Monday, July 18, 2016

A Criticism of the Brief for LEV (Lesser Evil Voting)

[Preface: A friend, for whom I have great respect, requested on Facebook my commentary regarding an article, "An Eight Point Brief For LEV (Lesser Evil Voting), hereinafter referred to as the "Brief." It is, despite my criticism, an interesting article, and I commend the article to my readers and friends, notwithstanding that I do not agree with the author's conclusions. The following is my commentary and opinion].

I read with interest the Brief for LEV (Lesser Evil Voting), penned by John Halle and Noam Chomsky which begins with the following preamble: 
Among the elements of the weak form of democracy enshrined in the constitution, presidential elections continue to pose a dilemma for the left in that any form of participation or non participation appears to impose a significant cost on our capacity to develop a serious opposition to the corporate agenda served by establishment politicians. 
I question the assumptions on which the article is based.  I wonder, for example, why "participation or non-participation [in presidential elections] appears to impose a significant cost on our capacity to develop serious opposition to the corporate agenda served by establishment politicians?"  Wouldn't opposition to the corporate agenda be better organized and implemented prior to an election?  What "cost," particularly of non-participation? I wonder more why this is a "dilemma" for the left?  I believe the assumptions and conclusions of the authors are flawed.

The Establishment as Serving the Corporate Elite by Restricting Choice

As anyone from the left should know, there is no such thing as non-participation in a political system.  "Not voting" is participation, just as is voting.  There is no dilemma here.  What frustrates both the intellectual Right and intellectual Left is that there are, usually, no intellectual or anti-establishment choices. Whether or not one casts a vote, one has no choice that is either "enlightened," or "anti-establishment," and therefore, no choice offers a real opportunity for reform. Political promises of "change," are common, but in the end nothing fundamentally changes.

Our two most recent Presidents offer excellent examples of administrations run by the establishment for the benefit of a corporate agenda.  Only this week, for example, I watched Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough extol the ability of George Bush to surround himself with amazing, intellectual talent with deep foreign policy experience (all by way of criticizing Trump for not similarly surrounding himself with the "best and the brightest").  But these "experts," could not prevent some of the greatest foreign policy blunders of modern time. These blunders, and more importantly, the foreign policy as a whole, served the corporate establishment directly and indirectly.

While few today dare credit Bush with having the same ability regarding economic policy expertise, the reality is that, there, too, he was surrounded by the "best and brightest," who, nonetheless, offered no solution to the crash of 2008.  The crash of 2008, too, served the interests of the establishment, creating overnight the greatest disparity between the "have and have-nots" in modern times.  If you bristle at the suggestion that the Bush Administration included the "best and the brightest," I suggest watching the last fifteen minutes of Charles Ferguson's excellent documentary "Inside Job," which describes how, to a man and woman, the new Obama Administration kept and retained the same economic brain trust that seemingly orchestrated the crises leading to the 2008 meltdown.  Eight years later, the same economic brain trust continues to inform and direct the administration.

President Obama promised to be the most progressive, and the most transparent President in American history.  I, for one, do not question his stated intention.  Whatever one thinks about the promise of the Affordable Care Act ("ACA"), in what Progressive world would it rely upon, and reward the largest health care providers and create entry barriers to competition from the smaller competing providers?  In what transparent world would it be foisted upon the electorate by intentional lies?  Regardless, the ACA is clearly a boon for the establishment. As a result of ACA, despite its admitted successes in reducing the numbers of uninsured, we are witnessing perhaps the greatest centralization of an economic system (health care) since the break-up of AT&T (telecommunications). Just this week, HHS Secretary Burwell admitted that despite success in reducing the numbers of uninsured, access, quality, and the price of health care remain challenges unresolved by the ACA.  Has it achieved some goals?  Unquestionably, but there is little question that, in the balance, the legislation did much more to serve the corporate establishment and the politicians that serve it.

Sadly, the ACA is not a unique example of the Obama Administration economic policy serving the corporate establishment.  Dodd-Frank was supposed to ensure that no financial institution became too big to fail, but the result has been a similar consolidation of economic power in both investment banking and consumer credit, and greater entry barriers for smaller competitors. Regulation sometimes serve the interests of the establishment by making competition more difficult or impossible.  By further entrenching those representing the status quo, and preventing newcomers from deposing them, it is apparent that Dodd-Frank, too, serves the interests of the corporate elite and the political establishment.

