Choosing between two devils


The problem with running a general election campaign against Donald Trump is that he is all over the place on the issues. He has made it a practice, whether by design or inadvertently I don’t know, of either speaking in broad generalities that could mean anything or reversing his previous stands and then reversing them yet again or suggesting that nothing is fixed and everything is open to negotiation. The only thing he seems to be consistent on is his claim that he can deliver on his promises, even as the promises themselves keep changing or are unclear.

This will make it hard for the Democratic nominee to pin a target on him. They can, and undoubtedly will, focus on his inconsistencies. They will highlight his statements that are contemptuous of women and minorities. But in the personality-based candidacy that is Trump, it seems unlikely that his supporters will care since they have stayed with him this far despite all this information being out there. The key question is whether he can win over those who may have not so far been paying much attention to the election. It may seem incredible to people like me who follow politics closely, but there are undoubtedly large numbers of voters who don’t start thinking about the election until after the conventions are over, if then, and at this time may have only a hazy idea of who the main contenders for the presidency are or what they stand for.

Trump has said things that deviate from Republican orthodoxy on trade policy, economic issues (he does not want to cut Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid, has shown little interest in cutting the debt or government spending, and has indicated support for universal health care coverage), is less hardline about social issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, and transgender issues, and is more isolationist on foreign policy. But his positions are written in sand and what he has said in the past may not be what he says tomorrow.

When it comes to the last issue, Trump has already criticized Hillary Clinton as a warmonger which means that if she were the eventual Democratic nominee, the Democratic party will be in the unusual position of having as their flag bearer the more war-friendly candidate. If Bernie Sanders is the Democratic nominee, it will be much harder for Trump to attack him from the left and so the choice will be much clearer.

If Clinton in the Democratic nominee in this election, we have the classic choice between the devil you know and the devil you don’t know. With Clinton we pretty much know what we are getting. She has a pro-war neoconservative foreign policy, is pro-Wall Street, pro-‘free trade’ (which really means supporting the free flow of capital across the globe by the transnational oligarchy), and anti-Palestinian rights. But she is also likely to champion the causes of women, abortion rights, and the LGBT community. With Trump, who knows what we will get?

It seems to me like Trump’s chance of success lies in persuading those who are undecided that they can see in the confused mess that is his message things that they agree with and are willing to gamble that this is what he will do.

In 2008, Barack had an appealing message of hope and change, even though it was largely phony and he turned out to be pretty much your standard-issue neoliberal Democrat, beholden to the big financial interests. People who propose a hopeful message of the future and promise big changes tend to have greater appeal than those who are incrementalist, especially during hard times. What has to be a source of worry to the Democratic party is that enough people may be willing to gamble on Trump turning out better than expected as opposed to the uninspiring predictability of Clinton.

Comments

  1. says

    There is no choice that means anything, when the gap between what the candidates say they will do, and what they actually do, is pretty much complete. It comes down to who delivers their pretty lies with the best semblance of sincerity.

    Isn’t that why Obama beat Clinton in the last cycles? He’s a better actor.

  2. doublereed says

    I remember Obama saying that he wouldn’t just play the game a little bit better, he would change the way the game is played. That’s a lot of why people supported him. That was the big promise people wanted.

    Saying that Trump isn’t a warhawk doesn’t seem to be the case, considering he’s talking about nukes and militarily blackmailing nations etc. It’s just that he seems entirely inconsistent about it, as opposed to Clinton. They could still try to hit him from the left on that, considering how much Trump has already alienated our allies. Clinton was relatively good about keeping her hawkishness off her talking points and debates in the primary, so she might be able to continue doing that.

  3. sonofrojblake says

    He has made it a practice, whether by design or inadvertently I don’t know

    You still think there’s any chance he’s doing this inadvertently? You’re watching a man juggling chainsaws for ten months and positing with a straight face that he’s catching the handles by accident.

    [Obama promised] he wouldn’t just play the game a little bit better, he would change the way the game is played

    And isn’t that what Trump has already done? Whatever delusions you may be maintaining (see above) you can’t deny that the primaries were a fistfight to which he brought a flamethrower.

    Trump’s chance of success lies in persuading those who are undecided that they can see in the confused mess that is his message things that they agree with and are willing to gamble that this is what he will do

    Given his success in persuading the Republicans to make him their nominee… are you going to bet he can’t do that?

  4. doublereed says

    [Obama promised] he wouldn’t just play the game a little bit better, he would change the way the game is played

    And isn’t that what Trump has already done? Whatever delusions you may be maintaining (see above) you can’t deny that the primaries were a fistfight to which he brought a flamethrower.

