Politics

Right-Wing Populism and the Disappearance of Shame

What happens to a liberal democracy when its leaders have no sense of shame? What happens to civil politics when politicians simply refuse to be civil?

By Ryan McGreal
Published December 09, 2016

In recent years, pundits have been paying increasing attention to the phenomenon of online shaming: the sometimes-frightening cascade of abuse that a virtual mob can direct onto an individual whose misdeed has gone viral.

Shame has its uses, of course, as a deterrent and corrective to bad behaviour. In domain-limited familial, social and organizational contexts, shaming enforces standards of conduct by socializing all members against bad behaviour, as well as provoking an acknowledgement from the shamed party that they behaved badly.

Of course, when the context is broad enough - say, a global community of billions of people connected to the internet - shaming is transformed through sheer scale into a catastrophic downpour of abuse, harassment and even violence.

It's a serious problem, an emergent property of the world's first global communications network, and we really don't know what to do about it.

But the rise of online shaming has been accompanied by a contrary phenomenon, which we might call shamelessness. In public life, and particularly in politics, we are seeing the rise of public figures who behave scandalously with absolutely no sense of shame.

Rob Ford

Perhaps the most notable shameless modern politician in recent history was Rob Ford, the Etobicoke Councillor and then Toronto Mayor who blithely presided over an international freak show during his term as the chief magistrate of Canada's largest city.

Ford violated every tradition and point of etiquette that normally constrains politicians under a parliamentary system like Canada's. He eschewed any kind of transparency and waded into conflicts of interest without even a rudimentary sense that he was doing something wrong.

His public service was characterized by bigotry, racial stereotyping, misogyny, homophobia, contempt for pedestrians and cyclists, and a constant thundering promise to "stop the gravy train", by which he mostly meant public spending on anything he didn't think was important.

He routinely made outrageously false claims about his policy proposals, his activities and his record. He repeatedly insisted that he had saved nearly a billion dollars from the Toronto budget, a false claim that conflated budget cuts, service cuts, user fee increases, strategic reserve drawdowns, and even budget increases that were more modest than hypothetical higher alternatives.

As mayor, Ford surrounded himself with unsavoury and even criminal associates. When details of his increasingly dysfunctional private life spilled over into his public affairs, he viciously attacked the media, denying his actions and defaming the journalists who reported the facts.

Modern Right-Wing Populism

Ford was staggeringly unqualified for the job of Mayor, but he managed to transform his incompetence into a political virtue by lashing out against the "elites" who tried in vain to hold him to some kind of account.

His political fortunes were buoyed by the enthusiastic support of his Etobicoke constituents, who had benefited from his aggressive ward-heeling, and by suburban residents across the megacity with whom his anti-urban politics of resentment and divisiveness played well.

Ford cultivated an enthusiastic tribe of "Ford Nation" followers, and if they cared at all that he was bulldozing through the political system and destroying careful traditions of accountability and civility, they celebrated his disruption of the "establishment".

In short, he was a classic modern right-wing populist, albeit one whose political career was complicated by personal demons that increasingly came to overshadow his public life.

Indeed, shamelessness seems to be a quality of modern right-wing populism. Populists thrive on going against the grain, making the "establishment" uncomfortable and refusing to play by the rules - rules that were put in place incrementally over centuries in order to constrain the worst impulses of political leaders.

Donald Trump

It's impossible to review Rob Ford's political career without noticing the many parallels with United States President-Elect Donald Trump, who ran a very similar right-wing populist campaign marked by bigotry, racial stereotyping, white nationalist identity politics, misogyny and an ugly politics of resentment and divisiveness. (He even promised to "stop the gravy train" - Ford's signature rallying cry - in a speech earlier this year.)

Like Ford, Trump seems impervious to shame. He spouts the most outrageous claims with no regard to their truthfulness. He viciously attacks the media for reporting the facts about him. When recordings emerged of him bragging about sexually assaulting women, he shrugged it off as "locker room talk".

