The post election GOP civil war

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By all accounts nothing short of a miracle will see Trump winning this election. The odds are distinctly in Hillary’s favour and have been for sometime now. Its likely they will lose seats in the Senate and House, best guess at the moment is that the Senate is a tossup and the house will be retained by the GOP, but with a greatly reduced majority. A more important question would be to speculate on the inevitable recriminations after the election within the Republican party after the election.

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The best case scenario for the GOP, for reason I will shortly explain, is that Trump loses and he loses comprehensively. Hilary crushes him, taking all of the swing states and maybe one or two of the red states, like Georgia or Utah. This will leave little room for anyone to doubt the election results. Trump may dispute them, but very few beyond his inner circle will do so. It will send a very clear message to even the most demented of his supporters that by putting Trump on the ticket, you just handed the keys of the white house to Hillary. Put Trump or some similar lunatic (e.g. Ted Cruz) on the ballot paper again in 2020 and you’ll be guaranteeing not just 4 years of Hillary but 8 years. Keep on nominating unelectable retards and you’ll then get 8 years of her predecessor too (probably Elizabeth Warren or Al Franken!).

Presented with this, the old guard of the GOP will re-merge from their “undisclosed locations” and attempt to retake control of the party. I suspect two forces will battle it out, the traditional Republicans (best represented by Paul Ryan) and the monied interests/establishment (best represented by the Bush family). Its difficult to see who will win, perhaps some sort of compromise might be reached. But the chances are the Tea party and Trumpers will be squeezed out. My guess is the nomination process will be overhauled, introducing Democrat style super-delegates and requiring a candidate has the support of a certain number of elected senior officials and some past political experience. This will allow them to screen future candidates and avoid another Trump (or Ted Cruz!).

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The Tea party Trumpers may run off and form their own party, but they’ll quickly become an irrelevance. They may make life difficult for the GOP in the mid term elections, but the balance of probability is they will attach very little support – Just ask Gary “Aleppo” Johnson. They might cost the GOP the odd seat in some of the tighter races, but that’s about it.

The other scenario, arguably the worst case scenario for the GOP, is Trump loses by a narrow margin. He will inevitably dispute it. Some of his more trigger happy supporters may take up arms, get annihilated by the military and police….and create the perfect excuse for why Hillary should push for tighter gun control as her first act in office. This will also allow her to paint the GOP as unamerican, cut from the same cloth as the confederates who opposed Lincoln’s election. Trump meanwhile will hang on and try to run again in 2020. This would be disastrous for the party.

There are a whole slew of Republicans, some of whom will hold their noses and vote Trump on November 8th, who despise him and everything he stands for. Others, such as the Bush family Mitt Romney and even Glen Beck will not vote for him, even if it means Hillary winning. In short there are a whole raft of characters within the party currently queuing by the fire exit, likely arguing while they wait over whose fault is that got them to this place. They will not hang around to stomach four more years of Trump. If it becomes obvious that he’s not going to go quietly, or that they will be unable to force him and his supporters out, they will open the fire exits and commence an orderly evacuation of the GOP.

It should be noted that the anti-trump wing didn’t mount a third party challenge to him this year because by the time they’d realised the danger their own gerrymandering rules (designed to stop third party challenges in red states) would have worked against them. Now they’ll have a full 2 years to the mid terms and 4 to the next presidential election to organise. They may join the democrats or the libertarians, but my guess they’ll form a new party, whom I’ll refer to as the Real Republicans, which will emerge as a new force in American politics.

Meanwhile the consequences for Trump’s GOP will be meltdown. The monied interests will inevitably jump into bed with either Hillary or this new party. With the money tap turned off the GOP officials who organise the party at the local level will jump ship as soon as their first pay-check bounces. As a result Trump’s GOP will start to unravel, imploding from within. Much of the US political machine, both GOP and democrat is fully private anyway. Wander down K-street and you’ll be tripping over Lobbyists, political strategist, spin doctors, Pollsters, campaign managers, etc. These hired guns are loyal only to the person who is paying them. Trump supporters need to understand they are fighting an election in America, where the dollar rules, not in France.

Indeed speaking of money, Trump has recently been caught by the UK Daily Telegraph (a fairly right wing newspaper owned by a pair of millionaire tax exiles) soliciting donations from Chinese businessmen, which is illegal under US election laws. So its possible a Trump GOP will essentially become even more a mouthpiece for foreign businesses, literally a 5th column within the US political system.

Fox News too, will inevitably fall in line behind this new party. If Trump thinks he’s getting a hard time now, wait till he goes through 4 years of far worse, with Fox itself leading the charge. He’ll face lawsuit and criminal investigations galore (foreign donations, his taxes, sexual misconduct), the purpose of which will be to guarantee he’s either ineligible to run again, either due to criminal convictions or he’s gone bankrupt paying lawyers.

Of course the bad news is this new Republican party will likely struggle in the mid terms. Old habits die hard and enough people who’ve voted GOP all their lives will continue to do so, even though it hands Hillary the keys to the house. However on the plus side, once they’ve had time to organise (and the danger inherit in continuing to vote GOP is made clear to conservative voters), this new party will represent a serious challenge to Hillary in 2020. The GOP itself will wither and die, much like the downfall of the Whig party.

One also has to factor in what’s happening across town in democrat HQ. The Bernie Sanders brigade, who’ve reluctantly backed Hillary to stop Trump haven’t gone away. My guess is there will be some left wing challenge to Hillary, possibly something of a party split not long after the election. How bad this will be largely depends on that election outcome. A narrow victory to Hillary and most of the left wing of the democrats will feel the need to circle the wagons and buckle down. Yes Sanders might leave, but he only recently joined the party anyway. He’ll find the bulk of the party sticks with Hillary.

If on the other hand Hillary wins by a huge margin, with a strong showing made by third party candidate and the GOP gets massacred in the Senate and House races, that changes everything. Suddenly all those promises she made to the Bernie brigade, which should could otherwise renege on given the impossibility of getting them through Congress, now became a political possibility. So she’d have to at least try to get them passed, or face civil war within her own party. As David Cameron showed, sometimes winning an election by a larger majority than you expected can be a bad thing. Now you actually have to pretend to forfill all of your election promises.