    Obama was specifically talking about the way American politics is beholden to the wealthy few.

  5. doublereed says

    Well until money is kicked out of politics, progressives will have to do with scraps. If representatives were actually dependent on everyday Americans (as opposed to wealthy donors), then they would actually represent the people. I generally think it’s pointless to act as if every corrupt government official is rapaciously evil.

    The problem is the systemic issue of corruption. And I know it’s hard to fathom, but plenty of governments, including America, has found a variety of ways to control and contain systemic corruption over the years. We’ve done it before, like with the 17th Amendment. It’s not some impossible task.

    (Support Wolf-PAC)

    @6 Randall Lee

    I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised with that level of idiocy coming from you. While we’re linking to ridiculously long tracts, you might want to check out Daylight Atheism’s deconstruction of Atlas Shrugged, where he takes on a lot of libertarian and conservative ideology and explains what’s wrong with them with a variety of historical examples.

  6. Holms says

    doublereed, if he was at all interested in critical thinking he would not have spouted all that first amendment drivel in defense of StevoR.

  7. says

    For the sake of third world countries you should go for Trump, the damage Clinton has already done can’t possibly be worse than whatever silly fantasy Trump is bouncing in his head.

    Trump was Pro-Choice for a very long time before turning Pro-Life for the Republican base.

    You can trust Clinton’s efforts for endless war more than you can trust Trump’s efforts against civil rights.

  8. John Morales says

    A Lurker from mexico,

    For the sake of third world countries you should go for Trump, the damage Clinton has already done can’t possibly be worse than whatever silly fantasy Trump is bouncing in his head.

    You are asserting that Trump’s fantasies will result in worse damage than that which Clinton has hitherto caused and that therefore Trump should be preferred.

    (Did you miswrite?)

  9. Randall Lee says

    doublereed writes

    “I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised with that level of idiocy coming from you.”

    .
    Instead of making an argument you imply I am an idiot. Holms then suggests that I am not

    “at all interested in critical thinking”.

    .
    If either of you were to momentarily engage in some critical thinking you would be forced to admit that the ‘state” exists as a result of the violence upon which it depends for its very existence.
    .
    Even if it meant I was doomed to be an idiot incapable of critical thinking and the exercise of logic, I would still rather take the high moral ground of resisting the acceptance of violence in its every manifestation, including violence claimed as necessary for the existence of the state.
    .
    In a 1991 Library of Congress survey, Americans named Atlas Shrugged the book that had most influenced their lives second only to the Bible. Have either of you been as successful in influencing others as Rand?
    .
    Now Rand is certainly not correct about everything, however she was extremely prophetic in her writings. With respect to the socialist policies of the state she was correct as to their failure. For more on this see the link below.
    .
    When the Modern Library asked readers in 1998 to name the twentieth century’s 100 greatest books, Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead ranked numbers one and two on the list.
    What best sellers have either of you written?
    .
    If you are serious about discovering the truth about Any Rand watch the following.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-2c7Keic_A
    .
    And should you decide to speak to me again, would you please refrain from implied sophomoric attacks on my person? Is that too much to ask?

  10. Mano Singham says

    sonofrojblake @#4,

    I have observed enough elections to notice how people who win are always thought to have run brilliant campaigns while those who lose are criticized as bunglers. Sometimes, when a candidate goes from winning to losing, the same campaign tactics and staff change from being perceived as geniuses to being seen as incompetent.

    Partly this is because when campaigns do poorly, staffers try to deflect blame from themselves by leaking negative information about other people’s poor decisions, thus creating an image of discord.

    So I would not be too quick to give Trump credit for brilliant foresight. He may just happened to have been the right person at the right time for Republicans, and rode the wave,

  11. sonofrojblake says

    I have observed enough elections to notice how people who win are always thought to have run brilliant campaigns

    That’s not what I’ve observed. I draw your attention to the Conservative party campaigns in the UK elections in 1992 and 2010. In both cases they made many mis-steps, had leaders who were widely derided and were not fancied to win (and indeed in 2010 did not secure a victory). In both cases they ended up in government not because they had campaigned brilliantly, but because their opposition, the Labour party, had fatal flaws in their campaign, and a leader who was seen as unelectable (Kinnock in ’92, Brown in ’10).

    But hey, if you want to tell yourself that Trump’s success this past year has been luck, well, good luck to you.

