A Trump Second Term In 2020? It Might Happen!

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A lot of people have such a low opinion of Donald Trump that they can’t even think about the prospect of his re-election. That’s too bad, because there is a rational argument supporting the contention that he just might win.

A Trump win in 2020 is within the realm of possibility.

So, bear with me while I point out a few trends that might predict a Trump victory in 2020.

Trump has low approval numbers, but that does not erase the fact that he enjoys rock solid support from his core constituency. Nothing he does seems to erode the support of millions of voters who believe in him. What do they see in Trump that justifies this level of support?

They see authenticity, for one thing.

While Hilary takes on a strained Sothern accent when she’s in the South, and Obama drops his “g” when speaking to African Americans, Trump is consistent with his folksy informal speaking style. He doesn’t craft messages for his audience. He speaks off the cuff, sometimes abandoning the prepared remarks in front of him.

And people love it.

Most of his recent rallies have packed the venues, no matter how large they are. People drive for hours to get to his speaking engagements, then spend more hours looking for a place to park.

And they cheer him on, sometimes breaking into spontaneous chants.

What’s that all about?

Maybe because identity politics has run its course. The Clinton Era is over. Trump uses words like “our”, “us” and “we” in the context of “Americans” more than any politician in recent memory.   

Trump reminds his supporters there is nothing wrong with being proud of one’s country.

And people love that too.

More people than you might think.

In an era of hostility and incivility only the most ardent of Trump supporters publicly reveal themselves. Wearing a MAGA hat, or making pro Trump statements in public can invite physical aggression and social ostracism. Just yesterday I saw a bumper sticker saying:

“If you voted for Trump don’t follow too close. I don’t trust your judgment.”

These messages of intolerance are hard to miss and they might be having an unintended consequence.

Not all Trump supporters advertise their support.

The extent to which support for Trump are not detected by surveys and polls is, by definition, unknown. But it exists.

Check it out here. And here. And here. Even here.

But there are very obvious signs of Trumps popularity, too.

Economists at Goldman-Sachs, the conservative investment bank, recently released an analysis finding that Trump has a shot at re-election in 2020 owing mostly to incumbency advantage and a strong economy.

Other financial analysts come to the same conclusion:

“The economy is just so damn strong right now and by all historic precedent the incumbent should run away with it.”

Even Piers Morgan has gone on record predicting a Trump win in 2020.

But there is more.

Trump is raising more money than any of his Democratic challengers.

The Trump campaign has $82 million in the bank, double what it had at the beginning of the quarter. Yes, Trumps war chest doubled in only three months. He now has twice as much as much as the two leading Democratic candidates, Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris, combined.

Finally, Trump has made accomplishments that could sway undecided independents to his side of the ballot. North Korea, low unemployment and a bullish stock market could generate support from this large block of potential Trump votes.

A very interesting collection of figures with the ungainly title, President Trump Job Approval by Demographic Subgroups, Overall and Within Party Subgroups is now posted at Gallup.com.

Almost every Independent subgroup shows significant approval for Trump. If enough of them vote for Trump he will be swept into office in a landslide.

Or not.

It’s the uncertainty that makes politics so interesting. Between now and the election any number of things can happen that will affect the outcome of the 2020 election.

All sides will endlessly manipulate the Mueller Report for political gain over the next year and a half.

Sooner or later the economy will fall into recession. Lately it is showing signs of weakening, and could as easily help Trump as hurt him.

Whoever the Democrats pit against Trump will also make a huge difference in how the election plays out. Trump is a master at ridiculing and diminishing his opponents, but eventually someone will be able to turn the tables on him.

One thing is certain, though.

Neither the Democrats or Republicans have any certainty of winning the 2020 election.

Politics: The Final Refuge of Bigotry and Hate Speech

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I’m a political agnostic.

I don’t align myself with any group or ideology and do not identify as liberal, conservative or progressive.

Those are not really political labels, but social ones.

What passes for political debate are really expressions of in-group/out-group prejudice and bigotry. The focus is not on the role that government can play in social and economic challenges, but on winning unwinnable arguments.

