Live Blog: Election Night In America

american-presidential-election-night-results

Live Blog: Donald Trump vs Hillary Clinton, Election Day and Results

Contact: semipartisansam@gmail.com

 

9 November – 6:25PM Washington D.C. / 11:25PM London

Okay, I’ve been pondering how best to continue this blog’s coverage of the extraordinary US presidential election result and Donald Trump’s victory. I think the best thing to do is to shut down this particular live blog and open a new one, looking at the best way forward from here (from this blog’s own conservatarian perspective as well as from the Democrat vantage point), and looking at some of the best hot takes and best/worst reactions to the election result.

Thanks for following along with my coverage of election day (and night, and day again), and please do join me on the new live blog, starting now.

And yes, there will be a Trump Victory Catastrophisation Watch series…

9 November – 2:55PM Washington D.C. / 7:55PM London

A glimmer of realisation from the Identity Politics Left?

There are signs that some people on the American Left are beginning to realise and tentatively suggest that years of hysterical demonising of conservatives and attempting to police the language and political discourse may have been overreach, and may have just backfired horribly by sweeping Donald Trump to victory.

Seth McFarlane, creator of Family Guy and former Bernie Sanders supporter, effectively admits that the Left have been cynically crying wolf far too often, effectively desensitising the American people to real instances of prejudice and bigotry:

The Hill reports:

Actor Seth MacFarlane says liberal hyperbole may have left voters ignoring their warnings about President-elect Donald Trump.

“This will not be a popular observation, and I don’t even know if I subscribe to it myself,” he tweeted Wednesday following Trump’s White House win.

“But it can be argued that the Left expended so much energy over the last several years being outraged over verbal missteps, accidental innuendo, ‘tasteless’ tweets (see Justine Sacco) etc. in the name of clickbait, that when the real threat to equality emerged, we’d cried wolf too many times to be heard.”

I imagine that we will soon see a co-ordinated attack on Seth McFarlane and others who question the tactics of the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics, by the SJW cultists themselves. They will argue that the American Left should double down, shriek ever louder about identity, wallow even deeper in victimhood culture and preach to the choir.

There is shaping up to be quite a battle for the soul of the American Left. Will more left-wing Americans of principle dare to realise their side’s overreach and finally stand up to the illiberal, censorious identity politics cult, or will they fearfully avoid confrontation and doom the Democratic Party to another possible defeat in 2020?

9 November – 2:13PM Washington D.C. / 7:13PM London

Some magnanimity from defeated 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney toward president-elect Donald Trump:

If Trump’s presidency is to be remotely successful he will indeed have to hew closely to the spirit of his victory speech, and not revert to the thin-skinned egomaniac we have seen all too frequently during the campaign.

9 November – 2:05PM Washington D.C. / 7:05PM London

Left-wing media in denial

And MSNBC is immediately failing to learn the lessons of the election result, fawning over one “undocumented” immigrant after another in their coverage as they lament the fact that rights and privileges to which they are not entitled may soon be potentially taken away by a Trump administration.

Of course, they refer obstinately to “undocumented” rather than “illegal” immigrants, seemingly oblivious to the way in which their overt attempts to undermine the idea of borders and managed migration helped to fuel the huge popular backlash which consigned them to defeat and elected Donald Trump to the White House.

https://twitter.com/JustURAvgMedic/status/796301526709010432

9 November – 1:45PM Washington D.C. / 6:45PM London

Donald Trump has promised his supporters the moon. Now he has to deliver.

I think it’s worth quoting from the email just sent by Donald Trump to his supporters:

They said we could never do it.

But last night you showed the world that America will once again be a country of, for, and by the PEOPLE.

You fought like a winner, you defied all odds, and history will forever remember the role you played in taking our country back.

[..] Last night we learned that America is still a beacon of hope where the impossible is possible.

For far too long, we’ve heard Washington politicians give the excuse that “it can’t be done.” They say we can’t balance the budget, we can’t stop corruption, we can’t control the border, we can’t bring jobs back to our country.

I REFUSE to accept that it can’t be done. This is the country that declared its independence, won two world wars, and landed a man on the moon. This is America. We can and we WILL get it done.

Now it’s time to start uniting our country and binding the wounds of our divided nation. I promise to be a president for ALL Americans. I will work for you. I will fight for you. And I will win for you.

You will soon remember what it’s like to win as an American.

Donald Trump is making some very grand promises – and setting incredibly high benchmarks – for his administration, by promising his supporters that they will soon taste victory against global forces that no other Western politician has yet managed to successfully tackle, and by promising a return to the confident, optimistic America which made extraordinary human achievement (like the moon landings) seem effortless and inevitable.

Lord knows that I hope beyond hope that the prosperity promised by Donald Trump is achieved, despite the fact that the candidate himself has given almost no indication as to how he will bring about this national renaissance. But Trump has left himself absolutely no margin for error here. He has essentially promised the equivalent of another moon landing, only without sketching out a new Apollo Program to make it happen. It is rapidly becoming crystal clear that a Trump presidency will stand or fall on the quality of the advisers and cabinet members with whom Trump chooses to surround himself.

And what we know so far about Trump’s thinking when it comes to cabinet members and senior aides is not encouraging.

From Politico:

He’s also expected to reward the band of surrogates who stood by him during the bruising presidential campaign, including Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie, all of whom are being considered for top posts. A handful of Republican politicians may also make the cut, including Sen. Bob Corker for secretary of state or Sen. Jeff Sessions for secretary of defense.

Trump’s divisive campaign may make it difficult for him to attract top talent, especially since so many politicians and wonks openly derided the president-elect over the past year. And Trump campaign officials have worried privately that they will have difficulty finding high-profile women to serve in his cabinet, according to a person familiar with the campaign’s internal discussions, given Trump’s past comments about women.

And considering that Trump is reportedly looking at people like Newt Gingrich (Secretary of State) and Rudy Giuliani (Attorney General), we are being asked to believe that a new American century can somehow be forged by some of the most familiar faces of the last century.

I’ll be honest – I have grave doubts that these dubious figures from America’s past will be able to drag the country successfully into the future.

9 November – 11:45AM Washington D.C. / 4:45PM London

Hillary Clinton gives her concession speech

A long standing ovation for Clinton as she takes the stage, flanked by Bill and Chelsea.

“I hope that he will be a successful president for all Americans”, says Clinton of president-elect Donald Trump.

“Our campaign was never about one person or one election”, says the person whose campaign slogan was “I’m With Her”. Okay, then.

“Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead. Our constitution enshrines the peaceful transfer of power and we cherish that”, says Clinton, before markedly underlining the freedoms of speech and worship enshrined in the Constitution.

Clinton is gracious to the Obamas too, saying “our nation owes you an enormous debt”. “We thank you for your graceful, determined leadership that has meant so much to many Americans and people across the world”.

For all her many real flaws, it is hard not to feel a pang of something as the Clinton era definitively comes to an end:

I maintain that America is more than ready for a woman president. This election result was absolutely not the repudiation of the idea of a woman president. It was a repudiation of Hillary Clinton, and Clinton alone. The glass ceiling will be broken.

“My friends, let us have faith in each other – let us not grow weary, let us not lose heart, for there are more seasons to come and more work to do”, says Clinton, quoting scripture as she closes her remarks.

The full transcript of Clinton’s concession speech is here.

9 November – 11:37AM Washington D.C. / 4:37PM London

Clinton prepares to speak

Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine has taken the stage in front of an audience of Clinton campaign workers, saying how proud he is of Hillary Clinton and noting that Clinton is on track to win the popular vote in this election, though obviously not the presidency itself.

“She has been in battles before where things didn’t go her way and she accepted it, and then woke up the next day and battled again”, says Kaine.

And he raises applause as he quotes William Faulkner: “They kilt us but they ain’t whupped us yit”.

9 November – 11:33AM Washington D.C. / 4:33PM London

Hoping for the best

Jonah Goldberg, as avowedly an anti-Trump conservative as anyone, largely sums up my wariness about the future:

It looks like Donald Trump will be the next president of the United States. I can’t say I’m rejoicing about his victory — though Hillary Clinton’s defeat is certainly welcome.

This is nothing short of an amazing achievement. I’m not sure one can exaggerate what a remarkable accomplishment this is, whether you’re a fan, foe, critic, or skeptic. My views on Trump are well known and I stand by them all. Except, of course, for my skepticism about his chances of winning. I was clearly wrong about that.

And, now that he will be the next president, I sincerely hope he continues to prove me wrong. We only have one president at a time and he deserves a shot, not because I think he’s worthy or deserving — but because the country is.

As a conservative writer and as someone who has been very critical of Trump from Day 1, I feel like I have zero ownership of a Trump presidency — which is quite liberating, actually. But as an American I have every bit as much ownership of his presidency as anyone. And for that reason alone, I hope I’m proven wrong about all of my deep seated concerns and fears.

But, as a conservative, I also hope Trump surprises me. I hope the Republican House and Senate (!), work to give him a positive conservative agenda. Likewise, I hope his cadre of campaign advisers and media boosters are successful at making sure that Trump actually governs as the competent conservative they promised he would be. I think they will have their work cut out for them but they, too, deserve their shot. Indeed, they are the ones who “own this” now.

We all remember the touching note left for incoming president Bill Clinton by the outgoing George H W Bush, wishing him well and pledging to support and pray for him, despite their political differences (and the fact that Clinton had consigned him to a one-term presidency).

It is hard to utter the same support for Donald Trump because of his known character flaws, the things he has said on the campaign trail and the policies that he has advocated. But for America’s sake, we must all hope that a Trump presidency is either successful against all the odds, or else mercifully short.

9 November – 11:30AM Washington D.C. / 4:30PM London

Supreme relief

Rod Dreher articulates the thought foremost in the minds of many conservatives who had no love or respect for Donald Trump, but who feared the potential impact of a Clinton presidency on the judiciary:

9 November – 11:25AM Washington D.C. / 4:25PM London

The GOP is now the Party of Trump

Paul Ryan is now speaking, looking incredibly pleased with himself and talking about how closely he and the Republican House majority will work with Trump.

“We do remain a sharply divided country”, he acknowledges, and then talks about the need to heal the divisions of a long campaign. “This needs to be a time of redemption, not a time of recrimination”.

One can imagine how different Paul Ryan’s speech might have been had Trump led the party to defeat, as many expected to happen. But Ryan clearly sees the way that the wind is blowing. If he does intend to be the statesmanlike legislative check and balance on Donald Trump’s whims and flights of fancy, he is giving no hint of it now.

9 November – 11:18AM Washington D.C. / 4:18PM London

An uncompromising look at Clinton’s failures

More prescient wisdom from the National Review’s Jim Geraghty, from back in May of this year:

If Trump wins, the recriminations against Clinton and her team will be brutal. The idea that she could be the first woman president will be seen as a mass delusion, a grand, party-wide exercise in willful denial. Democrats are now given to softly worrying that “she’s just not as good a retail politician as her husband was.” The more honest truth would come out after a November loss: Her instincts are terrible. She plays it safe with focus-grouped pabulum and offers implausible lies when people call her on it. Her record as secretary of state offered no reason for inspiration or confidence. When faced with a garish, absurd opponent who generated broad, bipartisan fear, she offered only the soggy mush of the status quo. Democrats are trying to make themselves love her now; they’ll hate her if she loses.

And Geraghty is equally unsparing when it comes to the consequences for President Obama’s legacy:

How successful can Obama’s two terms be if Americans were willing to take a chance on an outsider who stands for everything he abhors? Obama took office optimistic despite the Great Recession he inherited. How would it look if eight years later he left the office to Trump, who has risen on the strength of a despairing, angry, bitterly divided electorate eager to “burn it down”?

It would look like Obama left Americans with so little respect for the office of the presidency that they thought Trump could do the job.

After a Trump win, Democratic recriminations about Obama would flourish as well. His presidency would have been the story of the party’s slow, steady, painful fall from the heights of power to the depths of defeat.

One wonders what on earth President Obama will say when he gives his speech later.

9 November – 11:05AM Washington D.C. / 4:05PM London

Jim Geraghty of National Review seems to concur with the left-wing / identity politics overreach theory:

Back in August, I offered the counter-intuitive theory that the Right was winning the culture wars in 2016, that the hard Left had bitten off way more than it can chew and was crumbling before a backlash: transgender bathrooms, celebrating Catilyn Jenner and policing the pronouns people use, college alumni donations down, the end of Gawker… now we can add in a giant, sweeping victory for Republicans of all stripes to the list.

It is still early days, but I think we can safely say that this phenomena – the identity politics backlash – is a significant part of the Trump victory.

Geraghty’s original piece from back in August is here.

9 November – 10:50AM Washington D.C. / 3:50PM London

What hath the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics wrought?

Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt is currently offering some of the best early analysis – and warnings – about the astonishing Hillary Clinton defeat. As he has consistently offered robust commentary on the social justice and identity politics crazes sweeping college campuses, so he is worth following while we digest these presidential election results.

First in this tweet:

I think we all know the answer to Haidt’s question without even pressing “play” and watching the video.

And then in this tweet:

One can already hear it – the opening chorus in the howl of outrage from incandescent Democrats who expected to romp home to victory last night, and who now find themselves and their worldview summarily rejected by the nation. The temptation to lash out undiscriminatingly at all Trump voters, suggesting that they voted for Donald Trump as a positive affirmation of his worst traits and behaviours, will be strong. Check Twitter – many are already giving way to this temptation.

But this will only feed the monster. Calling Trump supporters “deplorable” and accusing them all of endorsing Trump’s questionable behaviour toward women and minorities with their vote will only lead the half of the country who voted Trump to feel even more misunderstood and under attack. It will harden Trump’s support. And no matter how cathartic it may feel for SJWs today, to suffer and roar on Twitter about the supposed inhumanity of their fellow Americans, in the longer term they only set the stage for another presently unimaginable defeat in 2020.

