Op-Ed: Trump Inherits the Surveillance State

Among the many terrible things that will ensue under the capricious whims of President-elect Donald Trump, there is one that should be particularly chilling, in that it could prevent effective opposition to his administration’s awful policies.

Consider that Donald Trump would not merely have the nuclear codes — which he probably wouldn’t use — but also the keys to the mass surveillance apparatus and special federal counterterrorism legal systems that we constructed in our post-9/11 national panic and strengthened ever since.

It is widely known that these tools have been used to monitor, break up and crush protests over the past decade and a half — on issues from racial justice and police reform to economic inequality and environmental activism.

Now he arrives in power, which brings access to the FBI’s protest organizer surveillance records, with the support of the nation’s police unions who have shown themselves only too happy to break out the pepper spray, batons, attack dogs, smoke grenades and armored vehicles at the first sign of constitutionally protected peaceful assembly.

No outsiders, no insiders

There won’t be any mass marches on Washington under that system if it is controlled by President-elect Trump. He has demonstrated repeatedly that he is nothing if not a rapid-response master, even to the smallest of slights and most token of opposition.

There also won’t be mass resistance by the military or the CIA, either, if he gives deeply disturbing orders.

For one, it is seriously naive to think there is not a pretty large contingent inside both organizations that agrees with Trump sincerely. This is not a baseless slam against either organization, but an acknowledgment that they — at minimum — represent a broad cross-section of the same population (particularly on the conservative side) that elected Trump.

The track record on preventing abuses in the field — while never particularly great in the grand arc of U.S. history — has been especially problematic during the Global War on Terror.

“Just following orders,” the mantra of Vietnam-era atrocities, is certainly not less likely to make a comeback under a Trump commander-in-chief.

The Department of Homeland Security is also highly unlikely to oppose Donald Trump’s deportation agenda. His deportation and border walls platform was enthusiastically supported by the unions representing border guards and immigration agents.

There is no accelerationism effect

Some have — before the election at least — floated the bizarre notion that a Trump presidency will wake up the country and compel it at long last to get its act together to stop the extreme strains he represents. Some had even suggested voting for him as a means of taking the country over the cliff into mandatory self-reflection.

Perhaps there was some small window between the Cold War and the rise of internet-enabled mass telecommunication surveillance when someone like Trump – perhaps a Pat Buchanan-type – could have won the presidency and not wreaked irreparable havoc, but rather “inoculated” the country against repeating the error. (I doubt it, but perhaps.)

Under a Trump presidency in 2017 and beyond, however, there is not going to be a mass awakening — because he will be able to disrupt it very easily with the tools our country has foolishly given the current and previous presidents.

A lot of people will suffer badly even if he holds office for only four years.

And of course it is not clear that it will be only four years. Remember the hubris of American liberals who, when faced with the shocking defeat in 2000, concluded it would be a cakewalk to make George W. Bush a one-term president?

Originally published at The Globalist.

oh no

Well we did not record a new episode of the show this week because we would have had to record before the election for broadcast today after the presidential election. I guess it’s good we planned it like that because, well, there was a catastrophically terrible surprise outcome as you might have heard.

We should be back on the air next week. Also I guess I hope to be able to return to writing here daily, which I still had not been doing, due to ongoing election commitments.

Early thoughts

Horrific outcome tonight. Mass collective action is probably the only path ahead for the next year or two at least. Early thoughts: The number one contingent most responsible for Donald Trump winning is people (not necessarily whom the media expected) who voted for Donald Trump. Don’t blame others first. (This wasn’t third parties and wasn’t about young people.) Second most responsible: All who systematically disenfranchised and suppressed voters over decades or didn’t do much to stop it.

I’ll leave for another time the rest of my reaction but the third most responsible group are the people whose strategy failed tonight as it has failed so many downballot races over the past 22 years. I don’t know what the future direction of the Democratic Party is – but it can’t be more of this. The environment, the economy, and our democracy (including human rights and civil liberties) seem to have gone off a cliff tonight, and I guess we’ll have to assess what the hell happens next to resist that.

Displaced anger

Pretty weird how many non-Millennials who support Clinton have decided to attack Millennials for their presidential voting preferences when Millennials are literally the only age demographic with more than 50% support for Clinton across most polling. Maybe first go figure out why 35-48% of your own generations are voting for the candidate of the white supremacists and *then* come back and talk to us about this / apologize. (If you’re 50 years or older, more of your peers outright plan to vote for Trump than for Clinton, by varying margins by generation.) This attitude is not a productive way to garner Millennial votes … or even get young voters to show up for any of our candidates this November.

