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The left should take lessons from Donald Trump

Written By: - Date published: 7:31 am, February 28th, 2016 - 107 comments
Categories: us politics - Tags: ,


Oh yes, he’s got a lot of good advice for the lefties. Before your head explodes, hold your nose, because there is really good precedent for those same lessons, from a guy called Huey Long.

In no particular order, here you go.

Populism melts hearts, and melts down the media. You can channel the id of society, and allow it to live in the open. People will dance to it. Traditional conservatives and traditional liberals will hate it, because it needs few if any of their constructs. Everyone other than the traditional left and right will love you; on radio, in social media, on television, your name will echo until it goes in and out with every breath. Trump’s airwave-dominance is very similar to Huey Long’s huge radio show base that started in 1930s Louisiana, perpetual public speaking tours, and massive capacity for newspaper drama. They have both named things no-one else dared name for so long, and made them popular. Long even generated a popular song for the radio for it: Every Man A King.  You can get a glimpse of this kind of campaigning in the film O Brother Where Art Thou? Wikipedia has a number of other films and media on Long as well.

Your policies can be outrageous, and still popular. Build a wall ocean to ocean? It’s an idea that perfectly names white anxiety of growing ethnic infection and wealth-leakage. Define the virtuous inside, the evil outside, and reap the rewards. Trump has named the acceptable Mason-Dixon line.

Huey Long was even more outrageous. His plan, Share Our Wealth, proposed capping personal fortunes at $50 million, making the top income $1 million per year, and all inheritance to $5 million. In return for this huge set of taxes, everyone would get $5,000 per household, and one third of the average household income on top of that. Bernie Sanders wants free tertiary education? Hah! Long went for free college education, plus 4 weeks’ leave, plus free pensions, plus a 30-hour working week. Just for starters.

Long was Roosevelt’s left-flank critic, thought-leader, and southern champion. He was outrageous, and was the most popular, daring and successful politician Louisiana has ever produced.

You’re going to have to be a bully. Between the Constitution, the media, and campaign financing, the scope for change in the United States is very small. To break these limits and get real policy change, you’re going to have to hound people out of office, belittle your remaining opponents in the media, and otherwise clear your policy implementation path by all means but firing guns. As state governor, Huey Long fired officials by the hundred, humiliated all who opposed him, hounded out judges, and even lay siege to the Deputy Governor with state troops. Huey Long once said, “I used to try to get things done by saying ‘please’ … Now, I dynamite ’em out of my path.” Trump’s versions of that you can find detailed in Huffington Post.

You’re going to need financial independence. Trump is self-funded from his own wealth. As we’ve seen last week with Gareth Morgan, financial independence gives you the power to speak and act without fear and with the capacity to achieve. In February 1934, Long formed a national political organization, the Share Our Wealth Society. It was intended to operate outside of and in opposition to the Democratic Party and the Roosevelt administration. By 1935, the society had over 7.5 million members and 27,000 clubs across the country. It was a mighty political and fundraising entity; a machine that is the primary precedent to Obama and Sanders’ donor organization. Huey Long won the 1928 election by tapping into the resentment of rural Louisianans; the rest was pure machine. He also used it to carry out a major part of his policy realization. This perpetuated his populist base – with lessons Obama could well have learned in carrying momentum beyond the electoral win.

You’re going to revel in crisis, because you understand instability is a camel tripping under a vulture: it’s meat, it’s protein, it’s where you pick things clean, and it;s where you get the power to rise and fly again. Create social foment. Be rude-funny more than you are angry. Be slightly crass, fun, cheesy, obvious, oblivious, untidy, and otherwise untrammeled. Politics may be show business for ugly people, but it can and must be sexy. Flirt. Burn your speeches. Learn more jokes and fewer policies. Some successful politicians can be wonks like Corbyn and Sanders and Hilary. But those three are far too sober. Sanders would share a bong. But Trump and Long would share your bong, hire the strippers, then get you laid.

Playing by society’s rules doesn’t work. Not if you’re a radical. Not if you need the energy of the people to do the political work of sweeping power away. The people are the only weapon you really have. That works for left or right.

Who knows, maybe the US will go back to being sensible, constitutionally balanced, and only slightly governable, I mean to say, Hilary Clinton. Maybe Donald Trump is the biggest renewal in US democracy since Kennedy.

Since I mentioned Kennedy. Going hard can also mean go out. Long, on the verge of challenging Roosevelt for the Democratic presidential nomination, was assassinated in 1936. I’m not wishing or predicting, just reminding that attempting to re-order whole power structures means ‘they’ will be angry. Lots of angry. Break the rules often enough, and there’s no rules left for you either.

Last lesson, you’re going to have to sink big wedges in. So don’t bother being subtle. A politician proposing to re-order your values to their values needs to make that process very simple. For Huey Long, rich people were simply evil. He called them out, black and white. For Trump, it’s foreigners in all their guises. You need some good, some evil, some grand moral drama. Sink that wedge so deep into society’s political rock that you are prepared to shatter it.

Over 200,000 people attended Huey Long’s funeral in baton Rouge in 1936. The interstate to the Texas border was bumper to bumper.

Just once every generation or two, you get a genius combination of charisma, bravery, financial independence, bullying, good jokes, machismo, steel nerves, and bold policy that reminds you it can be done.

107 comments on “The left should take lessons from Donald Trump ”

    • AmaKiwi 1.1

      @ Advantage

      You are an excellent writer. (A professional writer?) Very fast moving and entertaining.

      I’ll comment on your message later.

      • The March Hare 1.1.1

        I agree. This is one of the most well written pieces that I have ever seen on The Standard. I would love to see you write more here.

