By Ralph Nader
Are there any silver linings to the tumultuous, degrading, sordid presidential campaign of Donald Trump—a failed gambling czar, corporate welfare king, and supreme hypocrite to his own accusations about others?
Yes. Here are seven:
- New York Times star columnist James B. Stewart, may be right when he writes that bipartisan outrage over Donald Trump’s not paying income tax for several decades may lead to stronger support for “a comprehensive overhaul of the nation’s loophole-riddled revenue gathering system.” The brazen Trumpeteer may be just the jolt that Congress needs. Maybe.
- By raising the trade agreements issue (NAFTA, TPP, etc.), Trump startled many complacent Republicans into an awareness long dimmed by the empirically-starved, obsolete, 19th century “win-win” “free-trade” dogmas. Unknowingly, of course, Trump missed the deeper insidiousness beneath these corporate-managed trade agreements that are driving American industries to Asia and Mexico. I’m referring to the loss of our freedom to improve consumer, worker, and environmental protections in our country in favor of the self-imposed imperatives of corporate commercial international trade (see citizen.org/trade). In any event, when President Obama tries to push through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) giveaway in next month’s lame duck session of Congress, Trump’s blasts may add to the prospect of defeating the TPP.
- On November 4th, the New York Times ran the headline: “Veterans, Feeling Abandoned, Stand by Donald Trump.” This is a spreading disdain for both major Parties by veterans about more than how they have been neglected regarding consumer protection, jobs and health care. It is directed toward failed foreign policy initiatives which spur perpetual wars that grind on and on, and the representatives who lack any willingness to ask the questions veterans want asked about the futility of our soldiers being in these countries where the local people do not want us and insurgencies keep spreading.
- Trump inadvertently has further revealed the consequences of our educational system’s deliberate neglect of exposing students to critical thinking about power in all its forms. To those millions of fed-up Americans who, while disliking Trump’s behavior and foul mouth, nevertheless support him because, “he tells it like it is”: please pause for a moment to consider the facts. How does, “telling it like it is” equate to, “being willing and able to do something about it” and just what is “it”? Trump is inordinately vague here.
These same Americans, so knowledgeable about their own daily occupations and their complex hobbies, somehow forsake any responsibility to face the facts by doing some political homework and demanding that they be participants in the electoral process, not mere spectators of an electoral circus and its chief carnival barker.
- More openly, Trump has shown us how the mass media can degrade election coverage so long as the prospect of greater profits outshine the impetus to offer varied and well-informed reporting—especially for mass TV and radio. Indeed, Trump’s ability to attract the media’s greed for profits continues to pull the mass media closer to the gutter. We can thank the president of CBS Leslie Moonves for confirming this observation when he told a business audience that Trump’s campaign, “may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.”
In addition, so addicted was the media to scouring speeches and Twitter feeds for the latest Trumpisms and provocations that it slammed the door on any participation by those civic groups that actually have been improving our country, know what they’re talking about, and are able to inject broader topics into candidates’ campaigns—topics that are closer to the peoples’ concerns, such as looted pensions, corporate crimes against consumers and workers, crony taxpayer bailouts, and bureaucratic waste.
- Further, Trump has cast some doubt on the invincibility of entrenched plutocracy and oligarchy over popular sovereignty. Consider this improbable dynamic hurtling toward November 8th. Supporting Hillary Clinton are those on Wall Street, the bulk of the military-industrial complex , Silicon Valley and, of course, the Democratic Party machinery. She is seen, after all, as predictable and not a wild card prone to displays of ignorance, inexperience and a lashing, bruisable ego.
Trump, by contrast, has largely been abandoned by his party’s elite. He has a fifth of Hillary’s television advertising budget, has little get-out-the-vote ground game to speak of and is being blasted by the mass media day after day. He has also raised far less money than his corporate cash-rich opponent.
Yet, In spite of all of this, he has made this a close race because enough voters are sweeping all these conventional variables aside in their fury. Go figure. We better do just that right after election day.
- Lastly, Trump has raised the peril of what South Americans have called “the politics of personalismo.” By making his ego, his persona, his personal boasts, his personal insults, his personal business the core of this year’s campaign, he has forced the media to reap what they have sown with their cynical mantra for the local evening news: “if it bleeds, it leads,” meaning not only street crime but other disasters that are graphic, violent or in otherwise poor taste. Trump’s campaign is the embodiment of such misguided priorities.
Some sixty years ago, in an impoverished state in northeast Brazil, a gubernatorial candidate ran on the slogan “to my enemies the law, to my friends – facilities.” He won the election.
Beware the “politics of personalismo” and its deadly attraction to fateful impulses.