Linguist George Lakoff Explains How the Democrats Helped Elect Trump

Democrats played into Trump’s hands, Lakoff says — and they won’t win until they learn how to frame the debate.

Source:AlterNet

Author: Paul Rosenberg/Salon

Emphasis Mine

George Lakoff didn’t start off in the world of politics. He was a founding father of cognitive linguistics, starting with his 1980 book, “Metaphors We Live By (co-authored with philosopher Mark Johnson). The book showed how immediate, concrete experience — bodily orientation, physical movement, and so on — structures our understanding of more complex and abstract experiences via “conceptual metaphors” such as “Consciousness Is Up,” “Love Is a Journey,” etc.

Facing the rise of Newt Gingrich in the 1990s and bewildered by how he and other liberals could not make logical sense of conservative ideology (what do gun rights, low taxes and banning abortion have in common?), Lakoff found an answer in conceptual metaphors derived form two contrasting family models explicated by Diana Baumrind as authoritarian (“strict father” in Lakoff’s terms) and authoritative (“nurturant parent”), as described in his 1996 book, “Moral Politics.” His 2004 book, “Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate,” drew on a wider range of cognitive science and gained a mass audience, but failed to fundamentally change how liberals and Democrats approach politics, as was richly illustrated by the recent election of Donald Trump.

But Lakoff is nothing if not persistent, and has penned an election postmortem like no other, “A Minority President: Why the Polls Failed, and What the Majority Can Do.” It rearticulates the arguments of his earlier books — including others like “The Political Mind,” Whose Freedom?“ and Philosophy in the Flesh — along with fresh analysis and new insights that push hard for opening up a new realm of possibilities, instead of retrenching, retreating or repeating strategies and tactics that have failed in the past. In it, Lakoff displays both an intimate familiarity with detailed examples and a broad-based visionary outlook.

Salon spoke with him to explore both, with an eye toward expanding the horizon of the possible on one hand, and avoiding potholes on the other. He’s talking with Chelsea Green about expanding the essay into a book, but the ideas in it really can’t wait. The Democratic establishment needs to be shaken up, and the rest of us need to be stirred.

Q: You’ve been writing about politics from a cognitive science perspective for more than 20 years. A lot of people have listened to you, but the Democratic political establishment as a whole has not, and that was reflected in the election of Donald Trump. As you note in your article, “The polls, the media, and the Democratic Party all failed to understand conservative values and their importance. They failed to understand unconscious thought and moral worldviews. While hailing science in the case of climate change, they ignored science when it came to their own minds.” So let’s start there. What do you mean by that, and how did it happen?

A: If you’re a conservative going into politics, there’s a good chance you’ll study cognitive science, that is, how people really think and how to market things by advertising. So they know people think using frames and metaphors and narratives and images and emotions and so on. That’s second nature to anybody who’s taken a marketing course. Many of the people who have gone into conservative communications have done that, and know very well how to market their ideas.

Now, if instead you are a progressive, and you go to college and you’re interested in politics, what are you going to study? Well, you’ll study political science, law, public policy, economic theory and so on, but you’re not going to wind up studying marketing, most likely, and you’re not going to study either cognitive science or neuroscience.

What you’ll learn in those courses is what is called Enlightenment reason, from 1650, from Descartes. And here’s what that reasoning says: What makes us human beings is that we are rational animals and rationality is defined in terms of logic. Recall that Descartes was a mathematician and logician. He argued that reasoning is like seeing a logical proof. Secondly, he argued that our ideas can fit the world because, as he said, “God would not lie to us.” The assumption is that ideas directly fit the world.

They’re also, Descartes argued, disembodied. He said that if ideas were embodied, were part of the body, then physical laws would apply to them, and we would not have free will. And in fact, they are embodied, physical laws do apply to them, and we do not have absolute free will. We’re trapped by what the neural systems of our brains  have accumulated. We can only see what our brains allow us to understand, and that’s an important thing.

So what he said, basically, was that there are no frames, no embodiment, no metaphor — none of the things people really use to reason. Moreover if we think logically and we all have the same reasoning, if you just tell people the facts, they should reason to the same correct conclusion. And that just isn’t true. And that keeps not being true, and liberals keep making the same mistake year after year after year. So that’s a very important thing.

Q: After “Don’t Think of an Elephant” was published, you got a lot of attention but your message really didn’t sink in. I think it was largely because of what you said above — what you were saying simply didn’t fit into the Enlightenment worldview that Democratic elites took for granted from their education.  

A: When I started teaching framing the first thing I would tell the class is “Don’t think of an elephant,” and of course, they think of an elephant. I wrote a book on it because the point is, if you negate a frame, you have to activate the frame, because you have to know what you’re negating. If you use logic against something, you’re strengthening it. And that lesson was not understood. So if people think in terms of logic — it’s a mistake that’s made every day on MSNBC — you go on there and you’ll get people saying, “Well, you know, Trump said this, and some Republicans said that and Jeff Sessions said this and here are the facts that show they’re wrong.” You just keep repeating the things that you’re negating. And that just strengthens them.

Did that happen in Hillary Clinton’s campaign?

