Ship of Fools: What Trump Teaches

Yes, I was surprised. Since I spend a lot of time in western Pennsylvania, I knew there was more support for Trump than the media let on, but he just seemed too incompetent, incoherent, and disorganized a candidate to defeat the Clinton machine. I enjoyed torturing my friend who has been very close to Hillary for decades with scary stories about Trump surging. But in our early election day texting, I confessed that I thought it would be called for Hillary by 11PM at the latest. I was as wrong as everyone else.

I did not vote for either Hillary or Trump, and was resigned to taking my chances with either horrible outcome, but I was implicitly anticipating the dangers of a Clinton administration. I also thought, however, that there might be one positive effect of Hillary’s presidency. Contrary to what might be considered the usual leftist line that electing the explicitly ultra-reactionary Trump would foment the revolution, or at least radical discontent, I thought that, in the American context, Hillary being president would help the left the most.

If Trump wins, I argued, and his policies fail miserably and obviously, Democrats and liberals would spend the next four years saying: “See, you should have voted for Hillary,” and channeling oppositional energy into a familiar anti-Trump, anti-Republican, “Let’s make sure we elect a Democrat in 2020” politics—as we saw after Bush’s election in 2000. The Democrats would once again present themselves as the system’s way out.

On the other hand, I thought that, if Hillary were to win and wreak her expected havoc on America and the world, Democrats and liberals would not be able to blame the Republicans. It would be the left that could say “See what you voted for?” The system would have failed in its Democratic guise. Because this might finally persuade more progressive-minded people to break with the Democratic Party once and for all. it was Hillary’s presidency, not Trump’s, that would open new paths for the left.

Now we have Donald Trump as president. His election is a disgrace, and we know what a disaster his administration will be for the country and the world. Mr. Anti-establishment, “drain the swamp,” tribune of the forgotten, is already filling up his clown car cabinet with the same-old tired Republican reactionaries and incompetents (Sarah Palin, Giluliani, Christie, Bolton), not to mention turning to industry and Wall Street lobbyists (and here) and, of course, Goldman Sachs (Steven Mnuchin) to run the Treasury. As business news site Quartz so aptly headlines: Trump criticized Clinton for her Wall Street ties, but he’s the best thing to happen to big banks.

Just as with Hillary, there’s the (fake) public position, and then there’s the (real) private position, and Trump’s betrayal of whichever working-class voters thought he would be their savior has already begun. Let’s hope they don’t cling to their illusions about him as long as foolish liberals have clung to theirs about Obama.

So the task for the left is to organize and fight—against every piece of crap policy Trump and his crew try to foist on us, and for a different political world. No doubt. But here’s where my fears about President Donald as opposed to President Hillary are already making me shudder. If our idea of organizing is to spend the next four years in a hashtag “opposition” movement (#FightTrump), managed and funded by the Democrats and their favored oligarchs, in order to mobilize support for the 2020 candidacy of an Elizabeth Warren, a Cory Booker, or a Lin-Manuel Miranda (Who can’t see that coming?)—the next capitalist-imperialist identity-politics candidate—then we will have learned nothing.

As I write, the pressing question for many is whom to name as the next DNC Chair: Howard Dean or Keith Ellison. Who the hell cares? If our idea of organizing is to reform the Democratic Party—get the right guy or gal in charge—we will have learned nothing. The Democratic Party is a counter-revolutionary center-right capitalist party, and the DNC Chair is an employee of the donors. The problems we are facing, and the solutions we need to fight for, are way more radical than anything the Democratic Party will ever consider. If we haven’t learned this, we’ve learned nothing.

Even just considering electoral politics in the most basic democratic terms, we need to fight for the elimination of the electoral college, a transparent and trustworthy voting system, some form of Instant Runoff Voting, an end to voter caging and suppression, public financing, and access of third parties to debates, the media, and ballots in all states. Is the Democratic Party going to fight for any of that?

Did nobody notice that Trump, for whom only 27% of the eligible electorate voted, actually lost the popular vote by more than 500,000, and maybe more than two million, votes? By the only salient democratic measure of the people’s will, Hillary Clinton won the election. So how is the country all racist and/or sexist? If the Electoral College didn’t exist, would any of Hillary’s supporters be excoriating the 2016 voting electorate for its racism and misogyny, or would they be congratulating that electorate—the very same electorate with the very same result—for its embrace of diversity? White Supremacy didn’t defeat Hillary; the Electoral College did.