He has been involved in literally thousands of lawsuits for his business activities, including 75 active cases during his presidential run. Just a few days after the November 8 election, he settled two class action lawsuits and an illegal business practices suit against Trump University for $25 million.

Trump spent the last several months accusing Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent, of engaging in conflicts of interest between her role as Secretary of State and her connections to the Clinton Foundation.

Meanwhile, his own Trump Foundation has mostly been funded by donations from other people, and has mostly spent its money on activities that directly benefit Trump, including commissioning two large portraits of himself.

His presidency has not even begun yet, but he refuses to distance himself from his business holdings, has requested security clearance for the family members who will be managing his businesses directly, and is already engaging in pay-to-play with foreign leaders to push business to his hotels.

After repeatedly promised to "drain the swamp" of corporate lobbyists, elitists and partisan flacks in Washington DC, Trump is now shamelessly appointing a rogue's gallery of corporate lobbyists, billionaires, military generals, Republican insiders and unqualified loyalists to his cabinet.

Tribalism

And yet Trump's followers continue to love, celebrate and make excuses for him. It is precisely because they constitute a right-wing populist tribe that they refuse to look clearly at his breathtaking array of faults and hypocrisies.

Of course, some of Trump's tribe actually admire his faults and hypocrisies. Trump's white nationalism and xenophobia, for example, has played extremely well with the demographic of white nationalists, xenophobes, racists and bigots who make up a non-trivial percentage of the American electorate. Likewise, his misogyny plays well with misogynists.

But many people who would not reasonably be considered racist or sexist themselves still support him. How is this possible? It's the tribalism of a modern right-wing populist at work.

A tribe is a group of people connected by a shared membership in and broad allegiance to a Venn diagram of concepts that surround a strong leader. That constellation of ideas encompasses the leader's cult of personality, political ideologies, race, ethnicity, religion, corporate identity, economic class and self-image.

The tribe provides its members with an identity and a worldview, specifically one that defines its members separately from the rest of the world. The tribe cultivates a sense of grievance and resentment toward some category of "others" who threaten its members.

Tribes are authoritarian and hierarchical. To challenge its core beliefs is to commit heresy or treachery and is punishable with sanctions that range from ridicule through threats, physical punishment and expulsion. (Think of how protesters are treated at Trump rallies.)

Tribes can change their beliefs, but change comes slowly and almost never from the bottom up. If change does come, it comes from the top down and relies on the force of the leader's personality to make the new belief stick. Or as Orwell famously put it in Nineteen Eighty-Four, "We've always been at war with Eastasia."

Tribes are conservative - they act to conserve their existence, their beliefs, and their internal, hierarchical relationships against both internal and external forces. That makes them jingoistic and xenophobic: outsiders are feared and mistrusted and efforts to understand or feel empathy toward them are denounced as near-treason. (Think of white supremacists referring to white liberals as "race traitors".)

Parallel Media Universe

Tribes also have their own internal communications systems and information flows, with built-in filters that preserve tribal doctrine. That is how people living in the same country can have such divergent beliefs about events the truth of which is easy to confirm empirically.

In a very real sense, Trump's tribe are living in a parallel media universe dominated by the most vitriolic fake and misleading news "reports", as well as the unsupported pronouncements of the leader himself. They are barely exposed to the facts of his mendacity and hypocrisy, and the limited exposure they do get simply reinforces for them that the "lamestream media" cannot be trusted.

This is no accident. The American right has been building and cultivating this parallel universe of discourse for decades. The media system mixes more traditional right-wing print publications with FOX News, talk radio, blogs and "news" aggregaters that run the gamut from traditionally small-c conservative to openly chauvinist and white supremacist (the so-called "alt-right" movement).

In addition to tapping into the existing political apparatus of the Republican Party, Trump also tapped into the right-wing alternative media system to secure his lock on the American right, shouldering past his political rivals in both domains through the sheer force of his outsized personality.