And one has to consider the implications for America’s standing in the world with regard to a strong vote for Trump. The view of the rest of the world is that Trump is a bigot, a racist and a buffoon and November 8th is essentially a poll for the rest of us to figure out how many Americans are bigoted racist morons. Will the next generation of foreign born billionaires, like Elon Musk, Sergey Brin or George Soros chose to set up in the US (or UK for that matter) if they fear its run by racists who might run them out of town? Anyone in the rust belt voting for Trump because their angry about the lack of jobs, etc. Ya well good luck finding a job after foreign investors start pulling their money out of the country.

So it is for these reasons I would say to any conservative voters, think very carefully before voting for Donald Trump. It is in the best interest of the GOP and conservatives that Trump loses and loses by a landslide. If you can’t bring yourself to vote Hillary, vote for a 3rd party candidate. Conservative voters are facing a choice, not so much in who becomes president (that ship has pretty much sailed), but in which post-election scenario you most favour. One where the GOP survives, one where it falls apart or one where it loses elections after election for a generation.

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Heathrow, Nissan, cats & Corbyn

Theresa “crazy cat lady” May, aka Baldrick, has given the go ahead for expansion of Heathrow for a variety of reasons. For starters she’s shown herself to be a zen master of the dead cat manoeuvre. And with brexit, she’s got good reason to start tossing around dead moggies.

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Theresa May prepares to announce another government policy

Take the recent announcement regarding Nissan. Sounds like good news, until you read between the lines and realise that the government has guaranteed Nissan business rates the same as if they were part of the single market. That could be 10-25% of the price per car, which is a significant potential subsidy for the government to be doling out to a car company say £5k per car, about a 100,000 of them per year, you do that maths!). And this on the back of the Hinkley C contract, which will give a 68% subsidy per MWh it generates. In short Theresa May has taken the UK economy back to the 70’s with the state propping up industries. Except these aren’t publicly owned or even British firms, but privately owned foreign multinationals. The tabloids who seem to think this is a good idea, would they be singing her praises if it was a bank or a hedge fund? Noting they will likely be the next lot looking for some compo.

Also it this is almost certainly illegal under EU competition rules. Okay, we’re leaving so what? Well because you need to understand why those rules exist. Its to stop EU states engaging in beggar thy neighbour protectionism. They also want to avoid any rows, via the WTO, with other trading block who will challenge such policies and might impose punitive tariff’s on EU or UK goods. So Theresa May has just guaranteed she’ll get into a trade war with the US and Germans at some future date. In short, May appears to have succeeded in combining all the worse elements of labour governments of the 1970’s, with the worst elements of Thatcherism.

But I digress, what about Heathrow? Well its the biggest, smelliest dead moggie of them all. Given that expansion of Heathrow will impact on so many marginal constituencies, both through the physical demolition of towns, but also aircraft noise, most previous governments have avoided the issue like the plague. This is the sort of decision that could easily cost any government the next election. Even May herself could be vulnerable. However, she has something of a trump card – Corbyn. His policies are sufficiently unpopular in those very Greater London marginals that she can take the hit from Heathrow and still expect to win the next election. So I hope those who voted for him a few weeks ago, realise what they were signing up for….when in a few years time you’re being kept awake by late night flights!

And Corbyn’s pro-brexit stance doesn’t exactly help his situation. London voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU. Some of the constituencies affected by Heathrow expansion voted by as much as 70% in favour of remain. Among left leaning voters (the sort he needs the support of to win the next election) the figure rises to 90%. Now while I suspect the lib dems are wrong to be running in Zack Goldsmith’s by-election on an anti-brexit platform alone, because no election is ever decided by a single issue (of course the same applies to Zack Goldsmith). But it is certainly (along side Heathrow) a major election issue. And labour now has little to no chance of winning this by-election, nor any other elections in the Greater London area. Its not beyond reason that Corbyn himself could lose his seat at the next election.

However, Theresa May might well have just executed a double dead cat manoeuvre, what I suspect we’ll later come to call, the Heathrow double flip. She knows that announcing this will be like waving a red flag in front of a bull with Corbyn (or should that be a flat bread in front of a Vegan). He always has been more of a protest leader than a party leader. Him and his sandal wearing friends will now dash off to go protest against Heathrow expansion. And while he’s off organising sit-ins and teach-ins or petitions, the Tories can get on with the important business of dismantling workers rights and setting the NHS up for eventual privatisation.

A post-by election political barometer check

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The results from the recent by-election the recent by-election for the Oxfordshire seat of David “pig appreciator” Cameron, Bullingdon boy and officially the 3rd worst PM in UK history (and that if we’re honest is being unfair on Antony Eden and Douglas-Home, I suspect in a few years once we assess the damage he’s done he’ll be in the number one spot), are worth commenting on. They seem to prove the points I’ve been making post-brexit.

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The Tories won, but with a reduced majority. Labour however fell from second to third place behind the lib dems. Labour under Corbyn has positioned themselves as a pro-brexit party. Corbyn and the hard left not only want brexit, but a hard brexit has they see it as increasing their chances of getting elected (given the fallout that will follow) and it will make it easier for them to impose their hard left policies. They’ll just have to cover their eyes and ears while the Tories destroy the legacy of the last 70 years of progressive labour party governments, in the hope that they’ll be given the chance to destroy the legacy of past Tory governments later. In essence they are prepared to help the Tories burn the house down, on the off chance they get the chance to set fire to the garage afterwards.

Given such factors, its clear the lib dems are filling void as the anti-brexit party of the 63% who didn’t vote for brexit. Or at the very least the party that will push for a soft brexit, with a view to re-entering the EU at some future date. Its a little too early to tell what the impact is on UKIP. Given that the Tories have essentially turned themselves into UKIP, its possible they’ll become an irrelevance. On the other hand, I still reckon the Tories aren’t going to get their way on brexit negotiations and when things go wrong UKIP will be there to gobble up the hard brexit bigot brigade vote.

Obviously do the maths and you’ll see the balance of probability is, next election, the Tories will probably be the largest party, with a fractured labour party 2nd, but the lib dems likely third. They will be king makers and my guess is they’d sooner go into a coalition with the Tories (in exchange for a 2nd EU referendum on either the terms of brexit or on cancelling out the first one), than back a Corbyn government riven with infighting (of course if Corbyn gets the boot between now and then it or labour splits this would change things significantly).

