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Trump Won’t Be the Last American Populist Options
Posted: Friday, November 13, 2020 7:12:39 AM

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The Conditions That Produced Him Need to Be Understood to Be Addressed

The autocratic, populist turn of the Trump presidency arose from deep fractures in U.S. politics and society, and Americans must understand and address these if they are to prevent similar forces from once again seizing the nation. The roots of Trumpism don’t begin or end with Trump or even with American politics—they are closely connected to economic and political currents affecting much of the world.

The United States was ripe for a populist movement by 2016, and it remains so today. Vast inequalities have opened in the last four decades between the highly educated and the rest and between capital and labor. As a result, median wages have been stagnant for about 40 years, and the real earnings of many groups, especially men with low education levels, have fallen precipitously. Men with less than a college degree, for example, earn significantly less today than their counterparts did in the 1970s. No serious discussion of the political ills that have befallen the United States can ignore these economic trends, which have afflicted the American middle class and contributed to the anger and frustration among some of the voters who turned to Trump.

This article hits most of the items we've discussed on this forum and on many others. Progressives in the middle and upper financial classes in the US can't comprehend how others do not see the country from their lofty perch. On the other hand, the Repug party leadership has tapped into the anger and hatred of those feeling left behind and has used it to great effect as a weapon against the Democratic party. It truly does not matter that these people are voting against their own best interests, because to them there is no vote that is in their best interests. As far as they are concerned, the flames of anger and hatred that the repug party leaders have been fanning represent hope that the current system that is so heavily stacked against them will crumble and fall.

And the Democratic party leadership has not answered this in any suitable way. Even though the Democratic party is solely responsible for nearly every law that has benefited these disaffected citizens, they have allowed the repug party leaders to completely rewrite the narrative so that those benefits are just "Big Gubmint" doing bad things to everyone.

So, for all you outside US borders, no this is not rock bottom for the US. We still have a ways to go yet before we bottom out because there is simply no chance in hell that the Democratic party will suddenly grow a spine and fight back to stop the country swirling into the fascist toilet.
Posted: Friday, November 13, 2020 5:02:57 PM

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In the twilight of his presidency, Donald Trump has retreated into fantasy, leaving Biden with a big mess.

Normally, this would be a given. Of course the repug President leaves a mess for the Democratic President to clean up. That has been the norm for more than 30 years. But this is on a whole new level.

Many liberals are afraid Donald Trump is planning a coup. The reality is much stranger. Trump is daydreaming about a coup. All the bizarre machinations since Election Day, the repeated airing of conspiracy theories about vote rigging, and the spate of poorly supported lawsuits spring not from a mastermind plotting to destroy democracy but rather a delusional and self-obsessed man who cannot come to grips with the reality of rejection. As The New York Times reports, Trump, while conversing with his advisers, has been “floating one improbable scenario after another for staying in office while he contemplates his uncertain post-presidency future.”

It would be terrifying if Trump had the competence, energy, and drive to push for a coup. It’s somewhat less scary but still disturbing that he is half-heartedly wishing for a coup. It suggests that the twilight days of Trump’s presidency will be characterized by a chief executive who is almost entirely disengaged from reality.

Trump’s presidency has always had a performative aspect to it. He’s played being president more than he has been president. Still, before losing the election, he would make an effort to show interest in events, to give speeches, and to occasionally even sign a useful piece of legislation, as he did with the CARES Act, offering more than $2 trillion in stimulus spending in March.

The Trump who is shell-shocked by the election is no longer able to even fake an interest in issues like Covid-19 or the continued need for economic stimulus. As Ronald Brownstein, a senior editor at The Atlantic, notes, “The president is AWOL. He has abandoned his post at a moment when the nation is under fire to nurse grievances & spin fantasies. And no Congressional Republican will call him out for a self-absorbed dereliction of duty that threatens massive death & suffering.”
Posted: Friday, November 13, 2020 5:08:22 PM

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This has been the US Executive branch over the past 4 years. Playing pretend leaders.