      • paaparakauta 1.1.2

        Eh ? All I did was post an item from NBC news – not very flattering for a US presidential candidate. Rubio raised it at the candidates debate, it seems authentic
        and consistent with what is known of Trump .. and the workers on Trump’s Tower have still not been paid.

        Cui bono ? I’d say Rubio, who seems to be the official candidate of the Republican establishment. It’s ironic – and well timed – given Obama’s opening of diplomatic relations with Havana. I can only hope they relate to each other in a mature and constructive way.

        • The March Hare

          My comment was about the blog post that @advantage contributed, not about the NBC news item that you linked to.

          • Ad

            It was just a pre-Super Tuesday provocation.

            But Cheers.

            It’s otherwise like the Bad Genie has popped out, but only grants wishes to Republicans because … i dunno. It’s out, and we have to figure it out.

  1. Stuart Munro 2

    I agree – and this by the way is why I liked Gareth Hughes’s demolition of Key. These useless tossers will not be removed from power by respecting them for the offices they have disgraced – their stewardship has been dishonest, corrupt, patronising and disloyal – and they must be shamed for it. Constantly – until the public are baying for their blood, and they would be if they knew a fraction of their misdeeds.

    • To be fair, the Greens can’t use all of the lessons from Trump that work well, because part of their thing is that they campaign a lot more like Bernie- they’re sincere, and almost always positive, and limit negativity to things that almost incontestably deserve it. Gareth could rant about John Key because he’s demonstrably failed so badly, but if the Greens were debating Key back in 2009, it wouldn’t have looked like he was a Green MP for him to do that, and it would have come off just as fake as Andrew Little sometimes does.

      • alwyn 2.1.1

        You are quite accurately describing young Master Hughes but I am surprised you actually come out and say it.
        ” Gareth could rant about John Key because he’s demonstrably failed so badly”.
        Yes, poor Gareth. He managed to convince himself that he had leadership ability so he tried to become the leader. He managed to get only a single vote for the job, his own apparently. Not a single other person thought he had the right stuff for the job.
        That was most definitely an epic fail wasn’t it?

        • Stuart Munro

          By no means – he has more integrity than the entire Gnact government and Treasury combined. Gareth won’t cost us $30 billion this year it will be the kleptocrats who do that – if the angry villagers don’t stop them.

          • alwyn

            “he has more integrity than the entire Gnact government and Treasury combined”. Really? You are very easily convinced, or wilfully allow yourself to be conned aren’t you?

            Don’t you think it rather hypocritical that that party, the low-carbon promoting Green Party, has the highest average air travel bill for their rank and file MPs of any party in the New Zealand Parliament? They are only list MPs. Why don’t they don’t all live in Wellington?
            As for ” Gareth won’t cost us $30 billion this year”. That is because, thank goodness, he isn’t in Government. He would have a damn good attempt if he was.

            You only have to see what Greens get up to by looking at the WCC, with its Green Mayor. A wide, safe road in Island Bay has had millions spent on a new “cycle lane”. After ten years with no reported accidents we have already had one cyclist injured because the new lanes have made the road too dangerous to ride a bike on.

            I suppose you also accept MW’s opinion that “because part of their thing is that they campaign a lot more like Bernie- they’re sincere, and almost always positive”.

            Does that apply to their candidates who had good places on the list and probably would have made it into Parliament if Norman’s dreams of the Green vote had been realised? Candidates like Sea Rotman who came out in approval of the assault on Gerry Brownlee and approves of throwing things at politicians she doesn’t like. Number 20 on the list wasn’t she?
            I bet Meteria wouldn’t like it if someone dumped a foul smelling liquid all over one of her expensive outfits.

            • Stuart Munro

              Gosh that’s a silly argument – repeating Seynour’s lines is the best you can do? We’ve seen these stupid far right attacks on the Greens before – some twit even had a crack at Mojo Mathers driving to a meeting somewhere out in the wops.

              Let’s hear about Key’s air miles shall we? Oh, you haven’t bothered to find them out? That’s because your argument is founded in bias – not an actual concern for reducing air miles and who the worst offenders might be.

              Yes – you don’t care about the kleptocracy losing $30 billion – but if you were actually a rightwinger you would. It’s just that your excuse for a morality is based on a neo-feudal attachment to persons, not to objective performance standards.

              NZ cannot afford a government as corrupt and useless as Key’s – even rightwingers should be all over him.

        • Magisterium

          What do you think, Clint?

          • alwyn

            Well you did ask. Here is something from Clint (Eastwood).

            ““Maybe I`m getting to the age when I`m starting to be senile or nostalgic or both, but people are so angry now. You used to be able to disagree with people and still be friends. Now you hear these talk shows, and everyone who believes differently from you is a moron and an idiot – both on the Right and the Left. ”

            Mr Munro should take note.

        • Colonial Viper

          You are quite accurately describing young Master Hughes but I am surprised you actually come out and say it.

          He was young Master Hughes a few years ago but life in Parliament seems to age one super quick.

          • alwyn

            The beard doesn’t help of course.
            Where on earth did he get the idea that it looked good on him?
            However I suspect the haggard look he has these days may have been caused by discovering that there wasn’t a single voter in the leadership contest, apart from himself, who thought he was even remotely qualified for the position.
            I doubt if he ever turns his back on any of his colleagues since then.

    • paaparakauta 2.2

      It’s very simple – you have to stand up to them or they walk all over you.
      In the parliamentary context Gareth has called out Key for what he is, but Key has a parliamentary majority. That might change if there are some dents in his mana ..

      • Stuart Munro 2.2.1

        Yes – Labour, by trying to be centrist, have become far too tolerant of Key’s manifold failings. They need to metaphorically beat the living crap out of him on a daily basis.

