Adios, Fidel. You Won’t be Missed.


Jill Stein, the left wing hero who is leading the Presidential vote recount effort, weighed in on the demise of “El Comandante” Fidel Castro. “Fidel Castro” she said “was a symbol of the struggle for justice in the shadow of empire. Presente!”


Fidel’s favorite tool in the “struggle for justice” was mass execution by firing squad without benefit of trial. He routinely employed torture and long prison terms to silence regime critics, and his government relied on neighbors spying on each other to divide families and friends and destroy civil society. That’s when he wasn’t busy urging Nikita Khrushchev to launch a nuclear strike against the United States.

There is a reason why Lenin referred to people like Jill Stein as useful idiots.

And Speaking of Recounts

Without the benefit of evidence, President-elect Donald J. Trump has asserted that except for millions of votes cast illegally for Hillary Clinton, he would have won the popular vote. That is obviously flat out nonsense. Tellingly, Mr. Trump appears to be unaware that he is actually undermining his own electoral victory by claiming that the election he won was riddled with fraud. By doing so he gives cover to Jill Stein’s preposterous recount exercise.


Education Secretary Nominee Betsy DeVos

Trump has chosen school choice advocate Betsy Devos to be his Secretary of Education. Needless to say the teachers unions are apoplectic. That’s an excellent sign. Betsy DeVos


For decades DeVos and her husband have worked as school reformers, starting in her home state, Michigan, where they helped enact that state’s Charter School law. They have also successfully backed state and local candidates across the nation who are school choice advocates. School choice is something DeVos views broadly, encompassing vouchers, tax credits, charter schools, magnet schools and homeschooling.


It isn’t exactly a secret that, at best, the public school system in the United States is mediocre when compared to other OECD countries. For example, among OECD countries the United States ranks 9th from the bottom and 24th from the top among 16 – 29 year-olds in mean literacy scores. (See for instance page 353 of the OECD indicators in Education at a Glance.)


With the performance gap as wide as it is between suburban and inner city schools, and between white and minority students, it would be reasonable to expect school performance to be a civil rights issue. After all there is strong support for school choice in minority and low-income neighborhoods, although opinion is closely divided in middle class white suburbs. And if there is one thing that economics tells us over and over again, it is that competition produces better outcomes for consumers.


So it is dismaying that the civil rights establishment has thrown its lot in with the teachers unions rather than minority neighborhoods. As reported in The Daily Beast, the NAACP along with the usual assortment of social justice groups came out with a call for a moratorium on charter schools and efforts to finance alternatives to traditional public schools. The NAACP analysis in the publication “Cloaking Inequality” is available at this link.


Who knows, maybe libertarians and conservatives will be able to shape policy to actually reform our dysfunctional public schools so there really will be opportunity for all. In the meantime, progressives can continue to argue about the equities of school locker room use.




Well, how about that. Jill Stein is demanding a recount of Wisconsin’s Presidential vote. Stein filed the demand about an hour before the deadline, after having raised more than $5 million for the effort. Let’s put this in perspective. According to, a campaign finance watchdog, Jill Stein raised and spent about $3.5 million on her entire Presidential campaign up until October 28, 2016, about a week before the vote. But all of a sudden she managed to raise $5 million in record time to fund a recount in Wisconsin.


And lo and behold, Hillary Clinton’s campaign has announced that it is “participating” in the Wisconsin effort, to make sure that the process is “fair”. Clinton’s campaign also announced it will participate in Michigan and Pennsylvania recounts if a third party demands them. And what do you know, Jill Stein says she intends to do exactly that, provided she can raise the money. Which she very well may; after all she is fronting for Hillary Clinton.


Why else would Stein go through this charade, and why else would anybody contribute to the effort? There were about 2.8 million votes cast in Wisconsin. Trump beat Clinton by 1 percentage point. Stein got all of 30 thousand votes, about 1.1%; Gary Johnson got 106 thousand votes, about 3.6%. It is pretty much the same story in Michigan and Pennsylvania. Trump bested Clinton by a narrow 0.3 of a percentage point in Michigan, and by 1.2% percentage points in Pennsylvania. Stein’s vote was negligible, around 1% in each state. State by state results are available here.