The American Left may never bring themselves to like the half of the country which supported Donald Trump. But for their own sake, they must stop actively hating them.

9 November – 10:28AM Washington D.C. / 3:28PM London

Andrew Sullivan is not taking the news well:

We are witnessing the power of a massive populist movement that has now upended the two most stable democracies in the world — and thrown both countries into a completely unknown future. In Britain, where the polls did not pick up the latent support for withdrawal from the European Union, a new prime minister is now navigating a new social contract with the indigenous middle and working classes forged by fear of immigration and globalization. In the U.S., the movement — built on anti-political politics, economic disruption, and anti-immigration fears — had something else, far more lethal, in its bag of tricks: a supremely talented demagogue who created an authoritarian cult with unapologetically neo-fascist rhetoric. Britain is reeling toward a slow economic slide. America has now jumped off a constitutional cliff. It will never be the same country again. Like Brexit, this changes the core nature of this country permanently.

This is now Trump’s America. He controls everything from here on forward. He has won this campaign in such a decisive fashion that he owes no one anything. He has destroyed the GOP and remade it in his image. He has humiliated the elites and the elite media. He has embarrassed every pollster and naysayer. He has avenged Obama. And in the coming weeks, Trump will not likely be content to bask in vindication. He will seek unforgiving revenge on those who dared to oppose him. The party apparatus will be remade in his image. The House and Senate will fail to resist anything he proposes — and those who speak up will be primaried into oblivion. The Supreme Court may well be shifted to the far right for more than a generation to come — with this massive victory, he can pick a new Supreme Court justice who will make Antonin Scalia seem like a milquetoast. He will have a docile, fawning Congress for at least four years. We will not have an administration so much as a court.

Oh, get over yourself with your contempt for Brexit, Andrew. Quite rightly you would never expect America to subsume herself into a supranational political union of the Americas, yet you think that this democracy-leeching status quo is just fine for your country of birth? This is the lazy, instinctively pro-EU commentary of somebody who has not been paying attention, who has half forgotten his conservative principles and who has nothing worthwhile to say.

That being said, I do share many of Andrew’s concerns about Trump’s strong authoritarian tendencies. They are real and pronounced, and no matter how much Trump may cosmetically pivot away from his more extreme rhetoric, will need resisting:

I see no way to stop this at first, but some of us will have to try. And what we must seek to preserve are the core institutions that he may threaten — the courts, first of all, even if he shifts the Supreme Court to an unprecedentedly authoritarian-friendly one. Then the laws governing the rules of war, so that war crimes do not define America as their disavowal once did. Then the free press, which he will do all he can to intimidate and, if possible, bankrupt. Then the institutions he will have to destroy to achieve what he wants — an independent Department of Justice as one critical bulwark, what’s left of the FBI that will not be an instrument of his reign of revenge, our scientific institutions, and what’s left of free thought in our colleges and universities. We will need to march peacefully on the streets to face down the massive intimidation he will at times present to a truly free and open society. We have to hold our heads up high as we defend the values of the old republic, even as it crumbles into authoritarian dust. We must be prepared for nonviolent civil disobedience. We must transcend racial and religious division in a movement of resistance that is as diverse and as open as the new president’s will be uniform and closed.

And, impossible though it may be, we will have to resist partisanship. The only way back to a free society, to a country where no one need fear the president’s wrath or impulses, is to unwind the factionalism that has helped destroy this country. We have to forge a new coalition on right and left to resist fascism’s reach and cultic power. In a country which just elected and re-elected a black president — whose grace feels now almost painful to recall — it is surely possible.

Andrew Sullivan himself admits that he is emotional and prone to hyperbole in the heat of the moment. I think that many of us are probably feeling the strain at the moment. But the Republic has not “repealed itself”, as Sullivan claims. The US Constitution was crafted specifically for moment such as these.

9 November – 10:00AM Washington D.C. / 3:00PM London

And we’re back. I’ll be reviewing some of the most interesting reaction to this stunning US presidential election result, reviewing Clinton’s upcoming concession speech and then giving my hot take on the result.

donald-trump-presidential-election-victory-speech

9 November – 2:57AM Washington D.C. / 7:57AM London

“To be really historic, we have to do a great job, and I promise not to let you down” says Trump. “Hopefully at the end of two years or four years – or maybe even eight years – you will say that this was something you were very proud to do. And I can only say that while the campaign is over, our work – or rather this movement – is only just beginning”.

And Trump closes, stating “I love this country”.

Well. This is all entirely shocking and unexpected (to me). Donald Trump, president-elect of the United States. Yikes.

I’m going to take a brief break to recharge. The live blog will continue in due course – stay tuned.

9 November – 2:57AM Washington D.C. / 7:57AM London

“We must dream big and bold and daring”, says Trump.

I don’t want to like this speech. I am sceptical of most of the content. But I do like the faint Lincolnian and now Ted Rooseveltian allusions in the early part of Donald Trump’s victory speech – the latter to Roosevelt’s “dare mighty things”.

If only I had any confidence that these words might actually be backed by a Lincolnian resolve or a Rooseveltian character.

9 November – 2:55AM Washington D.C. / 7:55AM London

“I’ve spent my entire life in business looking at the untapped potential in people and projects around the world”, says Trump. “It’s going to be a beautiful thing”.

“The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer”, says Trump, pledging to rebuild infrastructure and make it “second to none”, before going on to praise veterans and promise them greater support.

“We will double our growth and have the strongest economy anywhere in the world”, he continues. Really? How?

9 November – 2:53AM Washington D.C. / 7:53AM London

Donald Trump takes the stage

“Sorry to keep you waiting – complicated business”, Trump jokes as he takes in the applause and says the unimaginable words “I just received a call from Secretary Clinton. She congratulated us – us – on our victory, and I congratulated her and her family on their campaign, they fought very hard”.

And HERE is the belated Trump pivot – “We owe her a major debt of gratitude for her service to our country”.

And a nice Lincolnian reference to “bind[ing] the wounds” of the nation.

“I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help, so that we can work together to unify our great country”, Trump says. “Ours ways not a campaign, but an incredible and great movement”.

9 November – 2:47AM Washington D.C. / 7:47AM London

Mike Pence addresses Trump supporters

Mike Pence has now taken the stage to address Trump supporters at their victory rally. “The American people have spoken, and the American people have elected their new champion”, Pence declares.

The crowd respond with chants of “USA!”

9 November – 2:41AM Washington D.C. / 7:41AM London

Hillary Clinton concedes

Dana Bash of CNN confirms that Hillary Clinton has apparently now called Donald Trump to concede the 2016 presidential election.

9 November – 2:29AM Washington D.C. / 7:29AM London

Hillary refuses to concede tonight

It is quite remarkable, really, that rather than staying up to await the final result – with Trump so close to victory, needing only Michigan or Pennsylvania to make it to 270 electoral votes – Hillary Clinton chose not to concede, not to address her supporters but rather to send her campaign chairman, John Podesta, out to utter a few vague platitudes before sending the crowd home for the night.

The Clinton campaign is being rightly (I think) roasted for this decision on the television news – at least on CNN, where I am currently watching. One can imagine the howls of outrage from Democrats were the situation reversed and Donald Trump refused to emerge at the appropriate time.

One can understand the shock at this apparently unexpected reversal of fortune, but there is a nation out there waiting for reassurance. When everyone predicted that Trump might refuse to concede defeat, we rightly heard a lot about the importance of smooth and peaceful transitions. In light of those pronouncements, the Clinton / Podesta decision tonight looks churlish, not to mention hypocritical.

9 November – 2:23AM Washington D.C. / 7:23AM London

The Democrats and their dangerous contempt for the white working classes

Janet Daley has an excellent piece in the Telegraph, excoriating the Democrats and the metropolitan American Left in general for not only giving up on speaking to or representing the white working class, but often treating them and their priorities with open contempt:

The white working class voter no longer sees the Democratic party as his natural home. This has enormous political and social consequences. And there is an open question whether this election could bring about a permanent shift in party loyalty, much as Barry Goldwater did in turning the southern states Republican. There are clear indications that Hillary overplayed the woman card, failed to make any real gesture to those who had been famously “left behind” by the global economy and took far too much for granted.

[..] The Democrats are urgently in need of an epiphany: the message they are sending does not reflect the voice of their traditional constituency. They are not talking the language of blue collar Americans: they speak Left-liberal claptrap which engages their cosmopolitan friends. But there are not enough of them to create a national mandate.

You may notice the parallel with our own dear Labour party. The Left has lost its centre of gravity and its historical identity. But if Trump really pulls this off, we will have more to worry about than the chatter of Left-wing society.

The West will have lost the leadership of the one remaining superpower in the world. The globalisation of labour which has served the wealthy so well – and the bitterness that it has generated among indigenous populations – will have altered the international power balance for a generation. All of the assumptions about military alliances, free trade and global cooperation will come into question. The future is seriously alarming. And not just for Americans.

And all because of selfishness – because the establishment was determined to hang on to policies which benefited themselves without bringing the rest of the country with them, or ensuring that other, less well-connected people were also getting a fair deal.

My Conservatives for Liberty colleague Paul Nizinskyj, currently in the thick of the action in Washington D.C., makes a similar observation:

The guys on CNN are already reacting with complete surprise at districts which were expected to come out for Hillary which have come out for Trump. What I’ve been warning Americans my entire time here appears to be happening; the Trump campaign appears to be bringing out people who do not usually vote.

This is exactly what happened during the Brexit vote and is exactly what the Canadian Tories did to win a surprise majority some years ago. There is an anti-majority mood in the country, which has galvanised citizens which never usually vote.

I and other British conservatives have reasons to fear a Trump presidency, but if it happens, the message must be clear; this would have happened because politics as usual has neglected the common man for so long, the Republican Party has degenerated to such a degree, that people grasp for extremes.

Whether Trump wins or Trump loses, there will follow a period of reflection for the Republican Party from tomorrow, to decide just what it has done wrong over the last decade to lead to this point. I only hope people of the same ilk as Conservatives for Liberty are part of that process.

If there is now to be a period of instability, the turbulence is largely due to the fact that establishment politicians of both main political parties in America preferred to sit and jealously guard their treasures rather than listen to the often-legitimate concerns of people less fortunate than themselves.

9 November – 1:47AM Washington D.C. / 6:47AM London

Mike Cernovich, take a bow

If you don’t know who Mike Cernovich is, then you need to find out pretty darn quickly. Because it is insurgent, guerilla online activism like that practised by Cernovich which did so much to drive online discussion of the presidential campaign, push Trump-friendly memes and topics into the public discourse and ultimately help secure what looks to be an historic and otherwise unexpected Trump victory.

(For the uninitiated, this feature in the New Yorker is a reasonable introduction).

And I say “otherwise unexpected” because Cernovich, along with some others mentioned in this Slate article, predicted a Trump victory all along, and now appears almost certain to be vindicated in that early confidence:

There was a time, not so long ago, when reasonable people all across America believed that Donald Trump was a fake presidential candidate. The guy was a novelty act, we thought—a narcissistic dingbat who was going through the motions of running a political campaign in service of nothing more sinister or consequential than promoting his big dumb brand.

That turned out to be an incorrect assessment. At some point it became clear that Trump was a narcissistic dingbat who was also possibly going to be president.

As many of us continue to grapple with the depth of how wrong we were to dismiss Trump in the opening months of his campaign, it’s worth looking back at the handful of individuals who declined to join our giddy chorus of skepticism. While the rest of us giggled like idiots, or else reasoned our way to being convinced that a Trump nomination could never happen, these commentators saw something in Trump that made them confident he had what it took.

The article says of Cernovich:

What tipped him off: “I knew Trump would do well because I read his books and had only watched a couple of episodes of The Apprentice over 10 years ago,” Cernovich said in an email. “I didn’t have the same biases on Trump that others had. I read his books and saw a man who had a strong mindset, a track record of succeeding, and who would make strong and sometimes offensive comments as a way to get media attention.”

He went on: “Culturally, people were tired of politically correct culture. We live in an age of micro aggressions where people are deemed racist or sexist of phobic for making one wrong tweet. There will always be a counter-culture, and Trump, with his take no prisoners style of commentary, is that counter-culture.”

Also: “Trump … has the ‘strong father’ masculine energy. Consider how his family members all live (opulent wealth aside) normal lives. They have families. The children and grandchildren have avoided the Kim Kardashian style drama common these days. Trump must’ve been an extraordinary father to have raised well-adjusted kids.”

What he says now: “I received a lot of hate and doubt when backing Trump. I’m used to that, though, as I prefer taking contrarian positions. …. It feels great to be vindicated, especially because most of Trump’s doubters were snide.”

I agree with Mike Cernovich on some issues and probably disagree with him on many more (particularly where he veers into conspiracy theories), but anyone who has watched one of his Periscope videos will attest to the sense of purpose and excitement his recent political activism has generated among many of his followers.

Cernovich was also probably prescient when he slapped down mainstream media predictions that Trump was only in the race to generate interest in a future cable news channel, or Trump News Network. As Cernovich pointed out then – and as was immediately apparent to anyone trying to decide how to watch and read the election unfold tonight – the old monopoly of the television news (and the grip that their narrative held over the public understanding of politics) has been broken for good.

One can argue whether it is good for presidential candidates to have their own cable news-style Facebook Live events, with anchors and talking heads all in the pay of the politician they are covering – and I think it is a pretty terrible way to go – but we are likely to see much more of this in future.