  2. Stargazer 3

    And 3 young American Muslims have just been killed execution style. On average Muslims are experiencing an incident of harassment every 3 days. Latina women are earning 59 cents to every dollar a white man earns. Not to mention the execution of black men by the police. And something like 42 mass shootingstorage this year already. I could go on.

    How can you write anything about Trump without writing about the consequences on the most vulnerable of his tactics & those of other GOP candidates? Do you honestly think the left can apply those tactics & get different results?

    Just as a reminder, those of us who are Asian felt the increase in harassment after the Chinese house-buyers “research” last year. Sounds like for you it’s just talk, but for us, it’s damage to our lives.

    • tinfoilhat 3.1

      Well said Anjum.

    • Stuart Munro 3.2

      If you imagine that the real estate speculators of any race are welcome anywhere outside real estate offices you are very much mistaken. You might want to consider whether slumlord is really a left lifestyle.

      Neither healthy communities nor healthy economies are built on real estate speculation – if the Asian community is feeling pressure over such activities the rational response would be to regulate or avoid the activity, not try to suppress the public response.

      • What the hell does being a slum lord have to do with discrimination against asians? Because I’m pretty sure the problem people had with that list was not that all asians who own houses are slumlords. It was that it didn’t actually check that people weren’t kiwis, which many Asian-New Zealanders completely and undeniably are, and that it didn’t check for people with “white” or “european” names that weren’t kiwis, either.

        (and I would go as far to venture that a very small proportion of Asian New Zealanders are slum lords- and probably not at a significantly higher a ratio of the asians that own property than for other ethnicities that do)

        You should be less concerned with Asians and Asian New Zealanders owning property, and more concerned with regulating acceptable levels of foreign ownership, and acceptable conduct from landlords in general. Neither of which relate to Trump being a racist bigot who incites violence and refuses to even have the decency to apologise or condemn it afterwards.

        • Stuart Munro

          “What the hell does being a slum lord have to do with discrimination against Asians?”

          Quite – that’s what Kiwis object to – not race or ethnicity – as Twyford rightly pointed out. Our property market is dysfunctional. It’s hurting people. The two principal causes are foreign investment and immigration. A third cause is local accumulation. But it’s a serious matter – like Christchurch – a ‘your life is screwed’ matter for far too many New Zealanders.

          I am very concerned with regulating foreign ownership – but my government is not – they are absolutely irresponsible and they block data collection at every opportunity to facilitate their lying. The Asian community have been their pawns, crying racism. There are a lot of Asians buying houses – that’s a fact. Advertising in Chinese would not be abundant if it were not a fact.

          But the point of the article is not endorsing Trump’s casual racism but that the status quo calls for disruption. The state of the Auckland housing market requires intervention. Parties that do not promise to intervene will be considered, like Jeb & Hillary, pious noise makers. Parties that wish to succeed must propose to intervene – perhaps dramatically.

          And whoever is actually buying Auckland property will resist strenuously – crying racism if they think it will serve their purposes. And this is another place for Trump’s counterintuitive virtues – he would ignore them.

    • Yeah, any praise of the id-based populism Trump uses really does have to be cautioned with “this is part of what leads to violent and extreme racists.” I don’t think it’s a sufficient couch to say that this “will annoy those who are liberals/traditionally left”. It’s more than that.

      Even if you think it’s okay to do that sort of campaigning if you don’t use it for racism, you still have to tell us how you’re going to stand up and say racism is any different from bullying people straight from your id all the time. It’s why we actually think being PC is not a bad thing on the left- insults should be saved for bullies, and only on things that they actually deserve being insulted for.

    • Colonial Viper 3.4

      How can you write anything about Trump without writing about the consequences on the most vulnerable of his tactics & those of other GOP candidates? Do you honestly think the left can apply those tactics & get different results?

      Let’s get serious here. Trump is not responsible for the anti-Muslim hysteria in the USA, and neither did that hysteria arise with the rise of Trump: GW Bush and Dick Cheney are the ones responsible, and then Barack Obama and Secretary of State Clinton continued it.

      Just as a reminder, those of us who are Asian felt the increase in harassment after the Chinese house-buyers “research” last year. Sounds like for you it’s just talk, but for us, it’s damage to our lives.

      Which is why I pushed back hard and pushed back publicly against the idiotic Labour leadership which developed, approved and ran that PR campaign.

      • Trump not being the sole cause of racism and religious discrimination against Muslims is not the same as Trump making the problem worse and not taking responsibility for doing so. Just because it would still exist if not for him does not mean he isn’t contributing to the problem, that’s just like National and Act’s arguments we shouldn’t try on climate change because we can’t entirely solve the problem ourselves.

        • Colonial Viper

          Yes he’s contributing to the problem by his media blabber but Secretary of State Clinton contributed to it by droning the shit out of the Islamic world and killing Muslim civilians indiscriminately.

          Out of those two options, I’m pretty clear on what the ‘least bad’ is.

      • stargazer 3.4.2

        CV, incidents of harassment and violence against muslims have risen considerably since trump started his “ban all muslims” etc rhetoric. of course he didn’t start it and yes it has been really bad before (particularly in the early 2000’s, when an estimated 10,000 or so single muslim men simply disappeared), but then had died down for a bit.

        there has been a significant and noticeable increase of abuse since trump has started his thing, followed by other candidates who do not want to be seen weak on this. eg prior to this i hadn’t heard of instances of protests outside mosques of white people armed to the teeth, incredibly aggressive and in a place where there are so many mass murderers, really frightening to be the subject of this kind of thing. the number of mosque burnings and vandalisms, the significantly higher level of protests around resource consents for simple things like cemetery space, these are showing that trump is having an impact.

        if you want to deny that he has had any impact at all, i’d suggest that you haven’t been following what’s happening to muslims in america too closely nor have you been talking to american muslims. try subscribing to updates from CAIR, which i’ve been doing for over a decade, just for starters to get a picture of trends over time.

