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A friend in Germany has been a bit dazed and confused by the American presidential campaign and wondered if I, as an American, might be able to explain the Trump phenomenon. I can't, but here goes anyway...
The front-runners of the two major political parties would head my short list for a Who's Who of weird participants in the 2016 Flying Political Circus. Mr. Trump has no trouble coming up with endlessly reported soundbites that make a lot of people cringe, seems hell-bent on establishing himself as the Andrew Dice Clay of American politics, and then compounds the felony by having a lousy interior decorator. Fortunately poor taste in interior design isn't a capital offense, otherwise he'd probably find himself sitting on death row. And as the past several months have shown, bombast and buffoonery is much the rage these days.
His probable opponent, who may stonewall successfully (in the Nixonian sense) and escape indictment before November, is by personal observation and most reports a complete stranger to the truth. To paraphrase a line from Mort Sahl, would you really, really, seriously consider buying a used car from her? And that forced unnatural smile? Like Donald Trump's hair, it's become her defining physical characteristic. Why Mrs. Clinton would go out of her way to impersonate Jack Nicholson playing The Joker is beyond me. If, like me, you never saw that Batman movie – check out photographer Herb Ritt's iconic Jack Nicholson II.
And then there's crazy, curmudgeonly-likable Uncle Bernie. I think he's an upright person, honest in his views, and I like what I've read about his 2015 "Too big to Fail, Too Big to Exist" banking reform bill that attempts to correct the Clinton administration's repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act that led directly to the ongoing financial crisis. Which might explain why the big players in the financial and banking community would be happy to see another Clinton in the White House. That said, I should add as a general observation wholesale socialism tends to fall apart when eventually you run out of other people's money. A few months ago a friend in Burlington told me Bernie nearly bankrupted the city while he was mayor and that it took nearly 8 years to get out of debt, but at least he left a partly pedestrianized downtown area that most people seem to like. And just in case you're wondering, I'd have no worries buying a used car from him. As a fiscal conservative with a libertarian bias, I nonetheless would concede that socialism, adopted carefully and sparingly, has its place. Single-payer or public education K-12, for example (which we've had for a long time), and a genuine single-payer health care system (unlike the private pork-fest that Mr. Obama, Mrs. Pelosi and the pharmaceutical and insurance industrial complex said had to be passed before people could find out what was in it). Now that people are beginning to find out, there's growing dissatisfaction with the not-so-affordable care act, which might explain why some of the scheduled implementations that were supposed to have been phased in by now, have been put off until after the general election.
Rafael (Ted) Cruz is probably the sharpest knife in the drawer, with debating skills and a memory for detail that should make Mrs. Clinton want to wear a little something extra underneath her pants suit if he becomes the eventual nominee, yet I find his preacherman style rather annoying and condescending. Also, I'm not too keen on the New World Order way of looking at things. Since my own personal favorite non-interventionist politician, Ron Paul, retired years ago, I haven't seen anyone I'd really want to support. Primum nil nocere or “first, do no harm” is supposed to be the motto or pledge of the medical profession – shouldn't politicians have something like it? But I would agree with Cruz that the Constitution is a pretty nice document, and it does have a lot to say.
And of those who dropped out? Ben Carson was too gentlemanly, understated and apparently had some pretty strange ideas about the Pyramids which, according to some people, automatically disqualified him from serious consideration, and Jeb Bush's body language and characteristic apologetic shrug during the debates must have convinced a lot of voters he was running only because his mommy and daddy wanted him to.
Many of the candidates have been questioned about the problem of companies moving their corporate headquarters overseas, where a lot of their production and is based and a growing percentage of their customers live. With increasing globalization and trade agreements such as NAFTA and now the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), currently being pushed by the present administration, it follows that corporations should get with the program and become more internationalist than they already are, without taint of old-fashioned nationalism or other parochial considerations. The new name for companies forming international partnerships and relocating to lower tax jurisdictions overseas is corporate inversion. People or businesses moving out of taxpayer-unfriendly states is just another way of voting with one's feet. And when everybody does it, it's called Detroit.
It must be hard preaching internationalism and populism in the same breath while trying to keep a straight face, and I sometimes wonder if people still remember or laugh at Ross Perot's prediction about the “giant sucking sound” of jobs leaving the United States after the trade deals of the '90s.
To prevent people and businesses from voting with their feet, maybe New York , California or the country as a whole should consider new laws and policies that would make economically-motivated emigration illegal. And, while on the topic, I think there's a good chance that Donald Trump could be hired to build a tremendously big wall to keep people in – and then get China to pay for it. That I can tell you. One hundred percent.
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