Friday, January 27, 2017

In this case, resistance is futile

I'm not going to go through how the DNC lost the election other than to say the DNC farce has just turned up the dial to 11.

Trump used confusion to excellent effect in the campaign. I don't like a large amount of the things he says but I won't dismiss his skill, he has shown himself to be very capable. He didn't so much win the election as not do as much damage to himself as his opponents did to themselves. But during the election he made some big promises, the biggest of all and the one that is his signature is "Make America Great Again". The problem for Trump is that isn't solely his choice. Greatness is always relative and he has significant and skilled opposition in China on this front. Fortunately for him, there's a get out clause - the Democrats.

In the first few days, as Trump promised, there has been a flurry of executive orders. Some are interesting from the point of competition (e.g. removing TPP), others are damaging (ACA) whilst more still are downright unpleasant - the enhanced Mexico City Policy, enhanced interrogation et al. Amongst this is a bit of the showman such as building the wall. However, Trump is successfully reinforcing his image as a man of action and at the same time he is inviting the Democrats to resist, to protest and to try and prevent the changes. He's not quite saying "Democrats, resist me!" but it's pretty close. Why? Because he will need a fall guy, someone to point to and say "I was ready, I did what I said and what the American people asked, I was their leader and their man of action BUT these people [point, point] stopped me from making America Great Again". 

It's a terrible trap. If the DNC don't resist then people will blame the DNC for not doing enough to stop Trump if it goes bad. If they do resist then Trump (and his supporters) will blame the DNC for resisting if it goes bad. If things go well then Trump will claim he was right regardless of whether the DNC resisted or not. What they should be doing is tearing him down on that one signature promise that he made. This means, the best route (baring the ability for workers to hold a general strike which seems highly unlikely) for the DNC is to stand firm, not obstruct him but to hold him to account. He wants a wall, build the wall. He wants a freeze in hiring, then let the freeze happen. The question the DNC need to be constantly asking him is "When is America going to be great again? That was your promise."

You need to expose him on that question of leadership and what he stands for. Oh, but we can't support his awful actions! Well, some of them are unpleasant, some are worse and many might get you angry. I'd imagine they're even meant to do this, to get some people to react and to resist. By all means challenge them, question their legality, expose them, use the courts but don't just resist Trump by trying to use political process to thwart him. You'll fall into the trap. You need to bang that drum on "When is America going to be great again?" and hold this representative to account on his promise.

Before you say - I didn't vote for him - whether you like it or not, he is the democratically elected president of the US. Again, that might make you angry but those who have the right to vote need to use democracy and the will of the people to their advantage. That means bringing lots of other people to your side. Remember, he did win which means he has lots of supporters. By all means, make your feelings clear, show support to any victims but try and encourage his supporters to join you which means listening to their concerns. Give in to your anger, run around calling them "Nazis" and celebrate people punching them is a surefire way to lose. Don't let them use your resistance against you, as a way of maintaining power. Gather your support. As uncomfortable as this might sound to many, Trump is being pretty true to his word. But that's also to your advantage. Bang that drum - "When is America going to be great again?"

But what about the people suffering under the uncertainty now? I feel huge sympathy for them, it must be awful. I feel the DNC has let down so many by the way it ran the campaign but there's no comfort in that. Alas, also true to form, the Democrats and others are talking about resisting Trump and the media is getting in on the act. It's almost as if Trump wrote their script for them and it's sadly hilarious in the sort of hold your head in your hands and cry sort of way. There's also another question here - who is actually writing the script? But that's for the US, we have our own problems in the UK.

Whilst Jeremy Corbyn is spot on not to resist the passage of article 50 and to play the game of holding the Government to account, we have the same calls that Labour should "resist". There are times to resist but this is not one of those. I do notice that some of the same papers that are calling for Labour to resist are also being somewhat gushing over EU trade agreements. Well, if you want something to resist, you feel that urge to vent then don't resist against your own democracy but in favour of it.

You should be holding no punches on the EU (more specifically the EC) and their attempts to introduce a global ISDS (the bit we all rallied against in TTIP which threatens the future of the NHS and our sovereign rights). We should be standing shoulder to shoulder and joining the rebel alliance with India, Brazil, Japan and Argentina by telling the EU a polite but firm "no". We should expect our MPs to respect our democracy, our sovereignty and our NHS and stand firm against this.

