Tag Archives: Donald Trump

Voting in Anger In the Election

Though the high turnout of minority voters gave Joe Biden the edge in this election, exit polls showed that the majority of white voters favored Trump, exposing a ‘race gap’ in election 2020.

While three in five white voters (58%) supported Trump in 2020 like they did in 2016, 42% of white women voted for Trump, alongside Asians (34%), Latinos (32%,) and Black (12%). Among voters of color, over a third of Arab Americans polled preferred Trump because “they felt the Democrat’s support for Arabs was nothing but pandering for votes.” An AAPI survey also found that 48% of Vietnamese Americans and 28% of Asian Indians voted for the president.

But what puzzles the pundits is why white people (74 million) and some minorities voted the way they did. Though some voting patterns remain predictable, why did Trump win 3 out of 10 non-white voters? Why did half the country support a candidate whom the other half finds unacceptable?

The threadbare cliche that none of these groups (white, brown, or black) is monolithic, does not sufficiently explain why some of the electorate voted to support a norm-breaking candidate, whose views hew racist, sexist, xenophobic, disconnected and delusional, and who is responsible for a mangled response to a pandemic that has taken more than 300 thousand lives.

What do we really know about who voted for Trump and why?

Experts at a December 11 Ethnic Media briefing shared insights into voter turnout and the race gap in a contentious election.

The panel agreed that exit polls don’t tell the whole story. Polls only reflect those who voted, not those who did not cast a ballot. Despite a record number of votes in 2020, said  Mindy Romero a professor at USC, what’s significant is that 85 million eligible voters did not turn out  at all.

Trump got 31% vs 33% for Biden of eligible voters, among whom whites are a majority. So the voting electorate is not really representative of the voting population, stated Romero, because “disparities are entrenched in our electoral and prevent people from participating.’ If disparities were eliminated, Biden would have had a stronger mandate.

But there’s more at stake than counting voter turnout urged influential Berkeley sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild. “It’s in our interest to get into the mindset of the 74 million who voted for Trump” because of the president’s partisan efforts to create divisiveness in the electorate.

Hochschild, the author of Strangers in their Own Land, shared her insights into the rise of conservative American voters. Her research, based on intensive interviews of Tea Party enthusiasts in Louisiana, drills down into the fundamental values and concerns of marginalized white voters that shaped turnout in this election.

Their story, she said, reveals the ‘anger and mourning’ on the right that’s fueling a sizable divide between Republicans and Democrats who don’t really seem to understand each other.

The left cannot assume that right-leaning voters with MAGA hats and pumping fists ‘are sitting pretty’ said Hochschild. That image is an illusion, describing very few who live in the Trump heartland around Eastern Kentucky and Appalachia, which is the focus of her current research.

In interviews, Trump supporters admit that life isn’t better for them after four years, but they are still voting for him.  Why? Because, Hochschild explained, Trump has a way of ‘insinuating himself into the dominant paradigm of evangelical Christians, and reaching into his base using the trifecta of a ‘treasonous press,’ the deep state, and his bout with COVID19, to position himself as a victim ‘suffering for them,’ and that he alone can save them. Many Christians see Trump as a savior, said Hochschild.

On the other hand, Democrats, despite their education and curiosity tend to live in urban enclaves and don’t have a presence in disadvantaged, white strongholds. Such political bubbles leave many in these communities feeling invisible explained Hochschild. Support for Trump is rooted in disillusionment and anger at the system.

White Anger and the Trump supporter

What prompts the right-wing hostility of Trump supporters, argues Hochschild, is “an anguishing loss of honor, alienation and engagement in a hidden social class war,” lying hidden beneath their difficult struggle for the American Dream.

Trump supporters get their picture of reality not just from Fox News but also mainstream media such as CNN and MSNBC. But their impressions of non-white newscasters and black football stars with multimillion dollar deals, have heightened their sense of being left out. To them, people of color appear to be getting ahead and receiving special treatment in what is perceived as a ‘put down of white men,’ said Hochschild, adding that they regarded themselves as ‘poor and dumb,’ and actually felt that life was rigged against them; they felt they were ‘sinking as others are rising.’

Ironically, this sense of victimhood has made  ‘a lot of white people…blue collar, high school educated white (Christian) people’ and pockets of poor folk, “feel like a minority group themselves” that is in decline, explained Hochschild.

One of her respondents had grown up in a trailer park where drug abuse and crime was rampant; he pointed out that communities like his were not dissimilar to those in the Bronx and Detroit, yet the media tended to portray poor whites in a more negative light.

So it was not racism, but economic anxiety, that propelled disenfranchised white voters towards Trump, explained Davin Phoenix, Asst. Professor of  Political Science, (USC Irvine), and author of The Anger Gap: How Race Shapes Emotion in Politics,

Trends show thatwhite people feel the ground shifting under their feet.” Trump has harnessed their fear of a shifting society and losing their dominant status, to fan white anger and normalize the Trumpian viewpoint. “Anger is a palpable force,” said Phoenix.

But anger against an unresponsive society does not drive people of color in a similar way, he countered. While white anger manifested in a 2016 Trump victory, there is a racial anger gap prevents black people from mobilizing their anger.

“Race shapes who gets to be publicly angry over politics’ stated Phoenix. It determines how the polity, the media treats groups inequitably based on how they air their grievances.

Contrary to the stereotype of the angry black man, people of color express less anger at the system than their  white counterparts.

White people express anger over politics by canvassing for candidates, going to the voting booth, donating, or contacting election officials. People of color are less likely to do so, though they may protest or boycott, said Phoenix. His research indicates that  when people of color encounter threats, they are more likely to withdraw from politics or pursue alternative forms of action.

“Anger consistently mobilizes White Americans toward a wide range of political actions more effectively than African Americans,” writes Phoenix 

The Media Narrative has to Change

Trump and his media echo chamber have continued to fuel this white anger in the run up to election 2020, and deepen the divide between Democrats and Republicans. Panelists agreed that the media narrative needs to change.

“There are lots of stories that could be written to reach across this divide,” suggested Hochschild, to frame migrant stories of both people of color and whites – Latino and Appalachian for example – so people can form a common, human connection. While we read about migrant camps on the Mexican border, the mainstream press does not cover out-of-work Appalachians in camped outside Cincinnati.  We need stories that remind us that “there is work that Latinos do, that is not competitive with what whites do.”

We also need to address the idea of ‘displacement’ said Hochschild, because many of these people are not entitled – they’re depressed and a little bit frightened. “Labelling people as racist is going to backfire.”

The media plays a key role in educating the electorate about race and power, democratic norms and how the electoral process works, added Romero. She warned that the media sets up the narrative when they blame certain groups for failure in voter turnout. Instead of playing the ‘blame game’ after every election – young people were apathetic, why did black people vote for Trump, why didn’t more Latinos vote  – Romero suggested the narrative must evolve from handwringing, to understanding the nuances in policy preferences among groups and where people are coming from, especially with historically underrepresented populations.  We need to reach out and honestly address racial bias to begin a positive dialogue and encourage people to get past their differences, urged Romero.

Thinking Ahead

The racial divide is underscored by misconceptions Democrats and Republicans have about each other, said Hochschild. In a survey Dems estimated that 50% of Republicans felt racism is still a problem, when that number was actually 80%. Republicans estimated that half of Democrats felt that police were ‘bad people’ when the actual number was lower (15%). Both sides are unable to predict what each think, and when perception of the other is so skewed, they really need to change tactics.

It won’t be easy, but Americans need to ’abandon party tribalism’, lower their guard, and listen to really understand each other, if they want to forge a less polarized, more inclusive country.