Meanwhile in Brussels its obvious that if the UK is hoping for an easy time from Europe, that ain’t going to happen. There’s even talk of holding the talks in French, just to spite the English. The EU governments, other nations (such as Japan) and corporations (the banks  and car makers for example) have given as firm a signal as one possibly can that the UK isn’t going to get anything like the deal they expect, largely because the EU has bigger fish to fry right now than pander to a few English bigots throwing a childish hissy fit.

There’s a theory that the only reason why May is talking about a hard brexit is a negotiating tactic in the hope the EU will come to her on their bended knees begging her to stay in the single market, upon which she can extract concession on free movement. Well that isn’t going to happen, because for practical purposes both are essentially linked. Beyond some window dressing, its difficult for the EU to offer anything more. The EU isn’t going to be nasty, they’re going to read the UK the riot act at the end of March and then let events take their course.

And speaking of trade agreements, one of the arguments of the brexit brigade is how the UK would be forced into adopting the conditions of trade deals negotiated by Brussels, even if the deal negatively effects certain parts of the UK. Well consider how an EU trade deal with Canada is now about to collapse as a result of a referendum in one region of Belgium. Yes one tiny bit of the EU has essentially just vetoed a trade deal between two large economies.

Now ignoring the side argument as to whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, it directly contradicts the position of the brexiters. As I’ve long pointed out political reform in the UK would achieve far more than brexit. Furthermore, let us imagine it is the UK negotiating a deal with Canada and one small part of the UK (say a few coastal towns in Wales) is worried about the impact it will have on local jobs in say, the fishing industry (let’s assume the trade deal will effectively see UK fishermen priced out of their own market). Do you think a Tory minster will say no to such a deal, knowing it will benefit the country as a whole (notably his paymasters in the city of London), while a few voters in largely UKIP/labour seats will find themselves unemployed? Of course not!

All the warning signs are there, its a question of people listening to them.

The Kremlin letter

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I think there’s no point in going over the latest allegations regarding Trump….then again there’s so many allegations against him its hard to keep up. He claims that there’s a smear campaign out against him….and wasn’t he the one who brought up Bill Clinton’s affairs? Didn’t he try and smear the women who spoke out about his behaviour? What about his behaviour during the primaries? when such smears were his main mode of attack, such as going after Ted Cruz’s father. Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw rocks. If you take the view that the media is being unfair airing these stories, then recall it was Trump who decided to drag the presidential campaign into the gutter.

Needless to say the GOP leadership is deserting him, funding is being diverted away from his campaign and the party is fleeing from him quicker than a fat guy can run away from a salad bar.

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To my mind the real controversy is how large elements of the GOP stood by him at all. I mean seriously, they didn’t know he was a megalomanic, misogynistic moron living in a morality free bubble surrounded by yes men? Did anyone really not know this? When did McCain and Ryan come back from Mars? Republicans like McCain and Paul Ryan stood by him despite his many controversies, notably his racist comments. They fiddled as he debasing everything the GOP stands for. Now having calculated that’s he’s more of an election liability than a help, they are flip flopping and dumping him. If they are willing to abandon their morals and crawl into bed with Trump, yet them dump him as soon as he’s seen to be a liability, one has seriously question their judgement and suitability for high office.

Granted, some Republicans like the Bush’s and Mitt Romney did oppose Trump right from the start, and they deserve credit for their stance. But the rest of the GOP has some very serious questions to answer. Indeed potential 2020 candidates, such as Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz may well have scuppered their chances by backing him recently. Already some are preparing for the inevitable post-election civil war that will tear the GOP apart.

However, what I really want to talk about is a story that seems to have slipped under the radar – A story showing, yet again, possible links between Trump and Putin.

The Young Turks network have video that fills in the details here. Basically the gist of the story goes that a pro-Putin news website put out a story about Benghazi in which they quoted a document written by a Clinton associate, Sidney Blumenthal, out of context (actually he didn’t even write the quoted line taken out of context). Within hours he had pointed out their error and they seemingly took the article down. No one outside of Russia, save one Turkish website, mentioned the article, prior to Trump essentially quoting from this Russian article in a speech the following day. In short, it kind of suggests that either Trump or someone on his team, is so diligent that they are reading all of the world news websites, even those published in Russia at 3am…..or that Trump is getting fed propaganda from his bosses in the Kremlin.

My view is that I doubt that Putin is openly backing Trump as some sort of “Manchurian candidate”, for the same reasons the GOP are dumping him. Trump is damaged goods and a liability. However the Kremlin probably does lean favourably towards Trump (possibly hacking to dig up anti-Hilary stories) for the same “greater fool theory” that many others back him. They know Hilary’s going to be a pain in the ass and will listen to the experts, while Trump is an idiot who’ll probably screw things up.

Keep in mind things are starting to get a little desperate for Putin. Public opinion is starting to turn against him. His one remaining ally in the West, the French, have now deserted him. The Russian economy is starting to suffer. He probably can’t endure a few more years of this. Hence they hope Trump will win.

However the reality is that Trump winning probably won’t make too much of a difference, indeed it could actually be quite dangerous. Saddam was tempted into attacking Kuwait because he misinterpreted signals from his allies in Washington. He didn’t think they’d do anything, so long as he kept the oil flowing….when instead they launched America’s largest troop deployment since the Vietnam war. The Junta in Argentina went into the Falklands because they assumed the new UK PM had bigger fish to fry that worry about a small bog on the other side of the world. They couldn’t be more wrong. This is perhaps the real danger with Trump, he might tempt certain people into doing very stupid things.

For the fact is there is very little chance of the US military and intelligence establishment ever allowing a US president to abandon their European allies. To them this would be the equivalent of Trump crapping on the graves overlooking Omaha beach. He would be undoing America’s greatest ever foreign policy success and repeating the error of the 1930’s. That error cost America over one million war dead. In short, if Putin moved against, say the Baltic states, they’ll make damn sure Trump either gives the order to go in, or they’d force his hand (e.g. make sure US forces or civilians got caught up in the fighting). They would probably have few qualms about removing him from office (easily achieved under the grounds of the 25th amendment…..or a short drive in an open topped car in Houston) if necessary.