But it just so happens that Mrs. Clinton needs the combined 46 electoral votes of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania to snatch the election away from Donald Trump. Hope springs eternal, but it is simply not going to happen. Even the chief counsel for the Clinton campaign, Mark Elias, noted that “the number of votes separating Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in the closest of these states—Michigan—well exceeds the largest margin ever overcome in a recount.” And for its part, the White House issued a statement to the New York Times saying that the election was free of interference; that from a cyber security standpoint, the “elections were free and fair.”


So there is virtually no prayer that the result is going to be overturned. But the very same left that was so aghast that Trump said he would wait to see the outcome before committing himself to it is in the process of trying to undermine those results with legal challenges that are otherwise pointless. And the Clinton campaign is, at the very least, providing a big assist.


Is anybody over 21 surprised? Nope.









On This Thanksgiving Day

We should give special thanks for our good fortune in having had James Madison as the principal architect of our Constitutional order. It was James Madison who was largely responsible for creating the elaborate system of checks and balances that limits government power, thereby protecting liberty. Those checks and balances are not just horizontal among the executive, legislative and judicial branches; they are also vertical between the sovereign states and the federal government.James Madison


Progressives have spent the better part of the last hundred years trying, and sometimes partly succeeding in dismantling those checks and balances. Now that Donald Trump is President-elect they may wish to reconsider that posture. In a similar vein, perhaps Congress will awaken from its deep slumber and assert itself. And just maybe Trump really will appoint Constitutional conservatives to the Court.

That would be the supreme irony. Constitutional conservatives are less likely to be seduced by the majoritarian impulse. They are more likely to limit, if not roll back, the exercise of government power to the borders established in the Constitution as it was originally written. If so, it would greatly reduce the powers of the imperial Presidency, of which the Trump Presidency would likely be one.


Equally important, a Court staffed by Constitutional conservatives may very well decline to show what has become the Court’s traditional (and indefensible) deference to the bureaucracy. In so doing the Court has served, perhaps unwittingly, as the vanguard of the progressive urge to rule over the commanding heights of economic and social life through bureaucratic rule making.


The bureaucracy has become a de facto 4th branch of government with its own semi-sovereign powers. It legislates when it makes and interprets rules that govern almost every aspect of American life; it has its own administrative courts and its own enforcement powers; it is hopelessly (and deliberately opaque) and it is accountable to no one.


A Court that strictly held the political branches to the powers specifically delegated to them in the U.S. Constitution and cut the powers of the bureaucracy down to size would be a welcome development. Such an event would go a long way toward protecting and expanding liberty in America. Here’s hoping.


Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS)


This blog has been no friend of Donald J. Trump. And unfortunately, after all the votes were counted, it turns out that our preferred candidate Ben Sasse (R, NE) was edged out by about 63 million votes. It’s always tough to lose a close one. But we will not succumb to Trump Derangement Syndrome, a condition that blocks out all perspective, reducing sufferers to incoherence. The only known cure is to studiously avoid reading the New York Times editorial page. And probably the front page too.


Bearing that in mind, it is difficult to decide which is more amusing: watching progressives become (progressively) more unhinged at the prospect of the impending Trump Presidency, or the self-importance they attach to themselves. All this, even before Trump has tweeted his inaugural address from Mar-a-Lago.


Consider. It wasn’t all that long ago that progressives raced toward their fainting couches when Trump said that he would wait to see the election results before he accepted them. It was, they said, a naked attempt to delegitimize the impending Great Event and Making-of-History, namely, the Presidency of her Ladyship, Secretary Clinton. Since then, to the surprise of mostly everybody, Donald Trump actually won. Meaning the Great Event will not come to pass.


