This is an advanced draft of speech and speech notes to be delivered at the University of Oslo June 19, 2019.
DRAFT OF SPEECH ELEMENTS FOR NORWAY TALK JUNE 19: INCLUDES QUESTIONS
INTRODUCTION- GREETINGS, GIVE NAMES association. I am honored to speak with you today as one American giving what I hope is an informed guided tour of recent events in our country, how they came to be and where this once more respectable Superpower entered its present chaotic condition. Our esteemed President said “we need More Norwegians” emigrating to the United States. Do we have any volunteers? Perhaps he should have said: “we need to be more Like Norway.” But then, he would never Say that.
What I propose to do is in 3 parts. For about 35 minutes I would like to share with you ideas on how the US got into its present situation: both in domestic politics and foreign policy. For about 15 minutes I would like you to ask me about what you would like to know about the current insanity and your view of Norway’s View of this predicament. Finally with the remaining 10 minutes time I would like to ask You volunteers from the audience to tell Me some answers to questions I have about the future of the EU, Brexit, and all that.
- Where are we? How did we get here? Stress historical precedents (Reagan, Norquist, Rove, the Bushes, the right Wing press, FOX, Thomas Frank recommend)
Stress less for now things like: Russian collusion, Mueller Report, polarization, Trumps idiosyncrasies, angry whites… look at the longer term picture
- Instead of launching into a list of Trump oddities and destructive policy and aggressive posturing: start with a list of why someone so improbable would defeat Hillary Clinton and the background conditions that made his win possible, if only by a razor thin margin.
- Then after laying the groundwork for a Trump unlikely win, and his appeal to various factions (elaborate) and also briefly sketch out how the electoral college is tilted in favor of the Republicans in recent years
- Try to differentiate actual policies of the past 2 to 10 years Obama Trump) and the various incomprehensible buffoonish and crude, crass qualities of the man…. Note: abortion, traditional values, Machismo, America first, immigration, and other issues that Trump capitalizes on…the man may be very odd, perhaps unbalanced, certainly narcissistic, but not stupid
- CRITICAL IMPACT of electoral college and Senate as a problem for todays Democrats and Progressives. The minimum number of electors per state is 3 and all states have 2 senators: The top ten states (CA, TX< NY< FLA, etc.) have 20 senators and represent a total of 152,000,000 people. The bottom 10 states in population (WY, AK, VT) each have 2 senators (also 20 total) and represent 9,364,000 people.
The system was designed in 1787 so that small former colonies like Delaware and Georgia would have equal representation in the Senate to the larger populated states like Virginia and Massachusetts. Today effectively: a senator in Wyoming would be representing about 290,000 people (577,000/ 2), while a senator from California would be representing 20 million people, although in fact both senators are elected by all of the voters in each state.
In The electoral college, which determines who wins the presidency, the minimum vote per state is 3. There are 8 states with populations small enough to give them 3 votes each or 24 votes. The 8 states with the largest populations have 206 electors total 139 million people The 8 states with 24 electors have 7 million people. So an electoral vote in one of the largest states represents about 10 times as many people as in the smaller states.
The point is that the US president can be elected not only without winning the popular vote (2016 Clinton 65,845,063 Trump 62,980,160 ) but that the small states are over-represented in the electoral college because of a large number of states with 3,4 or 5 votes. These tend to be rural states with an increasingly conservative voter base, with the exception of Vermont and Hawaii. Again, this strongly favors the Republicans.
To be fair the top 12 states in population could win the electoral college, the top 16 would guarantee Democratic victory. Or Republican. Theoretically
But these top 12 states include CA, NY, PA, IL, normally Democratic. Only TX for now is reliably Republican. FL and NC can go either way,
2 AMERICAS 2019:
- Optimistic, though less so than in the pre-Vietnam period; some of this if from the humming economy, which Trump takes full credit for even though there were 90 months of economic recovery under the Obama administration before Trump took office
- Strong civil society, grassroots activism, lower crime rates; violent crime nationally has fallen the the level of the 1960s in spite of the spectacular shootings that we seem to produce almost on a weekly basis
- Appreciation of great variety: cultures and landscape
- Immense wealth so the potential for opportunity for all: U.S. government spending is $4.7 trillion (2019); Kennedy’s first budget in 1961 was about $100 BILLION. The Kennedy budget would be about $800 billion in today’s terms or about 1/6 of the current budget. Today the U.S. spends about $660 billion for defense and veterans expenses.
