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November 08th 2016 print

Roger Franklin

The Unspeakable vs the Unpalatable

Ever the gentleman, Ronald Reagan would have disapproved of his party's latest presidential candidate's language and vulgarian demeanour, but he would also have recognised a man whose message, like his own, resonates with an electorate sick of business-as-usual politics

trump reaganMonday night in Washington DC, election eve, and who, apart from the pollsters, knows what to think? Hillary by two-to-four percent, that seems to be the final consensus of all their sampling, weighting, adjusting, tickling, divining and projecting as the grand kabuki drama of this year’s presidential race staggers toward its climax 24 hours from now and the foot-stomping, snarling and grimacing is done. Or do you ‘go with your gut’, as a Trump acolyte put it this afternoon while picking through a bargain bin of marked-down Hillary ’16 T-shirts at a shop on E Street specialising in electionabilia.

“Would they be discounting them if she had a chance?” wondered Emily Shernhoff, 47, who was visiting the US capital from Iowa and wanted some small-change gifts for Democrat friends back home. “They want the White House,” she began, paraphrasing an old gag, “but all they’ll get is a lousy T-shirt.”

As theories and auguries go, the 70% discount on Hillarywear seemed as good as any, possibly better than most. At the counter, the young black woman ringing up my purchases endorsed that particular prognostication more than somewhat. Who would win tomorrow’s vote, she was asked, going by the merchandise her store has been moving?

“Trump,” she said. “We’ve sold a lot more of his T-shirts than hers.”

So that must be why Hillary’s T-shirts are discounted.

“No, Trump’s are marked down too.”

I took the full-price unit back to the shelf, found the bargain bin and saved myself $12. At the counter once again, it was hard not to smile. The handsome T-shirt, in Republican red and bearing the Trump name above his campaign slogan, ‘Make America Great Again’, bears a label proclaiming it was made in Honduras – imported tariff-free under the NAFTA pact that the man whose cause it espouses has vowed to “renegotiate”, if not scrap altogether.

‘Jesus says, “Vote for Trump”‘

At a bar near Capitol Hill some hours later I met up with an old contact from the days when I covered the Pentagon and became intimately involved with the bang-for-buck reform movement that flourished during the near-indiscriminate military spending of the Reagan years. He’s retired now and likes neither Trump nor Clinton, but will vote tomorrow in Pennsylvania for the former. Trump, he speculated, will “do a Reagan” and spend big on weapons of one sort or another, but might just have the managerial nous to foil the desk generals’ empire-building.

“We don’t want any more F-35s,” he said, adding with a wry smile that there’s “only one Australia in the world stupid enough to buy our trash.” We toasted the F-111, M1 tank, the F-35 and, just to demonstrate that my friend still follows the absurdities of politically inspired materiel acquisitions, the French submarines that Malcolm Turnbull hopes will keep his South Australian seats afloat, at least for the next few elections.

Not much later the TV over the bar made mention of the latest poll numbers in my friend’s home state. Trump, it seemed, was equal or ahead, which explained why Hillary was making a last-minute dash to the City of Brotherly Love. Meanwhile, Trump was heading for Michigan, which hasn’t gone with a Republican presidential candidate since 1988, when the voters paid their respects to Ronald Reagan by giving his successor, Bush the Elder, their support. Once was enough. Four years later they backed Bill Clinton and have remained stoutly Democrat ever since.

Until now, that is, if the polls are calling it right. Hillary will be touching down there as well, frantic to keep what should have been a certain blue state in her column. And here’s the thing that must be worrying her to distraction: that touch of The Gipper which sets Trump apart. Like Ronaldus Magnus, he holds the press in contempt and, like the 40th president also, he talks directly to his audience. It was Reagan’s genius to snatch traditional blue-collar Americans from the Democratic heap. If Trump can do likewise in the states that matter most, the pollsters will be confounded.

Tomorrow we will know if it is to be Clinton or Trump, the Unspeakable or the Unpalatable.

What a choice! Then again, they said the same thing about Reagan in 1980 and he didn’t work out too badly.

Comments [17]

  1. Ian MacDougall says:

    Hang on there, Roger!
    Trump is for a new round of protectionism, while Reagan & Co invented ‘Reaganomics’: 180 degrees apart.

    • rogerfranklin says:

      Ian, you must have forgotten how The Gipper brought in short-term tariffs to save the US motorcycle industry, notably Harley-Davidson, which re-organised and now does rather well.

      You must also have overlooked the, ahem, voluntary import quotas Ronaldus Magnus negotiated with Japanese automakers. The consequence was the establishment in the US of Japanese construction and assembly plants. Indeed, foreign car manufacturers in the US now employ more workers than the Big Three.

      • Ian MacDougall says:

        Roger:
        Harley Davidson is regarded by serious bikies as the ultimate iconic status symbol brand of bike to ride. It really does not have to compete with the Japanese (eg Honda, Yamaha to name the big ones) and European brands (eg BMW) so despised by the bikie gangs.
        So Reagan invented a Clayton’s protectionism? So much then for ‘economic rationalism’. (Remember that?) ‘Level playing fields.’ Remember them?
        ‘Economic rationalism’ means ‘have a global outlook as long as you can win something from it. Otherwise, concentrate on the short term advantage.’ And have protectionist policies.
        Japanese car manufacturers also set up here, but have steadily quit. So what you are saying is that ‘economic rationalism’ was just another short-term stunt used to gain some short-term advantage by just another lot of short-term thinkers?