Since then we have been treated to a daily diet of absurdities from the left bemoaning the fact. Prime among them is the “What do I tell my 5 year old daughter?” gambit. How about this suggestion: “We will install an extra nightlight (powered with batteries charged by windmills) to keep away marauding Republicans who wish to flatten and simplify the tax code, while reducing the regulatory burden that the Competitive Enterprise Institute estimates costs consumers about $1.9 trillion annually”. That, along with some price-controlled milk and fair trade organic cookies should calm down any 5-year old.


Then there were the daily post election demonstrations in which people who didn’t bother to vote, decided to denounce the people who did vote. At least until the weather got cold and they got tired of setting cars on fire, all in the name of democracy.


And then there is all that rigging stuff. Trump was quite rightly taken to the woodshed for his idiotic argument that the election was somehow “rigged.” Then when it looked like he had an ever-so-slight chance to win, he proclaimed that the election wasn’t “as rigged as he thought”. Then astoundingly enough, he actually won.


Enter the computer experts. A group of these experts claimed to have found “persuasive evidence that results in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania may have been manipulated or hacked”. The persuasive evidence? Clinton received 7% fewer votes in counties that relied on electronic voting machines compared with counties that used optical-scanners and paper ballots. That’s it. No other explanation needed. And based on this “evidence” the scientists are lobbying the Clinton campaign to challenge the results in all three states, all of which she would need to win in a recount to emerge victorious in the electoral college. The respective deadlines for challenges are Friday (Wisconsin), Monday (Pennsylvania) and Wednesday, (Michigan).


Apparently the White House does not want the campaign to challenge the results, but the campaign has not responded to requests for comment. In the meantime Huma Abedin’s sister Heba is encouraging her Facebook followers to lobby the Justice Department to audit the 2016 vote. And Clinton supporters never fail to note she won the popular vote, although not the Electoral College.


And speaking of the Electoral College, Clinton supporters are making two distinct arguments. First, the Electoral College should be abolished in favor of a direct popular vote, something that should never, and will never happen. The second argument currently being pushed is that the Electoral College is not, and should not be, a rubber stamp, but a deliberative body. This argument has prompted Clinton supporters to attempt to persuade enough electors pledged to Trump to vote for someone else in order to throw the election into the House so that a “reasonable Republican” can be chosen instead of Trump.


Perhaps the most absurd reaction of all comes from the fashion world. According to the New York Times, American fashion is “emerging from its shell shocked post-election state….” Diane Furstenberg, chairwoman of the Council of Fashion Designers of America and a Clinton supporter, suggested sensibly enough that the industry “embrace diversity, be open-minded, be generous…and be an example of good”.


Sophie Theallet, a French celebrity designer, will have none of it. In a fairly obvious marketing ploy she publicly announced that she will not dress Melania Trump. In any event, Theallet repeated her earthshaking announcement in an open letter posted on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and she invited fellow designers to join in her refusal. Whereupon Tommy Hillfiger joined the fray by announcing that “Any designer should be proud to dress Melania Trump”.


Well, there you have it. The over politicization of almost everything, including the culture, has now reached the point where clothing designers for the rich and famous not only think they have to weigh in; they apparently believe they have something uniquely interesting to say. Which sums up why Trump won.


Happy Thanksgiving



In Transition

Thus far the Trump transition appears to be messier than usual. This seems to be due to a lack of contingency planning building by Team Trump. The lack of planning is probably due to a number of factors, not the least of which is that Trump went out of his way to attack the Republican establishment throughout the campaign. So Trump didn’t have much of a bench to turn to. A second factor is that Team Trump was probably as surprised as everyone when he actually emerged victorious. So it is not surprising that there was a distinct lack of enthusiasm for transition pre-planning.


It seems pretty obvious that when Trump named New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to chair his transition committee it was largely to get him out of the way. Then, after two of his top aides were convicted in the Bridgegate affair he was done for. First, he was ousted from his position as chair of the transition team. Next, key figures on the team seen as close to Christie were purged, reportedly at the urging of Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law.