Despite the promise of a new era of economic and financial protection, the present administration has wholly failed to resolve the toxicity of derivatives, except to finally invoke an incomprehensible definition of what they are, and make them FDIC insured.  If you did not know that derivatives are FDIC insured (some always were), don't feel badly.  I bet that few in Congress know!  Resolution of the derivative matter does not serve the corporate agenda, so we "kick it down the road," to be resolved  at some random future date when resolution is compelled by circumstances, or orchestrated by design, hopefully while maintaining some political and economic order.

President Obama's promise in foreign policy is, and has been, undermined at each turn by the same corporate establishment that relies on the existing order, conveniently orchestrated from inside by no less than his Secretaries of State.  Hillary Clinton, particularly, has reached, in my opinion, the height of arrogance, drinking from the public trough while selling political influence and favor for something as mundane as personal wealth and power, carving for herself special rules and regulations. I believe history will show that Obama's greatest foreign policy failure is his inability to recognize this counter-insurgent insider. 

Hillary Clinton is clearly neither Progressive, nor particularly Liberal, unless your definition of either is limited only to support for certain social/civil rights.  Quite frankly, there is little to substantiate either a Liberal or Progressive ideology.  In fact, her deeds bespeak a traditionally Republican corruption as she champions the cause of the establishment Wall Street and corporate elites for personal and political gain.

If you protest that the foregoing statements suggest I watch too much Fox News, know that my understanding of Hilary Clinton comes from the offices of Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has identified the financial corruption both generally and specifically, and the foreign policy failures both generally and specifically.  If Warren becomes Clinton's running mate, she will have swallowed a lot, since her office was involved in pointing out how Clinton lied when she denied supporting repressive Latin American regimes, such as that in Honduras, in their efforts to crush Progressive reformers, resulting in the murder of hundreds of Progressive heroes.  Her personal corruption in supporting Colombian free trade agreements for wealthy contributors to her campaign and the Clinton Foundation is well documented.  Many Progressives believe that it is Clinton's betrayal of Progressive freedom fighters and human rights activists that lead to the leaking of  Clinton's emails.  

Warren has been harshly critical of not only Clinton's financial relationship with Wall Street, but that "she worries about them as her constituency."  She has accused Clinton of changing her position solely because of campaign contributions, writing in her book about Clinton's indispensable support in securing President Bill Clinton's veto of a bankruptcy bill championed by establishment consumer credit companies, only to support the exact same bill as a Senator after receiving several hundreds of thousands in donations from the same industry.  Simply, Warren accuses Clinton of having been "bought," and provides detailed and incontrovertible evidence supporting the charge.  

The positions of Clinton and Warren regarding the corporate establishment are so disparate that within days after Warren first appeared publicly with Clinton as the presumptive nominee in what some touted as an audition for the vice presidency, Warren attacked silicon valley and the tech giants, all Clinton donors.  The brazen and justified attack prompted Vanity Fair, to publish the article, "Elizabeth Warren Just Proved Why She'd Make a Terrible Running Mate."  The article boldly proclaimed that "attacking the same donors that Clinton is courting is a recipe for disaster."  Politico reported that Wall Street donors have threatened to dump Clinton over Warren. The Obama administration has advanced the corporate agenda served by establishment politicians, knowingly or unwittingly.

As an aside, I predicted two years ago that the Democratic Party would ultimately "do the right thing," and mercifully kill the Clinton candidacy, and I predicted that the Party would install Warren as its candidate.  Warren would be a formidable candidate, and could right the Clinton betrayal of the Obama Administration specifically, and of the Progressives generally. Although I was initially encouraged when Joe Biden rebuffed the "Draft Joe," movement after, by the way, consulting Elizabeth Warren, recent events seem to suggest a closing of the circle of establishment Democrats.  Whether this circle includes or excludes Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders remains to be seen. Whether my prediction will become reality also remains to be seen.