If Donald Trump does prevail tonight and becomes president – and if he survives his four year term without resigning or being impeached – then it is a fairly safe bet that his angry Democratic challenger in 2020 will be using many of the same insurgent techniques as used with such devastating effect by the Donald Trump campaign and his most effective cheerleaders.

mike-cernovich-donald-trump

9 November – 1:18AM Washington D.C. / 6:18AM London

Free riders beware

The chancellories of Europe may rightly be waking up in a cold sweat this morning at the realisation that the decades-old agreement – in which America bore the burden of militarily defending the West while European countries frittered money on their generous social welfare programmes – may be about to come to an abrupt end:

9 November – 1:10AM Washington D.C. / 6:10AM London

The lure of protectionism

Penned a week before the election, John Daniel Davidson at The Federalist explains the allure of Donald Trump’s muscular, confrontational (and one might add regressive) protectionist stance on trade, through the prism of Pennsylvania – a state which looks about ready to declare for Trump:

For much of the twentieth century, Pennsylvania was America’s poster child for industrial prosperity, from its massive steel mills around Pittsburgh to its anthracite coal mines in the northeast. From Bethlehem to Braddock to Scranton, middle-class communities were often built on the foundation of single industries (or even a single company), and ever since the New Deal and the organization of powerful labor unions, the workers in those industries invariably voted Democratic.

Allegiance to the Democratic Party was tied, for the most part, to trade policies that protected Pennsylvania’s twin economic engines: steel and coal. When Pennsylvania steel producers began feeling pressure from new technologies and overseas competition in the decades after World War Two, the industry pushed for, and got, tariffs and import quotas. Government contracts—many of them secured with the help of Rep. John Murtha, who died in 2010 after 36 years in Congress—helped stem the loss of jobs. Generations of steelworkers and miners across the state had grown accustomed to middle-class wages, generous health and retirement benefits, and the promise of protection in all its forms.

Then it all came crashing down. Beginning in the 1970s and continuing to the present day, the steady loss of mining jobs and the dramatic closure of steel mills across Pennsylvania struck a blow to vast swaths of the state, hollowing out communities and leaving former middle-class workers dependent on welfare and unemployment benefits.

[..] Across the state, Democratic-majority counties are turning to Trump and his promise of protectionist trade policies. One recent statewide poll found Clinton ahead by just two points statewide, but Trump with a nine-point lead in Pittsburgh and a twelve-point lead in Wilkes-Barre, the seat of Luzerne County. In 2012, Obama easily won both Pittsburgh and Luzerne County. Ron Ferrance, the GOP chairman of Luzerne County, says Democrats have lost their hold on northeast Pennsylvania. “I think this area is done with them. They’re played out,” he says, predicting Trump will win Pennsylvania by double digits.

The Democrats – really, the entire American political establishment – ignored these suffering Americans at their peril. And now, it seems, they will suffer the consequences.

9 November – 12:50AM Washington D.C. / 5:50AM London

Watching some hand-wringing leftist on CNN moan about his pain right now makes me think that however much Democrats and large-L liberals may be hurting as they face possible defeat, it is worth remembering that many of Donald Trump’s supporters have known nothing but defeat and betrayal by the politicians who promised to fight for them, in many cases going back decades.

I write this as somebody who passionately does not want Donald Trump to win, but who recognises that many of those who voted for him were in no way endorsing his dubious prior behaviour or the worst aspects of his personality, but simply saw in Trump somebody who might not lead them on the usual merry dance.

Sadly I believe that they were wrong to put their faith in Trump. And if he is indeed elected president, as now seems likely, Donald Trump will have an immense job to live up to the many glib promises that he has made.

9 November – 12:45AM Washington D.C. / 5:45AM London

Are we witnessing an anti-Social Justice backlash?

Robby Soave of the Daily Beast suggests that we are witnessing a massive backlash and reaction against the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics which has captured swathes of the American Left:

Can we lay the blame for a possible Hillary Clinton defeat at the hands of identity politics? No, that would be too simplistic. But it is certainly part of the tapestry, a thread running through the rope with which the white working class and assorted conservatives are threatening to hang the Democrats.

If you demonise and persecute swathes of people for the relatively moderate beliefs that they hold or language that they use, as the Social Justice Warriors live to do, it will inspire resentment. Incredible resentment, in some cases. This is certainly part of what we are now witnessing. As to how big a factor an anti-SJW backlash may be, that will have to be picked over in the coming days and weeks.

8 November – 11:46PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 4:46AM London

Maybe some of those people who acted as though a President Mitt Romney would be the Worst Thing Ever four years ago might now want to reconsider their standard hyperbolic reaction to standard, moderate, dyed-in-the-wool conservatives.

I quite agree with Ed West here:

8 November – 11:40PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 4:40AM London

Hillary Clinton’s last stand

Politico lays it out:

Hillary Clinton’s reeling campaign is now hinging on three predominantly white industrial states that were never supposed to be in play.

Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin – and their combined 46 electoral votes – appear to be the last bastion of hope for her candidacy, after Florida, North Carolina and Ohio were called for Donald Trump.

None of the three have voted for Republicans since 1988, and all appeared until the final days of the campaign to be safely in Clinton’s column. Yet as the clock ticked past 11 p.m. on the East Coast, Trump led narrowly in Michigan and Wisconsin, and Clinton clung to a thin in Pennsylvania.

“All eyes on Michigan,” tweeted former Congressman John Dingell, as Clinton’s path to the presidency narrowed dramatically as the evening wore on.

Trump spent the waning days of the campaign barnstorming Michigan. He, his running mate Mike Pence and top surrogates like Sarah Palin hit crucial cities in the state in the final days, considered a last ditch attempt to salvage his candidacy. Instead, it appears that it was Clinton’s campaign that was triaging when she, Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama made last-minute stops there. With more than half of ballots counted in the state, Trump led by 24,000 votes.

With this ominous note:

There were warning signs that Clinton was weak in both Michigan and Wisconsin. She lost the primary in both to Democratic rival Bernie Sanders and rarely campaigned in either state since.

Signs which the Clinton campaign apparently ignored.

8 November – 11:05PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 4:05AM London

Apparently Clinton aides (and many people on Twitter) are chalking up Hillary Clinton’s sudden lurch in fortunes almost exclusively to FBI director James Comey’s decision to re-open the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email scandal:

This is ludicrous. I’ll grant a waiver for a day or so, just because tonight’s events must be a huge shock to the systems of many Democrats, and people say silly things when they are emotional. But if this is indeed to be a Clinton defeat, to chalk it all up to the actions of the FBI – as though Hillary Clinton’s email scandal were not already largely priced in to the public’s estimation of her – is a case of massive denial.

If Trump goes on to win, it will be a thorough and unprecedented repudiation of Clinton and the opinions of much of the establishment. To begin by blaming it all on the Bad Man at the FBI is to dodge the work of coming to terms with the defeat.

8 November – 10:55PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 3:55AM London

Did Ronald Brownstein predict the strategic error which has led Hillary Clinton to this excruciatingly difficult place in an article written less than one week ago?

Brownstein wrote:

Hillary Clinton’s easiest path to an Electoral College majority does not include Ohio, Florida, or North Carolina.

Yet those three states all rank at the very top of the list of locales where she has invested the most time and advertising spending, especially in the campaign’s critical closing weeks. By contrast, the campaign has devoted very little advertising or time from Clinton and her top surrogates in several of the states that are part of her core strategy for reaching 270 Electoral College votes—among them Michigan, Wisconsin, Colorado, Virginia, and New Mexico.

The Clinton team’s decision to focus so much more attention on states that it wants to win—as opposed to those it believes it needs to win—represents one of the central, if often unremarked upon, choices of the 2016 election. It has allowed her to play offense for most of the general election, while forcing rival Donald Trump to spend most of his energy defending states more indispensable to his strategy than to hers.

But it’s also meant Clinton has devoted little attention, beyond field organizing, to fortifying states where Trump is now making a late push amid the tailwind of tightening national polls. With Trump consolidating traditional Republican voters, Clinton faces the risk that she has overestimated her hold on the places most central to her strategy.

My emphasis in bold.

This certainly seems plausible. And if Hillary Clinton goes on to lose the election – the New York Times prediction is now hovering at 94% probability of a Trump victory – it will prove to be one of the most grave strategic errors ever made in American presidential politics.

What was Robbie Mook, Clinton campaign manager, thinking?

h/t Rich Lowry

8 November – 10:50PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 3:50AM London

What a change is here

The mere fact that Clinton aides and allies are having to circle the wagons like this is incredible, given where we (thought we) were just one day ago.

From the Atlantic:

Top Democrats here at Hillary Clinton’s election-night party are still projecting confidence, but there’s clearly concern as her path to the presidency narrows.

“It’s tight, but we still have a lot of the country left to come in,” Representative Steve Israel, a Clinton ally in New York, told me. “We knew from the beginning that Donald Trump had to win Florida to stay alive. We have other places to go, but I’m confident that we’re in very strong shape.”

On the stage, Senator Charles Schumer tried to rally the crowd with a chant borrowed from the Naval Academy Prep School, by way of fans of the U.S. men’s national soccer team. “I believe that she will win! I believe that she will win!” Schumer shouted. Yet he did not repeat the prediction of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in assuming a Clinton victory. Schumer, who won reelection to his Senate seat easily, is poised to become the Democratic leader with the retirement of Nevada’s Harry Reid. But with key Senate seats now favoring Republicans, he is not likely to become majority leader.

Among the crowd, many partygoers had retreated to the food court in anticipation of a long night.

Even as he held out optimism for a Clinton win, Israel began to consider the implications of just how close the race had become and how much stronger Trump had performed than Democrats expected. “This election was not about the candidates,” Israel said. “It was about the time that we’re in. Donald Trump could never have run in any time other than the time we’re in right now. We’re witnessing a new convergence of pressures on the American public. The economy is changing radically. They’ve lost faith in institutions, in government, in sports, and in Wall Street. They feel threatened at home. You put it all together, and you have a very anxious environment that Donald Trump has tapped into.”

8 November – 10:32PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 3:32AM London

Donald Trump’s likelihood of victory is now up to 86% in the New York Times live presidential forecast:

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Make that 87%. His odds are increasing faster than I can post updates on this blog.

8 November – 10:26PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 3:26AM London

This is frankly astonishing. As Rod Dreher points out, even if Donald Trump does go on to lose tonight, the fact that he has fought the election this close after all the predictions of his defeat means that Trumpism now will not die with the defeat of the candidate.

8 November – 10:23PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 3:23AM London

Goodness me. If this isn’t a pre-concession, I don’t know what is. I’m stunned.

To repeat (again), Donald Trump is not like “Brexit plus plus plus”, as he loves to claim. But that feeling of shock and history in the making in the pit of my stomach right now is exactly the same as I felt on the night of the EU referendum.

8 November – 10:12PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 3:12AM London

This is utterly stunning. Clearly absolute panic and dejection in the Clinton camp right now. She always was a terrible candidate. What were the Democrats thinking?

8 November – 10:09PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 3:09AM London

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa…

8 November – 10:07PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 3:07AM London

It looks increasingly certain that Florida has fallen to Donald Trump:

8 November – 10:05PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 3:05AM London

Like Brexit all over again?

That thrill / nervousness everyone is feeling right now, as the presidential election result teeters on a knife edge? That’s the feeling you get when a country is sovereign, and the outcome of elections actually matters because politicians and their choices are not constrained by, say, a supranational political union of some kind. This is hopefully what British elections will start to feel like – because they will actually matter again, because citizens might actually notice a tangible difference based on who wins.

Is it scary? Yes, I suppose it is. But I think Brendan O’Neill would agree with me that politics is supposed to be a bit scary. As O’Neill said before the 2015 UK general election:

I, like many others, want my politics hard, existential, frightening even, addressing the biggest questions facing humanity: freedom, progress, morality, war, the future. But all we’re being offered is a choice between managers, primarily of Britain’s economic decline. ‘Who will YOU trust to shave the public deficit?’

Politics at its best should encompass the big decisions about freedom, responsibility and the role of the state. We have been blasé about our politics because by and large our constrained political decisions have not much mattered for the past few decades. With Brexit, that could be about to change for us – which makes it all the more important that we are all informed and engaged citizens.

Under the American Constitution, any president is rightly constrained in what they can do without the consent and cooperation of the other two branches of government. So fear not – Donald Trump will not be able to do all of the crazy things he has indicated he wants to do, in the event that he does win. But yes, the winner of the American presidential election matters, because America is a free country, more so than Britain at present. Hopefully we in Britain will soon know this freedom – and hopefully we will make wise choices with the power we claim back for ourselves.

8 November – 9:45PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 2:45AM London

Like Brexit all over again?

With the race having potentially tipped in Donald Trump’s favour, many are now highlighting comparisons with the British EU referendum returns as they came in, with initial Remainer confidence giving way to doubt, and then panic:

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves yet – but something is clearly going on here. Trump is now up to 58% probability of victory in the New York Times estimate. 58 percent!

8 November – 9:35PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 2:35AM London

Trump surge?

Update: As of 9.30PM East Coast Time, the New York Times prediction has crossed over to a Trump popular vote victory and slim lead in the electoral college:

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This is becoming incredibly tense.

8 November – 9:30PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 2:30AM London

A late swing to Trump?

With Donald Trump performing more strongly than expected in Florida (over 1% ahead with over 90% of votes counted) and strong early showings in Ohio and Michigan, some live predictions – including that of the New York Times – are recharacterising this race as a “tossup” rather than leaning toward a Hillary Clinton victory:

new-york-times-live-presidential-forecast

The same prediction shows an anticipated 2.9% popular vote lead for Clinton, and a slender 5-vote lead in the Electoral College.

8 November – 9:03PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 2:03AM London

What hath Trump wrought?

That is the question posed by Pat Buchanan in The American Conservative:

The Trump candidacy exposed what seems an unbridgeable gulf between this political class and the nation in whose name it purports to speak.

Consider the litany of horrors it has charged Trump with.