Wouldn’t it make more sense for Hillary supporters, instead of complaining about the imputed racist and/or misogynist attitudes of those who didn’t vote for her, to champion the cause of the majority who did, and focus on agitating for the reforms that are needed to make our electoral system actually democratic?

This is not revolutionary, but simple democratic, politics, but it implies the need for a difficult fight for serious changes. Does anyone think the Democratic Party, which so worships the system that it respectfully accepted having a couple of presidential elections stolen from it, is up for even that?

And that’s not counting the hard problems, the socio-economic problems.

Yes, there’s plenty of racism, misogyny, and xenophobia all across the United States, including among those low-income rural white voters in Pennsylvania who voted for Obama in 2008 and flipped to Trump this year. Trump personally has a history of trafficking in such vile attitudes, and his campaign certainly did. Everyone must fight them whenever and wherever they appear, and they will be a central target—along with his militarism, imperialism and authoritarianism—of left opposition to the Trump administration.

But those attitudes existed in western Pennsylvania and the rest of the country in 2008 and 2012, too. Why were there five million fewer votes for Clinton this year than Obama in 2012? Why did over 90% of counties that voted for Obama either in 2008 or 2012, and one third who voted for him in both elections, vote for Trump this year? Six states flipped from Obama to Trump. Is the only salient fact about this Obama-Trump voting bloc that it’s racist?

Trump got a whole 1% more of the white vote than Romney. Why did Hillary get a lower share of African-American (-7%) and Latino (-6%) votes than Obama did in 2012, while Trump got a higher share of both (+2%) than did Romney? Most importantly, why did 45% of the electorate stay home?

If we don’t seriously confront the fact that many of those millions of voters who switched from Obama to Trump, or to their couches, did so because of the failures of eight years of a Democratic administration, we will learn nothing.

This wasn’t a sudden switch, and it wasn’t personal. As Nicole Aschoff and Bhaskar Sunkara point out, over the eight years of the Obama administration, “Democrats have lost almost a thousand state-legislature seats, a dozen gubernatorial races, 69 House seats and 13 in the Senate.” This year, they lost the presidency and the Senate.

That’s an extended slide into disaffection. It would be foolish to think it was because voters took a few years to notice the color of Barack’s skin. It would be supremely foolish not to consider that white working-class voters in Rust Belt states switched to Republican—and black and Latino working-class voters stayed home—because eight years of the Obama administration did nothing to stop the ongoing destruction of their lives and communities. It would be foolish not to recognize that Obama did not deliver the change he was promised, the change those voters of all races voted for—in 2008 and in declining numbers in 2012. It would be foolish to refuse to consider that this year’s rejection of Hillary was because they knew she was going to continue ignoring them in the same way.

Do we notice what’s happened to Detroit and Flint, and to the hundreds of exurban communities surrounding cities like that? Or do we just notice how mellifluously and rhetorically correctly it was done? Do we really think five million people who voted for Obama, some twice, did not vote for Hillary because they all want to go around grabbing pussy, rather than because of what’s been happening to them for the last eight years?

Sure, there are plenty of pissed-off white people. Should there not be? Should working-class whites—and every other working-class constituency, and all of their progressive allies—not be furious that their lives have been destroyed over the past thirty years by what Paul Street calls “a relentless top-down class war on their livelihoods, unions, and standard of living,” and over the past eight years by the largest transfer of wealth in the history of the country to the top ten-thousandth of the population? Should they not bridle at the infinite increase in military spending and the endless series of wars to which their children are sent, which have no discernible interest for them? Should they not be livid at the utterly corrupt private health insurance system, now called Obamacare, that is flaying them to death with increasing premiums, co-pays, and deductibles, for fewer coverage options?

Should middle-aged white Americans not object when they have been struck by one of the starkest indicators of a group that’s been relegated to the social wastebin: “Unlike every other age group, unlike every other racial and ethnic group, unlike their counterparts in other rich countries, death rates in this group have been rising, not falling.” As two Dartmouth economists remark: “It is difficult to find modern settings with survival losses of this magnitude.…Only H.I.V./AIDS in contemporary times has done anything like this.”

This is the kind of scourge that happens when a population has been discarded and has lost hope, as have “Millions of once ‘productively employed’ white working class people … [who have] become ‘surplus Americans’ in a time when Silicon Valley geniuses soberly design the near total elimination of manual labor and intellectuals debate the coming of ‘a world without work.’”

