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Why I'm optimistic about Trump

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I'm a Donald Trump optimist. Like the many who don't support him, I am alarmed that he won. But I don't believe he will be as bad as the worst fears. It's a very modest definition of optimism, but I think it's the best liberals can come up with. The worst fears are widespread, serious, and may yet prove to be well founded. Still, my main reason for "optimism" is America's tradition of liberty, its ineradicable pluralism - and (to sound a populist note) the American people.

Those who view a Trump presidency pessimistically believe his election to be "nothing less than a tragedy." Some see a fascist in the making. The Russian-American writer Masha Gessen, drawing on her experience of Vladimir Putin, wrote that rule one of survival under authoritarian rule is to "Believe the autocrat. He means what he says."

France's Le Monde's editorial was heavy with warnings of deglobalization, trade wars and mass unemployment in the United States and Europe. The chief editor of the German weekly Der Spiegel, Klaus Brinkbäumer, wrote that the United States had elected "a dangerously inexperienced and racist man." In The Guardian, Gary Younge wrote that Trump "represents the incoherent, inchoate and ill-informed rage against the fallout of neoliberal globalization."

There was a welcome in Europe, and it was led by far right leaders like Marine Le Pen of the French National Front, who sees in Trump's "Make America Great Again" a model for France. The transported-to-paradise leader of the UK Independence Party, Nigel Farage, opined after his meeting with Trump in Trump Tower that he would be "a good president." There's been a lot of popular support on social media, especially in an Italy which elected Silvio Berlusconi three times in the past quarter century. The British government has taken a "let's hope for the best" view, with the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, calling on fellow European leaders to stop indulging in a "whinge-orama" about the election of one whom Johnson had earlier said he would take care to avoid on any trip to New York.

The political writer for the Financial Times, Janan Ganesh, thinks that liberals are just flagellating themselves with horror forecasts, as they like to do. So does the American economist and columnist Zachary Karabell. But outside of the far right, everyone is at least a little scared. Some, including a former British Foreign Secretary, say they're terrified.

I'm more than a little scared, but also an optimist for the following reasons:

First, a fascist leader needs fascists. There are some in the United States, and they - the Ku Klux Klan and others - have welcomed Trump's election. But most of his voters aren't in that camp. Fascists want a strong state to crush opponents and to provide jobs. Trump's people, working, middle or upper class, want less, often much less, state. Far-rightists need an enemy within, as the Nazis used the Jews, or externally, as Fascist Italy did in its late and bloody grab for an empire in Africa. The model Fascist countries - Italy from the 1920s, Germany from the '30s - had populations desperate, impoverished and humiliated enough to rally behind Fascist/Nazi leaders. Americans are nowhere near that state. Nor is Trump anything like as wholly ruthless as were Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler.

Second, the Constitution of the United States is one of freedom. Freedom, both constitutional and civic, is the common currency of politics, with the right professing to value it more than liberals. The Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court, which allowed unlimited corporate spending on elections, was argued on the basis of the First Amendment guaranteeing freedom of speech. The Second Amendment, granting the right to citizens to bear arms, has made it almost impossible for legislators to pass effective laws on gun control. In few other countries does a constitution play such a central, and often contentious, role in public life: that passionate attachment protects its checks and balances, and the erosion of long-held rights, more effectively than anything else - since laws and constitutions are everywhere only as strong as public support, or at least acquiescence.

Third, U.S. media, traditionally supposed to function as watchdogs over the government, are not in good shape. They are embarrassed by their over-reliance on polls which all but guaranteed a Clinton win and are suffering from vertiginous drops in advertising revenue. Trump, displaying once more his ingrained infantilism, loves to crow over the blow he delivered to their pride. The partisanship of cable channels, aping Fox, will probably become more pronounced after this campaign. Few major publications or networks have emerged from the election with their credibility unscathed. But great newspapers such as the New York Times have promised to learn from the experience. In addition, voters now also have hundreds of sources of online news, many on sites striving for objectivity. The relatively free practice of journalism will remain powerfully influential. Top American reporters and editors set world standards, and won't abdicate from a self-defined, and democratic, duty to hold power to account.