Posted: Thursday, November 19, 2020 1:18:47 AM
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My best guess is that calling himself that makes more of the middle-class likely to vote for him. It doesn’t mean he’s really a populist. It just means that if some people believe that they will be more likely to vote for him and this trend is bound to continue into the foreseeable future.

Like Barnum said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.
Posted: Thursday, November 19, 2020 1:14:56 PM

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Hi BD.

It would seem to me that the solution to the uneducated feeling and being left behind financially is to educate them.

Preschool and elementary schools are where they need to put the money. This is where kids are turned on or turned off by education. Better teacher ed, pay teachers more so they get better people to teach, less paperwork and more hands on with kids, hire lunch and yard duty supervisiors so teachers have more prep time, lower class sizes, reassign funds from other categories - they would need fewer police if people were happy, and had good jobs. Raise the minimum wage - it has been shown in places that did it that that does NOT have the negative consequences they always fearmonger with.

As for your second post about Trump wanting a coup - of course he does. I agree and hope you are right with your suggestion that he may not be competent enough to accomplish that. But what about the politicians still supporting him? I don't understand why they think this will help them in 2022 or 2024 but do you think maybe they would help him to pull it off? That's probably a long shot too.

But more competent populists will be coming down the tubes....So these problems have to be corrected. But when a big minority think socilaism is akin to communism, deny climate change, and don't want anything done about either, they are a huge problem. People get their identities mixed up with certain leaders and defend them to the death.
Posted: Thursday, November 19, 2020 3:52:08 PM

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Thanks Hope and I agree that education is the key. This is why conservatives across the country have been decimating our school systems for more than 30 years. They know that an educated constituency is much more difficult to control with hate and ignorance.
Posted: Friday, November 20, 2020 6:37:46 AM

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I was listening to a podcast the other day, recorded pre-election and it interviewed some Trump supporters. One of them, an aspiring political worker, said she supported Trump because she had to stop America falling into the hands of communists. I mean! This was a young voter, so no Cold War experience. Just such a brainwashed idea about 'the bad guys'. No idea at all that even the most liberal politician in mainstream US politics is to the right of all but the most fascist parties anywhere else. Under her criteria practically every democracy in Europe would be communist, and yet they don't seem to have succumbed to the Devil's ways. The lack of perspective, world-view and simple examination of facts is overwhelming. And that was before the whole palaver that the whole election is a fraud because it didn't go the way you wanted. The idea that sometimes you lose an election seems to have disappeared - if you know you are right then elections become meaningless anyway.

I hear an awful lot of people trying hard to present clear facts and regain some sort of democracy - but also so many are just that disconnected from it that they are prey to the lure of any cult or extremist. And they will not regain their confidence for decades. It is the fault of the system, though, for being so smug and self-congratulatory that it failed to see how corrupt and un-democratic it was, so no wonder people lost trust in it. Government systems that fail to adapt and represent fall to violent revolution and everybody suffers. I don't think the US will do that, but it will certainly be sick for a long while yet.
Posted: Friday, November 20, 2020 7:07:09 AM

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There have been quite a few posts on this forum about the lure of cults, tribalism, and how these remove critical thinking and replace it with the willing suspension of disbelief.

It's easy to get people to stop thinking. Getting them to think is the hard part.
Posted: Friday, November 20, 2020 11:08:44 AM
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"It's easy to get people to stop thinking. Getting them to think is the hard part."

And that's where education comes in. Because, based on my interviews and experiences in China it isn't easy to get people to stop thinking.

Living in - not just visiting - China gives one access to places the average Westerner (and in many cases, the average Chinese person) never gets to see. We came across an enormous, deserted "Re-education Centre" which had been set up specifically to propagandise/brainwash/'re-educate' the intelligentsia - philosophers, uni educators, poets, writers etc.It was a creepy place with many little tiny cells scattered around which had been used as solitary confinement for 'resisters'. The miasma of pain and death and torture still clung firmly to every square inch of those buildings. Just as some people encounter when they visit Nazi death camps.