Trump doesn't have to care whether the things he says to rally his supporters are factually correct, because he sits on the throne of a communications empire that exists to validate whatever he says. Anyone living outside the empire who tries to say otherwise is an enemy and not to be trusted.

As a senior aide to former President George W. Bush famously told the journalist Ron Suskind:

The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism.

He cut me off. "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality - judiciously, as you will - we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors ... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

Remember: We've always been at war with Eastasia.

Post-Shame Politics

So what happens to a liberal democracy when its leaders have no sense of shame? What happens to civil politics when politicians simply refuse to be civil?

Toronto was more or less able to recover from the Rob Ford era. Current mayor John Tory may be disappointing to some, but he's disappointing in the conventional sense - by borrowing ideas from his opponents and making political compromises in order to get things done in a big, messy city with a lot of competing interests. He has certainly restored a much-needed measure of civility and reasonableness to municipal politics.

Of course, the political system showed resilience to Ford's mayoralty. During his tempestuous term, Council eventually closed ranks and stripped him of all the powers they had the statutory leverage to remove. A judge even ordered him removed from office over one of his conflicts of interest, though an appeals judge reversed the order on a technicality.

But what if Ford hadn't gotten sick during the 2014 mayoral campaign? What if he didn't have to drop out in order to treat the pleomorphic liposarcoma that ended up taking his life at age 46? He might well have won a second term from an angry, divided voting populace.

How much lasting damage could he have done to the culture, practices and personnel of Toronto City Hall after another four years of the freak show, emboldened by a voting mandate to push back against the powers that attempted to restrain him?

Institutional Resilience Put to the Test

Looking forward, how much damage will Donald Trump manage to do to the American body politic as the President itself, with partisan control over both Houses of government and the power to make appointments-for-life to the Supreme Court?

Will the democratic system be able to keep his abuses of power in check and limit his executive overreach? The Republican Party has already made serious inroads against American democracy: by eliminating limits on third-party spending, overturning those measures of the Voting Rights Act that protect against discriminatory practices, gerrymandering Congressional Districts so the GOP wins a majority of seats even when it loses the majority vote, and so on.

Trump's own electoral victory comes despite receiving 2.6 million fewer votes than his Democratic rival, thanks to a wrinkle of the Electoral College that gives disproportionate influence to more rural voters.

With control over all three branches of government and the judiciary and the giant amplifier of a compliant media system, we should not be surprised to see Trump continue to consolidate political power in order to ensure continued Republican rule.

He has already threatened to deploy Federal agencies to prosecute his political opponents, and we cannot forget that he was aided in winning the election by the partisan Republican director of the FBI, who issued a spurious and damaging eleventh-hour announcement that Clinton's emails were being investigated again.

In jurisdictions where shameless, charismatic populists seize power, they tend to hold onto it for a long time. Whether it is Silvio Berlusconi in Italy, Vladimir Putin in Russia or Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, charismatic populists move quickly to reshape the apparatus of government to insulate themselves against repercussions for their gross abuses of power.

This entails filling cabinet positions with cronies and loyalists, tweaking electoral rules to tilt the board in their favour, securing their right to remain in positions of power beyond term limits and progressively squeezing their opponents for resources and airtime.

It remains to be seen whether Trump will leave an intact apparatus of democratic power when he is through with the White House, but I am not very hopeful. The peaceful transition of power is a civic tradition that is sustained by people's belief in its underlying principles, and shameless populists have no time for such niceties.

Uncertain Future

Canada's Conservative Party is currently holding a party leadership campaign with the election scheduled for may 2017. So far, at least three leadership contenders are actively exploiting the same angry right-wing politics of resentment and divisiveness that Trump rode into the White House.

One candidate has expressed open admiration for Trump and wants to implement an "anti-Canadian values" test for immigrants, refugees and visitors to Canada.

