Japan Times JBC column 103: “Trump’s lesson: You can lie your way to the very top”, Nov. 16, 2016


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Hi Blog. The Japan Times tapped me for an opinion on the US Elections and Trump’s ascendancy to the Presidency. So here’s my latest JBC a couple of weeks early. Excerpt:


Trump’s lesson: You can lie your way to the very top
NOV 16, 2016

The morning after the election, I woke up to Trump’s America.

I’d had a fitful sleep the night before. I’d watched the results from Hawaii, one of America’s bluest states, where our friend had organized a house party to ring in the predicted victory of Hillary Clinton and the continuation of local hero Barack Obama’s legacy. The first polls on America’s East Coast would be closing in our early afternoon. We’d see a clear outcome by dusk and go home happy.

But we lost our swing as the sun went down. Donald Trump started with an early lead thanks to some victories in the Bible Belt and Great Plains. But OK — they almost always go Republican. And, not to worry, the Northeast states mostly went blue. As soon as a few of the “battleground” states turned our color, as polls predicted they would, Clinton would leapfrog to victory.

[N.B. I have a feeling SNL was also at our party…]

But then more southern states started going red. Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana — sure, lost causes to begin with, right? Wyoming, Montana, Idaho — so deep red that the networks called them right after their polls closed.

But then Ohio fell. And Florida. And Georgia. I remember our cheers when Virginia went blue, then our shrieks when North Carolina canceled that out. Then the nor’easter: Maine and New Hampshire became too close to call. Even when the West Coast states came in and put Clinton in the lead, that too began to erode. After California, the Democrats had nothing left in the tank.

At that point the TV networks began to doomsay. MSNBC’s polling geek spent more than a television hour on incoming votes from rural and urban counties in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. The dominoes were falling the other way. And then, stunningly, Trump’s victory in the “rigged” (Trump’s word) Electoral College became a mathematical certainty.

By the time the cameras turned to Clinton’s victory bash and showed delegates slinking out, I had too. Back home, I watched as Clinton conceded even before all the networks had called it for Trump. I felt betrayed. And insomniac.

————— break ——————-

JBC has commented on previous U.S. elections (“Hailing the tail end of Bush”, Dec. 2, 2008), so let me tell you: I searched for a silver lining to all this. I found none…

Rest of the column at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2016/11/16/issues/trumps-lesson-can-lie-way-top/


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13 comments on “Japan Times JBC column 103: “Trump’s lesson: You can lie your way to the very top”, Nov. 16, 2016

  • The silver lining is that both the DNC and RNC failed in this election. Neither group has represented voters’ views much in recent history, and it’s one of the big issues in American politics today. Those two groups’ failure is a reflection of the public’s justified lack of confidence in them, and if this failure becomes the starting point in rebuilding or replacing one or both of those groups, it will certainly benefit the population at large.

  • Would have to agree with Douglas on this one. Many are saying that it was the white middle/lower class that elected Trump, but remember they also elected Obama. Surface observations point to not wanting a woman, non white president closet racist fears etc. That doesnt really explain the Trump win. Seems the answer might be in a disconnect that was created between the lefts progressive accomplishments and economic promises that never materialized. Obama is now blaming that on Congress for not accepting his proposals. I dont think a comparison of Japans situation and the U.S. is accurate. The U.S. votes change, as in the case of both Obama and Trump, whereas Japan just accepts the outcome and gamans for decades.

  • Trump’s win seems quite straightforward: he got fewer votes than Romney (which means some republicans didn’t vote for him), while Clinton got far fewer votes than Obama (so a lot of Obama voters didn’t vote for her). Result = Trump won.

    Basically people voted on party lines (most Trump voters were in the $70,000+ income bracket) but a lot of Democrats and independents didn’t vote or voted third party.

    DNC blew it, RNC let Trump hijack their party. Everyone lost.

  • This is a website about racism in Japan, Obama failed to combat this or call Japan out on it at all; instead he just derailed Hatoyama’s premiership (arguably nipping Japan’s nascent democracy in the bud) and giving a tacit nod to neocon retro fascism of Abe and the same old, same old Koumintang, I mean LDP (remarkably similar parties, the old guard of Taiwan and Japan, but I digress).

    Trump should at least call Japan and Abe out on various revanchist tendencies that threaten the postwar western narrative. On the other hand, didnt Trump also say Japan could arm itself with nuclear weapons? Well, thats what he said, but he also said they were essentially a useless ally?


    Trump’s rhetoric at least should ruffle the feathers of the erai hito who have benefitted far too long from, to quote Debito’s words “sweetheart trading agreements”, with the USA.

    Japan should be judged on its merits, not let off the hook or held to the same standards just because it happens to be of arguable geopolitical importance.

  • I agree with Baudrillard @#4, whatever Trump is, he’s not Clinton, and a Clinton presidency would have meant just more US enabling to Japan’s racist right wing, so that would have been bad news for human rights for NJ in Japan.

    I’m hoping Trump just calls them out on everything.