On the other side of the argument, we need to consider what’s going on within the Trump camp. As anyone who has watched the bizarre statements from Trump supporters should now know, he lives in a bubble of self delusion. Those who quote and rely on “facts” are quickly pushed out, as the Trump camp is a fact free zone.

I remember reading that Trump is such an egomaniac he has people in Trump tower go through all the newspapers and cut out the articles where his name is mentioned so that he can read what people are saying about him (when perhaps he should have them doing something important like running his business better so he doesn’t go bankrupt again). However, with his campaign imploding and virtually all media coverage increasingly negative, he’s probably throwing more than a few downfall like hissy fits. So his minions, every keen to please, are scouring the internet looking for anything positive. Inevitably this means that yes some are probably reading obscure Russian websites at 3am.

So what this saga shows us is how a potentially Trump white house would quickly become an insular cabal, riven with infighting, taking its cues from whatever the various minions feel will curry favour from their vain and insecure boss. In short, less a White house and more a mad house. Less the west wing, more one flew over the cuckoo’s nest.

So like I said, how could McCain or Ryan have ever considered the idea that this would be a better alternative than a Hilary Clinton White house.

Globalisation and its discontents

A couple of years ago, if you were protesting against globalisation, you were assumed to be an anarchist or an eco-warrior. Nearly every major political party of right and left was signed up to the idea that globalisation was a good idea and that anyone who said otherwise was a wholly eared nutter.

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Globalisation has many opponents, anarchists, eco warriors, Trump, the far right….clowns, UKIP…..

However we now face the situation where the two major parties in the UK are essentially anti-globalisation (one hard left, the other authoritarian right). In America Trump is running on an anti-globalisation platform, while even Hilary has had to row back from her support of international trade agreements. What went wrong?

Firstly, I think it has to be acknowledged the benefits globalisation has brought. While I’d take the figures below from the world bank with a pinch of salt, it has to be said that globalisation has help lift millions out of poverty. It has helped push forward technological process, introduced us all to new ideas, its brought us multiculturalism, new and exotic tastes from far afield, and countries aren’t fighting world wars anymore (which is just as well given that we now have nuclear weapons). However it also must be said that experiences may vary. A rising tide has not lifted all ships.

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This can be illustrated by the next graph, the so called “Elephant Graph” which plots the relative change in income over the last twenty years, depending on whether you are among the world’s poorest or richest. If you a subsistence farmer in the developing world (i.e. the very poorest) you’ve probably seen no change at all. If your one of the 10% of the world’s richest, you’ve had it pretty good over the two last decades. The working class and middle classes in Asia and the developing world have seen the most dramatic improvements of all, going in many cases from poverty to complaining about first world problems. If you are middle class in the West, you’ve seen some benefit, but you’ve probably noticed that others have gotten a lot better off and keeping up with the Joneses is that little bit harder. However, the working class in the West have seen very little change, indeed some are even worse off. This essentially is the heart of the problem.

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And the problem, I would argue, is that somewhere along the way globalisation got bundled up, much like those toxic CDO’s that brought on the financial crisis, it got repacked with a lot of toxic neo-liberalism and outdated and rotting lassie-faire nonsense. It was then sold on as a complete package. Countries and electorates were told that they couldn’t have one without the other. That they must sacrifice their labour rights, wages, privatise public services and downside the state, all for the sake of globalisation. Now that everyone’s worked out that out that this globalisation CDO is filled with neo-liberal dog shit, people want to throw it away rather than simply unpick the good bits from the bad.

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Not least because often the very people who sold this toxic CDO were the very neo-liberal types who packaged it up in the first place (i.e. parties like the Tories or the GOP) and the very same who are catching blowback from the consequences. And they are obviously reluctant to admit their error or abandon their long held ideology. Also their lies have started to catch up with them.

For years the go-to lie of many right wingers was to blame foreigners, poor people and organisations like the EU for all the worlds ills. Your local water supply has been privatised? Not our fault (even thought it was in our parties manifesto and one of our donors is on the hook to get the contract), the EU made us do it (only because we got the very legislation passed by them so we could dodge the flak!). Can’t get a hospital bed? that’s not because we failed to fund the NHS to account for an ageing society, its the fault of them nasty evil hobbits foreigners comin over here and overloading local services. Your taxes too high? No, its not because of our failure to make the rich pay their taxes, its them scroungers living on benefits that’s the problem.

So when Corbyn tries to blame globalisation for causing brexit, I would argue that this is not entirely correct. It was this toxic neo-liberal agenda that along the way got mixed up with globalisation that’s the problem, plus the aforementioned lies of the right wing media. Like the boy who cried wolf, unwilling to admit to their error, they proceeded with the referendum. But the pleb’s, who they’d spent the last twenty years telling that everything was the fault of the EU and foreigners, actually voted leave. Confronted with the fact that actually you can’t keep the single market and end free movement, so they’ve doubled down and are going for a hard brexit. Similarly in the US, Trump is the inevitable consequences of this bundling of globalisation with neo-liberalism and the decades of lies told to the public by the right wing media (i.e. blame foreigners, China and poor people for everything….so a guy who blames these for all of America’s problems is suddenly popular!). In both cases baby, bath, water, tub and rubber ducky goes over the side.

There is no reason why we can’t unpick the two things however. The countries that have done best out of globalisation have certainly done so, to varying degrees. Unsurprisingly, communist China does not subscribe to the principle of lassie faire. They will intervene to protect local industries when they feel its necessary. The Germans and many other EU countries have hung on to their welfare state, offering some protection to those effected by the negative consequences of globalisation. They’ve also resisted, to varying degrees, the privatisation of public services (often merely floating public services off into state owned quangos). And they are willing incentivize growth in certain key industries (German renewables for example). Brazil and India have also adopted a policy of resisting privatisation and are trying to build up their welfare states to make sure the benefits are more evenly distributed.

