Why Israel’s peace camp must hit the streets against Trump  

Post-election anti-Trump rally, NYC.
Post-election rally against Trump, New York City, November 12, 2016. Photo: mathiaswasik

The high politics of America is the whole world’s business. When a racist, conspiracy-theorizing sociopath like Donald Trump gets elected U.S. president, that’s the whole world’s urgent business – including Israel’s. And when this strange, menacing figure also says he wants settlements to “keep moving forward,” and that his “number one priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran,” when he’s glorified by the Ku Klux Klan and the neo-Nazis and inspires an upsurge in hate crimes against Jews and Muslims,  among others, then his rise to power should be urgent enough business to send the Israeli peace camp into the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

The world thinks Israel is delighted with Trump’s victory. Bibi Netanyahu is delighted, Sheldon Adelson is delighted, Israel Hayom is delighted, Naftali Bennett is beside himself; even Isaac Herzog and Yair Lapid of the “opposition” sound pleased. Among Israeli political leaders, Meretz’s Zehava Galon, who said after Trump’s election that he’d won on “fear and hatred” and given “legitimacy” to “hate groups,” has been a voice in the wilderness.

But obviously she’s not alone; millions of Israelis, Jews and Arabs, are sickened, horrified and now enraged by Trump’s election. Why don’t we show it in the streets, and in public statements signed by masses of people? Where are Meretz, Peace Now, the Joint List, the progressive wing of Labor, the NGOs, the liberal youth movements, the culture heroes?

Across the United States, as the New York Times put it, “a national resistance among liberal activists is rising in response to the election of Trump in a way not seen in modern presidential history.” Yet there have also been anti-Trump protests in London, Manila, Berlin and Mexico City. Based on what he’s said about Israel and the Middle East, on the politics of the Republican Party, on his debt to Adelson, on his Islamophobia and on his natural affinity for white bullies like Netanyahu, Trump’s entry to the White House stands to affect Israel more than it will most other countries outside the United States.

So this is the Israeli peace camp’s fight, too.

The protests, which in the U.S. are building up to a show of strength on Inauguration Day, January 20, are of course not going to keep Trump out of the White House. Despite losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by a growing margin expected to reach upwards of 2 million votes, he won the electoral vote and has the legal right to assume the presidency.

Instead, the protests are first a simple outpouring of emotion, a natural cry of “no” to everything Trump is and stands for, and second a gearing up of the opposition for the political efforts ahead to stop a President Trump from trying to realize any of his monstrous visions.

For the Israeli peace camp, joining the anti-Trump movement would have two additional, specifically Israeli purposes. One, since Netanyahu, the Israeli right and the right-lite of Herzog and Lapid have applauded the U.S. president-elect, it would be a mass statement of “not in my name.”

Two, it would send an important message of solidarity to the Democrats who want the United States to stop enabling the occupation and start using its  power to end it. As Mitchell Plitnick wrote in Haaretz the day after the election, “This will be one of the issues party activists will try to advance to bring the Democratic party into line with its stated ideals, and, thereby, make it a party that can promise and deliver real change.” The Democratic party is almost certainly moving left; the Israeli peace camp is a natural ally of that process, and should show it.

Millions of Jews and Arabs in Israel feel themselves, their families, their country, their world and its future to be in danger ever since the night of November 8. We’re not leaving this place; even those who were thinking about it can see there’s nowhere left to go. All we can do anymore is fight. And we will not be alone.

Originally published as “Israel’s squalid embrace of Trump: Not in my name” on Haaretz.com, November 14, 2016.

Hitler was elected, too — Down with Trump

Trump at Conservative Political Action Conference, 2011. Photo: Gage Skidmore
Trump at Conservative Political Action Conference, 2011. Photo: Gage Skidmore

There need to be millions of Americans in the streets shouting “Not my president” and more. “Impeach Trump,” “Down with Trump,” “Fuck Trump,” whatever works. There can be no recognition of his leadership. He has the legal right to be president, he doesn’t have the moral right to show his face in public. He’s an evil creature, personally and politically, and there can be no reconciliation with evil.