  • To Douglas,

    > the public’s justified lack of confidence in them

    The public’s lack of confidence is evident, but is it justified? Neither DNC’s or RNC’s failure, them being party constructs, can justify the public’s lack of confidence in the executive branch of the government, bringing the most progress to the US and starting a promising economic recovery. Voters are just venting about their difficulties in life, and irresponsibly blaming those on the governments without seriously digging the root of the problems. Not that they are not entitled to vent in voting, but it definitely should not be considered morally justified. So many of the complaints are direct consequences of the obstruction by the GOP Congress. Turning those on Obama shows just how oblivious many voters are to the US political system.

    Just to clarify because I showed my opposition to blaming one’s failure on the government, I don’t believe that sort of “you are poor because you don’t work hard enough” nonsense. Luck plays a much larger role than effort in any success, and Universal Basic Income for the win. But it was clear that GOP won this time not by sticking to that message of their tradition, but deviating from it, making an empty promise of a perfect politics. People are so willing to forget what GOP has always been about: rich elites, deregulation, and f**king poor people over, in the face of anxiety over their unimproved conditions.

    > if this failure becomes the starting point in rebuilding or replacing one or both of those groups, it will certainly benefit the population at large.

    That is a YUGE “IF” anyone should be wary of basing a vote on. Have you considered “if NOT”? It feels so strange, because normally, “if” is a progressive’s, or a liberal’s exploration call to the horizon of possibility, while “if not” is a conservative’s shield against harms toward the achievements. Yet it’s the GOP voted into full power, with President, both Senate and House, and upcoming Supreme Court appointments, with a big “IF”.

    Frankly, I don’t believe it will be “the starting point in rebuilding or replacing one or both of those groups”. While Trump is voted into the White House, almost the whole Congress is intact. All the incumbent Senators are still there. The President is only one of the three branches of the US government, and it is not the most powerful one, albeit becoming more and more powerful, again, due to obstructions by the GOP Congress and House. (I don’t agree with the power-grabs, but I must make the cause clear.) The most powerful branch is the Legislature, and it is almost unchanged, enough to prove that the “change” narrative of this election is no more than a distraction, however important many voters take it to their heart. To make things worse, Trump’s inexperience and lack of previous political background, viewed as a “plus” by voters who want a “fresh start”, will force him to rely more on existing GOP political figures, since he cannot govern by himself, and he doesn’t have his own team to rely on.

    At the end of the day, rulers too have to obey the rules for rulers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rStL7niR7gs

  • “So many of the complaints are direct consequences of the obstruction by the GOP Congress. Turning those on Obama shows just how oblivious many voters are to the US political system”

    Disagree. Obama got busy with his executive powers whenver he couldnt get congressional consent. Thats not the trait a talented politician either. It takes allot of work, manipulations, backroom deals etc. Seems Obama just gave up. I think this is one of Obamas failures, but he did have many successes in the begining.

    Its hard to tell yet, but Trump seems the polar opposite of Obama. Used to deal breaking, and a character thats fiercly independant, this is a threat to the entrenched agencies, he might just be the man for these times.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    I bet most of us got stunned with election last Tuesday. I am trying to get over with this travesty, and watching closely what’s coming next. I hate to say this, but Clinton and Democrats just blew it off because of their indifference to the needs of working class voters in both blue states and swing states. Unlike Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton did not speak out to them in her campaign that much. Many of those turned to Trump because they found he was the only one who would respond to their anger(with no guarantee that he would keep his promise) and frustration with institutional corruption and global elitism. Here’s Clinton critic from left.


  • > Obama got busy with his executive powers whenver he couldnt get congressional consent.

    “Whenever”? We don’t know how many of POTUS’s plans are not passed and not exec ordered. Maybe an FOIA request can surface those, maybe not. If exec orders have so much power we wouldn’t be complaining here. But then we would run the risk of falling into authoritarianism.

    The highest power of the US is held by the Congress. Therefore, the most responsibility should also belong to the Congress. Sure, Obama failed to obtain the Congress consent. But when the Congress refuse to consent to policies improving the life of their electorates, isn’t that a failure of the Congress? It’s unfortunate that the Congress is so much less visible than the President.

    > a character thats fiercly independant, this is a threat to the entrenched agencies

    To quote Rules for Rulers, “No Man Rules Alone”. Make it gender-neutral, no one rules alone. Character doesn’t matter when someone doesn’t have enough political capital to make an impact. As much mess as Trump has caused in the infotainment scene, he doesn’t have much political capital himself. Therefore, however strong he makes people believe he is, he can only function as a puppet of the right-wing GOP, in the best case, or of the alt-right movement, in the worst case. Either way, he won’t be the outsider so many hope him to be.

  • There’s nothing Trump could teach Abe about telling lies.
    Abe is touting his Hawaii trip as the first by a sitting Japanese PM to Pearl Harbor, and possible only now that Obama went to Hiroshima first.
    The thing is, three previous sitting PM’s went to Pearl Harbor;


    Why should the Japanese government seek to keep that fact secret from its own people for so long?
    Unless of course Japan was still hugely unrepentant and right wing, and such an admission would bring a right-wing backlash far too strong. Not a very good indictment on the ‘democracy’ the US brought to postwar Japan, is it?

  • Baudrillard, I read a quote last week in the JT where Abe told someone that Trump needs to ‘listen to him explain about Japan for an hour or two’, and I just thought ‘yeah, good luck with that’.
    They’ve never met anyone who doesn’t give a damn as much as Trump, and certainly isn’t interested in their Japansplaining.


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