There is a history here. When he was U.S. Attorney, Christie put Kushner’s father in jail for tax evasion and witness tampering. And Christie used the case to boost his chances for the Governor’s mansion. So perhaps Christie should be dusting off his resume right about now.


The Matter of Steve Bannon


Trump’s appointment of provocateur Steve Bannon to the post of chief strategist has produced a torrent of outrage on the left, unease among establishment Republicans and joy among the lunatic fringe. Bannon, took over as CEO at Breitbart News after Andrew Breitbart died suddenly in March 2012. Breitbart was an iconoclast who described himself as a Reagan conservative with libertarian sympathies.


After Bannon took over, the website began to veer toward coverage that seemed sympathetic to white supremacists and anti-Semites. Right now there is a legitimate debate over whether Bannon is an anti-Semite and whether or not he has deliberately stoked-up racial animosities. Alan Dershowitz, for one, says that there is insufficient evidence to hurl such an epithet.


And some of the coverage has been sloppy. For example take the uproar over the Breitbart opinion piece that labeled Bill Kristol a “renegade Jew” in the headline. That story (and headline) were actually authored by David Horiwitz (who is Jewish and an iconoclast). The last paragraph of the piece lambasted Kristol, a Never Trumper, for being insufficiently concerned about Jewish and Israeli interests. Hardly a case of anti-Semitism.


But let’s not be naïve about this. There has been a marked rise in the lunatic fringe in general, and anti-Semitism in particular. The divestiture movement is without question an attempt to de-legitimate the state of Israel. And the Black Lives Matter movement has been vociferous in its support of the divestiture effort, referring to Israel as an “apartheid” State, and accusing it of genocide against the Palestinian people, along with (of course) the U.S.


What is new is the apparent re-emergence of right-wing anti-Semitism, which had long been tamped down, beginning with William F Buckley, when he read anti-Semites, Birchers and the rest out of the conservative movement.


Whether Bannon (or any other senior official) is racist, an anti-Semite, a white supremacist or some other type of lunatic is (and ought to be) a question that needs to be asked and answered. That said there is no question—none—that Bannon’s “news” organization traffics in unbridled nonsense and ought to be taken about as seriously as the National Enquirer.


While there should be no doubt that a lot of self-dealing and score settling is going on under cover of the transition, the Trump administration-in-waiting owes it to the American people to clear this up by having Bannon denounce anti-Semitism, racism and white supremacy, and by making him available for a televised press conference. That should disabuse fringe groups of the idea that they have a special communications line, or any communications line for that matter, to the White House. Otherwise there will be a well-deserved cloud hanging over Trump and his Presidency when he takes the oath of office just two short months from now.



Arrival: They’re Here…

Arrival is not your ordinary Alien Invasion Flick. Directed by Denis Villeneuve, its central premise is that communication is the key to understanding. In this it has more in common with films like Close Encounters of the Third Kind than it does with War of the Worlds.

Dr. Louise Banks, played by Amy Adams, is a Professor of linguistics who is tasked with discovering the intentions of the visitors from outer space. To do this she must establish some form of communication with the aliens before a war breaks out. But she faces two problems. The first is that the aliens communicate using noises that appear to bear no resemblance to language on earth. No surprise there.

The second and more fundamental problem is an issue that linguists wrestle with. The idea is that the brain rewires itself depending on the language being used. So Professor Banks not only has to decode the alien language, she has to learn how to think in the language in order to communicate with the aliens.

The idea that the quality of human thought is in part dependent on the type of language being used is a profoundly important one. It implies that changing how words are used and understood can change the way we think about things. In her excellent book Bourgeois Equality Deidre McCloskey more than tips her hat to this idea. She argues that the growth of Market Liberalism first took off in the English speaking countries principally because the language adapted to changes in the way business was being done. She shows that words like trust, honor and gentleman, which formerly referenced class status, began to be associated with individual behavior.

This shift in language paved the way for Adam Smith’s attack on mercantilism, just as it allowed respect for a man’s labor. No longer was it necessary to be royalty; a member of the bourgeoisie could be respected as honorable and a gentleman. This was a fundamental change in the social order.