That showed up there. The Clinton campaign decided that the best way to defeat Trump was to use his own words against him. So they showed these clips of Trump saying outrageous things. Now what Trump was doing in those clips was saying out loud things that upset liberals, and that’s exactly what his followers liked about him. So of course they were showing what actually was helping Trump with his supporters.

I tried to convince people in the Clinton campaign — early on, I wrote a piece called “Understanding Trump,” in March 2016, and it was sent to everybody in the Clinton campaign. Everybody at the PAC, for example, got a copy of it. It didn’t matter; they were doing what they were told to do.

Another problem was the assumption that all you have to do is look at issues, and give the facts about issues, and the facts about the issues supposedly show up in polls, and then they apply demographics. So there was this assumption, for example, that educated women in the Philadelphia suburbs were naturally going to vote for Hillary, because they were highly educated. They turned out also to be Republican, and what made them Republican was Republican views, like Republican views about the Supreme Court, abortion, things like that. So they didn’t all go out and vote for Hillary.

Or the campaign assumed that since Trump attacked Latinos, and Latino leaders didn’t like Trump, that the Latinos would all vote for Hillary, and many Latinos voted for Trump. Why? Because “strict father” morality is big in Latino culture. The campaign was not looking at values. They were looking at demographics, and they missed the role of values.

Q: Which you’ve been pounding on for a long time now.

A: Well over a decade. During the Bush administration, I talked to the Democratic caucus. I was invited by Nancy Pelosi, and I talked to them about “Don’t Think of an Elephant,” and the strict father/nurturant parent distinction, and I pointed out that one thing strict fathers can’t do is betray trust. It turned out that the Southerners in the caucus agreed strongly, and they wanted to have me work with them on talking about Bush betraying trust. But Nancy said, “Well, we should check with the polls first,” and she checked with one of the major pollsters who said, “Oh no, my polls show that people trust Bush, therefore we can’t use it.” And the idea is to follow the polls, rather than change them. And this is a big difference between Democrats and Republicans. Republicans try to change the polls, whereas Democrats try to follow the polls.

Q: There are other problems with polling you point out as well.

A: Yes. The next problem has to do with going issue by issue. This is happening right now. Bernie Sanders and Chuck Schumer went onto the Rachel Maddow show on the same day, and they said, “The American people agree with us, issue by issue, each case and we’re going to press Trump issue by issue, and we’re going to start with health care and go on to other things.” What they’re missing is values.

They’re missing the idea that many Americans who depend on health care, affordable health care, for example, have strict-father positions and voted for Trump against their interests. And this is something has been known for ages, that a lot of poor conservatives vote against their material interests, because they’re voting for their worldview. And the reason for it is that their moral worldview defines who they are. They are not going to vote against their own definition of who they are.

This is missed by the unions as well. Unions don’t really understand their function. Unions are instruments of freedom. Unions free people from corporate servitude. From corporations saying what hours they can work, what wages are possible, and so on. The argument against unions that has come in so-called “right-to-work” laws misses the fact that unions are instruments of freedom, and instead suggests that unions go against freedom. They go against your rights. And the unions don’t know how to argue against right-to-work laws. So that’s a problem with liberals working in unions.

There’s something more basic underlying all this, isn’t there? From “Moral Politics” on you’ve been hammering on liberals’ failure to claim and proclaim their own values.

All progressives and liberals have a moral worldview, what I described as the nurturant-parent worldview. When applied to politics it goes like this: Citizens care about other citizens, they have empathy for other citizens, and the work of the government is to provide public resources for everybody. Public resources, from the very beginning of our country, not only apply to each private citizen, but they also apply to business. From the very beginning we had public roads and bridges and public education, we had a national bank, and the patent office for businesses, and interstate commerce laws for business, and so on. And a judicial system that’s mostly used for business.

Since then the government has supported business even more, especially through the promotion of scientific research, the development of pharmaceuticals, computer science, support of public research and public universities. The Internet began as ARPANET, is in the Defense Department. Think about satellite communication — that was made possible by NASA and NOAA. Very important things we did. What about things like GPS systems and cell phones? Our government is maintaining not just our cell phones, but the world economic system which all uses GPS systems and cell phones.

People don’t see the role of public resources, which are there to run the world economy, to help you in your everyday life, to give you communications, like this interview right now. This is just something that’s never said. When I say this to progressives, they say, “Well, of course that’s true, isn’t that obvious?” The answer is no. It is not obvious, because the next question I ask is, “Have you ever said it?” And the answer is no. The question after that is, “Will you go out from now on and say it?” And I don’t get enthusiastic “Yes!” answers.

People need to know this and it needs to be said all the time. It needs to be said about every single business. The person who has done best at it has been Elizabeth Warren. When Obama tried to use the same message he got it wrong, he said if you have a business you didn’t build that, and then he got attacked and he dropped it. But in fact this is something that does need to be out there.

There are other things that need to be said that progressives don’t say because they don’t really understand how framing works. Framing is not obvious. People read “Don’t Think of an Elephant,” they got some of the ideas, but when they tried to apply it, it turned out it’s not so easy to apply. You need some training to do it, and you need some ideas.