I agree with the authors that government has become corrupted and co-opted by corporate and multinational interests. This is not just a problem for the Left, however.  The Left and Right disagree, generally, about the ability of the government to solve problems, whether courts or legislatures should resolve disputes, and whether international, state, or federal action is most appropriate in taking governmental action.  While the Right generally utilizes a hierarchical value system and the Left is more likely to utilize a dialectic that dispenses with first principles (even these generalizations are sometimes untrue, however; an excellent example is the Catholic concept of "social justice," which obviously springs from a hierarchical value system that is traditionally rather rigid, but most would characterize as "Leftist", nonetheless).  Of course, there are differences between those on the Left and those on the Right.

Values Common to Both the Left and the Right

What few will admit, however, is that, at least in the United States, traditionally, both the Left and the Right agree on most core values, goals, and objectives:  free speech; freedom of assembly; freedom from prohibition of religious expression; freedom of the press; freedom from search and seizure; freedom from investigation without probable cause; freedom from self incrimination; freedom from taking property without reasonable compensation; the right to trial by jury; the right to confront and examine witnesses; the right to counsel. These core values elevate, for both the Left and Right, individual rights above the power of the state. 

Both Left and Right agree fundamentally regarding protection of the environment, although they disagree regarding the scope and balance regulation should take.  The Right might be more cooperative with the Left regarding environmental protection, by the way,  if the corporate agenda did not so obviously flaunt environmental protection by moving environmentally threatening manufacturing and production to countries that seem little concerned with the environment, but more on that later.   

Both the Left and the Right embrace the American Dream, which might be described as the ideal that each generation, by sacrifice and hard work, make a better world for the next generation (and so there is no misunderstanding, even the most extreme of both would consider "hard work" as including not just labor and industry, but political, social, and economic reform, and familial sacrifice and support). These common values are corrupted by the corporate agenda served by establishment politicians.  In fact, as the authors will demonstrate, frustration with the corporate agenda and the political establishment entice some to suggest greater state authority, elevating the state above the individual, without acknowledging that such power, once attained, may be wielded by the same political establishment serving the corporate agenda.  Simply, "developing serious opposition" to the establishment is increasingly in the best interest of individuals from both the Left and the Right, and can only occur when the individuals, Left and Right, join forces to defeat their common foe. Serious opposition is not, however, found in granting to the political establishment more power, by for example, compromising individual rights and liberties. 

One could easily make the argument that it was the underlying unity of the electorate (shared values and growing distaste for the establishment) that propelled a young Barak Obama to ascend to the Presidency. His was clearly not an establishment candidacy, and many saw in his rhetoric the opportunity to escape the establishment choices.  Hillary Clinton was the Democratic establishment candidate over which he leap-frogged to the nomination.  Obama then capably dispatched the Republican candidate, an established Senator so entrenched in the status quo that, by the time the establishment Republicans sensed the anti-establishment mood of the electorate, it panicked and offered the electorate a monstrous ticket, selecting a young, attractive, female, undisciplined, reform conservative, as mainsail in an effort to catch the anti-establishment wind. The public, not so easily deceived, rejected the monster, despite the fact that many conservatives undoubtedly voted for what they probably saw as the Lesser of Two Evils.  

Corruption, and not Weak Democracy, Frustrates Reform
The inability to develop serious opposition, in my opinion, is also not structural to the American political system, as the authors suggest.  It certainly does not arise from the "weak form of democracy enshrined in the constitution." Weaker democracies, stronger democracies, and even more or less authoritarian regimes struggle against the establishment, and the corporate interests they serve.

The "assumption" that the weak democracy is the root of the inability to confront the establishment, is my greatest criticism of the Brief; it removes from individuals personal blame for a system that has been co-opted and corrupted, and encourages the very divisions that permit corporate and establishment interests to continue unchallenged. The model posited by the authors embraces the concept that participants, i.e., voters, should vote for a corrupt and compromised candidate protecting the corporate agenda and the political establishment - why? because the candidate identifies as Liberal or Conservative, Republican or Democrat?-  as the measure of what constitutes the lesser of two evils? The model intellectualizes and rationalizes surrender to the establishment, and if adopted, assures that rejection of the establishment will never occur through the political process!