His presidency, his ability to act as president, has to be fought by every non-violent means that can only be imagined. Mass protests, general strikes, shut-downs of college campuses and any other public institutions that can be shut down – all this should be on the agenda (and at least with college campuses, I’m pretty sure it will be).

Because of who he is and what he stands for, Trump would be illegitimate as president even if he won 100% of the vote. But the fact is that most Americans rejected him and a plurality of them voted for Hillary Clinton. As of this writing, she’s leading him in the popular vote by about 200,000. And the legendary Nate Silver (who this time around got it much less wrong, at least, than the other election-data analysts) says that once all the votes are counted, Hillary “should eventually win the popular vote by 1 to 2 percentage points, and perhaps somewhere on the order of 1.5 million to 2 million votes …”

1.5 million to 2 million votes. That would be three to four times as big a margin as Al Gore had over George W. Bush in 2000. This is mind-boggling. The miserable U.S. electoral vote system says Trump gets to be president, but he’s an imposter. Many more Americans voted for Hillary than for him, and most of those Hillary-voters, it’s safe to assume, are sickened and terrified by him. A mandate to lead? He has a mandate to shrivel up and disappear.

After the 2000 election I, like probably most Democrats, thought the Republican-appointed majority on the Supreme Court robbed Gore of the presidency. But once Gore conceded, Democrats from top to bottom very grudgingly but decisively accepted Bush as the new president. Democrats have accepted the legitimacy of every Republican president-elect, no matter how much they disliked him.

This, however, is different, and it’s not because of Hillary winning the popular vote. It’s because of Trump. He is way, way, way beyond the pale, like no big-party American presidential candidate, let alone winning candidate, ever was. He is the worst major contender for power in a genuinely democratic country since Hitler in 1932 – and if you think that’s an exaggeration, name somebody worse. And now this individual is headed into the White House.

That’s his legal right. His 60 million opponents, meanwhile, have the legal right to try to impeach him, to go in masses into America’s streets and shout their fury and absolutely justified hatred of the president-elect at the top of their lungs, to shut down as much of America as they can shut down, to paralyze Trump’s ability to govern – and beyond their legal right, they have the democratic right to civil disobedience, to break the law non-violently in this cause.

Let it happen in the streets, and let it happen in the Senate, the House of Representatives and every level of U.S. government.

Everyone’s asking, What will the new face of the Democratic Party be? Let it be this.

Remember Trump’s multi-year campaign to wrest the presidency from Obama on the racist lie that he was born in Africa? Remember the alt-right’s monstrous conspiracy theories and verbal violence against Obama from the time he became a candidate for president – and against Hillary Clinton for the last 20 years? We are no less enraged today; the difference is that we don’t need conspiracy theories, we have the truth. It is time to pour out our wrath.

 

 

 

The difference between ‘prejudiced’ and ‘deplorable’

Trump rally in New Hampshire
Trump supporters at rally in Nashua, New Hampshire, December 28, 2015. Photo: Marc Nozell

J.D. Vance, a very hot writer these days with his timely memoir “Hillbilly Elegy,” writes in Thursday’s New York Times why he thinks Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” remark was out of line: Because polls show that most everyone, not just Trump voters, have some sort of prejudice toward one group and/or other, and though the prejudice is terrible, it shouldn’t brand them as “social outcasts.”

“In that basket is the black preacher who may view homosexuality as a little icky even as he lovingly ministers to struggling gay members of his church. The adoptive parent of a child born in Asia, who pours her heart and soul into her child’s well-being even as she tells a pollster that she doesn’t much care about America’s experience with Japanese internment. And in that basket is a white grandmother who speaks ill of black people even as she gives her beloved African-American grandson the emotional support and love that enable him to become the president of all Americans.”

Yes, we all have our prejudices, and that does not make us all deplorable. But we are not all prejudiced to the same degree, and the difference in quantity can and does become so great among people that it turns into a difference in quality. Some people are prejudiced in a way that’s recessive and basically harmless, others in a way that’s malignant, such that it’s entirely fair to call them deplorable as people.

