Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Trump phenomenon and how he's changed the discourse-BBC

8/31/15, "Five ways Trump has changed the 2016 Republican presidential race," BBC, Anthony Zurcher, North American reporter

"Donald Trump isn't going away. As the recent Time magazine cover succinctly says: "Deal with it."

That's proving easier said than done for many Republican officials, political commentators and presidential hopefuls, however. Mr Trump has gone from joke to serious player in just a few months, thanks to his seemingly bulletproof level of Republican primary voter support and a trillion-dollar personal bank account to fuel his campaign, and he seems unwilling to play by standard political rules.

Here are just a few ways the Trump phenomenon has turned the Republican presidential nomination race on its head.

1. He's advancing a populist economic message

Tax-cutting and deregulation have been key parts of Republican orthodoxy since the days of Ronald Reagan. Mr Trump isn't reading from that particular hymnal, however. Instead he preaches a populist salvation for the economically disaffected. 

Poll after poll shows economic security is the most important issue for Republican voters, and Mr Trump's entire message - his anti-illegal-immigration stance, his condemnation of Chinese and Mexican trade practices, his calls for taxation of Wall Street hedge fund managers and his constant touting of his resume as a successful businessman and "job-creator" - is built around this. 

Earlier this year, as candidates made their appearances at various Republican forums across the country, it seemed the biggest applause lines among conservative audiences were warnings of the growing threat of the so-called Islamic State and condemnations of President Barack Obama's foreign policy. This would be a foreign policy election [6/11/15], wags opined, and the candidates all sharpened their rhetoric accordingly.

Then Mr Trump showed up, shrugged off questions of international affairs in favour of his jobs message and now sits at the top of the polls."...

[Ed. note: Not accurate. Mr. Trump has made numerous statements on international affairs. See end of this post.]

(continuing): "2. He's pumped up the volume on immigration.

Donald Trump has singlehandedly raised the decibel level of the Republican campaign. His seeming willingness to say whatever crosses his mind, no matter how impolitic, has cast him as an "authentic" contrast to the more measured - perhaps timid - actions of his competitors. 

Nowhere is this more clear than the current state of conversation on the issue of immigration, where the New York trillionaire has condemned illegal immigrants from Mexico as criminals and job-stealers.

Some candidates seem to have concluded that the way to beat Mr Trump is to be just as over-the-top as the Donald himself.

How else to explain Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker calling for consideration of a Canadian border wall? Or New Jersey Governor Chris Christie suggesting immigrants be tracked "like FedEx packages"? Or former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who married a Mexican national, condemning "anchor babies" used to obtain US citizenship? Or Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, the child of Indian immigrants, repeatedly saying "immigration without assimilation is invasion"?

The year before the presidential primaries begin is supposed to be the time when candidates play the long game - building name recognition, avoiding missteps, establishing the rationale for their presidential aspirations and laying the groundwork for future success. Mr Trump's headline-dominating juggernaut is throwing all of that to the wind.

3. He's stepped over Walker

If there is one of Trump opponents who most reflects the adverse effect the New Yorker has had on the field, it's Mr Walker. 

Up until now, the governor's appeal has been as the mild-mannered "aggressively normal" Mid-westerner who successfully advanced a solidly conservative agenda in left-leaning Wisconsin. He's been billed as the establishment-endorsed man who also boasts crossover grassroots appeal.

When compared to Mr Trump, however, "aggressively normal" seems decidedly milquetoast. For months Mr Walker was the man to beat in first-in-the-nation voting Iowa, but recent polls have him dropping to the middle of the pack, as Mr Trump and other unorthodox candidates like retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson have flourished.

That's left Walker supporters and advisors calling for a campaign reboot, while the candidate tries to grab headlines by calling for the cancellation of an upcoming US visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping and seemingly endorsing, then backing away from, ending the practice of automatically granting citizenship to all children born on US soil.

"What happened to Scott Walker?" asks the headline of a recent Washington Post piece - in the type of soul-searching article that often greets campaigns on a downward trajectory.

Donald Trump. That's what happened.

4. He's weaponised social media

Last week Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo wrote that Mr Trump is disrupting conventional political campaigns the way General William T Sherman's US Civil War strategies revolutionised the military.

Sherman cut through the South with a speed and agility that left his opponents reeling. Mr Trump, thanks to his deft use of social media-based attacks on multiple, often seemingly contradictory fronts, is doing the same to his political opponents.