Liberals delight in perplexing about how working-class Republican voters can be too ignorant to realize how they’re being conned by oligarchs in populist drag. It’s the process Christopher Hitchens, in his better days, called “the essence of American politics…the manipulation of populism by elitism,” and Paul Street restates as: “the cloaking of plutocratic agendas, of service to the rich and powerful, in the false rebels’ clothing of popular rebellion.” We’ve seen this repeatedly, and Trump is the latest example.

But perhaps those liberals should perplex in the mirror. As Steve Hendricks points out:

For decades now, we liberals have been shaking our heads in wonder at the working stiffs who give the rich pashas atop the GOP their votes. There’s hardly a liberal alive who can’t recite what’s the matter with Kansas: the parable of the downtrodden whites in their double-wides, so enraged by their dwindling slice of the American pie that they vote for hucksters…[who] go off to D.C. and sock it to the suckers who sent them there — shipping their jobs abroad, rigging the tax code against them, gutting their schools, taking swipes at their Social Security and Medicare.

But here’s an equally pathetic farce you don’t hear about much: Democrats are just as conned…Ask a group of liberals what they want in a candidate, and you’ll get a sketch of a champion who will fight for income equality, rein in big banks, defeat ruinous trade agreements, restore our battered civil liberties, look to diplomacy before war, and stop the devastation of our climate. Sure enough, in every election year Democratic candidates come along peddling such wares as these, and the winners go off to D.C. and sock it to the suckers who sent them… Any leftist who wonders why her voice isn’t heard in Washington shouldn’t be asking what’s the matter with Kansas. She should be asking what’s the matter with New York.

Conservative Kansans fall for a plutocratic, imperialist agenda cloaked in patriotism, religion, and nostalgia for the good old Ed Sullivan days; liberal New Yorkers fall for the same plutocratic, imperialist agenda dressed up in multiculturalism, identity politics, and celebration of the good new Caitlin Jenner days. Who’s the bigger fool? How’s that working out for everybody? For the millions of victims of that top-down, plutocratic class war — in the ghettos of the cities and the hollows of Appalachia? For the Syrians, Iraqis, and Libyans, whose countries have been destroyed? Ad infinitum.

Yes, the voters who switched from Barack to Donald are fools for thinking that Trump is going to help them in any way, but they are not fools for thinking that Hillary Clinton would not have.

And how smart or foolish is it to think the thing to do now is to try and persuade them on the next version of Hillary, Clinton 3.0 (Obama was 2.0)—which is all the Democratic Party is going to offer them. This bouncing back and forth between phony, mendacious saviors—from “hope and change” to “make America great again”—while ignoring, or posing false solutions to, the fundamental socio-economic forces ripping the country apart, is the characteristic of American liberal-conservative, Democratic-Republican, politics. It suffers a lot of fools.

The problems that America faces, that cause so much frustration and rage, are now deep and persistent, and will require solutions that will be very radical in the American context. But they’ll have to be, as the man said, as radical as reality. American workers are not suffering just because of trade agreements and offshoring. By some measures, 88% of jobs were lost to robots and other labor-saving devices. Tax incentive might bring some factories come back, but neither the Donald nor the Democrats can bring back jobs from China that don’t exist. China now has “zero labor” factories that run 24/7 with the lights off. When thousands of truck drivers lose their jobs, those self-driving Uber vehicles will still be zipping around American interstates, and the profits will be driven into pockets in Silicon Valley, without a pit stop in Beijing. As Barry Lando points out, we are in the midst of a “perfect storm of technology” that “will lead to a net loss of over 5 million jobs in 15 major developed and emerging economies by 2020.”

So it’s the entire architecture of capitalism that has to be questioned—the whole issue of who produces wealth and who appropriates it, and what kind of social order would do that justice. All the issues raised by that pesky guy who keeps returning, “yesterday and today.” There is no avoiding it. This is a moment requiring very radical thinking and action. No more half-assed tinkering.

The radicalism will come, either from the right or from the left, but it will come. Correction: It is coming from the right; the left better make another kind of radicalism real. And this is going to require—not, pace Barack, an “intramural scrimmage,” but a knock-down fight on behalf of everybody in the bottom 90% of the country, a fight in which we must force the ruling class to lose wealth and power.

