Donald, Bernie and Alice in Wonderland

Now I know what Alice must have felt like when falling down the rabbit hole into Wonderland.  Last June I called Trump a “clown”  and have not even tried to cover Sanders because he was a self-proclaimed “socialist,” a political scarlet letter “S”  I assumed a majority of Americans couldn’t stomach.

Now I see Trump as a clever ringmaster who has made clowns of observers like me not to mention his fellow party candidates.   And, while I still doubt a majority of Americans can accept a socialist president, perhaps enough Democrats can to make Bernie their nominee, especially if Hillary’s campaign continues to be plagued by the email mess she created and Bill’s philandering past and a $125,000,000 they have received in speaking fees since they left the White House.

It is now at least “thinkable” that our presidential race could come down to Donald Trump vs. Bernie Sanders.  After all, one Vegas odds maker makes Trump an odds-on favorite and lists Bernie’s chances as 5/1 to win a primary (Hillary remains a 1/10 super favorite).

If a Trump-Sanders show down seems possible what isn’t?  What about this?  According to polls a number of Trump supporters pick Sanders as their second choice for president, and vice-versa with Sanders followers, ignoring party lines.   Despite many differences between the two (e. g. Sanders wants to change a “corrupt system” which favors a few and Trump blames the “idiots” who run it for not making good deals for our country) they represent a determination to change the status quo and that common desire has attracted large, enthusiastic followings, reminiscent of when hope and change was Obama’s calling card.

How either candidate might change the workings of government is hard to magine.  Bernie has plans, like a single payer health system, Medicare for all, but how would he get support for it? (1.)  The main reason Obamacare hasn’t worked out to the satisfaction of many, is that too many deals had to be made with too many factions within his own party to barely get it passed.

And if it is hard to imagine what Bernie would actually succeed in doing, imagining Trump as president is unimaginable.   So much of his successful candidacy has lay in the realm of the unpredictable, why would it suddenly change if he were president?   And since he has no policy plans, only slogans and threats, what would he actually do if given the chance?

The situation seems “iffy” enough to throttle much speculation for now and wait for things to sort out more, but in the interim I will soon return to my favorite topic of what Trump’s success says about us.   While Bernie is becoming more interesting as his chances have improved, he still runs a regular political campaign and that cannot become as addictive for many as a reality TV show with continuous plot twists.  Most of us do not get hooked on a mere political campaign, but we do when it comes to a favorite TV show.

As in Wonderland, there is a surreality about Trump’s campaign.  He has successfully ignored traditional political wisdom in running to win the presidency, but as good as he is at talking a great game, if actually given the chance to govern, who knows how or what he would do?    Might he have us so hooked at that point that we will vote him in just to see?  But that reality check is still just a possibility down the line.

For now I doubt if I am alone waking up each day wondering what new Trump surprise will be awaiting on the morning cable shows.  How has he stolen the next news cycle this time?   Oh, he has put Ted Cruz on the defense again, something others have been unable to do, and….  Oh, a surprise endorsement from Sarah Palin flying to Iowa to announce it, important because she had supported Cruz in his Senate race.

Trump has gotten us to the point where we are always wondering:  What will Donald say or do next?  If able to maintain that curiousity with Republicans, Trump seems likely to win the primary, surprised as I am to say that.

Will he then find a way to make the election all about him as well, make it his show as he has the primary?   Well, I for one would be very curious to see.

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(1.)  Surprisingly, Trump has said that a single payer system seems to work well in other countries and may rate a look.   If his mesmerizing power turns him into President Trump I can imagine him arguing that we are the richest country in the world and a great nation should take care of its sick and a single payer system would be the best way to do it.   Cut out all those high cost insurance middle men and pressure the drug companies for lower prices.  And suddenly this would cease to be a socialist idea and instead a common sense solution.

 

 

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Good Bye Obama. Hello Trump.

I used to love hearing President Obama speak, but it is hard for me to listen to him anymore.  He voiced so much hope and optimism years ago and the results have been so limited I just have had enough.

I know. I know.  The Republicans have done everything in their power to create a narrative of his being foreign and “other”, not a true blue American.  Also, for starters, they left him a broken economy and two never ending problems called Iraq and Afghanistan. And they kept blaming him for not fixing these messes as well as they supposedly would.  And called him feckless while blocking to the extent they could just about everything he proposed to Congress.

In the process of demonizing him they created such a negative sense of what we have become as a nation, that they spawned the rise of TRUMPISM.  Trump is the un-Obama, the antithesis of the professorial sort, the contrasts so obvious I won’t bother to detail them.   Want us to be great again?  Just chose a president who is just the opposite of the one we have.

But when Trump goes on and on about making us great again, he not only blames Obama but Republicans as well (e. g. he said it was a mistake to go into Iraq in a book he wrote back then).  And he says things that go against Republican rhetoric, if not actions, about being an inclusive big tent party.   In short, he has gone off the rails, reminding me of Dr. Frankenstein and his creation.

The Republican establishment could have stomped him out years ago by laughing at him along with the rest of us as he pushed his birtherism silliness (according to polls 60% of his supporters still believe it), but he suited their purposes in raising doubts about Obama’s legitimacy, so they were mostly mum about those accusations, with some even acting as if they might be true.  Now he question’s their legitimacy as well as the legitimacy of anyone who criticizes him.