"You need to be able to not just act fast but act fast again and again to control the tempo and pace of the news conversation so you're on to the next punch or the one after that before your adversaries have even responded," he writes. "You also need to be experienced in the tabloid news culture and be totally in tune with your target audience. All of these combined are allowing Trump to act faster and thus more totally dominate the progression of the news conversation than any candidate has ever."

Up until now, social media has essentially been a public relations arm of a political campaign, subject to the same careful vetting and control that goes into a candidate's public speeches and position statements.

Mr Trump is operating more like a pop culture celebrity, however, picking fights and tossing casual insults at furious pace. He's a spider monkey in a fight with tortoises.

And, at least so far, it's working for him.

5. He's fomenting a Republican civil war

Mr Trump's rise is exposing the fault lines within the Republican Party between rank-and-file conservatives and the party's governing elite. 

Rick Wilson, a long-time Republican political strategist, was one of the first to launch an anti-Trump salvo, with an article in Politico urging the candidate's supporters to come to their senses.

"The circus is almost over," he wrote. "My advice to Trump fans? Don't be the last clown out of the tent."

As Mr Trump support continued to endure despite much-touted "game-changing" gaffes, the barbs directed his way turned sharper still.

"Every sulfurous belch from the molten interior of the volcanic Trump phenomenon injures the chances of a Republican presidency," wrote establishment scion George Will of the Washington Post.

Meanwhile, grassroots conservative commentators like Breitbart's John Nolte relentlessly hammer the party "smart set" for what they see as its denigration of loyal voters who support Mr Trump.

"Listen, I'm no highly-paid, inside-inside strategist, but maybe - just maybe - instead of dismissing, marginalising, attacking, and attempting to disenfranchise Trump's supporters, the GOP could try to figure out what his appeal is and make their own appeal to those voters?" he writes.

The level of debate has descended from there, ending in an obscenity-laden Twitter war of words between Nolte, Wilson and several other conservative commentators.

All of this has some on the right wondering if the ground within their party is shifting.

"Could it be that the conservative movement is no longer driven by a coalition of fiscal conservatives, people of faith, and those concerned about foreign policy, but instead is driven by a coalition consisting of working class whites, blue collar populists, and anti-immigration hawks?" the Daily Caller's Matt K Lewis asks.

The thing is, such paradigm-shifting developments usually don't happen quietly or smoothly. Those in power want to stay there, while those aspiring to power are eager to claim it. The recent Trump television advert hitting Mr Bush for being soft on immigrant criminals is only the latest example.

And if it all seems acrimonious now, just wait to see what happens if Mr Trump starts winning primaries and caucuses next year." Images above getty via BBC.


Comment: To BBC author, for your reference, following are examples of Mr. Trump's views on international affairs which he by no means "shrugs off" as you suggest. These are from,"Donald Trump IOWA FULL SPEECH in IOWA, Dubuque - August 25, 2015," CNN feed. I've included approximate times. (As to foreign policy per se, most agree it's best conducted by actual nations. As Mr. Trump has said, a nation without borders isn't a nation.)

1. (34:15)-We don't give aid to the Kurds. We give aid to the wrong people. We give our enemies Humvees that are chrome plated. Humvees we give to our own soldiers aren't chrome plated.
2. (36:35)-A retired US general on TV said, Uh, I don't know if we can beat ISIS. That wouldn't happen under Pres. Trump.
3. (39:55), Trump mentions that Afghanistan is rich in various minerals and that China has been given rights to mine them. It doesn't make sense that Americans fight and die there as they have for over a dozen years but another country is given the mining business. 
4. (33-34min.) He wants the strongest military possible so we never have to use it.
5. (38:00) He has repeatedly stated we shouldn't have gone into Iraq, that the Iraqi government is totally corrupt. We killed and maimed Americans, spent trillions of taxpayer dollars, and Iraq is worse than ever. Trump favors a more selective use of the military than recent decades have seen.
6. (30:15) He asks why do we have fighters going into Ukraine? The US shouldn't be there.
7. (31:59) He asks why does the US have 28,000 troops in South Korea? 
8. (32:15)-If Japan is attacked, we have to help them. They don't have to help us.
9. (33:30)-We protect Saudi Arabia for nothing. 


Added: Foreign policy is best conducted not by amoebic land masses but by actual nations. As Mr. Trump states, a nation without borders isn't a nation. From Trump immigration reform positions released 8/16/15,  Donald J Trump.com: "Immigration Reform That Will Make America Great Again."

