Poor Donald Trump.
He has had to apologise for hurt feelings. He has had to reshuffle his campaign team. He has been kicked so often by the press that he is starting to hide behind chairs, like a university president.
Here at the Diary, we favour lost causes, diehards, and underdogs.
‘The Donald’ may soon qualify on all three counts.
We will return to the Big Top in a moment…and elaborate on why this year’s presidential election is really a ‘Clash of Myths’.
Meanwhile, nothing much to report from the markets.
Nothing much to report from Ouzilly, either. The last of the family leaves this weekend. Then we will be empty-nesters again.
Like parents everywhere, we wonder how much to interfere in the lives of our young adult children.
Say something? Or keep quiet? Offer fatherly advice? Or let them figure it out for themselves?
Father tends to be more laissez faire. Mother is more ‘activist’, more ‘interventionist’. Both want to help. But both are aware that they can’t protect their children from life.
‘Wisdom is the knowledge you need to avoid serious mistakes,’ says father, gravely.
‘Where do you get wisdom?’ asks the son.
‘From making mistakes,’ comes the answer.
But back to national politics…
As we mentioned two days ago, if you want to enjoy the next three months, we suggest you think of the election campaign as entertainment.
It is a circus — with clowns, pratfalls, high-wire acts, and freaks aplenty.
‘But wait,’ you may protest. ‘This is a serious matter. We have to be good citizens and decide the future of the country…responsibly.’
Yes…well…it may be flattering to think so. But nobody really cares what we think…and it doesn’t really matter anyway.
The biggest myth of all is that elections turn politics into a kind of market, where voters cast their ballots like people bidding at an auction; we don’t always get the best deal, but it’s the only ‘fair way’.
Markets discover prices honestly.
People bid with their own money when they spot a need or an opportunity. And they take the consequences when they make a mistake and adjust their bids — always learning…always correcting themselves…and always moving forward.
The worst of them lose everything and are knocked out of the bidding altogether; the best stay at it until they, too, go broke…or retire.
Elections are bogus.
Most voters don’t have any idea what they are bidding on. Half of them have no money to bid with. Most are merely trying to get something for nothing. Others just want to force others to do as they tell them.
When voters make a mistake, everyone suffers…even those who ‘bought’ the other candidate. No one learns anything. And the most benighted of the candidates is elected president.
Besides, what voters think they are bidding on — wealth and power — aren’t on offer; the insiders control the important things.
But let us turn to the here and now.
Hillary on one side; Donald on the other. The myth of the ‘competent professional’ meets the myth of the ‘strong leader’.
A Red, White, and Blue Angela Merkel versus a Yankee Putin.
What challenges will the new president encounter? Will a decisive, instinctive yahoo respond better than a careful, seasoned hack?
No one knows.
Nor does anyone know how well the candidates fit the myth.
Is Hillary really a competent professional? Is Donald really a strong leader? Or are they just caricatures…frauds pretending to be myths?
The most vivid illustration of clashing myths we have seen in recent times was the marvellous performance orchestrated at the Democratic National Convention.
One of the most enduring myths — in almost all countries — is that of the ‘fallen hero’. It doesn’t matter who he was…or what he was supposed to be fighting for…or which side he was fighting on: If he died in war, he is a ‘fallen hero’.
The ancient Greeks believed there was no better way to die than in battle. Dying in battle gave a kind of honour and immortality that you couldn’t get otherwise.
The Spartans, for example, made headstones only for men who died in battle or women who died in childbirth.
And in every village of France you will find a monument to ‘Nos Héros Morts Pour La Patrie’. Usually, it is inscribed with dozens…or hundreds…of names of the soldiers who died in the trenches of the First World War.
And, everywhere, it is common practice to summon the ghosts of fallen heroes in politics. Pericles did it in his famous funeral oration. And so did Team Hillary when it brought out the parents of a Muslim-American soldier killed in Iraq…
Myth versus myth
Donald Trump took the bait.
He raised another still-inchoate opposing myth: That there is something un-American or untrustworthy about Muslims.
Hillary bet correctly that the ‘fallen hero’ myth was stronger than the ‘bad Muslims’ myth. If you believe the polls, Donald sank; Hillary rose.
But wait… What about the candidates’ policies?
What about the Wall? What about better trade deals? What about the cost of a college education? What about Russia and the Middle East?
Surely, voters have a clear choice?
Alas, no. As segregationist politician George Wallace once put it, in the things that matter ‘there’s hardly a dime’s worth of difference’ between Democrats and Republicans.
For instance, there will be no wall built, regardless of who is elected. ‘For the first time since the Great Depression,’ reports the Washington Post, ‘more Mexicans are leaving the U.S. than entering.’
What would be the point of the Wall? To keep Mexicans from returning home?
Nor is there any such thing as a ‘better deal’ in foreign trade. There is either free trade…or there are crony trade deals.
Both candidates will angle for more crony deals. Both candidates promise huge infrastructure spending programs, too.
Will one be better at selecting these boondoggles than the other?
No one knows.
Neither candidate will make substantial changes. The tax system is tightly controlled by special interests working for the Parasitocrats.
That won’t change, no matter who sits in the Oval Office.
But let us turn to foreign policy.
Here is where the myths really collide. We know what Hillary will do — she’ll continue to bomb, drone, spend, and meddle. She’ll continue the failed policies of the Bush/Obama regimes.
Donald promises a new assessment. NATO? Israel? Russia? He’s not so sure.
This has so rattled the Republican neo-con warmongers that many — such as Kagan, Kirchick, Negroponte — have gone over to Hillary. They’ve gotten together with the Democrat’s mythmakers — including Krugman in the New York Times — to suggest that Donald is a ‘Siberian candidate.’
Here, they’re taking mythmaking to a whole new level: a myth counterattack.
Former CIA Director Michael Morell, writing in the New York Times, accused Trump of being ‘an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.’
(Hmmm…we can imagine a ‘witless agent’. But an agent who takes orders wittingly? That is, he takes orders without realising it? That is a challenge!)
Donald is said to be tight with Putin; his daughter even vacations with Putin’s mistress, according to the press reports. (Mr Trump and Mr Putin have never met, despite the widely reported ‘bromance’.)
Does this mean anything?
Team Hillary is betting that the ‘Bad Russians’ myth is stronger than the ‘Good Strong Man’ myth.
Next up: A guy who can put four billiard balls in his mouth at the same time!
For The Daily Reckoning, Australia
From the Archives…