I don’t want any of it.  

Instead I strive to find out what the issues are actually all about and whether it is the role of government to address them.

But most people seem obsessed with pursuing outrage.  

Outrage engages people emotionally, and opportunists on all sides use it to advance political and social agendas. Many people refuse to learn about the dynamics driving social and economic issues. Consequently, they and have no understanding of the complex issues involved and fall victim to superficial “solutions” that serve the needs of special interests.

Maybe it’s just too hard to think about. Maybe the effort needed to read a book or a few academic papers is too much.

It’s easier to parrot the lines of political celebrities – few of whom have any specialized knowledge about the issues they make proclamations about.

Tens of thousands of mostly young people die violently every year in the urban centers of large cities, and we ignore it.  Instead we hyper focus on school shootings and argue about background checks.

School shootings claim fewer children than those murdered by parents, and far fewer than child victims of gang violence. Fifteen dead under the age of 18 is the toll of an especially bad weekend in one of our large urban centers.

Google the name of a large city along with “murder” or “homicide” and you will see what I mean.

Chicago celebrated that only 20 people were murdered on its streets in January of 2019. That record is worthy of celebration in light of the 72 shot and 13 killed on a single weekend the previous August.

During the 2016 presidential campaign Bernie Sanders brought up inner city violence, but was shut down by Hilary Clinton who used accusations of racism to bury the issue. It was to her political advantage to do this, but at the obvious disadvantage of people living in a war zone under occupation by militarized police.

But Hilary has a point, of sorts.

When you start asking questions about the source of this violence you can’t avoid talking about the culture of inner cities.

What values drive people to make their homes in these places? What makes membership in a gang so attractive?

Single mothers are held up as virtuous heroes, but if the social structure of traditional nuclear families mitigates urban violence that identity is threatened. Politicians who court the female vote certainly do not want to alienate those voters.

It’s much easier to elicit emotional responses by blaming “deplorables” or “libtards” and focus on character flaws that may or may not exist.

And that is where the bigotry comes in.

Politics is the last place where hate speech is still tolerated.

Robert DeNiro’s remarks at the 2018 Tony Awards is an example.

Criticizing the president is fine, but the use of profanity and inability to articulate a coherent statement is not a political statement. Political discourse requires an understanding of political and economic theory, and a willingness to forgo passion and emotion in favor of intellectual inquiry and dispassionate analysis.

Sadly, what passes for political discourse is mostly people screaming at one another, each trying to extract an admission of defeat from the other.   

I don’t want any part of it.   

Second Thoughts on The Wall

I love Tucson and living in Southern Arizona. Everyone knows about our fabulous weather and cowboy history, but we also have an incredible culture. There is a Anglo/Hispanic/Native blend in which nobody is really dominant. There is no majority race or culture; no race/gender combination can claim more than 50% of the population.

And best of all we pretty much get along. There is very little racial or cultural animosity here.

I think that is one of the reasons there is so little support for a wall on the border. There just isn’t much point to it.

If the intent is to stop smugglers, a wall just isn’t the right tool. Smugglers move very expensive illegal goods across international borders. It is dangerous work, but that is why it pays so much.

Think about it.

Smuggling drugs is so profitable that it’s easy to afford to go over, under or around a wall.

Drug cartels buy custom-made submersible boats that go around the wall. The cost of digging tunnels under the wall and buying airplanes to go over it is small change for them. And remember, these expensive tunnels, submarines and aircraft are often used only once. Drug smuggling is so lucrative that cartel accountants write these losses off as operating expenses.

Walls do one thing exceeding well – they keep large numbers of people at bay.

And that is why I’m giving a wall a second thought.

Mexico is approaching its next election on July 2. So far, there have been over 113 assassinations of candidates running for office. You might find this surprising if you have been following the success of the anti-cartel police operations in Mexico. Government efforts have had some unanticipated results.