      • Karen 3.4.3

        CV, the main reason I objected strongly to the Labour Party Chinese name research was because I know that it leads to some people feeling justified in abusing Chinese looking people. I know this because Chinese and Korean people have told me this happens when Winston Peters employs anti Asian rhetoric.

        The same thing happens to Muslims when people like Richard Prosser make anti-Islamic statements. Any statement from a politicians that may encourage racist attitudes never acceptable IMO.

        I also find the idea that any left wing politician should employ bullying behaviour to appeal to some idea of populism appalling.

        • Colonial Viper

          What about singling out the top 1% to 2% as being too self centred, greedy, insulated and destructive?

          • Karen

            Not sure what you mean by “singling out” but I am fine with talking about the top 2% being selfish and greedy etc. As far as I am concerned excessive wealth is a sign of inhumanity.

      • miravox 3.4.4

        “Let’s get serious here. Trump is not responsible for the anti-Muslim hysteria in the USA, and neither did that hysteria arise with the rise of Trump”

        In the domestic sphere, Trump took the leash off the rottweiler called ‘Hysteria’.

        • Colonial Viper

          The US runs on fear. From colour coded terror alerts to body scanners at airports to report of terrorist anthrax attacks, Trump is neither the originator, nor the worst of the anti-Islamic fearmongers in the USA.

          He’s not good though. He is directly tapping into the anxiety which has been building up in a lot of struggling white working class and middle class American households.

          • miravox

            Agree – I just think Trump has unleashed that fear in a way that others have not managed – or wanted – to. Career politicians found it more useful to control it (mostly).

  3. RedLogix 4

    A good essay Ad. And a timely history lesson. To my mind however the crux is here:

    For Huey Long, rich people were simply evil. He called them out, black and white. For Trump, it’s foreigners in all their guises.

    This is where your comparison breaks down. The extremes of wealth and poverty are indeed an evil that can and should be broken down. Long could legitimately tax the rich, ‘share the wealth’ and everybody would be better off. Sanders is treading in the same footsteps.

    Trump by contrast is getting his energy from the racist underbelly of the USA. He’s openly poking at it, and daring it to come out and expel the unwanted Hispanics.

    Every society has it’s fault lines, cracks which civilisation mostly papers over, in which considerable energy is stored. But history demonstrates that when leaders exploit these divisions, racial, religious or cultural, for their own political purposes … the result is always the same.

    Every society has it’s share of sociopaths, degenerates and nutters. Men usually who’re social failures for the most part … and whose violent urges and dark fantasies are normally suppressed by a wider social order. But when these urges are validated and given legitimacy by a political leader, some will feel emboldened to act. First one or two will commit an atrocity. And then without constraint, without the moderating dampening power of ‘the system’, society unzips from the bottom up. Quite rapidly.

    And right now the USA has a LOT of alienated, hurt, humiliated and damaged people. Many with guns.

    • joe90 4.1

      This is where your comparison breaks down

      A rich prick pretending.

      The energy behind the two men is as similar as the parallel is inexact.

      Huey Long actually did come from the ranks of the poor and dispossessed that he later enriched himself by championing. He relentlessly vilified the economic and social elite, first in Louisiana and then in the entire country. He, Trump, on the other hand, was a child of that elite, and he had never departed from it, except in his public persona, which is where we find him now. A huge portion of the Republican electorate—and, sadly, a not-insignificant portion of the American people—wants a strongman, the more vulgar the better. Huey Long came by his vulgarity naturally. He, Trump has had to work at it, buying bad taste by the bucketful with his millions and coming to embody it the same way the Kingfish did. I am one of you, they both said, you poorly educated suckers. Look how common and vulgar I am.


      • RedLogix 4.1.1

        Yes .. the bitter lesson democracy teaches us, is that people vote for those whose values and behaviours they identify with.

        Policies and rational self-interest have remarkably little to do with it.

      • Ad 4.1.2

        I swear I hadn’t seen that one before I wrote mine.

        I’ll have a proper look soon.

    • Colonial Viper 4.2

      I agree that US society has been unravelling for many years. Do you remember the old Michael Douglas movie “Falling Down”?

      Guess what year that film was, tapping into the white middle class angst of seeing jobs, income and social position erode away to the extent that taking a gun to the streets was an option?


      And there’s been 23 years of crap been poured upon the heads of the bottom 90% of American society since then, by Republicrats alike.

      I don’t think Trump is going to be the demagogue of the 21st American century but I do agree that he is tapping into those very dangerous fracture lines in American society. Those are fracture lines that Bill Clinton helped install via NAFTA – which impoverished over a million Mexican famers and destroyed blue collar America – and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton continued to prosecute, with attacks on Islam throughout the world.

      At the same time I also believe that Trump understands what a valuable role Hispanics play in modern America – he has hired thousands of them for his own businesses.

      But really, American voters are being given a pretty shite set of options and a Trump presidency may be the one to explode the pressure cooker.

      With Hilary Clinton, I think she will keep a lid on the pressure cooker better, but at the same time she will continue to turn up the fire under the feet of the working class and under class as the US oligarchs have been doing for decades.

    • Ad 4.3

      The post is not about policy – it’s all in the process lessons.

    • locus 4.4

      RedLogix: i think this is a brilliant paragraph and deserves more than just parentheses:

      Every society has it’s share of sociopaths, degenerates and nutters. Men usually who’re social failures for the most part … and whose violent urges and dark fantasies are normally suppressed by a wider social order. But when these urges are validated and given legitimacy by a political leader, some will feel emboldened to act. First one or two will commit an atrocity. And then without constraint, without the moderating dampening power of ‘the system’, society unzips from the bottom up.