Meera Kymal is the contributing editor at India Currents

image credit: photopin Only in Oregon

Who Won India Currents’ Presidential Primary Poll?

We have a wonderful reader base that took time out of their day to take our Presidential Primaries Survey! We received 34 responses and from that we tried to gauge the pulse of what our average Indian American reader feels about the current political climate.

94% of participants will be voting in the primaries, however only 72% of those read up before voting.

Surprisingly, despite having male heavy participation, Elizabeth Warren came out as the winner of our Presidential Primary Poll. Unsurprisingly, the winning candidate was a Democrat, as 61.8% of people responding reported Democratic affiliations.

Forms response chart. Question title: What is your political affiliation?. Number of responses: 34 responses.

Some basic demographics, 70% of our participants were making more than 100k a year and 76% of our participants were older than 30. We had gender distribution of: 55.9% male, 44.1% female, 0% nonbinary respondents.

Forms response chart. Question title: What is your annual income?. Number of responses: 34 responses.

The precedent then set for the following information can provide us some insight into what type of people are responding and what their reasoning might be. Our data indicates that the respondents are professionals with high income, skewing towards a male lens.

When asked about who they will be voting for, the responses were diverse – some outdated:

  1. Elizabeth Warren (8) – 23.5%
  2. Bernie Sanders (4), Michael Bloomberg (4), Abstain (4) – 11.8%
  3. Joe Biden (3), Donald Trump (3) – 8.8%
  4. Pete Buttigieg (2), Tulsi Gabbard (2) – 5.9%
  5. Amy Klobuchar (1), Andrew Yang (1), None of the Above (1) – 2.9%

Forms response chart. Question title: Who are you planning on voting for in the Presidential Primaries? . Number of responses: 34 responses.

Top three issues taxpayers would want their money spent on:

  1. Health Care
  2. Education
  3. Environment and Infrastructure

What the information above indicates is that our readers want a female presence in the Oval Office. Upon further investigation, 6/15 women voted for Elizabeth Warren with only 2 votes for Warren being male. The distribution shows that identity politics plays a huge role during election season.

Furthermore, I initially thought that our high income base would be concerned with tax cuts, yet the survey shows that they are not. Most respondents genuinely care about future generations living in a sustainable world with good education and (hopefully) affordable health care.

Happy Super Tuesday and get out the vote!

Srishti Prabha is the current Assistant Editor at India Currents and has worked in low income/affordable housing as an advocate for women and people of color. She is passionate about diversifying spaces, preserving culture, and removing barriers to equity.

Was Trump Right on the China Trade War and the Subsequent Deal? No!

Was Trump Right on the China Trade War and the Subsequent Deal? No!

By Mani Subramani

The trade deal with China is definitely a step in the right direction for the Trump administration.  But only after taking several steps backwards! Like a broken clock Donald Trump has been complaining about trade imbalances since the 1980s, first with Japan and now with China.  Global trade with China has been growing steadily. In a recent study, The Economic Policy Institute reported little over a 4 fold increase in imports from China (120B-540B) and a greater than a 6 fold increase in exports to China (19B-120B).  

The Trump administration needs to ask itself if it’s willing to give up 120B in exports to Make America Great Again? Like the U.S. did in 2001?  The answer is clearly NO.  

The Phase-1 Trade Deal will have the Chinese buy more soy and hogs from U.S. farmers but the agreement keeps the level of export the same as before. Due to the African flu and the following hog shortage in China, there was a pre-existing demand for hogs without the Trade Deal.  

Now President Trump claims that tariffs are great for the treasury and makes false claims that it is paid for by the Chinese entirely.  Wrong on both counts. Despite the tariffs and expanding U.S. economy, the deficit for 2020 is on track to hit a trillion again. A recent Business week study finds that of 25% tariffs on $250B about $3B/month is paid by consumers and another $1.4B/month in costs related to lost efficiency.  In other words, a vast majority of the tariffs are borne by consumers and importers. 

Tariffs are a blunt un-directed weapon which when used are full of unintended consequences.  As pointed out in a study by the Tax Foundation, more workers in other industries dependent on steel lost their jobs due to the 2002 Bush Steel tariffs; few were protected. Trump repeated this mistake making the false claim of saving jobs once again and implemented his Steel and Aluminum Tariffs in 2018.  The result was a temporary improvement in steel prices followed by a deep slump in prices due to over capacity and severe cutbacks in steel jobs. 

In addition to these unintended consequences, the trade deal represents a loss of focus and forgets to address three key areas: Chinese government subsidies create unequal advantages for development and pricing that kill off global competition; intellectual property protection in China is exploitative and should be changed for it to be a mutually beneficial relationship; the trade deal does not specifically prohibit the use of technological advances for military warfare. 

U.S. interests would have been better served by steering clear of a trade war and instead focusing the dialogue in China on the three key issues aforementioned. Maybe that is why past presidents weren’t “tariff men”.  Guess it’s a lot easier to win elections by blaming trade for lost jobs!

Mani Subramani is a veteran of the semiconductor equipment industry.  He enjoys following politics and economics.

This article is part of the monthly Forum Series, where you get eyes on both sides of a hot button issue.

**************************

Was Trump Right on the China Trade War and the Subsequent Deal?  Yes!

By Rameysh Ramdas

For decades, China has pursued discriminatory, fraudulent and predatory industrial policies with the U.S. and unfair trade practices—including dumping, discriminatory barriers, steep tariffs, forced technology transfer, over capacity, and intellectual property theft. 

U.S. Presidents, both Democratic and Republican, in the past, have only paid lip service to China. It wasn’t until President Trump, who has the spine to confront China, that the U.S. was able to extract concessions and sign the Phase 1 Trade Deal. While the deal may not be perfect or complete, it is a welcome and necessary first step. 

China has imposed tariffs three times more than the United States. The U.S. imposes a 2.5% tariff on Chinese cars while China has a 25% tariff. Chin’s “Made in China 2025” plan adversely impacts U.S. manufactures. The cost of China’s blatant intellectual property theft costs United States’ innovators billions of dollars a year and results in job losses.

Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer showered rare praise on the President for standing up to China and imposing tough tariffs and sanctions. Further Senator Schumer said – “Not only do they steal our intellectual property, they keep our good companies out, and say the only way you’re going to be able to sell your American products in China … is if you come to China, make them there, and give us the techniques and intellectual property.”

According to CNN Business, “Chinese theft of American IP currently costs between $225 billion and $600 billion annually to the U.S.” According to a CNBC SFO survey, 1 in 5 U.S. companies said that China stole their intellectual property within the past year. In 2003, China played another dirty trick by using currency manipulation, allowing its currency to artificially fall. Since 2018, China has had a positive trade imbalance of $379 billion with the U.S. 

While it may not be fashionable to commend President Trump in California, any right thinking citizen ought to support Trump’s “America First” policies; the policies focus on eliminating laws and regulations that kill jobs and stifle innovation. With the Trade Deal, China agreed to purchase, over the course of the next two years, $200 billion more goods and services from the United States than it purchased in 2017. As Hillary Clinton rightly said, China has “gamed the system for too long” and now Trump deserves credit for taking the first steps with the Trade Deal to level the playing field and ensure that trade is both free and fair.

Rameysh Ramdas, a resident of the SF Bay Area, has a keen interest in Politics and Current Events. 

This article is part of the monthly Forum Series, where you get eyes on both sides of a hot button issue.


License for the image used can be found here.

Edited by Assistant Editor, Srishti Prabha.

Was Trump Right on the China Trade War and the Subsequent Deal? Yes!

Was Trump Right on the China Trade War and the Subsequent Deal?  Yes!

