Friday, November 18, 2016

How Trump Happened

Today's NY Times editorial opinion section has an article worth reading by
Luigi Zingales who foresaw Trump's rise to an election win five years ago.  He based his prediction then on his own experience in Italy of enduring nine years of Silvio Berlusconi.  Zingales saw a couple parallels in the rise of the two popular demagogues.  In both cases he observed that the opposition spent way too much time attacking the character of their opponent and expended far to little energy in developing and communicating a vision for the future based on issues of importance to the voters.  In both cases, the opposition underestimated the desire of the voters to expel what they perceived to be a corrupt, elite establishment.

I think Zingales' analysis is pretty good, though I also think he gets on shaky ground starting with his title of "The Right Way to Resist Trump" and going on to suggest that Democrats should look for opportunities to work with Trump to undercut some of the Republican agenda.  His idea that Democrats need to look for new, younger leaders does seem like wise counsel.

In spite of the ongoing disaster of the elections, I think it is not at all certain that the leaders of the Democratic Party are going to be able to admit the fundamental errors that Zingales points to and to take the appropriate actions.  There are clearly going to be some changes in the top levels of leadership, but some of the likely replacement leaders look a lot like what came before them.

What Democrats need to acknowledge, I think, is that Trump and Obama got into office for some of the same reasons.  Both men were seen initially as outsiders who would shake up the establishment.  Obama seemed to make some progress in a few areas like health care, but he undercut his own strength by relying on appointees like Clinton who voters saw as representing an establishment who talked a better game than they delivered.  Republicans are certainly not immune to the same mistakes, but Trump's choices for Cabinet members and advisors -- however disgusting they may be to many -- may actually give him enough credibility with his current followers to condemn the country to two terms of Trumpism.

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