Below your Graph of US discretionary spending I have listed items that could be provided by the government if the defense budget were trimmed by 28%.It is generally agreed, even among so called defense spending “hawks” [you might say “highk”/hauk] that the defense budget could be cut by 20% with absolutely no effect on its real power. There is much waste and redundancy [overflødighet/ohver-flu-dee-et] in that budget.
- Perception (declining) of American exceptionalism, destiny (EXPAND)
- Dramatically increased inequality of wealth and prosperity even in the midst of what appears to be unprecedented prosperity
- What has been characterized as an infection of the collective mind, Trumpism and unprecedented polarization and backsliding In a bewildering range of arenas to be discussed: but mainly pro-business and wealth friendly policy changes
- Disturbing social indicators: decline of middle class, lower crime but still high incarceration rates, increases in drug abuse, suicide, divorce, gun crime, income and wealth differentials, traffic deaths, bankruptcies and foreclosures; mental illness, homelessness
- Americans are seriously divided over questions such as government regulation, taxes, income redistribution, immigration and race relations, abortion and women’s health—and role in society; tolerance, sexuality for example
- Although Americans as a whole are not particularly concerned with world opinion of them, their opinion of themselves and the country’s future seems to be in decline. The reasons for this decline are widely disputed. There are multiple ironies in Trump’s slogan “Make America great, again.”
There are far too many statistics to elaborate on in the short time we have, but we can offer a few. (Quip by Mark Twain about lies, damned lies, and statistics.) But we can be fairly sure that there have been about 3 million traffic deaths in the U.S. since 1920, and perhaps 35 million world-wide since that time. It is hard to get reliable numbers. 2 statistics stand out: 1. In 2013 the World Health Organization estimated 1.25 million world traffic deaths for that year alone; 2. Since World War II it is likely that half the number of deaths in that conflict have occurred on the world’s roads….
A third statistic that is simply curious is that in any 4 week period following the September 11 attacks on the U.S., more people died in traffic accidents than in those attacks.
BULLETS FOR TOPICS TO DISCUSS & DEVELOP
- SPECIFIC TO TRUMP- I want to try to move the needle a bit and discuss the Trump’s rise to power from his unlikely strengths and appeal. You like most academic audiences are probably more used to getting information on the obvious flaws in Trump the candidate and Trump the chief executive. We will get to those soon enough
- CANDIDATE TRUMP-Who did he appeal to, given his personal qualities: rich playboy, controversial real estate ventures, reality TV star, 3 high profile wives etc? In spite of his bullying, New York tough-guy ways he overcame the NEVER TRUMP traditional conservative to moderately conservative wing of the Republican Party.
You have to remember that the country had 8 years of Nixon/Ford, 8 years of the More Conservative Reagan, and the slightly less conservative George H.W, Bush. And then the 8 years of George W. Bush, although many still believe that his first election in 2000 by 538 Florida votes (exactly the number, by the way of electors in the electoral college!—pure coincidence unless your are fascinated by numerical coincidences).
Trump projected a macho image much as Reagan had, one favored by Republicans. It happens that for these 2 presidents the machismo was more style than substance. With Hillary Clinton running as a female, assertive, tough, and highly accomplished technocrat, not charismatic.
But Trump’s appeal in the campaign was not simply to ignorant, negative, provincial voters, although those were a part of has base:
Following are some key voting groups that he convinced that he was the better choice than Clinton and will use in 2020:
- PRO ABORTION RIGHTS V. ANTI ABORTION RIGHTS. Trump was in fact the better choice for anti-abortion voters and these were more than 40% of the American electorate in 2016. Of course there a gradations of
Approval or disapproval based on medical circumstances, religious beliefs, etc. but the terms pro life and pro choice are actual fairly useful terms. Although many people are not completely pro-life (fetus as baby) many, IDENTIFY as largely anti- abortion, in the 35 to 40% range
- HARD LINE ON IMMIGRATION: Many of the same people who oppose
Abortion in these 25 mostly total states with two Senators each (50 of 100), are also sensitive to changes in their world caused by … million immigrants coming into the country. To oversimplify: they want restrictions for 100 different reasons. The perception is that people from Mexico, or India, or Africa, or the Caribbean Islands will have special skills, will work long hours and for less pay than working class or “marginal” Americans
- GUNS- Many of these same people who oppose abortion and want much less immigration also oppose restrictions on gun ownership. Guns are one of many divisive issues in the US. Norway experienced its own tragic mass shooting in 2011 of course. But in the US there have been more than 200 school shootings with 400 deaths since 2011. Between 2006 and 2017 there have been approximately 320 shootings of 4 or more people totaling about 1450 dead.