  4. Chooky 5

    Donald Trump is a GINGER

  5. Colonial Viper 6

    Outstanding post Ad, I learnt a great many things from it. Cheers.

    • locus 6.2

      i also gleaned a few things from this essay and found it depressing….

      – easy to say bullying and outrageous things when you have the cushion of massive wealth

      – channelling the id of society is very unhealthy for society if it validates nastiness and calls out the nasties from under their rocks

      – outrageous policies are policies that engender rage and not reason – and if we don’t challenge them we are in danger of normalising the idea that whipping up rage is acceptable in politics….

      – “sharing our wealth” may be presented as an outrageous policy but it’s not…. however, if we scream abuse from the rooftops about rich people being evil then we help to build the case that we are the nasties..

      – to suggest that we ought to follow the lead of a politician who hounded people out of office, fired and humiliated all opposition and who belittled opponents, sounds to me like the justification of dictatorship

      – and why is it necessary to reach for metaphors of sex and drugs when we want to talk passionately about our political views?

      – as for thriving on creating crises… it’s lesson enough how destructive this view is, by observing the machinery and outcomes of disaster capitalism

      – finally if:

      Donald Trump is the biggest renewal in US democracy since Kennedy.

      then i despair for the future of democracy in the US…..

      this method of campaigning does not sustain democracy

      • Grindlebottom 6.2.1

        I just read Trump’s Wikipedia main page. This guy’s wealth (he massively overestimates it), business practices, tax arrangements, ethics, credibility, reliability, and integrity are all questionable.

        He uses his wealth and power to threaten and bully anybody who criticises him or challenges him – even down to demanding & getting sacked an analyst who predicted that his Taj Mahal project would fail by the end of the year – which it did. (He ended up settling a $2 million defamation lawsuit by the analyst out of Court.)

        He sues people and organisations who frustrate him or won’t do what he wants for millions. His Wikipedia page should be required reading for anybody planning to vote for him. So should his Twitter feed.

        He gets represented as somehow being more virtuous than his opponents or challengers whose character he ruthlessly assassinates.Trump represents everything bad about ego, wealth and power. He’s in a league of his own. He’d be the most abusive candidate ever for US president I reckon.

        • Colonial Viper

          But Trump hasn’t waged wars and destroyed entire countries and entire societies for no reason except to enrich the corporate establishment and the ruling oligarchy.

          • Grindlebottom

            Not yet. But he’s made contradictory statements about how he’d tackle ISIS, including invading Syria and taking ISIS’s oil to pay for the invasion, and talked about making the US military the strongest in the world so nobody will dare threaten the US or its interests, and he’s got a proven track record of using his wealth & power to get whatever he wants. What makes you think he wouldn’t be the same as US president?

            • Colonial Viper

              The Clintons also have form accepting millions in contributions (bribes) from Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan.

              • Grindlebottom

                I’m not arguing they’re virtuous CV. I’m arguing Trump is downright nasty and potentially dangerous.

                • Colonial Viper

                  I’m arguing that out of two evils, Trump is the lesser one.

                  The one who is more honest about who he actually is.

                  And certainly the one much less likely to start a nuclear confrontation with China or Russia.

                  • Grindlebottom

                    Whether you can call him honest is probably debatable. He’s inconsistent as well. And how he would respond to any challenge from Russia (or China, or anyone) is also an unknown. His track record is to bully to get what he wants and to retaliate against those who frustrate or annoy him. Using what he’s got to do it with.

                  • Chooky

                    +100 CV…for all your comments here…Trump may be a bastard but he is an honest up front bastard….the sheer perfidy and level of corruption …and worse…in the past of the Clintons and Bushes has yet to be widely known



                    • Grindlebottom

                      And yet, you know it chooky. Pray tell…? You might want to check out Trump’s business history as well.

                    • Chooky

                      “Pray tell…?”

                      well for starters read Ambrose Evans -Pritchard ‘The Secret Life of Bill Clinton’…( there are also many other books)



                      ( you could also check out interviews with Evans- Pritchard on utube)

                      sure Trump is no angel …but i would prefer him to Clinton

                    • Grindlebottom

                      Trump is no angel? That’s putting mildly. As a human being he’s an arsehole.

                      He’s a one percenter (or maybe he actually isn’t – he’s got form for constantly bullshitting about his real wealth. In 2005 he sued a New York Times reporter for claiming he was worth much less than he said – and lost, then lost again on appeal.)

                      He boasts about making sure he pays as little tax as possible, his income and his tax affairs are murky, and he refuses to disclose his financial details (wonder why that is?) He’s under investigation by the IRS.

                      His proposed tax cuts will benefit the wealthy not the unemployed or the low paid.

                      He’s made some dreadful business decisions that have cost people their jobs. His business ethics I think stink. His hypocrisy in criticising Wall Street given how he’s used them to finance his business dealings and in particular his failed ones is breathtaking and not to be taken seriously.

                      He’s changed his statements on minimum wage – who knows what he’d really do in power? http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/dec/28/donald-trump-bernie-sanders-minimum-wage

                      His wealth came from working for daddy and inheriting several million. His understanding of what life is like for people on minimum wage or who’re unemployed is non-existent and at best he obviously couldn’t care less about them.

                      I read somewhere his claim that he’s financing his own campaign is even BS: that most of his expenses are actually being paid from donations.

                      This guy is running on bullshit and fools are buying it. Representing him as somehow more virtuous than Clinton is laughable. At best they’re both dodgy as.