Granted not everything is rosy in these countries, China for example has a lot to do to improve workers rights and there’s still lots of people in India who are desperately poor. The defacto coup by right wing politicians in Brazil (essentially a neo-liberal push back against the aforementioned measures) is hardly a positive. However, one has to compare and contrast with the pre-globalisation situation – workers in China then had no rights period, pretty much everyone in India was desperately poor and Brazil was ruled by a military Junta. But clearly there is no reason for globalisation to remain coupled to neo-liberalism. There is in essence another way. But as noted, the political right, and even some elements of the hard left, are unlikely to do this as this would be a direct affront to their long held ideologies.

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However, rolling back globalisation will have consequences. Already there has been a growing trend of beggar-thy-neighbour style tit for tat protectionism. Unsurprisingly the US, the United States of France (a Time magazine jibe which is actually unfair on the French!) has been the worst offender. These measures however often end up being counter productive. As the BBC reports:

There was an outcry in 2012 when cheap Chinese tyres flooded into the US market, putting the viability of the domestic producers in question.

President Obama responded with punitive tariffs to get China “to play by the rules”.
The protectionist measures were well received in the US, but a study by the Peterson Institute established that the tariffs meant US consumers paid $1.1bn more for their tyres in 2011.

Each job that was saved effectively cost $900,000 with very little of that reaching the pockets of the workers.

Or put it another way, what the Trump’s, Theresa May’s or Corbyn’s of this world don’t tell you is that by opposing globalisation they think that the computer in front of you should cost you two or three times as much. It shouldn’t be nearly as advanced as those available in other parts of the world and it should be less reliable and less energy efficient. Now okay, those on a descent salary, like me, could still afford to pay such prices (or slip one into our luggage when we’re overseas on business). But I suspect those on a lower income will suddenly find that things like mobile phones, TV’s, laptops, cars, central heating, foreign holidays etc. all just became luxuries they can no longer afford. In short, roll back globalisation and suddenly many will find that the UK (or US) just became very unequal and life just became very unfair, very quickly.

The fact is we’ve all benefited from globalisation in ways the elephant graph above perhaps does not capture. I’m not that old and yet I remember when mobile phones were the size of a brick. When cars were so unreliable you had to carry tools around and work time into your morning schedule to account for the inevitable breakdown. When TV’s were so prone to failure some manufacturers made more money selling warranties on them breaking down than on selling TV’s. And your choice of drink in a cafe was builders tea or brown muddy water laughably referred to as “coffee” (Now we have lattes, cappuccinos, green teas and this thing called “salad”). Globalisation and the international competition that it brought forced companies to change. It provided them with the incentive to change, it drove technological progress, allowed them to buy in parts and materials or bring in expertise and investment from abroad to implement these changes.

Yes there were winners but also losers, some jobs did move overseas. Although it has to be said that other countries (not run by neo-liberals) fared better than either the UK or US. And, as I noted in a prior article, a lot of the job losses we blame on globalisation were largely a consequence of increasing automation (the UK now produces nearly as many cars as it did in the 1970’s, but with only a fraction of the work force). And there is little evidence to support the notion that foreigners are taking people’s jobs. Indeed the danger is jobs moving overseas (due to immigration restrictions making it impossible to recruit), or machines taking them. Both these mechanisms are in fact the main reason for the trends in the graph below.

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Germany & the Eurozone has held on to more of its manufacturing than the UK or US

Restricting immigration and leaving the free market will inevitably mean some companies will leave the UK (or the US in the case of Trump winning). The recent “flash crash” of the pound is a case in point. Its now believed to have been caused by a computer engaged in high frequency trading reading an FT article which had key words like “hard brexit”, “crisis” and “far right” in it, shat its electronic pants and sold everything it had. Now while human traders will be a little more discreet and careful about what they do, but they will essentially do the same….then relocate to Dublin or Frankfurt.

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And the decline of 20% in the value of the pound to date essentially means you just lost 2 & a half a month’s salary, once those currency exchange differences work their way into retail and energy prices (oil and natural gas recall are generally priced in dollars). And WTO tariffs would push prices up yet further. A leaked treasury report now suggests brexit could cost the UK treasury £66 billion a year (£1.2 billion a week….rather than the extra £350 million the Brexiters promised).

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Brexit is already causing major problems, for pension funds for example

Post-brexit the UK will find it increasingly hard to export, given the consequences of tit for tat tariff imposition and the fact that we’ll have cut ourselves off from the rest of the globalised world, which will mean the UK will no longer be able to attract the best and brightest (case in point, the Tories recently announced that no foreigners would be asked to advice on brexit policy, or in other words they don’t want the best and brightest available to advise them!). The country will slip further and further behind to the point where UK companies can’t export, unable to sell outside of the closed shop of the UK economy because anything we try to sell is just Lada like obsolete.

Over a long enough time period, the anti-globalisation brigade may well get their wish – more jobs for British people. Foreign multinationals will be streaming into the country, because the UK will have fallen so far behind that it essentially now counts as a developing world country and these companies will want to exploit an impoverished UK and its cheap labour costs. As Paul Mason puts it:

What happens when the investment banks move to Frankfurt, the carmakers to Hungary, the offshore finance wizards to Dublin, the tech companies to newly independent Scotland? What happens when, instead of Poles, it is poor white English pensioners herded into the polytunnels of Kent to pick strawberries for union-busting gangmasters?

Certainly there is a need to rethink globalisation. It needs to work for the benefit of everyone and we need to quit thinking that this “benefit” is measured in the form of dollar bills. The world faces many major problems, overpopulation, peak oil, climate change, ISIS you name it. These are global problems, they need global solutions, which means international co-operation, not more division.

But we also need to acknowledge that getting rid of globalisation would be a very bad idea. If the neo-liberals were correct, that downsizing government and privatising public services was a good idea, then Somalia, which hasn’t had a functioning government in several decades, would be the richest country in the world (instead its one of the poorest and most dangerous places on the planet). Similarly if the Brexiters (or Trump) are right, then North Korea, the country with the tightest border controls and lest free market trade agreements would be the worlds most dynamic economy….of course the opposite is true!

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Opponents of globalisation, simply don’t seem to realise how much the world has changed and hence why we can’t just wind back the clock a few decades. And in many cases the medicine they proscribe would be much worse than what the propose to cure.