- CLIMATE CHANGE/ PRO- CARBON FUELS- Trump refused to sign the Paris accords on climate change and global warming and has not shown an interest in measures to slow this rolling catastrophe. One reputable survey showed that 30% of Americans were “very worried about climate change” but fewer were willing to spend large sums to prevent it, These figures present an opportunity for Trump because he is closer to mainstream opinion on actually doing something about climate change.
- ANTI-FREE TRADE- Americans are conflicted on free trade. If you ask a general question about the value of free trade agreements, there will generally be more than 50% support. But more specific questions like the impact of cheap foreign goods on American economic well-being the support will drop. Many Americans are content to shop for cheap foreign products while criticizing trade agreements that send jobs abroad or hurt U.S. labor. Trump’s general anti-free trade attitude, his withdrawal from or modification of the Trans-Pacific and NAFTA Agreements and his pro-tariff policies are moderately popular and his surprisingly skilled subsidy of farmers or industries hurt in the short term by such measures helps him. Loss of control of the House of Representatives to the Democrats may complicate these efforts.
- EUROPE/BREXIT- Of course you are aware of Trump’s partially successful insistence that European NATO countries increase their financial support for NATO. Trump has generally been supportive of Brexit and nationalist foreign policies generally and less supportive of American alliances of any President since the 1920s.
- Trump has a certain appeal to Americans for delivering on his campaign promises and his America First policies. His lack of criticism of foreign strong men, whom he sometimes identifies with, has hurt him with voters and groups outside of his base of support, but these are Democrats and people who would not be likely to support Trump anyway. The so called mainstream media have been overwhelmingly critical of Trump. His public support is the lowest of any president since the Gallup poll began—averaging about 45% and only above 50% for a few of the 880 days he has been in office as of today.
TRUMP’S OPPOSITION AND LIABILITIES
It must be said that American progressives/liberals have existed for 20 months in a kind of living nightmare. My experience is that 4 out of five dinner conversations have circled back to the sheer Narcissism and mental strangeness of the elected Chief Executive. There have been questions about whether trump actually one an lection when his opponent got almost 3 million more popular votes than he did, and he one three large states PA< MI<WI by 78,000 votes total in 2016.
I am not alone in endorsing a theory, a serious one in political science, that when an unprecedented politician lies When he does not need to, congenitally, as a reflex and promotes policies almost daily that alienate at least 50n % of the population, people become numb almost immune to the horror of what they are living with.
Although Trump must be credited for not sending 8000 young Americans to their deaths. Or the equivalent of killing over a million Iraqi and Afghan civilians, he has created an atmosphere where truth is always questioned. He is not exactly a Trujillo or Mussolini, but that seems due to the strong if sometimes corrupt American constitutional and legal system. He is not as intelligent as any of the last 14 presidents, possibly going back to Harding in 1921, but he is by no means stupid. And although more advisors and Cabinet members have left his 30 month administration than any President’s in American history, he still has some intelligent (we say “crafty” [give Norwegian and ask] advisors, which are now called “handlers” colloquially.
2016 US Presidential Election Map By
County & Vote Share
November 29, 2016
Map created by Magog the Ogre via Wikimedia
The map above shows the county level and vote share results of the 2016 US Presidential Election. The darker the blue the more a county went for Hilary Clinton and the darker the red the more the county went for Donald Trump. This map helps explain why Trump was able to win.
IF DEFENSE BUDGET WERE CUT BY 28%
Health insurance for $200 million Americans who currently have in adequate medical coverage. If the defense budget were reduced by $175 bullion then the 200 million Americans would have 25% more for health coverage. THE EFFICIENCIES IN THIS KIND OF 1 PAYER PROGRAM (government) would save the U.S. as a whole about $500 billion per year.
The US defense budget is larger than the next 15 defense budgets combined.
Source: THE ECONOMIST