The "Lesser of Two Evils" is explicitly a rejection that there is an evil inherent in supporting the corporate establishment, despite the fact that the authors posit the value as the very reason for the original dilemma. The authors don't offer a resolution, but an "escape clause:" a value statement that is vapid, unsupported, and devoid of any value:
Voting should not be viewed as a form of personal self-expression or moral judgement directed in retaliation towards major party candidates who fail to reflect our values, or of a corrupt system designed to limit choices to those acceptable to corporate elites.
Beyond making the normative statement, there is no rationale for the proclamation, other than to advance the author's argument to its intended conclusion.  It is a "rationalization," where the term is used to denote a seemingly rational statement made merely to avoid or hide an inconvenient or embarrassing underlying truth.  The underlying truth is that the authors advocate surrender to the establishment.   Although the authors don't say so bluntly, their argument is:
Because we inherently cannot attain our objective of a candidate that will oppose the corporate agenda served by establishment politicians, we should surrender attaining the value, meaning that we should vote for a candidate notwithstanding that they support the corporate agenda, based upon support for other policies/values we hold dear, notwithstanding that we know the the candidate will betray these policies/values in order to protect the corporate agenda served by establishment politicians.
If stated that way, the reaction to the author's proposition would probably be on the order of "What? Seriously?"

Reform Requires Rejecting the Fiction of Lesser of Two Evil Voting

Rejection of the establishment will only occur when the participants reject both the lesser and the greater of two evils, and demand in their candidates repudiation of both parties continuing to serve the corporate agenda. Opposition will be meaningful when voters, individually and communally, reject  protecting the political establishment as an option.

The author's rattle off a series of characterizations of Trump's positions as justification for opposing him "regardless." You aren't voting for Clinton, after all, you are casting a vote against Trump. The problem with this part of the argument is that it surrenders to the mendacity of the establishment political system (not the constitutional democracy, but the Republican/Democrat party system).  It is the political establishment, after all, that would have you believe that "the other side" is at your door, ready to take your rights, your life, your property, your safety, etc. The "other side" is racist, destructive, misogynist, backwards, dangerous, etc.  The mendacity of the establishment is that there can be no rational agreement with cretins on the other side, because they are irrational cretins (I purposefully use the term cretin because of its irony.  If you don't appreciate the "paradox" in my use of the term cretin, look up Epimenides of Knossos, a Cretin Greek philosopher that effectively criticized the rational Greek philosophers, and was ultimately recognized by these same philosophers as being "wiser").  The authors make no more enlightened analysis, because no analysis is relevant having already justified surrender to the establishment.

It is this irrational division, and the threats that arise therefrom, that perpetuate the status quo for the establishment  To assure that the "threat" is always existential, establishment politicians play their respective roles, and are increasingly extreme, and appear unwilling to govern by conciliation and compromise. This is no accident, and serves to protect both the establishment and the corporate interests they serve.  Moreover, it is abundantly clear that although politicians espouse extremist positions for political purpose and gain, they do not believe what they say; despite repeated opportunities for one party or the other to institute dramatic change after garnering the public's mandate, they refuse, choosing instead to maintain the status quo.

The current national debate regarding police shootings and gun violence provides a poignant example.  Most people support law enforcement.  Most are horrified when law enforcement officers kill citizens, whether or not legal or justified. Depending upon how you shake up the statistics, there are either more or less minorities killed by police, but the reality is that too many citizens are killed by law enforcement, and even when justified, national debate begs the question, "are we doing enough as a nation to both keep law enforcement officers safe, and keep citizens confronted by law enforcement safe?"  Are there alternatives to  traditional detentions and arrests?     

Why, then, is law enforcement violence against minorities the only topic that gets media and political attention?  If law enforcement is failing to pacify rather than escalate situations, why is that only a legitimate topic for discussion and debate when a minority citizen is killed? If, as some suggest, our citizens are to blame for escalating violence during confrontations, to what do we account for this phenomenon which appears to cross racial lines?  Are people of all races losing respect and deference to law enforcement?  Are people more likely to flee and evade, or resist arrest, and if so why?  Are people more fearful?  Should they be?   

Most people acknowledge that there is a need to address escalation of conflict during what should be routine detentions and arrests, and few support rhetoric that would justify violence.  Yet groups that openly discuss and seem to advocate violence are not only accepted within the establishment, but embraced by establishment politicians.  Few believe that most law enforcement officers are racist. Few believe that the problem of police violence is only a problem of race.   Yet the establishment politicians support and encourage extreme and even violent rhetoric in order to keep the populace divided.   