 

What passes for democracy in the post-truth world

There are reports of parliamentarians, terrified of the consequences of a hard brexit, finally growing a pair and threatening to challenge it. A cross party group of MP’s ,which includes several Tories is now prepared to challenge the government on brexit and demand either a vote to verify the referendum result, or on the terms of brexit.

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About time too. Let us summarise. Yes the UK did vote to leave the UK. However only 37% of the electorate backed this motion (turnout of 72% times 52%). Now I don’t know what kind of maths they taught at that fancy Grammar school of hers (obviously it wasn’t very good!), but that’s less than 50%. In most “democracies” (google that some time brexiters) you need a majority of the electorate (+50% of the electorate) to implement such a radical change in policy. Consider a recent referendum in Hungary on EU migration quotas. 95% of voters backed the motion, but that wasn’t enough. The majority of Hungarians, reluctant to be pawns of a racist government boycotted the poll, it failed to achieve a majority (i.e. less than 50%) and hence it doesn’t go through. That’s how its supposed to work.

And the outcome of the referendum could have been very different if millions of British living in the EU, or EU citizens living in the UK were allowed to vote on it. However, now that brexit has been safely achieved, there’s talk of giving them the right to vote, presumably so that they can be the UK’s pawns within the EU. Indeed the same lobby groups have also just launched legal action against John Claude Junker for blocking brexit talks, suggesting some sort of horse trade has gone on. So in Theresa May’s UK democracy isn’t a right, but a reward to be handed out for good behaviour, or when it is politically expedient to do so.

So the EU referendum in the UK fell well short of anything we’d consider the minimum standards. The was clear manipulation of the vote, quite apart from the lies told by the leave camp. Furthermore, it was a non-legally binding referendum and I don’t recall anything about hard brexit or leaving the single market on that ballot paper. Nor do I recall anything about it in the Tory manifesto. And speaking of which I don’t recall anything in the Tory conference speech as being in their manifesto either (i.e. the one they were elected on). Such as sending Tory brownshirts around to count the number of migrants UK businesses were employing.

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And when was Theresa May elected? I don’t remember us having that election? Not a single vote has been cast in her name, not a single vote in parliament in favour of her policies on brexit. Yet she’s pushing ahead with a hard brexit plan that will overturn decades of UK law and effectively goes against many of the basic principles upon which the UK is founded. When did we become North Korea? If there is no brexit vote in parliament, my advice to the EU is don’t bother negotiating with the UK, the country should be expelled from the EU for gross violations of basic democratic principles.

As an absolute minimum there should be vote in parliament. And given the lies during the referendum campaign, it should really be re-rerun under proper democratic conditions, i.e. explain what the terms of leaving we are voting for are. Everyone with a vested interest in the UK (overseas UK citizens and EU citizens in the UK) should be allowed to vote in it. And they have to get +50% of the electorate to make it legally binding.

And over the pond in the US we have of course Trump. His supporters say we’re being unfair to him. If Hilary so much as coughs at a debate, she’s going to be out of the race. All Trump has to do is not grope some woman live on air or rip off his wig and go into a full scale meltdown. We are being way too kind to him. He’s right about one thing, when your a celebrity you can pretty much get away with anything.

Never has anyone stood for high office who is more unqualified for the job. Even if we judge him by Republican standards he has no redeeming features and quite a few negative ones. He is a vane, insecure misogynistic who neatly combines megalomania with egomania and delusions of grandeur, plus he has the intelligence of a small bowl of fruit. And his supporters can’t feint ignorance. We’ve got a a year and a half of this and his own words to back this up. Even if you lived on Mars you’d know what he’s like by now.

The fact is that anyone who votes for Trump, you’ve doing it because your an asshole who just want to watch the world burn. You are not acting in the best interests of your country. The fact is you hate America and everything it stands for (freedom of speech, all are equal regardless of race, colour or creed, etc.). In essence Trump is proving to be a test to see how many Americans are too dumb and racist to be allowed to vote.

Some Republicans have been calling on supporters to pick VP Mike Pence as a write in candidate. Ah, no! In a tight race no doubt Trump’s lawyers would argue such write in votes should count towards Trump’s total. Its a risk Trump’s opponents can’t take. The GOP had all summer to do something about Trump, they didn’t. Anyone who is vaguely sane needs to vote for Hilary (I don’t necessarily like her much either, but its not exactly like we have a choice). If you can’t bring yourself to do that, vote for a third party candidate like Gary Johnson….thought that is kind of like walking into a crowded bar with your eyes closed and firing a gun in a random direction. Yes you can claim not to have intentionally shot a particular person, but your actions still produced the same result.

In short many have developed this warped view of democracy. They see it as a means to an end. That we can ignore the essential checks and balances built in to it to stop crazy people doing crazy things. While politicians in the past have been “economical with the truth”, these pale in comparison to outright lies and flip flops we see from the brexit brigade or Trump. I mean seriously go back and look at Richard Nixon’s record. By modern standards he’s practically a saint. At the same time some voters are seeing elections as a way of taking out their personal frustrations, rather than acting in the best interests of the country. They’ll vote for a certain thing just for a laugh. Ya and let’s see if you are still laughing when your job goes or your pension becomes worthless.

And politicians have developed a very lazy attitude. Some who supported remain for example seem reluctant to call another vote to sort matters out because it would be a whole lot of work. I’m sorry politics is not the business of the lazy and the stupid. If your too lazy to vote (or too stupid to understand basic concepts), don’t bother voting (or standing as an MP), leave it to the grown ups.

Asking the Irish to police the UK border

One of the major sticking points for the Tories is how they plan to square the circle of a hard brexit and avoiding a hard border in Northern Ireland. There answer appears to be that they expect us Irish to do their dirty work for them. I see a couple of flaws straight away:

– We have this thing in Ireland called “rights” and “due process” (the brexit brigade might want to google that one sometime) which everyone, including Johnny foreigner, is entitled too. Much of what the UK is proposing would fall well short of that. The UK border agencies are notorious for arbitrary and often outright inhuman rulings, and in Ireland people would be entitled to challenge such rulings in court. As you can imagine taking half a plane load of people off to court, putting them up in hotel while the case is heard would be a costly and logistical nightmare.