 For example. Trump said we’re going to get rid of regulation, when there’s a new regulation we’re going to get rid of two for every new one that comes in. But what are regulations? Why do people have them? They’re there for protection of the public in every place. Why do you have environmental regulations? To protect against pollution and global warming and so on. Things that are harmful. Why do you have an SEC regulation? To protect investors, and protect people who have mortgages. Why do you have food and drug regulations? To protect against poisons. This is important. You’re protecting against corporate malfeasance. Corporate harm to the public. When they say, “We’re getting rid of these regulations, no one reports in the media, “They have gotten rid of protections, and they’re going to get rid of more protections!”

Q: You’ve pointed out how Trump has actually been clever in ways that liberals, Democrats and the media didn’t understand. You laid out a number of mechanisms. So can we go through a few of those?

A: First, let’s talk about how Trump’s tweets work. Trump’s tweets have at least three functions. The first function is what I call preemptive framing. Getting framing out there before reporters can frame it differently. So for example, on the Russian hacking, he tweeted that the evidence showed that it had no effect on the election. Which is a lie, it didn’t say that at all. But the idea was to get it out there to 31 million people looking at his tweets, legitimizing the elections: The Russian hacks didn’t mean anything. He does that a lot, constantly preempting.

The second use of tweets is diversion. When something important is coming up, like the question of whether he is going to use a blind trust, the conflicts of interest. So what does he do instead? He attacks Meryl Streep. And then they talk about Meryl Streep for a couple of days. That’s a diversion.

The third one is that he sends out trial balloons. For example, the stuff about nuclear weapons, he said we need to pay more attention to nukes. If there’s no big outcry and reaction, then he can go on and do the rest. These are ways of disrupting the news cycle, getting the real issues out of the news cycle and turning it to his advantage.

Trump is very, very smart. Trump for 50 years has learned how to use people’s brains against them. That’s what master salesmen do. There’s a certain set of things they do. The first is repeat. Advertisers know this. You turn on your TV, and the same ad comes on over and over and over. The effect on the brain of repetition is that when you hear something it’s understood through the neural circuitry in your brain; it has to become activated. The more it’s repeated, the more that circuitry is activated, and every time it’s activated the synaptic connections become stronger. What that means when they become stronger is two things happen. One, they’re more likely to fire — it’s easier to get those ideas out there if they’re firing — and two, if you hear them often enough they become part of what’s fixed in your brain. They become part of what you naturally understand, and you can only understand what your brain allows you to understand.

Repetition is a way of changing people’s brains. What Trump was doing all through the nomination campaign was that every day he managed to get on TV, and he would repeat different things that activated the same moral framework, and it really worked. In addition you have particular frames that were repeated: “Crooked Hillary,” “crooked Hillary,” “crooked Hillary,”  over and over. There wasn’t anything Hillary did that was crooked. But he kept saying it until people believed it. And they believed it because it was heard enough times to strengthen the neural circuitry in their brains. It wasn’t just stupidity. It’s simply the way brains work.

Another thing he used was grammar, as in “radical Islamic terrorism.” What does “radical” mean? Radical means not part of what is normal and healthy and so on, but something on the fringe, number one. Two, terrorists – people who are out to get you, right? If you modify terrorists, there are two ways in which you can do it. There are two forms of applying adjectives to nouns, and the classic example is “the industrious Japanese,” which assumes either that all Japanese are industrious, or that there are some and I’m picking out those. But the idea that they’re all industrious is activated.

In this case, the idea that all people who are Islamic are terrorists is activated. And they’re radical. If you say that, it’s not like you’re picking out the tiny proportion who happened to be terrorists and radical. You’re saying it about everybody. That’s part of grammar. He is using grammar to get his point across, to get his worldview across, and then criticizing Clinton and Obama for not doing it, as if not saying it is not recognizing the threat.

Q: What about metaphor, which is something you’ve written and talked about for years?

A: “Brexit” was an excellent example of that. It had to do with exiting, which is a general metaphor. Throughout the world, states of mind are understood in terms of locations. You go into your café, you get a cup of coffee, you go out of the café — you’re in the same location you were in before. Now apply that to states: You go into a state, and when you go out of it you should be in the same state you were in before. But that doesn’t work. It’s not true. With Brexit, the metaphor was that if you entered the EU at a certain point in time — with a certain state being true of England at that time — and then you exit, you should be in the same state you were in before. Absolutely false. Brexit was based on the false assumption that England could go back to some ideal state it was in before.

The same thing is true with “Make America great again.” The assumption is: This has been a great country before, and now we can go back to what it was before, as if electing Trump would not change it in the worst way, and as if you could go back to some idealized past. Which you can’t, for many reasons, like a technological revolution that’s gotten rid of lots of jobs, and international trade, and so on. The world is not the same as it was before. So you’re using that universal metaphor to convince people. And that’s important.

Q: Together, all you’ve just said makes a strong case that Trump’s success stems from approaching politics like a salesman, which ties back to your original point about how Republicans approach politics versus Democrats. In that sense, Trump is very much a realization of what Republicans have been moving towards for a long time. But there’s another sense in which he represents a culmination: his authoritarianism, rooted in strict-father morality.

