Seven things (revisited)

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Almost exactly a year ago (July 9, 2015 to be precise), I posted a little piece called “Seven things I want to believe.” These weren’t predictions, per se, more like short observations, hopes, and expectations.

Even so, I thought it was worth it to look back and see how these panned out. In case you don’t want to read any further, here’s the short take:

I got some right (Clinton-Sanders and the Iran nuclear deal), I got some incredibly wrong (Trump and the Grateful Dead), some partly right but wrong in tragic ways (Confederate flag and dialogue on race, ISIS sympathizers and domestic terrorism), and one (Han Solo origin pic) where it’s too soon to tell but the signs are promising.

On to the original list, with an update for each.

1) Republican voters are not so completely alienated from the political process that they will actually cast their ballots for Donald Trump.

Wow, did I get that one wrong. It’s some comfort knowing that virtually everyone else got it wrong too, but still. Come next week the billionaire (maybe) blowhard (definitely) with authoritarian tendencies will officially go from presumptive to official Republican nominee for the White House. Who saw that coming a year ago? I sure didn’t.

2) The chances of reaching a deal with Iran on its nuclear ambitions are better than 50/50.

This one did pan out, despite intense political opposition in Congress. But in the end, Iran agreed to terms, it’s nuclear weapons program has been almost completely dismantled, most economic sanctions have been lifted, and the way is clear for the country to re-enter the international community.

It also represents an impressive diplomatic victory for Obama’s legacy which will make the US safer and the region more stable. Assuming some psycho blowhard doesn’t become the next president and tear the thing up.

3) Removing the Confederate battle flag from the lawn of the South Carolina statehouse will be the start of a meaningful national dialogue on race.

We’re having dialogue, that’s for sure. But black men are still dying at the hands of police, protests are still roiling American cities in ways reminiscent of the late 1960s, and racial politics still seem paralyzed. And we still have Rudy Giuliani.

4) The Grateful Dead are done.

Dear God, they’re actually on tour. Well, at least the creaky remnants.

5) Bernie Sanders will force Hillary Clinton to actually compete for the Democratic nomination.

Nailed this one. Not only did Clinton have to compete, she had to compete all the way into June before locking up the nomination. Sanders has dragged his feet on endorsing Clinton for the last month, trying to use every last ounce of the influence he won during the primaries to try to push her and the Democratic Party as far to the progressive left as possible.

And it has worked. Clinton has embraced a number of the proposals he championed, like a $15 national minimum wage and free (public) college education. Tomorrow Sanders and Clinton hit the campaign trail together.

6) FBI arrests of supposed ISIS sympathizers actually foiled July 4th terror plots.

Who knows if they did or didn’t. Doesn’t really matter, I suppose. After all, we still got San Bernardino and Orlando. Given the nature of domestic terrorism and patterns of radicalization, we would be foolish to assume that those will be the last.

7) The Han Solo origin movie will be awesome.

This one is too soon to call. But based on Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the trailers for the upcoming Rogue One, I am more than cautiously optimistic.

Hell, I’m downright giddy.

The company Trump keeps

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Donald Trump, speaking to reporters at the reopening of his golf course in Scotland, had something to say about yesterday’s British vote to quit the European Union, the so-called Brexit:

I think it’s a great thing that’s happened. It’s an amazing vote, very historic.

Before going further, let’s take stock of the first day’s Brexit economic damage:

  • Dow down 610 points, or 3.39 percent
  • NASDAQ down 202 points, or 4.12 percent
  • US banking stocks took a pounding (Morgan Stanley -10.15%, Citigroup -9.36%, Bank of America -7.41%)
  • Japan’s Nikkei down 7.92 percent
  • Germany’s DAX down 6.82 percent
  • Moody’s downgraded the UK’s credit outlook from “stable” to “negative”
  • Value of the British pound fell 11 percent to a 30-year low against the US dollar
  • £40 billion was wiped off the bottom line of British banks, equivalent to about $55 billion

So in case you’re wondering, this financial catastrophe, the biggest since the global economic meltdown of 2008, is what Donald Trump was applauding when he congratulated UK voters for walking out of the European Union.