-- 29th January 2017

Over the last day we have had a huge outpouring of anger online over the immigration changes in the US, described by many as the "Muslim ban" i.e. the executive order on protecting the US from foreign terrorists. If you have questions on the religious aspects of this, please read section 5 and consider the impact of "religious minority in his country of nationality" for predominately Muslim countries. First of all, this change is one that I fundamentally disagree with especially when it comes to refugees.

Unfortunately, the response has left the door open (see figure below) for the President to point out that it's a) only effecting a small minority of muslim majority countries b) targeted at states that are considered to be "of concern" c) temporary. So despite this covering 200 million people, tainting populations with a certain image, having an effect on many lives including the 120 day suspension of the refugee resettlement program, expect the official push back to be on those terms. Whilst that's happening, expect some positive news and then a new outage in this cycle of continuous outrage over the next few weeks. It won't be long until people are so outraged that they can't remember what they're outraged at (because of the choice) and people will slowly become habituated to outrage itself. I also happen to agree with the comment below that the outrages are likely to be anchoring and the final position may well be less severe. Furthermore, if things go wrong, any bouts of DNC resistance will have given Trump his fall guy.

I hope the DNC wake up and realise they need that drumbeat but I suspect some will soon be in disarray over concerns on limits to terms in Congress. That's also a trap but hey, who's counting. I'm not a fan of Trump (I would have preferred Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders) but I have to admit, Trump is skilfully playing this despite the damage it is causing.

-- 30th January 2017

The UK response to this is textbook. The Government is being firm, polite and conceding no moral ground to Trump on what has happened. As close to a ticking off as you could hope to expect from a diplomat. Personally, it's not a strong enough message.

Fortunately the opposition (and the marvellous Corbyn) is making the feeling clear.

The DNC, without trying to thwart Trump through political shenanigans (you'll just get labelled elitists) should simply start banging that drum and asking "When is America going to be great again?" 

Try to gather support, to reach out and listen to others concerns. Yes, you want to build unity but with as wide a base as possible. Try to build a vision of hope, be firm about disagreeing with the executive orders and start asking that question - when?

-- 30th January 2017

Asked about the "cycle of outrage". I'm using plain old OODA (observe, orient, decide, act) here. The purpose is to move faster than your "opponents" OODA loop in order to disorientate and demoralise them. It maybe coincidental that this stuff is hitting fast, that there is misinformation, misdirection and misunderstanding. The sudden hit of the outrageous (anchoring), the outrage explodes, the confusion of mixed message and then there's a less outrageous part which somehow seems more reasonable (regardless of whether it is or not) but before you can decide ... new outrage! The DNC needs to get its act in order.

-- 30th January 2017

An excellent post by Lawrence Lessig on Rules for a Constitutional Crisis -"The citizens who elected Trump are not evil. And if America is going to survive this crisis, we need to convince them first that their President should not be President" - in other words, win hearts and minds.

-- 30th January 2017

The comparison of Trump to the Enablement Act and the horrors of the 1930s, the description of the UK prime minister as "Theresa the appeaser" goes beyond the pale. I view this travel ban as highly discriminatory, misguided and worth condemning but comparison of the US to the Holocaust are truly offensive. Please stop.

-- 30th January 2017

The emergency debate in the house of commons on the changes to US immigration policy is exceptional and well worth listening to. The right honourable Nadhim Zahawi and Ed Miliband make the case that this executive order is counterproductive.

-- 30th January 2017

A new executive order to cut business regulation. I suppose we can describe this as the "positive" respite. I note also the "Get With the Program or Leave" comments.

I was asked the question "Where do you think Trump is going with all this?" to which I'll respond that it's not clear to me yet. I am very wary of some of the actors involved.

-- 31st January 2017

I was asked "Should people protest?" - of course, it's your democratic duty to protest, to make your feelings known in peaceful assembly. There's a world of difference between the public protesting or other Government's making clear their dissatisfaction and the DNC trying to resist through political manoeuvres. I'd like to see the DNC holding the administration to account, banging that drum and building a broader church of support.

-- 1st February 2017

The airwaves are being filled with noise that the DNC is going to try to filibuster and boycott. Oh, please no. A clear statement is needed to counter this. Whether the reports are true or not doesn't matter, as the narrative of the "man of action" taking on the "elite establishment" will be reinforced. I would imagine the next "outrage" in the cycle will soon make its entrance onto the scene.

-- 4th February 2017
Ah, lets bop that Dodd-Frank act shall we.

-- 5th February 2017.

Berkeley ... let us not talk about it other than to say it's depressing. On the upside, at least one professor from a Naval War College had something sensible to write on the subject of Trump - "Constant panic undermines his critics and boost his base".