Monthly Archives: December 2016

5 Resistance Resolutions

As we enter a perilous new year, here are five resistance resolutions:

1.Practice resistance each day.  Political resistance is an American tradition; “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”  Take a stand for democracy.  Slow down and focus.  Resist.

If you’ve experienced a life-threatening disease, the process will be familiar.  Live one day at a time.  Focus on the essentials: taking care of yourself and regaining your health.  Trump is a democracy-threatening disease. Focus on taking care of yourself and regaining democracy.

Perhaps begin each day with an aphorism: “I am a patriot;” “Actions speak louder than words;” “It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end;” “I will not let Trump defeat me.”  Whatever works for you.

Follow with a simple act of defiance.  For example, resolve to not listen to news for 24 hours.  Resolve to add another name to your “Boycott Trump Donors” list.  Join a march or demonstration.  Send $ to the resistance.  Etcetera.

Above all, resist the Trump propaganda machine that repeats lies over and over until many Americans believe they are the truth.  Resist the “normalization” of Trump.  What is happening is not normal; America is experiencing a right-wing coup.

2. Acknowledge that you are grieving.  Trump’s victory was a traumatic event, a death of sorts.  Place yourself along the continuum of the five stages of grief; are you in denial, anger, bargaining, depression, or acceptance?

If you are stuck in depression, acknowledge where you are.  Seek assistance.

In terms of this traumatic event, “acceptance” means “recognizing what is true.” What is true is that a narcissistic, paranoid, white-supremacist bloviator is going to become President of the United States.

Recognizing what is true doesn’t imply passivity or acquiescence. Remember Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” In this situation, acceptance means recognizing what is true and, then, moving forward with resistance.  Trump may become President but we do not have to accept his authority.  We do not have to believe what he says or support his actions.

Resistance requires serenity, courage, and wisdom.  Get your shit together, the resistance needs you.

3. Spend time in nature.  Instead of watching the news or checking Facebook, take a walk.  Get away from the hustle and bustle of urban life and, for however brief a period, immerse yourself in nature.  Take a deep breath and look around.  This is what we are fighting for.

Read Wendell Berry’s poem, “The Peace of Wild Things.” Take a break “in the grace of the world.” Ground your activism in the earth.

4.  Join with others. Developing a broad, mindful resistance movement is an exercise in community building.  First, treat your family with kindness. Don’t let yourself withdraw or lash out in redirected anger.  Embrace yourself and your loved ones.  Offer comfort.

Extend that circle of love and support to your friends and community.

Recognize that if you have been stuck in depression, or passivity, your allies may feel the same way.  Reach out with compassion.

5. Cherish your own perspective. Search for your own truth and guard it ferociously.

Recognize what you can change and find the courage to take action.  Help your friends negotiate the transition from depression to action.

On February 15, 2015, the noted neurologist, Oliver Sacks, published an essay in the New York Times, “My Own Life,” on how he had come to grips with the knowledge that he had terminal liver cancer.  (Sacks died in August.)  Sacks wrote of feeling “intensely alive” and added: “I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends.”

Now you and I are faced with the possible death of democracy.  There is no time for anything inessential.  We must focus.  We must resist.

 

Trump and Hitler

It’s impossible to read Volker Ulrich’s remarkable biography, “Hitler, Ascent: 1889-1939,” without being struck by the parallels between Adolph Hitler and Donald Trump.

1.They were both charismatic political leaders.  Watching grainy newsreel footage of Hitler speaking, it’s difficult to imagine what a hypnotic spell he cast on his pre-war German audiences.  Just as it’s difficult to understand the impact of Trump rallies on his devotees.

Ulrich says that Germans were captivated by Hitler’s passion and authenticity.  That’s what Trump followers say about him.

2. Both men gave voice to the zeitgeist of their times.  In Munich, Hitler claimed that Germany had been betrayed at the end of WWI, “stabbed in the back” by Jews.