By Rameysh Ramdas

For decades, China has pursued discriminatory, fraudulent and predatory industrial policies with the U.S. and unfair trade practices—including dumping, discriminatory barriers, steep tariffs, forced technology transfer, over capacity, and intellectual property theft. 

U.S. Presidents, both Democratic and Republican, in the past, have only paid lip service to China. It wasn’t until President Trump, who has the spine to confront China, that the U.S. was able to extract concessions and sign the Phase 1 Trade Deal. While the deal may not be perfect or complete, it is a welcome and necessary first step. 

China has imposed tariffs three times more than the United States. The U.S. imposes a 2.5% tariff on Chinese cars while China has a 25% tariff. Chin’s “Made in China 2025” plan adversely impacts U.S. manufactures. The cost of China’s blatant intellectual property theft costs United States’ innovators billions of dollars a year and results in job losses.

Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer showered rare praise on the President for standing up to China and imposing tough tariffs and sanctions. Further Senator Schumer said – “Not only do they steal our intellectual property, they keep our good companies out, and say the only way you’re going to be able to sell your American products in China … is if you come to China, make them there, and give us the techniques and intellectual property.”

According to CNN Business, “Chinese theft of American IP currently costs between $225 billion and $600 billion annually to the U.S.” According to a CNBC SFO survey, 1 in 5 U.S. companies said that China stole their intellectual property within the past year. In 2003, China played another dirty trick by using currency manipulation, allowing its currency to artificially fall. Since 2018, China has had a positive trade imbalance of $379 billion with the U.S. 

While it may not be fashionable to commend President Trump in California, any right thinking citizen ought to support Trump’s “America First” policies; the policies focus on eliminating laws and regulations that kill jobs and stifle innovation. With the Trade Deal, China agreed to purchase, over the course of the next two years, $200 billion more goods and services from the United States than it purchased in 2017. As Hillary Clinton rightly said, China has “gamed the system for too long” and now Trump deserves credit for taking the first steps with the Trade Deal to level the playing field and ensure that trade is both free and fair.

Rameysh Ramdas, a resident of the SF Bay Area, has a keen interest in Politics and Current Events. 

This article is part of the monthly Forum Series, where you get eyes on both sides of a hot button issue.

**************************

Was Trump Right on the China Trade War and the Subsequent Deal? No!

By Mani Subramani

The trade deal with China is definitely a step in the right direction for the Trump administration.  But only after taking several steps backwards! Like a broken clock Donald Trump has been complaining about trade imbalances since the 1980s, first with Japan and now with China.  Global trade with China has been growing steadily. In a recent study, The Economic Policy Institute reported little over a 4 fold increase in imports from China (120B-540B) and a greater than a 6 fold increase in exports to China (19B-120B).  

The Trump administration needs to ask itself if it’s willing to give up 120B in exports to Make America Great Again? Like the U.S. did in 2001?  The answer is clearly NO.  

The Phase-1 Trade Deal will have the Chinese buy more soy and hogs from U.S. farmers but the agreement keeps the level of export the same as before. Due to the African flu and the following hog shortage in China, there was a pre-existing demand for hogs without the Trade Deal.  

Now President Trump claims that tariffs are great for the treasury and makes false claims that it is paid for by the Chinese entirely.  Wrong on both counts. Despite the tariffs and expanding U.S. economy, the deficit for 2020 is on track to hit a trillion again. A recent Business week study finds that of 25% tariffs on $250B about $3B/month is paid by consumers and another $1.4B/month in costs related to lost efficiency.  In other words, a vast majority of the tariffs are borne by consumers and importers. 

Tariffs are a blunt un-directed weapon which when used are full of unintended consequences.  As pointed out in a study by the Tax Foundation, more workers in other industries dependent on steel lost their jobs due to the 2002 Bush Steel tariffs; few were protected. Trump repeated this mistake making the false claim of saving jobs once again and implemented his Steel and Aluminum Tariffs in 2018.  The result was a temporary improvement in steel prices followed by a deep slump in prices due to over capacity and severe cutbacks in steel jobs. 

In addition to these unintended consequences, the trade deal represents a loss of focus and forgets to address three key areas: Chinese government subsidies create unequal advantages for development and pricing that kill off global competition; intellectual property protection in China is exploitative and should be changed for it to be a mutually beneficial relationship; the trade deal does not specifically prohibit the use of technological advances for military warfare. 

U.S. interests would have been better served by steering clear of a trade war and instead focusing the dialogue in China on the three key issues aforementioned. Maybe that is why past presidents weren’t “tariff men”.  Guess it’s a lot easier to win elections by blaming trade for lost jobs!

Mani Subramani is a veteran of the semiconductor equipment industry.  He enjoys following politics and economics.

This article is part of the monthly Forum Series, where you get eyes on both sides of a hot button issue.

Edited by Contributing Editor Srishti Prabha.

Trump in a Landslide? Absolutely Not!

Trump in a Landslide? Absolutely Not!

By Mani Subramani

Moody’s model predicted the wrong outcome in the 2016 elections. “In response to the miss, Moody’s expanded the range of potential voter turnout and made several other changes to how it assesses voter reaction to economic conditions. If applied now, Moody’s says the altered models would have called 2016 for Trump,” says this article. That’s the nature of statistical models – they are sometimes wrong!   

Americans are tired of Trump style over substance approach. They are sick of him labeling critical media outlets as fake news, overruling US institutions (CIA) in favor of foreign entities (Putin), disrespecting decorated veterans (Senator McCain), making crude remarks about women, denying climate change, peddling fake conspiracy theories about the deep state and now, potential impeachable offenses!  

In order to justify Trump’s behavior one needs to disbelieve all media outlets, ignore the obvious effects of climate change, accept incompetent foreign policy, believe the fake theory that coal jobs are coming back and that globalization can be reversed. 

Trump has always been a conman with a solid base of supporters. Proving the adage that you can fool some people all the time, and all the people some of the time.  Let’s hope, for the sake of this great democracy, that he cannot fool all the people all the time!!

A lot has been made of US economic strength under Trump. However, these analyses ignore several factors. With the exception of a three quarters of 3+% growth, it has been around ~2% to below 2% in the most recent quarter –  a rate which Trump characterized as “weak” while campaigning in 2016.  

Similarly unemployment rate decline, which began in 2010, has just continued to decline and now stabilized around 3.6%. On the other hand budget deficits have exploded. Three consecutive years of rapidly rising deficits threatens to break the trillion dollar mark this year. Having this occur during an economic expansion shows dangerous underlying economic weakness. In sharp contrast, after a high in 2009 the deficits steadily reduced under Obama. Proving once again that whatever Trump does, he does horribly. Exactly what you would expect from a man who specialized in serial bankruptcies! 

This does not mean the voters are going to hand the election to the Democratic nominee. The nominee needs to articulate the message that an irresponsible and crooked leader has wastefully spent the public treasure on wealthy individuals and corporations who spent it on stock buybacks. 

This money would have been better spent on addressing inequality, health security, infrastructure, job training and securing the world for future generations for all Americans. Such investment would lead to sustained economic growth, jobs of the future and improved quality of life.  

In July 2019 the support for impeachment was around ~40%. Recent polls show a majority supporting impeachment. The Democratic nominee must inspire a robust voter turnout. There are a few candidates in the pool who are articulating populist ideas well and practicing good retail politics.  They are quite capable of unseating Trump. 

Mani Subramani is a veteran of the semiconductor equipment industry.  He enjoys following politics and economics.

Trump in a Landslide? Yes!

By Rameysh Ramdas

Recently, the highly predictive Moody’s election model projected President Trump would easily win re-election by a wider margin and could even win a Reagensque landslide.