Another candidate, speaking at a rally organized by the race-baiting, misogynistic website The Rebel Media, smiled and waved his hand in rhythm with the angry crowd chanting "Lock her up" about Alberta Premier Rachel Notley - blatant echo of the "Lock her up" chants at Trump rallies that were directed at Clinton.

And while that candidate at least tried to distance himself from the angry chant after the fact, yet another candidate says he would have chanted right along with them.

I am concerned enough about the future of the Conservative Party that I broke my lifelong policy of remaining non-partisan and joined the Conservative Party in order to cast my vote for a leadership candidate who is not a xenophobic white nationalist.

What we have learned from the tribal politics of partisan populism is that once a populist seizes control of a party, far too many members will simply go along and vote the way they always have, not really recognizing that the stakes have suddenly changed.

Sooner or later, voters in a liberal democracy get tired of the governing party, and they tend to throw the incumbents out in favour of the other major party. That voting pattern makes sense when both parties are fundamentally committed to shared principles of liberal democracy.

But when one of the parties has been taken over by a charismatic authoritarian, all bets are off.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted December 10, 2016 at 22:24:07

If Trump does meet with some degree of success we'd better buckle up on this side of the border. If he is seen as competent and jobs are coming back to the US you can bet a lot of Canadians will be wanting their own Trump.

Personally I'm interested to see what his presidency will be like. What's going to happen?

One thing I find interesting is that he said he was going to tear up NAFTA and every liberal minded person went nuts. Whaa? This if anything brings to mind Eurasia and Eastasia. Weren't liberal/progressives at war with NAFTA in 94? Now they're horrified that it's in danger? Trump hates globalism, apparently. Now we hate it too? What the...? I thought we were marching in the streets smashing windows protesting globalization? So now we're defending it? I don't see why. Is it because of the messenger? The guy who will save us from globalization is a gross racist perv so now we like globalization?

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By JimC (registered) | Posted December 12, 2016 at 06:35:15 in reply to Comment 120514

Thank you for posting this. I would love to hear from a progressive with an explanation for this. It seems like only yesterday I was watching G20 protestors rail against the evils of globalism. I admit, I was on the other side at the time. I delighted in watching Triumph The Insult Comic Dog tear into Occupy protestors. I turned my nose up at Occupy Mac. I used to troll Adbusters forums. But then I watched The Smartest Guys In The Room. I watched other progressive docs. I started reading Chris Hedges. A light switch went off in my head.

Corps were evil. Globalism was the enemy. We were shipping jobs overseas and it was hurting us. And the people in these poor countries weren't being helped by benevolent corps; they were being exploited. I got it. Hedges exposed neoliberals for being puppets of their corporate masters.

When I saw that Hillary was in the running I was actually afraid. Her speeches to Goldman Sachs. Her history of pay for play. Her penchant for secrecy. Hedges confirmed it. One of the most progressive minds in America told us what we all feared: Hillary is an insider. We can't let her win. But then Bernie lost in a rigged game. It was getting worse. What could we do?

And then Trump. Sure he was loud and an idiot but he was not a globalist. He wanted to turn the ship around and we all agreed the ship was heading for the rocks. Who cared about anything like his hair or orange skin? It was almost like the MSM were trying to tear him down. And we were all anti-MSM. Well I knew that America could survive the idiot but she couldn't survive the evil genius. He was the best of a bad lot.

Then Trump won. Now I'm told that being anti-globalism is actually racist and backward thinking. If you're not a globalist you're a Nationalist and literally Hitler. These are the same people who were kettled for protesting corps who were offshoring jobs.

I know why I changed my mind: progressives convinced me after years of getting the message out. So who convinced progressives that globalism is now their friend?

The bottom line is that yeah Trump is a big, loud, idiot and he takes a lot of missteps but he's not beholden to corps. He's not Hillary. He's not the Establishment. He's a loose cannon and that's exactly what we wanted. His heart is in the right place. He saves 1000 Carrier jobs and now we're being told that it isn't enough or that it's crony capitalism. Tell that to the people who get to keep their jobs. A thousand saved jobs is better than none. It's a start. It's something.

