Los Angeles Daily Journal
March 7, 2016
Along Comes Donald the Conqueror
By Gideon Kanner
Much has been said lately about Donald Trump’s presidential campaign that is rolling on in spite of his aggressively crude, in-your-face political rhetoric. But from his point of view, he is only seizing an opportunity handed to him on a silver platter. You could say that after seething with anger at the excesses of the political establishment for years, and after being repeatedly lied to by politicians (e.g., “read my lips” and “you can keep your doctor”), the people are angered to a point where they no longer listen to the familiar political babble. America is still the place to live, but trouble is brewing.
What is troubling the American people? Let us count the ways:
First, let’s start with money. America is spending itself into insolvency, and the government seems to think that destruction of people’s savings, which undermines the middle class, is a good thing. People are unable to save for their old age, while Social Security bids fair to run out of money before long. At the same time, big banks get interest free money from the Federal Reserve and charge double-digit interest rates on consumer credit card debt. As this goes on, Joe Sixpack is lucky to get 0.02 percent on his bank savings account on which he has to pay taxes at a rate that may be higher than his employer’s. Good ol’ Joe may be a patient man, but do you think he will stand still for that sort of thing indefinitely, or will he turn into an angry Archie Bunker somewhere along the way?
Second, in spite of rosy government statistics, American businesses are still laying off employees in order to replace them with cheaper foreign workers, or moving entire enterprises to other countries, thereby contributing to a gigantic and growing trade deficit. Trump has a point when he rails against the spectacle of foreign folks eating our lunch with impunity. Trade may be good, he says, but cheating at it is not.
Third, our Supreme Court justices, openly chosen for their partisan ideology, at times preempt the democratic process and impose outlandish notions (“emanational penumbras” anyone?) on a free country without any explicit constitutional basis, and without affording its people an opportunity to debate them to reach a consensus on whether they should be accepted as “the law of the land.”
Fourth, we confront an odd situation where, for some reason, even as socialism has been consistently a catastrophic failure all over the world, a significant part of the American population insists that we should embrace it. And so, an avowed septuagenarian Socialist from Brooklyn is piling up votes and has become a contender in a presidential election. Why? Because many people are so pissed off at traditional politicians that they would rather vote for him than for any traditional politicians who just aren’t trusted.
Fifth, American educational institutions have declined to a point where they produce people who think that Winston Churchill was a Civil War general, and even at the college level believe that waving placards and loud repetition of fashionable slogans is tantamount to analysis. Thus, at the elite Yale University you can get into trouble if you want to wear a sombrero to a student party. For this, people have to pay tens of thousands of dollars per year and go into serious debt for life?
Sixth, how could we possibly drift into embracing a foreign policy that fails to differentiate between our friends and our enemies, wastes lives and resources on increasingly pointless wars that make things worse, and pretends that ungovernable tribal savages in remote corners of the world, who have been killing each other for centuries (with particular attention devoted lately to persecuting Christians), can be transformed into civil societies by an abrupt “regime change” brought to them at gun point by the U.S. Marines? “Shores of Tripoli” this isn’t, and even if there are some surprising similarities, at least we didn’t then try to convert the Barbary Pirates to American values; we just kicked ass, persevered and eventually got our hostages back.
Seventh, American press and broadcast media have become a cheering section, if not a propaganda arm, of the Democratic party, that often resorts to reader deception through omission and commission interwoven with the news. Understandably, they are in a state of decline.
Eighth, we have (a) abandoned the idea of sovereignty and cultural cohesion by disregarding our immigration laws and for base economic and political reasons encouraging a mass migratory invasion across our southern border by millions of foreigners, with whom we are increasingly unable to deal, (b) we are facilitating an inflow of people whose status as potential “sleeper” terrorists is de facto unascertainable, as the folks in San Bernardino learned the hard way, and (c) adding insult to injury, our government insists that people who use or support violence to suppress cultural, religious and ethnic minorities on their own turf, are practitioners of a “religion of peace” whose compatibility with American values we must not question, even as corpses are piling up.
Ninth, our tax laws have grown so complex and convoluted that no one – not even the IRS – can understand and interpret them consistently, with the popular perception of them being that they can be manipulated by clever practitioners to their clients’ unfair advantage, while good ol’ Joe Sixpack has to pay his taxes full-pop, sometimes at a rate higher than his employer.
And last but not least, how could the explicit constitutional mandate limiting takings of private property to “public use” been transmogrified into a process that routinely takes property from some private persons, often occupied by members of the working or middle classes, and in a display of reverse Robin Hoodery transfers it to more favored and certainly wealthier individuals, for the latter’s private gain? The Kelo case has had an astonishing and unanticipated impact on Americans’ understanding of how their government really operates – none of it for the good.
In the meantime, Congress is dysfunctional (how many speakers of the House have we had lately?), and operates as if its first duty were to compromise principle and common sense, and to transfer as much money as possible from the Treasury to the Congressfolks’ respective states and districts. (Remember the $390 million appropriation for a Golden Gate sized “bridge to nowhere” on the godforsaken, sparsely populated Gravina Island in Alaska?). But to accomplish that, the money first has to be transferred from the citizens’ pockets to the Treasury. So is it any wonder that sophisticated corporations that are able to do so, leave this country for foreign tax havens by using “inversion” or just moving their money around.
Now along comes Donald Trump, takes it all in and concludes that the rising popular anger has reached a level where it can serve as accumulated political dynamite that he can set off, and use the released energy to propel himself into the White House. So as far as he is concerned, what’s not to like? And if the country’s political system, dysfunctional to begin with, is further damaged in the process, hey man, that’s how the political cookie crumbles. The democratic form of government may be great stuff, but to be effective and successful, it requires a measure of judgment and the consent of the governed. So when the ruling class and its media friends flim-flam the people for a long enough time, and impose major policy changes on them without their consent, you shouldn’t be surprised when a “man on a white horse” rides out of nowhere and takes charge to the cheers of the multitudes. Just be glad that this time, it’s only Donald Trump. Given the past track record of the Washington establishment, and the pent up popular anger, it could have been worse.
Gideon Kanner is professor of law emeritus at the Loyola Law School.
This article was edited 3/7/16