Despite my Democratic Party affiliation, I must regrettably agree with Moody’s model. With unemployment at a historic low of 3.5%, the S&P has risen 28% since the day he was elected, and we are on the cusp of ending the trade war with China with a deal, and possibly a denuclearization accord with North Korea.   

Whether it is due to Trump’s policies is arguable, but Trump has certainly boosted consumer and business confidence to new highs. Many areas in the nation face acute labor shortages in this expansion. It was a streak of political genius that he ran and won with a catchy slogan- “Make America Great Again.” Those four words were more powerful than the lengthy policy prescriptions that Hillary patiently presented.

With this economic tailwind behind our nation, the Democrats seem determined to lose in 2020. A motley crew of far left wing zealots like Senator Warren, Reps Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Tlaib are driving the direction of the party and forcing candidates to fall in line.  Warren wants to almost criminalize wealth creation and corporations in this country. This is the only nation on earth where a graduate student like me could land with a meager $520 and today, 30 years later, live in a million plus dollar home and achieve a successful career while still enjoying all the rights and privileges of native-born fellow Americans. 

The Democrats promise a “Medicare for Allthat essentially strips people of their choice of employer provided health care and impose fines if they do not enroll in Medicare. The Democrats would cripple life and commerce in the U.S with their  maniacal focus on climate change, forgetting that China, India and Mexico are the major polluters of this planet. The Democrats want to also make college tuition free, even for millionaire’s kids or those underperforming 

The average American, while certainly willing to make reasonable accommodations, is more focused on providing for their family, educating their kids, retaining their jobs in this rapidly changing workplace, having a secure retirement and on being able to pass on their life’s savings to their loved ones without the Government raiding them. The Democrats and their agendas are completely divorced from this reality. 

At the end of the day, as the old adage goes, Americans vote with their pocket books. Till Trump keeps our pocketbooks filled, the majority will gladly re-elect him in a heartbeat.  The Democrats have given me, this moderate, middle of the road Democrat nothing to say “Yes” to! 

Mark my words, with the Democrats not relating to mainstream  and rural America, and if the economy continues to boom and associated optimism continue to hold up, President Trump will be reelected, and yes, possibly in a landslide. 

Rameysh Ramdas, a resident of the SF Bay Area, has a keen interest in Politics and Current Events. 

Trump in a Landslide? Yes!

Trump in a Landslide? Yes!

By Rameysh Ramdas

Recently, the highly predictive Moody’s election model projected President Trump would easily win re-election by a wider margin and could even win a Reagensque landslide.

Despite my Democratic Party affiliation, I must regrettably agree with Moody’s model. With unemployment at a historic low of 3.5%, the S&P has risen 28% since the day he was elected, and we are on the cusp of ending the trade war with China with a deal, and possibly a denuclearization accord with North Korea.   

Whether it is due to Trump’s policies is arguable, but Trump has certainly boosted consumer and business confidence to new highs. Many areas in the nation face acute labor shortages in this expansion. It was a streak of political genius that he ran and won with a catchy slogan- “Make America Great Again.” Those four words were more powerful than the lengthy policy prescriptions that Hillary patiently presented.

With this economic tailwind behind our nation, the Democrats seem determined to lose in 2020. A motley crew of far left wing zealots like Senator Warren, Reps Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Tlaib are driving the direction of the party and forcing candidates to fall in line.  Warren wants to almost criminalize wealth creation and corporations in this country. This is the only nation on earth where a graduate student like me could land with a meager $520 and today, 30 years later, live in a million plus dollar home and achieve a successful career while still enjoying all the rights and privileges of native-born fellow Americans. 

The Democrats promise a “Medicare for Allthat essentially strips people of their choice of employer provided health care and impose fines if they do not enroll in Medicare. The Democrats would cripple life and commerce in the U.S with their  maniacal focus on climate change, forgetting that China, India and Mexico are the major polluters of this planet. The Democrats want to also make college tuition free, even for millionaire’s kids or those underperforming 

The average American, while certainly willing to make reasonable accommodations, is more focused on providing for their family, educating their kids, retaining their jobs in this rapidly changing workplace, having a secure retirement and on being able to pass on their life’s savings to their loved ones without the Government raiding them. The Democrats and their agendas are completely divorced from this reality. 

At the end of the day, as the old adage goes, Americans vote with their pocket books. Till Trump keeps our pocketbooks filled, the majority will gladly re-elect him in a heartbeat.  The Democrats have given me, this moderate, middle of the road Democrat nothing to say “Yes” to! 

Mark my words, with the Democrats not relating to mainstream  and rural America, and if the economy continues to boom and associated optimism continue to hold up, President Trump will be reelected, and yes, possibly in a landslide. 

Rameysh Ramdas, a resident of the SF Bay Area, has a keen interest in Politics and Current Events. 

Trump in a Landslide? Absolutely Not!

By Mani Subramani

Moody’s model predicted the wrong outcome in the 2016 elections. “In response to the miss, Moody’s expanded the range of potential voter turnout and made several other changes to how it assesses voter reaction to economic conditions. If applied now, Moody’s says the altered models would have called 2016 for Trump,” says this article. That’s the nature of statistical models – they are sometimes wrong!   

Americans are tired of Trump style over substance approach. They are sick of him labeling critical media outlets as fake news, overruling US institutions (CIA) in favor of foreign entities (Putin), disrespecting decorated veterans (Senator McCain), making crude remarks about women, denying climate change, peddling fake conspiracy theories about the deep state and now, potential impeachable offenses!  

In order to justify Trump’s behaviour one needs to disbelieve all media outlets, ignore the obvious effects of climate change, accept incompetent foriegn policy, believe the fake theory that coal jobs are coming back and that globalization can be reversed. 

Trump has always been a conman with a solid base of supporters. Proving the adage that you can fool some people all the time, and all the people some of the time.  Let’s hope, for the sake of this great democracy, that he cannot fool all the people all the time!!

A lot has been made of US economic strength under Trump. However, these analyses ignore several factors. With the exception of a three quarters of 3+% growth, it has been around ~2% to below 2% in the most recent quarter –  a rate which Trump characterized as “weak” while campaigning in 2016.  

Similarly unemployment rate decline, which began in 2010, has just continued to decline and now stabilized around 3.6%. On the other hand budget deficits have exploded. Three consecutive years of rapidly rising deficits threatens to break the trillion dollar mark this year. Having this occur during an economic expansion shows dangerous underlying economic weakness. In sharp contrast, after a high in 2009 the deficits steadily reduced under Obama. Proving once again that whatever Trump does, he does horribly. Exactly what you would expect from a man who specialized in serial bankruptcies! 

This does not mean the voters are going to hand the election to the Democratic nominee. The nominee needs to articulate the message that an irresponsible and crooked leader has wastefully spent the public treasure on wealthy individuals and corporations who spent it on stock buybacks. 

This money would have been better spent on addressing inequality, health security, infrastructure, job training and securing the world for future generations for all Americans. Such investment would lead to sustained economic growth, jobs of the future and improved quality of life.  

In July 2019 the support for impeachment was around ~40%. Recent polls show a majority supporting impeachment. The Democratic nominee must inspire a robust voter turnout. There are a few candidates in the pool who are articulating populist ideas well and practicing good retail politics.  They are quite capable of unseating Trump. 

Mani Subramani is a veteran of the semiconductor equipment industry.  He enjoys following politics and economics.

The Lost Language of Progressive Patriotism

By M. Steven Fish

The investigation into Donald Trump’s alleged dealings with Russia presents the Democrats with their best chance in a half-century to become the natural party of government. The unfolding story hands them a rare opportunity to erase the Republicans’ perceived edge on patriotism and national security. It empowers them to take back the flag on behalf of all Americans. It carves a channel to voters who treasure their country’s security, global standing, and democratic institutions but who do not find traditional liberal appeals compelling. It primes some centrists and traditional conservatives to desert the party of Trump for a generation — if only the liberal party could speak their language.