Where did all the progressives go? Why are they advocating for TPP and the EU now?

Anyone?

Comment edited by JimC on 2016-12-12 06:42:47

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By JasonL (registered) | Posted December 13, 2016 at 14:09:05 in reply to Comment 120515

when it comes to politics, at least in the US, I'm thinking it's time to ditch the word 'progressive'.

How is it progressive to vote for someone who turned the primaries into a North Korean style election, helps keep her hubby's assault victims in silence decade after decade, killed US soldiers and an ambassador simply so the rest of us would never learn what they knew, handles top level information like she's throwing away candy-canes at a Christmas parade, runs a foundation that George Constanza would be proud of and the list goes on and on......

If that's progressive, no thanks.

My favourite piece of irony from this election is how the guy who absolutely hates women had one run his campaign.
She became the first female to run a winning presidential campaign in US history. But that's not newsworthy in the glass ceiling files because she's not a Democrat.....

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 14, 2016 at 08:53:25 in reply to Comment 120521

I don't think anyone thinks Clinton is progressive. She's a middle-of-the-road triangulating moderate political insider who at least understands what her job as president would entail and would be highly unlikely to destroy the government (or the world) in the next four years.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 12, 2016 at 11:14:01 in reply to Comment 120515

Let me take a stab at responding to this. Kindly note that I'm only speaking for myself, not on behalf of "progressives" as a group.

It seems like only yesterday I was watching G20 protesters rail against the evils of globalism.

Ever since the trade agreement battles of the 1990s, I have tended to think about the issues in terms of a distinction between globalism and globalization. Globalism is concerned with expanding human rights and social justice internationally, whereas globalization is concerned with expanding and entrenching unregulated market frameworks across borders to maximize corporate opportunities. I favour globalism but am skeptical about neoliberalism.

What I have found objectionable about trade agreements in the past couple of decades has had little to do with trade. The real problems that I see are:

  • A shift in focus to liberalizing investment frameworks rather than enabling trade;
  • Standstill and roll-back provisions that constrain a country's ability to regulate industry in order to protect the environment or public health and safety;

  • Legal frameworks that allow corporations based in one country to directly sue the government of another country for alleged violations of corporate 'rights';

  • Using agreements to force liberalization onto public or otherwise tightly regulated domestic services like health care, education, municipal services and so on;

  • Negotiations that take place in secret and are ratified quickly without the opportunity for real public debate about the negotiated trade-offs.

When I saw that Hillary was in the running I was actually afraid. Her speeches to Goldman Sachs.

From what the leaks - many of them orchestrated by foreign governments in order to influence the American election - have demonstrated, her speeches were actually quite banal. She made the typical kinds of noises that a moderate politician makes when talking to bankers and financial people. There were no bombshells in there, which is to be expected because after decades under a partisan microscope, Clinton is nothing if not cautious.

Her history of pay for play.

Again, there is very little of note in this attempt at a scandalous narrative. There is certainly some cosiness between the people she met with as part of the Clinton Foundation and the people she met with as Secretary of State, but there is no actual evidence of impropriety on either side. The Foundation is widely recognized as a serious, responsible and cost-conscious organization - the most serious criticism is that its focus is a bit too diffuse to be highly effective in any one of its project. Likewise, there is no real evidence that anyone was able to obtain favourable or otherwise unfair treatment by the State Department as a result of any dealings with the Foundation.

Meanwhile, Trump's "Foundation" is a fraudulent joke that exists to funnel business into Trump's assets, and pay-to-play is explicitly his way of doing business as president-elect. Want to fly to Washington to meet with President Trump? Better book your room at Trump's Washington hotel, since he'll know if you don't.

Her penchant for secrecy.