He said John McCain was no hero, that some Mexican illegals are “rapists.” He mocked a handicapped reporter. He called some women “pigs.” He wants a temporary ban to Muslim immigration. He fought with a Gold Star mother and father. He once engaged in “fat-shaming” a Miss Universe, calling her “Miss Piggy,” and telling her to stay out of Burger King. He allegedly made crude advances on a dozen women and starred in the “Access Hollywood” tape with Billy Bush.

While such “gaffes” are normally fatal for candidates, Trump’s followers stood by him through them all.

Why? asks an alarmed establishment. Why, in spite of all this, did Trump’s support endure? Why did the American people not react as they once would have? Why do these accusations not have the bite they once did?

Answer. We are another country now, an us-or-them country.

Middle America believes the establishment is not looking out for the nation but for retention of its power. And in attacking Trump it is not upholding some objective moral standard but seeking to destroy a leader who represents a grave threat to that power.

Trump’s followers see an American Spring as crucial, and they are not going to let past boorish behavior cause them to abandon the last best chance to preserve the country they grew up in.

Look, I get the anti-establishment thing. I do. After all, I’m a Brexiteer, and the fight to secure Britain’s secession from the European Union was nothing of not a David vs Goliath, insurgents vs establishment showdown. But Donald Trump is not a plucky anti-establishment hero whose only flaws are a few youthful indiscretions. Trump’s character flaws have been exposed over and over again during this election campaign, often at about 3AM on Twitter. If temperament matters at all, Trump’s temperament makes him ineligible for the presidency.

But more than that, Trump is simply not a conservative. He believes in a large, coercive state exercising considerable power over individuals and corporations alike. He almost never speaks about liberty and freedom because they simply do not register as important to him.

If the Republican Party still intends to be America’s conservative party then they cannot simply throw away their old principles and adopt the Trump platform wholesale. Of course they should do a better job listening and responding to the concerns of their base – this blog has been saying so consistently since Trump started to run away with the Republican nomination:

Unfortunately Trumpism cannot be easily put back in the bottle now it has been released. First, it must be defeated in November, however unappealing the thought of giving the Washington establishment four more years in charge may be. And then the rebuilding of American conservatism must start – a difficult feat since so many of its most intelligent and respected figures have sullied themselves by bending the knee to Donald Trump.

[..] Great electoral rewards await the first party to grapple with the core question of how to reconcile the imperatives of globalisation with the need to equip citizens with the skills and services needed to prosper in a modern economy which can no longer promise a high standard of living for mass unskilled labour. Republicans have the harder job here – the conservative emphasis on self-sufficiency and a small state requires inventive solutions, whereas the Democrats can wave their hands and simply promise a new government program. It’s a difficult issue for conservatives, one which this blog is still struggling to work through.

This is the challenge now facing American conservatives. The culture wars are not insignificant, and there are battles to be fought – some of which this blog sympathises with (political correctness, free speech, religious freedom) and others less so. But no longer will it be enough for Republican politicians to stoke anger about these issues while failing to meaningfully tackle them, or to ignore the economic interests of the American working and lower middle class – doing so will only open the door to another Trump-style populist insurgency.

But if the GOP is now to be the party of protectionism and statism then the conservative coalition is fatally fractured, and we will be set for a generation of Democrat rule.

8 November – 8:32PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 1:32AM London

Obama has spoken

President Obama wants us all to be nicer to each other on Twitter:

Obama is also right to encourage Americans to remain politically engaged beyond election year. This will be particularly interesting to observe among Donald Trump’s supporters, should the election go against them. Will the forces that the Trump campaign mustered remain active and visible, will they melt away altogether, or can they be marshalled by another leader or movement capable of articulating their legitimate grievances without the negative personal baggage of Donald Trump?

Regardless, the president’s message is well taken. As this blog has already observed, America is a far greater country than either of the two rather small figures vying to become its next president.

8 November – 8:20PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 1:20AM London

The Trump Effect claims its first victim

In a hint of the electoral carnage which could hit down-ticket Republicans unable to escape from Donald Trump’s shadow, Republican senator Mark Kirk of Illinois (who first won election back while I was living in Chicago) has been defeated by his Democratic challenger, Rep. Tammy Duckworth:

Mark Kirk publicly disavowed Donald Trump, declaring that he could not and would not vote for the GOP nominee. But clearly no amount of distancing himself from Trump could spare Mark Kirk from the judgment of voters.

8 November – 8:10PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 1:10AM London

No time for cowards

This blog has been strident in its insistence that conservatives who oppose Donald Trump should openly declare their opposition to him if they are to help save the soul of American conservatism.

Conversely, conservatives who do support Donald Trump (or intend to vote for him) should have the decency to explain their decision and defend it in public, rather than trying to skulk along unnoticed.

Republican senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania fails this test. From the Washington Post:

Embroiled in a difficult reelection campaign, first-term Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania refused for months to say whether he would support his party’s presidential nominee.

His opponent, Democrat Katie McGinty, publicly pushed him to take a stand, but Toomey stayed mum. Until now.

Waiting until about an hour before polls closed, Toomey voted and then revealed that he had backed Donald Trump for president after all, according to The Morning Call.

Earlier in the day, McGinty’s campaign put out a particularly harsh news release chastising Toomey for waiting until the last minute to say whom he would support.

“Pat Toomey is officially the most craven and self-interested politician in the country,” said McGinty’s spokesman, Josh Levitt. “Let’s be clear here: Pat Toomey is intentionally waiting until millions of his constituents have already voted today before making clear to them who he supports to be our next commander in chief.”

What utterly craven behaviour. If Toomey lacked the decency to come clean and admit his presidential preference to his constituents then he does not deserve to represent them for another term in the United States Senate.

8 November – 7:50PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 12:50AM London

This is a touching tradition:

It has become a tradition on Election Day for voters to leave their “I Voted” stickers on the grave of women’s suffrage activist Susan B. Anthony in Rochester, N.Y.

Mount Hope Cemetery announced Tuesday it would extend its visiting hours “to accommodate those wishing to celebrate their vote at Susan B. Anthony’s gravesite.” The cemetery normally closes at 7 p.m., but it will remain open until 9 p.m., when polls close in New York.

Some cynics (ahem) might point out that it would be even more inspiring if the woman on the cusp of winning the presidency were somebody else…

8 November – 7:45PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 12:45AM London

Blame Eisenhower

One might think that the modern age of television politics began with the Nixon / Kennedy campaign of 1960, but Jordan Michael Smith of The American Conservative notes that President Dwight Eisenhower, Kennedy’s predecessor, is responsible for many of the innovations in political campaigning which we have long taken for granted:

It is undeniable that Ike introduced some regrettable practices into American politics. Though John F. Kennedy is often remembered as the man who first exploited the power of television, College of New Jersey professor David Haven Blake establishes that it was his presidential predecessor who was the real trailblazer. “Guided by television pioneers and Madison Avenue advertising executives whom insiders dubbed ‘Mad Men,’ he cultivated scores of famous supporters as a way of building the kind of broad-based support that had eluded Republicans for twenty years,” he writes. Liking Ike is the most comprehensive treatment yet of the ways in which the two Eisenhower presidential campaigns launched the commodification of American politicians.

Jingles, commercials, televised endorsements, biographical videos—all were initially the products of the minds of New York ad agencies. Broadway performers took the stage at Madison Square Garden to gin up support for him, animators created television commercials, and Irving Berlin composed the song, “I Like Ike.” This large-scale manufactured enthusiasm all seems commonplace now, but employing the power of celebrity had never been done on this scale before Eisenhower. Warren Harding and Franklin Roosevelt had benefited from campaign appearances by entertainers, but television’s national reach made 1952 a watershed year for celebrity politics.

Eisenhower was the overseer of the merger of entertainment, advertisement, and politics. Perhaps it was inevitable that campaigns would realize the potential of television and treat candidates like any other product, to be packaged and sold and bought in large quantities. Blake repeats comically naïve statements from Eisenhower’s Democratic Party rival, Adlai Stevenson, and Stevenson’s campaign staffer George Ball. “They have conceived not an election campaign in the usual sense but a super colossal, multi-million dollar production designed to sell an inadequate ticket to the American people in precisely the way they sell soap, ammoniated toothpaste, hair tonic or bubble gum,” Ball complained in a speech called “The Corn Flakes Campaign.” But Eisenhower knew the influence that celebrities and novel products had on Americans.

8 November – 7:30PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 12:30AM London

News from the bunker

The Washington Post gives this account of the Donald Trump campaign’s election night bunker:

Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump’s friend and adviser, said in an interview early Tuesday evening that he had just left a small gathering with the Republican nominee at Trump Tower. Trump, he said, was in his apartment “watching everything even though I’m telling him not to.”

Giuliani said Trump was drinking Diet Coke as he eyed the television and the initial returns out of several states. At 6 p.m., Trump had not yet eaten dinner.

“He’s calm. We’re all cautiously optimistic,” Giuliani said when asked to describe the mood at Trump’s home. “We think it’s going to be very, very close. We know there is a populism across the country that’s powerful and he has been lifted by it.”

On George W. Bush and others not voting for Trump, Giuliani said he and others close to Trump shrugged off the reports today. “It doesn’t hurt at this point. Everybody knew that’s where they were.”

The former New York City mayor said he left to do a television hit. “The last thing I said was, ‘Don’t pay attention until the results are in.’ I’ve learned a few things over the years.”

It’s probably good that Giuliani is leaving Trump’s side. One can only imagine the counsel that he would be giving an agitated Trump if and when the results begin to turn against him.

8 November – 7:20PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 12:20AM London

Getting their excuses in early

Already we are seeing some signs of pre-emptive finger-pointing from senior members of the Trump campaign, with campaign manager Kellyanne Conway complaining that Donald Trump had not received the full support of the GOP hierarchy.

The Washington Post reports:

In what sounded a lot like scapegoating in the event of a loss, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway suggested her candidate was hurt by not having the full weight of the Republican establishment behind him.

On MSNBC, Conway told Chuck Todd that if Trump loses narrowly it would be “too bad” that “we have former presidents not voting for us, former nominees not voting for us.”

“That’s got to hurt,” she said, according to the exchange reported by the Wall Street Journal. “When you talk about growing the party, the idea was growing it, but having that base together.”

[..] While Conway appeared to be largely complaining about those party standard bearers, it does seem like an about face from earlier in the day when the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee held a joint conference call with reporters to discuss how well situated they were to win.

While some prominent anti-Trump conservatives have also been feeling the heat:

Fortunately, in the case of Jonah Goldberg, he can give as good as he gets:

Rod Dreher also finds himself under attack:

Sorry, but no. Donald Trump – and Trump alone – is responsible for killing the better ideas that he espoused in this campaign by forever associating them with his boorish, ignorant and ungentlemanly persona. Somebody needed to challenge the bipartisan consensus on immigration and resistance to things like term limits, but the fact that Trump championed these ideas has made them fringe at best, and toxic at worst.

Nobody has betrayed Trump voters more than Donald Trump himself.

8 November – 7:05PM Washington D.C. / 9 November – 12:05AM London

An important but depressing reminder that whoever prevails tonight will start off deep underwater with the American people in terms of popularity and trust:

8 November – 6:59PM Washington D.C. / 11:59PM London

Education, education, education

MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki pulls out a detail from the early national exit poll:

While the National Review comments:

MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki is reporting that the early national exit polls show, as expected, a massive gap between the enthusiasm level of college-educated whites and non-college-educated whites for Trump.

But while Trump is outperforming by ten points Mitt Romney’s 2012 showing among whites without a college degree (+26 vs. +36), he’s doing much worse among college-educated whites: Romney won these voters by 14 points; Trump is winning them by only a single point.

Stark, but unsurprising.

8 November – 6:35PM Washington D.C. / 11:35PM London

Florida looking favourable for Clinton

VoteCastr reports that Hillary Clinton currently leads Donald Trump in Florida by about 300,000 votes, with both candidates already having surpassed the totals amassed by Barack Obama and Mitt Romney respectively back in 2012.

Josh Voorhees provides this commentary:

The Sunshine State is essentially a must-win for Donald Trump. If Hillary Clinton were to win the 19 states (plus the District of Columbia) that have voted for the Democratic nominee in each of the past six presidential elections, she could clinch the presidency simply by claiming Florida’s 29 electoral votes. Right now, things are looking pretty good on that front. (Numbers current as of 4:12 p.m. EST.)

Again: VoteCastr is not saying Clinton will win Florida, only that she appears to be leading at this moment based on early voting and today’s estimated turnout, which has already exceeded the state’s 2012 vote total. It’s entirely possible that Trump could make up ground later in the day, particularly given that Florida’s traditionally conservative panhandle is in the Central time zone, and is therefore an hour behind the rest of the state. Still, Clinton’s camp is likely celebrating the fact that her estimated Florida vote total has already topped Obama’s total from 2012, when he beat Mitt Romney there by less than a percentage point.

One reason the Clinton campaign is likely optimistic about her chances in Florida is the strong showing of Hispanic voters in the state, which was evident during early voting. As the New York Times points out, Florida voters who indicated they were Hispanic on their voter registration forms cast as many early ballots this year as they cast total ballots in 2012, when they accounted for 12 percent of the Florida electorate. That enthusiasm seems to have continued on Election Day.

According to VoteCastr, Clinton currently holds a lead of 600,000-plus estimated votesin the five Florida counties that are predominantly nonwhite. That advantage more than offsets Trump’s current advantage in predominantly white counties.

If Trump loses Florida to Clinton then it is pretty much game over for his presidential hopes. Hillary Clinton has to be feeling quite good right now.

8 November – 6:12PM Washington D.C. / 11:12PM London

Technical issues

Apologies for the interruption – technical issues with my news feeds have meant I spent the last two hours troubleshooting (in vain) rather than doing the blogging I wanted to do.