But it cannot.

The Democrats eloquently speak the language of compassion, but they refrain from the patois of national interests and honor. If their foes’ actions are cowardly rather than callous, or disloyal rather than barbarous, liberals lack the vocabulary to assail them.

Idiom reflects political instincts, and threats to national institutions and interests do not evoke the gut loathing among liberals that social injustice does. Jonathan Haidt and colleagues provide insight. (See herehere, here, and here.) They outline five “moral foundations of politics.” While their labels have evolved, they may be summarized as care/harm, fairness/cheating, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation. Haidt and company find that only the first two (care and fairness) strongly resonate with contemporary liberals. Their moral foundations are more “human” and universal, while conservatives’ affinities for the other three categories (loyalty, authority, sanctity) incline them toward particularistic allegiances, including nationalism.

Trump/Russia is thus not a natural issue for liberals. Running on mercy and social justice while ceding national defense and the flag to the Republicans is ingrained in the Democrats’ post-LBJ muscle memory. When Democrats focus on foreign affairs, they usually aim to wind down wars rather than confront foreign foes. This approach appears consistently, from George McGovern’s 1972 pledge to bring our boys home from Vietnam to Barack Obama’s 2008 plan to withdraw from George W. Bush’s wars.

Since Vietnam, liberals have also lost their taste for running on love of country. The Republicans have wrapped themselves in the flag for so long that some progressives have come to identify it with imperial bullying, electoral blustering, and even ethnic bigotry.

Since Trump/Russia is less about care and fairness than it is about betrayal, subversion, and degradation, progressives are less likely to feel it than they are to feel tax-code rips-offs by the rich. Trump/Russia is also more of an assault on the country as a whole than on vulnerable groups in society. Liberals indeed detest Putin because they see him as supporting Trump, and some know that the Russian president espouses homophobia. But they hardly know how to talk about the penetrationsubversion, and degradation of America’s institutionsnational security, and honor by a foreign enemy and its domestic abettors.

Forceful truth-telling on Trump’s Russia ties comes hard to liberals, most of whom shrink from even calling Putin an enemyTheir discourse leaves them rhetorically unprepared to confront tyrants who beset American institutions, values, and security.

What Would JFK Say?

Liberals used to know how to speak this language. America’s mid-20th Century progressive patriotic patriarchs would take on Putin and Trump as a national security imperative as well as a political no-brainer. Associating nativism with national betrayal in rhetoric and in policy would come naturally to them. While FDR invented Social Security, he smashed fascism. While Harry Truman shored up New Deal reforms, he forged NATO. While JFK enforced desegregation, he stared down Nikita Khrushchev. While LBJ ensured voting rights and created Medicare, he fought the expansion of Soviet influence. These leaders treated the fight against tyranny and inequality as a unified liberal project. Their language conveyed a compelling narrative of progressive patriotism that current liberals lack — one that would resonate in the time of Trump/Russia at least as strongly as it did in the mid-20th Century.

Kennedy habitually tied foreign and domestic threats together, often in the same breath. The parlance of loyalty, authority, and sanctity came as easily to him as the language of fairness and care. In his inaugural address he spoke of “tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself” as “the common enemy of man.” On the campaign trail he inveighed against “the spread of Communist influence, until it festers 90 miles off the coast of Florida, the humiliating treatment of our president and vice president by those who no longer respect our power, the hungry children I saw in West Virginia, the old people who cannot pay their doctor bills, the families forced to give up their farms — an America with too many slums, too few schools, and too late to the moon and outer space.”

Security and honor are tied in these words to compassion. Defeating the tyranny of poverty and the tyranny of communism went hand-in-hand. In touting his program of aid for Latin America, the Alliance for Progress, Kennedy pledged “to assist free men and free governments in casting off the chains of poverty” while warning “hostile powers” that the United States would “oppose aggression or subversion anywhere in the Americas.”

Khrushchev drew Kennedy’s admonitions by merely threatening to subvert the election of free governments in Latin America. Putin has already attacked the election of free governments in the United States and its closest allies in EuropeMany analysts believe that Russia’s intervention may have tilted the election to Trump. Yet too many Democrats stop short of calling it subversion or sabotage. They use the insipid term “meddling.”

Kennedy of course rejected Khrushchev’s denials of involvement in Latin America. Trump and Congressional backers such as Rep. Devin Nunes parrot Putin’s repudiations and show no inclination to prevent further attacks. Kennedy would call that collusion, or much worse. But Trump intones “no collusion” and Democrats wait for Mueller to cue them when it is safe to use the term.

Trump/Russia and Progressive Politics

America’s mid-20th Century Democratic leaders would have little trouble leveraging Trump/Russia to discredit Trumpism as well as Trump. Confronted with formidable external threats, they held fast to the flag while leveraging Americans’ national pride and loathing of foreign tyrants to bolster progressive agendas. Today’s Democrats lack such an overarching progressive-patriotic narrative within which to frame core issues like voter suppression, corruption, and immigration.

To hard-edged, security-minded liberals like JFK and LBJ, the actions of politicians like Trump and Rep. Jim Jordan would make discrediting ethno-national populism almost embarrassingly easy. Jordan does not just ally closely with Trump on restricting immigration and purging voters; he also spearheads House Republicans’ efforts to shut down the Mueller investigation.

In his defense of House Republicans’ successful effort to vote down funding to protect elections from Russian sabotage, which occurred as the Director of National intelligence warned that “the digital infrastructure that serves this country is literally under attack” by Putin’s agents, Jordan proclaimed: “I know what we need for safe and secure elections, and that’s voter ID.”

Not safeguards against Russian interference, said Jordan. Instead, “voter ID” — which in practice reduces voting among nonwhite citizens. The ongoing menace of Russian attacks on American elections (an established fact) merited no special pushback, while the mere possibility of illegal immigrants voting en masse (a Trumpian chimera) required drastic legal action.

Trumpian populism speaks: American sovereignty, security, and greatness in the world can wait, at least until native-born whites recover their supposedly lost greatness at home. Today’s Democrats, lacking the language of loyalty/betrayal and patriotic devotion, do not effectively connect the dots for voters.

Kennedy tied every progressive cause to a jaunty vision of national mission and interests. His bold addresses on civil rights appealed to national pride as well as compassion. Lyndon Johnson attacked color-coded immigration policy as “un-American in the highest sense” as he abolished it with the 1965 Immigration Act.

Current-day Democrats’ mentality and manner of speaking prevents them from spelling out a compelling patriotic logic for liberal immigration policy. Instead, they focus on how it expresses benevolence and promotes diversity.

Consequently, the foreign-born Americans and aspiring citizens who power the nation’s economy and sustain its security from their cubicles at Google and the Pentagon figure far less prominently in the Democrats’ immigration imagery than do undocumented migrant laborers who meet with rough treatment at the hands of ICE. Articulate in critiquing cruelty but tongue-tied in the face of threats to national power and prestige, the liberals struggle to articulate a xenophilic patriotism that exposes how Trump’s commitments to Putin, “voter ID,” and religion-based travel bans disgrace the American nation and compromise its competitiveness.

Responding effectively to Trump/Russia and color-coded nativism does not require that liberals abandon a discourse of compassion and inclusion. It does demand that they articulate a narrative of progressive patriotism that marries the language of care to the harder argot of national interest. Doing so could enable them to effect a deeper blue realignment that would place affordable healthcare and voting rights beyond the next biennial partisan swing. It could also help them discredit rather than merely bemoan white nationalism by casting it as part of a tapestry of Trump’s betrayals.