And I’d say one indication of whether a person is garden-variety, routinely prejudiced or, on the other hand, poisoned with it, is whether he supports Trump. (While it’s not true, as Hillary pointed out, that all of Trump’s voters are “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, you name it,” I would say that about 90% of the “you name its” who are voting in this election are voting Trump.)

It’s one thing to say America needs to reduce the number of illegal immigrants coming in from Mexico and Latin America, or to more closely vet the refugees and immigrants from the Muslim Middle East. Believing such things (as I do) does not make you a racist, nativist or Islamophobe.

But when a candidate only speaks of Latinos and Muslims as rapists, murderers, terrorists, leeches, aliens, as nothing but a collective menace, and shouts it with maximum fury and malevolence – if you are one of the people in the crowd baying in response, you are fucking well deplorable. You’re not one of the “about 90 percent of us [who] possess some implicit prejudices,” according to J.D. Vance’s data-based estimate. No, you’re one of the roughly 20 percent of Americans (extrapolating from Hillary’s reference to “half” of Trump’s supporters) who are out-and-out bigots.

And even if you haven’t been to any of Trump’s rallies, if you support him knowing (as you damn well do by now) his views toward Muslims, Latinos, women, blacks and the handicapped, and your socioeconomic situation is good enough so you’re not clinging to him out of personal desperation (and desperate people probably make up a smaller portion of Trump’s electorate than the “half” suggested by Hillary; see links below) – then on the slim chance that you are not an out-and-out bigot yourself, you are raising one up to take over America, which is enough to make you deplorable.

No apologies, Hillary. No defending the indefensibles, J.D.

———————————-

Further reading:

“When it comes to baskets, we’re all deplorable,” J.D. Vance, NY Times, September 22, 2016.

“Voices from Donald Trump’s rallies, uncensored,” NY Times, August 3, 2016.

“Clinton expresses regret for saying ‘half’ of Trump’s supporters are ‘deplorables,” CNN, September 12, 2016.

“The mythology of Trump’s ‘working class’ support,” Nate Silver, FiveThirtyEight, May 3, 2016.

“Typical Trump voter earns above average income, study finds,” NBC News, August 13, 2016.

 

Message to Jill Stein and her supporters: ‘Lunatics, get down off the roof!’

Jill Stein at Occupy Wall Street, September 27, 2011.
Jill Stein at Occupy Wall Street, September 27, 2011.

Toward the end of the 2000 U.S. presidential election campaign, when George W. Bush and Al Gore were running neck and neck, an ad hoc group calling themselves “Nader’s Raiders for Gore” asked their former candidate of choice, the Green Party’s Ralph Nader, to withdraw from the race. “It is now clear that you might well give the White House to Bush. … We urge you to ask your supporters, as we do now, to honor your ideas and to vote for the man who is most likely to put them into action – Al Gore,” read their open letter.

But it did no good; Bush won the election by 537 votes in Florida, where nearly 100,000 votes were cast for Nader. Diehard Naderites still refuse to take responsibility, blaming the Supreme Court and pointing out that there were a lot more Democrats who didn’t vote, or who voted for Bush, than there were who voted for Nader. Fine. The Supreme Court was to blame. And the Democrats who didn’t vote, or who voted for Bush, were to blame. AND the 97,421 Floridians who voted for Nader were to blame.

But what makes the Nader voters (or anyway the huge chunk of them who knew in their hearts that Gore was the better choice than Bush) more galling than these other culprits is precisely that: They knew that by voting for the candidate they considered the best, even though he had no chance of winning, they risked actually electing the one they considered the worst. Which is what they did.

This brings me, naturally, to Jill Stein, the Green Party’s candidate in the current presidential campaign. With less than two months to go before the election, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump aren’t running as closely as Bush and Gore did, but that’s the direction they’re headed. Clinton’s lead is narrowing by the day. On Friday, the benchmark RealClearPolitics average of polls shows Clinton ahead in the popular vote by 1.1% over Trump in the four-way race that includes the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson and Stein.

