How Greedy Can You Get?

Excerpt from: The Campaign for America’s Future

Despite profits approaching $40 billion dollars, Pfizer pharmaceuticals thinks it doesn’t need to pay US taxes.

In 1849, Charles Pfizer, an immigrant from Germany, founded a small chemical company at the corner of Harrison and Bartlett in Brooklyn. Since that time, Pfizer has grown with the nation. They provided antibiotics to the troops on D-Day.

To this day, Pfizer benefits from the $150 billion dollar annual investment in basic research by U.S. taxpayers.

Pfizer should be a proud American company. But they’re not. They think they’d be better off if they were Irish.

They’re using a trick called “inversion” to skip out on taxes by merging with a smaller company located abroad. The American people are left holding the bag and the tax bill.

Pfizer is counting on the American people staying in the dark until it’s too late. That’s where you come in.

Add your name to the petition telling Pfizer to stay American and pay their fair share. It’s not too late to stop this with your help.

  • Go to The Campaign for America’s Future Web site to sign their petition to Stop Pfizer

The Campaign for America’s Future/Institute For America’s Future is the strategy center for the progressive movement. Our goal is to forge the enduring progressive majority needed to realize the America of shared prosperity and equal opportunity that our country was meant to be.



PRICELESS: Colbert Rips David Koch To His Face At TIME Magazine Gala

By David Harris Gershon 

2012/04/28 · 06:08

Excerpt: REBLOGGED BY/From DailyKos
Writing by David Harris Gershon

TIME recently held its gala celebrating the magazine’s self-proclaimed 100 most influential people. Among those chosen were David Koch and Stephen Colbert, who spoke before the gathered masses.

Colbert ripped several of the magazine’s selections using his signature (read: brilliant) sharp-tongued irony. However, some of his most pointed comments were reserved for David Koch, who was seated before Colbert as he spoke.

Here’s what he had to say:

Of course, all of us should be honored to be listed on the TIME 100 alongside the two men who will be slugging it out in the fall: President Obama, and the man who would defeat him, David Koch.

Give it up everybody. David Koch.

Little known fact — David, nice to see you again, sir.

Little known fact, David’s brother Charles Koch is actually even more influential. Charles pledged $40 million to defeat President Obama, David only $20 million. That’s kind of cheap, Dave.

Sure, he’s all for buying the elections, but when the bill for democracy comes up, Dave’s always in the men’s room. I’m sorry, I must have left Wisconsin in my other coat.

I was particularly excited to meet David Koch earlier tonight because I have a Super PAC, Colbert Super PAC, and I am — thank you, thank you — and I am happy to announce Mr. Koch has pledged $5 million to my Super PAC. And the great thing is, thanks to federal election law, there’s no way for you to ever know whether that’s a joke.

By the way, if David Koch likes his waiter tonight, he will be your next congressman. He’s all for buying the elections. Once again, we must rely upon our political comedic class to speak straightforwardly about the state of our democracy-up-for-sale crisis (which has, obviously, only worsened since Citizens United and the SuperPAC explosion). Stewart. Colbert. Maher (at times).

These are today’s leading truth tellers. And pointing this out after a gathering convened by TIME magazine – one of our country’s largest “journalistic” institutions – feels, well, quite symbolic.


David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, recently published by Oneworld Publications.

Author’s Note:
As According to Fish and kovie point out, it’s important to recognize those journalists and political commentators who swim upstream in their efforts to serve as truth-tellers, such as (to name just a few of my favorites) Amy Goodman, Bill Moyers, Robert Scheer, Paul Krugman, Matt Taibbi and Glenn Greenwald.

While some may disagree with the names listed above, the underlying point is this: that there are journalists working tirelessly, and with integrity, to serve as important checks on power, even as our corporate media class (those who sip champagne and celebrate themselves at such gatherings as TIME’s 100 and the White House Correspondents’ Dinner) slide inexorably into the propaganda abyss.

Donald Trump’s ‘Captain Underpants’ Campaign

Excerpt from: Washington Post

Donald Trump’s ‘Captain Underpants’ Campaign
By Dana Milbank, Washington Post Opinion writer, February 26, 2016

Have you completed the third grade?

If so, this may be why you are having trouble understanding the appeal of Donald Trump.

At Thursday night’s Republican presidential debate, Ben Carson delivered an opening statement about “the abyss of destruction.” An analysis shows he was communicating at the level of a 10th-grader’s comprehension. Marco Rubio, who spoke of “the identity of America in the 21st century,” was also at the high school level. Ted Cruz and John Kasich were at middle school comprehension levels.

And then there was Trump — at a third-grade level:

“We don’t win anymore. . . . We’re going to make a great country again. We’re going to start winning again. We’re going to win a lot. It’s going to be a big difference, believe me.”

This was no anomaly. Some noticed Trump’s peculiarly prosaic prose early in the campaign, but it has become even more pronounced: Simple words. Simple sentences. Simple concepts.

See Donald. See Donald run. See Donald win.

This would appear to confirm polling that indicates Trump draws much of his support from less-educated Americans; “I love the poorly educated,” he said after his Nevada victory this week. This doesn’t mean all Trump supporters are dumb. But he is communicating — deliberately, surely — at a much more rudimentary level than any other candidate in either party.

“He says five things,” Rubio taunted Thursday night. “Everyone’s dumb, he’s gonna make America great again, we’re going to win, win, win, he’s winning in the polls . . .”

But, on some primal level, it works. Americans — particularly those who are angry and anxious, as Trump’s followers are — wish to be told that they will be okay, that there are simple answers. There is an obvious appeal to Trump’s declarative statement on the Middle East — “I am totally pro-Israel” — rather than Cruz’s Princetonian version: “The notion of neutrality is based upon the left buying into this moral relativism that is often pitched in the media.”

One language gauge, the Flesch-Kincaid grade-level index, measures sophistication by syllables per word and words per sentence. This is meant for written language, but applied to campaign speeches and debates, it gives a rough sense of the relative levels of candidates’ rhetoric.

In speeches the night of the South Carolina primary, Cruz was at a ninth-grade level, Rubio at an eighth-grade level — and Trump at a fifth-grade level. In speeches after the Nevada caucuses, Cruz and Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders were at a ninth-grade level, Hillary Clinton was at seventh-grade. And Trump? Second-grade:

“Oh boy.”

“We love Nevada.”

“We will be celebrating for a long time tonight. Have a good time.”

“Soon the country is going to start winning, winning, winning.”

“Now we’re going to get greedy for the United States. We’re going to grab and grab and grab.”

“We’re going to bring in so much money and so much everything.”

“We’re going to build the wall. You know that. Going to build the wall.”

“You’re going to be proud of your president. And you’re going to be even prouder of your country. Okay?”

This is campaigning at the level of Captain Underpants, Geronimo Stilton and Rainbow Magic fairies. And it appears to be more effective among this season’s Republican voters than, say, Carson, who spoke Thursday night about selecting judges by “the fruit salad of their life.”

By contrast, there is no puzzling over Trump’s meaning when he calls Cruz a “crazy zealot” or tells Rubio, “You don’t know a thing about business — you lose on everything.” Trump, asked for details of his budget plan, said, “We will cut so much your head will spin.” His response to conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt when pressed at the debate about releasing tax returns: “First of all, very few people listen to your radio show — that’s the good news.”

Trump only rarely left the primary grades the entire debate. On illegal immigration, he was in fifth grade. His views on Mitt Romney and on polling of Hispanics: fourth grade. His record as an employer? Third grade. Through it all, his vocabulary would have suited Dr. Seuss: “They will go out. They will come back. Some will come back. . . . The wall just got 10 feet taller. . . . We’re going to make many cuts. . . . We’re going to get rid of so many different things.”

And he ended where he began — in third grade. “I will get it done,” he said. “Politicians will never, ever get it done. And we will make America great again. Thank you.”