                    • locus

                      chooky, if Trump is honest as you say:

                      +100 CV…for all your comments here…Trump may be a bastard but he is an honest up front bastard

                      then the US would be in for the most divisive racist abusive president in their history:

                      Trump would
                      – reinstate waterboarding
                      – treat all Mexican immigrants as rapists and murderers
                      – ban all moslems from entering the US
                      – ‘these terrorists care about their children…..take em out’
                      – ‘the military will obey my commands….’

                      I’m sure there will be some US soldiers out there who will have something to say about that

                      … and also his relationship to the KKK still has to be explained

          • Agora

            “Donald Trump is receiving foreign policy advice from a former U.S. military intelligence chief who wants the United States to work more closely with Russia to resolve global security issues, according to three sources.

            The sources, former foreign policy officials in past administrations, said retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, who was chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency under President Barack Obama from 2012-2014, has been informally advising Trump.

            Trump, who is leading the Republican race to be the party’s presidential candidate in November’s election, said earlier this month that he would soon release a list of his foreign policy advisers, but has yet to do so. The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment about Flynn.”


      • Ad 6.2.2

        Lovely response there Locus.

        I’ll do another one a month out and see how that’s tracking.

  6. weka 7

    Interesting and entertaining read. I’m curious though, what was Long’s legacy apart from being popular and getting shot for being radical? That didn’t some through in the post, and I assume there is some point to being populist. Could you please say what that was in Long’s case?

    • Ad 7.1

      I link to the Wikipedia for that.

      • weka 7.1.1

        This? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Share_Our_Wealth

        After Long’s assassination, the control of the Share The Wealth Society fell to Gerald L. K. Smith, who was widely viewed as a political demagogue. Smith brought the Share The Wealth Society into a brief coalition with the followers of radio priest Charles Coughlin and old-age pension advocate Francis Townsend in support of the short-lived Union Party, a third party effort which ran William Lemke of North Dakota for President in 1936, but under his leadership, the Share Our Wealth movement quickly fell apart.

        You seem to be saying that the left should pay attention to being populist, but the populist you cite doesn’t appear to have a legacy. He had some good ideas for sure, but then he got shot and it all faded away.

        Have I missed something?

        • Stuart Munro

          Long also became the core of Robert Heinlein’s character Lazurus Long who occurs in Methuselah’s Children and Time Enough For Love.

          • weka


            I’m not saying he didn’t do good things. I’m saying that Ad’s argument seems to be that the left should be doing populism and he uses Long as an example, but we never got to see if Long as a populist was successful. So the argument isn’t made.

            • Ad

              Was getting too long.

              Huey could probably get a post of his own.

              If we’re not listening to Trump’s success, we’re not listening.

              • weka

                I enjoyed the post. I hadn’t heard of Long before (apart from reading Heinlein!). I do think your basic argument fails though. You seem to be suggesting that power is the most important thing, and there is the way to do it, but we haven’t seen the outcome yet so I think it’s a little premature.

                In terms of Trump’s success, isn’t Sanders successful too, given he’s increased his polling hugely?

        • Ad

          He did a lot more.
          Have a deeper look.

    • millsy 7.2

      ‘charity hospitals’ for the poor
      Cheap natural gas for those in New Orleans
      Free text books for school children
      Public works programs
      Medical treatment for prisoners
      Adult literacy programs,

      …the list goes on.

      His sons and other family went on to establish political careers themselves, with positions that were more or less progressive.

  7. Incognito 8

    I feel ambiguous about the message(s) of this post.

    Yesterday, I read a long piece on Gerry Brownlee Gerry Brownlee, the making of the man in charge and I think there are quite a few similarities between Brownlee, Long, and Trump.

    A radical (approach) can shake things up and get things done that would otherwise be left unchanged, I get that. Generally, though, radicals drift to the outer of political parties if not the spectrum. Is it just money that allows them to beat a path to the front gate or is their wealth another consequence of who these people are and how they operate? Local examples are KDC and Gareth Morgan.

    financial independence gives you the power to speak and act without fear and with the capacity to achieve

    Each and every one of us has the power and the right and perhaps even duty (!) to speak and act without fear, thank you very much!

    If we really leave it (up) to the ‘rich’ we’re well & truly stuffed and might as well lie down now and surrender. Along the same vein, there is no need to vote any longer either and exercise the few democratic rights that we have still left …

    • Hahahaha Brownlee wishes he were Trump, and that he could pull off that level of racism. Brownlee is what Trump would be if he were never at the front of the pack of bullies. Trump doesn’t need powerful friends to be Trump. He just is.

  8. happynz 9

    Hillary, not Hilary.

    I prefer Sanders by a long measure, but if Hillary gets the nod I’ll hold my nose and vote for her. Not that it makes one jot of difference as my registration is in one of the USA’s deepest red states. My two sisters and mom live in a battleground state (Florida). Their votes will have more say than mine (deep deep red Idaho) and my two brothers (California very blue, and Washington leaning blue).

    Trump trash talks and fires up the goobers who have little interest in governance. Trump is the venthole candidate. Rubio is a hollow suit prone to panic attacks. The scariest candidate vying for the Republican nomination has to be Ted Cruz. His nihilistic Dominionism should disqualify him from any sane person’s consideration.

    • RedLogix 9.1

      Given that neither Cruz and Rubio look like pulling out, Trump will charge through the middle.

      The chances are it will be a Trump vs Clinton election. So how do you feel that might play out?

      • happynz 9.1.1

        It’s going to get ugly, you can bet your bottom dollar on that. Hillary is going to have a hell of a time trying to swing independents her way. Her selling point of incremental change may fire up wonks and established featherbedders, but it doesn’t get the independents out. Trump’s bigotted bellowing and lack of any policy other than, “I’m gonna make everything so great. It’s gonna be yuuuuuuuge!” will bring out enough LIV’s to swing the battleground states in his favour.

      • sabine 9.1.2

        i came across this movie in Singapore many many years ago.