The Stein effect 

But what counts, of course, is the winner-take-all statewide contests for electoral votes, with 270 needed to win – and here the RCP average of polls shows Clinton leading Trump 200 to 164 in the states where one or the other has a clear lead. Among the “toss-up” states, there are four – Florida (29 electoral votes), Ohio (18), Georgia (16) and Nevada (6) – in which Trump is leading Clinton by tiny percentages that are smaller than the percentages supporting Stein. In Arizona (11), Trump’s percentage lead and Stein’s percentage of support are the same – 2.2%.

In North Carolina (15), RCP showed no poll results for Stein, but Clinton’s lead there is only 0.6%.

Stein’s name is on the ballot in 45 states including Washington DC, and in three other states her name can be written in. Here’s my proposal (and I’m sure it’s not just mine): She doesn’t have to drop out of the race nationally, she just has to drop out in the “battleground states” mentioned above (and any others that turn into battleground states) where her candidacy could mean the difference between Clinton and Trump winning the state and, very possibly, the White House. And in those battleground states, she has to throw her support to Hillary.

Ralph Nader on campaign trail in 2008.
Ralph Nader, independent candidate for president in 2008, speaking at campaign stop in Waterbury, Connecticut. Photo: Sage Ross

If Stein doesn’t do that, and if she and her supporters end up nuking this election like Nader and the Greens did the one in 2000, it will be so much more of a malicious act than the one before. Sixteen years ago, 9/11 hadn’t happened yet, there was no war in Iraq, no “war on terror.” Plus, Bush was running as a moderate Republican, a “compassionate conservative,” so it wasn’t entirely irrational to think that the difference between him and Gore wasn’t so tremendous, and to see that election as an opportune one to vote for “the best,” as Naderites saw their man, even if he couldn’t win.

But today, between Clinton and Trump? I’m not going to go into the differences between them, or how large they are, or how much larger they are than the ones between Bush and Gore in 2000; it’s not a serious subject.

One other thing I don’t get about Stein’s supporters is why they would risk a Trump victory for the sake of voting for a third party. What have third parties accomplished in modern America except to distort a presidential election or two? What was the lasting effect of George Wallace’s third party? Or John Anderson’s? Or Ross Perot’s? Or Ralph Nader’s? Zero. After the election’s over these parties have nothing to do; their causes may continue, but they’re pushed forward by other movements. A third party exists to run a glorious, hopeless electoral campaign, and that’s it. America has a two-party system, plain and simple, and third parties have no useful place in it.

The horror

In July, Stein told Truthdig.com, “I will be horrified if Donald Trump is elected. And I will be horrified if Hillary Clinton is elected. And I think the greatest terror of all is that we have a political system that says to us, here are two deadly choices: Now pick one.” But that was before, when people on the Left didn’t take seriously the possibility of Trump getting elected president. Everybody takes it seriously today.

There’s a famous line spoken in the ‘70s by an Israeli politician trying to talk sense to his intemperate, overly demanding colleagues: “Lunatics, get down off the roof!” This is what left-leaning Democrats and independents ought to be shouting up at Jill Stein and her millions of supporters. Maybe the folks on the ground will be more successful than “Nader’s Raiders for Gore” were in their time. After all, now we know the consequences of the 2000 election. And this time, the man who must be stopped isn’t anyone’s idea of a compassionate conservative.

————————————-

Further reading:

“Truthdig sits down with the Green Party’s Jill Stein,” Truthdig.com, July 11, 2016

“Ralph Nader presidential campaign, 2000,” Wikipedia.com

“Nader’s Raiders for Gore,” BlackElectorate.com, October 26, 2000

“Nader elected Bush: Why we shouldn’t forget,” Politico.com, May 31, 2016

Hillary breaks a great taboo

Hillary Clinton speaking in New Hampshire in January.
Hillary Clinton speaking in Manchester, NH, January 22, 2016. Photo: Gage Skidmore

Finally, somebody said it (“somebody” meaning somebody who depends on public opinon): Donald Trump’s supporters are bigots, or tens of millions of them are, anyway.

Not just that Trump himself is a bigot; there’s no risk in saying that. But to say that the masses of Americans who support this candidate who has been blaring his contempt for Mexicans, Muslims and women, and, to a lesser extent, the handicapped and black people, in the highest-profile way imaginable for the last year – to say that not all of them but that tons of them are bigots themselves: This is something no mainstream politician or media figure has said until Hillary Clinton, God bless her, said it at a New York fundraiser Friday night.