Fourth, Americans are famously adaptable. They're less bound by tradition than their European counterparts and are unafraid of change. This election is widely viewed as a reflection of the nation's bigotry and xenophobia, but it could also be seen as the "discovery" of the nation's alienated white working class in a way that has some parallels with white America's "discovery" of a much more radically disenfranchised African American population in the 1960s. Like the latter, the president will have to address the former - though Trump, hailed as a savior, may prove to deepen the plight of the left-behinds. U.S. liberals have a large job to do in revising their policies, as do European leftists. Both will be energetic in doing so, though that may take some time. The Europeans, one should note, have yet to "discover" the millions of young men and women - around 40% in Italy, Spain and Greece - who can find no jobs.

Fifth, Trump may not be as quick to disrupt international agreements as his campaign rhetoric suggests. Trump has Republican majorities in both the House and Senate, but not Republican assent to all his policies. Party legislators may agree that other NATO members should pay more toward maintaining the Alliance - some Europeans accept that - but many Republicans support NATO, often fervently. Indeed, within days of his election Trump committed himself to maintaining a strong relationship with NATO during a meeting with President Barack Obama.

The fate of pending trade agreements, particularly the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) with Asia, is less clear. But even if the Republican Congress refuses to ratify the treaty, it's not unreasonable to think that Trump - who met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in New York on Thursday - might be swayed by those like distinguished Japanese political scientist, Yoichi Funabashi, who argues that the United States would be ceding the Asia-Pacific region to China's economic expansionism if Washington doesn't participate in multilateral trade agreements.

This faith seems to me to be justified by tradition, Constitution and the record of American actions in intervening on the side of freedom, even if at times disastrously. All bets are off if the world falls into a deeper recession, and the threatened decimation of jobs brought about by advanced computerization and robotization actually materializes. But in that case, the bets are off everywhere, including in an enfeebled and already economically stagnant Europe. Until such a dismal eventuality, American liberals must now trust the Constitution, with its checking and balancing institutions, its guarantee of free speech and a free press, and above all the American people, including those they blame for the Trump victory. They have, in any case, no choice.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2016.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

29 Comments
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The constant references to Nazi Germany are a bit much.

The Democrats fielded an establishment candidate and that's why they lost.

4 ( +9 / -5 )

I feel somewhat along the lines of this article.

The guy won, enough of the rhetoric against him. Now it's time to criticize his bad policies when the arise. He's going to be president, time to accept it.

13 ( +16 / -3 )

Ballots are still being counted, and Hillary currently has a lead of more than 1.3 million votes. This is craziness. First we got Bush, and now we get Trump, because of a messed up electoral system that awards the most powerful position in the world to the individual with the fewer votes.

I am horrified at the prospect of a president who reminds me so much of Hitler and the Nazis. Am currently reading Mein Kampf, and the parallels between the two men's rhetoric and style is terrifying. That he is packing his administration with so many fringe activists does nothing to encourage me. It seems to me that as time passes, too many people have lost awareness of the danger of putting someone so much like Hitler into power. Those who refuse to learn from history........

6 ( +9 / -3 )

1Glenn: This article was good. I agree with most of it. As a person of the civilization that Hitler wanted to wipe out, I am in no way worried at all with Trump. America's written laws and the people will see to that.

Give the guy a chance. I bet he does fine in most aspects. In no way can he be worse than the 2nd Bush was. That is impossible.

My only concerns are him installing very conservative people in the supreme court and overturned the abortion rights that women should own and currently do own for their own bodies.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

I am somewhat sick of all the fear mongering on the left about Trump. The constant references to the "alt right" and KKK, as if they really have any actual power or influence in American politics. Best estimates put Klan membership at around 5,000 members. The couldn't even fill up a small high school football stadium if they tried.