So, the reality of establishment candidates, Left or Right, is that we can expect that nothing will change, regardless of the rhetoric.  If Trump is also a candidate supporting and protecting the corporate establishment, by the author's own reasoning, he will not make any meaningful change to the status quo, and more importantly, what he says is meaningless, since the only thing we can know, is that he will inherently support the establishment.  His rhetoric is as meaningless as his opponent's.  

The authors would have voters trust one candidate as the lesser evil because, well, the candidate says so.  The authors' model is to perpetuate the establishment by seizing upon the very meaningless rhetoric that perpetuates the establishment. It should be obvious that the Brief's real intent is to simply rationalize support of the establishment, a rationalization only necessary because the mood of the electorate is palpably anti-establishment, and their "preferred" candidate is unlikely to convince large numbers that she threatens the establishment.   

Finally, if taken seriously, the Brief would justify dismantling a constitutional system  that has, at least until recently, frustrated corporate and establishment authority from achieving ultimately and permanently its goal of attaining unchecked political power directed by unbridled economic power. 

Yes.  I mean the previous sentence.  I accuse the political establishment of working for unrestrained political power directed by unrestrained and unregulated economic power.  

Before you scoff and label me a "conspiracy nut," understand that nothing is further from the truth.  I do not believe that the corporate establishment "conspires" to "world domination," but, I do believe that multinational corporations and the establishment politicians behave in their mutual best interest, and influence politics accordingly. This influence contravenes accepted values of both the Left and the Right. I will give one example in the form of modern globalism. 

The example of Globalism as the Establishment Acting Contrary to Common Values

It is a common and popular tenet of modern foreign policy that economic interdependence makes for a less volatile world, and potentially solves the problem of war. After all, a nation is less likely to go to war when war means various adverse economic repercussions.  This tenet underlies modern free trade theory.  This tenet informs and instructs modern foreign policy.  It is accepted, uncritically, by almost everyone in the foreign policy establishment that could be considered among the "best and the brightest." The theory is rational.  It's goal is, at least superficially, noble and admirable.  It is seductive. But it is palpably wrong, and I would suggest, ultimately, evil.  The theory serves the corporate agenda, and the political establishment (explanation why follows).

Concepts such as these, whether developed innocently and independently, or not-so-innocently and by design, are funded and encouraged by the establishment,  then nurtured financially in private think tanks, quasi-governmental institutions, and the halls of academia, with both private and public funds until there is a broad "consensus" among the "best and brightest."  This does not mean, however, that these concepts, ideas, or theories are necessarily "wrong." And, admittedly, they are always rational.

Jimmy Carter bucked this philosophy arguing that economic free trade should, notwithstanding its value, be secondary to moral behavior.  According to Carter, free trade, and free access to markets, should not be extended to countries and regimes that violate basic human rights, engage in terrorism, subjugate women or children, or the like.  One should not hypocritically sacrifice important values simply for economic gain.  Well, we all know where that went in the annals of foreign policy initiatives. If the establishment could have removed Carter from office after his first year, it would have.

I personally believe that Jimmy Carter was and is right, and had American foreign policy been conducted to restrict economic trade with immoral and repressive regimes, with, by the way, its natural economic impact, the world we live in right now would be fundamentally different. Reagan, incidentally, and shockingly, at least to some, employed a version of the "Carter doctrine," to serve the cause of the break-up of the Soviet Union, employing economic pressure and monetary policy to accomplish a foreign policy objective despite the fact that establishment critics assured us that no such result could ever be attained (though neither President Carter nor Reagan receives the "credit" each deserves). Regardless of success or failure, I think "we," in the U.S., and in the West, would see ourselves much differently had we engaged in rational free trade with consequences for the most repressive. I also think how we see ourselves means a lot, by the way. [To the true historians, Carter will ironically always be remembered by the more accepted "Carter Doctrine" which justified the use of military force in the Middle East to advance and protect American interests; he is not highly regarded for his "naive" view of international trade and monetary policy].