"Here are the three core principles of real immigration reform: 

1. A nation without borders is not a nation. There must be a wall across the southern border.
2. A nation without laws is not a nation. Laws passed in accordance with our Constitutional system of government must be enforced.
3. A nation that does not serve its own citizens is not a nation. Any immigration plan must improve jobs, wages and security for all Americans." 

Added from Diana West:  

8/18/15, "Trump: Giving Voice to the American "Subconscious"," Diana West

"To say the Media-Political Complex has really lost its cool over Donald Trump, also every marble, is barest understatement....

Before Trump, the American "subconscious," circa 2015, would never "originally think" a US border was possible, let alone a wall; immigration restriction was possible, let alone a halt; immigration law enforcement was possible; the deportation of illegal families was possible; restoration of American citizenship as a privilege, not a stolen good, was possible; jobs for Americans were possible; and the rest. Donald Trump, bless him, has changed the American subconscious, giving voice to Americans long conditioned into silence by this same Media-Political Complex. And there is nothing, but nothing, they can do about it now." 


2014 citation regarding Afghan mineral wealth: US taxpayers kindly financed extensive mapping of mineral locations throughout the country.  Lucrative mining contracts were then won by Chinese and Indian governments--not the US:

9/5/14, "Rare Earth: Afghanistan Sits on $1 Trillion in Minerals," nbcnews.com, Charles Q. Choi, LiveScience

"Despite being one of the poorest nations in the world, Afghanistan may be sitting on one of the richest troves of minerals in the world, valued at nearly $1 trillion, scientists say. 

Afghanistan, a country nearly the size of Texas, is loaded with minerals deposited by the violent collision of the Indian subcontinent with Asia. The U.S. Geological Survey began inspecting what mineral resources Afghanistan had after U.S.-led forces drove the Taliban from power in the country in 2004. 

In 2006, U.S. researchers flew airborne missions to conduct magnetic, gravity and hyperspectral surveys over Afghanistan. [Infographic: Facts About Rare Earth Minerals

The aerial surveys determined that Afghanistan may hold 60 million tons of copper, 2.2 billion tons of iron ore, 1.4 million tons of rare earth elements such as lanthanum, cerium and neodymium, and lodes of aluminum, gold, silver, zinc, mercury and lithium. For instance, the Khanneshin carbonatite deposit in Afghanistan's Helmand province is valued at $89 billion, full as it is with rare earth elements
"Afghanistan is a country that is very, very rich in mineral resources," geologist Jack Medlin, program manager of the USGS Afghanistan project, told LiveScience. The scientists' work was detailed in the Aug. 15 issue of the journal Science. 

In 2010, the USGS data attracted the attention of the U.S. Department of Defense's Task Force for Business and Stability Operations, which is entrusted with rebuilding Afghanistan. The task force valued Afghanistan's mineral resources at $908 billion, while the Afghan government's estimate is $3 trillion.

Over the past four years, USGS and TFBSO have embarked on dozens of excursions to confirm the aerial findings, resulting in what are essentially treasure maps for mining companies. 

The Afghan government has already signed a 30-year, $3 billion contract with the China Metallurgical Group, a state-owned mining enterprise based in Beijing, to exploit the Mes Aynak copper deposit, and awarded mining rights for the country's biggest iron deposit to a group of Indian state-run and private companies."

2013 NY Times: US is biggest source of corruption in Afghanistan:
The biggest source of corruption in Afghanistan," one American official said, "was the  United States.""...4/28/2013, NY Times


3/10/15, "Afghans can't manage billions in aid, U.S. inspector finds," Bloomberg,

"The Pentagon has provided $3.3 billion in payments to Afghan ministries since October 2010, and an additional $13 billion in such military aid is projected through 2019, three years after President Barack Obama has pledged to withdraw all but a small number of U.S. troops."...


Comment #2: For the BBC author and Daily Caller, we have Donald Trump today because our first priority is the United States, not ideology:

9/7/15, "Traitor to His Class," Julius Krein, Weekly Standard

"Trump shows that what is most in demand, however, is not ideological purity but patriotic zeal....

What Trump offers is permission to conceive of an American interest as a national interest separate from the “international community”....

Nothing is more terrifying to the elite than Trump’s embrace of a tangible American nationalism....The critical question, however, is not the source of Trump’s popularity but rather the reason his popularity is so shocking to our political culture....

Trump alone appears to understand that politics is more than policy and ideology."...


Added: Millions of Americans have been treated like garbage by both political parties for many years. Donald Trump apparently doesn't think this is right and is at a point in his life when he can do something about it. As to power, after two terms as president, he'll be closing in on age 80. It's unlikely he'll be looking to cash in on a corner office on K St.


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