Glenn: enough about the popular vote total. It means nothing. Well, except that Hillary ran a poor campaign. Very few countries have direct popular vote elections. Japan doesn't. The UK doesn't. Australia doesn't. Germany doesn't. Canada doesn't. Both parties knew and agreed to the system before the election, so they can't complain about the results now.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

The constant references to the "alt right" and KKK, as if they really have any actual power or influence in American politics. Best estimates put Klan membership at around 5,000 members. The couldn't even fill up a small high school football stadium if they tried.

He ran on a campaign of discrimination and anger. People aren't just suddenly going to drop that and forget. If you're sick of it you should probably choose the sites you read with care.

enough about the popular vote total. It means nothing.

It means the president has the confidence of less than half the voters. That's a pretty major thing.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Hillary ALSO had the confidence of less than half the voters. So what?

She thought that simply demonizing her opponent would be enough to win. She was wrong. If Trump ran on a campaign of discrimination, how could he swing so many voters who previously supported Pres. Obama? Did 5 million Americans suddenly realize that Obama is black, whack themselves on the forehead, and pull the lever for (one of the) white candidates?

Can you not accept that many who voted for Trump did so based on the issues, not on their feelings? Is that so inconceivable to you?

-7 ( +2 / -9 )

Hillary ALSO had the confidence of less than half the voters. So what?

And still had more than trump!

Can you not accept that many who voted for Trump did so based on the issues, not on their feelings? Is that so inconceivable to you?

I've never claimed otherwise.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

"Ballots are still being counted, and Hillary currently has a lead of more than 1.3 million votes."

Wikipedia has it at 61,201,031, about 47% for Trump and 62,523,136, about 48% for Clinton, a virtual tie.

The Electoral College was Hillary's to lose, being as how she had the biggest prize, California's 55 votes locked up before the campaign even began, plus she had Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Lady Gaga,, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, a few thousand other celebrities and the media on her side and SHE STILL LOST!

If for no other reason to be optimistic, which there are many, at least we don't have a president-elect UNDER FBI CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION!

-7 ( +2 / -9 )

I'm not a liberal and I'm more of a realist. Trump is going to be president and I'm going to be paying very close attention to his actions and policies. So far how he's setting up his administration doesn't look good.

Anti-establishment... maybe, but not with his current choices. Giving positions to those who supported him, trying to give his family close positions... those are things that dictators do. While I doubt the rest of the Republican party will allow him to consolidate power in his favor though, his own personal choices are quite alarming.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

And we finally hit Godwin's law.

While I would of preferred someone else in office. I do believe he's going to do a better job then Hillary would of. Sure she can talk a good game, but she had more then a few chances to put her money where her mouth was in her current job yet what she actually did was quite the opposite. Not to mention a certain stunt she pulled that showed she's either wanton negligent with money or was setting up backroom deals in a way that she could cut out the paper trail when needed. Neither of which is someone who is a good fit to be in charge.

As for the popular vote thing, I don't think it truly reflects the popular vote. On the surface it seems like it would, but you gotta remember that most people knew on some level the effect EC would have on the vote. Even if all they knew was that votes from their state only count towards the one who gets a majority in that state. Meaning that votes for a 3rd party candidate or a write in basically don't count unless by some rare quark they mange to get a majority in that state. So thus I think a large amount of votes both Hillary and Trump Got where not for either candidate but against the other one. I also think a large number of people who could of voted, and would of in a straight popular vote, didn't because they where already certain which way their state was going to go so it seemed pointless to put out the effort. So I think had it been known to be a straight popular vote during the voting a lot of people would of voted much differently, and I believe we probably would of seen a 3rd party candidate taking office.

Also i don't think Trump is going to un-globaltize The US, or push in sweeping policy changes that turn the us into a Fascist or other type of government then it is. He wouldn't have the support he needs to get those plans implemented anyway. I think what he's actually doing is taking a closer look at the agreements to make sure they really benefit the US and the ones that don't offer enough benefit for what they are demanding he'll rework. It's just he's not coming from the angle that we must trade more no matter the cost, rather does this trade actually benefit us or not.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

The Democrats fielded an establishment candidate and that's why they lost.

The Republics fielded an establishment candidate and that's why they... er...they lost. He won.