That’s also going to require the American left, such as it is, to make a serious examination of the relationship between identity politics and class politics—a relationship that, for the last thirty years, has been a function of most of the American left’s management by, and submission to, the Democratic Party as a party of capital. The effective hegemony of the Democratic Party over left-liberal discourse and strategizing has created and enforced, as Adolph Reed, Jr. puts it, a “moral economy” that implicitly accepts as just: “a society in which 1% of the population controlled 90% of the resources…, provided that roughly 12% of the 1% were black, 12% were Latino, 50% were women, and whatever the appropriate proportions were LGBT people.” This is equal-opportunity capitalist identity politics, and it’s been pursued—time to be honest—at the expense of class politics. Or, as Reed puts it more sharply: “it is [itself] a class politics, the politics of the left-wing of neoliberalism.”

To fight Trump and all he represents, we need to join the well-honed commitment to racial and gender equality with an invigorated, inclusive, and pointedly anti-capitalist class politics, which will hurt ruling class interests, prerogatives, and power, and which the Democratic Party will therefore do everything in its power to steer us away from.

The intensification of inequality—which even a mainstream Keynesian economist like Piketty understands is an intrinsic tendency of capitalism—will only get exponentially worse, given the dynamic of automated productivity discussed above. In this context, we’re facing questions that might seem utopian, but they are urgent necessities for any kind of just society. Why should the wealth deriving from the fantastic new sources of productivity not be appropriated and distributed socially, allowing for less work and greater social security for everyone?

There will, in fact, be no way to substantially and permanently improve the lives of the discarded and enraged—of all colors and genders—without changing our social economy from one in which the first priority is that individuals are entitled to accumulate as much wealth as possible, to one in which the first priority is that everyone has economic security and social dignity. And that’s a radical change that will demand a fight.

We have to start by fighting for things like: universal single-payer healthcare, steep, frankly redistributive progressive taxation (as we had in the 50s, bordering on a “maximum income” policy), a complete overhaul of the electoral process, expansion of Social Security, free public higher education and a cancelling of student debt, and an end to ceaseless wars for the defense industries and for Israel (and, yes, you have to say that last bit, or go back to scrimmaging). Then we have to go on to demand guaranteed jobs and income for all.

These demands have to, and can, be made in a way that’s direct and easily understood. Single-payer is simpler to explain than Obamacare because single-payer isn’t hiding conflicting popular and profit interests. Sure, there will be fights over how to pay for them, and those fights will be opportunities to learn about and dispel economic myths (including the myth that taxes pay for government programs, but that’s another story). These measures do not add up to socialism, but they will move toward a socialist reorganization of society, and should be promoted frankly as such.

Yes, it is time for affirmative action for the entire working class, and that is socialism.

Tell me how impossible all this is, how the entire ruling class and establishment media will mobilize against it. You mean like how impossible it was for Donald Trump to become President?

Here’s the first lesson everyone on the left should learn from Donald Trump: All these formidable establishment powers are not as omnipotent as they have fooled us into thinking they are. If you have a movement and a leadership which actually, forthrightly, fights for the things that will improve the lives of everyone except the top 10%, and mobilizes the bottom 90%, things suddenly become possible.

That kind of leadership will never come from the committed-to-capitalism Democratic Party (yes, including Elizabeth Warren).

Of course, we will not get all of these things at once, but getting even one would be a major reversal of fortune—a step, finally, in the right direction. Let’s take the one example of single-payer healthcare. You couldn’t ask for a better issue. Obamacare is collapsing on its own deceptive contradictions, and Trump and the Republicans are promising to “replace” it. But the only thing you can replace it with that won’t be worse is a single-payer system. This is not that hard to explain. Medicare, an enormously popular program, is right there as an example. Indeed, the fight for single-payer is going will be the way to prevent the privatization of Medicare.

There can be no left progressive movement of any worth in the Untied States that doesn’t start fighting right now for a single-payer, universal coverage health insurance program, And no movement that’s managed by Hillary and the “Never, ever” Democrats will do that. That’s why progressives and leftists should spend zero minutes fretting over who will become Soros and Saban’s next towel boy or girl at the DNC. Ignore them, and just wage the damn fight.

The second lesson that Trump has shoved our face into is more sobering: The left has failed. As Reed puts it, again: “The crucial tasks for a committed left in the United States now are to admit that no politically effective force exists and to begin trying to create one.” For the reasons cited above and many others, the left in America is a political non-entity. When the Libertarians, led by Mr. “Who’s Aleppo?” win three times the vote of Jill Stein and the Greens, it’s telling us something about the extensive hold of capitalist ideology. It’s that thing I hear when my working-class Latino Facebook friend and my renowned female doctor in one of the nation’s premier medical research facilities, both tell me they voted for Trump because: “He’s a business man, and he knows how to create the jobs. He tells it like it is.” That’s the pop-culture, Apprentice-Shark Tank flavor of capitalist ideology that helped to elect Trump, and that we are a long way from overcoming.