  12. sonofrojblake says

    Couple other quick points:

    I would not be too quick to give Trump credit for brilliant foresight. He may just happened to have been the right person at the right time for Republicans, and rode the wave

    Calling him brilliant in, say, September of last year might have been premature. I don’t think crediting him now, after ten months of him doing his thing and successfully securing the Republican nomination, is “too quick”.

    Also, I’m guessing from your choice of words that you’ve never surfed. Trump indeed “rode the wave”, and that’s an excellent analogy for making something look easy that is in reality really, really difficult.

  13. doublereed says

    @13 Randall Lee

    And should you decide to speak to me again, would you please refrain from implied sophomoric attacks on my person? Is that too much to ask?

    Obviously it’s too much to ask. I would have thought my position on sophomoric attacks on your person is quite clear, but I guess you’re not all that bright.

  14. doublereed says

    @13 Randall Lee

    Wait, you seriously linked to Stefan Molyneux???? Hahahaha oh lordy. And you want me to stop mocking and insulting you? You request far too much from me. Hilarious.

  15. doublereed says

    @11 A Lurker from mexico

    For the sake of third world countries you should go for Trump, the damage Clinton has already done can’t possibly be worse than whatever silly fantasy Trump is bouncing in his head.

    I completely disagree. Trump has rallied white supremacists and extremists to his side. Frankly, he has the capacity to transform America into a violently fascist state. This is a guy who openly says that we need to be killing families. At least Clinton has the sense to think of civilians as “collateral damage.” Trump doesn’t even see it that way. The civilians are the target.

    Saying that he “can’t possibly be worse” only demonstrates a gross lack of imagination.

  16. Holms says

    #11
    You are making the statement that we should prefer Trump over Hillary, on the basis that his relatively muted position on foreign military intervention makes him less dangerous to other nations. The problem here is not only his fascistic tendencies, but also the fact that his stated positions are fantastically unreliable; I truly doubt whether there has ever been a presidential candidate with such a casual attitude toward honesty, consistency and such.

    Now combine this with some of the things we do know about him. He has a proven habit of bullying, not just against individuals but also against nations via proposed punitive foreign policy. He has a ludicrously fragile ego, an enourmous vindictive streak and a complete disregard for the limitations on presidential powers. What you have is a candidate that poses possibly an unprecedented threat to global stability.

    #13
    “If either of you were to momentarily engage in some critical thinking you would be forced to admit that the ‘state” exists as a result of the violence upon which it depends for its very existence.”

    But only by completely redefining violence out of all recognition, and also by disregarding the fact that your ‘non-governmental governing’ ideas are bonkers.

  17. says

    Doublereed@#19:
    At least Clinton has the sense to think of civilians as “collateral damage.”

    Clinton has the sense to say that she thinks of civilians as collateral damage. Nobody except maybe Clinton knows what Clinton thinks. Or are you telling me you take everything she says as truth as she sees it?

  18. Kreator says

    @doublereed #19

    @11 A Lurker from mexico

    For the sake of third world countries you should go for Trump, the damage Clinton has already done can’t possibly be worse than whatever silly fantasy Trump is bouncing in his head.

    I completely disagree. Trump has rallied white supremacists and extremists to his side. Frankly, he has the capacity to transform America into a violently fascist state. This is a guy who openly says that we need to be killing families. At least Clinton has the sense to think of civilians as “collateral damage.” Trump doesn’t even see it that way. The civilians are the target.

    Saying that he “can’t possibly be worse” only demonstrates a gross lack of imagination.

    Well said. I live in Argentina, a country that suffered greatly under US-backed dictatorships, and I know for a fact that Trump is worse for us and the rest of the world, due to the higly racist motivations of his followers. Hillary could attack us for oil and riches, but Trump could attack us just for the color of our skins, the language we speak, or because someone pissed him off by doing who knows what. American liberals who say they’ll vote for him over Hillary, or won’t vote at all, are for the most part selfish, jingoistic and infantile, and often overly privileged like Marcus up here.

  19. doublereed says

    @Marcus Ranum

    Even granting that, Trump has been openly embracing a fascist culture of violence. He openly claims we’re not violent enough. That torturing isn’t so bad. That we should brazenly commit war crimes.

    Clinton at least has the decency to pretend otherwise. Trump doesn’t do that. Trump has whipped people into a violent frenzy that you should not ignore. I understand that Clinton is a hawk and wants to bomb everybody in sight, but the equivocation is still wrong.

    I think you might be interested in the Report by the Southern Poverty Law Center about this election’s effect on schoolchildren across the country. It talks about how having a presidential candidate like Trump be so hateful and bigoted has encouraged children to do so as well. Hispanics are asking if they’re being deported yet, Muslims are wondering if they’ll be microchipped, Blacks are asking why everyone seems to hate them. He’s had a huge impact on our country already and it will get much, much worse if he becomes president.

