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Notes on Zero Anthropology Trump article

May 6, 2016

My reaction to this article:

“Why Donald J. Trump Will Be the Next President”, on Zero Anthropology.

[via Phil Ebersole, Fabius Maximus, Naked Capitalism]

Sketch-form. Not properly edited. Colored it in instead. Numbering below references the article itself, it is not summarized here. There’s a note at the end on my own biases. Ok here we go:

1. New fault lines : Globalization. Yes. Beyond the gut-level messaging, it is more than just globalization. It’s the terms on which globalization takes place. Those being good old fashioned stereotypical capitalist exploitation, in the form sometimes called neoliberalism. Well connected business interests gaming the system at the expense of less well connected business interests, and of course, less protected ordinary individuals. The mechanism for this is the deregulation movement peaking in the 1990s. Associated with the Clintons. Backed up by free-market-purist ideology which breaks down once you look at the fine print. (For example, on a really primitive level, it’s not markets per se, its competitive markets that deliver results neoliberals brag about. In contrast to situations where the neoliberal pattern tends to favor monopolists.)

2. Inverse Obama , the reactionary backlash to one of President Obama’s most important accomplishments, getting elected as an African-American. Sadly, there is truth to this. Anthro-man goes on to say this kind of reactionary mood is as American as Coca-Cola? That’s pushing it, methinks. But it’s a big enough force that it will show up clearly when the votes are counted. Nothing to do here but ride out this back-reflection of the Obama wave — the US needs to get over it’s problems with racial inequality, and that means coming clean with the past, the present (BLM), in order to make a better future. Trumpism is a mix of a lot of things, and I don’t like this ingredient in the cocktail at all.

3. American Greatness — 2 issues in this section. (1) is the slogan itself. As others have pointed out, it’s not that original, and I’m sure Hillary will come up with something equally inspiring to those who are willing to believe in her. (2) more interestingly, this section claims that Trump is better suited to carry such a slogan, in part because Trump is a better showman, in part because he plays the part of the billionare-heel who the audience actually likes. This is face-vs-heel from wrestling, look it up. no, really. Indeed, Trump is more theatrical and charismatic. Hillary, however, gets bonus points for being the last defender of the “civilized-class” against the barbarian Trump. I’m sure with a minimum of coaching, she can rise to the part. I think this category is not a deciding one.

4. Republicans vs Independents. Yes. This is huge, Anthro-man is right.

5. “Unfavourability” Ratings – it’s been said for a while that many a Republican voter would take the Devil himself before casting a cast a ballot for Hillary Clinton. If you listen to a lot of the commentary on Trump, we’ll soon test this saying. And the same might go in reverse too. Anthro-man draws our attention to the fact that unfavorability is not the same as unvotability. Yes, but it doesn’t make it a deciding factor to either candidate’s advantage, either. As a “f*ck you” vote to take a rare chance to hurt the other side (i.e., for angry voters), Trump has the clear edge. As a “panic” vote (for scared voters), Hillary is the go-to. Again, to whose advantage it is, is unclear to me.

6. Women – not going to be the driving issue this year. Hillary’s identity is charged with too many other things for her to carry that flag higher above the others. Would a woman from working-class middle America rank female empowerment above the class and anti-establishment story? My feeling is intuitive only. Being a reasonably comfortable middle class male (per upstate NY standards, but still), it would be presumptuous of me to say.

7. Young voters – Trump voter demographics are pretty flat vs age, whereas Hillary (vs Sanders) had a clear trend in her support trending older. Since an American’s percent chance of voting in a presidential election is approximately equal to their age, this one favors Clinton. If anything, it’s the middle-age vote (not the 18-29’s) who may be the swing bloc, if they turn out more than usual.

8. Minorities – Trump did a good job alienating them. He certainly does not deserve their votes, nor mine. I would of course question whether Hillary deserves their vote either, but I suppose if I were a minority, the hold-your-nose voting strategy may appeal to me more. Advantage Clinton. She will need their votes, to balance out the reactionary “anti-Obama” vote. Anthro-man says there’s not enough minorities to matter. 20% of the electorate is nothing to take lightly.

9. Muslims – Indeed, the US this century has been crystal clear in its anti-Muslim stance. Just look at all the TV rhetoric after 9/11. Look at our foreign policy actions (including Hillary’s work). Actions speak louder than words, and per our actions, the value of lives of people in Islamic countries are at a “third-world” level. Unfortunately, Anthro-man is dead right about this one. Trump will get a clean pass on this subject, and he may even force Clinton to jump on this train, to cement her Rah-Rah USA flag-waving bona fides [note 2, at end]. Really, she is already on board, if you look at her hawkish record. And the same for Obama.

10. Working Class — Between Trump and Bernie, the Democrats are in for a heavy reality check this cycle, just as the Republicans are. Crucial new issues — economic inequality, and political dysfunction (lets be polite and not say corruption) — are now first-class subjects of discussion. Trump’s candidacy is suggesting a review of the 1990’s Clinton era economic policies (deregulation), though this hasn’t quite broken the surface yet. We’ll see if and how the D and R parties adapt. My expectations are minimal, but one can hope. In any case, we must push for 3rd parties — that’s the only way to create incentives for positive change: when the established parties fear for losing what they have.

Add it all up? Trump certainly has a very real chance. I don’t see it as obvious either way at this point. The election is 6 more months off, Clinton’s 5-10% lead could either grow or shrink. Personally, I could not in good conscience vote for either of them.


End Note: A quick background of my biases  — Independent / Leftist / Progressive. Anti-Democratic-Party. Anti-Republican-Party. I think the two party system is a trap. I think part of the trap is the US electoral system. Our legislatures lack Proportional Representation. Our presidential elections could use Ranked Choice Voting / Instant Runoff Voting. Look them up [1] [2]. I am opposed to current US foreign policy. I think the powers are quite corrupt etc etc etc. 

note 2: That’s not to say patriotism has to be against someone else. Patriotism is often for something: one’s neighbors, countrymen/women, traditions,  etc. It’s better that way. But politicians looking for cheap points are more than likely going to go for the negative kind.

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