A: Exactly. Except for gay marriage — he has friends who are gay — he has the whole strict-father thing, moral hierarchy. If you have strict-father morality what that says is it’s your concern alone that matters, reteaching individual responsibility. That means responsibility for yourself, not social responsibility. Not caring about other citizens; that’s weak. You should care about yourself; that’s strong. That is how he sees that the world naturally works. There is a hierarchy of morality because the strict father in a family gets his position of strength because he supposedly knows right from wrong, and in that there is an assumption that those who are most moral should rule.

So how do you tell who’s most moral? You look at who has come out on top. You have God above man, man above nature, conquering nature, so nature is there for us to use. Then you would have the rich above the poor — they deserve it, because they are disciplined. And the powerful above the non-powerful — they deserve it, they’ve become powerful. And you have adults above children. So in 21 states children in classes and on teams can be beaten by the teachers and coaches if  they don’t show proper respect and obedience.

Western culture above non-Western culture, and so you get all the stuff on Breitbart about white Western culture. Of course Islamists are not in Western culture, Mexicans are not in Western culture, Asians are not in Western culture, etc. America above other nations: We should be great again, we should rule everybody, we should be able to intimidate everybody. And then other ones follow. You have men above women, whites above nonwhites, Christians above non-Christians, and straights above gays.

So you have this moral hierarchy in Republican thought for a long time; it’s not like this is new. Here it is bold, right out there, as strong as you can get, and you have the ultimate “strict father,” who wants to be the dictator of the country, if not the world.

Q: At the very end of the article you get into what people can do in response, how people can fight back, and I wanted to give you some time to talk about that. There is a very real potential there that you talk about: It can be harder to break through to elites, but easier to reach ordinary people whose lives are directly affected. You have talked about the importance of reaching out to people you call “bi-conceptuals,” including conservatives.

A: There is within conservatism this idea of in-group nurturance, taking care of your own. This happens in churches; you go to a bigger evangelical church and they have the free babysitting and investment advice and will help you if you’re down on your luck and so on. If you go to the military, which is a strict -father thing, but also in a military base you’re going to get free schooling for your kids, a place to live, cheap goods at the PX, etc. In the military you never leave a wounded brother behind; they’re a band of brothers. See, you have in-group nurturance there. You also have it in conservatism as an institution. One, of the major think tanks in Washington built a large state-of-the-art media center, but also put in a hundred apartments for interns who couldn’t afford Washington prices. So they live together, get to know each other, become friends and they’re taken care of.

A lot of conservatives see their in-group as their local community or their neighbors, and then they will do all sorts of things. If there’s a flood they’ll be out there swinging the sandbags, if there’s a fire they’ll be out there on the lines with the hoses to protect their neighbors’ homes. That is the powerful community version of in-group nurturance, and that is real nurturance, it’s real care.

That can be appealed to, and we need to find ways of talking about that in terms of regulation and protection. What protections are being taken away from the people in your community? That needs to be said over and over again. Are we going to get bad drinking water? Are you going to get poisoned foods? Are you going to get drugs that haven’t been adequately tested that could make you terribly ill?

And many other things: Are you going to lose your health care, but not have something else to replace it? Are you going to lose your Medicare? If you look at those red states and ask, “What about those small towns in those red states?”, a lot of them are like that.

Q: What else needs to be done?

A: Well two things. First, a citizens’ communication network. We have social media networks now, but people need to have feeds on their Facebook and Twitter pages, of things to say on particular days, and let’s do it from the point of view of the American majority. We’re the majority; here are our values. Let’s make our values clear, let’s have a little handbook about what our values are, and why those things are recommended, and the rationale for putting it out there. We need a website that can be used as a basis for a citizens’ communication network, and I’m going to be involved in starting something to do that.

The other thing is serious training of the NGOs — the foundations and other groups that are there for the public good — in how to talk about these things, how to frame their message and not make mistakes and not help the other side, and to do it always from the point of view of what’s positive. Not attacking Trump implicitly, but by saying what’s good for the public and why it’s good and then, by the way, this goes against everything that Trump is doing. But the main thing is to frame it in terms of public good.

 

Paul H. Rosenberg is senior editor at Random Lengths News, a biweekly serving the Los Angeles harbor area.

See:http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/dont-think-rampaging-elephant-linguist-george-lakoff-explains-how-democrats-helped?akid=15114.123424.rWHESr&rd=1&src=newsletter1070612&t=10

Eight Wealthiest Men Own the Same Amount as the Poorest Half of The World

According to Oxfam, because of our broken economics, never have so few owned so much.

Source: AlterNet

Author:Illana Novick

Emphasis Mine

A new Oxfam report confirms many of our worst suspicions about about inequality, that it is horrible and getting worse. Eight men, many have the same wealth as the poorest 50% of the world, or 3.6 billion people, according to the report. It was published to coincide with the start of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the world’s largest gathering of leaders and business heads.

The poorest half of the world owns own the same in assets as that group of eight, $426 billion to be exact. The group of eight is led by Bill Gates, Amancio Ortega, the founder of the Spanish fashion chain Zara, and investor Warren Buffett. The others on the startlingly short list are Carlos Slim Helú, the Mexican telecom tycoon, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Ellison of Oracle and Michael Bloomberg, former billionaire mayor of New York and founder of Bloomberg news and financial information service.