In the 20th century it was Orwell who brought the point home with his novel 1984 and his essay “Politics and the English Language”. Language shapes the discussion and provides a conceptual baseline for understanding the world around us. Unfortunately this lesson still has to be learned before political correctness washes over everything, making debate discussion and scientific inquiry all but impossible. But I digress.

In Arrival, conflict or the potential for it, occurs at many levels. For instance, political rivalries surface among the various countries and political blocs on Earth. There are power struggles within countries between scientists and their respective political and military establishments. And of course, there is the problem of whether the intentions of the aliens are peaceful or not. In each case the fundamental problem is that decision-making must take place under conditions of limited information exacerbated by imperfect communication. And at any moment, taking a wrong step can easily lead to a catastrophe.

In this the movie bears no small resemblance to Graham Allison’s classic study of the Cuban missile crisis “Essence of Decision.” In that situation the wrong move by either party could have led to a catastrophic nuclear exchange. And the central problem faced by the respective counterparties was understanding the motivations and incentives of the opposing side while still managing internal political pressures, all under conditions of imperfect information and limited communication.

Amy Adams, who dominates the film, is quite believable as Professor Banks. And for once we have a film where the various other players—the Defense Department, soldiers on the ground and political strategists to name a few—are not all reduced to the usual shoot first and ask questions later neanderthals.

All told, Arrival is thoughtful, entertaining and well worth seeing.

Rated PG, 1 hour, 56 minutes.


Reality Check

The shock of Donald Trump’s election produced an opportunity for the hard left to display its true colors, an opportunity they seized without hesitation. In so doing they displayed their intellectual and moral bankruptcy. The New York Times, in its coverage of ongoing anti-Trump protests, provided the evidence.


Times reporters waded into crowds of protesters to interview people about why they were out in the streets demonstrating. Here is how the Times described leaders of the protest in New York:


“Many protest leaders had supported Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont in the Democratic primary race and either did not vote or chose a third-party candidate in the general election, said Ben Becker, an organizer with the Answer Coalition, an antiwar and antiracism activist group based in New York. Their anger, he said, had been exacerbated by the conciliatory tone shown to Mr. Trump by President Obama and Hillary Clinton after Mrs. Clinton’s defeat.”

Anti-Trump Protest

Let’s unpack this. According to the Times many of the leaders (and I presume, followers) either did not vote or voted for a third party candidate. (Emphasis added). So people who didn’t vote, or who backed the wrong horse have now taken to the streets. And they are angered by the conciliatory tone adopted by President Obama and Secretary Clinton. So this is how the protesters mean to preserve and defend democracy? I don’t think so.


Let’s call this what it is. The protest leaders are the brown shirts of the left. Their followers are simply pawns in the game who don’t know any better.


Perhaps when the hysteria subsides Bernie Sanders fans (in particular) ought to cast a glance toward Venezuela where real socialist policies have been implemented. The economy has simply collapsed. According to the latest data, 2015 per capita GDP (expressed in US dollars) is about 7% lower than 2014, and 3.5% lower than it was in 2006. (See the chart below).



This past July The Huffington Post, hardly an organ of the right, published a story about food and medicine shortages in Venezuela. (Socialism always produces shortages; it is simply a matter of time). Accompanying the article is a photo (linked below) of thousands of Venezuelans streaming across the border to Columbia in order to buy food and medicine not available in Venezuela’s imploding economy.


Venezuelans Streaming into Columbia

When the leaders of the anti-Trump protests in the United States take a rest from their moral preening, they should answer two simple questions. First, how do their preferred policies differ from those imposed on Venezuela by Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro? Second, why would they produce a different outcome than the one we see in Venezuela?


Leaders of the anti-Trump protesters acting in concert with an established left-wing political infrastructure will go into the usual efforts at mobilization, consciousness raising, building awareness, days of rage and all the rest of it. People who deserve to be taken seriously will go back to their jobs.