  20. says

    Doublereed@#23:
    I am not defending Trump. He’s shit.

    What amazes me is that you appear to be willing to assume that Clinton believes any of what she says. You’re so naive you belong in a glass case in a museum.

  21. doublereed says

    @24 Marcus Ranum

    No no no, I said “even granting that.” I don’t believe Clinton believes what she says. I’m saying it doesn’t matter. My point is that rhetoric matters. The bully pulpit matters. When you have a white supremacist with the bully pulpit, it matters. It affects everyone in the country. It changes the direction of the country.

    Trump has had a large effect on the direction of our country, and he doesn’t even have public office yet.

  22. Jim B says

    Clinton is far from my ideal candidate, but I find it hard to fathom, Mano, how you draw an equivalence between Trump and Clinton. From a domestic point of view, the legacy the next president leaves in terms of Supreme Court nominations will outweigh and outlive whatever policies they push for.

    You definitely have your Bernie Blinders on.

  23. doublereed says

    Jim B, I don’t see where Mano was making any kind of equivalence between Trump and Clinton. He’s just saying Trump has been a lot less clear about things, and he’s so inconsistent that people imagine that he could possibly give them what they personally want.

    Did you mean Marcus maybe?

  24. Jim B says

    “Choosing between two devils”

    I interpreted this to mean Mano was saying he has pick between two odious characters

  25. Mano Singham says

    Jim B,

    I do dislike both. But that does not imply that they are equivalent. The point of the post is to discuss the differences, the known devil versus the unknown devil.

  26. Nick Gotts says

    If Bernie Sanders is the Democratic nominee, it will be much harder for Trump to attack him from the left and so the choice will be much clearer. – Mano Singham

    And if Santa Claus is the nominee, he’ll win everyone over by giving them all presents. Can’t you stop pretending to yourself there’s any real chance Sanders will be the nominee? Even if Clinton drops dead or is indicted for murder, it’s unlikely the delegates pledged to her, or the superdelegates supporting her, would back Sanders.

  27. says

    @22 Kreator
    Dude, get real. Trump isn’t gonna wage war on Argentina. Deep south racist don’t live that deep into the south.

    If you think Clinton is the preferable option, just look around you. Brazil just went through a corporate coup. Honduras went through a military one. Mexico just opened the floodgates to foreign interests getting themselves rich with our oil and leaving us with the crumbs, again.

    The Trans-Pacific Partnership, that she lobbied for (no matter how much she lies about it now), will make it so the governments of all our countries become even more subservient to the interests multinational corporations. A complete loss of sovereignty.

    Zelaya tried to raise the minimum wage, Rousseff favored workers unions, both were democratically elected left-wing leaders, both were deposed for corporate centrists with ties to the US government that clearly align politically with Hillary Clinton.
    It’s a bit of a miracle that Pepe Mujica managed to finish his presidency, one wonders how long Vázquez will remain, being a bit of a leftist himself. Maybe we should brace ourselves for an uruguayan coup too.

    To the point of racism, the only difference is that Trump’s is on display for everyone to see while Clinton would much rather resort to coded language to save face, nobody pictured a “super predator” as a white kid.

  28. says

    @20 Holms
    To the points about what we can know about Trump. I can agree with all of that. However…

    I don’t know if you can characterize the many regime changes supported and sometimes orchestrated by Hillary Clinton as bullying. But there is a palpable recklessness on her approach. Remember Gaddafi? “We came, we saw, he died”? How’s that turning out for ya? Upholding an illegitimate government in Honduras? Selling weapons to the Saudi theocracy? Giving uncritical support of Netanyahu’s genocidal tendencies? I think that goes way beyond anything that we can recognize as mere bullying.

    She wants to set up a no-fly zone over Syria, do you understand the insane escalation of violence that will happen if Hillary Clinton in her infinite arrogance shoots down a russian plane?

    She is also vindictive, both she and her husband. They have a freaking data base of political enemies, they even got in trouble for abusing FBI information to complete their blacklist. Who does that?

    And looking at the way her campaign has set their target squarely on the Sanders supporters, perpetuating the BernieBros meme, falsely accusing them of violence, spending $1,000,000 to basically troll them on the internet. It looks like her vindictiveness extends beyond her political enemies and right into the general american public. Not only is that extremely shitty behavior, it’s politically idiotic. She still needs them in November, but she can’t help herself.

    The arrogance on her makes her extremely dangerous, especially on an international setting.

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