Tag Archives: Politics

Trump doesn’t want to win

Back in January, before the voting started in the U.S. primaries, I posted on this blog. My belief was that Donald Trump was going to win the Republican primaries and become the Republican nominee for President. This prediction turned out to be exactly right.

In addition, I predicted that Trump would beat Hillary Clinton easily in the general election. Lo and behold, it is Trump versus Clinton. However the current polling shows that Clinton consistently leads Trump.

My belief is that Trump is a much stronger candidate than Clinton. On political instinct alone, he would beat her any day. However observing Trump over the recent months, particularly since he won the Republican nomination, I have come to believe that he does not want to actually win the Presidency. All his terrible statements and apparent personality flaws notwithstanding, Trump is certainly a very clever person. It cannot possibly be that he is unaware of the negative consequences of some of his statements in terms of his own popularity and the reaction from the public.

It may well be that Trump’s runaway success in the primaries was a surprise to himself first. And that he never expected to win the nomination and be in a position to win the Presidency. And once he saw that he is very close to winning the election, he came to a realisation that he doesn’t actually want to do the everyday job of the President which requires extreme concentration and dedication. At this stage, his thinking must be: how do I maximise my own pleasure and utility from this unexpected position I find myself in?

He revels in the glory of being the focus of attention of the whole country, if not the whole world. He wouldn’t trade that for anything. That’s why he’s not planning to withdraw. But he’s also not planning to win. The best way to achieve both ends? Continue making outrageous statements that keep everybody talking about him and make it impossible for him to win the general election.

I think it is highly likely that once Trump loses, he will cash in on his newfound political following. The most obvious way, as a number of commentators have pointed out, is Trump TV. Fox News is a money making machine – the top cable network in the U.S. – sustained by the existence of an army of right-leaning viewers. I’ve no doubt Trump observes its success with considerable interest. He has a ready-made audience of loyal followers right there.

As we’ve seen with Brexit, sometimes victory can be unexpected for the winners themselves. And they may utterly lack a plan. Trump is so good at campaigning that he may win accidentally, despite all the advantages that the Clinton campaign will surely accumulate – data-driven voter turnout operation, endless array of attack ads, a sterling lineup of surrogates. But Hillary is a deeply flawed candidate of the establishment in an election where the electorate craves change. Like Boris and Nigel, against all odds Donald might find himself a winner without a plan. That would be another catastrophe.

Trump as the Mule: will he alter history?

In my previous post, right before the Iowa caucuses, I predicted that Trump and Clinton would win their respective nominations, and that Trump would beat Clinton handily in the general election. Now that the Super Tuesday results are in, my predictions seem to be right on track so far.

Observing the election extravaganza, there is one thing that I find particularly striking. For all his success in attracting the votes of the disenchanted and the angry, Trump’s platform is incredibly vacuous. On issue after issue, we literally don’t know what he really stands for or what he will do once elected.

Yes, he does make some very controversially sounding noises, particularly on race and immigrants. But considering his oft-declared tactic of always making an impossibly high first ask to start a negotiation, we really don’t know what his true negotiating intent might be even on his most controversial issues.

Take healthcare. He declares that he will repeal Obamacare and replace it “with something a lot better”. That’s a position that can obviously be supported by everybody across the board – because everyone can fill it with their own meaning. Given that over the course of his life Trump has expressed a whole diapason of views on all kinds of topics, we truly have no idea what kind of “a lot better” he will go for as it applies to healthcare – or to anything else, for that matter.

In the sci-fi classic Foundation series by Isaac Asimov, the history of the Galaxy is steered in a preplanned direction by hidden Foundations, mysterious power brokers which know how to manipulate the rules of the game. And then a completely unexpected personage, called the Mule, appears. A mutant, possessing strange, near magical powers. The Mule goes on to wrestle control over half the Galaxy, completely upending the plans of the Foundation and throwing history into chaos.

Trump reminds me of the Mule. His unique blend of powers and abilities seems to be the perfect storm from the point of view of those who hold power. Unprecedented celebrity, unassailable wealth and genius for media manipulation – take away any of these ingredients, and his improbable run becomes impossible. But together they put him in a unique position to take control of the United States and implement an agenda that at this point is largely unknown and likely groundbreaking.

One result of such a paradoxical confluence of events is that very powerful interests are now stacked up against him. They may wait till he becomes President to see what he will actually do. But don’t be surprised if an assassination attempt happens early in his Presidency.

After a mighty struggle, the Foundation did overcome the Mule. The history of the Galaxy followed its predicted path.

How the IT revolution reshapes the American politics

With a held breath I’m following the unfolding of the American presidential race this year. Unusually, there is a genuine uncertainty this time as to how the race will develop and who will ultimately win.

It feels as if the lithospheric plates of American politics have began to shift. The unlikely figures, Trump and Sanders, are rocking the stage on both sides of the aisle. What gives? The answer is simple. The internet revolution has finally reached the American political mind.