Of course, this is not a fixed position. The success of the Bernie Sanders campaign, and the increasing attractiveness of the socialist idea to millennials, demonstrate that there are real possibilities. But Bernie’s capitulation, and his refusal to run on the Green ticket, betrayed what I think was a very real possibility to spread left-oppositional ideas across the political map. It’s very possible that Bernie could have beaten Trump. And even if Bernie had lost on a third-party line, he would likely have gotten enough of the vote to change the political conversation going forward in important ways.

That opportunity for the American left was lost to Bernie’s TINA conviction: There Is No Alternative—to the Democratic Party. His choice was a trailing shadow of the opportunity that Syriza lost in Greece last year, because, as I pointed out in previous essays, the Syriza leadership could not imagine their way out of the European version of TINA (explicitly: No Alternative to capitalism).

In Europe and America, the capitulation of an incipient populist left paves the way for a populist right. Political actors like Bernie and Syriza are so convinced that if they fight for the left they’ll lose to the right, that they revert to fighting for a center that no longer exists—and the right wins anyway. It doesn’t make one terribly hopeful. We’ve already lost a couple of precious opportunities. Let’s not lose any others.

Ironically, it is Donald Trump who has demonstrated—albeit in a Bizarro, demented way—the political truth of the old May ’68 slogan: Demand the impossible

If we don’t want to do that? Well, America is now a ship of fools, with Donald at the helm. Enjoy the ride.

  • Published in Specials

5th Day of Anti-Trump Protests Rage on Across the US

“People are upset. And they want to express … strong disagreement with Mr. Trump, who has made bigotry the cornerstone of his campaign,” Bernie Sanders said of protesters.
 
From San Francisco to St. Louis, Denver to Detroit, the 5th day of protests against U.S. President-elect Donald Trump continue to permeate across the nation.
 

In Manhattan, protesters carried placards in both English and Spanish, chanting maxims such as "Hate won't make us great!" and "We are here to stay!" as they swarmed the president-elect’s Midtown penthouse home. Secret Service agents and NYPD officers blocked off demonstrators from getting too close.

On the other side of the country, around 8000 people marched in Los Angeles to condemn Trump’s hate speech.

A couple hundred people gathered on the steps of the Washington state capitol.​, chanting "not my president!" and "no Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA!"

In Tennessee, Vanderbilt University students sang civil rights songs, marching through campus, crossing into a Nashville street, and temporarily blocked traffic.

In Portland, police arrested 71 protesters on Saturday and Sunday morning after several days of demonstrations.

“The president of the United States, Secretary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, perhaps, others can come forward and ask for calm and ask for a peaceful transition and ask their supporters, which are masquerading as protesters now — many of them professional and paid by the way, I’m sure — ask them to give this man a chance so that this country can flourish,” Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told Fox News Sunday.

While neither Clinton or Obama have specifically called for an end to protests, both have issued complacent decrees about the incoming president.

Obama told Trump at the White House on Thursday that he was going to help Trump succeed, "because if you succeed, then the country succeeds."

Clinton said to supporters at a New York hotel on Wednesday: "Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead."

Sanders, however, has openly supported protesters.

RELATED: Thousands Still Protest 'Fascist' Trump Across US Cities​

“We have a First Amendment. People are angry. People are upset. And they want to express their point of view that they are very frightened, in very, very strong disagreement with Mr. Trump, who has made bigotry the cornerstone of his campaign,” he told USA Today. “I think that people are saying, ‘Mr. Trump, we have come too far in this country fighting discrimination and bigotry. We’re not going back. And if you’re going to continue that effort, you’re going to have to take us on.’”

  • Published in World

Trump Eases Tone of Criticisms of Obamacare

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump on Sunday eased the tone of his criticisms of the so-called Obamacare, a healthcare program that he promised to eliminate and that he is proposing to improve now.

The New York tycoon told The Wall Street Journal that he will work on the Accessible Care Act boosted by President Barack Obama, a program that Trump considers too expensive to be implemented.

However, the future president assured that he would seek in the Act the regulations that are worth implementing, including the protection of people affected by some conditions who do not have access to health insurance.

Trump admitted that President Obama urged him to think about it when they met on Thursday, after his victory in the elections over Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, who would continue Obama's social policies.