I would like to single out the useless Sony corporation for particular venom and criticism for their technologically backward, user un-friendly smart TVs which single handedly ruined my election evening – thanks guys, great job.

Anyway, back to work.

8 November – 12:00PM Washington D.C. / 5:00PM London

America is better than this

Tim Stanley is that rare thing among British political commentators who presume to offer their opinion about American politics – someone who actually knows his subject. I say that not because I was briefly a contemporary of his at Cambridge, but because as a student of American history and someone who actually spends a decent amount of his time in the United States, he has the kind of everyday interactions with ordinary Americans outside of election season which are crucial to understanding the national psyche.

Therefore, unlike other journalists who parachute in every four years to airly offer their ignorant opinions, one can give Stanley’s assessments a little more weight than those big names who write fatuously about something of which they are largely ignorant.

In an excellent column for the Telegraph, Tim Stanley makes number of good points. Firstly, that while Donald Trump is odious and utterly unworthy of election as president, we should not be reduced to cowering in our safe spaces at the mere thought of his election:

Some of my liberal friends feel I should be running around in panic, proving how worthy I am by denouncing Trump as a Nazi. Sorry. Won’t do it. One reason is that the alternative to him genuinely leaves me cold. Clinton is an empty pantsuit. Her campaign has been predicated on three things: I am not Trump; I am a woman; Bruce Springsteen likes me. She is also enthusiastic about legalised partial-birth abortion – so, no, I won’t be joining the ranks of “regrettably for Hillary.”

I also honestly believe Trump isn’t quite the danger people – especially non-Americans – think he is. His views on women are vile; his stance on refugees turns my stomach. He is unethical and unenlightened. But he has probably damaged the conservative movement far more than he can ever hurt the rest of the country.

Why? Partly because it’s ungovernable. Fifty states, all pulling in different directions, are barely led by a president who can be controlled and even impeached by Congress. Size matters, too. This country is so damned big. As I drove out of Washington DC, it was striking how humanity melted away. The odd town; a couple of farms. But otherwise an enormous, epic landscape that defies conquest. America and its republic are larger than Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

This is so true. America is far bigger than either of the two very small individuals running for the presidency in 2016. Even Barack Obama, elected on a wave of “hope and change” fever in 2008, was able to do little to dramatically reshape the country, even for those early years when Democrats held Congress and the White House.

A Trump (or indeed a Clinton) presidency would be stymied in many of its worst aspects by the same gridlock. Now, that gridlock presents challenges of its own – sometimes America suffers from not being more politically and institutionally nimble – but it is also an effective firewall against ill-considered attempts to dramatically reshape the country.

Stanley continues:

Nothing is new. Politics shifts from Left to Right, and those who lose power can never quite grasp what is happening to them. In the past few years we’ve seen a shift in the West away from liberalism – and many liberals have reacted as though this was unreasonable and appalling.

Like Louis XVI’s aristocrats, they couldn’t see how distasteful their habits were to most people. Free trade has not benefited everyone, my lords; mass immigration has social costs. Cultural liberalism is actually a bit weird. And the enormous, vulgar disparities in wealth add to the sense that it’s not fair, something must be up, the system must be rigged.

When you’ve descended from a family of factory engineers to a family of Walmart greeters within a single generation, that’s not an unreasonable conclusion to reach. What is unreasonable is assuming that Donald Trump – who has been rigging things his whole damn life – is your champion.

But if people think that then it’s the mainstream’s fault. Centrists didn’t have to become so distant. It wouldn’t take much to help reconnect. If Labour, for instance, dropped Jeremy Corbyn, elected an ordinary man or woman and endorsed “Brexit within the single market,” then it might well win a general election. It’s Labour’s choice to deny the voters than option. Just as it was the Republican Party’s decision to surrender their nomination to Trump by failing to address immigration or free trade. Centrists have no right to castigate the people for this situation. The voters aren’t all dumb bigots. They’ve just got very limited choices.

Yes. As has happened in Britain, a growing chasm has opened in America between what Brendan O’Neill once termed the “middle class clerisy” – the urban, large-L liberal types with their trendy progressive opinions – and the bulk of the country. These people could have sought to bring the country with them, to respond to their concerns and focus on things that really matter (like jobs and living standards, rather than, say, transgender bathroom issues). But the fevered pursuit of left-wing, identity politics goals meant that the struggling working classes were often ignored, pushed down the priority list.

Take immigration – there has been a near universal effort among the political elite, particularly the Democrats, to undermine the idea of national borders, to encourage and celebrate illegal immigration (delegates at the Philadelphia convention stood and cheered illegal immigrants brought onto the stage to boast of their status) and even subvert the language to encourage people to accept the status quo, with politicians and many journalisms now referring to “undocumented” rather than “illegal” immigrants.

Meanwhile, the concerns of Americans who object have simply been ignored. One can hardly be surprised that many of these people have now gone shopping for an alternative, even if one strongly disagrees that Donald Trump is the solution to their problems.

Tim’s conclusion is also spot-on:

If the citizens do choose Hillary on election day, what does this mean? That given a contest between radical populism and dead-from-the-neck-up centrism, they still, on balance, prefer the latter. Liberal jeremiads will be proven wrong. Liberals will have to learn to love the voters again – and stop treating them like the wild animals out in the dark who prowl around the house at night looking for food. Speak to them like adults. Reason with them. Talk about bringing jobs back; about country, home and God. Franklin D Roosevelt used that language, and his grasp of American spirituality won him four elections.

Even if they prevail today, the Democrats have a mountain to climb in terms of actually learning to love the whole country again. One could level the same charge at the Republicans, of course, who lag badly with many minority voting constituencies. But this is already well known. By contrast, few commentators seem willing to mention to contempt bordering on hatred which the liberal half of the country is coming to view the conservative half – probably because most journalists and commentators belong firmly to the liberal camp themselves, and see nothing abnormal about viewing those who disagree with them as morally and intellectually inferior.

But this poisonous and contemptuous attitude – which at its purest level can be summarised as “what are all those Trump people complaining about? Modern America is working just great for me and the people I know, and anyone who disagrees must be ignorant at best or racist at worse” – could undermine the Democrats just as America’s demographics otherwise really start to tip in their favour.

Say what you want about his socialism, but Bernie Sanders at least understood and tapped into the suffering and anger of struggling Americans in a sincere and legitimate way. For all her slogans and her team’s careful positioning of her on the issues, Hillary Clinton is nothing but a continuity candidate, a bit two fingers stuck up at conservatives by the establishment.

And at some point, once Clinton has made her victory speech (in which case she will doubtless pledge to be a president for all Americans, even those who did not vote for her), the victory parties have finished and everybody has got some much-needed sleep, it would do the Democrats well to ask themselves exactly what kind of outreach they are prepared to make to the half of the country left utterly unmoved by her message.

8 November – 6:40AM Washington D.C. / 11:40AM London

An unsparing assessment of Donald Trump’s character

Andrew Sullivan, who declared (far more enthusiastically than this blog) that “I’m with her” almost as soon as Hillary Clinton took the stage at her nominating convention in Philadelphia, gives a stark assessment of Donald Trump’s many flaws:

This is what we now know. Donald Trump is the first candidate for president who seems to have little understanding of or reverence for constitutional democracy and presents himself as a future strongman. This begins with his character — if that word could possibly be ascribed to his disturbed, unstable, and uncontrollable psyche. He has revealed himself incapable of treating other people as anything but instruments to his will. He seems to have no close friends, because he can tolerate no equals. He never appears to laugh, because that would cede a recognition to another’s fleeting power over him. He treats his wives and his children as mere extensions of his power, and those who have resisted the patriarch have been exiled, humiliated, or bought off.

His relationship to men — from his school days to the primary campaign — is rooted entirely in dominance and mastery, through bullying, intimidation, and, if necessary, humiliation. His relationship to women is entirely a function of his relationship to men: Women are solely a means to demonstrate his superiority in the alpha-male struggle. Women are to be pursued, captured, used, assaulted, or merely displayed to other men as an indication of his superiority. His response to any difficult relationship is to end it, usually by firing or humiliating or ruining someone. His core, motivating idea is the punishment or mockery of the weak and reverence for the strong. He cannot apologize or accept responsibility for failure. He has long treated the truth as entirely instrumental to his momentary personal interests. Setbacks of any kind can only be assuaged by vindictive, manic revenge.

He has no concept of a non-zero-sum engagement, in which a deal can be beneficial for both sides. A win-win scenario is intolerable to him, because mastery of others is the only moment when he is psychically at peace. (This is one reason why he cannot understand the entire idea of free trade or, indeed, NATO, or the separation of powers.) In any conflict, he cannot ever back down; he must continue to up the ante until the danger to everyone around him is so great as to demand their surrender. From his feckless business deals and billion-dollar debts to his utter indifference to the damage he has done to those institutions unfortunate enough to engage him, he has shown no concern for the interests of other human beings. Just ask the countless people he has casually fired, or the political party he has effectively destroyed. He has violated and eroded the core norms that make liberal democracy possible — because such norms were designed precisely to guard against the kind of tyrannical impulses and pathological narcissism he personifies.

Read the whole thing – there’s much, much more. Andrew Sullivan openly admits that he is an emotional character, prone to hyperbole, but it is very hard to dispute the charges which he lays at Donald Trump’s feet. They form the core of the reason why this blog cannot support Trump, and would prefer four years of Clintonian big government statism, divisive identity politics and other assorted left-wingery than place the fate of the Republic in his hands.

8 November – 6:25AM Washington D.C. / 11:25AM London

Remembering better times

Conservative Home takes a misty-eyed look back at the underappreciated presidency of George Herbert Walker Bush, the unsung heir to Ronald Reagan, in light of the currently debased Republican Party’s low moral standing:

On this day, over a quarter of a century ago, the best living former President of the United States was elected.  George Walker Herbert Bush is not the most eloquent man to have held the office.  Nor is he the most electorally successful.  Nor was he the most popular with his own party: how could he have been, when he followed Ronald Reagan?  Nor is he identified, like “the Gipper”, with representing a body of ideas, reflecting America back to itself, and changing the course of history.  But Bush was a fine President, in at least one way a better one than Reagan, and his reputation continues to grow – towering over the moral dwarf who succeeds him as Republican candidate today.

We are reminded of Bush Sr.’s heroism:

Volunteering to serve in the Second World War, like so many of his generation, he became the youngest pilot in the U.S Navy, and was nearly killed in action.  His plane was shot down while trying to knock out a Japanese radio transmission station.  His two fellow crewmen died.  Bush leaped from the plane, injuring his head on the back of it, and ripped his parachute, dropping faster because of the tear.  He was lucky not to fall into the hands of the Japanese, being eventually fished out of the water by an American submarine.

As well as his pragmatism, at home and abroad:

Reagan’s successor as Republican candidate was distrusted on the right of the party, and Bush over-compensated in consequence, making his famous pledge: “read lips: no new taxes”.  It was one that he abandoned in office.  Perhaps in reaction to his predecessor, “the Great Communicator”, he didn’t strive to explain why.  Bush believed that action, and not words, would be enough: that the American people would grasp that the deficit had to be reduced without the case having to be pitched to them.

It turned out not to be so – and, in any event, there is a cycle in politics.  The Republicans had won three successive presidential elections, and America wanted change by 1992.  That the country had been in recession helped to drive the mood.  But Bush was right about the public finances.  “The deficit is big enough to look after itself,” Reagan once said, but to say so is to laugh reality off, or try to.  Indeed, Bush’s stewardship of the economy, by an irony of the kind familiar in politics, helped to pave the way for two terms of the man who defeated him, Bill Clinton.

Elsewhere at home, Bush got a lot done in his single term, working with Congress to improve education, expand free trade, protect the environment, and pass the Americans with Disabilities Act – the model for our own Disability Discrimination Act, steered through by William Hague under John Major.  And abroad, Bush brought all his experience to bear at a tumultous time.  His judgement call was to back Gorbachev, who he originally distrusted, and it proved to be right.  Bush eased the collapse of communism by not publicly celebrating the fact.  America was the dominant world power by the time Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, and Bush used its position to form an overarching international coalition that took the country back.

Also notable is the grace with which George H W Bush handled defeat and consignment to a one-term presidency by Bill Clinton in the 1992 election:

A measure of the man is his attitude to the man who beat him.  “Dear Bill,” he wrote in a note to Clinton, as he himself left the White House, There will be very tough times, made even more difficult by criticism you may not think is fair. I’m not a very good one to give advice; but just don’t let the critics discourage you or push you off course.  You will be our President when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well. Your success now is our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you. Good luck – George.”

Heroism, pragmatism, resolve, grace and good character – even one of these characteristics would be seen as a remarkable improvement in 2016’s Republican Party presidential nominee. How far we have fallen.

8 November – 6:10AM Washington D.C. / 11:10AM London

What if the result is contested?

Politico considers what might happen if voting irregularities or other disputes mean that the election is contested, given that the Supreme Court (which would probably have to decide the case) is currently down one member following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, and therefore effectively poised 4-4 between the liberal and conservative elements.

It’s the campaign scenario that keeps partisan operatives and lawyers awake at night: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton end Election Day deadlocked with key states in a recount, and a short-handed Supreme Court can’t resolve the matter because the eight justices split down the middle.

In such a case, a lower-court ruling would probably be left to stand, and the decision would carry even less authority than Bush v. Gore, the high court’s widely criticized 5-4 ruling resolving the 2000 presidential election.

With Trump and Clinton concluding one of the most toxic presidential campaigns in modern history, amid charges of foreign influence and “rigged” procedures, the lack of a fully functioning Supreme Court to act as a legal backstop is worrisome to some operatives on both sides.

“There’s a hell of a scary thought,” said Jim Manley, a longtime Democratic staffer. “I’m not sure the country can handle that right now.”