Post Election Blues

During the Presidential campaign Donald Trump suggested that he would wait to see the results before committing to support them ahead of time. This was a fairly bone-headed move, and it provoked predictable cries of outrage. Two complaints stood out in particular. First, that Trump was engaged in undermining “our democracy” and, second, that he was setting the stage to de-legitimate Hillary Clinton’s Administration after her inevitable election.

Election Protestors

As it turns out Hillary Clinton’s election was not so inevitable after all. And there are throngs of protesters, and some rioters, in the streets decrying Trump’s election. Hillary Clinton has just recently blamed her election loss on James Comey for bringing up the e-mails again 11 days before the election. We are certainly entitled to wonder just how a continuing series of street protests, let alone rioting, is supposed to strengthen democracy. Or why James Comey is responsible for Hillary Clinton having installed an e-mail server in her basement.

About Those Campaign Promises

We are about to hear the sound of breaking glass as Donald Trump begins tossing campaign promises through the window. This may actually be a fairly good sign since so much of what he promised is plainly preposterous. There is The Wall of course, and there is trade protectionism. But some of the promises, particularly simplifying the tax code, reducing regulation, and getting rid of Obamacare are good policy.

Trump is caught on the horns of a dilemma though. The grab bag of policy proposals that led to his victory was fashioned to gain the support of non-college educated working class voters who ordinarily vote Democratic. But some key proposals (like trade protectionism) are an anathema to the Republican Party. Nor are Congressional Republicans likely to look kindly at spending $ 1 trillion for infrastructure, although that could change depending on how it is conceived and financed.

It is very easy to promise everything to everybody. The hard part is delivering, especially with an unstable coalition. To govern is to choose. Now Mr. Trump is going to have to make actual choices.

A Pardon for Hillary Clinton?

It is crystal clear that notwithstanding James Comey’s contortions, Hillary Clinton violated the law in her treatment of classified information. That presents a problem. On the one hand, it would be unseemly for an incoming Administration to prosecute a political adversary, particularly after the electorate has held her politically accountable. On the other hand, if the rule of law is to mean something, it requires that the law be enforced without favoritism.

A better solution would be a pardon from President Obama that implicitly acknowledges her violation, but removes the threat of criminal liability for mistreating classified data.



Before the election there were dark warnings of the possibility of violence by Trump supporters in the event of a Clinton victory. Well, we are getting the violence, but it seems to be coming from Trump opponents, although it must be said that it can no way be attributed to Hillary Clinton who was quite gracious in her concession speech the following morning.



Republicans ought to think about waiting a bit before popping the champagne corks. President-elect Donald Trump is likely to propose an infrastructure program with a price tag in the vicinity of $1 trillion dollars. The Trump proposal may wind up looking a lot like the program Obama signed into law in 2009 that did little to no good. And there is that matter of where that $1 trillion is going to come from. The accumulated debt already on the books is now $20 trillion and headed upwards. And that doesn’t count the present value of unfunded entitlements under current law.


On the other hand Obamacare is almost certainly going to be dismantled and replaced with something more market friendly. We can expect an effort to inject competition into the health care finance system by allowing insurance companies so sell across state lines. That would be all to the good. It would eliminate lots of bureaucracy and facilitate efficiency gains by enlarging risk pools. Perhaps they will take up the issue of tort reform in an effort to reduce the practice of defensive medicine.


Dodd-Frank will come in for a significant overhaul. And there may be an effort to resurrect some form of Glass-Stiegel, which would separate commercial and investment banking.


Early on we can expect Trump to nominate a replacement for Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. With respect to the nominee, there are two questions lurking not very far in the background. First, will Trump’s nominee come from the list the Heritage Foundation drew up for him early on in the campaign? Second, will Chuck Schumer, the presumed minority leader, try to mount a filibuster? Or will he hold his firepower to see if Trump will get a chance to tip the balance of the Court if one of the more liberal Justices steps down?


Personnel is policy so we should be able to get a sense of the broad outlines of what a Trump administration would look like after he makes a few announcements for key cabinet and staff positions.