The common retort of the "best and brightest," is that unilateral action is ineffective. Possibly true.  But taking no action is always ineffective.  Moreover, as individual nations are weakened by interdependence, by sacrificing economic power and authority to other nations, non-governmental entities, groups of nations, and ultimately international governmental institutions, the possibility of successful unilateral action is made less likely, and then, ultimately impossible. This well maintains the status quo.  As the likelihood of success seems more remote, nations more easily rationalize their economic interests and political positions toward unethical and immoral ends, all the while serving the corporate establishment.

Repressive regimes are emboldened by free trade and efforts to create interdependence. At a minimum, a regime can be assured that the risk of assembling a coalition of the willing is far less likely than any one or a few nations acting independently against their repression, since the refusal of even one or a few impedes concerted action, and, even if inevitable, will take much more time. Economic interdependence, though, unconditioned by rational and moral principals, intentionally makes even repressive nations and regimes stronger.     

The corollary to the globalist free trade position is the proposition that development leads to egalitarianism, freedom, democracy, and the like.  This theory is palpably ludicrous since these very values were forged and spread, in many cases, without an underlying economic foundation.  The idea that only the wealthy can be free, democratic, altruistic, peaceful, etc., is arrogant, elitist, culturally insensitive, and, more importantly, false.  Conversely, rewarding repressive regimes with unconditioned economic growth and development in the hopes that they will become reformed responsible international partners has failed more often than it has succeeded.  We have succeeded in creating wealthy, more powerful repressive regimes, more capable of keeping and spreading control and influence. The corporate interests make them even wealthier, and more powerful, by moving capital from more expensive less repressive nations. Moreover, as capital is invested in repressive regimes, the establishment has more to lose from reform.  Imagine a well developed, extremely wealthy, militarized, modern, repressive nation into which more capital flows every day- is that nation easier or harder to reform?     

Multinational corporations no longer need to work for the restriction of worker's rights, women's rights, minority rights, environmental protection, child labor, or taxation in the developed  or Western world; they are satisfied with the privilege to take their capital to wherever these don't exist.  These same corporations can appear benign as they freely support establishment politicians that claim to support worker's rights, women's rights, minority rights, environmental protection, child labor, or taxation, while keeping and maintaining a status quo that allows capital to move where these economic impediments don't exist.  And where these don't exist, capital can produce efficiently without governmental regulation. 

These are the reasons more people are rejecting modern "globalism."  The establishment will immediately call globalist critics xenophobes, like Biden did immediately after the Brexit vote.  More and more people are realizing, however, that globalists facilitate the corporate agenda by facilitating the search for cheap labor, new places to build businesses where protection of the environment isn't a concern, where women have no rights so they can be prostituted and indentured, and workers can't bargain and have no power, so the wealthy can better utilize and build their wealth.  The hypocrisy of  protecting "our" women, "our" minorities, and "our" environment" so "they" can be enslaved, adulterated, polluted, and abused, is becoming apparent.  

Moreover, the hypocrisy of "free trade" is becoming apparent as jobs, business, and opportunities are lost to countries with little or no costs associated with protecting the values we hold dear.  "Free trade" is not "free" and the cost is borne by "our" workers and "our" economy and "their" people and "their" environment.  Further, whether directly, by securing and protecting cheap labor and inexpensive or non-existent regulation in the more repressive world, or indirectly by removing economic power from nations otherwise powerful and influential enough to threaten the order of cheap labor and favorable non-regulation (or as my father called it tacit slavery), establishment politicians serve the corporate agenda. 

This order allows capital to work more efficiently than would otherwise be possible.  This is the direct by-product of voting for the lesser of two evils, and supporting the establishment. This is the establishment. Both the Left and the Right establishment would bristle at the suggestion, but what post WWII policy has accomplished is internationally tantamount to granting license to slave holders to move their plantations and slaves to slave states.  Our world is dangerously "less free" than it was when the globalists ascended to power: here and here. [If you want to read a troubling report regarding the relationship between reform and terrorism in the Muslim world, go here.] 

The foregoing begs the question, then, to "what" do we owe inability to confront the establishment?  Trust and confidence in the establishment is common, purchased, encouraged, and incentivized socially, culturally, economically, legally, and politically.  The establishment is strong.  Successful opposition to the establishment is risky; there is and will be a consequence and cost to mere opposition, and greater cost and consequence to reform.