“This would not be a good moment for the Supreme Court to have to deal with a partisan dispute,” added Trevor Potter, a veteran Republican attorney and former chairman at the Federal Election Commission.

And while most polls currently show Trump losing fairly decisively, his rhetoric on the campaign stump – and that of many of his supporters, who have been told again and again that the only way they can possibly lose is if Hillary Clinton rigs the election – is likely to ensure at least some degree of post-defeat denial if the result does indeed go Clinton’s way:

Trump’s real estate and business career are coursed with litigation and the Republican has run his presidential campaign alleging everything from voter fraud to widespread “rigging” by the political establishment and the media.

“It does seem if Trump loses there’s going to be challenges to the voting results. When you spend all your time saying the results are rigged you’ve got to expect there are lawsuits challenging results,” said Adam Winkler, a UCLA constitutional law professor.

The issue is not an insurmountable one, and the probability of a contested election landing in the lap of the Supreme Court is probably highly unlikely. But there could scarcely be a worse time for the unlikely to happen.

8 November – 5:45AM Washington D.C. / 10:45AM London

No, Donald Trump is not like Brexit

One of the more sickening things about this US presidential election campaign for people such as myself has been the way that many pundits, amply aided by unsavoury characters on both sides, have been drawing links between the UK’s vote to secede from the European Union and the rise of Donald Trump.

To be very clear: no, Donald Trump is not like Brexit. The campaign for Brexit was very much an anti-establishment movement, yes. But it also had as its goal something rather pure and noble, when you strip away all of the huffing about immigration and the invective on both sides. The purpose of Brexit was to remove Britain from a deeply anti-democratic and relentlessly integrating political union whose direction of travel remains a federal Europe which almost none of its citizens want. By voting to leave the EU, we are asserting that the British people and our laws should be sovereign, and not the rulings of a remote collection of unloved and (largely) unknown institutions in Brussels.

Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy, by contrast, is great at making the establishment squirm – and often for very valid reasons. Trump captured the GOP nomination in large part thanks to a groundswell of anger at years of betrayals by Republican elites, whose rhetoric and policies in government and opposition have often worked directly against the interests of their party base. But beyond making the establishment squirm, there is no positive good to come from electing a man so ignorant, egomaniacal and unstable to the presidency. With Brexit, we got to poke the establishment in the eye and win back our democracy. With Trump, Americans will get to poke the establishment and themselves in the eye, and very little else will change, at least for the better.

Of course, this has not stopped UKIP’s Nigel Farage, distressed at finding himself out of the limelight and largely cut out of the picture when it comes to enacting Brexit, from flying to the United States and draping his arm around Donald Trump at every possible opportunity. And nor has it prevented the candidate himself from swanning around the country declaring that his election as president will be “Brexit plus plus plus“:

This is utter nonsense, as my Conservatives for Liberty colleague Nathan Friend patiently lays out:

Let’s get one thing straight; Trump and Brexit could not be further separate. Some people, primarily the smouldering remains of UKIP’s membership base, have got it in their heads that Trump is a continuation of a movement sparked by Brexit, and that Trump’s nationalism is exactly what Brexit was about. In fact, it would also seem that The Donald himself believes this twisted narrative; backed up by his advisor Nigel Farage, who he dubs ‘Mr. Brexit’.

Brexiteers who also support Trump know that by touting these two separate phenomena as the same, you are living up to what our nay-sayers accused us of. Bastions of the metropolitan elite such as the BBC and The Guardian touted us as fear-mongers, abusing the dissatisfaction of the lower classes and demonising immigrants to win the referendum. Whilst some people in the campaign were unsavoury at times; as someone who knocked on more doors and gave out more leaflets than he should have been during his A-Level exams, I can tell you that we were a campaign of hope.

Everyone I talked to wanted to leave the EU because they had higher hopes for our nation. They dreamed of a free Britain on the global-stage, and of the repatriation of powers to our people. It wasn’t nationalism in the traditional regressive sense, we wanted a new Britain, not and old one. In fact, the statistics show that the ability to control immigration in to Britain ranked only as the third most common reason people voted to Leave. People’s fears made up part of the vote, as they do in any election, but aspirations and dreams of a better future made up the bulk our campaign and our voters.

Trump’s campaign is the antithesis of our campaign. Whilst I do concede that there are some similarities between the voters in both phenomena, I refuse to recognise any real similarities beyond a few salient links. For example, many people are voting for Trump because they are sick and tired of a Washington Elite, closely related to the Brussels Elite, symbolised in the Clinton dynasty’s latest attempt at the White House. Lots of his voters also wish to control immigration to some greater extent than it is currently controlled. However, that is where the similarities end, with the key difference being that Trump’s campaign is far closer to ‘Project Fear’ than it is to Vote Leave.

Ultimately, one of the good things about the EU referendum and Brexit – and one of the reasons that people felt secure in voting to leave – is that they knew they could achieve something they dearly wanted as well as kick the establishment, but still not end up ruled by the leaders of the Leave campaign.

Britons knew that they were not electing Vote Leave or Leave.EU, the official and second largest pro-Brexit campaigns respectively, to any official government role. And indeed it now turns out that a former Remain-supporter, Theresa May, has succeeded David Cameron as prime minister, and is pursuing Brexit in the manner that she sees as most suitable, not according to the hyperbolic and often ambiguous claims of the Leave campaign.

With Donald Trump, Americans will not have this firewall. Expressing dissatisfaction with the status quo and the political elite by electing Donald Trump means that Trump will then be president for at least four years (or until he gets impeached). Americans would be very much voting for the man just as much as his ideals, to the extent that he even has any.

So let’s have no more lazy journalistic talk of Donald Trump representing America’s Brexit. Many (if most) Brexiteers are horrified or at least concerned by the Trump candidacy, which in no way reflects the long and principled history of our own movement.

7 November – 8:45PM Washington D.C. / 8 November – 1:45AM London

D-Day

Hello and welcome to this semi-partisan live blog of the United States presidential election day and results. This feed will remain open and regularly updated from now all the way through polling day, into the night of 8 November as the results come in and then on to the morning of 9 November as we review the aftermath and (quite possibly) pick through the wreckage.

For newcomers to this blog, I write from the perspective of a British chap and future American citizen married to a proud Texan girl, currently living in London but ultimately destined to move back to the United States (timing potentially dependent on the outcome of this election!)

I have lived and worked in Chicago and the Mid West, travelled widely throughout America, follow American politics as closely as British, and so feel more than justified in weighing in with my numerous opinions. Those still in doubt as to my credentials can read my brief bio here, and a more long-winded version here.

Politically, I lean classically liberal or (depending on the definition) conservatarian. My worldview in a nutshell: Catholic, small state, maximum personal liberty, pro civil liberties, free speech, pro-Second Amendment (with common sense gun control), anti-death penalty, pro separation of church and state, pro-legal immigration, anti attempts to ennoble illegal immigration, anti identity politics, anti-SJW. If it’s remotely socialist, I generally oppose it.

And yet…

As to my preference in this election, given the unappetising choice before us I would wholeheartedly choose Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. I am certainly not “with her”, but the future stability and prosperity of my soon-to-be adoptive country is more important than my desire to see more conservative principles advanced in America. First, we need to save the Republic – then we can worry about the deeply concerning leftward drift.

To paraphrase PJ O’Rourke, Clinton is the kind of bad that America has endured before, is used to and can withstand for a time, while Donald Trump is an unstable and unknown quantity whose personal flaws as exposed throughout this election campaign – together with his disrespect for the Constitution and complete disinterest in the detail of policy – mean he is all risk and very little upside, save giving the establishment a good kicking.

Anyhow, that’s where I stand. I have a stash of Red Bull and a constant stream of coffee brewing, and will be glad of your company as I live-blog election day. Please feel free to use the Comments, or to contact/troll me on Twitter or by email.

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President Obama Actively Mocks Republicans While Campaigning For Hillary Clinton – And They Deserve It

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If Barack Obama seems like he is savouring the discomfort of Republican politicians struggling to save their seats as Donald Trump drags them down in the polls, it is no less than many of them deserve

As President Obama prepares to leave office, America’s guns have still not been confiscated, citizens have not been sent to FEMA re-education camps and the “world’s greatest healthcare system” (ha!), though certainly tampered with, remains broadly intact. And given the alarmism and sheer cynical scaremongering bandied about by Republican politicians happy to trawl for votes by playing to peoples’ base prejudices, one can understand Barack Obama’s decision to spend his presidential swansong reminding us of all the crazy things that intemperate Republicans predicted he would do in his two terms of office.

This blog has been no great fan of the Obama presidency, though I certainly found him preferable to the McCain/Palin ticket in 2008. True, coming from far more socialist Britain I bring a vantage point and sense of perspective which I think is often lacking in American conservative commentators who are quick to cry “communism!” without really thinking through just how much worse things could be (socialised medicine? I’ll show ya socialised medicine!) But overall this blog has been disappointed with the failure of what was billed as a transformational presidency to really do much transforming for the good.

Yet much of that failure and stasis has been the result of Republican obstructionism rather than the personal failings of Barack Obama – and often unreasonable obstructionism at that. Mitch McConnell’s pledge that the Senate’s top priority should be to make Obama a one term president is emblematic of the party-before-country cynicism which often motivated Republicans to take bold and sometimes extreme stances in support of “liberty” which ultimately only had the effect of preserving the status quo – a state of affairs which harmed many of their own supporters (one of the main reasons for Donald Trump’s rise).

On issue after issue, Republicans succeeded in fighting the Obama administration to a draw. Even Obamacare borrowed heavily from the Massachusetts healthcare reforms of GOP grandee and former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, its unbearably socialist individual mandate lifted from the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank.

And yet to listen to Republicans talk, one would sometimes think that Obama had actually succeeded in his Evil Marxist Kenyan plan to turn America into North Korea. Of course, this involves turning a blind eye toward all the fiscal excesses of Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush – but Republicans are generally happy to do just that, and pretend that fiscal profligacy began on Obama’s watch.

Given all of this context, one can understand President Obama’s temptation to have a little fun at the expense of those Republicans who fought much of his agenda to a standstill yet still dared to suggest that he was successfully imposing “socialism” on America. And as Tim Murphy outlines at Mother Jones in a piece entitled “Barack Obama’s Sweet Revenge Tour”, the president has frequently succumbed to that temptation in recent days.

Murphy writes:

President Barack Obama’s approval rating is the highest it has been in 45 months, and Republicans have taken note. In Ohio, Sen. Rob Portman is running an ad boasting of his work with the Democratic commander in chief “to break the grip of heroin addiction.” In California, Rep. Darrell Issa—who once called Obama “one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times”—is sending out mailers with Obama’s face on them, touting his work with the president “to protect victims of sexual assault.”

There is a problem with that strategy, though, which is that Obama seems determined to spend the last two weeks of the election laying waste to every Republican who ever crossed him. Though Obama was a liability to Democrats in the 2014 midterms, his renewed popularity has made him the most sought-after advocate for Hillary Clinton and down-ballot Democrats this fall. At rallies and in fundraisers in battleground states and swing districts, Obama has ripped into Republican lawmakers with a mix of exasperation and disdain, mocking their belated rejection (or continued support) of Donald Trump and casting the GOP presidential nominee as the logical endpoint of eight years of toxic hostility.

Issa, who is facing his most competitive race in years, was the most recent Republican to feel his wrath. At a fundraiser in La Jolla on Sunday, Obama trashed the California Republican for his mailer. “Issa’s primary contribution to the United States Congress has been to obstruct and to waste taxpayer dollars on trumped-up investigations that have led nowhere,” he said. “This is now a guy who, because poll numbers are bad, has sent out brochures with my picture on them touting his cooperation on issues with me. Now that is the definition of chutzpah.”

First off, I’m not quite sure what the SJW cultural appropriation police would have to say about an African American using the Yiddish word “chutzpah”. Actually, I think we all know what they would say – “people of color” sit higher in the hierarchy of victimhood, while any attack on Jews (always conflated with Israel and Israelis) is perfectly legitimate in SJW world. But I digress…

It is galling indeed to see Republican establishment cronies like Darrell Issa – politicians who literally made a career suggesting that Obama was incompetent at best and anti-American at worst – suddenly try to wrap their arms around the outgoing president simply because the man at the top of their own party’s ticket is immensely divisive, offputting to whole swathes of the electorate and likely sinking to inglorious defeat on November 8.

But this is the part of Obama’s campaign speech which really cuts to the core in its incisive criticism of Republican failings and strategic/moral missteps since 2008:

Here’s the thing. For years, Republican politicians and the far-right media outlets have pumped up all kinds of crazy stuff about me. About Hillary. About Harry. They said I wasn’t born here. They said climate change is a hoax. They said that I was going to take everybody’s guns away! They said that while we were doing military exercises that we’ve been doing forever, suddenly this was a plot to impose martial law. This is what they’ve been saying for years now! So people have been hearing it they start thinking well maybe it’s true! And if the world they’ve been seeing is I’m powerful enough to cause hurricanes on my own and to steal everybody’s guns in the middle of the night and impose martial law—even though I can’t talk without a ‘prompter—then is it any wonder that they end up nominating somebody like Donald Trump?

And the fact is that there are a lot of politicians who knew better. There are a lot of senators who knew better but they went along with these stories because they figured you know what this’ll help rile up the base, it’ll give us an excuse to obstruct what we’re trying to do, we won’t be able to appoint judges, we’ll gum up the works, we’ll create gridlock, it’ll give us a political advantage. So they just stood by and said nothing and their base began to actually believe this stuff. So Donald Trump did not start this. Donald Trump didn’t start it, he just did what he always did which is slap his name on it, take credit for it, and promote it. That’s what he always does. And so now, when suddenly it’s not working and people are saying wow this guy’s kind of out of line, all of a sudden these Republican politicians who were okay with all this crazy stuff up to a point suddenly they’re all walking away. Oh, this is too much. So when you finally get him on tape bragging about actions that qualify as sexual assault and his poll numbers go down, suddenly that’s a deal-breaker. Well what took you so long! What the heck! What took you so long! All these years!