        I don’t think it ever made it to the big screen in the US, but it should have.

        anyways, if you have time go watch it.


      • Gristle 9.1.3

        RL Are you sure about Trump coming through the middle.

        Some states allocate delegates on a winner takes all basis, but many do a proportional split. When it comes to the convention to select the candidate then there is a fair opportunity for horse-trading and we may see Rubio and Cruz delegates out-number Trump delegates. Where will the votes be lying once all the knifes have been put away?

        This is also true for Sanders v Clinton in that the super delegates are likely to tip the balance in favour of Clinton even if Sander wins more delegates in the primaries.

      • Phil 9.1.4

        Given that neither Cruz and Rubio look like pulling out

        If Cruz loses his home state (Texas) on March 1st, it’s almost certain he will pull out. His path to victory, winning the bulk of the evangelical vote, is looking narrow already and will fall apart completely if he loses Texas.

        Rubio’s able to stick it out until Florida on March 15th. He can hold on a little longer because it’s not until March 15th that the big winner-take-all GOP states go to the polls. A loss to Trump in Florida is basically the last firewall of the GOP establishment.

        The last remaining credible GOP candidate, Kasich, could be the swing-vote that decides if Trump or Rubio win the nomination. His home state, Ohio, also votes winner-take-all on March 15th, and he’s leading by a long way in current polling. If Kasich stays in the race past that date, his 5%-10% of the vote probably keeps Rubio from beating Trump head-to-head.

    • Ad 9.2

      There’s plenty of ‘goobers’ who will vote for progressive policies.

      That’s one of the themes of my post.

      There’s just folks with a vote.

      • happynz 9.2.1

        “Along with the concept of American Dream runs the notion that every man and woman is entitled to an opinion and to one vote, no matter how ridiculous that opinion might be or how uninformed the vote. It could be that the Borderer Presbyterian tradition of “stand up and say your rightful piece” contributed to the American notion that our gut-level but uninformed opinions are some sort of unvarnished foundational political truths. I have been told that this is because we redneck working-class Scots Irish suffer from what psychiatrists call “no insight”.Consequently, we will never agree with anyone outside our zone of ignorance because our belligerent Borderer pride insists on the right to be dangerously wrong about everything while telling those who are more educated to “bite my ass!”

        Joe Bageant, author of Deer Hunting With Jesus

        Yeah, Joe nails the problem there. Even though some will figure it out, too many will continue to vote against their own interest.

        • sabine

          I miss Joe Bageant, he was an excellent writer and he had a good dose of humor.

        • Magisterium

          Isaac Asimov put it this way:

          Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge’.

    • Which state do you live in? If you’re in Nebraska they do split Electoral College votes, so your vote counts even if you’re not a majority. (Maine does as well but I doubt you’re thinking that’s a red state)

      You may want to cross your fingers for Bernie even more, as he has a lot more pull for independents and traditionally Republican demographics than Hillary does, so if anyone this time is gonna flip any Red States, it’ll be him.

      • happynz 9.3.1

        I am currently registered in the 1st District in the state of Idaho. Idaho isn’t like Nebraska nor Maine. Idaho is winner-take-all with its 4 electoral votes. The North End of Boise and Sun Valley are wee blue blotches on an otherwise red map.

        I agree Bernie Sanders has a better chance of bringing in the independent vote. Hillary’s big win in South Carolina may make that chance moot. With Super Tuesday coming up, with most of the primaries in states that favour Hillary Clinton, she is likely to have the lion’s share. The thing is the delegates that she will carry will be from states that the Republicans are most likely to win in the GE.

        • Phil

          The thing is the delegates that she [Clinton] will carry will be from states that the Republicans are most likely to win in the GE.

          So what?

          Obama’s wins in the ’08 primaries came mainly from Southern states and the Northern half of the mid-west; both heavily GOP-leaning. Didn’t harm his election chances.

          In ’04 Kerry basically won the whole primary map. That didn’t help him win the general election. Didn’t help Gore, either, in ’00.

          On the republican side; Romney’s primary losses in ’12 were in the GOP-leaning South and fly-over states. So you’ve got one decent example of your thesis there.

      • Phil 9.3.2

        You may want to cross your fingers for Bernie even more, as he has a lot more pull for independents and traditionally Republican demographics than Hillary does

        I call bullshit.

        Sander’s coalition of support is strongly white, liberal and, by american standards, far-left. His favorability ratings with independents are not a great deal stronger than Clinton. Among GOP voters, they’re both hated equally.

        Clinton is viewed more favorably by Democrats than Sanders:

        In hypothetical match-ups with the possible GOP candidates, he’s doing perhaps a couple of points better than Clinton, but it’s pretty noisy and far too early to make any kind of prediction.

  9. Bill 10

    The thing with Sanders, Corbyn and Trump is that their challenge to the establishment is limited. Essentially, if successful, they will only shift power to a new position within clearly delineated parameters. None of those people will dissemble the essential framework that power hangs to.

    In the case of Corbyn and Sanders, genuine as they are and compassionate as they are, it has to be said they are somewhat deluded and/or naive if they think there is anything genuinely ‘left’ in their respective political positions.

    That said, I’d vote for them if I was a voter in either England/Wales or the US.

    And yes, the statist who sees themselves (wrongly imo) as a champion of leftist thought, really does have to stop with the polite nonsense (the “let’s sit down and talk about it” type of stuff) when speaking to the market orientated wallahs. They need to be uncompromising.

    But then, being that they come from a statist position, that has obvious limits in terms of how far they can refuse to compromise with existing power structures. More importantly, in relation to us; the citizenry comprised of ordinary people who wouldn’t really relish the thought of living in a dungeon, we need them, not so much to compromise, but to vanish.