But most of his voters aren’t in that camp.

Sorry. Absolutely all of his voters as in a same camp. The one of people give presidency so little importance that Trump can do the job. That's what scares me. Not Tump himself, but the support he gets.

My only concerns are him installing very conservative people in the supreme court and overturned the abortion rights that women should own and currently do own for their own bodies.

That's going to happen. The right is already denied. And that regression has started before Trump was a candidate. That America is scary.

at least we don't have a president-elect UNDER FBI CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION!

That's not even sure, and that will come very quickly if he does what he says.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/trump-election-means-europe-must-now-lead-west-a-1120929.html#ref=nl-international

I am scared silly of what will happen to America and the world under a Trump presidency. He is immoral, unqualified, a misogynist, a scam artist, and the list goes on. The damage he can do to the world from the Oval Office is immeasurable.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Ballots are still being counted, and Hillary currently has a lead of more than 1.3 million votes. This is craziness. First we got Bush, and now we get Trump, because of a messed up electoral system that awards the most powerful position in the world to the individual with the fewer votes.

Too late. Even if every single voted counted from here on is cast for Hillary, she still lost. The electoral system is not "messed up", and if Hillary had won the electoral vote, and Trump had gotten the popular vote, you would no doubt believe the electoral system was working properly.

In America, it is not the people who choose the president, but the states, because in America all states are supposed to be equally represented in Washington. A small state like Delaware cannot have it's voice drowned out by a populous state like California.

The problem America faced when creating the constitution was the understanding that the majority is not always right. As Lincoln said, "you can fool all of the people some of the time." Since the time of the Greeks it has been known that democracy is inherently corruptible, which is why America uses a representative democracy where direct majorities cannot easily control decisions.

Hillary was the wrong candidate, she always was. And it amazes me when people think that she could have actually been elected. I was once a Hillary supporter, I caucused for her when she was running against Obama. But that experience left a bad taste in my mouth, because as I came to know more about Hillary, the less I liked her.

Hillary is respected (and feared) by many, liked by few, and loved by none. If Hillary owned a dog, even it would not love her. You have no idea how lucky you are that Hillary lost. That Trump is president is not a wonderful thing, but America is far better off with him than it would have been with Hillary.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

if Hillary had won the electoral vote, and Trump had gotten the popular vote, you would no doubt believe the electoral system was working properly.

Nope. It's broken either direction. We just would have been more satisfied if it were the other way around. But it would still be broken.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

47%... 48%... a virtual tie.

Close, but the cigar goes to the loser?

few countries have direct popular vote elections... Japan doesn't. The UK doesn't. Australia doesn't. Germany doesn't. Canada doesn't.

Comparing apples to eggplants. Those countries don't have public elections for PMs/Chancellors. Why count the popular Presidential vote if it's going to be ignored?

Trump has been declared winner by a system that - on a national level - is a broken promise.

Similarly, no swamp will be drained, no wall built, and few Rust Belt jobs repatriated.

This isn't a red/blue, left/right, conservative/liberal issue. The only winners are the interests for whom a country uniting to serve its people is an existential threat.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

First, it was don't worry, he couldn't possibly get the nomination.

Then, it was don't worry, he couldn't possibly win the election.

Now, it is don't worry, he couldn't possibly be as bad as everyone says he is.

Yes, he can be that bad. Be afraid. Be very afraid. There is absolutely no reason to be optimistic.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-37895601

7 ( +8 / -1 )

i also have similar opinion to this article. essentially he got elected cause people are fed up with professional politicians. the balance of power between the three branches of government should prevent him from doing anything really stupid. what i'd really like to know is how many of the people now protesting "not my president" were protesting that trump would refuse accept the results of the voting if he lost (which he didn't really say, i believe he said that he would decide when the time comes)?

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

how many of the people now protesting "not my president" were protesting that trump would refuse accept the results of the voting if he lost (which he didn't really say, i believe he said that he would decide when the time comes)?

I wonder if the poster could pass a cigarette paper between:

refuse accept the results of the voting if he lost

and

decide when the time comes?