Trump has give voice to the “Alt-Right”/Tea-Party perspective that America has been tyrannized by Obama and the liberal elite.  Trump spoke to the “Alt-Right”/Tea Party when he said, “I have joined the political arena so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people that cannot defend themselves.”

3. Both blamed the “fall” of their countries on a particular group.  For Hitler this was Jews.  For Trump this is immigrants.

Hitler conflated Jews, communists, and intellectuals.  Trump conflates undocumented immigrants and Muslims.  One of the reasons he gives for building “the wall” is to keep out terrorists.  (Trump’s national-security adviser, Mike Flynn, claims there are Arabic road signs at the southern border.)

4. Hitler and Trump repeated two principal themes.  Hitler claimed that Germany had been betrayed by Jews.  He added that for Germany to achieve its historical greatness it had to expand to the east, lebensraum. 

Trump believes that America has been betrayed by its liberal leadership and undermined by immigrants.  He claims that previous Presidents didn’t know how to negotiate deals and promises he will renegotiate everything, including agreements such as NAFTA and the Iran nuclear disarmament.

5. After building broad support among under-educated white voters, Trump and Hitler cut a deal with capitalists.  Although Hitler ran the National Socialist German Worker’s Party (NSDAP), he made it clear to German business leaders that his aims were not those of traditional socialists but rather to exterminate the threat of communism, which he claimed was led by Jews.  In 1933, when Hitler became German Chancellor, he had the support of most business leaders.

Although Trump initially started out as an outsider, after he secured the Republican nomination for President he cut a deal with conservative business leaders such as the Koch brothers, Robert Mercer, and Wall Street billionaires.

6. Both men had a penchant for telling outright lies.  Hitler blamed the 1933 Reichstag fire  on communists even though a single deranged man, Marinus van der Lubbe, was caught at the scene.  After the December, 2015, San Bernardino shootings, Trump blamed the killings on Muslims, in general, and called for shutting down entry of Muslims into the United States as well as starting a registry of American Muslims.

Observers described Hitler as a consummate actor who varied his message depending upon the audience.  Before partisan crowds he would make extreme statements about “the Jewish problem.”  Before business leaders, or the press, Hitler would moderate his message.

Trump’s most inflammatory statements have come during his speeches.  When speaking to the press he will moderate his message.  For example, Trump has told crowds that global climate change is “bunk” or “a hoax.”  When speaking to the press, he claims to have an open mind on the issue.

7. Hitler and Trump condoned violence.  From his earliest Munich beerhall days, Hitler was surrounded by the S.A. (Sturmabteilung, storm troopers), thugs and hooligans who beat hecklers and members of the political opposition.

Trump has condoned violence at this rallies, occasionally calling for hecklers to be beaten.  His Alt-Right supporters believe that the Obama Administration is tyrannical and have sanctioned armed response.

8. Both men nurture resentment.  Supposedly, Hitler had a photographic memory and never forgot a slight.  18 months after becoming German Chancellor, during “the night of the long knives,” he authorized the killing of his rivals and those he believed had slighted him.

More generally, Hitler inflamed German resentment about WWI and the great depression.  He consistently blamed  Jews.

Apparently, Donald Trump never forgets a slight.  During his campaign we saw him lash out at Judge Gonzalo Curiel, former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, and gold-star father Khizr Khan, among others.  He has advocated that Hillary Clinton be investigated and “locked up.”

More generally, Trump inflamed Alt-Right/Tea-Party resentment about what they perceive as the loss of their country.

9. Early in their careers, both Hitler and Trump were underestimated because political observers did not appreciate the power of the demagogic narrative.  Hitler was mocked because of his appearance, and lack of governmental experience.  Trump was mocked because of his appearance, and lack of governmental experience.

10. In order to secure power, Hitler and Trump changed the rules.  Hitler’s NSDAP Party never had a majority in the German parliament but Hitler continually manipulated the rules to gain increased power.  (And then, outlawed the opposition.)

Trump won the presidency, in part, because Republicans changed the rules about who could vote and the role of billionaire-driven Super PACs.  Now Trump wants to change conflict-of-interest rules so he can retain control of his business investments while sitting in the White House.