Win, Donald, win. Grab, Donald, grab. See Donald make America great again.
Trumpty Dumbty built a Great Wall
He made the Mexicans pay for it all
All the Mexican women
And Mexican men
Will never trust Trumpty ever again.

Trumpty Dumbty sat on the ground
He insulted all who were gathered around
He insulted the Pope
but quoted Corinthians 2
So you know he’s a Christian just like you
He insulted Muslims, Fox News and disabled too.

Trumpty Dumbty counted to ten
But borrowed more money
Than he could pay back then
So Trumpty filed bankruptcy
again and again and again, again.


A 9th-grade civics assignment:
1. Read Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s statement: ““We don’t win anymore. . . . We’re going to make a great country again. We’re going to start winning again. We’re going to win a lot. It’s going to be a big difference, believe me.”
2. Read Republican President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
3. Compare and contrast.


Speaking at a 3rd grade level with short words and simple phrases allows Mr. Trump’s listeners to do what is absolutely essential to his listeners and the many RahRah posters here do constantly — it lets them project what THEY want most, what’s in their heart — into Trumps speeches. Do you really hate those damn immigrants? THAT’S what you’ll hear foremost in his speech. Angry and scared of the handful of Muslim terrorists that have been found here? THAT’S what you hear in his speech. Wall Street? YEAH! Think building a tall wall will work? Don’t think too long — Just Say Yeah! The listeners fill in the blanks. He’ll return good jobs to your town? Don’t ask how just shout YEAH!


See More

For at least a generation the GOP has recruited the angry, uneducated and feeble minded via Fox News and AM radio. It then built an artificial reality for these goobs where, among other things, Obama is a Muslim intent on implementing Sharia Law, Jade Helm will invade Texas, science is an evil conspiracy, the economy is in ruins, the unemployment figures exceed those of the great depression, Hillary Clinton is minutes away from indictment, Obama was born in Kenya, etc.

The GOP would then get the votes of these suckers by promising to act on the silly wedge issues in this artificial reality.

How The Republican Elite Created Frankentrump

Excerpt from:

To rouse its voters, the GOP exploited hate, anger, and paranoia—and set the stage for the tycoon.
—By David Corn | Thu Feb. 25, 2016 6:00 AM EST

After Donald Trump’s third win in a row, pundits and political observers are beginning to accept a stark reality: This guy may become the Republican Party standard bearer in the 2016 presidential election. (The morning after the bigoted, bullying tycoon triumphed in the Nevada caucuses, the Drudge Report splashed a headline simply declaring, “The Nominee,” below a photo of Trump.) And tweeters, scribes, and analysts throughout the political-media world began wondering if the GOP elite could do anything to stop him from seizing control of the Republican Party. Whether possible or not to de-Trumpify the GOP at this point, Republican insiders, pooh-bahs, and bigwigs only have themselves to blame for Frankentrump. In recent years, they have fomented, fostered, accepted, and exploited the climate of hate in which Trump’s candidacy has taken root. For the fat-cat donors, special-interest lobbyists, and elected officials who usually run the Republican show, Trump is an invasive species. But he has grown large and strong in the manure they have spread across the political landscape.

A short history of GOP-approved hate could begin with the 2008 campaign. After Sen. John McCain selected little-known Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, there was an explosion of right-wing loathing. Palin led this angry crusade of animosity. She accused then-Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, of “palling around with terrorists” and pushing socialism. She suggested that only certain areas of the United States were “pro-America.” (She had to apologize for that.) It was all part of a mean-spirited attempt to delegitimize Obama and his supporters. At McCain-Palin rallies, the atmosphere was ugly. Supporters of the Republican ticket wore T-shirts and carried signs branding Obama a communist. Some shouted “kill him” or “off with his head.” Little of this was discouraged. At a town hall meeting in Minnesota, one woman told McCain that Obama was an “Arab.” When McCain, to his credit, replied that this was not so, others in the audience shouted “terrorist” and “liar,” referring to Obama. McCain noted that he respected Obama and admired his accomplishments, and the crowd booed him. The hatred that Palin had helped to unleash was too much for McCain to tamp down.

And it only intensified once Obama took office. Of course, much of this was fueled by the conservative provocateurs and windbags, led by Rush Limbaugh and the like. But elected Republican officials and leading GOPers, who had adopted a political strategy of never-ending obstructionism to thwart Obama, often enabled the hate. While delivering a speech to a joint session of Congress in 2009, Obama was heckled by Rep. Joe Wilson, a South Carolina Republican who shouted, “You lie.” Wilson apologized, but following his outburst, he received a surge of campaign contributions and went on to win handily his next election. Meanwhile, a dozen or so GOP members of Congress were pushing birtherism—the notion that Obama had been born in Kenya, not Hawaii, and was some sort of usurper of the presidency. This conspiracy theory seemed tinged with racism, despite the denials of birthers, and ran parallel to other right-wing claims that Obama was a secret Muslim or a secret socialist or both. The big point was obvious: He wasn’t a real American, he had achieved power through furtive means, he had a clandestine agenda, and Obama hatred was fully warranted.

Top Republicans played footsie with all this. In the fall of 2009, then-Rep. Michele Bachmann called for a Capitol Hill rally to protest Obamacare. Several thousand people showed up. Protesters questioned Obama’s citizenship, depicted him as Sambo, or called him a traitor. Referring to Obamacare, the crowd shouted, “Nazis! Nazis!” The atmosphere was full of animus. And here’s the thing: The entire House Republican leadership, led by Rep. John Boehner, was there. Boehner did not admonish the crowd for its excessive rhetoric. In fact, he joined in, declaring Obamacare the “greatest threat to freedom I have seen.” Clearly, he and his lieutenants believed the hate-driven energy of these activists and voters could fuel the Republicans’ bid to take control of the House. So the more red meat, the merrier. Republicans fed the paranoia, claiming Obamacare would bring about “death panels” and ruin the country (as would Obama’s stimulus bill, his climate change bill, his budget, and almost every other initiative he advanced). In March 2010, after another Capitol Hill rally headlined by Bachmann, tea partiers reportedly hurled racial epithets at members of the Congressional Black Caucus and shouted anti-gay chants at then-Rep. Barney Frank. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) said one of the protesters had spit at him.

The Republican effort to portray Obama as the other never waned. In 2010, Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House and a future presidential candidate, told two reporters that Obama was “outside our comprehension” and “that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions].” He claimed Obama had played “a wonderful con” to be elected president, was “authentically dishonest,” and had a worldview that was “factually insane.” This was a heavy indictment, but one that echoed what conservative writers, bloggers, and talkers were saying. Though out of office, Gingrich remained a party leader, and his remarks were an indicator of the state of play on the right and within the party.

After the House Republicans’ bet on the tea party paid off and they gained control of the House in the 2010 midterm elections, the party’s dance with hate did not stop. In 2011, as the GOP’s 2012 presidential candidates jockeyed for position, they pandered to those voters who considered Obama a dangerous phony. While pondering a second presidential run, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee claimed Obama’s perspective was skewed because he had grown up in Kenya and had been subjected to plenty of anti-imperialist talk. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney did not go full birther. But he pitched a related line, declaring, “The Obama Administration fundamentally does not believe in the American Experiment.” In other words, Obama was not truly American. A top Romney campaign adviser, John Sununu, put it more bluntly, noting he wished the president “would learn how to be an American.” Romney also claimed (falsely) that Obama had gone on a global “apology tour”—another dig designed to suggest Obama was essentially a foreigner.