Clinton's penchant for secrecy has something to do with literally decades of continuous, relentless investigation, attacks and smears from the Republican Party and the right. Whitewater, Benghazi, her private server, her State Department emails - oceans have been boiled on these and other manufactured scandals without anything really serious ever emerging.

Her decision to use the private email server that was already operating in the basement of her own house was obviously a bad idea, but was arguably no worse than her predecessor, Colin Powell, who used an AOL email address. But at worst, it was an error of technical incompetence and negligence rather than malice. Or as Powell himself wrote in one of his own leaked emails, "I am not sure HRC even knew or understood what was going on in the basement."

But then Bernie lost in a rigged game. It was getting worse. What could we do?

Sanders being marginalized and squeezed out of the Democratic nomination process was appalling, no question about it.

Clinton is the consummate establishment insider, though pressure from the left wing of the Democratic Party resulted in what was arguably the most progressive Democratic presidential platform in history. (Not that anyone even knew about it, since news media coverage of the actual policies was so utterly abysmal.)

Given how the election campaign played out, if I was an American I would have held my nose and voted strategically for her as the least-worst choice among a group of bad to terrible choices.

And then Trump.

Here is what Chris Hedges has to say about Donald Trump:

For Donald Trump, the presidency will be a vast stage for accommodating his megalomania and insatiable appetite for money. Those who mock, defy or anger him will feel the wrath of the state. Those who are not obsequious will be cast aside. He will invest most of his energy in his brand. Self-promotion is the only real talent he possesses. Corruption, already rife within the political system, will explode into a full-blown kleptocracy.

And he's just getting warmed up. When Hedges said politics needs to be more socially progressive, a (self-styled) billionaire reality TV wheeler-dealer chauvinist bigot is not what he had in mind.

Then Trump won. Now I'm told that being anti-globalism is actually racist and backward thinking.

It's not his anti-globalization rhetoric that makes him racist, it's his racism that makes him racist. It's when his real estate management company refused to rent apartments to African-Americans. It's when his casinos discriminated against black employees. It's when he said Mexicans are rapists and drug dealers. It's when he said a judge with Mexican parents can't consider his case fairly. It's when he said "the Muslims" are terrorists. It's when he said he could not a trust a Muslim judge to treat him fairly. It's when he refused to condemn the KKK for endorsing him (before changing his mind a few days later). It's when he spent two years insisting that the country's first black president was illegitimate because he was born in Kenya (and was secretly a Muslim) instead of in Hawaii. It's every time he stereotypes an entire group by their ethnicity or religion.

The bottom line is that yeah Trump is a big, loud, idiot and he takes a lot of missteps but he's not beholden to corps.

He's certainly big and loud, but he's not an idiot. And have you been following Trump's preferred choice to be his Secretary of State? It's Rex Tillerson, the CEO of ExxonMobil, an international corporate conglomerate with expansive overseas business interests (including in Russia, where Tillerson has received Vladimir Putin's Order of Friendship).

Trump's cabinet is jam-packed with billionaires, corporate executives, Republican party flacks and military generals. Every decision he has made has been to exploit his position to enrich himself and his circle of family and friends.

Anyone who thinks Trump is going to act against the corporate agenda deluding themselves. If anything, his influence will shift America's place in the international economic system toward a kind of self-serving mercantilism in which Trump trades approvals and incentives for favours.

He's not Hillary. He's not the Establishment.

Ever since his dad sent him out into the world with a trust fund, Trump has spent his entire career ingratiating himself to the establishment. He may be a narcissistic clown, but he is an establishment narcissistic clown.

He saves 1000 Carrier jobs and now we're being told that it isn't enough or that it's crony capitalism.

Trump cut a deal in which the people of Indiana will pay United Technologies (the company that owns Carrier) $7 million in tax incentives and United Technologies will move 1,300 jobs to Mexico instead of 2,100 jobs.

That is textbook crony capitalism, and anyone who claims to be concerned about politicians enriching themselves by cherry-picking business winners and losers should be appalled by the precedent he is setting.

