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Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Countdown to extasy?

Ok, lets see how to open this.

As the tumultuous 2016 election draws to a close...

No, too pretentious.How about.

The 2016 election cycle has seen an extremely high level of partisan agitation on the political spectrum as...

Ugh, to Pol Sci,  we need something more punchy. 

The Clinton party bus swerved wildly towards the guard rail (and the sheer drop on the other side), the passengers inside screaming in fear as their premature celebrations turned to terror as the beaten up black muscle car continued to ram into it.

Ah that's better.

When I completed my previous post about US politics I figured that was the last I would be writing about the political cl**terf**k that the election there had turned into.

Clinton had a decent lead, had dealt with Trump in the debates and Trump himself seemed to have finally gone that one step too far (although to be fair he had previously taken so many one steps too far that we really should not  have been surprised by his ability to keep on steppin no matter what he said or did) and with 10 days to go it was just a case of buckle down the hatches, say nothing stupid and vigorously firefight any bush-fire press that might emerge. What could possibly go wrong?

Well we found out what could go wrong a few days a go when James Comey of the FBI most likely torpedoed the Clinton Campaign with what can only be described as a well timed shot just below the waterline.

To be fair the good ship Clinton was not so seaworthy as her PR might have painted it, given the incessant bad press around her campaign which was only beaten (or possibly trumped (pun intended)) only by Trumps own horrendous coverage and media behavior.

Clinton was always a much better candidate compared to Trump but had she been paired against a decent Republican (although I currently have no idea who that would be but lets say, for arguments sake Mitt Romney) she would have scrubbed up a lot worse than she had and probably would have been fighting for her political life long before now as the ongoing doom cloud around her just never lifted and it was Trumps own scandal, dodgy dealings and dirty laundry (and by God there has been sooooo much of it) that was providing any counterweight to the media just tearing her limb from limb like a christian thrown into the lion enclosure.

But even to my own non partisan eyes and skeptical view it is hard not to see this new move by the FBI, of releasing further files on the then pardoning by Bill Clinton (on his last day in office as POTUS) of tax dodging financier Marc Rich (although to again be fair the details of the investigation do make for interesting reading and do not do the Clinton Campaign any favors), as not being anything but a well timed move to disrupt the current Clinton campaign in its final days.

Why the FBI has done this I don't know but perhaps all the pressure it was under with its investigation of Clinton emails previously and the heat it took for its clearing her given whats since kept coming out may be part of it.

Either way its neither here nor there now as the old saying goes,  a week in politics is a long time (anything can happen), and surprise (or perhaps not so surprising) something has happened and already the more liberal of my friends (both here and in the US) are freaking out and stressing up a storm as their previously assured stance that it was Clinton for the win has now been thrown into complete disorder by the FBI and no amount of reassuring talk can get them out of it.

So the mood on that side of the lines goes way down with previously unheard of talk like this suddenly coming out.

Its not talk or thoughts that I myself have not had given my views on the state of the US institution but I am usually a lone voice on such opinions so its quite a surprise to be cast into the role of potential Cassandra as my ongoing and consistent predictions that Trump, his campaign and all associated is in fact a major seismic shift in not just US but global politics has gone from "rants from the nut fringe" to "prescient political analysis".

Of course I cant really see the future but its not hard to size up the current mood of politics around the world today with surprise wins to outsider candidates (some left some right) and the overall rejection of the establishment to see that if such a figure was to rise in the US that they might actually get the big payoff of the presidency if they ran.

And that's where we are now, the cusp of a potential Trump win and by golly are the liberals freaking out as their bastion of pseudo liberality (Hillary Clinton) gets c**k-blocked for a second (and most certainly final time) in her quest for the presidency. Oh the humanity!

Actually I do think Clinton would make a better president than Trump but as I have said before so would an egg-salad sandwich and the decline of the US would continue no matter who was helming the institution but those views usually are not appreciated in the either/or atmosphere that this election has generated there and in NZ.

So, lets just for a moment speculate on what a Trump presidency might be like shall we, as ugly as might be.