But, the thing which stunned us most was the 'bottle dump". Thousands upon thousands of boxes of empty vials and ampules.

Because most of those who had been trained to think and reason and depend upon Truth could NOT stop thinking. They were immune to 're-education' because their own education illustrated how propagandising worked. Thus they were constantly drugged in a bid to rob them of their knowledge. In thousands upon thousands of cases it robbed them of their entire minds and sent them raving mad.

But getting people not to think was simple.As happened in Austria and Germany in the period after WW1, it became part of the Education system. And I spent 7 years showing the products of this kind of education how to reason, and imagine, and use logic and truth. And once they were shown how to use these tools they absolutely soared...often within the space of one semester.

So an education system that is based upon religion, obedience, politics, misrepresentation, nationalism and complete absence of fact is going to produce people whose entire lives are fashioned along those same lines. It deprives them of the tools with which to reason independently. It substitutes violence for problem-solving because for those without knowledge, that's the only tool available.

In a public system which is truly educative even the deranged idea of a building dedicated to mis-information gets no further than the mind in which it originated. No other first world country would allow the title "Museum" to a grace a centre for propaganda such as those which transcend fact and display childish fantasies of human beings and dinosaurs disporting themselves happily together.

A fraudulent project to fleece the gullible would not be able to call itself a "University"; nor would a post-high school centre for religious propaganda have the ability to call itself University either, or a graduate who has majored in the subject of "Christian Family Life" or "Cheer-leading" be considered to have any qualifications equal to those who have studied subjects such as Sociology, I.T., Science, History, etc.

An inward-looking curricula which presents subjects only in reference to one isolated population is also another propaganda tool - and one shared by China.

One day our Trumpeter-in-chief informed us he was going to tell us all about American History - oblivious to the fact that anyone other than an American would ever have, or have had, access to such information. It was the most absurd mish-mash of legend, Hollywood-induced fantasy, ancient myth and pure, unadulterated untruth I've ever heard from an adult. Yet it was what he was inculcated with 5 or 6 decades ago; and it had never occurred to him to doubt a word of it - in spite of the rapid advancement of technology and communications which, with a mere click of a key, supply a factual, observable, proven account. Proof absolutely that those not provided with the tools of truth or reason go through life uneducated.

Being uneducated has nothing to do with what level of education one has; it pertains to not having been given the right tools. It should not be dependant either upon where an accident of birth landed you. Whether educated in the heartland of Christian religion, a particular political party, or a ghetto, the purpose of education is independent thought firmly planted in the soil of truth and fact.

Unless it is tackled comprehensively and nation-wide, schools which produce people unable to differentiate between truth and fantasy will continue to produce a pool of citizens with no defence against manipulation, devoid of the ability to reason independently, and unable to identify the guile, self-interest and corruption which informs those who control them.
Posted: Sunday, November 22, 2020 6:12:15 AM

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This is not a pro-Trump or anti-Trump (or even anti-American) post - just my thoughts following on from the last five or six posts here (that's good info, Romany! Can one actually get a degree in Cheerleading? Really?)
The Republicans, Democrats, Labour Party, New Labour, Conservative Party, SNP even, are not innocent. If they haven't all directly contributed, they have turned a blind eye. Maybe Britain is not in quite the same state as the USA - but it's happening.

It's not hard to get someone who can think rationally to see the "TRUTH" - basic truths.

It IS difficult to change basic ideas for the worse - it takes concerted effort, drugs, co-ordinated mis-education from an early age and constant repeated lies after basic education.

Decades (at least) of reduction in effectiveness of school education; decades of the covertly sanctioned, if not government-sponsored, distribution of psychotropic drugs to a large proportion of the populace; media news outlets which have deteriorated into 'amusement sites' and misinformation (that's the real "fake news"). These have had an effect.