The fathers of Social Security, NATO, the race to space, civil rights, and Medicare — victors in eight of 10 presidential elections between 1932 and 1968 — provide inspiring clues on how to do it.


M. Steven Fish is a Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley. The views expressed are those of the author alone.

This Diwali, Remember to Vote

Next month’s mid-term elections represent a special challenge for Indian American groups trying to get their constituents to the polls: Election Day falls in the middle of Diwali celebrations.

With this in mind, the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) unveiled its #DharmaVotes campaign recently.

“The aim is to raise awareness in the Hindu American community about voter registration deadlines and to hopefully ensure robust voter participation,” said Samir Kalra, HAF’s managing director.

The print, television and social media effort’s goal is non-partisan “with the primary aim to increase voter turnout and democratic participation in its broadest sense,” said Kalra.

Indeed, the elections present an important opportunity for Indian Americans to encourage members to make their voices heard on a variety of issues.

“We’re not just a one-issue community,” said Aseem Chipalkatti, board president of South Asian Americans Together for (the state of) Washington (SAATWA). “Solving our nation’s healthcare and immigration dilemmas are important, but we also are worried about the increase of gun violence in our schools and women’s access to justice and reproductive care. SAATWA will endorse and support candidates – South Asian or not – who stand with our community on these issues.”

To that end, SAATWA recently held its first town hall style candidate’s forum in Issaquah, WA. While only 35 people showed up in person, Chipalkatti reports that 471 people tuned in to watch the action live on Facebook and over a 1,000 viewed replays of the debate online. In all, 3751 people have viewed all or part of the program.

Candidates answered questions on sustainable economic development, education, healthcare and immigration. SAATWA will use the candidates answers as the basis for making endorsements later this month.

Chipalkatti sees the turnout for the event, especially online, as clear evidence that “South Asian Americans in Washington State are ready to get engaged in the political process.”

Ankit Patel, SAATWA’s director of public policy and legislative affairs, said he hopes the town halls will make candidates realize that “people are paying attention and their participation in these events has wide ranging visibility beyond these forums — whether it’s the audience watching online or the conversations these attendees go on to have in the community.”

On a national level, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) has developed a voter guide detailing the policy positions of candidates in the 20 Congressional districts with the highest number of South East Asians in them. It also includes breakdowns on two additional races that feature a South Asian American candidate and a Congressperson who is a leader in the House of Representatives.

The race breakdowns show the Democratic and Republican candidates’ positions on immigration, civil rights, hate crimes, and the 2020 U.S. census. “These issues have been at the core of SAALT’s policy and advocacy strategy and have greatly impacted the South Asian American community both historically and in the last two years,” said Lakshmi Sridaran, SAALT’s Director of National Policy and Advocacy.

On SAALT’s online voter guide each of the four “big issues” facing the South Asian American community is broken down into bite-sized nuggets.

On immigration, SAALT reports, “With over 5 million South Asians in the United States, immigrant justice is a top priority. The community includes undocumented immigrants, family members and temporary workers on various visas, refugees and asylum-seekers, lawful permanent residents, and United States citizens. There are over 450,000 undocumented Indian-Americans alone.”

As for the upcoming 2020 US Census, SAALT warns that anything that threatens an accurate count of all people in the country “such as the proposed citizenship question on the forthcoming 2020 Census, must be avoided at all costs. Unnecessarily asking every household and every person in the country about their citizenship status in the current political environment will cause fear and a significant undercount of our communities.”

In regard to hate crimes, SAALT reports it “has documented a precipitous rise in hate violence. In the year following the Presidential election, SAALT catalogued 213 incidents of hate violence aimed at South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern, and Arab American communities — a 45 percent increase from the 2015-2016 pre-election period. It is increasingly clear we need to protect our communities from hate.”

The final hot-button issue for SAALT is civil rights, especially as they relate to Southeast Asian communities in the post 9-11 era. SAALT reports that since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the “communities have been unjustly targeted by government racial and religious profiling policies. More recently, government policies underscoring racial and religious profiling and surveillance have increasingly been aimed at our communities since the 2016 presidential election.”

Given the wide range of issues that face Indian-Americans in the current political climate, this Diwali season, make sure to VOTE!

Paul Kilduff is a freelance writer based in San Francisco, California. He has written for the East Bay Times, San Francisco Chronicle, East Bay Monthly and many other publications. He has also worked in radio as a reporter, host and producer and even finds time to draw cartoons.

A Fake White World

On November 9th, I was overwhelmed with despair, and I know I was not alone. Social media reflected the weight of our collective grief with bitter, gloomy, and disbelieving updates. Opinion editorials were thick-throated with humiliation.

The idea that Donald Trump, a man with few morals, little integrity, and a frightening propensity for hate speech now has the potential to decide the fate of my community, my neighborhood, my city, my state, my country, and my world is nothing short of terrifying. But I must accept forthwith that this is what our democracy has yielded. What I told my beautiful, “brown” twenty-year-old twins after the elections was to be vigilant, be aware, and be engaged. For now, more than ever, our country needs people like us, women of color, who are not afraid to speak up and speak out.

This is not the first time, and nor will it be the last, that the American populace has voted in a heedlessly racist man to power. For before Donald J. Trump there was James D. Phelan. America carries the scars of previously ill-thought elections and this will be just one more to add to our injuries.

Late September 2016, I watched an experimental short film, Far East of Eden, presented by two artists Bruce Yonemoto and Karen Finley at the Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga, California.

The film was performance theater. It anatomized and drew parallels between the anti-immigrant speeches of President-elect Donald Trump and Senator James Duval Phelan—a democrat and three-time mayor of San Francisco who also served in the United States Senate from 1915 to 1921.

Phelan is the man who built Villa Montalvo, a historic arts center in the Bay Area, which he bequeathed, after his death in 1930, to be used for the development of art, literature, music, and architecture. Montalvo Arts commissioned Yonemoto and Finley’s startling film, Far East of Eden, as part of its Artists’ Residency program, which brought to light the darker shades within the moral imagination of two men.

Like Donald Trump, Phelan commanded an uncomfortable appeal despite, and because of, the numerous slap-downs of people of other races and colors. He was the first to be popularly elected to the Senate from California.

Phelan wrote an essay in 1901 describing the Chinese as “patronizing neither school, library, church nor theatre; lawbreakers, addicted to vicious habits; indifferent to sanitary regulations and breeding disease; taking no holidays, respecting no traditional anniversaries, but laboring incessantly, and subsisting on practically nothing for food and clothes.”

Fast forward 115 years later as Trump asserts that “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with them. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

As infantile as Trump sounds, the intent of what he says, and what Phelan once said, are disconcertingly similar. The existential threat that they felt and feel is palpable. Both Phelan and Trump are provocateurs who couched their racism in terms of economic currency. They explain away the rabidity of racism with the idea of self-preservation.

In an essay titled “The Japanese Evil in California,” Phelan extended his anti-immigrant stance to the Japanese railing against their presence in California, calling them “a masterful people, of great industry and ingenuity. They have no disposition in California to work for wages, but seek control of the soil by purchase, leasehold or a share of the crops, and, under these circumstances, become impossible competitors.” For these reasons he called for “Congress to pass an exclusion law at once.”

Phelan’s words ring remarkably similar to Trump’s call to exclude Muslims. Trump called for the litmus test of religion to be the basis for exclusion. In a speech in Phoenix he claimed that Mexicans are “taking away our jobs” and “killing us.” His choice of words instantly criminalized a community while agitating public opinion to exclude and deny a race.