“You know, just to be grossly generalist, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up.”

Then she talked about the other half.

“That other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for a change. They don’t buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they’re in a dead end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.”

This is about as generous and compassionate a description of Trump’s electorate as any intelligent, honest person could make. To let fully half of them off the hook, to say that half of Trump’s voters are not bigots – I think Hillary was being charitable (or politic).

Trump rally in Reno
Trump campaign rally in Reno, Nevada, January 10, 2016. Photo: Darron Birgenheier

But can anyone honestly take issue with her claim, which she prefaced as being “grossly generalist,” that half of Trump’s voters are bigots? Or that bigots are “deplorables”?

I don’t think so. I think everybody outside Trump’s camp knows that what Hillary said was absolutely true and at least fair. The thing is, though, she broke a taboo, one of the most powerful ones in politics: You never criticize the public. The public is always good. The public is always wise.

Nobody believes this swill, either, but there are two kinds of people who will never admit it: Those in politics and those in the mainstream media. The reason is obvious: They both depend on public opinion. They cannot go ragging vast sections of their constituencies, or audiences, as bigots and deplorables because that will alienate them. The politicians will lose their votes, the media will lose their viewership or listenership or readership. So while politicians will rag those of the rival party, and MSM people will rag those of either party, none of them will rag the public or any part of it that keeps those ragged politicians afloat. For politicians, it’s bad politics; for the MSM, it’s bad business.

And since politicians and the MSM dominate the public discussion of politics, this ridiculous notion that the public is always wise and good, and that it’s always wrong to criticize them, is allowed to stand.

What this lie does is infantilize voters, who are, remember, adults. It absolves them of all responsibility for whom they elect. It’s a view of adults in a democracy not as citizens, but as customers – who are always right, which means there’s no good politics or bad politics, there’s only the kind that sells and the kind that doesn’t. Which eventually lands us with the likes of Trump.

On Saturday, the day after she spoke her mind about her opponent’s supporters, Hillary retracted. “Last night I was ‘grossly generalistic,’ and that’s never a good idea. I regret saying ‘half’ — that was wrong. But let’s be clear, what’s really ‘deplorable’ is that Donald Trump …” bla, bla, bla.

Oh well. For one brief shining moment …

——————————

Further reading: 

“Clinton says half of Trump supporters fall into ‘basket of deplorables,’ Thehill.com, September 9

“Clinton: It was wrong to call half of Trump supporters ‘deplorable,'” Thehill.com, September 10

“Hillary Clinton calls many Trump backers ‘deplorables,’ and GOP pounces,” New York Times, September 10

The liberal West’s ‘secret’ war against ISIS

U.S. airstrike on ISIS
U.S. fighter jet taking off from aircraft carrier for airstrike on ISIS in Syria. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alex King/Released)

Since the slaughter in Nice, there seems to be an argument between Western liberals and conservatives over how to deal with ISIS, with the liberals arguing for democracy and conservatives arguing for war. (Here, here, here and here.) I won’t even go into the specifics of the arguments because anybody who hasn’t heard them should be able to predict them by now; what I will say, though, is that it’s a false argument.

The liberal West, led by Obama and Hollande, is at war with ISIS, and in the wake of Nice, Hollande at least is escalating it.  In the last two years the U.S.-led coalition has launched many thousands of airstrikes against ISIS and other jihadist groups in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen, and they’ve killed many thousands of ISIS members and other jihadists.

I’m not hearing liberals say they want this bombing to slow down, or for France to relax its surveillance of terrorist suspects, so why are they arguing?

Because while the West is at war with ISIS, the Western public – left, right and center – doesn’t know it. There are few Western troops on the ground in the war zones, few are getting killed, there’s no military draft, and nobody has the patience to read about the fighting in the Middle East, so the only time Westerners tune into ISIS is when there’s an ISIS-linked terror attack in a Western city. As far as the man on the Western street can see, ISIS is blasting away at him and his side isn’t doing anything.