Though Romney did not contend Obama was a covert Kenyan, he warmly accepted the endorsement of the nation’s most prominent birther: Donald Trump. Appearing with Trump at his Las Vegas hotel before Nevada’s GOP caucus in February 2012, Romney praised the real estate magnate and noted it was awesome to be backed by Trump: “There are some things that you just can’t imagine happening in your life.” By this point, Trump had sent investigators to Hawaii—or said he had—to investigate Obama’s birth, and he had even suggested Obama might be a Muslim. With this meeting, Romney signaled that Trump was fine company for the GOP. Trump’s over-the-top birtherism was not a disqualification. The Republican tent had room for this reality-denying reality television celebrity. (Romney, his former strategist Stuart Stevens tells me, did say no to Trump’s requests to campaign with Romney and to speak at the GOP convention.)

After Obama’s reelection, the hate machine churned on. Republicans continued to whip the false meme that Obama was bent on taking all guns away from Americans. They routinely claimed not that his policies were wrong but that he was feckless and weak—or dictatorial and authoritarian. Last year, Rudy Giuliani said, “I do not believe the president loves America.” And Dick Cheney claimed Obama operates as if he wants to “take America down.” (That’s a theme Sen. Marco Rubio has, uh, repeatedly, pushed on the campaign trail, contending that the president is deliberately weakening the United States.) Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Sen. Ted Cruz, another presidential wannabe, gave credence to the wacky notion that Obama was going to invade and seize control of Texas.

It’s been a long run of Republicans accepting, encouraging, and exploiting uncivil discourse, anti-Obama hatred, and right-wing anger. (Republicans also welcomed nearly $300,000 in campaign contributions from Trump since he went birther.) The GOP raised the expectations of its Obama-detesting base and primed the pump for Trump. There is not much wonder that a xenophobic and misogynistic bigot and bully who bashes immigrants and calls for a Muslim ban—and who also slams the Republican insiders for rigging the system—should now find a receptive audience within the GOP’s electorate. For years, Republicans gave their voters a taste for the reddest of meat. That increased the appetite for more. And here comes Trump the butcher with a heaping plate.

Oh, the clichés abound. You play with fire. The chickens come home to roost. Hoisted on your own petard. You reap what you sow. The call is coming from inside the house. The GOP elite laid the foundation on which Trump is building the biggest, classiest—really classy—most beautiful insurgent presidential campaign in all of US history. And there may be no emergency exit.

DAVID CORNWashington Bureau Chief
David Corn is Mother Jones’ Washington bureau chief. For more of his stories, click here. He’s also on Twitter and Facebook.

How the US Went Fascist: Mass Media Make Excuses for Trump Voters

Excerpt from:

Trump’s racism and xenophobia violates America’s core beliefs — yet the media and many Americans are okay with it.


The rise of Donald Trump to the presumptive Republican standard bearer for president in 2016 is an indictment of, and a profound danger to, the American republic.

The Founding Fathers were afraid of the excitability of the voters and their vulnerability to the appeal of demagogues. That is the reason for a Senate (which was originally appointed), intended to check those notorious hotheads in Congress, who are elected from districts every two years.

But it isn’t only the checks and balances in government that are necessary to keep the republic. It is the Fourth Estate, i.e. the press, it is the country’s leaders and it is the general public who stand between the republic and the rise of a Mussolini.

The notables have been shown to be useless. Donald Trump should have been kicked out of the Republican Party the moment he began talking about violating the Constitution. The first time he hinted about assaulting the journalists covering his rallies, he should have been shown the door. When he openly advocated torture (“worse than waterboarding”), he should have been ushered away. When he began speaking of closing houses of worship, he should have been expelled. He has solemnly pledged to violate the First, Fourth and Eighth Amendments of the Constitution, at the least. If someone’s platform is unconstitutional, it boggles the mind that a major American party would put him or her up for president. How can he take the oath of office with a straight face? The party leaders were afraid he’d mount a third-party campaign. But who knows how that would have turned out? Someone with power needs to say that Trump is unacceptable and to define him out of respectable politics, the same way David Duke is treated (Trump routinely retweets Duke fellow-travellers).

Then there is the mass media. As Amy Goodman has pointed out, corporate television has routinely pumped Trump into our living rooms. They have virtually blacked out Bernie Sanders. Trump seems to have connived to have 10 or 15 minutes at 7:20 every evening on the magazine shows. Chris Matthews of Hardball obligingly cut away to Il Duce II’s rants and gave away his show to him on a nightly basis.

Not long ago, extremely powerful television personalities and sportscasters were abruptly fired for saying things less offensive than Trump’s bromides. Don Imus was history for abusive language toward women basketball players. But Trump’s strident attack on Megyn Kelly as a menstruating harridan was just allowed to pass. Jimmy “the Greek” Snyder was fired by CBS for saying African-Americans were ‘bred’ to be better athletes. But Trump issued a blanket characterization of undocumented Mexican labor migrants as rapists, thieves and drug dealers. Of course this allegation is untrue.

I watched the Nevada caucus coverage on MSNBC and was appalled at the discourse. One reporter tried to assure us that Trump voters were not actually voting for racism and bullying politics, they were just upset. But polling in South Carolina demonstrated that Trump voters were significantly to the right of most Republicans on some issues. In South Carolina, 38 percent of Trump voters wished the South had won the Civil War, presumably suggesting that they regretted the end of slavery.

Another MSNBC reporter helpfully explained that Trump voters feel that “political correctness” has gone too far. But what does Trump mean by “political correctness”? He means sexism and racism. So what is really being said is that Trump supporters resent that sexist and racist discourse and policies have been banned from the public sphere. There is ample proof that Trump’s use of “political correctness” identifies it with sexist and racist remarks and actions.

Yet another asserted that “some of” Trump’s positions “are not that extreme.” Exhibit A was his praise for Planned Parenthood. But he wants to outlaw abortion, i.e. overturn the current law of the land, which is extreme. (A majority of Americans support the right to choose, so he is in a minority).

Chris Matthews explained to us that people hoped he would do something for the country rather than for the government.

But Trump has made it very clear that he is not interested in a significant proportion of the people in the country. He is a white nationalist, and his message is that he will stand up for white Christian people against the Chinese, the Mexicans and the Muslims. Just as Adolph Hitler hoped for an alliance with Anglo-Saxon Britain on racial grounds (much preferring it to the less white Italy), the only foreign leader Trump likes is the “white” Vladimir Putin. That he won the evangelical vote again in Nevada is helpful for us in seeing that American evangelicalism itself is in some part a form of white male chauvinist nationalism and only secondarily about religion.

By the way, the idea that Trump won the Latino vote in Nevada is nonsense. In one of a number of fine interventions at MSNBC, Lawrence O’Donnell pointed out that something on the order of 1,800 Latinos voted in the Nevada GOP caucuses, of whom perhaps 800 voted for Trump, i.e. 44 percent of this tiny group. Trump lost the vote of even this small group of hard right Latinos, since 56 percent of them voted for someone else.

There are 800,000 Latinos in the state of Nevada (pop. 2.8 million). In 2012, 70 percent of Latinos voted for Barack Obama, while Mitt Romney got 25 percent. My guess is that Trump can’t do as well among them as Romney did.

It has been a dreadful performance by the press and by party leaders. They are speaking in such a way as to naturalize the creepy, weird and completely un-American positions Trump has taken.

This is how the dictators came to power in the 1920s and 1930s. Good people remained silent or acquiesced. People expressed hope that something good would come of it. Mussolini would wring the laziness out of Italy and make the trains run on time.

When Benjamin Franklin was asked by a lady after the Constitutional Convention what sort of government the US had, he said, “A Republic, Madame, if you can keep it.”

You have to wonder if we can keep it.

The views expressed in this post are the author’s alone, and presented here to offer a variety of perspectives to our readers.


Juan Cole is a public intellectual, blogger and the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. He blogs regularly at Informed Comment and you can follow him on Twitter @jricole.