Trump now, and Phelan then, give the impression that one race has a bigger stake in our economy than others. They believe that whites have more of a moral right to opportunity.

Trump has had no qualms in dismissing diversity and advancing numerous fringe ideas about minorities. Trump wants America to look and sound like him. And, appallingly, too many have bought his line of logic. The New Yorker describes this as the “Resentment of the ‘browning of America’ in the era of the first African American President.”

Early in Yonemoto and Finley’s movie, a group of white men and women put on Asian masks and costumes and slither silently at a party while a young non-white boy cuts through the party guests with a bemused look on his face. The scene is a metaphor for a fake white world.

Phelan launched a Senate re-election campaign in 1920 with the slogan “Keep California White”—a blatantly corrosive sentiment. But the people of California finally realized the illusory benefits of bigotry and bias and he was voted out of office. Let’s hope that day comes soon for our white man elected to the top.

Jaya Padmanabhan was the editor of India Currents from 2012-16. She is the author of the collection of short stories, Transactions of Belonging.

Campaign Rhetoric Revisited

Emotional exhaustion is likely commonplace amongst the electorate. After all, the candidates put forth by the two major parties would hardly qualify as the first choice for most Americans. The Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has been embroiled in a scandal involving the careless handling of classified emails. On the other side, the Republican nominee is billionaire Donald Trump who continues to offend moral sensibilities across the board and seemingly delights in doing so.

divided country1

Each of these candidates is vilified by the opposing party in hopes of gathering enough traction to bolster their own case. What’s fascinating, however, about how both of the parties have presented their candidates is that they have relied heavily on emotional appeals to strengthen their respective bases. From the campaign slogans to the highlighted issues and the rhetoric regarding the opponent all showcase masterful uses of propaganda. This isn’t a new occurrence, mind you, but it’s been converted into an art-form when considering the individuals being promoted in this election cycle. In this last leg of the campaign, a close examination of the rhetoric and imagery of the campaigns is helpful to understand how each candidate is being presented to the American voters.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was under FBI investigation this year regarding the use of a private email server to send classified documents. She denied any wrongdoing, barely recanting even after the FBI announced that she was responsible. Yet no indictment was brought forth, something that could have ended her campaign overnight. Ironic that the candidate of choice for the equality-seeking “Black Lives Matter” would receive favoritism in the face of criminal offenses, which is why her campaign slogan isn’t about political issues but gender. “I’m With Her” draws a hard line in the sand, reminding her base that her opponent is a man—the gender of the status quo—lest they are considering casting a vote for a rich, white candidate.

trump2-300x95

Businessman Donald Trump is a contradiction of similar magnitude. A life-long Democrat who expressed dissent towards Republicans less than a decade ago, Trump has claimed he believes marriage to be between a man and a woman and has built his platform criticizing immigrants, even though his third wife happens to be one. In fact, a recently surfaced video revealed Trump crudely gloating about making sexual advances on women, which led to theologian Wayne Grudem recanting his support for Trump. Yet the slogan that drives his campaign, “Make America Great Again” has helped him draw voters who buy his rhetoric, which centers on an anti-establishment sentiment. The slogan also begs the question as to what greatness he’s appealing to, since it would be easy enough to connect his words and actions to the highly publicized sexual indiscretions of former presidents Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy, a rather unlikely scenario considering that both happened to be Democrats. Yet this message has connected with a base that holds the opposing party responsible for the current state of political disarray.

With unanswered questions and issues surrounding both candidates, one would imagine the electorate would move away from the two parties to seek outward, yet nine out of ten voters polled were leaning towards one of these two candidates. Curious that an educated and informed electorate would stand for this, the likely reason is that American politics relies heavily on targeting the compartmentalized nature of western education, and the rather binary nature in American culture. Coke vs. Pepsi. Capitalism vs. Socialism. Republican vs. Democrat. As Edward Bernays eloquently explained in Propaganda, an influential book which brought together psychology, democracy, and power published in the late 1920s, compartmentalization allows for “the conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses [which] is an important element in democratic society.” In another vein the binary nature makes it easier to mobilize the masses to, say, vote instead of getting frustrated and giving up on the system altogether.trump1A common thread in political demagoguery on both sides of the aisle has revolved around the failure of politicians to effectively safeguard the public interest. While the right wing has identified this as an inherent flaw in a system that allows for career politicians, the left believes this to be a byproduct of corporate interest manifesting as lobbying. The Republican National Convention brought many excited about a political outsider winning the nomination. Little concern was expressed regarding his moral failures, and his penchant for conveniently changing his stance on issues based on the audience he’s speaking to. In a nutshell, Trump was presented as the anti-establishment solution that America needed.

The Democratic National Convention was hardly any different. In the Democratic primaries, Bernie Sanders regularly criticized Hillary Clinton for running a campaign funded heavily by Wall Street. Yet after Clinton won the nomination, a parade of wealthy celebrities—political and otherwise—marched on stage to support her. Comedian Sarah Silverman even talked down to Bernie’s supporters, expressing that they were being ridiculous for voicing their frustration with the nomination of an establishment candidate. If Edward Bernays had been alive today, he would have applauded the brilliance of both parties. After all, it was he who organized the very first public relations display for Calvin Coolidge a century ago, inviting Hollywood celebrities for breakfast with the candidate in order to show him as a likable candidate to the press. Press and media play crucial roles in the building up—as well as the tearing down—of propaganda.

In the early days of television, the first-ever televised debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon was held on September 26, 1960. Political pundits who heard the debate on the radio felt that they were evenly matched with some even giving the Republican incumbent a slight edge over his younger rival. But those who watched the debate on television thought that Kennedy trumped Nixon. He had a tan, a wide smile and an easy nature, whereas Nixon had just recovered from a knee surgery, looked pale and ineffective. Many felt that his live performance in the debates helped clinch the presidency for Kennedy in a tightly contested election. But we needn’t look to the last century to see the effects of visual imagery in helping shape public opinion.confident_kennedy

It was early 2008 when Shepard Fairey created the iconic “Hope” poster. It arguably became the tipping point in Barack Obama’s successful presidential campaign. Few know that the original iteration of the poster read “Progress,” and included Fairey’s signature “OBEY Star” over the campaign’s sunrise logo. Commissioned by the Obama campaign and managed by publicist (or propagandist, as Bernays would call him) Yosi Sergant, Fairey adapted the poster to read “Hope.” He was also asked to remove the “OBEY Star,” which has been a part of his brand for decades. “The OBEY sticker campaign can be explained as an experiment in phenomenology, [which] attempts to enable people to see clearly something that is right before their eyes but obscured; things that are so taken for granted that they are muted by abstract observation,” reads the manifesto on Fairey’s website.

Incidentally, what was right before his eyes was the rather conscious removal of what had manifested as an anti-authoritarian symbol, a byproduct of that very experiment. As it originally stood, the “Progress” poster with the word “Obey” made a far more accurate observation than its revision, at least according to Fairey’s interview in 2015: “There have been a lot of things that [Obama has] compromised on that I never would have expected. I mean, drones and domestic spying are the last things I would have thought [he’d support].” While authority had a new color in tow, the machine itself remained intact. Had Fairey’s art intuitively captured the conflict he sensed between the man and the machine when “Obey” was featured? If so, his experiment in phenomenology (simplistically described as the objective study of subjective topics like perception and emotions) was derailed when he gave in to the propagandizing of his art.obama-206x300Yet therein lies the problem. Humans are highly subject to their own emotions. This is the underlying premise for psychology, economics, even politics. While it’s easy enough to point out that greed and fear are to be legislated against, Lord Acton observed, “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Those in power seek to hold on to it, employing any and all means necessary. They leverage the very emotions they condemn. The two campaigns use emotional triggers to bolster their cases. It’s easy when her campaign can invoke the fear of a Trump presidency that deports every immigrant. Likewise, someone who has bragged about committing some form of sexual abuse continues to have support behind him because his opponent cannot be trusted. And the media outlets perpetuate these manipulations.