Comparing Trump and Hitler is not hyperbole.  There are chilling similarities.

From Russia With Love: Donald Trump

As Donald Trump’s inauguration looms, there’s been a lot of speculation about the nature of his relationship with Russia. Trump has frequently spoken of his admiration for the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin; Trump refers to Russia as a “partner” rather than an “adversary.”  Meanwhile, the CIA believes that Russian hackers helped Trump win the election. In addition, Trump nominated ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson to be Secretary of State largely because of Tillerson’s good relationship with Russia.  What’s going on?

First, we do not fully understand Trump’s business dealings with Russia because Trump has never released his tax returns.  On February 28th, Senator Ted Cruz said, “There have been multiple media reports about Donald’s business dealings with the mob, with the mafia. Maybe his [tax returns] show those business dealings are a lot more extensive than has been reported.” (http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/mar/02/ted-cruz/yes-donald-trump-has-been-linked-mob/) Politifact noted, “Cruz’s statement is accurate. Media reports have linked Trump to mafia bosses and mob-connected business associates for decades.”  Time magazine (http://time.com/4433880/donald-trump-ties-to-russia/), and other sources, have tied Trump to Russian oligarchs.

Writing in Alternet (http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/do-cia-revelations-mean-trump-will-be-putins-puppet?), Marty Kaplan observed: “It’s entirely conceivable that Russia has something on Trump. They may hold hundreds of millions of dollars of Trump debt. They may have spousally unsettling video of him—a KGB specialty, and a plausible Trump susceptibility. Surely the Kremlin has mapped his character disorder.”

Second, 17 US intelligence agencies believe Russian hackers helped the Trump campaign by hacking DNC emails, as well as those of Clinton Campaign Manager John Podesta, and giving them to WikiLeaks.  Recently, NBC News (http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/why-cia-thinks-russia-wanted-trump-win-n695131) reported the CIA believes Russian operators wanted Trump to win.

There’s no proof that Russian hackers corrupted voting machines or changed vote totals.  However there is abundant evidence that the hacked Democratic information, dripped out day-to-day via WikiLeaks, hurt Clinton: it kept down her favorability rating — leading to a false equivalence between Clinton and Trump — and reminded Bernie Sanders supporters why they preferred to vote for Jill Stein.

What’s going on between Trump and Russia?  Why would Russia want Trump to win the US presidency?

Russia likely sees a Trump presidency as a “twofer.” First, It would strengthen Russia’s geopolitical position.  Writing in the Washington Post (https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/the-kremlin-likes-the-hacking-attention-but-not-the-blame/2016/12/14/65279738-c177-11e6-92e8-c07f4f671da4_story.html?), David Filipov observed, “Whether or not the Kremlin is guilty of doing all the things Western accusers say it is, Russia is now considered a master purveyor of geopolitical disorder. And that, for Putin, is a win.”

Second, Trump could directly impact Russia’s economy.  Since Russia annexed Crimea and invaded eastern-Ukraine, Russia has been the subject of US and European sanctions.  These have impacted the brittle Russian economy.  The global decline in oil prices has also contributed to a Russian recession.  (In 2016, Russia’s GDP is forecasted to decline.)  The Trump Administration could render significant aid to Russia by lifting sanctions.

On the radio program, “Democracy Now” (http://www.alternet.org/environment/could-massive-russian-oil-deal-exxon-explain-why-putin-appears-have-meddled-us-election?), Amy Goodman speculated: “One of the enormous deals that Vladimir Putin and [ExxonMobil CEO] Rex Tillerson worked on was a $500 billion oil exploration partnership between Exxon and the Russian government’s oil company, Rosneft. The Obama administration blocked the deal when it imposed sanctions against Russia for its intervention in Ukraine… This deal could explain why Putin appears to have interfered in U.S. elections in favor of a Trump victory.”

What would the US get in return? As noted, it’s possible that Trump has preexisting deals with Russian oligarchs and improved relations with Russia — such as the lifting of sanctions — could benefit Trump’s businesses.