The trick that both parties used to play with the electorate was essentially to promote whatever sells and then to implement an ulterior agenda while in power, sometimes completely ignoring the population’s preferences. The Republicans would concentrate the voters’ ire on culture wars and limited government while pushing through the agenda of expanding military spending and drastically cutting taxes on the superrich. The Democrats would focus on liberal social policies  while decisively deregulating the financial sector and bailing out banks at taxpayer’s cost. Both parties essentially serving the interests of moneyed elites while largely ignoring the preferences of the electorate in key areas.

That’s no longer possible. The age of (more) perfect information finally affects the United States. People like Trump and Sanders now have an unprecedented direct connection to the voters. In different ways, both of them are products of the information revolution. Trump is the emperor of the media in general and the social media in particular, deftly using both to amplify his message. A message sensibly tailored to the widely shared actual preferences of the Republican voters. Sanders is the king of online fundraising. Both insistently position themselves as not soiled by any super-PAC connection, as if super-PACs were some dirty underworld creatures. Citizens United has been neutralized by the internet revolution.

Trump has skilfully exploited the divide between the voters’ preferences and the official position taken by the party. As an example, the Republican establishment has endorsed the issue of immigration as an area of a convenient political compromise. Turns out, voters would have none of it. GOP politicians were not afraid of hammering on about the deficit, transparently preparing the ground for cutting social programs. But there is no support for touching Medicare or Medicaid among the electorate.

With an equal vigour, Sanders has endorsed Elizabeth Warren-style anti-rich rants. He is an authentic messenger for this creed, in stark contrast to Hillary Clinton. Her ties to financial services industry go back to her husband’s presidency and continue over the years as a steady stream of campaign contributions and speaking fees. Her credibility as an anti-inequality crusader is questionable at best.

Ultimately, the reason why Trump is the overwhelming favourite now to win the Republican nomination is the fact that he represents the voters’ preferences in the way that other candidates don’t. Will Sanders win on the Democratic side? Hillary Clinton is a mediocre politician who was propelled into the pole position by being uniquely connected to two former presidents. She has nevertheless amassed a solid lead in several key metrics: recognition, minority support, supercandidates and endorsements, money. This lead may be too large for Sanders to overcome. But watch out for the power of information technology revolution. Once he wins both Iowa and New Hamphshire, Bern she will feel.

My prediction for the general election: Trumps beats Hillary in a walk.

What does Merkel want? Mass migration is German Chancellor’s secret weapon against aging

The hot topic in the news for the past weeks has been the unprecedented influx of migrants into the European Union. I am surprised by a distinct difference between what my friends from the West and my friends from the East of Europe are saying privately on this question. The Westerners tend to focus on the plight of the migrants and on the ways how we as individuals can help them. The Easterners on the other hand are puzzled by the perceived naiveté of the West. They are honestly wondering if Angela Merkel is irrational, reactive or simply confused. What are her motives to invite thousands, if not millions of poor people from a different culture into her country, seemingly creating a cultural disaster of her own making?

In 2001 CIA prepared a major report that discussed the major worldwide demographic trends and their implications for security and economic growth. (It’s still readily available on their website.) Discussing the dangers of one key trend – aging in developed countries – the report pointed out that to maintain the size of its working-age population, Japan would need nearly 650,000 migrants per year in years 2000-2050. Germany would need 487,000, and Italy 327,000. It literally said that “developed countries will need record levels of immigrants to support their retirees. Immigration to Germany would have to far exceed the 1 million immigrants in 1990 that resulted from unification. Strong public resistance to immigration—especially in Germany and Japan—will fuel political controversy.”

In real life we have not seen anything like these numbers. There have been attempts to create an orderly migration system along the lines of Canada or Australia for Europe, but the political will simply isn’t there – not in Germany and not in the greater European Union.

What we suddenly saw in 2015 was how Angela Merkel seized the sad occasion of a humanitarian crisis in Syria to decisively advance a necessary but painful dynamic. It didn’t hurt that the Syrian population is relatively well-educated. To call for massive migration in order to combat aging (and steal some qualified foreign manpower in the process) just wouldn’t fly. But to invite refugees chased by a terrible dictator was suddenly very popular. “Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here” were chanting the German demonstrators in the throes of altruistic élan. Flabbergasting many a parochial observer in Eastern Europe in the process. We are beginning to see the backclash caused by inevitable cultural frictions. There will be a lot more of it.

And yet massive immigration into the EU is here to stay. It’s only the beginning. In terms of the numbers, we ain’t seen nothing yet. As developing countries become slightly richer and people get access to information and transport, the migratory flows will become ever stronger. For our aging societies, that might not be a bad thing.

Pink tide

Leaving Latin America, I want to comment on a phenomenon that seems to be sweeping this part of the world. It is the so called pink tide, the simultaneous occurrence of a left swing in the politics of the most countries on this continent. It is pink of course because bloody red is somehow appropriated by the communists, whereas the socialists can be safely painted in pink. Latin America has been under robust American control for many years, belonged to the immediate American sphere of interests. But especially in the most recent years, after the end of the Cold War, the situation here changed radically and one after another pieces of the domino fell as socialist or left-wing presidents won elections.

There are 12 independent countries in South America. Today there are left-wing governments in 9 of them, and Michelle Bachelet just won the first round in presidential election in Chile and is likely to win the second, making it 10 out of 12.

This is how it looks:

Continue reading Pink tide