Well, that is probably just about the most incisive piece of commentary on the failings of the Republican Party you’ll read in the media, and it came from none other than the target of the GOP’s efforts, the current president of the United States.

In actual fact, Obama’s complaints about Republican willingness to flirt with the crazy element echo charges that this blog has been making for some time, notably here:

It was the tri-cornered hat brigade whose admirable devotion to fiscal responsibility only materialised once Barack Obama took office, and then failed to force any meaningful change in Washington despite many of their number being elected to Congress in the 2010 midterms which, who have a case to answer. They were the Great White Hope whose inevitable failure formed the third strike against the political class.

It was not the Democratic Party which fanned the flames of birtherism (and then considered a nominee for president who was born in Canada) and refused to stand up to angry constituents demanding to see a birth certificate. That was all on the Republicans. Donald Trump led that effort, and nearly the entire GOP sat back with a tub of popcorn, thinking that the circus would benefit them politically. And so it did, until their attack dog finally broke the leash and turned on its handlers.

Has Barack Obama been a decidedly left-wing and in some (though by no means all) ways unimpressive president? Yes, he has. But is he a closet Communist, a secret Muslim planning to enforce hardline Islamism on America or a hopelessly incompetent buffoon? Absolutely not. He is a centre-left politician with undeniable skills, twice elected on a centre-left platform and governing according to a centre-left approach. But in their greed to quickly win back power without doing the hard work of making their own pitch to the voters more appealing, too many Republicans were willing to tolerate and sometimes actively participate in the anti-Obama hysteria for short term political gain.

And here:

Remember, this is a political party which urged Americans in all seriousness to vote for Sarah Palin as vice president back in 2008. Sarah Palin. The Republicans have been dabbling in crazy and courting the proudly ignorant vote for decades. Donald Trump is nothing but the GOP’s longstanding approach taken to its logical extreme.

And if decent conservatives want to ensure that they never again find themselves in a position of seeing their movement taken over by an ignorant, populist demagogue then they might want to stop blaming Democrats for their own self-inflicted misfortune and instead re-examine their behaviour both in government and opposition.

Was it wise, for example, to pretend to be super tough on immigration, yet ultimately do nothing to stem the flow of illegal immigrants or otherwise reform the system, simply because Republican donors had no interest in changing the status quo, with its plentiful cheap labour for corporations and affordable illegal domestic service for households?

Was it wise to continually shriek not just that Democrats wanted to impose stricter gun control but that they were actively seeking to abolish the Second Amendment? (The big push to completely outlaw guns trumpeted in GOP propaganda has been just weeks away for the past eight years now – is Obama waiting until his very last day in office to take America’s guns?)

Was it smart to prance around as the party of national security while consistently involving America in foreign conflagrations which increased anti-American sentiment, or to pose as the party of civil liberties while loudly cheerleading for the surveillance state?

Was it really such a genius move to talk endlessly about the benefits of tax cuts for ordinary Americans while focusing them overwhelmingly on the wealthy, or to cynically pretend that America’s lost manufacturing jobs could be easily brought back home in the age of globalisation and international supply chains?

At nearly every election going back to the Bill Clinton administration and probably earlier, the Republican Party has been writing rhetorical cheques that its politicians cannot or will not cash when they are either in office or a position of influential opposition, at a national or statewide level.

The Republican Party’s more excitable members need to learn that you can’t go on shrieking that the Bad Democrat is coming to take away your guns and your liberty – and then seamlessly make the transition to accusing their successor of the same sinister motivations when the Day of Tyranny never materialises – without eventually losing a degree of credibility. If I started predicting that the world is going to end at the coming weekend, and then just roll my prediction forward by seven days each weekend that I am proven wrong, pretty soon people will stop listening to me.

When Barack Obama took office the Democratic Party  enjoyed two years controlling the White House and both houses of Congress, and yet the nation’s guns remained un-confiscated then, and are still un-confiscated now. And eventually these panicked claims start to look more and more like the cynical politicking that they are.

Republicans should take note when it comes to their incessant scaremongering about the Second Amendment. At this rate, if and when gun rights are under real imminent danger, we will have been warned so many times before that we will not take the threat seriously.

But this is much bigger than any one issue. Unfortunately, one gets the nasty feeling that the Republicans are not learning anything from the Trumpian calamity which they have brought down upon themselves. This blog can quite easily picture another four years of the same hysterical End Times opposition to a President Hillary Clinton – “She’s coming for your guns! I mean it, I’m serious this time!” – and the wholehearted embrace of any conspiracy theory or fringe movement so long as it delivers short term political gain and/or helps to sell more gold coins to paranoid seniors. And what fresh horror will be conjured next, after VP candidate Sarah Palin and presidential candidate Donald Trump?

Depressing? Certainly – America has never needed principled, true conservative leadership more than at this time. But the tragedy is entirely self-inflicted. The Republican Party summoned some viscerally unpleasant forces in its effort to torment the outgoing president and thwart his agenda. Now that they are being consumed by the very forces that they unleashed, can anyone really begrudge Barack Obama his moment of sweet schadenfreude?

 

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Top Image: Pixabay

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American Conservatives, Fearing National Decline, Want A President With Swagger Again. What Could Go Wrong?

American conservatives only react so furiously when President Obama shows a little diplomatic humility and self-deprecation while abroad because it touches a raw nerve – they are consumed by worry about American decline, and project their anger onto minor, intangible issues like bowing protocol, Air Force One tarmac snubs and presidential behaviour which falls short of obnoxious boorishness on the world stage

Many American conservatives have reacted with outrage to this video of President Obama addressing an audience during a recent trip to Laos, holding it up as yet more evidence that the president they so love to hate actually hates America himself.

Addressing a townhall-style meeting while in Laos, Obama is heard to say:

I believe that the United States is and can be a great force for good in the world. But because we are such a big country, we haven’t always had to know about other parts of the world. If you are in Laos, you need to know about Thailand and China and Cambodia because you’re a small country and they’re right next door, and you need to know who they are.

If you’re the United States sometimes you can feel lazy and think, you know, we’re so big we don’t have to really know anything about other people, and that’s part of what I’m trying to change, because this is actually the region that’s going to grow faster than any place else in the world. It has the youngest population and the economy is growing faster any place, and if we aren’t here interacting and learning from you and understanding the culture of the region, then we’ll be left behind, we’ll miss an opportunity, and I don’t want that to happen.

Cue lots of conservatives running around in a tizzy as though Obama had been propping up the bar at some Laotian tavern, regaling the regulars with an endless reel of hilarious anecdotes about how backward and stupid Americans are, while TV cameras recorded every shameful moment.

Here’s Ace of Spades, getting unnecessarily worked up:

It’s almost as if this pampered, do-nothing, unqualified malcontent actively hates America or something.

Someone out there there’s a Yourself in desperate need of a f*cking.

You gotta listen to this. It’s the International Version of his famous Bitter Clingers Song.

Look, this is silly. I know it is inexplicably popular in American conservative circles to rant and rage about how the Evil Muslim Marxist in the White House secretly – or not so secretly – hates America. And to be fair, President Obama hasn’t always done himself many favours in this regard, particularly with that unbearably condescending “bitter clingers” speech which genuinely made it seem that he holds a significant proportion of the country in something between pity and contempt.

But do these pro salt-of-the-earth conservatives think that the likes of Donald Trump or the Republican Party establishment “love America” so much that they are ever going to sit down and break bread with ordinary folk on a regular basis (apart from when seeking their vote)? Do they really think the man who eats his pizza with a knife and fork has any great love for the Common Man? Or that Newt Gingrich or Paul Ryan or Ben Carson spend their time away from Washington D.C. slumming it, eating at Waffle House and watching Nascar?

Besides, what point is Ace trying to make here – that when on foreign soil, the American president must always be belligerently boastful about the United States, even (or especially) to the point where it enrages his hosts? This is like that American exceptionalism argument all over again. It’s perfectly fine to consider America a truly exceptional nation – heck, I certainly do, and I’m not even a citizen yet – but in what possible way does it make good diplomatic sense to stomp around the world lecturing other nations about how inferior they are?

What do conservatives think that Obama should have said in Laos? That the United States of America, to the very last trailer park dweller, is full of the wisest and most sagacious citizens on the face of the earth? That every American, from the richest penthouse-dweller in New York to the poorest cabin owner in Appalachia, is a natural foreign policy expert? That the people of a nation where 54 per cent of citizens do not own a valid passport are nonetheless deeply knowledgeable about the world beyond their own borders?

Is there not some truth to the perfectly benign and logical statement that as a large and powerful country, there is much less incentive for average American citizens to concern themselves with world affairs until they threaten an imminent impact on the homeland? Might it not possibly be the case that the country whose top-rated cable news channel (Fox News) has a segment entitled “Around The World in 80 Seconds” – that’s seconds, not minutes, and typically seconds filled with lightweight fluff about bull-running festivals or cheese-rolling competitions – is more domestically focused than other, smaller and more interconnected countries?

Worrying that the president of the United States is not swaggering around boorishly enough on the world stage is actually evidence of a deeper malaise, a suggestion that those who criticise Obama so hysterically actually realise that America is in some ways a troubled country, and desperately want their leader to kick ass at every diplomatic summit as a way of papering over the cracks.

And that’s what this hissy fit from the American Right is really all about: the gnawing fear of American decline. In some ways this is a legitimate fear – no, America is not going anywhere just yet, despite the best efforts of enemies without and “reformers” within to undo all that is good about the United States. But we are certainly entering an indisputable period of relative American decline, as other countries develop and become wealthier, and new regional powers assert themselves. This is understandably concerning to many people, particularly those of the baby boomer who came of age at a time of unparalleled American power and prosperity, as well as those younger Americans who came of age (as I did) between the shadow of the Cold War receding and the incredible national shock that was 9/11.

It will be harder now for America to pursue her global interests unchallenged. American influence will be questioned and undermined by assertive regional powers and two-bit mischief-makers alike. America will have to become accustomed to harmless but superficially humiliating slights from jumped-up, distasteful regimes looking to impress their domestic audience by standing up to the United States, much as Britain had to endure a reduced standing on the world stage after the Second World War and loss of empire.

But America is not Britain, and her decline will be neither as swift nor as steep. America’s fundamentals remain broadly sound. The economy remains large and dynamic, while America’s military power and reach eclipses that of all other nations several times over. Financial and social problems, though pressing, are surmountable – or at least the damage can be contained for now. America will remain the sole superpower for the foreseeable future, and all those countries who American conservatives see posing a threat in their fevered dreams face internal and external challenges of their own.

And yet the gnawing fear persists, and leads otherwise sensible conservatives to say and demand very silly things in a desperate and unnecessary attempt to prove continued American national virility. But now is the time for smarter American diplomacy, not for the unsubtle sledgehammer approach. Of course America should take pride in the exceptionalism of her founding and history, but this should not translate into a boorish tendency to lecture other countries when leading by example can be far more effective.

That doesn’t mean the United States should stop calling out human rights abuses or democratic infringements in other countries – far from it. But conservatives should stop demanding that the US president, while standing at a lectern at a joint press conference next to a foreign head of state, opens his remarks by detailing all the many ways in which the United States is a far superior country. Is that really too much to ask?

After all, it is less than eight years since we last enjoyed the service of an American president brimming with natural swagger, and the foreign policy consequences were…mixed.

Do we really want to go down that road again?

 

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Two Month Report Card – First Thoughts On Theresa May’s Premiership

After an assured and confident start, Theresa May’s government shows welcome signs of moving boldly, if not always in the right direction

To date, this blog has not wasted undue time speculating about Theresa May’s premiership and assessing her early performance – not least because we are only just starting to emerge from summer silly season, and there has not been much yet to judge.

But as somebody who would never have wanted a flinty-eyed authoritarian like Theresa May to become leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister of the UK, I must admit that so far I am cautiously impressed.

The relative silence from Number 10 Downing Street over the summer break was refreshing, and the fact that we were not bombarded with press releases, superficial policy announcements and a load of government spin showed the best side of Theresa May – the no nonsense, hardworking operator.

Such rows and dramas as did break out – like the childish playground spat between Liam Fox and Boris Johnson over responsibility for promoting Britain’s commercial interests – were slapped down quickly, while similar turf wars and petty rivalries between SpAds were frequently allowed to fester and spiral into damaging newsworthy wars under David Cameron.

Of course, the worst Big Government, security state instincts of Theresa May are never far from the surface, and soon this blog will likely be riding to battle against the government’s Investigatory Powers Act, due to return before Parliament soon.

And on the most important issue of Brexit, there is still no sense that ministers have even truly begun to wrap their heads around the complexity of what is to come, let alone have an appreciation of the key challenges and opportunities. Theresa May has made a rod for her own back by stating her commitment to significant up-front immigration reductions as a key part of the package, which only makes the vital interim EFTA/EEA transitory option (with controls on immigration in the line of the Liechtenstein model) that much harder to achieve.

And yet there is also good news on Brexit, not least the willingness of our allies in Canada, New Zealand and Australia to lend us the services of their skilled trade negotiators as Britain struggles to regain core competencies in areas of national sovereignty which we allowed to wither and atrophy during our EU imprisonment. Also somewhat heartening is the seeming enthusiasm and energy which the government is throwing into pursuing various assorted “trade deals”.

While the devil will be in the scope and the details, this newfound diplomatic vigour is encouraging to witness, and only emphasises why David Cameron and George Osborne had to go after fighting against Brexit and losing the referendum. This is no time for surly, sulking brooders more keen to prove their Brexit doomsday scenarios true than to faithfully serve the nation to be anywhere near the levers of government. Senior civil servants should take note.