This information would be frightening enough on its own, but gets even worse when compared to 2016’s data, when a whopping 62 owned the same in assets as the poorest half of the world, partly because new data shows that poverty in India and China is even worse than reported just last year. Such a steep drop should be troubling to anyone concerned the scourge of economic inequality. Oxfam’s report certainly didn’t mince words, calling the data “beyond grotesque,” and, as the Guardian reports, advocating for “a new economic model to reverse an inequality trend that it said helped to explain Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election.”

“From Brexit to the success of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, a worrying rise in racism and the widespread disillusionment with mainstream politics, there are increasing signs that more and more people in rich countries are no longer willing to tolerate the status quo,” the report said.

It’s not enough, and in fact, is probably counterproductive, to make these eight men the poster boys for economic evil though they are the beneficiaries. As Mark Goldring, Oxfam’s CEO writes in a Guardian Op-Ed explaining the report, many of the top eight are also among the world’s most prominent philanthropists. Goldring continues,

this is not an exposé of eight people, but of a broken economics. Narrowing the gap between the richest and the rest requires us to take on a more challenging task than asking eight men to change their behaviour. It requires us to create a more human economy; one that does not result in 1% of the world’s population owning the same wealth as the other 99%. One that encourages and rewards enterprise and innovation, yes, but one that also offers everyone, regardless of background, a fair chance in life and ensures when individuals and businesses succeed, they do so for the benefit, rather than at the expense, of others.

Even the Davos heavyweights know this, as, in a study published ahead of the gathering, 700 experts said inequality is the number one threat to the global economy. One way to begin might be to address this threat, aside from a fundamental cultural shift in values, would be to limit tax avoidance, which Goldring reminds us “costs poor countries more than $100bn annually that could be used to provide clean water, lifesaving medicines or education. Rich countries, including the UK, lose countless billions more. Yet governments, anxious to defend their own corporate sectors and perceived national interests, have failed to adequately respond to companies’ use of tax loopholes, corporate power and new technology to avoid paying their fair share.” Also contributing to the inequality are policies allowing aggressive wage restraints.

If any of the well-heeled Davos attendees were serious about fighting this threat they would do well to read both the report, and and Goldring’s commentary.

Ilana Novick is an AlterNet contributing writer and production editor.

 

See: http://www.alternet.org/economy/eight-wealthiest-men?akid=15114.123424.rWHESr&rd=1&src=newsletter1070612&t=14

Donald Trump Simply Doesn’t Get It: His Vast Egotism Is Doing Serious Damage to America

Trump’s oblivious denials on the Russia hack are delegitimizing his presidency before he even takes office.

Photo Credit: Brad McPherson / Shutterstock
Photo Credit: Brad McPherson / Shutterstock

Source: AlterNet

Author: Gary Legum/Salon

Emphasis Mine

Having been fully briefed on the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia ran an operation to meddle in America’s presidential election and elevate Donald Trump to the White House, the president-elect and his team spent the weekend doing what Republicans do: blaming Democrats for the whole mess.

Most of Trump’s comments on the matter came from a statement published within minutes of the end of his briefing on Friday and from his Twitter feed, which journalists have taken to monitoring like the Oracle of Delphi since the president-elect refuses to hold press conferences. A stream of whining issued from those two sources on Friday and Saturday, during which Trump managed to do the following:

  1. Accuse the Democratic National Committee of “gross negligence” for allowing itself to be hacked.
  2. Brag (incorrectly, according to the government report released Friday) that the Republican National Committee was not hacked because it had better defenses.
  3. Sneer that Democrats are complaining about hacking because they are embarrassed to have lost the election.
  4. Whine that the unclassified report had been leaked (because of “politics”) to NBC News before he saw it.
  5. Suggest that even if Russia did hack the national committees and other entities during the campaign, the United States will still have a warm relationship with that country moving forward — because what’s a little cyber-warfare and covert influence operations among friends?

Lest anyone need a reminder about the dominant mindset within the incoming administration, Trump surrogates also spent time on TV this weekend repeating the claim that nothing Russia purportedly did in any way help Trump to what his sycophants are still pretending was a historic landslide victory. This classification of his win is total nonsense, of course. Anyone who understands math or how to read a list knows that Trump’s Electoral College “landslide” was anything but.

The Trump team is following a perversion of the dictum laid down by one of former president George W. Bush’s advisers to journalist Ron Suskind in 2002. This adviser, later reported to be Karl Rove, told Suskind that America is an empire and “when we act, we create our own reality.” In the case of Trump, the reality is spun from whatever insecurities and neediness are consuming him at any given moment. There is not necessarily any action driving him to will his own reality into being, just the random effluvia cascading from his mouth, washing Reince Priebus and Kellyanne Conway onto the set of Sunday morning shows to lie to us.