        • pgang says:

          Serious bikies? You’ve got to be kidding. Clearly you don’t ride.

          • Ian MacDougall says:

            Depends how you define a ‘serious bikie’ I suppose.
            I don’t have an on-road licence, but I happen to own 4 bikes: a Honda Auto-Ag, two Honda quad bikes, and a marvellous Aseako electric bike very good for riding round paddocks; and when I get a small trailer for it, it will be damn near perfect. And oddly, every time I encounter a squadron of Hells Angels or something similar, they are all on Harleys.

      • pgang says:

        I didn’t realise Ron was to blame for saving those two wheeled piles of junk, useful only as boat anchors. I don’t like him anymore.

        “…there’s “only one Australia in the world stupid enough to buy our trash.” ” Ha ha, indeed.

  2. en passant says:

    Yes, our unemployed should be able to source and buy cheaper mousetraps from low wage countries, rather than make them ourselves.

    “The handsome T-shirt, in Republican red and bearing the Trump name above his campaign slogan, ‘Make America Great Again’, bears a label proclaiming it was made in Honduras – imported tariff-free under the NAFTA pact”

    In the 1970′s (while studying economics at university) globalisation was the latest cult. I wrote two papers that fitted the new paradigm: the first was on the maximisation of economic investment ans was called “Kill all the Whales.” I won’t go into the details here, but from the angle of maximising the investment Oz had in Cheynes Bay (near Albany) it made perfect economic sense that had wider applications. Basically, that we should seek to grab as much of any resource as we could before it was exhausted. The Ghost of the Club of Rome loomed large.
    The second paper followed the globalisation argument to its logical conclusion: the pro-globalists were arguing that Oz should focus on what it was best at and let others do the mundane things like heavy engineering, manufacturing and providing personal services. I suggested that as we were not the cheapest at producing food, we should basically import all our food. Cars were (even back then) cheaper to import from Japan and Europe than make here. The Oz industries survived because they were subsidized and protected, so they would have to go. Smelters and refining were polluting and energy intensive so we would have to close them down.
    My conclusion was that as Asians were far better at personal services from waitresses, to nurses, to hoteliers and health we should leave it to them. My conclusion was that as Oz was only the best at some tiny specialized sciences, so all but less than 2,000 of us were a parasitic blight on the world and that we should downsize our population by 14M people by selling Oz to the highest bidder and become nomads until the money ran out and we were willing to get to work by accepting Third of Fourth World standards.
    After much debate I was reluctantly granted a ‘C’ for both papers. Nobody pointed out the massive error in my logic, they simply avoided the argument altogether and returned to chanting the mantra of the cult.

    How was I to know my sceptical, contrarian undergraduate papers would become the blueprint for the demise of Oz. Honestly, I was just having fun …

    I am sure someone with lots of knowledge and a lot of degrees in Economics can logically point out the error of my ways. I can wait …

  3. Peter says:

    Roger. I think there is just a hopeless misunderstanding of Trump’s potions in various areas. He is a negotiator. Bid for corporate taxes of 15% and settle for less. Threaten to walk away from NAFTA to get a better deal. Threaten China with tariffs to get concessions for US companies. Put the hard word on Europe, Japan and S.Korea to get them to stump up more for their own defence. Build the wall and get Mexico to pay for it – perhaps end up with half and half like good neighbours. He is to my mind not an unpalatable candidate but a brilliant candidate for the times. I am still believing and, of course, hoping, that he will win and drain the swamp. Surely there are sufficient numbers of Americans who will not be able to stomach more of the same dross dragging the US down. Peter

  4. Jody says:

    Why worry about what Trump thinks? He’s yesterday’s news. GONE!!!!

    What to do now, to get rid of Shrillary. (Sorry girls, but you can see why Bill went off with other women!!)

    • pgang says:

      I’m not sure where your confidence comes from Jody. Remain was a shoe-in too. The polling is all over the place and in spite of RealClearPolitics all it’s saying is that nobody knows the outcome. There is still a large chunk of undecided voters in the polls too.

      Sure, Hillary is the likely outcome according to norms, but there is nothing normal about this election.

  5. pgang says:

    The MSM have already called the election for Hillary. It’s ridiculous, nobody knows what’s going to happen.

    The Australian today has about 7 articles blaming Trump for all of America’s problems. Unbelievable.

  6. pgang says:

    Oh, and of course the last 5 years were the hottest on record according to the UN. This is the world of make-believe that we live in.

  7. Bran Dee says:

    Cleverly has en passant written on why we should not try to manufacture anything in Australia. However no one has mentioned how our industrial relations and our labour awards and heavily unionised industry would make us uncompetetive.
    Where is Journalist Paul Sheehan who wrote on Dec 19, 2013 how the court of Justice Mordacai Bromberg by its ruling on Toyota would close down automobile manufacture in Australia. Mordy Bromberg it is reported had been a Labor lawyer and an unsuccessful ALP candidate for the Federal seat of Burke. We recall with dismay how he delivered the judgement on the Andrew Bolt racial vilification case. It does show that Australia also needs a Trump as we had our Shrillary in Julia and judge Bromberg it is said was a Gillard-Rudd appointee.