US Elections : Reality TV with Consequences

Consequences for New Zealand

Even as far removed as we possibly can get from the US election circus we cannot avoid watching it. It is on our TV, radio and in the newspapers. Lets asses if the media got it right force feeding us the US election coverage and if indeed we should care. What difference could the result possibly make for little New Zealand down at the bottom of the earth ?  The answer is actually quite a lot.
Like I pointed out in my previous blog about the vacancy on the US Supreme Court what happens in US politics affects us all. Let me give you just two very important examples.

Climate Change 
If the US for instance elect the conservative religious fanatic Ted Cruz as president we are doomed. He like many others on the religious right seems to believe that global warming and sea level rises must be a hoax because in the Bible God promised Noah after the big flood not to do it again. And this guy from Texas who apparently is hated by all his colleagues in the Senate is at this point the most likeliest candidate with a remote chance to stop Trump from getting the Republican nomination.

If our National government after the recent Paris climate summit declared business as usual trying to buy ourselves out of the crisis with bogus carbon credits mostly from the Ukraine and Russia it does not matter much on a global scale. If however the US as the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases would do the same the consequences for the planet, little New Zealand included, would be very grave indeed.

Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA)
Presently at the so called TPP “road show” we are all told a lot of spin and lies by the government. The fact remains that this agreement was drafted by big international corporations like Hollywood, Pharma and Agribusiness. It was over years negotiated in secret with no other stakeholders around the table. It has nothing to do with “free” trade.  It is instead the corporate takeover of sovereign states where so called democratically elected governments surrender democracy to international corporate interests.

Our government is obviously too weak to withstand corporate pressure or can even be seen as a lackey of big corporations. Remember the by lunchtime labour law change on behest of Hollywood and (Sir) Peter Jackson. Our best hope is that the TPP will be stopped in the US. It has already become a major election issue.

Election as Reality TV Show

The dominant candidate is Donald Trump.

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He is described as a narcissist with a hyper inflated ego, a phoney, a conman who takes the American people for suckers. Even if all these characteristics are true nothing seems to put a dent in his popularity with a large number of (Republican) voters. He himself says that he could go out on New Yorks’s 5th Avenue and shoot somebody without loosing a single vote. His headline grabbing policies – if there are policies in the Republican primaries – are loopy. He is promising to build a wall between the US and Mexico, which gets higher by the day to be paid for by Mexico, deport 10 to 20 million undocumented Latinos and ban all of the more than a billion Muslims in the world from the US. He is a self declared billionaire property tycoon, who inflates his wealth as much as his ego. But most of all he is a reality TV star and not a politician. This is his greatest strength.

The campaign circus has deteriorated accordingly. The rulebook for political discourse has been thrown out and the low point still has to be found. In a recent Republican primary debate headlined by the Huffington Post as the “Cock Fight” the all male panel even discussed the size of their private parts.

Trump, underestimated and ridiculed, leads the Republican field by a country mile. How does he do it ?
He is the outstanding TV performer telling people simple messages they want to hear. He is blaming others i.e. the various minorities for their plight. It always feels good if you are kicked by by your employer, your insurance company, the health system, any government department and your wife/husband to still have somebody other than the dog to kick. But his racist xenophobic rants are only the headline grabbers.

As observed by Thomas Frank in the Guardian

“Trump spends a good part of his time talking about an entirely legitimate issue, one that could even be called left-wing. He talks about trade. It seems to obsess him: the destructive free-trade deals our leaders have made, the many companies that have moved their production facilities to other lands, the phone calls he will make to those companies’ CEOs in order to threaten them with steep tariffs unless they move back to the US.
Trump embellishes this vision with another favourite left-wing idea: under his leadership, the government would “start competitive bidding in the drug industry.” (“We don’t competitively bid!” he marvels – another true fact, a legendary boondoggle brought to you by the George W Bush administration.) Trump extends the critique to the military-industrial complex, describing how the government is forced to buy lousy but expensive airplanes thanks to the power of industry lobbyists.
Thus did he hint at his curious selling proposition: because he is personally so wealthy, a fact about which he loves to boast, Trump himself is unaffected by business lobbyists and donations.
Trade is an issue that polarizes Americans by socio-economic status. To the professional class, which encompasses the vast majority of our media figures, economists, Washington officials and Democratic power brokers, what they call “free trade” is something so obviously good and noble it doesn’t require explanation or inquiry or even thought. Republican and Democratic leaders alike agree on this, and no amount of facts can move them from their Econ 101 dream.
To the remaining 80 or 90% of America, trade means something very different. There is a video of a company moving its jobs to Mexico, courtesy of Nafta. This is what it looks like. The executive talks in that familiar and highly professional HR language about the need to “stay competitive” and “the extremely price-sensitive marketplace.” A worker shouts “Fuck you!”
Trump’s words articulate the populist backlash against liberalism that has been building slowly for decades.

Yet still we cannot admit that neo-liberals “bear the blame for the frustration of the working-class millions, for their blighted cities and their downward spiralling lives. So much easier to scold them for their twisted racist souls, to close our eyes to the obvious reality of which Trump is just a crude and ugly expression:
that neoliberalism has well and truly failed.”

Trump vs Clinton

On the democratic side the frontrunner is still Hillary Clinton struggling along against Bernie Sanders who also holds strong anti-neoliberal views calling himself a democratic socialist. He also taps into the widespread frustration of the 99% working and middle class voters.
Clinton on the other hand, being in the pockets of Wall Street epitomises the ruling neoliberal Washington powerbroker elite. If it came to a showdown between outsider Trump and insider Clinton I would not be surprised if many Sanders supporters would hold their noses and vote for the lesser evil Donald Trump.

When I started this blog I never expected to write the last sentence. However, if we can’t get Sanders to beat him we might have to get used to Trump for the greater good to start putting an end to neoliberalism.

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