The confident appearance at the G20 summit in Hangzhou, China, also marked a welcome break from the past. Gordon Brown’s desperate, fawning approval-seeking, so unbecoming to the leader of an indispensable nation, and David Cameron’s oleaginous Davos Man act, the coping mechanism of somebody who never really understood what it is to be a statesman, were both beneath Britain. By contrast, Theresa May looked every bit the equal of Barack Obama at their joint press conference, neither Blairite poodle nor Brownite starry-eyed fan. For a country which has too often punched beneath its weight diplomatically (thanks in no small part to our absorption within the EU) it is encouraging to see that Theresa May seems to be taking her marching orders from the British people seriously.

But these are only first impressions. The complexities of Brexit have yet to bite (those daily articles either celebrating the Brexit success or gleefully validating the apocalypse are mindless puff pieces from a Westminster media class which has no interest in getting enmeshed in the details, or learning from those in the know). The migrant crisis remains unresolved. ISIS and the threat of radical Islamist terror remain pointedly undefeated. Domestic policy needs to be given new direction and urgency – preferably, given the Labour Party’s ongoing implosion, in the opposite direction to the Cameron/Osborne march to the political centre.

Looking ahead, this blog hopes and expects to see Jeremy Hunt let off the leash and given authority to tear some much-deserved chunks out of the arrogant BMA and the junior doctors’ dispute which has been a grubby pay dispute and not a high-minded defence of Our Blessed NHS (genuflect) all along.

Sensible measures on tax reform would be welcome too – though the words “daring” and “bold” hardly come to mind when picturing Philip Hammond, it would be good to see the scope of Theresa May’s ambition extending not just to make Britain’s tax regime attractive to foreign investors, but also to rewarding and encouraging individuals and small businesses. The 45% top rate of tax, a partial remnant of the stench of Gordon Brown’s premiership, must certainly go, but we also hope to see something more ambitious than mere tinkering around the edges of the tax code.

A renewed commitment to national defence and the Armed Forces would also turn the page on David Cameron’s willingness to see the UK lose core capabilities. The NATO target of 2% of GDP to be spent on defence should be treated like a minimum requirement, not an aspiration or a triumph to be crowed about. For a seafaring island nation, the Royal Navy is worryingly undermanned, and may struggle to operate even one of its new aircraft carriers, let alone both. Unlike other European powers, our maritime patrol and coastguard capabilities are virtually nonexistent. These and other issues should be remedied.

One would like to add robust support for freedom of speech and civil liberties to this list, and an end to persecution of people at the hands of the criminal justice system merely for the beliefs they hold or the ideas that they express – but let us not kid ourselves. There is no sign yet that a popular rebellion against the state’s efforts to criminalise thought and speech is anywhere near gaining traction. In fact, even many of those who spend half their time praising free speech (when it suits their own purposes) are happy to turn around, play the wounded victim and demand that others are held to account for expressing speech which they dislike.

A nasty authoritarian streak runs through Britain, and by no means only at the level of the political elite. Go to any pub or hipster coffee shop and you’ll hear people of all backgrounds and demographics expressing outrage at something and suggesting that it should therefore be banned by the government. And while Theresa May’s Conservative government is almost certainly likely to be a disappointment on the issues of free speech and civil liberties, they will be no more of a disappointment than many of the British people themselves.

So here we are, nearly two months into Theresa May’s premiership and there are unexpected causes for optimism and good cheer in a number of areas. There are also, inevitably, areas where May’s instincts and political convictions mean that she must be watched like a hawk and opposed where necessary. But over two months since the historic EU referendum and nearly two months into a most unexpected new premiership, Britain does seem to be walking a little taller and more confidently in the world.

Long may it continue.

 

Theresa May - Philip Hammond - G20 - China

Top Image: International Business Times

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Donald Trump vs Hillary Clinton: A Nauseating Choice But An Easy Decision

Faced with a choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, nobody will come away from this American presidential election looking very good. But there is still a right choice, and a wrong one

Faced with the choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, I’m with her.

I do so with zero enthusiasm – certainly far less than Andrew Sullivan, once the most vocal of Clinton’s enemies, now seems to be displaying:

Some readers think I’ve been too negative, even cynical, tonight. Believe me, I am utterly uncynical about this election. I’m worried sick. We need to put behind us any lingering beefs, any grudges, any memories from the past – and you know how I feel about the Clintons’ past – in order to save liberal democracy. The only thing between him and us is her. So – against all my previous emphatic denials – I’m with her now. As passionately as I ever was with Obama. For his legacy is at stake as well.

I support Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump not in the expectation that a second Clinton family presidency will do anything to make America significantly better – she is nothing if not a continuity candidate, the living embodiment of a third (and quite possibly fourth) Obama term. I find myself supporting Clinton because the anti-establishment wave which helped deliver Brexit and the hope of return to self-government for Britain promises no equally great benefits for America so long as it is led by a charlatan like Trump.

However tawdry and oversimplified the mainstream Brexit campaign may have been, the dream of freeing Britain from a suffocating, steadily tightening political union with Europe was and remains a noble and vital goal. Trump’s goal for his own country consists of Making America Great Again (MAGA), which he plans to accomplish by building a massive wall and sending the bill to a country who will refuse to pay it, and by defeating the Islamic State and ending the scourge of Islamist terror attacks “very quickly” with a few harsh words from the Oval Office and no American boots on the ground.

Of course the United States has constitutional firewalls and checks & balances to prevent excessive overreach by the executive branch, but the man is just appalling – a shallow, vindictive egotist with almost zero attention span (as proved by his reputed offer to give John Kasich complete control of foreign and domestic policy, and nearly every speech he has ever given).

Many of Trump’s apologists in the Republican Party have been reduced to saying “oh, it’s just a persona” as if that somehow makes it better. Either he means what he says when he promises authoritarian, big government solutions or his populism is just a lie and he is going to massively let down his voters in office, creating an even more wild backlash which nobody will be able to control. Neither option bodes well for sensible conservative government.

And so while a Hillary Clinton presidency will be technocratic, soul-sappingly un-ideological, politically calculating and almost certainly stymied by furious GOP obstructionism, at least it buys time for the Republicans to wake up and try to engage with the public anger against the political elites in a more constructive way.

The Republicans have tried riding the Tea Party tiger, and were consumed by it. Now they have hitched their fortunes to Donald Trump, who will (barring further Islamist attacks or police shootings) lead them to defeat with dishonour. It is difficult to imagine a rock bottom lower than being led to defeat against Hillary Clinton by Donald Trump. Hopefully this is that rock bottom, and the party of Abraham Lincoln will rise from the ashes of defeat in 2016 chastened and renewed.

But even if none of this comes to pass, even if the GOP learns absolutely nothing and goes on to nominate Herman Cain or Sarah Palin in 2020, at least we have bought four more years of relative stability. If you take Donald Trump at his word, he is a dangerous demagogue. If you belong to the school of thought which says that it is all an act, then he is perpetrating a fraud on those millions of his supporters who take his public utterances seriously. Neither option is good. This is not somebody fit for the presidency.

Many of the scandals hanging over Hillary Clinton have substance, and she undoubtedly has been dishonest in her handling of the email scandal – she was wrong to conduct sensitive government business over a bootleg server installed in her home, and she was most definitely wrong to be so evasive and even downright false in her subsequent explanations of her behaviour. In any other circumstance – and I mean any other circumstance – this alone would disqualify Clinton from the presidency.

But these are extenuating circumstances. I’m sorry Trump supporters, but I have searched and searched and I cannot see in Donald Trump the principled, fearless happy warrior fighting the elite on behalf of ordinary Americans which you see. I see a shrewd, calculating and undeniably effective demagogue, one who understands better than any other recent insurgent politician how to command public attention, and who was aided in this tawdry work by a debased American media class whose great crime in giving undeserved oxygen to the Trump campaign in the hunt for ratings surpasses even their craven and servile attitude toward the Bush administration in the years after 9/11.

And in these exceptional times, the only responsible thing to do is to pick the lesser of two evils. Hillary Clinton continues the dubious tradition of American presidential dynasties. She has a perpetual cloud of scandal hanging over her head which cannot all be dismissed as the fact-free imaginings of Newt Gingrich. And she is a political weathervane with seemingly no fixed political convictions or guiding ideology. But even for all of these flaws, at least she is not Donald J Trump.

However, this blog is concerned that the current Hollywood celebrity love-fest taking place at the DNC convention in Philadelphia, while buoying the spirits of Hillary fans (and disappointed Bernie Sanders supporters) is actually feeding the Trump campaign’s effective – and partially true – message that the American cultural elite is bullying ordinary people into feeling ashamed of their often perfectly legitimate political concerns.

And never more so than on the topic of immigration, where whatever racism and xenophobia exists at the fringe of the Republican Party is more than cancelled out by the gleeful subversion of law and language encouraged by many mainstream Democrats, with their embrace of the exculpatory term “undocumented immigrants” and repeated, tawdry attempts to ennoble the idea of living in America illegally.

As Jeremy Carl fumes in the National Review:

Witness what we have just seen: One candidate for president has been the first-ever candidate for president endorsed by the union of Border Patrol agents. The other candidate proudly features, on the first night of her convention, illegal aliens up on the main stage, while Democrats nationwide cheer.

If you wanted to understand the hold that Donald Trump has on a large swathe of conservatives and even fed-up Democrats and independents, the Democratic convention is pretty much a living explanation.

At this point, we’ve become so accustomed to the Democrats’ immigration lawlessness that too many of us accept it. We think there is simply nothing strange about one of our two political parties happily parading lawbreakers in a forum where they are celebrated for their law-breaking.

As a future American citizen (proudly married to a Texan, with the ultimate intention of living back in the United States) who will one day gratefully join the back of the line and emigrate the lawful way, nothing enrages me more than this holding-hands-underneath-a-rainbow celebration of people who either snuck into America illegally or otherwise outstayed their visas. But the Clinton campaign’s emotion-based, identity politics-ridden position on “undocumenteds” (whoops, where did their documents go? Never mind, no point being a stickler for the rules) should not just be offensive to current and future legal immigrants who played by the rules. It should be offensive to every single person who places value in the rule of law.

And still Clinton is better than Trump. Some of Trump’s ideas on immigration – such as defunding “sanctuary cities” which refuse to cooperate with federal immigration rules and officials, and ending the anachronism of birthright citizenship – are entirely sensible. But the sanctions with which Trump intends to threaten Mexico in order to coerce payment for building his wall would greatly hamper cross border trade and actually put people out of work, as would many of his other protectionist policies.

Donald Trump has the greatest potential to harm America in the sphere of foreign policy. When it comes to domestic matters, the ability of the executive branch to take drastic or radical action is fairly well constraint by the checks and balances built into the American system of government. But in managing America’s relationship with other countries, President Donald Trump would have wide-ranging abilities to antagonise or alienate other countries in a way which the Constitution is not designed to constrain. Now, some of those countries may well deserve a tongue-lashing from Donald Trump – that is a large part of his appeal, the ability to come out strongly against the indefensible. But if Donald Trump has a coherent foreign policy, it is a closely guarded secret. There is certainly no mention on his campaign website. Therefore, there is no guarantee that Trump will antagonise only those countries which America can afford to alienate.

One may disagree with many of Hillary Clinton’s decisions while serving as Secretary of State, but at least she knows her way around foreign policy and will not need to keep Wikipedia to hand as she takes congratulatory calls from world leaders if she wins the election. That matters. Leadership matters, even if the direction of that leadership is sometimes less than optimal. While the American presidency always involves on-the-job training with incredibly high stakes, to bestow that office on somebody with no record of or interest in public service prior to this point would be reckless in the extreme.

Yet Hillary Clinton can easily lose this election. More to the point, her supporters can lose this election for her with their sanctimonious moral grandstanding, finger-wagging lectures to Middle America and constant diminution of the issues and concerns which motivate Trump supporters. In Britain we have already seen how endless celebrity interventions accusing Brexit supporters of racism and evil intent quite rightly provoked a backlash against the bien-pensant clerisy who haughtily preached that Britain is no good and that we could not survive without the EU’s antidemocratic supranational government. Piling up the celebrity endorsements could end up harming Hillary Clinton more than helping her.

And so the need now comes hardest upon the Clinton campaign manager, Robby Mook, to be a skilled and fearless strategist. Trump will not be beaten easily. The gaffes and missteps which harm normal political candidates only further cement his popularity among his most ardent supporters. And Hillary Clinton is a famously weak political candidate, less effective on the campaign trail than she is when in office.

This blog takes absolutely no delight in making its choice for the 2016 presidential race. I would have leapt at the chance to support a smart, sane conservative alternative to Democratic Party occupancy of the White House. But eight years of hysterical, hyperbolic opposition to Barack Obama effectively put rocket boosters on the GOP’s crazy wing, and now there is no smart, sane conservative left to support. In fact, there is no small-c conservative running in this presidential race at all.

That failure is not the fault of Barack Obama. He did not spike the juice of every Republican politician with crazy powder over the past seven years. This is an entirely self-inflicted wound struck by obstructionist conservative politicians who chose to make American politics this angry and volatile, aided by the conservative-industrial complex of media and punditry who cynically portrayed what has been a frustratingly uneven economic recovery and an overly timid and contradictory foreign policy as an unprecedented American decline brought about by Kenyan socialism.

In short, it is the fault of the political-media class, and the opportunistic Republican Party in particular, that Donald Trump was able to take over the GOP so easily. It is their fault that the only semi-responsible choice on the ballot paper will be for Hillary Clinton’s predictable, uninspiring centre-leftism.

And it is their fault that this blog is left with no choice but to follow my conscience and support Hillary Rodham Clinton for president – very much the lesser of two evils.

 

Hillary Clinton - Tim Kaine

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