First, every time a drug kingpin goes down a violent competition ensues to fill the void. These are not old-fashioned gangsters with guns – although they are plenty of them, too. Many times, they are government officials working with criminal organizations.

For example, in 2014 police in Iguala seized 43 students who were protesting the local mayor. It is thought that the police turned the students over to a local criminal gang with which the police were affiliated. That group murdered and disposed of the bodies. Iguala Mayor Jose Luis Abarca and his wife, Maria de los Angeles Pineda were eventually arrested for ordering the killings.

Violent drug cartels are undermining the legitimacy of the Mexican government. The presidential election will be held on July 1, and so far, 113 candidates running for a range of offices have been killed and 300 injured. Hundreds more have backed out of their races, leaving only Cartel approved line-ups. Although police escorts are available, many candidates decline them because local law enforcement are often allies of criminal groups.

The drug cartels are competing for the political reins of power. That is something to worry about.

These illegal organizations are challenging the legitimacy of the Mexican government. Once the legitimacy of a government comes into question in the eyes of its people wide, spread social collapse becomes a real possibility in the face a crisis.

But something far more disturbing with the potential for international chaos is also emerging.

Political instability is common across Latin and South America.

Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht is in the center of an international corruption scandal spreading to high officials across South America. Peru’s president now sits in jail on charges of illegal campaign contributions, the son of the Chilean president is facing unrelated corruption charges, the economies of Argentina and Venezuela are in such ruin that even the International Monetary Fund, (IMF), and World Bank want nothing to do with them. Conditions in Venezuela are so bad that neighboring Columbia fears a flood of refugees if Venezuela descends into anarchy.

Why am I having second thoughts about a wall on our southern border?

Consider this…

So many South American countries are facing economic calamity and loss of faith in their political systems that the fall of one could trigger crises in neighboring countries. If that economic and political unrest spreads to Mexico, it is conceivable the government could collapse. In that event, we could see thousands or tens of thousands of displaced people massing at our southern border, just 60 miles south of Tucson.

You have to remember these people have relatives here in Southern Arizona, and it’s completely understandable they would look to them for refuge.

At that point, there are no good alternatives. We’ve seen the results of panicked mobs crossing borders in other countries, just as we’ve seen the tragedy of refugee camps and soldiers guarding borders from behind walls. If there were a solution to these tragedies, they would not be happening.

The only answer is to prevent these things from happening in the first place.

Instead of going to the other side of the world on nation building missions, maybe we should look a little closer to home.

President Trump makes no secret of his negotiating skills, and to be fair he has met with some success. Why not underwrite modest deals with the IMF and World Bank to bring economic stability to the southern hemisphere?

I’m not suggesting throwing money at these countries, but creating opportunities for American business to serve the needs of these struggling economies.

Or consider this…

There is currently a global shipping crisis – cargo ships sit at anchor all over the world because the global economy is barely perking along. While the media hyper focuses on China the United States and the EU, the rest of the world is in a logistical crisis.

What better time to invest in port infrastructure needed to accommodate the new super container ships with an eye to redistribute cargo to South America?

I’m not an international trade expert, a financier or an economist, but if I can come up with idea, certainly people who know what they are talking about could do the same.

There is a solution to this issue, and we have the people who can find it.

We could do that, and maybe bring peace, tranquility and propriety to the entire South American continent.

Or we could build a wall.

NOGALES, AZ – JUNE 02: A fence separates the cities of Nogales, Arizona (L) and Nogales, Sonora Mexico, a frequent crossing point for people entering the United States illegally, June 2, 2010 in Nogales, Arizona. During the 2009 fiscal year 540,865 undocumented immigrants were apprehended entering the United States illegally along the Mexican border, 241,000 of those were captured in the 262 mile stretch of the border known as the Tucson Sector. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images) 

Elizabeth Warren: How greedy political parties corrupts our best hopes.

I was rummaging around in the depths of my file system today and found this old video of Elizabeth Warren’s presentation to the UC Berkeley Graduate Council explaining changes in the economy leading up to the collapse of the Industrial Economy in 2008.