How America Made Donald Trump Unstoppable

Excerpt from: Rolling Stone

He’s no ordinary con man. He’s way above average — and the American political system is his easiest mark ever

BY MATT TAIBBI February 24, 2016

The presidential election campaign is really just a badly acted, billion-dollar TV show – and Donald Trump is making a mockery of it.
The first thing you notice at Donald Trump’s rallies is the confidence. Amateur psychologists have wishfully diagnosed him from afar as insecure, but in person the notion seems absurd.

Donald Trump, insecure? We should all have such problems.

At the Verizon Giganto-Center in Manchester the night before the New Hampshire primary, Trump bounds onstage to raucous applause and the booming riffs of the Lennon-McCartney anthem “Revolution.” The song is, hilariously, a cautionary tale about the perils of false prophets peddling mindless revolts, but Trump floats in on its grooves like it means the opposite. When you win as much as he does, who the hell cares what anything means?

He steps to the lectern and does his Mussolini routine, which he’s perfected over the past months. It’s a nodding wave, a grin, a half-sneer, and a little U.S. Open-style applause back in the direction of the audience, his face the whole time a mask of pure self-satisfaction.

“This is unbelievable, unbelievable!” he says, staring out at a crowd of about 4,000 whooping New Englanders with snow hats, fleece and beer guts. There’s a snowstorm outside and cars are flying off the road, but it’s a packed house.

He flashes a thumbs-up. “So everybody’s talking about the cover of Time magazine last week. They have a picture of me from behind, I was extremely careful with my hair … ”

He strokes his famous flying fuzz-mane. It looks gorgeous, like it’s been recently fed. The crowd goes wild. Whoooo! Trump!

It’s pure camp, a variety show. He singles out a Trump impersonator in the crowd, tells him he hopes the guy is making a lot of money. “Melania, would you marry that guy?” he says. The future first lady is a Slovenian model who, apart from Trump, was most famous for a TV ad in which she engaged in a Frankenstein-style body transfer with the Aflac duck, voiced by Gilbert Gottfried.

She had one line in that ad. Tonight, it’s two lines:

“Ve love you, New Hampshire,” she says, in a thick vampire accent. “Ve, together, ve vill make America great again!”

As reactionary patriotic theater goes, this scene is bizarre – Melania Knauss didn’t even arrive in America until 1996, when she was all of 26 – but the crowd goes nuts anyway. Everything Trump does works these days. He steps to the mic.

“She’s beautiful, but she’s more beautiful even on the inside,” he says, raising a finger to the heavens. “And, boy, is she smart!”

Before the speech, the PA announcer had told us not to “touch or harm” any protesters, but to instead just surround them and chant, “Trump! Trump! Trump!” until security can arrive (and presumably do the touching and/or harming).

I’d seen this ritual several times, and the crowd always loves it. At one event, a dead ringer for John Oliver ripped off his shirt in the middle of a Trump speech to reveal body paint that read “Eminent Domain This!” on his thorax. The man shouted, “Trump is a racist!” and was immediately set upon by Trump supporters, who yelled “Trump! Trump! Trump!” at him until security arrived and dragged him out the door to cheers. The whole Trump run is like a Jerry Springer episode, where even the losers seem in on the gags.

In Manchester, a protester barely even manages to say a word before disappearing under a blanket of angry boos: “Trump! Trump! Trump!” It’s a scene straight out of Freaks. In a Trump presidency, there will be free tar and feathers provided at the executive’s every public address.

It’s a few minutes after that when a woman in the crowd shouts that Ted Cruz is a pussy. She will later tell a journalist she supports Trump because his balls are the size of “watermelons,” while his opponents’ balls are more like “grapes” or “raisins.”

Trump’s balls are unaware of this, but he instinctively likes her comment and decides to go into headline-making mode. “I never expect to hear that from you again!” he says, grinning. “She said he’s a pussy. That’s terrible.” Then, theatrically, he turns his back to the crowd. As the 500 or so reporters in attendance scramble to instantly make this the most important piece of news in the world – in less than a year Trump has succeeded in turning the USA into a massive high school – the candidate beams.

What’s he got to be insecure about? The American electoral system is opening before him like a flower.

In person, you can’t miss it: The same way Sarah Palin can see Russia from her house, Donald on the stump can see his future. The pundits don’t want to admit it, but it’s sitting there in plain view, 12 moves ahead, like a chess game already won:

President Donald Trump.

A thousand ridiculous accidents needed to happen in the unlikeliest of sequences for it to be possible, but absent a dramatic turn of events – an early primary catastrophe, Mike Bloomberg ego-crashing the race, etc. – this boorish, monosyllabic TV tyrant with the attention span of an Xbox-playing 11-year-old really is set to lay waste to the most impenetrable oligarchy the Western world ever devised.

It turns out we let our electoral process devolve into something so fake and dysfunctional that any half-bright con man with the stones to try it could walk right through the front door and tear it to shreds on the first go.

And Trump is no half-bright con man, either. He’s way better than average.

It’s been well-documented that Trump surged last summer when he openly embraced the ugly race politics that, according to the Beltway custom of 50-plus years, is supposed to stay at the dog-whistle level. No doubt, that’s been a huge factor in his rise. But racism isn’t the only ugly thing he’s dragged out into the open.

Trump is no intellectual. He’s not bringing Middlemarch to the toilet. If he had to jail with Stephen Hawking for a year, he wouldn’t learn a thing about physics. Hawking would come out on Day 365 talking about models and football.

But, in an insane twist of fate, this bloated billionaire scion has hobbies that have given him insight into the presidential electoral process. He likes women, which got him into beauty pageants. And he likes being famous, which got him into reality TV. He knows show business.

That put him in position to understand that the presidential election campaign is really just a badly acted, billion-dollar TV show whose production costs ludicrously include the political disenfranchisement of its audience. Trump is making a mockery of the show, and the Wolf Blitzers and Anderson Coopers of the world seem appalled. How dare he demean the presidency with his antics?

But they’ve all got it backward. The presidency is serious. The presidential electoral process, however, is a sick joke, in which everyone loses except the people behind the rope line. And every time some pundit or party spokesman tries to deny it, Trump picks up another vote.

The ninth Republican debate, in Greenville, South Carolina, is classic Trump. He turns these things into WWE contests, and since he has actual WWE experience after starring in Wrestlemania in 2007, he knows how to play these moments like a master.

Interestingly, a lot of Trump’s political act seems lifted from bully-wrestlers. A clear influence is “Ravishing” Rick Rude, an Eighties champ whose shtick was to insult the audience. He would tell ticket holders they were “fat, ugly sweat hogs,” before taking off his robe to show them “what a real sexy man looks like.”

Watch the similarities between wrestler “Ravishing” Rick Rude and presidential candidate Donald Trump:

In Greenville, Donald “The Front-Runner” Trump started off the debate by jumping on his favorite wrestling foil, Prince Dinkley McBirthright, a.k.a. Jeb Bush. Trump seems to genuinely despise Bush. He never missed a chance to rip him for being a “low-energy,” “stiff” and “dumb as a rock” weenie who lets his Mexican wife push him around. But if you watch Trump long enough, it starts to seem gratuitous.

Trump’s basic argument is the same one every successful authoritarian movement in recent Western history has made: that the regular guy has been screwed by a conspiracy of incestuous elites. The Bushes are half that conspiratorial picture, fronts for a Republican Party establishment and whose sum total of accomplishments, dating back nearly 30 years, are two failed presidencies, the sweeping loss of manufacturing jobs, and a pair of pitiable Middle Eastern military adventures – the second one achieving nothing but dead American kids and Junior’s re-election.

Trump picked on Jeb because Jeb is a symbol. The Bushes are a dissolute monarchy, down to offering their last genetic screw-up to the throne.