Anyway, folks, Arsenal for Democracy is back in production — because the entire rest of political media is hostile to our generation.

Op-Ed | Trump’s Foreign Soulmates

Alexei Bayer and Bill Humphrey for The Globalist: “Look at commodities-export strongmen like Chavez and Putin if you want to understand Trump.”

Donald_Trump_by_Gage_Skidmore_3

Foreigners see Donald Trump as one of those outlandish characters the New World periodically produces and then thrusts upon the international stage.

It is, however, far more than a bewildering one-man show. The rise of Trump underscores that we are witnessing a split of the United States of America into two distinct nations.

It is, perhaps, a return to form for a country that has often split politically (and once militarily) between its economically developed regions and its farm- or mineral-driven regions.

One of those two nations remains closer to the image that America has projected toward the outside world for nearly two centuries – an industrialized, highly innovative nation and a modern society that is open, liberal, tolerant and democratic.

The other America is once again displaying the characteristics of a commodity-exporting nation, as it did for much of U.S. history.

Poor role models worldwide

It is therefore only logical that — in order to understand Trump and above all the folks who cast their votes for him – it is fitting to look at other modern commodity-export-dependent nations, such as oil-rich Russia, Venezuela and so on.

Commodity exporting nations are a mess everywhere – from Algeria and Azerbaijan to Zambia and Zimbabwe.

They live off the distribution of free-flowing revenues which require a strong state. Friends and family of those who control the distribution obviously get a lot more. These nations tend to be ruled by charismatic strongmen who safeguard the interests of their cronies while feeding nationalist rhetoric to the masses.

Naturally, the masses hate immigrants and outsiders, because they represent additional mouths to be fed by crumbs from the strongman’s table. They are full of disdain for neighbors who aren’t fortunate enough to have natural resources in their soil.

Commodity exporters don’t need representative democracy, appointing their leaders by popular acclaim and very often for life. Read more

Is there a delegate firewall against Trump? Maybe not.

trump-supporters-2016

A week or two ago, FiveThirtyEight posted a really elaborate procedural and statistical case arguing there may be Blue State firewall against insurgent conservative candidates like Trump (or Carson).

It would take too long here to explain the case fully, but the gist is this: First the calendar order places a bunch of Blue States relatively early (e.g. Massachusetts, Vermont, Hawaii, New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Rhode Island). And second most of these particular states (e.g. New York) will award Republican delegates by Congressional district instead of statewide (which gives a huge delegate-per-voter bonus to states with dramatically fewer Republicans, since Congressional districts are drawn by population not number of Republicans). These factors both combine to give an early boost to delegates from Blue States.

The piece then argues that various insurgent candidates will be disadvantaged by this, to the benefit of a Bush or Rubio type establishment-backed candidate. While that might be true for a Ted Cruz, and maybe even Ben Carson, it’s not clear to me that’s necessarily true for some of them, particularly Donald Trump.

The two main flaws I see with this theory (of the firewall, not the math) after thinking about it since the article came out are:

First, it presumes that the remaining Republicans in very Blue States aren’t extremists themselves, which might not be true. It takes a lot of dedication to The Cause to remain registered R in a very liberal place. Maybe they’re Jeb Bush Republicans. But maybe they’re Ted Cruz Republicans. Even likelier, in my view? They’re Trump Republicans, which means whatever you want it to mean — hard right or moderate — because he’s running as the populist who is exactly what you want him to be. And that brings us to the other flaw.

Second, it presumes that genuinely moderate northeast Republicans don’t view Trump as one of them more than as a hard-right White Knight. For the record, I don’t think Trump is all that liberal, but if you really wanted to convince yourself he was a moderate New York City Republican on most issues, you easily could. (Especially based on his pre-campaign track record as a literal New York City Republican who was pro-choice and pro-universal healthcare.) I expect him to do quite well among Republicans in a lot of liberal northeastern strongholds.

As a result, I think that the delegate system aspect identified by FiveThirtyEight might not be a firewall against Trump but rather his coronation. Plus, I also think there are a lot of southern states and rural-Red but overall Blue-leaning northern states that will vote even earlier in the calendar, so we might not even make it to the end of April (to see what the supposed firewall states do) before this is wrapped up.

Trump is overwhelming favorite for MA GOP primary

Emerson College Polling Society released a poll on likely voters in the semi-open Republican presidential primary next March. It’s… well, there was never going to be a good outcome, but this certainly isn’t. However, it also doesn’t surprise me at all.

ma-gop-primary-emerson-poll-chart

Massachusetts is notoriously difficult to poll accurately — but when the margin is 34 points between first and second place, I think we can assume it’s probably in the right ballpark.