Another possibility is that Trump and his closest advisers foresee a fundamental shift of US foreign policy: Russia becoming a partner in a global war on Islam.  Writing in The Atlantic (http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/12/the-conservative-split-on-russia/510317/) Peter Beinart observed: “Trump and his advisors describe America as fighting a civilizational struggle against the enemies of the West. Seen through that very different lens, Muslims look more nefarious and Vladimir Putin looks more benign… [Trump is moving US foreign policy] away from an ideological confrontation with authoritarian Russia and toward a civilizational conflict with Islam. Trump’s choice for National Security Advisor, General Michael Flynn, has tweeted that ‘fear of Muslims is rational’ and ‘Islam is like cancer’ When asked in August about Putin, [Flynn said] that America ‘beat Hitler because of our relationship with the Russians’ and we should renew that partnership in the new world war against ‘radical Islamism.'”

Since the end of World War II, there’s been a “cold war” between the United States and Russia.  It appears that Trump wants to supplant this with a “holy war” between the United States and Islam, a war where Russia would be an active partner of the US.  For this reason, Trump appears willing to lift sanctions and make Russia a “partner.”

This major shift in US foreign policy seems a likely reason why Russia helped Trump win the presidential election.

What do Trump Voters Want?

Election exit polls tell us the typical Trump voter was white (non-Hispanic), male, older, rural, and had no college degree. But that doesn’t explain why they voted for Trump.  There were four types of Trump voters; each having different expectations.

The 2014 Pew Research Political Typology (http://www.people-press.org/2014/06/26/the-political-typology-beyond-red-vs-blue/) provides the best  categorization of American Voters.  Pew described three categories of conservative voters: “Steadfast Conservatives” (15 percent of registered voters), “Business Conservatives” (12 percent), and “Young Outsiders” (15 percent).  Since these make up 42 percent of the electorate, and Trump received 46 percent of the vote, let’s add a fourth group: “Hard-pressed Skeptics” (13 percent), assuming Trump got some of these — traditionally Democratic — voters.

1.Steadfast Conservatives: Pew says, “This overwhelmingly Republican group holds very conservative attitudes across most issues, including social policy and the size and scope of government. However, they are critical of business and Wall Street. Steadfast Conservatives also express highly negative attitudes toward immigrants and take a skeptical view of U.S. global involvement.”  Many of these are Tea-Party voters.

Steadfast conservatives saw Trump as their last chance to “save” America.  They operated under a common narrative where they saw America’s promise slipping from their reach and believed the opportunities that once belonged to them had been usurped by the undeserving: immigrants, people of color, homosexuals, feminists…  Trump spoke to them when he said, “I have joined the political arena so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people that cannot defend themselves.”

Key Trump message: I will make America great again.  Key constituent expectation: White Power.

2. Business Conservatives: Pew says, “Business Conservatives are traditional small-government Republicans. [They] think that government is almost always wasteful and it does too much better left to businesses and individuals. Business Conservatives differ from Steadfast Conservatives in their strong support for Wall Street and business more generally.”

If the Steadfast Conservatives are “the 99 percent,” the Business Conservatives represent “the one percent.”  They share a disdain for Washington and “the liberate elite.”  They venerate capitalism and believe the US would be better off in the hands off business leaders.

Key Trump message: I will get government out of your way by lowering taxes and eliminating regulations.  Key constituent expectation: neutered government.

At the beginning of the Republican presidential nomination process, Ted Cruz was the champion of the Steadfast Conservatives, while Jeb Bush was the champion of the Business Conservatives.  In the end, Trump defeated them both and managed to unite the disparate wings of the GOP; Trump convinced Republican voters he was an outsider who would “blow up” Washington.

3. Young Outsiders: Pew says, “This relatively young, largely independent group holds a mix of conservative and liberal views. And while more lean toward the Republican Party than the Democratic Party, Young Outsiders express unfavorable opinions of both major parties. They are skeptical of activist government; a substantial majority views government as wasteful and inefficient… A large majority of Young Outsiders (81%) think ‘poor people today have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything in return’.”