Fox's Bill O'Reilly and Donald Trump
Fox’s Bill O’Reilly and Donald Trump, April 28, 2016. Photo: From YouTube, screenshot of Fox News.

So when Donald Trump and Fox’s Bill O’Reilly come out now for war, they sound like they’re really onto something bold and new, while Hillary, reminding Americans that they actually are at war, sounds like she’s on the defensive.

In France you get Marine Le Pen saying, “The war against the scourge of fundamentalism hasn’t started. It must now be declared.” Such absolute bullshit. The French are world-beaters when it comes to fighting Islamic terror. Yes, there is still terror in France. There’s also still terror in Israel – does anyone suggest that Israel isn’t at war with terrorists?

No, because Israelis, being conservatives, are always trumpeting how hard they’re fighting the enemy. (But within Israel, the relative liberals like Rabin and Peres were always accused by conservatives like Netanyahu of doing nothing against terror; same bullshit, and it worked every time.) Same thing when Americans were being taken hostage by Iran and Hezbollah; Reagan never made any military move and even gave the Iranians arms, while Carter at least tried a military assault to free them in Iran – yet Reagan was considered tough on terror and Carter was considered a wimp. Why? Because Reagan, being a conservative, knew how to talk shit about war, while Carter, being a liberal, didn’t.

It’s saber-rattling time 

Same with Obama, same with Hollande, and same with Hillary, at least in comparison to that chickenhawk Trump. They have to start rattling sabers against ISIS, they have to tell the public every day about all the bastards they’re killing in the Middle East. This is what the man on the Western street wants to hear – and rightly so. ISIS and its sympathizers are a force of evil, a menace to the Middle East and the West, they’re horrifying people with their killing and people need to know that their side is fighting back. In the absence of that knowledge, people are becoming demoralized and turning into easy prey for the likes of Trump and Le Pen. And if these two take over in America and France, which seems more likely since Nice, they really will turn the fight against ISIS into a fight against all Muslims, which is not how liberal leaders like Obama and Hollande are fighting it now.

All the more reason for liberals to support the war against ISIS, to support escalating it … if they even know there’s a war on.

Sanders’ foreign policy worries me less than Clinton’s, but irks me so much more

Sanders-Clinton debate.
Sanders and Clinton debate on MSNBC, February 4, 2016.

The Western left in general is wrong about America, wrong about the world, and wrong about the morality of their politics.

On foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, I lean closer to Bernie Sanders’ hands-off instincts than to Hillary Clinton’s interventionist ones. Americans do not have the will to fight another Iraqi or Afghan war in Syria, or Libya, or Yemen or anyplace else around here, and I don’t blame them. These wars tend to be futile, bloody, and cause more harm than good. And because Americans so clearly do not want to get stuck in another long-term Mideast war, it becomes very dangerous for U.S. leaders, like Hillary, to think they can intervene “surgically” and safely, that they can drop a few bombs, get rid of the bad guys and go home, mission accomplished. If that’s all you’re willing to do – and that is all America is willing to do – it’s generally safer all around to do nothing. So Sanders’ foreign policy worries me less than Hillary’s.

But it irks me so much more. This week Sanders said of the Hillary-Trump exchange of accusations over foreign policy:

I think frankly they both make a point. I think that her support for the war in Iraq was not just an aberration. I think that her willingness to push President Obama to overthrow [Libya’s Muammar] Qadhafi and lead to the kind of instability we’re seeing now in Libya, not inconsistent with her views on Syria, where she wants a no-fly zone. … Bush’s era, Clinton’s era has caused us incalculable harm.

Sanders implied Hillary was no better than Trump on foreign policy, and explicitly lumped her policies together with those of the George W. Bush administration. The comparison to Trump is beyond ridiculous, while the Hillary-W. equation is just crude, especially since she’s publicly regretted her support for the Iraq War over and over.

But beyond distorting Clinton’s policies, Sanders’ remark shows the kind of automatic rejection of any use of American military power abroad, and the self-righteousness that goes with it, that plagues the Sanders campaign and the Western left in general. They’re wrong about America, wrong about the world, and wrong about the morality of their politics – again, in an irksome way.