Faith and confidence will erode eventually, because no system can oppress so many for so long.  Someday, those on the Left and the Rght will acknowledge that they have been duped, and have carried the water of the corporate establishment too long.  Someday, the political establishment will become so palpably corrupt that people will grasp at any effort to reform or overturn it.  Someday there will be a revolt, likely peaceful and political, bringing down the political establishment, and threatening the corporate interests it serves.  It won't be easy. And it won't be without consequence.  But it will happen. We can choose to hasten the change by rejecting the establishment, and the divisive narrative that supports the establishment, or we can surrender, as the authors of the Brief suggest.

I know the Brief invites a defense of Trump.  I will not here mount such a defense.  I haven't decided whether Trump is anti-establishment, or a brilliant actor seeking to cause people to believe that he is anti-establishment. I believe that it may become apparent, and his rejection of establishment choices for campaign tactics, campaign finance strategies, running mate, convention speakers, and the like may help identify him.  If Trump is anti-establishment, he will garner my vote. But, if Warren was running against Jeb Bush, she would garner my vote. Regardless, I will vote for a third party, or pass, before casting a vote for the lesser of two establishment evils. The lesser of two evils is a myth, and a fool's errand.  Why should I cast a vote when the choice is between the establishment and the establishment?

 Is Trump The Reform Candidate?

There is little question, that Trump has "caught the wind," and has left the establishment twisting as a result.  At a minimum, if you really are seeking reform or abandonment of the establishment, you have to smile.  Just the fact that he has prevailed over politicians spending millions threatens the establishment.  If he is competitive against Clinton, and continues to finance his campaign without PACs, bundlers, and party financing, he threatens the establishment.  

Trump makes me smile.  Buffoons, blow-hards, clowns, comics, entertainers, artists, performers, jesters, reformers, activists, idealists, dissidents, critics, patriots, and heroes all make me smile.  Time will tell exactly who and what Trump is. He may be all, some, or none of these.


