Sunday, November 20, 2016


The country seems to be in a state of post-election trauma, with many Democrats in a panic and many Republicans scrambling to conjure up an illusion of political unity in which they are the key players. It must be impossible to walk past Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in New York with all the olive branches littering the sidewalk. From my point of view, though the political situation has taken a turn for the worse, it is only a minor change from one state of dysfunction to another. Instead of having a vaguely idealistic, unimaginative, conventional and ineffectual president, we will have an unprepared, egocentric and bombastic president. The checks and balances within the system, many of which are unintended, are likely to permit change only at a snail's pace, and the architecture of any change will be so flimsy as to permit its alteration or removal after a near-future election cycle. One of the inherent ironies of Trump's election is that although he seems to be ideologically pro-business, the introduction of change, and in Trump's case unpredictable change, is anathema to business, because businesses can't operate efficiently during periods of political instability.

Of course, to me the more interesting questions relate to whether the electorate is capable making good decisions in the first place, and as I've said repeatedly I don't think that it is. Rather than rehashing that, I've been thinking about what, if anything, has been different about this election, and there have been a few things. The main one has been the effect on the election by different kinds of individuals. Everyone is used to the influence of money in elections, and the narrative had been that corporations, with the help of the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court, and special interest groups such as the Israel lobby influence election results by providing funds for advertising and campaign organization. This time Trump won mainly with free publicity, which is still a case of corporate interests affecting election outcomes, but not as they usually do, because the media corporations responsible did not have a plan to promote Trump and were merely filling their coffers with revenues that he inadvertently generated for them. Some of the other players have been more sinister. It is difficult to know exactly how the Hillary Clinton email controversy emerged and to what extent it was a coordinated effort. It seems to have started as a conventional Republican tactic to discredit a probable Democratic presidential candidate well before the election. As Bernie Sanders said, it is a non-issue, and if I didn't already know how ignorant many voters are I would find it difficult to understand how it had any impact, but Republican strategists are well aware that if they repeat something often enough millions of people will believe it. The whole "Hillary is a crook" message is so obviously contrived and false that one can only be amazed that millions of voters believed it. The sinister elements of this message relate to the probable hacking by Russia under the direction of Putin, the release of emails by WikiLeaks and the timing of announcements by the FBI. It seems likely that Putin, and perhaps WikiLeaks and insiders at the FBI all attempted to tilt the election toward Trump, and they succeeded.

What is new, then, is an effective disinformation campaign implemented with new technology by a foreign sponsor for its own strategic purposes. As far as Julian Assange is concerned, he seems to be a minor megalomaniac who is unlikely to have a significant long-term influence on world events. Of greater concern is Vladimir Putin, who sought and got the president he wanted. Also of concern is the possibility of intentional disruption of the Clinton campaign by the FBI. Presumably there will be investigations to follow. Unfortunately, the underlying problem was and still is the inability of voters to make informed decisions, and there is no quick fix for that. If voters knew what they were doing it would have been impossible for Trump to win under any circumstances, given that he has no experience and is a proven liar.

I hope to avoid writing much about politics, because I find it boring – like being forced to watch reality TV endlessly. It took me a couple of years to get sick of Obama, and even though Trump hasn't even taken office yet the image of him already makes me cringe. For the time being I will escape into literature and will be starting to read The Melancholy of Resistance, by László Krasznahorkai, to that end.

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