People talk about the "good old days" fifty or sixty years ago.
But, one might ask, how were they "good"? - what about the fact that unemployment was higher back then? Or the fact that people had fewer luxuries? and so on.
These are true, but when I grew up in the 1950s and '60s, there was a hope for the future - only an infinitesimal proportion of people took psychotropics - almost no-one (in Britain) left school even mildly illiterate. OK, a lot smaller proportion of school-leavers went into tertiary education (I worked for six years when I left school at sixteen before I earned the grant of three years 'leave of absence' to go to university). However primary and secondary education was effective, and teachers weren't actively stopped by law from getting their jobs done.
Where has this decline come from? The actions of Departments of Education and governments of ALL parties - not just 'left' or 'right' - all of them.

And on the drugs - you won't stop selling of anything when it's available - that's the nature of commerce.
But you can stop the production of many of the dangerous drugs. Who invaded (or "sent in military advisors") and ousted the Middle-East governments which were destroying poppy-fields and cracking down on opium and heroin production?
Who did the same in South America, backing terrorists and rebels who took over from governments opposed to the big drug-cartels?
It wasn't just the Republicans, or just the Democrats. Even European and British governments of both sides had a hand in it (left hand or right hand!).

I'll end with the same line as Romany did - "Unless it is tackled comprehensively and nation-wide, schools which produce people unable to differentiate between truth and fantasy will continue to produce a pool of citizens with no defence against manipulation, devoid of the ability to reason independently, and unable to identify the guile, self-interest and corruption which informs those who control them."
Posted: Sunday, November 22, 2020 1:35:43 PM
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Drago -

I promise you! We asked to see their lists of subjects taken for their Batchelors degree because we (other foreigners) were all shrieking with laughter as these weird subjects came up. No-one believed for a moment it was true.

It's odd to think that this was less than ten years ago. There were Foreigners scattered across most faculties - from Japan, Germany, Canada, France, England, Australia, Sweden & Denmark. And not one of us - let alone any of the Chinese staff & Administrators - knew anything at all about Republicans, and Christian Evangelicals.

We knew all about American Public School systems, because it's been a subject of much discussion in all Educational circles since the '70's.

But we all accepted that a University Education was understood to represent the same standards all over the world.There were one or two rare exceptions of course, but no-one ever dreamed that a First World country would supply such exceptions.

We had no idea that a Right Wing Evangelical with grade-school education, could open up an 'Educational' facility, put 'University' in its name, occupy kids for 4 years with religious indoctrination, Political propaganda and infantile play; then make up their own degree qualifications, set their own exams, mark them in a system dependent on whose Daddy donated more, and send them out into the real world on the same footing as scholars, lecturers, researchers & trained academics.

The trouble and divisiveness this group of teachers caused; the things they were telling naive young adults in their classes, the total misinformation they were spreading, became of such concern it almost caused a student riot one night on our 'harmonious' and quiet campus. We foreigners all went in delegation to ask for their removal - offering to take over lectures if necessary.

They were hustled discreetly out but we later found that the faux-university had signed a contract with our university to send 'graduates' out at the start of each academic year. They threatened to sue. But hey - some cracker con-artist up against the Chinese Communist Party (it was a government university)? A grasshopper trying to swat an elephant.

But all through this whole scenario no-one involved ever considered this more than an isolated occurrence. It was officially designated, by us all, as an anomalous cult phenomenon. And the kinds of lives they lived and described to us, restricted to members of this cult. It was, in fact, the reason I offered a unit in "Propaganda".

No-one, after the last four years, would fail to recognise this scenario. Had any of us then - including the Administrators, understood that this was a Political cult it would have had the potential to cause an international incident. As the University which had, for the past umpteen years supplied the Mayors of our own city and others in our Province, it would have been rather a big deal.

But it has given me an insight as to how people who appear to be uneducated yobbos get to a position wherein they effect the entire governance of a country. And it's the reason there has to be a national standard that is in line with others in the world. And it's the reason I strongly believe that when any education system can be used as a political/religious propaganda tool, no country can claim to be free.
Ashwin Vemuri
Posted: Tuesday, November 24, 2020 1:50:03 AM

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Trump has done some good, ignore the bad, as that's for Biden to pursue and show
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