    And that’s where both the market types (Trump) and the statist types (Sanders, Corbyn) fall over, because both camps agree and are in lock-step over the notion that someone must always be in charge. And that notion, as history shows again and again and again, is always just a short trip or stumble away from heinous levels of repression and oppression.

  10. RedLogix 11

    From the Bloody Good Read Dept.

    The angriest and most pessimistic people in America aren’t the hipster protesters who flitted in and out of Occupy Wall Street. They aren’t the hashtavists of #BlackLivesMatter. They aren’t the remnants of the American labor movement or the savvy young dreamers who confront politicians with their American accents and un-American legal status.

    The angriest and most pessimistic people in America are the people we used to call Middle Americans. Middle-class and middle-aged; not rich and not poor; people who are irked when asked to press 1 for English, and who wonder how white male became an accusation rather than a description.

    You can measure their pessimism in polls that ask about their expectations for their lives—and for those of their children. On both counts, whites without a college degree express the bleakest view. You can see the effects of their despair in the new statistics describing horrifying rates of suicide and substance-abuse fatality among this same group, in middle age.

    • s y d 11.1

      Really good read alright – the notes that followed on were worth a look too..some clearly set out thinking. Seems that Trump provides a connection that the elites felt they didn’t need.

      “The United States—and other developed countries too—are becoming rapidly more ethnically diverse at the same time as they are becoming more economically insecure. Many old-stock inhabitants see immigrants not only as competitors for jobs, but also as rival claimants on government resources. (It doesn’t help that one newcomer group, Middle Eastern Muslims, also presents a highly publicized national security challenge.) These voters have turned to Trump because no other political actor offers them anything at all.

      I happen to think Trump’s answers to their concerns are pretty bad. But to condemn the concerns themselves as mere bigotry is to deny some important truths about American life in the 21st century. Immigrants really do compete with natives. Sometimes they displace them. Immigration has costs as well as benefits, and those costs fall more heavily on those who are already losing ground.”

      • miravox 11.1.1

        “Many old-stock inhabitants see immigrants not only as competitors for jobs, but also as rival claimants on government resources”

        They’re not wrong. It’s as if the basket of resources available to the lower middle and working classes (not the underclass, they’ve already been kicked to the kerb), is simply moved around to solve one political problem, leaving another to be patched up later (the only exception to this seems to be the Affordable Care Act).

        Too many of the old stock inhabitants are responding to sound bites instead of thinking hard about who isn’t swapping stuff out of that basket of resources, and who are in fact accumulating more for themselves, and that includes Trump and the Clintons..

    • s y d 11.2

      great article, some good points raised in the notes also

      “The United States—and other developed countries too—are becoming rapidly more ethnically diverse at the same time as they are becoming more economically insecure. Many old-stock inhabitants see immigrants not only as competitors for jobs, but also as rival claimants on government resources. (It doesn’t help that one newcomer group, Middle Eastern Muslims, also presents a highly publicized national security challenge.) These voters have turned to Trump because no other political actor offers them anything at all.

      I happen to think Trump’s answers to their concerns are pretty bad. But to condemn the concerns themselves as mere bigotry is to deny some important truths about American life in the 21st century. Immigrants really do compete with natives. Sometimes they displace them. Immigration has costs as well as benefits, and those costs fall more heavily on those who are already losing ground.”

    • Colonial Viper 11.3

      Yep. Blacks in the US figured out a long time ago that the “American Dream” was not something open to most of them. However, working class and middle class Whites bought hard into the American Dream and in the last several years it has been dawning on more and more that they had been sold a falsified bill of goods.

      And the bitter disappointment has been gutting.

      The rise of the original (pre-Koch Bros hijacked) Tea Party was an early symptom. Today that anger against the establishment has matured and broadened – and sided with Trump.

  11. greywarshark 12

    To summarise Trump’s approach, looking at the image, what is needed is a pink tie and passion. Is that all it takes – then let’s get dancing – Labour.

  12. Gristle 13

    Of all the Opposition MP’s who is that most fits with the “Long/Trump” image, independence, attitude and commitment? All I could come up with was Winston Peters. Any thoughts?

    • miravox 13.1

      Agree – and he can’t create the same groundswell.

      I’m guessing that despite the nasty government we have now, the proportion of people at same the level of despair is not quite at American levels.

      I’d rather we resonated politically though visions of a decent, equitable world rather than degenerating to a level where the Trumps of this world are the answer to counteracting indifference and anomie of those who are still managing in an environment so against their own interests.

  13. locus 14

    Let’s look to the values and methods of those we respect, rather than the antics of populists like Long and Trump.

    For sure… we need to pay attention to the methods of this ilk … primarily so that we are then better able to combat them.

    Their ‘methods’ normalise’ attitudes and behaviour that lead to the breakdown of society…. they build their platforms by fanning the flames of division and fuelling hatreds between groups.

    Winning popular support can be achieved in so many positive and constructive ways….. and there are so many great leaders whose methods we can learn from.

    What would Mandela have to say?

    • Ad 14.1

      We’re not electing Jesus.

      • locus 14.1.1

        seems there’s a spam called MM that needs to be deleted out of this thread…

        [lprent: It is a person. Not a very associated person. Bypasses all the automatic filters, but is usually instantly recognisable to moderators. On the odd occasion a comment gets through us, and then we get the stream of conciousness comments until we clean them out. ]

        Ad….adopting undesirable means to achieve a desirable end can create undesirable or unintended consequences.

        we are not electing jesus… let’s hope we are not electing the opposite…

        imo the divisiveness that populists create and feed off is sickening and counter-productive to social values

  14. DS 15

    Trump isn’t Huey Long. Trump is an altogether darker figure… 2016’s George Wallace.

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