But Trump sees the collapse of Britain’s currency is nothing less than a personal windfall:

When the pound goes down, more people are coming to Turnberry, frankly. For traveling and for other things, I think it very well could turn out to be a positive.

Of course Trump is not the only one lauding the United Kingdom’s voters for ditching the EU, and that’s the real point of this post. Let’s take a look at the company the presumptive GOP nominee for president is keeping.

European far right parties are fully on Trump’s side

  • In France, the National Front’s Marine Le Pen hailed Brexit as a “Victory for Freedom.”
  • In the Netherlands, far right anti-immigration leader Geert Wilders said, “I think it could also have huge consequences for the Netherlands and the rest of Europe. Now it’s our turn.”
  • In Germany, Beatrix von Storch, of the right wing populist Alternative für Deutschland party said, “The 23 June is a historic day. It is Great Britain’s independence day.”
  • In Greece, the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn, Europe’s most violent right wing party, released this statement: “Golden Dawn welcomes the victory of the nationalist and patriotic forces in Great Britain against the European Union, which has been transformed into the doleful instrument of loan sharks.”

But that’s not all. On our side of the Atlantic, the racist right is also on the same page as Trump, responding to the UK vote with, as the Southern Poverty Law Center puts it, “euphoric delight”:

“This is VICTORY DAY, brothers,” Andrew Anglin, editor of the anti-Semitic website Daily Stormer wrote on Friday. “Nothing can stop us now. But the fact is, brothers: nothing ever could stop us. God and nature are on our side. The stars themselves declare our ULTIMATE VICTORY over the (((forces of darkness and evil))).” (The parentheses are a new online trope used by racist trolls to single out names and things they believe are Jewish.)

So that’s the company Donald Trump keeps. European fascists and neo-Nazis. American racists and anti-Semites.

And that’s the man Republicans are poised to nominate for president a month from now in Cleveland.

Dump Trump? Don’t bet on it

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As Nate Silver points out this morning, betting markets are now giving Donald Trump a 14 percent chance of not being the Republican nominee once the dust settles from the party convention in Cleveland next month.

As the day wore on came news that Trump had parted ways with campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and another top campaign advisor resigned after mocking Lewandowski’s firing on Twitter (Sad!). You would expect these developments to hurt the Trump campaign if there was an actual Trump campaign to hurt.

And buzz continued to surround the “Free the Delegates” ploy to change the rules ahead of the convention so that delegates can “vote their conscience,” as House Speaker Paul Ryan suggested on Sunday, and deny Trump the nomination on the floor.

If any of this is giving you hope that somehow the Republican Party can find a way out of this nightmare of their own making, I have a series of fool-proof real estate seminars I’d like to sign you up for.

For his part, having snatched the GOP away from its establishment leaders (hey, how’s it feel Speaker Ryan?), Trump still manages to talk about the party as if he were fighting against it rather than being its standard bearer.

At a rally a week ago in Florida, Trump unleashed this broadside against what is theoretically his own party:

I mean, I’ve had more opposition from the Republican Party than I do from the Democrats. The Republican Party has to be tough and has to be smart. And if they’re not tough and smart, I’m going to win, but a lot of other people won’t.

The crowd responded with a chorus of boos for the GOP.

No, the Republicans won’t dump Trump because, as Paul Krugman argues in the New York Times today, Trump’s bloated persona has swelled to fill the hollowed out shell of a once proud political party:

Do you remember what happened when the Berlin Wall fell? Until that moment, nobody realized just how decadent Communism had become. It had tanks, guns, and nukes, but nobody really believed in its ideology anymore; its officials and enforcers were mere careerists, who folded at the first shock.

It seems to me that you need to think about what happened to the G.O.P. this election cycle the same way.

The Republican establishment was easily overthrown because it was already hollow at the core. Donald Trump’s taunts about “low-energy” Jeb Bush and “little Marco” Rubio worked because they contained a large element of truth. When Mr. Bush and Mr. Rubio dutifully repeated the usual conservative clichés, you could see that there was no sense of conviction behind their recitations. All it took was the huffing and puffing of a loud-mouthed showman to blow their houses down.

The Republican Party can’t dump Trump because Trump is the Republican Party. Trump may have fired his campaign manager, but who will fire Trump?

Yeah. That’s what I thought.