  • Published in World

Green Day 'fully support' anti-Trump protests

Rock group Green Day say they "fully support" the protests against US president elect Donald Trump.

"I don't think any of us were prepared for Donald Trump to be president," singer Billie Joe Armstrong told the BBC.

"I think there's going to come a time when the protests get larger and larger - and that I fully support."

The star, who has been an outspoken critic of Mr Trump, said he felt like his "country is being set on fire".

Protests against a Trump presidency have broken out across the US, with demonstrations in New York, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Baltimore and San Francisco.

Twenty-six people were arrested in Portland, Oregon on Thursday night after violence broke out amongst demonstrators.

Green Day were in London when the Republican's victory was announced, shortly after they collected the Global Icon award at Sunday's MTV Europe Awards in Rotterdam.

Speaking to the BBC on Friday afternoon, 44-year-old Armstrong said the news was still sinking in - but refused to criticise Green Day fans who voted for Mr Trump.

"If there's anybody who, because of this election, feels like marginalised in any way, those are the people I feel the most sympathy for.

"So whether you're black, brown, white, gay, straight, trans, Muslim - those are the people I want to rally with."

A Green Day concert is a "safe house for anyone who feels marginalised" he added.

'Find a solution'

Formed in 1986, Green Day have been one of the most political bands of their generation, notably on the 2004 album American Idiot, which expressed anger at the war in Iraq and the presidency of George W Bush.

Their latest album, Revolution Radio, debuted at number one last month, and tackles topics including America's mass shootings and the Black Lives Matter movement.

"I write songs when I'm confused or scratching my head and asking why things are happening in the world," Armstrong said.

"You're trying to make sense of what's going on and what's happening to you - and somehow through it you can find kindred spirits or a solution."

However, he said he had been unable to write since the US election.

"It's really hard to laugh when you're scared."

  • Published in Culture

Robert De Niro says he can't punch Donald trump since he's US President now

Hollywood actor Robert De Niro, who had said that he wanted to punch President-elect Donald Trump in the face, has now said that he can't do so since Trump has been elected as the 45th President of the United States.

"I can't do that now he's president. And I have to respect that position. I just have to see what he's going to do and how he's going to follow through on certain things. And as we even see now in a lot of cities, there's a lot of people getting very upset and protesting," De Niro said on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live! show when the host asked if the actor would still punch Trump in the face.

"Are you still going to punch Donald Trump in the face because you could now get arrested for that, I think?" Kimmel had asked the actor.

De Niro, who appeared on the show on Wednesday night to talk about Trump's surprise victory, had earlier released a video in which he called the new president-elect "an idiot, a national disaster, an embarrassment to this country ... this fool, this bozo."

The video, released in October, also led to an argument with Republican supporter Jon Voight who was called "delusional" by De Niro for supporting Trump.

Kimmel asked De Niro whether the effect of the protests was opposite of what was expected or desired: "I'm sure President Obama is speaking from his own personal experience when he didn't get a lot of support and he's saying, 'Hey, we have to ... you know, we're all on the same team.' But occasionally teammates do punch each other in the face."

De Niro replied saying: "Maybe he [Obama] will when he sees him."

The actor also joked that he might have to use his Italian citizenship: "I'll probably have to move there."

  • Published in Culture

Rubber Bullets and Fear: Trump Protesters Flood Streets Anew

From New York to Illinois to California, in red states and blue, protesters decrying Donald Trump's election spent another night overtaking highways, smashing store windows, igniting fires and in at least one city, facing pepper spray and rubber projectiles from police trying to clear the streets.

The demonstrations stretched into a third straight night Thursday and came to a head in Portland, Oregon, where thousands of marchers chanted, "We reject the president-elect!" while some lit firecrackers, sparked small blazes and used rocks and baseball bats to break the glass of businesses and vehicles parked at dealerships.

Officers began pushing back against the crowd that threw glass bottles and a trash can, making 26 arrests and using flash-bang devices and pepper spray to force people to disperse. The protest's organizer on Friday decried the vandalism and said the group planned to help clean up.

In Los Angeles, protests were mostly peaceful, but 185 people were arrested, mostly for blocking streets, Officer Norma Eisenman said. An officer was injured near police headquarters, leading to one arrest, but Eisenman had no details about the circumstances or the injury. The officer was released after treatment.

The persisting protests led Trump himself to fire back, tweeting: "Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!"

H01 anti trump protest

His supporters also took to social media to accuse protesters of sour grapes and refusing to respect the democratic process, though there were no significant counterprotests.