The problem is that Trump is entirely oblivious to how much his refusal to acknowledge the reality of his narrow win or the ways the alleged Russian hacking might have helped his victory (and no, Donald, we’re not talking about voting machines) serves to delegitimize his administration before he is even sworn in. It looks illegitimate to the country’s electorate, when 3 million more ballots were cast for his opponent than he received. It looks illegitimate to leaders of other nations, who see this buffoon with a cheap spray tan trying to gaslight his own country and can only wonder what that will mean for their interactions with him. It looks illegitimate to the citizens of other nations, who followed America’s election closely and are well aware of the drama and controversy surrounding it.

This undermining of confidence in American leadership, that’s particularly evident within European countries like Germany that have also allegedly had their elections targeted by Russia’s army of hackers and online trolls, is a salve to President Vladimir Putin, who has no interest in real democracy in his nation or in seeing it continue in others. In Trump, Putin faces a president he already knows he can manipulate. Other world leaders will know they cannot look to the United States to enforce the global order that has existed for decades and served as a bulwark against petty tyrants like Putin.

All this history and geopolitics should be bigger than any one person’s ego, even one as massive as Donald Trump’s. But when he waves off any suggestion that he benefitted from Russian help and some of his fans and followers shrug their shoulders, it’s clear to America and the rest of the world that Trump’s ego is the dominant factor at play. That’s a scary reality to contemplate.

Gary Legum is a freelance writer based in Bridgeport, Connecticut. His work has appeared on Wonkette, Salon, The Daily Beast, Alternet and Bitter Empire. Follow him on Twitter @garylegum.

 

See:http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/trump-ego-ruins-america

From Obama’s Farewell Address

President Obama never mentioned Donald Trump’s name, but when he discussed the need for workers to stand together it was clear whose tactics he was talking about.

Obama said, “But we’re not where we need to be. All of us have more work to do. After all, if every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hardworking white middle class and undeserving minorities, then workers of all shades will be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves. If we decline to invest in the children of immigrants, just because they don’t look like us, we diminish the prospects of our own children – because those brown kids will represent a larger share of America’s workforce. And our economy doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. Last year, incomes rose for all races, all age groups, for men and for women.”

Workers of all ages, races, genders, and professions can’t allow themselves to be divided by the Trump tactics. Trump won the election by dividing workers. He made white workers in manufacturing, mining, and energy feel like they were fighting for their lives. Trump demonized Hispanics and African-Americans.

The only people that benefit from dividing workers are those who can keep wages down with division.

Instead of fretting over attracting white workers to their party, Democrats need to be talking to all workers. Trump does not have a pro-worker agenda. Trump’s agenda is pro-corporation, millionaire, and billionaire. Workers will only win if they stand together.

Rising Inequality Is Far From Inevitable

Source: American Prospect via Portside

Author:Robert Kuttner

Emphasis Mine

The latest study of deepening inequality by three of the most careful scholars of the subject, Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saens, and Gabriel Zucman, has prompted another round of shrugs [1] from economists that inequality is just in the nature of the advanced economy.

Supposedly, these inexorable trends reflect technology, globalization, and increasing rewards to more advanced skills. The poor are paid in correct proportion to their contribution to the national product, which alas, isn’t much.

A close look at political history suggests that this widespread inference is convenient nonsense—convenient to economic elites. In fact, the distribution of income and wealth has bounced around a lot in the past century and a half. It was extreme in the first Gilded Age of the late 19th century, a little less so in the Progressive Era, extreme again in the 1920s, and remarkably egalitarian in the period between the New Deal and the early 1970s—and now extreme again.

Does anyone seriously argue that these shifts reflected changes in technology or skills? No, they reflected changes in the political power to set the ground rules of capitalism. And that’s what should command our attention today.

The remarkable income equality of the postwar boom was built on a political transformation, which in turn allowed a suite of equalizing policies. It had little to do with shifts in the technical structure of the economy.

Most fundamentally, the power of finance was “repressed,” in the phrase of Harvard economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, both economically and politically. That in turn weakened both the ability of financial elites to capture such a large share of the total product, and to influence the rules of the game. Commercial banks and investment banks were tightly regulated, hedge funds and private equity were miniscule, and there were no complex synthetic financial products to enrich insiders, frustrate ordinary borrowers, or crash the system.

Trade unions were empowered, both by the Wagner Act of 1935, and more importantly by Roosevelt’s policies during the war, which made unions recognized partners in war production, and by extension partners in a broader social compact. Before corporations took the gloves off again, there was a brief era in which unions had broad legitimacy.

Unions, in turn, influenced wages, not just of their own members, who were about one third of the workforce in labor’s heyday during the ‘40s and ‘50s, but the structure of earnings and the terms of employment generally. Minimum wages were far higher in real terms.

In that era, the terms of globalization, created at the Bretton Woods Conference of 1944, deliberately created rules that allowed trade to expand, but not to destroy national social compacts. Bretton Woods was biased in favor of full employment economies and against the austerity that is newly fashionable and as perverse as ever.

All of this helps explain why the postwar era was a far more equal one than we have today. But what about skills? Well, the typical worker barely had a high school diploma—many did not—but one income was enough to support home ownership and a middle class standard of living. Despite low skills, the social compact of that era insisted on greater equality.

But can we ever get that back? Of course we can—the obstacles are political, not economic.