Jeb took the high road for most of the past calendar year, but Trump used his gentlemanly dignity against him. What Trump understands better than his opponents is that NASCAR America, WWE America, always loves seeing the preening self-proclaimed good guy get whacked with a chair. In Greenville, Trump went after Jeb this time on the issue of his brother’s invasion of Iraq.

“The war in Iraq was a big f … fat mistake, all right?” he snorted. He nearly said, “A big fucking mistake.” He added that the George W. Bush administration lied before the war about Iraq having WMDs and that we spent $2 trillion basically for nothing.

Days earlier, Trump had gleefully tweeted that Bush needed his “mommy” after Jeb appeared with Lady Barbara on a morning show.

Jeb now went straight into character as the Man Whose Good Name Had Been Insulted. He defended his family and took exception to Trump having the “gall” to go after his mother.

“I won the lottery when I was born 63 years ago and looked up and I saw my mom,” Jeb said proudly and lifted his chin. America loves Moms. How could he not win this exchange? But he was walking into a lawn mower.

“My mom is the strongest woman I know,” Jeb continued.

“She should be running,” Trump snapped.

The crowd booed, but even that was phony. It later came out that more than 900 of the 1,600 seats were given to local and national GOP officials. (Trump mentioned during the debate that he had only his wife and son there in comparison, but few picked up on what he was saying.) Pundits, meanwhile, lined up to congratulate Jeb for “assailing” Trump – “Bush is finally going for it,” The New York Times wrote – but the exchange really highlighted many of the keys to Trump’s success.

Trump had said things that were true and that no other Republican would dare to say. And yet the press congratulated the candidate stuffed with more than $100 million in donor cash who really did take five whole days last year to figure out his position on his own brother’s invasion of Iraq.

At a time when there couldn’t be more at stake, with the Middle East in shambles, a major refugee crisis, and as many as three Supreme Court seats up for grabs (the death of satanic quail-hunter Antonin Scalia underscored this), the Republican Party picked a strange year to turn the presidential race into a potluck affair. The candidates sent forth to take on Trump have been so incompetent they can’t even lose properly.

One GOP strategist put it this way: “Maybe 34 [percent] is Trump’s ceiling. But 34 in a five-person race wins.”

The numbers simply don’t work, unless the field unexpectedly narrows before March. Trump has a chokehold on somewhere between 25 and 40 percent of the Republican vote, scoring in one poll across every category: young and old, educated and less so, hardcore conservatives and registered Democrats, with men and with women, Megyn Kelly’s “wherever” notwithstanding. Trump the Builder of Anti-Rapist Walls even earns an estimated 25 percent of the GOP Latino vote.

Moreover, there’s evidence that human polling undercounts Trump’s votes, as people support him in larger numbers when they don’t have to admit their leanings to a live human being. Like autoerotic asphyxiation, supporting Donald Trump is an activity many people prefer to enjoy in a private setting, like in a shower or a voting booth.

The path to unseating Trump is consolidation of opposition, forcing him into a two- or three-person race. Things seemed headed that way after Iowa, when Ted Cruz won and Marco Rubio came in third.

Rubio’s Iowa celebration was a classic. The toothy Floridian leaped onstage and delivered a rollickingly pretentious speech appropriate not for a candidate who just eked out wins in five Iowa counties, but for a man just crowned king of Jupiter.

“For months, they told us because we offered too much optimism in a time of anger, we had no chance,” he thundered. Commentators later noted Rubio’s language was remarkably similar to Barack Obama’s florid “they said our sights were set too high” 2008 Iowa victory speech.

The national punditry predictably overreacted to Rubio’s showing, having been desperate to rally behind a traditional, party-approved GOP candidate.

Why do the media hate Trump? Progressive reporters will say it’s because of things like his being crazy and the next Hitler, while the Fox types insist it’s because he’s “not conservative.” But reporters mostly loathe Trump because he regularly craps on other reporters.

He called Fox’s Kelly a period-crazed bias monster for asking simple questions about Trump’s past comments about women, and launched a weirdly lengthy crusade against little-known New Hampshire Union-Leader publisher Joseph McQuaid for comparing Trump to Back to the Future villain Biff Tannen. He even mocked the neurological condition of Times reporter Serge Kovaleski for failing to ratify Trump’s hilariously fictional recollection of “thousands” of Muslims celebrating after 9/11, doing an ad hoc writhing disabled-person impersonation at a South Carolina rally that left puppies and cancer kids as the only groups untargeted by his campaign. (He later denied the clearly undeniable characterization.)

But Trump’s thin-skinned dealings with reporters didn’t fully explain the media’s efforts to prop up his opponents. We’ve long been engaged in our own version of the high school put-down game, battering nerds and outsiders like Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich while elevating “electable,” party-approved candidates like John McCain and John Kerry.

Thus it was no surprise that after Iowa, columnists tried to sell the country on the loathsome “Marcomentum” narrative, a paean to the good old days when reporters got to tell the public who was hot and who wasn’t – the days of the “Straight Talk Express,” “Joementum,” etc.

“Marco Rubio Was the Real Winner in Iowa,” blared CNN. “Marco Rubio’s Iowa Mojo,” chimed in Politico. “Forget Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio Is the Real Winner of the Iowa Caucuses,” agreed Vanity Fair.

Rubio, we were told, had zoomed to the front of the “establishment lane” in timely enough fashion to stop Trump. Of course, in the real world, nobody cares about what happens in the “establishment lane” except other journalists. But even the other candidates seemed to believe the narrative. Ohio Gov. John Kasich staggered out of Iowa in eighth place and was finishing up his 90th lonely appearance in New Hampshire when Boston-based reporters caught up to him.

“If we get smoked up there, I’m going back to Ohio,” he lamented. Kasich in person puts on a brave face, but he also frequently rolls his eyes in an expression of ostentatious misanthropy that says, “I can’t believe I’m losing to these idiots.”

But then Rubio went onstage at St. Anselm College in the eighth GOP debate and blew himself up. Within just a few minutes of a vicious exchange with haran​guing now-former candidate Chris Christie, he twice delivered the exact same canned 25-second spiel about how Barack Obama “knows exactly what he’s doing.”

Rubio’s face-plant brilliantly reprised Sir Ian Holm’s performance in Alien, as a malfunctioning, disembodied robot head stammering, “I admire its purity,” while covered in milky android goo. It was everything we hate about scripted mannequin candidates captured in a brief crack in the political façade.

Rubio plummeted in the polls, and Kasich, already mentally checked out, was the surprise second-place finisher in New Hampshire, with 15.8 percent of the vote.

“Something big happened tonight,” Kasich said vaguely, not seeming sure what that thing was exactly. Even worse from a Republican point of view, Dinkley McBush somehow finished fourth, above Rubio and in a virtual tie with Iowa winner Ted Cruz.

Now none of the three “establishment lane” candidates could drop out. And the next major contest, South Carolina, was deemed by horse-race experts to have too tiny an “establishment lane” vote to decide which two out of that group should off themselves in time for the third to mount a viable “Stop Trump” campaign.

All of which virtually guarantees Trump will probably enjoy at least a five-horse race through Super Tuesday. So he might have this thing sewn up before the others even figure out in what order they should quit. It’s hard to recall a dumber situation in American presidential politics.

“If you’re Trump, you’re sending flowers to all of them for staying in,” the GOP strategist tells me. “The more the merrier. And they’re running out of time to figure it out.”

The day after Rubio’s implosion, Trump is upstate in New Hampshire, addressing what for him is a modest crowd of about 1,500 to 2,000 in the gym at Plymouth State University. The crowd here is more full-blown New England townie than you’ll find at his Manchester events: lots of work boots, Pats merch and f-bombs.

Trump’s speeches are never scripted, never exactly the same twice. Instead he just riffs and feels his way through crowds. He’s no orator – as anyone who’s read his books knows, he’s not really into words, especially long ones – but he has an undeniable talent for commanding a room.