In 1999, the Journal of Educational Psychology published a study labeled, “Effects of Repeated Exposures to a single episode of the television program Blue’s Clues” on the viewing behaviors and comprehension of preschool children. While the age range was certainly limited, the experiment found that continuous repetition led to higher audience retention, and the recalling of transmitted information more readily. This might shed light on why 24-hour news channels recycle content regularly. It’s also why it’s become increasingly difficult to dispel myths and even lies from political discourse. One of the most prevalent ones concerns the “wage gap.” While it is true that there is a twenty-cent gap between men and women, that number is an average across all types of jobs. When looking at the same job, however, the gap shrinks to less than five cents. But after a misleading statistic has been repeated by demagogues incessantly, reality is simply the reiteration of a propagandist’s well-crafted narrative. Of course, this cuts both ways.

trump_hillary3The bases of both parties have consistently made it clear that they rely on talking heads to help decision-making easier for them. But genuine change doesn’t come easily. It’s not a bumper sticker or even a cast ballot. It starts with accepting the inconvenient truth that those you were taught to trust, could betray that trust if it helped their careers. While Mitt Romney was criticized in 2012 for saying that 47% of Americans don’t pay taxes, Hillary Clinton has seen little backlash for claiming that Bernie Sanders’s supporters live in their parents’ basements. Likewise, President Obama’s policies are often criticized by Republicans who don’t seem to realize that he would be considered a moderate Republican just a couple of decades ago. “But when … the herd must think for itself, it does so by means of cliches, pat words or images which stand for a whole group of ideas or experiences,” Bernays observed rather accurately. Neocon. Socialist. Communist. Fascist. It’s much easier to compartmentalize another human being that way, after all.
The reality and influence of propaganda in American politics is unlikely to change overnight. The Internet age has fueled that to an even greater extent. As search engines learn about the individual conducting the search, the results are curated to display links that would interest someone of their political leanings. Further use simply reinforces an echo chamber for most. Compounding this issue is when social media giant Facebook comes under fire for promoting left-wing issues by fraudulently pushing them to the top of their “trending topics.” For these reasons and more, it is increasingly important for Americans to do their research instead of regurgitating what they heard or read. Settling for the chain of command to deliver talking points in bite-size pieces is the very reason this election looks the way it does. So the next time someone suggests voting, ask them who would benefit from the execution of such carefully crafted propaganda: the voters or the establishment?

Based in Southern California, Arpit Mehta is an international visual artist, writer, and a consultant to creatives. As a polymath he is fascinated by the exploration of the human psyche from both a philosophical and a logical perspective, which is why he’s often drawn to topics like politics, economics, and technology.

Musical Ballot Boxes

During an election season, anywhere in the world, candidates need an image: to be likeable, and reliable; a platform: explicating stances on issues; a base: of people who donate, vote, support, and work for the candidate; and to add to this list of musts (at least in most parts of the world)—music.

collage1-july

Music is as personal to the candidate as a base, with as much mass outreach potential as an image. It instantly builds a sonic brand; announces and identifies the candidate. It can be as controversial as the platform, with the power to damage an image. This was evidenced by the Trump campaign, when R.E.M. (for “The End of the World”), Adele (for “Skyfall” and “Rolling in the Deep”), and Aerosmith (for “Dream On”) were among those that cease-desisted their songs from being played at Trump rallies.

Before she stepped on stage to give her presumptive-candidate speech on Super Tuesday II (June 7), Hillary Clinton had Sara Bareilles’ “Brave” broadcasting her message. She apparently spent a few thousand dollars for a Portland music agency to come up with an official playlist. Lyrics play as much of a role in the selection as the mood. Also implicit in the selection is that the musician supports the candidate; broadening the base and/or appeal.

Neil Young and Art Garfunkel had no problems, for example, with Bernie Sanders playing the respective “Rockin’ in the Free World” and “America.” Their fan bases comprise the young at heart, idealists, and romantics, the kind of people Sanders is credited to have attracted the attention of.

Ushering in Politics
Music has made ballot boxes sing the world over. India heard music of the original kind in recent elections. Assam ushered in BJP to the tune of Zubeen Garg’s song  saying that “Assam’s joy is everybody’s joy,” the last two words being a play on the candidate’s name, Sarvananda.

Tamil Nadu had an election anthem that urged citizens to vote,  “Our freedom fighters fought for our right to vote. Let’s vote, it’s our duty.” A trendy Tamil pop song by Put Chutney and Culture Machine urged the electorate to vote NOTA (None of the Above) if they’re disillusioned by mainstream candidates/parties.  Trinamool Congress had Anupam Roy composing for Mamta Bannerjee in Bengali, “It’s been five years of great change in West Bengal; Mother, Earth, and Man have flourished.”

2015 had Bihar listening to “Phir Se Nitishe” (Nitish, Again) sung by popular Bollywood singer Neeti Mohan and “Iss baar BJP, ek baar BJP” sung by Bhojpuri well known singer Manoj Tiwari. 2013 had Prime Minister Narendra Modi featured in a song that said NaMo is the Maha Nayak (greatest protagonist), while the Congress was humming along to “Sab Ki Yahi Pukar, Congress iss baar” (Everybody’s calling for Congress).

But the most revolutionary election song in South Asia has got to be the 1988 PPP’s (Pakistan People’s Party) “Dila Teer Bija … Jiye, Jiye Bhutto Benazir.” It was iconic because it unleashed melody publicly on the Pakistani masses after Islamization had virtually wiped out social music from making a public appearance; it was the promise of democracy after a long time; it heralded the return of hope to a region with the face of a popular icon; it got the masses in and around Pakistan to its feet. The music was catchy; still is.

“Let’s ask Ram about it!” is the start of a flirty Q&A sponsored by Nepal’s Election Commission and Democracy and Election Watch, which regularly employs Lok Dohori (Street/People Musical Performance) to coax the uninitiated population into the voting process. This video has four men and four women dressed in folkwear and featuring voter registration how-to. As is characteristic of most folk tunes, the rhythm has your head nodding in no time.

Rocking Indonesia
The most “rocking” note was in Indonesia. Current Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s (Jokowi) 2014 election can be partially attributed to his musical campaign, a precursor of which was the success of his 2012 Governorship campaign music video. Jokowi’s volunteers had created a parody of One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful” that lamented Jakarta’s state of bureaucracy, the reason to elect him, of course. The Youtube video shows a twenty-something getting out of bed in a panic because he has to update his ID card. The panic grows as he is held up by traffic and then long queues at a government office; at long last, an official comes out to announce it’ll take years. Conclusion: Jokowi is the need of the hour!

Inside, Indonesia has reported that even musicians Sting and Jason Mraz and rock group Arkarna encouraged Indonesian voters to support democracy and get behind Jokowi in 2014.

Jokowi’s rival Prabowo Subianto tried to make music campaigning history by featuring a popular rock icon called Ahmad Dhani. However, it spectacularly back-fired, as it had Nazi-looking imagery and tones, completely annihilating the spirit of the song it was based on—Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” It was no competition for Jokowi’s captivating music-video and a sold-out open-air concert attended by tens of thousands, featuring a rapper called Kill the DJ and a crowd shouting and holding up two-fingered salutes—Salam Dua Jari.
#2 was Jokowi’s number on the ballot and it made music for him.

Priya Das is an enthusiastic follower of world music and avidly tracks intersecting points between folk, classical, jazz and other genres.