Cold War is over

America has changed since the end of the Cold War. It doesn’t support leaders like Augusto Pinochet against those like Salvador Allende anymore, it doesn’t kill masses of Vietnamese fighting for their independence because it wants to lick the Commies. America’s enemies are no longer people like Ho Chi Minh or Mohammed Mossadegh, popular left-wing figures trying to throw off foreign domination.

No, since the Cold War ended, America’s enemies have been people like Saddam Hussein, Muammar Qadhafi and Bashar Assad. Leaders whom the locals, or most of them anyway, experience as monsters. So America’s involvements in Syria, Libya and yes, Iraq, have been on a whole different, much higher moral level than the policy of supporting fascists against Communists and socialists that the U.S. pursued during the Cold War. But the Western left doesn’t recognize this.

For months I’ve been debating Sanders supporters on Facebook, most recently about foreign policy, and the most common view of Hillary is that she’s simply a war-monger. Few of them seem to see any respectable argument for fighting the Middle East’s monsters, few are ready to say that Hillary’s approach, while mistaken, is honorable – no, it’s rotten, not to say evil. She can’t be motivated by any desire to save innocent people, it’s just power, glory, American triumphalism (some also mention oil and arms sales), she’s no better than the worst Muslim-hating GOP hawk.

I have a hard time getting these people to acknowledge that as terrible as the Iraq war has turned out, ousting Saddam was a historic achievement, as was the Kurdish autonomous zone in the north. I get the same resistance when I suggest that no matter how bad the situation in Libya has gotten, helping get rid of Qadhafi before he could take his revenge on his opponents  was not an immoral act, certainly not at the time. It’s the same story in the debate over Hillary’s support for a no-fly zone in Syria. And these are obviously not fringe views in the Sanders camp – they’re endorsed by the candidate himself.

Not good vs. evil

I don’t see what is so morally superior about watching passively while the likes of Saddam, Qadhafi and Assad slaughter hundreds of thousands of people. I agree that for America to intervene militarily to stop them is probably a bad idea – but it should not automatically be ruled out, which is the instinct of the left. American military power is not always futile; for instance, it got Saddam out of Kuwait in the first Iraq war and cut him down to size, another historic achievement. (Even though the postwar sanctions were a humanitarian catastrophe, American power at its worst.)

American military intervention in places where people are under attack by genocidal dictators is not immoral. It may well be a bad decision, even a reckless one, but evil it’s not. Immoral is when you’re fighting on the side of the bad guys against the good guys. America used to do that a lot; it doesn’t anymore.

Unlike what the Western left in general and the Sanders campaign in particular thinks, the foreign policy challenges facing America are no longer  about good vs. evil, like they were in Vietnam and Latin America; they’re about the lesser evil vs. the greater one, like in Iraq, Libya and Syria. I prefer Sanders’ choices to Hillary’s. But they’re nothing to cheer about, and Hillary’s are nothing to boo. The left should learn a little humility, especially in the face of the Middle East’s tragedies.

Finally, America taking sharp left on economics

trump rally
Trump rally in Fountain Hills, Arizona, March 19, 2016. Photo: Gage Skidmore

Protectionism, raising minimum wage, raising taxes on rich – this, by popular demand, is economic platform of GOP’s new leader.   

It’s ironic: America has been moving left on social issues in recent years because there are more minorities and “millennials” in the population, yet the country is finally, in this election campaign, moving left on economic issues as well because of white, generally middle-aged Middle Americans – mainly those who support the fascistic Donald Trump.

These are the people who, ever since Reagan, exasperated the liberals by consistently acting against their economic self-interest and voting for a Republican Party that so clearly favored the rich and disdained the working class and poor. The reason they voted Republican was the social issues, the symbolic issues, the ones that involved their likes and dislikes, that pitted their culture against liberal, cosmopolitan culture. These are patriotic, traditional Americans, and the Republicans talked like their kind of people, while the Democrats talked like big-city college kids who didn’t know how to change a tire. On economics, these voters said they hated government and taxes, and the Republicans said they did, too, so it was a perfect match – even though the GOP-style economy left these people further and further behind while the rich kept getting more obscenely rich.