At about the same time that she gave this lecture she she was interviewed on “Conversations with History”, an interview series presented by University of California Television (UCTV). In it, she talks about her childhood on a Nebraska farm and her unlikely journey to the upper crust of American business elite.

She tells the story of what life in a typically modest rural family living frugally, until Dad suffers a heart attack. Suddenly everything turns upside down and mom goes to work at the age of fifty to keep the house out of foreclosure. Years later, during the run up to the Great Recession, Warren has an epiphany: the experience of her family is the same as the families she is helping Wall Street bankers to foreclose upon.

There are lessons in both videos.

One of the most powerful is that Warren was still an academic when sharing her research on consumer spending. There are no strident indictments against republicans, or emotionally laden rhetoric about the evils of business. She just explains her findings in a casual and interesting way.

Looking back over the last three-decade or so, Warren shows us where increases in the cost of consumer goods are concentrated. It’s not that we are buying designer clothes, or suffering through inflated food prices or paying exorbitant prices for huge SUVs. Those are not what has become more expensive. Home prices, taxes, health insurance — none of which we can control simply by cutting back on routine expenses — are what has made us poor.

The point Warren is really driving home, however, is how these expenses have gone up so suddenly that the two-income households come precariously close to bankruptcy if one of those incomes is lost or delayed.

She does an excellent job explaining how our consumer economy is an unsustainable house of cards. At the time she gives this talk in 2007, the economy was in the beginning stages of a slow motion train wreck. The consumer economy of the last third of the 20th century created very wealthy industries in education, housing, mortgage lending and health insurance.

These industries enjoyed great wealth but suffered greatly during the Great Recession.

Now are now working hard to attach themselves like barnacles to our new emerging economy.

But there is another issue.

Contrast Warren’s demeanor in that 2007 lecture her 2016 reaction to Donald Trump’s election in a presentation to the AFL-CIO. She no longer explains how she calculated the statistics she presents. In fact she presents few objective facts at all, and gives an emotional speech on the unfairness of our public polices a greed of bankers and others.

Not that I disagree with her. If I were to lose control of myself and surrender to the strident 13 year old we all hold subdued in our inner psyche I’s probably sound the same. But, that is not how reasoned and articulate intellectual presentation are created.

Think about this for a minute and it leads to some sobering insights.

Why would Elizabeth Warren — probably our most informed politician on matters of economics and finance – make such a dramatic change in her delivery? One would think that if she wanted to inform us about complex issues she would do it in the most effective time tested way – like a scholarly lecturer.

But she doesn’t.

I think it is because she is no longer focusing on helping others in an objective search for truth. Now she is in the political arena, where money and power intertwine to provide a pulpit and a price, and demands a price for the privilege of speaking from it. As much as one might resist “selling out” the temptation to do so is very great. You either go along with everyone else and are trusted with the keys to a national podium or go back to a lecture hall talking to a few hundred people.

Lindsay Mark Lewis pulls the covers off how politics corrupts good people in his excellent book Political Mercenaries: The Inside Story of How Fundraisers Allowed Billionaires to Take Over Politics

Lewis was a fundraiser for the Democratic Party, raising millions from incredibly wealthy donors running some of the biggest corporations and social welfare conglomerates that have ever existed. He also worked with the machinery that distributes those funds – the Republican and Democratic National Committees. He tells us how party fund raising machinery coerces our representatives into supporting their party caucuses to the tune of tens of thousands per month.

It’s not pretty and there is nothing to be proud of in his story. Like Warren, Lewis had an epiphany also, but his led him to turn away from a lucrative gig as an industrial/political bagman and live a more respectable life.

 

Check it out and tell me what you think:

Elizabeth Warren: UC Berkeley Graduate Council Lecture

Elizabeth Warren: Conversations with History Interview

Political Mercenaries: The Inside Story of How Fundraisers Allowed Billionaires to Take Over Politics, Lindsay, Mark Lewis

The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Parents Are (Still) Going Broke, Elizabeth Warren