Failure of the Elites

Donald Trump is going to spend the next two months taking a crash course in how to be President. Let’s hope he studies his Cliff Notes carefully. He’s going to need them.
The headline on the front page of the New York Times reads: Establishment Shaken by Trump Victory. The Times headline suggests that elites still haven’t quite caught on to the joke. Shaking up up the establishment is precisely what the voters wanted to do.


The manner in which the 2016 campaign was conducted stands as an indictment of political and media elites. The Republican Party establishment stood by helplessly as Donald J. Trump, a lifelong Democrat, violated long standing political norms and launched a withering assault on Republican orthodoxy before going on to capture the nomination of that very same Party. For its part, a thoroughly corrupt Democratic Party establishment stacked the deck to ensure that Hillary Clinton would secure its Presidential nomination even though she was under criminal investigation. For all we know, she still was when the votes were cast on November 8, and still might be today.


Add to this the fact that media elites ignored or downplayed Hillary Clinton’s long list of policy failures, mounting evidence of her corruption and that of the Clinton Foundation, and the damage the Clintons rained down on important American governing institutions. For its part, Fox News spent the better part of the year running infomercials for the Trump campaign with Sean Hannity acting as head cheerleader.


By the time the organs of the elite media finally got around to launching their predictable and brutal assault on Trump, after having conveniently waited until he had secured the Republican nomination, it didn’t matter. The public had already tuned them out. Quite simply, the public no longer trusts conventional news outlets to report the news even handedly. And they shouldn’t. Moreover, the culture has become so coarse, politics so infantile, and deviancy defined down so low, that it provides a wall of protection around aberrant behavior, which is precisely the opposite of what the culture is supposed to do.


The net of it is that elites went down market, checked their privilege and abandoned the idea of stewardship. Into the vacuum that remained rode Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, perfect exemplars of our trashy pop culture. It permits Trump to boast that he could shoot someone on Park Avenue and not lose support. It allows Hillary Clinton to stare into the camera and repeatedly lie, wink and invite her supporters to participate in her lies.


In the end the American people were presented with a choice between a fool and a knave. They decided to take a chance. They chose the fool.




There should be no doubt that one of the more inauspicious Presidential contests in recent history produced an earthquake. Donald Trump, a businessman with no political experience and little policy knowledge, managed to win the Republican Presidential nomination and then the White House by running as an outsider. In so doing he has shaken up the leadership of both the Republican and Democratic Parties.


Trump carried states Republicans haven’t won in decades. They include Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Iowa and (apparently) Michigan. In short, the blue wall in the rust belt crumbled. And it crumbled for a reason.


These are the states that elites refer to as “fly over territory”. And they are in revolt. Citizens in those states are tired of the relentless condescension heaped on them by political, media and financial elites. These citizens see themselves, their values and their culture as being under siege. Theirs is an insurgency fed by slow economic growth and social engineering that violates their sense of fairness. In short, they look very much like the 1980s Reagan Democrats of Macomb county Michigan.


So when Trump posed the question “What do you have to lose” they decided to take the leap, more out of desperation than hope.


Let’s not kid ourselves. As Lloyd Benston would say, Donald J Trump is no Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan was a two-term Governor of California, the nation’s largest state. Ronald Reagan had a core set of beliefs he carried with him throughout his political career. They included a belief in American exceptionalism; a determination to push back against a communism many saw as ascendant, and a commitment to liberty and free markets. Reagan was inclusive, an optimist and had no use for crony capitalism. And Reagan unambiguously promoted clear policies that were consistent with his beliefs.


It is not clear if Donald Trump has any core beliefs, much less a thought out political agenda. Speaker Paul Ryan has one that is ready to go. The real question is whether Ryan and Congressional Republicans are going to be able to get Trump to adopt and champion that policy agenda. Or whether Trump actually intends to fight to build his silly wall and take apart the global trading system to boot. Let’s hope it turns out to be the former, not the latter.