But this year the alliance between Middle America and Republican economics broke apart. It happened mainly because Trump jettisoned the GOP’s laissez faire dogma, and instead told Middle America’s inadequately educated whites, “I’ll save you. I’ll get your jobs back. I’ll stop all those businesses from leaving the U.S. and they’ll have to hire you, at good wages.” In other words, protectionism. Prohibitive taxes on foreign imports, and confiscatory taxes on U.S. businesses that dare defy the government. What Republicans call socialism, totalitarianism.

And the salt-of-the-earth white folks of the heartland loved it. Meanwhile, on the social and cultural issues, Trump threw them more raw meat than any serious presidential candidate ever had – the ugliest racism and nativism, the worst abusiveness, the most fuck-you brand of hell-raising – and between that and his economic wonder drug, he left the Republican free-market purists in the dust.

PROTECTIONISM IS AN idiotic idea in this day and age – among other awful effects, it would lose America billions of foreign customers for its exports, and thus cost more Americans their jobs than Third World competition ever did – but the important thing is that Trump, by making this idiotic claim so successfully, has separated Republican voters from Republican economic doctrine. Which is a great thing, because Reaganomics, which has held sway in America since the 1980s (the big exception being the passage – and success – of Obamacare), has helped expand the country’s pool of have-nots, strike fear into the middle class and give the upper class an abominably large share of the nation’s wealth.

Trump – purely by accident, because he doesn’t have an economic idea or principle in his head – has torn down the Republicans’ facade and allowed the party’s educational lower class to acknowledge, very loudly, that economic freedom isn’t working for them, and that they want somebody in charge – say, the next president – to give them economic security one way or the other.

As a result, Trump has had to keep moving left economically – now he’s changed his mind and come out in favor of raising the minimum wage, which is the sort of thing that would have gotten a Republican hanged as recently as last year. In another forced reversal, he’s even talking about raising taxes on the rich. Protectionism, minimum wage hikes, higher taxes on the wealthy – this, by popular demand, is the economic platform of the Republican Party’s new leader.

After this, after Trump’s exposure of the dissatisfaction in party ranks with laissez faire, is any Republican going to try to sell voters on Milton Friedman or the Laffer curve again? I don’t think so. That way has failed, first economically, now politically.

TRUE, IT’S NOT only Trump and his white Middle Americans who are moving the country left on economics; it’s also Bernie Sanders and his white Middle Americans, along with his millennials who believe in equality, and who also believe they shouldn’t have to pay so damn much to go to college. They’re right, of course, and hopefully their nudging of Hillary and the Democrats leftward (except on free trade, where they’re as wrong as Trump), will be a lasting thing. But by far the most significant development – the shredding of America’s economic Right – has come from the heart of the Republican electorate, driven forward by a sociopathic billionaire. If that’s not ironic, I don’t know what is.

This isn’t too good to be true, either: After Reagan, it was Bill Clinton who said “the era of big government is over” as the Democrats joined the Republicans in keeping taxes low, slashing welfare and in general burying the party’s New Deal legacy (until Obamacare). For 3½ decades, American economic policy has been moving one way, right. Now, from the force of reality and the advent of Trump and, to a lesser extent, Sanders, the pendulum is swinging back.

So, assuming that Hillary Clinton wins the November election, which I think is a very safe assumption, the 2016 election campaign should go down as a turning point for the better in American economic history. (And assuming that Trump gets wiped out electorally, which I think is a likelihood, this will have been a healthy year for American national life all around.)

I don’t know if Hillary and the Dems will make things better for average-income and poor Americans; if they don’t, the Repubs could come back to power later – but not with more of their economic bullshit. They can’t make life much easier for the rich or much harder for the poor and working class without turning America into something like a Third World country itself – and without chasing more and more voters away.

The Republicans are going to have to deliver the goods to their struggling supporters, because these people won’t listen to promises of trickle-down anymore. The GOP has no choice but to rejoin the Western world and accept that a mixed economy, one that includes reasonable taxes and reasonable government intervention, is necessary for a fair society.

Remember Nixon’s wage and price controls of 1971? There really was a time, and not so long ago, when even a Republican could have an idea like that. Such times appear to be coming around again.