Today, knowing the debate news is in the air, he makes sure to plunge a finger into Rubio’s wound, mocking candidates who need scripts.

“Honestly, I don’t have any teleprompters, I don’t have a speech I’m reading to you,” Trump says. Then he switches into a nasal, weenie-politician voice, and imitates someone reading tiny text from a crib sheet: “Ladies and gentlemen, it’s so nice to be here in New Hampshire, please vote for me or I’ll never speak to you again … ”

“See all those cameras back there?” he says. “They’ve never driven so far to a location.”

The crowd turns to gape and sneer at the hated press contingent, which seems glad to be behind a rope. Earlier, Trump had bragged about how these same reporters had begrudgingly admitted that he’d won the St. Anselm debate. “They hate it, but they gave me very high grades.”

It’s simple transitive-property rhetoric, and it works. The press went gaga for Rubio after Iowa because – why? Because he’s an unthreatening, blow-dried, cliché-spouting, dial-surveying phony of the type campaign journalists always approve of.

And when Rubio gets exposed in the debate as a talking haircut, a political Speak n’ Spell, suddenly the throng of journalists who spent the past two weeks trying to sell America on “Marcomentum” and the all-important “establishment lane” looks very guilty indeed. Voters were supposed to take this seriously?

Trump knows the public sees through all of this, grasps the press’s role in it and rightly hates us all. When so many Trump supporters point to his stomping of the carpetbagging snobs in the national media as the main reason they’re going to vote for him, it should tell us in the press something profound about how much people think we suck.

Jay Matthews, a Plymouth native with a long beard and a Trump sign, cites Trump’s press beat-downs as the first reason he’s voting Donald.

“He’s gonna be his own man,” he says. “He’s proving that now with how he’s getting all the media. He’s paying nothing and getting all the coverage. He’s not paying one dime.”

Reporters have focused quite a lot on the crazy/race-baiting/nativist themes in Trump’s campaign, but these comprise a very small part of his usual presentation. His speeches increasingly are strikingly populist in their content.

His pitch is: He’s rich, he won’t owe anyone anything upon election, and therefore he won’t do what both Democratic and Republican politicians unfailingly do upon taking office, i.e., approve rotten/regressive policies that screw ordinary people.

He talks, for instance, about the anti-trust exemption enjoyed by insurance companies, an atrocity dating back more than half a century, to the McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945. This law, sponsored by one of the most notorious legislators in our history (Nevada Sen. Pat McCarran was thought to be the inspiration for the corrupt Sen. Pat Geary in The Godfather II), allows insurance companies to share information and collude to divvy up markets.

Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats made a serious effort to overturn this indefensible loophole during the debate over the Affordable Care Act.

Trump pounds home this theme in his speeches, explaining things from his perspective as an employer. “The insurance companies,” he says, “they’d rather have monopolies in each state than hundreds of companies going all over the place bidding …  It’s so hard for me to make deals  … because I can’t get bids.”

He goes on to explain that prices would go down if the state-by-state insurance fiefdoms were eliminated, but that’s impossible because of the influence of the industry. “I’m the only one that’s self-funding …  Everyone else is taking money from, I call them the bloodsuckers.”

Trump isn’t lying about any of this. Nor is he lying when he mentions that the big-pharma companies have such a stranglehold on both parties that they’ve managed to get the federal government to bar itself from negotiating Medicare prescription-drug prices in bulk.

“I don’t know what the reason is – I do know what the reason is, but I don’t know how they can sell it,” he says. “We’re not allowed to negotiate drug prices. We pay $300 billion more than if we negotiated the price.”

It’s actually closer to $16 billion a year more, but the rest of it is true enough. Trump then goes on to personalize this story. He claims (and with Trump we always have to use words like “claims”) how it was these very big-pharma donors, “fat cats,” sitting in the front row of the debate the night before. He steams ahead even more with this tidbit: Woody Johnson, one of the heirs of drug giant Johnson & Johnson (and the laughably incompetent owner of the New York Jets), is the finance chief for the campaign of whipping boy Jeb Bush.

“Now, let’s say Jeb won. Which is an impossibility, but let’s say … ”

The crowd explodes in laughter.

“Let’s say Jeb won,” Trump goes on. “How is it possible for Jeb to say, ‘Woody, we’re going to go out and fight competitively’ ?”

This is, what – not true? Of course it’s true.

What’s Trump’s solution? Himself! He’s gonna grab the problem by the throat and fix it by force!

Throughout his campaign, he’s been telling a story about a $2.5 billion car factory that a Detroit automaker wants to build in Mexico, and how as president he’s going to stop it. Humorously, he tried at one point to say he already had stopped it, via his persistent criticism, citing an article on an obscure website that claimed the operation had moved to Youngstown, Ohio.

That turned out to be untrue, but, hey, what candidate for president hasn’t impulse-tweeted the completely unprovable fact or two? (Trump, incidentally, will someday be in the Twitter Hall of Fame. His fortune-cookie mind – restless, confrontational, completely lacking the shame/veracity filter – is perfectly engineered for the medium.)

In any case, Trump says he’ll call Detroit carmakers into his office and lay down an ultimatum: Either move the jobs back to America, or eat a 35 percent tax on every car imported back into the U.S. over the Mexican border.

“I’m a free-trader,” he says, “but you can only be a free-trader when something’s fair.”

It’s stuff like this that has conservative pundits from places like the National Review bent out of shape. Where, they ask, is the M-F’ing love? What about those conservative principles we’ve spent decades telling you flyover-country hicks you’re supposed to have?

“Trump has also promised to use tariffs to punish companies,” wrote David McIntosh in the Review’s much-publicized, but not-effective-at-all “Conservatives Against Trump” 22-pundit jihad. “These are not the ideas of a small-government conservative … They are, instead, the ramblings of a liberal wanna-be strongman.”

What these tweedy Buckleyites at places like the Review don’t get is that most people don’t give a damn about “conservative principles.” Yes, millions of people responded to that rhetoric for years. But that wasn’t because of the principle itself, but because it was always coupled with the more effective politics of resentment: Big-government liberals are to blame for your problems.

Elections, like criminal trials, are ultimately always about assigning blame. For a generation, conservative intellectuals have successfully pointed the finger at big-government-loving, whale-hugging liberals as the culprits behind American decline.

But the fact that lots of voters hated the Clintons, Sean Penn, the Dixie Chicks and whomever else, did not, ever, mean that they believed in the principle of Detroit carmakers being able to costlessly move American jobs overseas by the thousands.

“We’ve got to do something to bring jobs back,” says one Trump supporter in Plymouth, when asked why tariffs are suddenly a good idea.

Cheryl Donlon says she heard the tariff message loud and clear and she’s fine with it, despite the fact that it clashes with traditional conservatism.

“We need someone who is just going to look at what’s best for us,” she says.

I mention that Trump’s plan is virtually identical to Dick Gephardt’s idea from way back in the 1988 Democratic presidential race, to fight the Korean Hyundai import wave with retaliatory tariffs.

Donlon says she didn’t like that idea then.

Why not?

“I didn’t like him,” she says.

Trump, though, she likes. And so do a lot of people. No one should be surprised that he’s tearing through the Republican primaries, because everything he’s saying about his GOP opponents is true. They really are all stooges on the take, unable to stand up to Trump because they’re not even people, but are, like Jeb and Rubio, just robo-babbling representatives of unseen donors.

Back in Manchester, an American Legion hall half-full of bored-looking Republicans nurses beers and knocks billiard balls around, awaiting Iowa winner Ted Cruz. The eely Texan is presumably Trump’s most serious threat and would later nudge past Trump in one national poll (dismissed by Trump as conducted by people who “don’t like me”).

