sense, and no small amount of revenge from many of the victims of his strong-arm policies.

    After six terms as the chief lawman of the most populous county in Arizona, Arpaio was defeated by a former Phoenix police officer, Paul Penzone, a Democrat.

    “There’s a new sheriff in town,” Penzone said. You could say that time, and federal law, finally caught up with the 84-year-old sheriff. He’s been under court order to stop targeting Latinos. Last month, federal prosecutors charged him with criminal contempt for allegedly defying that court order.

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November 10th

Apocalypse now?

    In 1777, when Britain received words of the drubbing its forces had suffered at Saratoga to the American rebels, a friend of Adam Smith's exclaimed that "the nation was ruined." The wise philosopher calmly replied: "There is a great deal of ruin in a nation." That proposition is about to be put to the test by President-elect Donald Trump.

    Yes, I can barely believe that I am actually writing those words: "President Trump." I never thought he was remotely qualified for the highest office, and I never thought he would win. I was obviously wrong about the latter. Now I have to pray that I was wrong about the former.

    Nov. 9, 2016, is a dark, depressing day for me and for the slim popular majority of Americans who voted for Hillary Clinton. It is easy on a day like this to fall prey to one's worst fears. Is this the dark night of fascism descending on America? Maybe. Is this the triumph of white supremacists? Could be. Is this the end of NATO and the triumph of Vladimir Putin? Quite possibly. I admit that I am deeply worried that these cataclysmic scenarios could actually come to pass. This really could be Apocalypse Now.

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How Hillary Handles Pain

    Women, as Hillary Clinton showed Wednesday morning, know how to absorb pain. And Clinton has had plenty of practice about how to stand before the cameras after public humiliation.

    Clearly, she needed time to compose herself. She made no appearances overnight, instead calling Donald Trump to concede. But when she strode onstage in purple and gray, Bill Clinton behind her in a purple tie, her voice did not waver.

    Women seldom have the luxury of giving in to pain. Many have children or grandchildren or aging parents to tend, whether they themselves are sick or in emotional turmoil.

    So Clinton faced her despondent campaign staff and her despondent half of the country and tried to rally them. She spoke most directly to young people, and to women and girls. She had hoped to stand before them as a symbol of all that women could achieve. Now she had to demonstrate once again what women can endure.

    “I’ve had successes and setbacks, sometimes really painful ones,” she told them.

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Homeless in America

    I began election night writing a column that started with words from an immigrant, my friend Lesley Goldwasser, who came to America from Zimbabwe in the 1980s. Surveying our political scene a few years ago, Lesley remarked to me: “You Americans kick around your country like it’s a football. But it’s not a football. It’s a Fabergé egg. You can break it.”

    With Donald Trump now elected president, I have more fear than I’ve ever had in my 63 years that we could do just that — break our country, that we could become so irreparably divided that our national government will not function.

    From the moment Trump emerged as a candidate, I’ve taken seriously the possibility that he could win; this column never predicted otherwise, although it certainly wished for it. That doesn’t mean the reality of it is not shocking to me.

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