Where did all the progressives go? Why are they advocating for TPP and the EU now?

As far as I can tell, progressives have not started advocating for the TPP. And for what it's worth, Clinton's election platform included a change of heart on TPP in response to public pressure against the agreement.

To the extent that progressives were in favour of Clinton, it's because they recognized that Trump is far, far worse than Clinton on the issues they don't like about Clinton. (And, of course, she ended up receiving 2.6 million more votes than Trump, but the Electoral College is specifically designed not to award the presidency to the person who received the most votes).

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted December 12, 2016 at 13:01:35

Not being Americans ourselves I doubt any of us can really fully understand why Trump won but I think a lot of it has to do with why Obama won. Americans wanted 'Change'. Obama promised it but did he deliver? Apparently the economy is doing well - the US recently raised the overnight rate after nearly a decade of cuts. What else? Weed got legalized a bit here and there. The middle east remained SNAFU as usual.

It would appear that Americans want change they can actually feel and understand. They want it to be visceral and it seems they don't care who brings it. Only time will tell what kind of change Trump will bring. We've already heard that he would lose the GOP nomination and then we heard that he'd lose the general election by a landslide. Now we're hearing that his presidency will 'will explode into a full-blown kleptocracy'? I've also read a few prognostications that his presidency won't last a full term. Considering his political history so far I don't think anyone could be blamed for taking the wait-and-see approach on that.

It does concern me that he is racist but let's be honest - he's a run of the mill 70 year old white billionaire American racist. No one is surprised by his ignorance and I'm quite convinced he doesn't own a pair of jackboots. What I really wasn't comfortable with, again, were the progressives getting all church-lady on the fact that he's been married three times and has a wife 20 years his junior. How is that anyone's business but their own? I recall watching the election on the CBC and one commentator bleated on about how 'this is a man' who has children from three different wives and we want him as our president?! (She was American BTW). Imagine if Trump let an intern blow him in the Oval Office? I would LOVE to hear the doublespeak on that one!

As you mentioned in your response, Trump is not an idiot. I'm really not expecting him to shoot himself in the foot now that he's gotten this far. Anyway, wait and see...

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By Ted Mitchell (registered) | Posted December 12, 2016 at 20:34:12

What saddens me is the co-opting of the word "elites" to refer to "left wingers we don't like", such that the original definition is unrecognizable.

The term is used in Canada in the same way. Read the last two op-eds from Preston Manning in the Globe for example. Or Kelly Leitch who describes elites as anyone "who knows better than anyone else", obviously without a sense of shame or hypocrisy. Check out the Sunday Edition interview from Nov 20 if you dare.

Leitch is a 1% to 0.1% elite by standards of education, position, income, or unintentionally by her own definition.

Trump is a 0.0001% elite by standards of wealth, fame or power, measured before he was elected.

Both would be insulted if called elites. I think the source of this feeling must be chip on the shoulder resentment. How anyone can be that successful and still feel resentment of others speaks to biblical levels of six of the seven deadly sins.

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By Missy2013 (registered) - website | Posted December 22, 2016 at 10:12:35

Thanks for these insightful thoughts Ryan.

There is no question that Trump, et al, are issuing in a new era. ... 'Profit' will drive the mainstream corporate media like never before ... Still, there is Hope to be found in the emerging 'Resistance'.

Thoughtful and civil individuals can 'tune in' and 'tune up' their points of views by engaging with other thoughtful and civil individuals. Then, there must be deliberate and persistent acts of 'talking Truth to Power'. It won't be easy, there will be plenty of 'spin', from both sides. But, fundamentally, over the course of humanity's discoursing evolution, Good will prevail. Take heart.

Two voices to consider now: Zadie Smith's recent speech 'On Optimism & On Despair'. Here, compassion & empathy are hallmarks of an enlightened human being. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2016/12/...

And, take in Keith Olbermann's 'Resistance' video series. He's sharp, provocative and stunningly eloquent. - https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL...

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