But New Hampshire is a struggle for Cruz. The high point in his entire New England run has been his penchant for reciting scenes from The Princess Bride, including the entire Billy Crystal “your friend here is only mostly dead” speech for local station WMUR. The one human thing about Cruz seems to be that his movie impersonations are troublingly solid, a consistent B-plus to A-minus.

But stepping into the human zone for even a few minutes backfired. The actor Mandy Patinkin, who played Inigo Montoya in the film, reacted with horror when he learned Cruz was doing his character’s famous line “You killed my father, prepare to die.” He accused Cruz of deliberately leaving out the key line in Montoya’s speech, after he finally slays the man who killed his father: “I’ve been in the revenge business for so long, now that it’s over, I don’t know what to do with the rest of my life.”

Patinkin believed Cruz didn’t do that line because Cruz is himself in the revenge business, promising to “carpet-bomb [ISIS] into oblivion” and wondering if “sand can glow.”

Patinkin’s criticism of Cruz cut deeply, especially after the Iowa caucuses, when Cruz was accused by Trump and others of spreading a false rumor that Ben Carson was dropping out, in order to steal evangelical votes and pad his lead.

The unwelcome attention seemed to scare Cruz back into scripted-bot mode, where he’s a less-than-enthralling presence. Cruz in person is almost physically repellent. Psychology Today even ran an article by a neurology professor named Dr. Richard Cytowic about the peculiarly off-putting qualities of Cruz’s face.

He used a German term, backpfeifengesicht, literally “a face in need of a good punch,” to describe Cruz. This may be overstating things a little. Cruz certainly has an odd face – it looks like someone sewed pieces of a waterlogged Reagan mask together at gunpoint – but it’s his tone more than anything that gets you. He speaks slowly and loudly and in the most histrionic language possible, as if he’s certain you’re too stupid to grasp that he is for freedom.

“The  … Constitution …,” he says, “serves … as  … chains  … to  … bind  … the  … mischief  … of  … government … ”

Four years ago, a candidate like this would have just continued along this path, serving up piles of euphuistic Tea Party rhetoric for audiences that at the time were still hot for the tricorner-hat explanation of how Comrade Obama ruined the American Eden.

But now, that’s not enough. In the age of Trump, the Cruzes of the world also have to be rebels against the “establishment.” This requirement makes for some almost unbelievable rhetorical contortions.

“Government,” Cruz now ventures, “should not be about redistributing wealth and benefiting the corporations and the special interests.”

This absurd Swiss Army cliché perfectly encapsulates the predicament of the modern GOP. In one second, Cruz is against “redistributionism,” which in the Obama years was code for “government spending on minorities.” In the next second, he’s against corporations and special interests, the villains du jour in the age of Bernie Sanders and Trump, respectively.

He’s against everything all at once. Welfare! Corporations! Special Interests! Government! The Establishment! He’s that escort who’ll be into whatever you want, for an hour.

Trump meanwhile wipes out Cruz in his speeches in a single, drop-the-mic line.

“They give Ted $5 million,” he says, bringing to mind loans Cruz took from a pair of banks, Goldman Sachs and Citibank.

The total was closer to $1.2 million, but Trump’s point, that even the supposed “outsider” GOP candidate is just another mindless payola machine, is impossible to counter.

The unexpectedly thrilling Democratic Party race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, too, is breaking just right for Trump. It’s exposing deep fissures in the Democratic strategy that Trump is already exploiting.

Every four years, some Democrat who’s been a lifelong friend of labor runs for president. And every four years, that Democrat gets thrown over by national labor bosses in favor of some party lifer with his signature on a half-dozen job-exporting free-trade agreements.

It’s called “transactional politics,” and the operating idea is that workers should back the winner, rather than the most union-friendly candidate.

This year, national leaders of several prominent unions went with Hillary Clinton – who, among other things, supported her husband’s efforts to pass NAFTA – over Bernie Sanders. Pissed, the rank and file in many locals revolted. In New Hampshire, for instance, a Service Employees International Union local backed Sanders despite the national union’s endorsement of Clinton, as did an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers chapter.

Trump is already positioning himself to take advantage of the political opportunity afforded him by “transactional politics.” He regularly hammers the NAFTA deal in his speeches, applying to it his favorite word, “disaster.” And he just as regularly drags Hillary Clinton into his hypothetical tales of job-saving, talking about how she could never convince Detroit carmakers out of moving a factory to Mexico.

Unions have been abused so much by both parties in the past decades that even mentioning themes union members care about instantly grabs the attention of workers. That’s true even when it comes from Donald Trump, a man who kicked off the fourth GOP debate saying “wages [are] too high” and who had the guts to tell the Detroit News that Michigan autoworkers make too much money.

You will find union members scattered at almost all of Trump’s speeches. And there have been rumors of unions nationally considering endorsing Trump. SEIU president Mary Kay Henry even admitted in January that Trump appeals to members because of the “terrible anxiety” they feel about jobs.

“I know guys, union guys, who talk about Trump,” says Rand Wilson, an activist from the Labor for Bernie organization. “I try to tell them about Sanders, and they don’t know who he is. Or they’ve just heard he’s a socialist. Trump they’ve heard of.”

This is part of a gigantic subplot to the Trump story, which is that many of his critiques of the process are the same ones being made by Bernie Sanders. The two men, of course, are polar opposites in just about every way – Sanders worries about the poor, while Trump would eat a child in a lifeboat – but both are laser-focused on the corrupting role of money in politics.

Both propose “revolutions” to solve the problem, the difference being that Trump’s is an authoritarian revolt, while Sanders proposes a democratic one. If it comes down to a Sanders-Trump general election, the matter will probably be decided by which candidate the national press turns on first: the flatulent narcissist with cattle-car fantasies or the Democrat who gently admires Scandinavia. Would you bet your children on that process playing out sensibly?

In the meantime, Trump is cannily stalking the Sanders vote. While the rest of the GOP clowns just roll their eyes at Sanders, going for cheap groans with bits about socialism, Trump goes a different route. He hammers Hillary and compliments Sanders. “I agree with [Sanders] on two things,” he says. “On trade, he said we’re being ripped off. He just doesn’t know how much.”

He goes on. “And he’s right with Hillary because, look, she’s receiving a fortune from a lot of people.”

At a Democratic town hall in Derry, New Hampshire, Hillary’s strangely pathetic answer about why she accepted $675,000 from Goldman to give speeches – “That’s what they offered” – seemed doomed to become a touchstone for the general-election contest. Trump would go out on Day One of that race and blow $675,000 on a pair of sable underwear, or a solid-gold happy-face necktie. And he’d wear it 24 hours a day, just to remind voters that his opponent sold out for the Trump equivalent of lunch money.

Trump will surely argue that the Clintons are the other half of the dissolute-conspiracy story he’s been selling, representing a workers’ party that abandoned workers and turned the presidency into a vast cash-for-access enterprise, avoiding scrutiny by making Washington into Hollywood East and turning labor leaders and journalists alike into starstruck courtiers. As with everything else, Trump personalizes this, making his stories of buying Hillary’s presence at his wedding a part of his stump speech. A race against Hillary Clinton in the general, if it happens, will be a pitch right in Trump’s wheelhouse – and if Bill Clinton is complaining about the “vicious” attacks by the campaign of pathological nice guy Bernie Sanders, it’s hard to imagine what will happen once they get hit by the Trumpdozer.

The electoral roadshow, that giant ball of corrupt self-importance, gets bigger and more grandiloquent every four years. This time around, there was so much press at the Manchester Radisson, you could have wiped out the entire cable-news industry by detonating a single Ryder truck full of fertilizer.

Like the actual circus, this is a roving business. Cash flows to campaigns from people and donors; campaigns buy ads; ads pay for journalists; journalists assess candidates. Somewhat unsurprisingly, the ever-growing press corps tends in most years to like – or at least deem “most serious” – the candidates who buy the most ads. Nine out of 10 times in America, the candidate who raises the most money wins. And those candidates then owe the most favors.