– Its probable these measures would need a change in the law. The UK government lawyers don’t think so, again google that word “rights”. Once someone challenges such rules in court, they will need new legislation. Recall we briefly legalised all drugs in Ireland due to a similar case last year. If so, that would almost certainly mean a referendum. I can already tell you the result. Theresa May will essentially be told by the Irish electorate to “pog mo thoin” (she might want to google that too!).

– Ireland cannot restrict access to the country to EU citizens (again “rights”, you did google that didn’t you?). What are we supposed to do? say to some Polish guy “ah sure be grand and be garra, don’t go north of the border and get a job as a builder now, will ya, thankin u kindly”. Rather naively the UK seems to think oh we’ll have work visas and all that. Ya, and do you have any idea how many illegals are in the UK right now from outside the EU working in the black economy? You know how many Brits work in Australia or US without work visas? Non starter from day one! If there’s anything worse than migrants coming in and taking jobs, its migrants sneaking in and not paying any taxes.

– In truth its not people we need to worry about but goods. If the UK leaves the common market and becomes subject to tariffs the smugglers, many of them dissident members of Republican or loyalist groups, would have a field day. As things stand there’s still some smuggling (of diesel, Alcohol and cigarettes). There are some border guards and while they don’t set up check points they do perform investigations and roving checks. Obviously we’d need a lot more of them and no matter how many, an open border means some will slip through. This will quickly undermine the UK economy as many small firms will be undercut by goods smuggled over the Irish border.

– So suddenly Ireland needs a shit load more customs and excise officers, more police, more staff at passport control, some major structural changes to airports to accommodate longer queues, more judges, lawyers, detention centres and probably a few hundred million bill to pay for all of this each year. Are you brits planning to pay for all of that? Cos why should we do it if we have to pay? Unlike the UK we also believe in this thing called “balanced budgets” (something no Tory Chancellor has delivered for decades…so you might want to google that one also!), so it ain’t going to happen if the UK doesn’t agree to pay.

Why should we do it? What incentive does Ireland have to comply? There’s an old Republican saying that goes “England’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity”. Now while I suspect you’ll find few politicians, particularly the pro-Republican types who will admit it, but there are many in Ireland who would see a silver lining to a hard brexit. For sure we’d lose out in terms of some exports, but in return we’d benefit from the UK’s high tech firms, airlines and financial services companies relocating to Ireland. A recent survey revealed a whopping 75% of UK firms were eyeing Ireland as a potential base post-brexit. And a hard border basically means Northern Ireland as a political and economy entity is living on borrowed time. A united Ireland becomes less of a possibility and more of an inevitability. I won’t be surprised if some champagne corks go flying in Sinn Fein households if the UK opts for a hard brexit.

Do you trust us? (I won’t!). I’m not sure if Theresa May has ever heard the expression that if someone asks you to do a shitty job, do it badly and you won’t be asked again. So ya we Irish sign up to all of this, the UK pays us an absurd amount to do it…..and we do it badly. We wave through ever cute hoor and gangster from Eastern Europe who shows up, he even tells us he’s off to Belfast (to smuggle horse meat) and we do zip, after all once he’s over the border he’s your problem and what are the British going to do? We hold all the cards.

Like so many things Tory, this stinks of decisions made by public school boys or Grammar school girls who don’t live in the real world.

Slithering towards authoritarianism

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If Corbyn had made an end of conference speech suggesting that he wanted to use the power of the state to make a better society, the media would quickly be rife with the usual “crazy bolshie Corbyn” articles, while half his MP’s would resign and sign a no confidence motion. But instead, Theresa May was the one who made the speech and instead she is praised as “taking the centre ground”. Well not quite!

A lot of people think politics is a linear one dimensional problem of right and left, when in fact it is at the very least a two dimensional issue of right and left but also liberal and authoritarian (one could argue for a third dimension to define scientific literacy, e.g. are you a global warming denying anti-vaccine type, or a hard science transhumanist, but that’s another days discussion). In effect what the Tories are now proposing to do under our poundshop Thatcher is to move diagonally, slightly to the left, but more upwards towards authoritarianism……the same spot currently occupied by UKIP…..and closer to Hitler!

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And if that sounds like being a little unfair, we have Oberführer von Rudd’s “I’m not racist….but” speech, calling for business to be forced to say how much of their workforce is British. Thing is, for years campaigners for disability, women and minority rights have been calling for this sort of data to be made available, but the Tories has dismissed such a policy as “anti-business”. Yet we now have the Tories advocating just such a policy, as they attempt to out UKIP, UKIP. I mean how would they react if Nichola Sturgeon announced she’d make all Scottish businesses declare the numbers of English working for them? Next thing you know the Tories will have foreigners going around with little stars on their chests. And if some over enthusiastic Brownshirts patriotic Tory grass roots supporters should boycott some Pakistani owned shop, or break his windows, well the Tory party aren’t to blame, are they?

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One wonders what Thatcher and her mantra of big government being more part of the problem than the solution, would sit with the current Tory party. Of government getting off the back of businesses, not lecturing them in how to do their job (or telling them who to recruit), keeping markets stable and basically not doing anything to upset the apple cart. Or that a British home is your castle…well not if we want to frack underneath it these days! If Thatcher had a grave, she’d be rolling in it about now. And if her ghost showed up at the conference she’d be called a bleeding heart liberal and told to take it outside.

And what about the deficit? The Tories came to power in 2007 on a ticket of deficit reduction, claiming the UK would lose its credit rating and be bankrupted by hyperinflation if the deficit wasn’t brought under control quickly. They ran in the 2015 election on a platform of finishing what they started. The Hinkley C project, talk of millions of homes on green field sites, a new runway at Heathrow, HS2 and much else, all paid for on the UK’s credit card does suggests that the Tories have essentially abandoned  their long held position of being the party of supposedly balanced budgets and prudent spending (actually they never really achieved this but they at least pretended to try).

As I highlighted in a prior post, the only people who don’t worry about the deficit are the sort of people who are bad at maths (that would be Hammond!), or think national bankruptcy holds some sort of silver lining (that would be Michael Gove!). It is important that governments balance their books. My main criticism of Osborne was how he was prepared to throw the very poorest in society under the bus to achieve his targets, while his lopsided policy ignored the need to raise taxes concurrently. Bill Clinton and more recently the Irish tackled their deficit this way, tax rises and spending cuts, but rises where people can afford it, cuts where it will cause the least harm. Indeed one was often forced to the conclusion Osborne’s policy was really just an excuse to gut public spending that did not benefit his class.