We could have much higher minimum wages. We could stop the union-bashing. We could restore a brand of globalization that promotes rather than undermines national social standards. We could invest massively in a green transition, modeled on the World War II mobilization that reduced unemployment from 14 percent to 2 percent in two years and produced tens of millions of good jobs.

As technology replaces human work, we could also give everyone a share of that new production, the way the Alaska Permanent Fund gives all Alaskans a share of that state’s oil revenues. Any advances created with the help of government—from subsidy of biomedical research to free-riding on the internet—could be subject to a share-the-wealth levy. Author Peter Barnes is the inspiration for this idea.

Is this broad vision crazy? It is far less crazy than the folly of supply-side economics that is back in fashion, which will only make America more needlessly unequal.

Will Donald Trump pursue any of these policies? Despite is fake populist rhetoric, he is on track to run the most corporate administration ever. Increasing inequality will follow.

Trump won, in part because previous Democratic administrations did not make living standards of ordinary working Americans a sufficiently high priority, either legislatively or on the ideology of what they stood for. Looking beyond Trump, that has to change.

Instead of accepting the counsels of despair, we should be reinventing the levers of the more equal economy and society that America once proudly displayed to the world.

Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, and professor at Brandeis University’s Heller School. His latest book is Debtors’ Prison: The Politics of Austerity Versus Possibility. He writes columns for The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe and the New York Times international edition.

 

See:https://portside.org/print/2017-01-06/rising-inequality-far-inevitable

Never Normalize: Why Trump’s Presidency Is Illegitimate and How to Respond

Source:Portside

Author:Nancy Altman/HuffPost

Emphasis Mine

Now that a majority of electors have cast their ballots in favor of Donald Trump, he will have the lawful powers of the presidency, as prescribed in the Constitution and the laws of the United States. Legal authority is not equivalent, however, to political legitimacy, moral authority, or entitlement to civic respect.

Trump’s legal authority will give him the power to issue executive orders and repeal existing ones. If he signs bills passed by Congress, those enactments ― however stupid or destructive they may be – will be the law of the land, unless the courts find them unconstitutional. Similarly, Trump will be the Commander in Chief of the armed forces, because the Constitution confers that power on the holder of the office. As a result, as long as Trump’s actions are consistent with law, opponents can and should publicize the costs and hazards of those actions, but will lose if they mount legal challenges.

Though Trump has legal legitimacy, he totally lacks political legitimacy. He seized power through a cumulative set of actions that thoroughly undermine the integrity of the election outcome. These illegitimate actions include voter suppression engineered by the Republican Party; highly inappropriate and outrageous interventions in the election by the Director of the FBI; persistent demonizing and intimidation of a free press; and, most egregious, a deliberate attempt (openly encouraged by Trump himself) by a hostile foreign government to influence the election in his favor. Taken together, these actions fatally undercut the political legitimacy of Trump’s presidency.

He also lacks the moral authority normally associated with the Presidency. Trump’s deficiencies of character undercut any notion that he deserves moral or civic respect. His deep flaws have been on full exhibit before, during, and after the election campaign. These character failures are revealed in his blatant and persistent lies; the scapegoating of vulnerable groups; eight years as a birther; a disgusting history as a sexual predator and racist; and conflicts of financial interest so wide and deep that he will be impeachable on day one of his presidency.

How should Americans treat a president who has bare legal legitimacy but lacks both political legitimacy and moral authority? Some say that all Americans should wait and see how he performs in the job, and that other leaders should work with him where common interests can be found. They argue that, for the good of the country, we should put the election behind us and treat Trump with political and moral respectthat is, that we should strive to normalize his presidency.

We respectfully but emphatically disagree. It would be a grave error to ignore his political illegitimacy and lack of moral authority. Other elected officials, the media, and the citizenry at large have no obligation to afford him the slightest political respect. Rather, the next four years should be a time of resistance and outright obstructionism. Opponents of Trump should be at least as aggressive in challenging the political legitimacy and moral authority of his presidency as Republicans were in disrespecting President Obama, whose political legitimacy and moral authority were beyond reproach.

In short, Democrats should learn the lesson Republicans have taught them: Don’t bring boxing gloves to a knife fight.

What concrete presumptions flow from the political and moral illegitimacy of Trump’s presidency? Here are four:

  • Everything Trump speaks, writes, tweets, or otherwise expresses should be presumed false, unless there is reliable (to the listener) evidence that it is true. He has lied so often and so blatantly, and his followers have so persistently rejected the idea of objective truth, that no responsible citizen should believe a word he says unless it can be independently verified. The press will be acting irresponsibly unless it covers him according to this principle.
  • Trump should never be presumed to be acting in the best interests of the United States. His actions with respect to his business interests and his family’s wealth suggest that his highest loyalties are to those personal concerns, and his loyalty to the nation is completely secondary. His encouragement of the Russian cyberattack on the election is just the most extreme example of his loyalty to himself over loyalty to his country. Every move he makes should therefore be presumed to represent a conflict of interest, unless he can demonstrate that no conflict exists.
  • The wealthy donors and others he appoints to office should be presumed incompetent and riddled with interest conflicts until proven otherwise. His emphasis on a cult of personal loyalty, insensitivity to conflicts of interest, alliances with bigots, and willingness to appoint people wholly ignorant of, and indeed hostile to, the tasks associated with a particular office, mean that the burden of proof should always be on Trump to demonstrate the competence and honesty of his appointees. Unlike what routinely occurs in a normal presidency, Senators should give absolutely no deference to his choices. Indeed, nominees requiring confirmation should be questioned at length and scrutinized with care, in order to expose their flaws. Confirmation of nominees should be slowed down and blocked in every procedural way possible.
  • Trump’s substantive judgements should be presumed ignorant, and, at times, dangerous. His unwillingness to educate himself about crucial details of national security and domestic policy, or to surround himself with expert and trustworthy advisors, means that every substantive judgement he makes is highly likely to be flawed.