But then,

how many of the people now protesting

actually believed that someone showing such contempt for democracy would get elected?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

SenseNotSoCommon: actually believed that someone showing such contempt for democracy would get elected?

Al Gore conceded on election night in 2000, then took it back when it was clear Florida might be close.

That was all okeydokey for the left, back then.

Now the left is complaining because Trump didn't agree to concede whether the race was tight or not.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

But most of his voters aren’t in that camp.

I'd like to see some evidence to support that claim. Within 24 hours of Trump's election we had people harassing women, people of color, and the LGBT in his name. Even his cheerleaders here have been openly hostile to minorities. I think a lot of Americans want a fascist leader, because they are overly used to the old regime where white straight men were by default on top of society and they can't deal with that system being dismantled, even if that process is yet very slow and very very incomplete.

John Lloyd thinks the worst won't happen. But Americans have always said it could never happen to us. That's what everyone living in a fascist society says right up to the point that the fascists take over.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I own a whippet. He has a tendency to bark at brush in order to flush out whatever is hiding within - it usually works. The same is not analogous to Trump; instead, he's the rabbit flushing out his own brethren. The swamp is being exposed; perhaps it will be drained, but if it is, Trump will go with it.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Nothing Trump has said or done since winning the election inspires confidence. A white supremacist on staff, a man rejected by a REPUBLICAN CONGRESS as too racist in charge of upholding the laws of the land, his kids on his transition staff, a man so thin-skinned that a rather polite criticism of his VP prompted a whiny little Twitter demand for an apology....and, most of all, why hasn't he denounced the hate crimes going on every day? Whether it's the racist/sexist/anti-LGBT color of his cabinet so far, sheer competence or lack thereof, or the threat of pretty unprecedented nepotism - nothing about his presidency looks good. So much hate has been stirred up by him over the last year that it'll take quite a while to die down. If it ever does.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

There is no reason to be optimistic. There are, however, lots of reasons to be pessimistic. It is time to face reality; sometimes evil men triumph, to the detriment of good men everywhere.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

There is no reason to be optimistic. Read the following. http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/trump-white-house-interview-noam-chomsky

1 ( +1 / -0 )

katsu78 - Within 24 hours of Trump's election we had people harassing women, people of color, and the LGBT in his name.

Many reports of hoaxes along that line, some of the hoaxers have charges levied against them for it.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

turbotsatNOV. 22, 2016 - 02:19AM JST Many reports of hoaxes along that line, some of the hoaxers have charges levied against them for it.

Some hoaxes, of course, but not every incident being reported has been shown to be a hoax. Indeed, for the incidents of harassment and hate coming through my social network feeds (some from people I really know) not even a majority. But no doubt the few hoax cases there have been are being passed around through the reactosphere right now as "evidence" that all the cases are hoaxes. This kind of thing happens a lot when bigots and abusers want to weasel out of responsibility for what they've done. Note how groups like the MRA and the alt-right back before it had that name fixated on a handful of false rape accusations while gleefully ignoring the tens of thousands of legitimate accusations that didn't fit their "women are out to get us" narrative.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

katsu78: Some hoaxes, of course, but not every incident being reported has been shown to be a hoax. Indeed, for the incidents of harassment and hate coming through my social network feeds (some from people I really know) not even a majority. But no doubt the few hoax cases there have been are being passed around through the reactosphere right now as "evidence" that all the cases are hoaxes.

It seems the violent protests are being made by the Hillary side, not Trump's.

And Trump has specifically called for the violence to stop. Obama said something like it's 'understandable'. Didn't bother to see if Hillary tried, because I doubted it.

'Stop the violence' should be a message from on high, pushed as hard as the pre-election tropes. Not an aside at a press conference delivered by a spokesman. Did Obama even tell the spokesman that, or is he just mouthing what he thinks Obama should say?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Close, but the cigar goes to the loser?

Get over it already. Hillary lost based on the rules of the game. If the Democrat party did not show such utter disdain for working class white people she probably would have won. Live by identity politics, die by identity politics.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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