In Portland, police termed the protest a riot after some 4,000 people surged into the downtown area. After giving several orders to leave, officers fired rubber baton rounds. It was not clear if anyone was hurt.

In Denver, protesters made their way onto Interstate 25, stopping traffic for about a half-hour. They also briefly shut down highways in Minneapolis and Los Angeles.

In downtown San Francisco, high school students called out "not my president" as they marched, holding signs urging a Trump eviction. They waved rainbow banners and Mexican flags, as bystanders in the heavily Democratic city gave them high-fives.

"As a white, queer person, we need unity with people of color, we need to stand up," said Claire Bye, a 15-year-old sophomore at Academy High School. "I'm fighting for my rights as an LGBTQ person. I'm fighting for the rights of brown people, black people, Muslim people."

Nearby in Oakland, a group got into some shoving matches with police and 11 people were arrested. Protesters lit street fires, smashed windows and sprayed graffiti on at least seven businesses.

In New York City and Chicago, large groups gathered outside Trump Tower. In New York, they chanted angry slogans and waved banners bearing anti-Trump messages. Police still stood guard Friday on Fifth Avenue.

"You got everything straight up and down the line," demonstrator David Thomas said. "You got climate change, you got the Iran deal. You got gay rights, you got mass deportations. Just everything, straight up and down the line, the guy is wrong on every issue."

In Philadelphia, protesters near City Hall held signs saying, "Not Our President," ''Trans Against Trump" and "Make America Safe For All." Officers on bikes blocked traffic for a march that spanned four street lanes and drew parents with children in strollers.

Jeanine Feito, 23, held a sign reading, "Not 1 more deportation." The Temple University student said she acknowledges Trump as president-elect but does not accept it.

"I'm Cuban-American. My parents are immigrants, and I'm also a woman. These are things Trump doesn't stand for," Feito said. "He's bullied us, discriminated against us, is racist and encourages violence. I think it's important we stand together and fight against this."

About 500 people turned out at a protest in Louisville, Kentucky, while hundreds in Baltimore marched to the stadium where the Ravens were playing a football game.

  • Published in World

With Trump as president & Republican Congress, 22mn people could lose health insurance

The Republican victory, giving candidate Donald Trump the keys to the White House and with the party itself retaining dominance in Congress, could become a death-blow for Obamacare. Some 22 million people could lose their health insurance.

Both Trump and the Republicans en masse have repeatedly slammed the current healthcare system, Barack Obama’s signature Obamacare (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act). For six years now they have been making calls for the act to be repealed, but so far only managed to pass several bills amending it.

The criticism skyrocketed two weeks ago when the Obama administration announced that  premiums will be further increased next year, while the choice of insurers will be cut by half.

Now it could all change, and soon, experts say.

They have a death blow to the Obamacare health coverage expansion,” John McDonough, a Harvard University professor who worked in the Senate on the passage of the Affordable Care Act  Vox news outlet. 

Under Obamacare, the government requires most people to have health insurance, provides subsidies of billions of dollars in premiums, and imposes fines for those uninsured. It was passed in 2010 aiming to lower the cost of healthcare and make it more affordable for lower-income Americans. But the faults that surfaced in the system once it came into law have sparked a lot of criticism, with Republicans having dubbed it “dishonest.”

Any honest agenda for improving healthcare must start with repeal of the dishonestly named Affordable Care Act of 2010: Obamacare. It weighs like the dead hand of the past upon American medicine. It imposed a Euro-style bureaucracy to manage its unworkable, budget-busting, conflicting provisions. It has driven up prices for all consumers […] It drove up drug prices […] It must be removed and replaced with an approach based on genuine competition, patient choice, excellent care, wellness, and timely access to treatment,” the GOP platform , promising further to repeal the system if a Republican enters the Oval Office.

To that end, a Republican president, on the first day in office, will use legitimate waiver authority under the law to halt its advance and then, with the unanimous support of Congressional Republicans, will sign its repeal.

Trump himself has  repeatedly that repealing Obamacare, which he called a “complete disaster,” would be his first act in office.

If we don't repeal and replace Obamacare, we will destroy American health care forever,” Trump said at a rally in Pennsylvania last week.

Outlining plans for his first 100 days in the White House a week before the election, he also swore to replace it with a health savings accounts program.

On Day One of the Trump Administration, we will ask Congress to immediately deliver a full repeal of Obamacare,” Trump’s website states.

However, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that if this happens, 22 million people would lose their health insurance, mostly the people who had attained coverage for the first time as the law cancelled pre-existing conditions and expanded Medicaid to cover more low-income Americans. Especially as Trump himself does not have a healthcare platform to replace Obamacare with.

Practically, you can’t turn everything off immediately,” Chris Condeluci, tax and benefits counselor for the Senate Finance Committee's Republicans during the Affordable Care Act debate, told Vox. “The GOP doesn’t want to get beat up over kicking 20 million people off of insurance.”

To avoid this “beating,” in 2015 the Republicans drafted bill HR 3762 that would make the transition from Obamacare to another system smoother. The bill would repeal Obamacare’s tax credits for low- and middle-income Americans to purchase insurance by the end of 2017 and end the system’s Medicaid expansion, which will automatically create a two-year transition period, when Americans would still be able to enjoy health insurance coverage and authorities would be able to consider options to replace Obamacare. The problem, experts say, is that there is no alternative to replace it quickly.

“I don’t think the two [repeal and replace] would come in tandem,” Condeluci stated. “Replace needs to be litigated to a greater degree than it has before.”

The Republicans did  a document outlining their Obamacare replacement plan this summer, which envisions a number of health policy proposals. But it is not in legislative form.

I would envision Trump looking to Congress to drive the replace process, just as the Obama administration did with the Affordable Care Act,” Condeluci said.

I am going to take care of everybody,” Trump  in an interview to CBS’ 60 Minutes last year. “I don’t care if it costs me votes or not. Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now.”

With no replacement plan to speak of, however, critics doubt whether Trump’s administration will stick to its promise.

  • Published in World

Don’t Mourn Hillary’s Loss

We are all tired. Exhausted from what feels like years of election mania. First the primaries, the hilarious, made-for-TV Republican debates, the Democratic talk shows, the Sanders revolt to the months of boring presidential squabbles between Hillary and The Donald. The FBI. The emails. The groping. It’s finally over. Time to exhale.

Election Day has come and gone and we are now sitting in an ugly new era, stunned that the Trump revolution won, and won big. Hillary Clinton and whatever she actually stood for, lost. And lost bad. Far worse than any polls suggested, even the few that had Trump squeaking out a victory.

There will be plenty of blame flying around in the weeks and months ahead. Yet, no matter what bullshit excuse Democrats come up with for Hillary’s historic embarrassment, they have only themselves to blame. She lost because she deserved to lose. She ran an awful campaign, mired in controversy, and was unable to excite voters to the polls. She believed neoliberalism could carry the day, but she was wrong. The DNC was wrong. The establishment lost because the establishment deserved its fate.

By no means does this mean Trump will overthrow the status quo, it only means the outsider Trump was better able to exploit the boiling rage of middle America. All the workers who were undercut by Bill Clinton’s NAFTA. The hundreds of thousands that never rebounded from the Bush recession. Trump provided an outlet of hope for these lost souls – a fabricated hope no doubt, but hope nonetheless – wrapped in rage. His mastery of social media, of vindictive and racist rhetoric, helped him gut the provincial electorate. Against all odds, against allegations of sexual misconduct, against common sense, being anti-Trump wasn’t enough to get Hillary elected.

In many ways, Hillary was her own worst enemy – a poor campaigner, a flat platform and only an ounce more personality than her VP pick Tim Kaine (and that’s not saying much).

With no ground game, far less money than the Democrats, nearly zero endorsements from Hollywood and the media, Trump still prevailed. Somehow he understood a fair portion of the American psyche better than Hillary ever could. It seemed she learned little from the branding genius of Barack Obama or the accessibility of her husband Bill. By night’s end it was clear she gleaned nothing from Bernie Sanders’s movement and cared little about his searing critiques of Wall Street and our corrupt political system that’s left so many behind.

Being against Trump, in the end, was not nearly enough.

The years ahead will be telling. How will Democrats respond to a Trump presidency? Will they view it as an opportunity to reimagine themselves in a progressive light, or will they continue to believe neoliberalism and identity politics are enough to win elections?

Don’t hold your breath.

In the end, progressives shouldn’t be depressed by this election’s outcome (and I’m not talking about legal weed in California and elsewhere). They should be invigorated. They should be ready for a fight. Where the left failed to oppose the most sordid policies of the Obama administration, from drone strikes to the dreadful ObamaCare, perhaps progressives will be awakened under Trump’s reign and fill the streets in disgust at every turn.

One can only hope. Hope and rage against the new machine.

  • Published in Specials
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