Democratic leaders should take every opportunity to act in accordance with these presumptions. Common inter-branch traditions and norms of civility should be laid aside for the duration of the Trump regime. For example, Senate Democrats should never provide unanimous consent, including to allow Trump’s incompetent and financially conflicted nominees to be confirmed prior to January 20. Democrats should force votes at every turn and use the filibuster aggressively, as Republicans did during the Obama years. The goal should be to prevent the smooth flow of Senate action in order to stall Trump’s illegitimate agenda as much as possible.

On January 20, Democrats should boycott Trump’s inauguration. As befits a lying president, Democrats should be quick to shout “You lie!” when Trump addresses joint sessions, just as Republicans shouted at President Obama. When Trump praises Vladimir Putin or Russia in formal addresses, Democrats should rise and chant “Puppet! Puppet!” In short, Democrats should learn the lesson Republicans have taught them: Don’t bring boxing gloves to a knife fight.

At noon on January 20, 2017, we will have a new president. The office of the presidency deserves respect, but the new occupant has relied on illegitimate means to seize power, and he deserves moral contempt. Polling reveals that these concerns are widespread among the electorate. Two thirds of Democrats [1] want to see resistance, and well fewer than half – just 38 percent [2] ―of the entire electorate believe Trump to be minimally qualified for the presidency. Democratic leaders should take notice and act accordingly.

Nancy J. Altman is the founding co-director of Social Security Works. Ira C. Lupu, a constitutional law scholar, is the F. Elwood & Eleanor Davis Professor of Law, Emeritus at George Washington University Law School

 

See:

FBI Analysis Fingers Russian Spy Agencies For U.S. Election Hacks

Source: HuffPost

Emphasis Mine

The FBI squarely blamed Russian intelligence services on Thursday for meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, releasing the most definitive report yet on the issue, including samples of malicious computer code said to have been used in a broad hacking campaign.

Starting in mid-2015, Russia’s foreign intelligence agency, the FSB, emailed a malicious link to more than 1,000 recipients, including U.S. government targets, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said in a 13-page report co-authored with the Department of Homeland Security. (bit.ly/2iuT8cp)

While the Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence had said Russia was behind the hacking in October, the report is the first detailed technical analysis provided by the government and the first official FBI statement.

Russia has consistently denied the hacking allegations.

The FBI issued its report on the same day that President Barack Obama announced a series of retaliatory measures, including the expulsion of 35 Russian intelligence operatives and the sanctioning of the GRU and FSB. The Kremlin denounced the sanctions as unlawful and promised “adequate” retaliation.

According to the FBI report, among the groups compromised by the FSB hacks was the Democratic National Committee, which was again infiltrated in early 2016 by another Russian agency, the military GRU. 

The report largely corroborates earlier findings from private cyber firms, such as CrowdStrike, which probed the hacks at the DNC and elsewhere, and is a preview of a more detailed assessment from the U.S. intelligence community that President Barack Obama ordered completed before he leaves office next month, a source familiar with the matter said.

Much of the information provided in the report is not new, the source said, reflecting the difficulty of publicly attributing cyber attacks without revealing classified sources and methods used by the government.

Some senior Republican leaders in the U.S. Congress have expressed outrage at what they called Russian interference in America’s elections, diverging from their own party’s president-elect. The allegations and sanctions mark a new post-Cold War low in U.S.-Russian ties.

Throughout the raucous campaign, a steady stream of leaked Democratic emails clouded the candidacy of party nominee Hillary Clinton. In the aftermath of her defeat, Democrats have accused Russia. Meantime, Trump, a Republican, has questioned whether Russia was truly at fault and told the Democrats to get over it.

“It’s time for our country to move on to bigger and better things,” Trump said in a statement on Thursday.

Trump has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, tapped people seen as friendly to Moscow for administration posts and rejected assessments by intelligence agencies on the hacking.

The FBI said hackers gained access to and stole sensitive information, including internal emails “likely leading to the exfiltration of information from multiple senior party members” and public leaks of that information.

The report did not name hacked organizations or address previous conclusions reached by the Central Intelligence Agency and FBI, according to U.S. officials, that Russia sought to intervene in the election to help Trump defeat Clinton.

See:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/russian-spy-agencies-election-hack_us_58666756e4b0de3a08f7fd27?qy2amr2hldyn2q33di