Will it be a return to some sort of Reganesque quasi religious revival with conservatives waking up in America while assorted criminals run amok in the Whitehouse basement (and the VEEPs office) as an Imperial president tries to asserts his will on the rest of the planet or will we get a Dubya Bush style Rubicon crossing president fronting  the US (but not leading, as W could not even have lead a conga line) as it slides into deeper and darker paranoia laced waters under the mandate of "national security" or will this be the final straw for an already sclerotic US and the decline becomes the fall.

But like all good gamblers I like to hedge my bets and ever since I read Daniel Gardner's Future Babble I will happily admit that I could be way off and Trump will be a fabulous president or Clinton will win and peace and love reigns for the duration of her term and the US just goes from strength to strength*, its just that I have trouble seeing that happening (either her winning (now) or a Clinton presidency being some sort of revival or renaissance but I leave it to this great scholar to sum up her odds.

So how will the US and the world deal with President Trump, will the seas rise and swallow the US? Will there be a mass exodus of anyone who cant deal with trumps arrogant visage leering at them from every form of media for the next four (possibly eight) years. Will Trump put into effect all the threats he has made on the campaign trail (and he made a hell of a lot) or will he end up being constrained by the few legal means that previous US presidents have not removed?

And who will come along with President Trump for the ride because like both Regan and W Bush (as well as Bill Clinton) it is not just the president but the wide assortment of mens rea that will inevitably inhabit the back offices like a scorching case of herpes. What hideous monsters will operate in Trumps Olympian shadow? Where will he steer the US? Into isolationism, further alliances with other regional strongmen around the world (like Putin) or will he chart some bizarre course of his own making.

Will a Trump residency be all flash and no fire a lot of talk and little action? Given that the US still has the worlds largest military and spends far more than anyone else on this planet combined and as Trump has pledged himself to increased military spending its hard not to imagine that part of "making America great again" might include an invasion or two, perhaps a medium sized war or even the Big One, that long sought masturbatory fantasy of righting zealots and survivalists in the US.

In the end its difficult if not impossible to know but if such a presidency needs summing up I think its Van Halens song I'll Wait from their album 1984 which captures the potential state of a futureTrump Presidency. The song is a seamy story of a mans obsession with the photos of a woman in a magazine (possibly pornographic) and how he cant turn away, how the images have locked him in and how trapped and powerless he is. The ambiguity of the lyrics (like many good rock and roll songs**) leaves lurid images in the wake of a classic driving Van Halen groove.

Its all about the power of illusion and how it can render people powerless, and while Clinton is no bastion of authenticity herself, Trump is the casual lying, pomposity, hypocrisy and disregard for the truth of politicians  upped to the Nth degree and the problem with such individuals (like Trump) is that, like the photos of the woman in the song, he has also captivated (or paralyzed) minds and for such under his spell (or those fleeing in fear of it in the case of those who cant stomach a Trump presidency).

This makes it almost impossible to really judge what he will do. Its the cult of personality gone haywire on steroids as a celebrity obsessed media culture finally has the chance to get it hands on the levers of power.

And like sharks scenting blood, as the polls now show a near neck and neck race, the stakes go back up and the scent of power grows stronger I would not put it past the Republicans to run the same game as Florida in 2000 (vote rigging and manipulation) to get back into power. Sure many don't like their candidate but no politician in their right (or is that wrong) mind would give up an even shot at power because if they don't its possibly another eight years out of the Oval Office.

Or Trump could turn out to be nothing like we imagine (see Mr Gardners book again) and Trump might not be the right wing nightmare that so many imagine and the for all the hype he might just end up another lame duck voted out of office after one term or simply see out his time actually making America great again.

The point, as Gardner points out so well, is that we really don't know and speculation is ever only going to be so good so perhaps we could all just take a deep breath and see what happens (yeah like that will happen) or we could simply let our dystopian fantasies run wild (mine included).

So get ready for the final week, rest up and take plenty of vitamins, perhaps keep a bible close by or even some sort of weapon.

Or you could just relax and realize that its not the end of world, if the seas do rise it will from climate change not Trump getting elected president.

The last week is going to be interesting to say the least

*-While I accept the main premise of the book I don't agree with all examples and do find that some cases seem a bit cherry picked but on the whole the argument holds it also has the smug superior tone that many books which base themselves on "psychology" have. So take it with a grain of salt.
**-What do you think Robert Plant is wailing about in a Whole Lotta Love when he says "I want to be your backdoor man".

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