I answer the questions a friend asked of me after reading the foregoing.  I have eliminated the questions, because I think they are obvious from the answers that follow. They all regard Trump as a candidate, by the way.  My discussion is not a "defense" of Trump; my discussion is whether as an anti-establishment candidate, I could support Trump despite his "negatives."   In other words, underlying the specific question is a rather obvious attempt to cause me to select the lesser of two evils.  
  • I don't believe that Trump is a racist. I do not think it racist to acknowledge and attempt to solve problems simply because race is involved, impacted, or concerned. I agree that one of the reasons a border should be regulated is to prevent criminals and crime. It is not racist to acknowledge that there are dangerous elements in any demographic, and burdening every demographic to solve the problem can be rational. Trump's rhetoric is often careless. Regardless, everyone (excepting only those who drink the establishment Kool-aid), must admit that in his personal life, Trump displays none of the racist, misogynist, bigoted attributes for which he is criticized.  I won't dismiss the personal attacks upon Clinton, but accept blindly the personal attacks on Trump. I have to believe that some folks love them, others hate them, and neither group of critics completely or accurately characterizes the candidate.  
  • Yes, I could easily dismiss Trump's rhetoric, even when irresponsible.  It is easily dismissed as being the product of an inexperienced politician.  He does not speak as a politician because he is not a politician (this does not necessarily mean he does not serve the same establishment as politicians).  If he is anti-establishment, I am particularly unconcerned with his repeated political missteps.  I also believe that political correctness, and the demand to so carefully craft ideas and concepts so as to never offend anyone stifles discussion and discourse.  Adults should be expected to accept insult and offense in order to facilitate free discussion and debate.  If someone criticizes Israel, I do not automatically think them anti-semitic; if someone criticizes Isis, I do not automatically think them anti-Muslim.  The establishment politicians and corporate establishment will perpetrate such false generalizations simply because they are divisive.     
  • I don't know whether he is sure of his own positions, and yes they may change as he recognizes political consequence and limitation.  This change is actually comforting. He is capable of change.  More importantly, Trump is not running as the more capable politician, so evaluating him on that basis is ridiculous.  He is running as the more effective executive.  Clinton is clearly the more capable politician. 
  • He may not be able to accomplish what he promises.  Aside from the fact that this is inherent in politics, it is not a serious challenge unless one truly believes he is making promises he knows he cannot keep solely for the purpose of attaining power.  That would suggest he serves the establishment  The same charge could be made against any political opponent, and must be accepted as legitimate as against Clinton, since no one doubts that she is, and therefore serves, the establishment.  The question, for me, is whether he will attempt changes that threaten the corporate agenda served by the political establishment.    
  • The suggestion that Trump is a megalomaniac intent on world domination is no more believable than the same charge leveled at his opponent.  Clinton has a pretty clear track record of corruption, though. She is a brilliant politician.  I see her as no more likely, but clearly more capable, of making a run at world domination.
  • The establishment can't decide, whether Trump is unable to accomplish what he says, or that what he might accomplish is wrong or dangerous.  If he is unable to accomplish what he says, why the hysteria over the possible impact?  If he stated that he was opposed to gay marriage, for example (he isn't, by the way), what importance would it be?  So what if he made a statement during a discussion in which Chris Mathews adeptly led him to consider the logical consequence of attempting to criminalize abortion.  Simply, his position, which is best characterized as politically naive, even if logical, is irrelevant. The courts made the issue nearly irrelevant to Presidential elections (and I am aware of no cache of Scalias or Thomases with which to populate the Supreme Court -remember establishment mendacity- history shows that the greater likelihood is that Trump would support what he thinks is a conservative only to find an O'Connor, Kennedy, or Roberts). I have the same opinion regarding Clinton's out-of-the-mainstream view of abortion rights.  Much of the criticism of both candidates on such issues, even if true, is irrelevant. 
  •  If Trump can't magically deport every undocumented immigrant, even though I don't believe he has ever promised such a magical solution, who cares?  When he is pushed on things like the wall, and enforcement, he simply defers by stating that he'll get it done, or "it's easier than you might think," or some such deflection.  Really, opponents and  the media often imprint on his statements what they want so that they can criticize him, just like the right-leaning media, and opponents do with Clinton.  But, as a seasoned and capable politician Clinton leaves less opportunity by carefully crafting her words and positions, or more capably deflecting (reporters have been asking her for what seems like ten years from whom she received approval or authorization to set up her own email server--go read the responses and good luck finding an answer).  Clinton has not held a full and open press conference in God knows how long, and she rarely speaks off-script. Trump is NOT a politician.   When you throw a novice politician into these events, you get what we have seen.  That is why a seasoned politician doesn't often take the risk of challenging the establishment. 
  • His rhetoric is coarse.  It is sometimes immature.  Coarseness doesn't bother me. His coarseness disproves for me that he is a misogynist, a racist, or a bigot, by the way. His rhetoric is un-apologetically directed at his foes, and those he opposes, and he treats foes and opponents harshly. In other words, he does not treat women differently than men.  If you are a foe or opponent you are treated harshly [of course, you aren't suggesting that any group should be treated more gently than another, right?].  This would only concern me if I was looking for a kinder, gentler President, rather than an effective and capable President. At the end of the day, the question is whether it is possible for a person to "gently" confront the establishment. Sanders is an excellent example of how difficult that path is, because he has the heart, and the ideas, but sometimes lacks the forcefulness to call a cheater a cheater or a liar a liar.  Nice man, but is he really anti-establishment if he is not ready to squarely and forcefully  confront the establishment rhetorically and ideologically?  As for immaturity, I can easily resolve that as 1) his background and training not serving to conform him to the norms we are told we must accept from politicians; or 2) a contrivance designed to increase his appeal to the voters most likely to reject the establishment.  Consider this, knowing what we know, would either Lincoln, FDR or Churchill be acceptable politicians if everything they said was dissected by a media establishment hell-bent on their destruction?
  • He makes me smile.  That is as far as I have gone in my consideration or support at this point. 
This article was originally published 7/6/16, 5:20 AM Eastern Standard Time on the Elder Law and Aging-in-Place Planning Blog.  You can read the original article here:

[The article is altered only in correcting some typographical errors and adding Headers throughout the article].  The original article remains as it was published, much to my horror and dismay. 

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