And speaking of which, why not roll back all of Osborne’s austerity measures? That would represent a move towards the centre ground, but like I said the truth is the Tories are instead slithering towards the Authoritarian right. Given labour’s move towards the hard left under Corbyn this actually means there is no major party of the centre ground in UK politics. For those who want someone to speak for the 67% of the electorate who didn’t vote leave, nobody now represents you, other than perhaps the lib dems (who have a single digit number of seats).

But spare a thought for traditional pro-business Tories or libertarians. They literally do have nowhere to go to now. Rather ironically some voted for brexit hoping it would mean a more free market libertarian Britain…LOL..😂..how dumb they must look now! Instead, much as I warned prior to the referendum (and indeed actual libertarians warned also), we’re looking at a UK split between the authoritarian right of UKIP and the Tories and a hard left labour party.

Some still cling to the belief that UKIP is a libertarian party, failing to understand that UKIP are in fact the ideological enemies of libertarians (calling ones self a “libertarian was, a common dog whistle code word in the US, because showing up wearing your hood or calling yourself a fascist tended to get a negative reaction. Of course with Trump, they don’t need to do that anymore, and besides there’s an actual libertarian running now in Gary Johnson). So any actual libertarians in the UK have literally nowhere to go now.

So no, the Tories have not moved towards the centre ground, its just that “moving towards the centre ground” sounds a bit better than “becoming more like Hitler”. In the wake of brexit the centre ground has been abandoned, while the two major parties make their way towards the extremes.

Return of the Farage

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I wonder why she left?

UKIP leader Diana James quit yesterday after less than 3 weeks in the job, forcing Farage to step back in as party leader….for the 4th time! In many respects this is not really surprising, UKIP has always been to some degree the cult of the Farage, so it is inevitable that anyone else seeking to take over would face problems.

However there is a more insidious matter it exposes. Ms James claims her reason for resigning was it became obvious that she would have very little authority to change anything. It is ironic that so many turn to UKIP because they don’t trust mainstream politicians, yet UKIP is ten times worse.

Behind the scenes is a shadowy world of hedge fund donors, washed up hacks, ex-national front (or BNP) fascists and other rejects from the mainstream parties. They hold much of the real power and decision making. These include the likes of Paul Nuttall, Roger Helmer, Martyn Heale and the king of sleaze celebrity moron Nigel Hamilton. None of them can be cast in the role of party leader because that would be complete unacceptable politically. The curtain would fall and the public would be able to see what lies behind it.

So UKIP needs a squeaky clean front person, to complete the illusion of them being the party of the little guy, rather than the party of the elites too corrupt or racist to join the Tories. And yes I know Nigel Farage was their leader for quite some time, that’s the point, he’s more palatable than any of the other Troglodytes within the party! Ms James obviously realised over the last few days that this was her expected role and not unsurprisingly quit.

So what now for UKIP? Well they might be able to pull things together, either under Farage or some other suitable figure. Or like so many parties on the populist right they might well now implode. Its a trend such parties go through, they are spectacularly successful for awhile, but then they just implode due to infighting.

Which is perhaps a point regarding the referendum. If the goal of the referendum was to kill off UKIP, then it was a waste of time. They were always going to do that all by themselves. It might have taken a bit longer, but it was (and is) going to happen eventually.

Lady and the Trump

By all accounts (well accounts from vaguely sane people, even those who tend to vote Republican) Trump lost the first Presidential debate ….and then some! And how did Hilary win? By bringing up every bullshit lie and racist statement Trump has ever made, putting him on the defensive and then sitting back and letting him dig himself in an even deeper hole.

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Will this effect the outcome of the election? Probably not. “Trump supporter” has entered our language as a means to describe a form of lunacy where “facts” are not just ignored but treated with as an act of extreme hostility. His supporters will perform Simone Biles like feats of mental gymnastics, to cling to their pre-conceived positions. He and his supporters have made the name of the magazine “Scientific American sound like a contradiction in terms.

His supporters will claim they support him because Hilary lies, flip flops and is corrupt. Trump will lie and flip, flop while denying allegations of his connections to the mob all within the same sentence. Indeed the cult of Trump were soon on the internet rigging polls to suggest he won. Unfortunately they tried a little too hard. Trump quoted how he’d one a CBS post-debate poll, only to be told there was no such thing.

If the very rules of politics set by conservatives were applied to Trump, he would not only lose, but won’t even get his deposit back. But unfortunately they don’t. American elections are becoming a bit like the rule of the Targaryens in Game of Thrones. Every four years the gods flip a coin to see if we get someone good or a madman.

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And the recent leaking of his tax returns, which show Trump took a nearly $1 billion loss which he’s been using to aggressively dodge tax ever since doesn’t exactly fit with his narrative of being a great businessman, or how he’ll look out for the little guy (the little guy in these bankruptcies got screwed) or that he’ll crack down on tax dodgers.

The next debate, a town hall format, may favour Trump more. It puts Hilary at a disadvantage as she has to talk to “people” and she doesn’t do “people” very well. She might get asked some awkward questions. However, the problem with the GOP is most of the issues with her that they should be taking up (e.g. her ties to Wall Street for example) they don’t. The likelihood is they’ll focus on things like her e-mails and Benghazi and she can easily pull herself out of those holes, as the truth is this were minor misdemeanour’s at worst….and Trump has done similar but far worse things in the past, as have past GOP presidents.

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The real danger for Trump is in fact if any of the cult of Trump show up and start screaming about the wall (is he going to set up his own version of the night’s watch to guard the wall?) and Muslims, where’s Obama’s birth certificate and aren’t you great Mr Trump for raising all these issues (while Trump is starting to sweat and signalling security to get this person out of the room). This is exactly what happened to John McCain. He tried to play the moderate Republican, but every now and then he’d have to deal with some sort of insane outburst from a supporter (or Sarah Palin), which drove moderate voters towards Obama.

So this town hall format might work for Trump yes, or it could be total disaster, particularly if he loses his cool, or someone brings up his taxes.