You reap what you sew.

But so what.   I still don’t want to hear more from Obama.  It has gotten old.   We must understand that we are in a political era when gut level feelings count much more than facts, largely because  factual assessments can get pretty ambiguous and we seldom can even agree what the basic facts are, spun to suit individual agendas.  Reason is overrated these days.

While I agree with Obama that the country is actually in much better shape than many Americans seem to feel, reasoning with Americans about this doesn’t work, especially as the Republican negative narrative has solidified our uneasy image of our nation.

The bottom line is while we remain the world’s strongest economy, have its strongest military and are less vulnerable than other countries to terrorists, we do not feel that we are in control of events as we at least thought we had been since World War II. In other words, while it can be argued we remain #1, we no longer feel untouchable, secure in our position.

In a rapidly changing world, we cannot control things the way we used to, and the American dream seems harder to fulfill for many and we just do not feel as safe now that suicidal terrorists are becoming  home grown and, despite our best efforts, impossible to stop altogether.   And we can not even seem to work together to deal with this slippage from our undisputed world pinnacle.

Obama had a dream for our future that hasn’t turned out so well, and Trump is trying to replace that vision with one of a reconstituted past, a return to Camelot.   In the process, Trump has transformed a political race into a “reality” TV show and in that venue he is the star while the other candidates are mere extras, at least up until now.

I have said before I think of him as a snake oil salesman, but sales are good and unlike with Obama, his shows remain interesting to watch.   One of the few lines of poetry I can recall captures my split reaction to Trump.  As John Keats wrote two centuries ago:   What shocks the virtuous philosopher, delights the camelion Poet.”

My virtuous philosopher fears for our nation and wants Trump’s campaign to blow up, but my camelion poet continues to delight in the show.

MY TRUMP SLUMP: Could a fairy tale come true?

When I have written a post I have always known what it is about, but I’m not so sure about this one.  I have too many unhappy thoughts vying for attention and none of them can be easily encapsulated in a post.  And then again:  Which of you are eager to hear more unhappy thoughts?  Don’t you get a big enough daily dose from our media?

The most fun for me is to write about the Donald Trump Show and its ability to remain a sell out.  It is fascinating that he has become immune to criticism as he turns it all around into just more publicity for himself.   He’s so good at turning the tables, hardly anyone even tries to lay a glove on him these days.  The maxim that “bad publicity is better than no publicity” was tailor made for him.   Even better he transforms bad publicity into good, at least for his numerous supporters, who are so sick of the status quo.

However, the fun I’ve had with the Trump campaign has become hampered by my accepting the possibility he actually could become president.   Having called him a clown in a post last June, I now thinks he rates a good shot to win the Republican nomination, and ponder whether he might actually win the presidency.  If he has been this big of a surprise, whose to say he can’t be an even bigger one?

If world events appear even more unwieldy and dangerous than they are now, Trump’s decisive, strong man, winner image may entice more of the voters than I would imagine.    In a world that has come to seem staggeringly complex, Trump’s simple solution to every problem, i. e. HIM, offers to soothe anxiety, unless you believe as I do that for every complex problem there is a simple solution…..and it’s wrong.

If I did not have a doubt in the world about Trump’s electability, I could enjoy the show a lot more.   But I keep thinking of the Pied Piper who played a magic flute that enticed all the children of a small German town to follow him away.

“The Big Short” is Big Entertainment

I don’t like a lot of movies a lot, but I’d say I love “The Big Short” were I not prone to understatement.

In case you don’t know, it is about the collapse of the housing market in 2008 and under most circumstances it would never have become a movie.  Michael Lewis, the author of the book didn’t believe anyone would want to make it into a movie, let a lone a good one, but he turned out to be doubly wrong.   I don’t think he minds.

For the uninitiated the story is about several guys who, unlike just about everyone else, could foresee that the giddy rise in housing prices was a bubble about to burst and then found ways to bet on that eventuality using Wall Street financial instruments they created.   What makes the movie great, er, very good, is that these guys are all curious characters with interesting back stories portrayed strikingly through an excellent script peppered with humor.

Periodically some character says something to temper our enjoyment, reminding us that millions of people lost their homes and jobs as a result, but those sobering thoughts do not suck enjoyment from the story itself.

What does irritate is a statistic given at the end of the movie that only one man went to  jail despite the palpable guilt of many.   What the Obama administration settled for instead was large fines to the various companies involved while allowing those companies to deny intentional wrong doing.   THE BIG LIE!

My guess is the Obama team thought pressing for convictions would add to the shakiness of the financial system which they spent many of their efforts to shore up.  But the crimes ignored were so obvious that the government response is demoralizing.

For those who want to read more about that Matt Taibbi has written an interesting piece for Rolling Stone about an executive at JP Morgan who had a bird’s eye view of the corruption and tried to fight it the best she could, but her voice was stifled first by the company and later by the Obama administration.  Linked here.

Also, as good as the movie was, if you agree with that assessment, I think you’d find the book adding to your enjoyment as no movie can capture all the good parts of a book.   And Michael Lewis, whose books Money Ball and The Blind Side were also turned into good movies, is great at telling a story.