Meaning that for the pleasure of being able to watch insincere campaign coverage and see manipulative political ads on TV for free, we end up having to pay inflated Medicare drug prices, fund bank bailouts with our taxes, let billionaires pay 17 percent tax rates, and suffer a thousand other indignities. Trump is right: Because Jeb Bush can’t afford to make his own commercials, he would go into the White House in the pocket of a drug manufacturer. It really is that stupid.

The triumvirate of big media, big donors and big political parties has until now successfully excluded every challenge to its authority. But like every aristocracy, it eventually got lazy and profligate, too sure it was loved by the people. It’s now shocked that voters in depressed ex-factory towns won’t keep pulling the lever for “conservative principles,” or that union members bitten a dozen times over by a trade deal won’t just keep voting Democratic on cue.

Trump isn’t the first rich guy to run for office. But he is the first to realize the weakness in the system, which is that the watchdogs in the political media can’t resist a car wreck. The more he insults the press, the more they cover him: He’s pulling 33 times as much coverage on the major networks as his next-closest GOP competitor, and twice as much as Hillary.

Trump found the flaw in the American Death Star. It doesn’t know how to turn the cameras off, even when it’s filming its own demise.

The problem, of course, is that Trump is crazy. He’s like every other corporate tyrant in that his solution to most things follows the logic of Stalin: no person, no problem. You’re fired! Except as president he’d have other people-removing options, all of which he likes: torture, mass deportations, the banning of 23 percent of the Earth’s population from entering the United States, etc.

He seems to be coming around to the idea that having an ego smaller than that of, say, an Egyptian Pharaoh would be a sign of weakness. So of late, his already-insane idea to build a “beautiful” wall across the Mexican border has evolved to the point where he also wants the wall to be named after him. He told Maria Bartiromo he wanted to call it the “Great Wall of Trump.”

In his mind, it all makes sense. Drugs come from Mexico; the wall will keep out Mexicans; therefore, no more drugs. “We’re gonna stop it,” he says. “You’re not going to have the drugs coming in destroying your children. Your kids are going to look all over the place and they’re not going to be able to find them.”

Obviously! Because no one’s ever tried wide-scale drug prohibition before.

And as bad as our media is, Trump is trying to replace it with a worse model. He excommunicates every reporter who so much as raises an eyebrow at his insanity, leaving him with a small-but-dependable crowd of groveling supplicants who in a Trump presidency would be the royal media. He even waves at them during his speeches.

“Mika and Joe are here!” he chirped at the MSNBC morning hosts at a New Hampshire event. The day after he won the New Hampshire primary, he called in to their show to thank them for being “supporters.” To her credit, Mika Brzezinski tried to object to the characterization, interrupting Joe Scarborough, who by then had launched into a minute-long homily about how happy he was to be a bug on the windshield of the Trump phenomenon.

You think the media sucks now? Just wait until reporters have to kiss a brass Trump-sphinx before they enter the White House press room.

“He has all these crazy ideas, and [reporters] are so scared of him, they don’t ask him any details,” says Michael Pleyte, an Iraq vet who came all the way from Michigan to watch the New Hampshire primary in person. “Forget about A to Z, they don’t even ask him to go A to Trump.”

King Trump. Brace yourselves, America. It’s really happening.

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Democracy Or Bust In Europe

Excerpt from: Project Syndicate


Yanis Varoufakis, a former finance minister of Greece, is Professor of Economics at the University of Athens.

BERLIN – “Europe will be democratized or it will disintegrate!” That maxim is more than a catchphrase from the manifesto of the Democracy in Europe Movement – DiEM25, the group I just helped to launch in Berlin. It is a simple, if under-acknowledged fact.

Europe’s current disintegration is all too real. New divisions are appearing seemingly everywhere one looks: along borders, within our societies and economies, and in the minds of Europe’s citizens.

Europe’s loss of integrity became painfully evident in the latest turn in the refugee crisis. European leaders called upon Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to open his country’s borders to refugees from the war-torn Syrian city of Aleppo; in the same breath, they chastised Greece for letting the same refugees into “European” territory, and even threatened to erect fences along Greece’s borders with the rest of Europe.
Similar disintegration can be seen in the realm of finance. If an American citizen won some lottery jackpot, she would not care whether her prize dollars were deposited in a bank domiciled in Nevada or New York. This is not so in the eurozone. The same sum of euros has very different “expected” value in a Portuguese, Italian, Greek, Dutch, or German bank account, because banks in the weaker member states are reliant on bailouts from fiscally stressed governments. That is a sure sign of the single currency’s disintegration.

Meanwhile, political rifts are dividing and multiplying in the European Union’s heartland. The United Kingdom is torn on whether to exit or not – a reflection of its political establishment’s own chronic unwillingness both to defend the EU and to confront its authoritarianism. The result is an electorate prone to blaming the EU for everything that goes wrong, but with no interest either in campaigning for more European democracy or in leaving the EU’s single market.

More ominously, the Franco-German axis powering European integration has fractured. Emmanuel Macron, France’s Economy Minister, could not have put it more chillingly when he said that the two countries are edging toward a modern version of the Catholic-versus-Protestant Thirty Years’ War.

Meanwhile, southern countries languish in a state of permanent recession that they blame on Europe’s north. And, as if this were not enough, another menacing fault line has appeared along the former Iron Curtain, with governments of formerly communist countries openly defying the spirit of solidarity that used to characterize (at least in theory) the European project.

Why is Europe disintegrating? And what can be done about it?
The answer lies in the EU’s origins. The EU began life as a cartel of heavy industries determined to manipulate prices and redistribute monopoly profits through a bureaucracy located in Brussels. To fix prices across European borders, there was a need to fix exchange rates as well. During the Bretton Woods era, the Unites States provided this “service.” But as soon as the US ditched Bretton Woods in the summer of 1971, the Brussels-based cartel’s administrators began to design a European fixed exchange-rate system. After a series of (often spectacular) failures, the euro was born to superglue exchange rates together.

As with all cartel managers, the EU technocrats treated genuine pan-European democracy as a threat. Patiently, methodically, a process of de-politicizing decision-making was put in place. National politicians were rewarded handsomely for their acquiescence, while anyone opposed to the cartel’s technocratic approach was labeled “un-European” and treated as an outsider.

Thus, although European countries remained democratic, the EU institutions, where sovereignty over crucial decisions was transferred, have remained democracy-free. As Margaret Thatcher explained during her last Parliamentary appearance as British Prime Minister, who controls money and interest rates controls the politics of Europe.

Handing Europe’s money and politics to a cartel administration did not only spell the end of European democracy; it has also fueled a vicious cycle of authoritarianism and poor economic results. The more Europe’s establishment chokes off democracy, the less legitimate its political authority becomes. That leads European leaders to double down on authoritarianism in order to stick to their failed policies when recessionary economic forces strengthen. This is why Europe is the world’s only economy that has failed to recover since 2008.

It is through this vicious cycle that Europe’s crisis is turning its peoples inward and against one another other, amplifying latent jingoism and xenophobia. Indeed, it is what has rendered Europe incapable of absorbing external shocks – like last summer’s refugee influx.

What we should do now is what democrats should have done in 1930 to prevent a catastrophe that is now becoming imaginable once again. We should establish a pan-European coalition of radical, social, green, and liberal democrats to put the “demos” back into democracy, countering an EU establishment that sees people power as a threat to its authority. This is what DiEM25 is about and why it is necessary.

Are we utopian? Maybe. But it is more realistic than the EU establishment’s attempt to hang on to our disintegrating, anti-democratic, cartel-like union. If our project is utopian, it is also the only alternative to a dystopia in the making.

The real danger is not that we shall aim too high and miss. The real danger is that Europeans train their eyes on the abyss and end up there.