Key Trump message: I understand you because I am an outsider.  Key constituent expectation: good jobs.

What unites Steadfast Conservatives, Business Conservatives, and Young Outsiders is their disdain for government.  Beyond that, they have somewhat different objectives.  Trump, with his rambling often inconsistent rhetoric was able to convince each group that he represented their interests.

4. Hard-Pressed Skeptics: Trump built his winning coalition by including just enough Hard-Pressed Skeptics.  Pew says, “Deeply financially-stressed and distrustful of government, Hard-Pressed Skeptics lean toward the Democratic Party but have reservations about both political parties… Hard-Pressed Skeptics are dissatisfied with conditions in the country and their communities… [They] have the lowest family incomes of any of the typology groups.”

Trump reached these workers with the promise he would bring their jobs back by cancelling bad trade deals and penalizing companies who move good jobs out of America.

Key Trump message: I will bring your jobs back.  Key constituent expectation: good jobs.

Immigration and Race: Pew observes that most of the four Trump groups have very conservative beliefs about immigration and race.  “Steadfast Conservatives view immigrants as a burden (73%) and as a threat to traditional values (81%)… About eight-in-ten [Hard-Pressed Skeptics] say immigrants are a burden because they take jobs, housing and health care.”

The Trump groups believe the “civil-rights era” should be over,  “About eight-in-ten Business (83%) and Steadfast Conservatives (81%) agree that the U.S. has made the changes needed to give blacks equal rights with whites.”

Steadfast Conservatives are the most demonstrably racist of the four groups.

Expectations: Steadfast Conservatives expect Trump to “build the wall” and to expel undocumented immigrants from the US.  Business Conservatives expect Trump to cut taxes, eliminate regulations, and disband Federal agencies that are perceived to be anti-business — such as the EPA.  Young Outsiders and Hard-Pressed Skeptics expect good jobs.

Trump may be able to build part of a wall, and expel some undocumented, and cut taxes and eliminate regulations, but he will find big-time job creation a more difficult challenge.  As I noted last month (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bob-burnett/trumps-first-mistake_b_13044048.html) Trump seems unlikely to expend his political capital on a massive publicly-funded infrastructure — which is the one proven way to quickly create hundreds of thousands of decent jobs.

Trump will play to his Steadfast Conservative and Business Conservative bases.  He will disappoint (and disgust) the rest of the electorate, which will be an opportunity for Democrats.

Donald Trump, Cult Leader

12

Donald Trump’s unexpected presidential win is best understood as a pseudo-religious event.  Trump voters saw November 8th as their last chance to “save” America.  Out of desperation they joined the cult of Trump.

A couple of days after the election, Washington Post writer Chris Cillizza (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/11/10/the-13-most-amazing-things-in-the-2016-exit-poll/?utm_term=.4bac8d24c271) analyzed the exit polls and concluded: “Just 1 in 3 voters said they thought the country was ‘generally going in the right direction’… among the two-thirds of people who said things were ‘seriously off on the wrong track,’ Trump took 69 percent.”

Writing in the Huffington Post, Steve Rosenfeld (http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/these-15-startling-election-takeaways-reveal-terrified-electorate-resulted-president?akid=14957.20572.9O-EU2&rd=1&src=newsletter1068265&t=6) augmented this analysis: “Six in ten (60%) Republicans and 66% of Trump voters believe the election represented the last opportunity to arrest America’s decline.”

This finding should not come as a surprise; for months national polls have indicated that a majority of Americans see the US headed in the wrong direction.  What is surprising is the intensity of these feelings, the desperation.  Rosenfeld observed: “A majority (56%) of Republicans and 61% of Trump voters say that the policies of the Democratic Party constitute a dangerous threat to the country.”

Writing in Press Think, New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen (http://pressthink.org/2016/11/miss-bigger-missed-story-final-reflections-trump-press-2016/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Democracy%20Lab%20Weekly%20Brief%2C%20November%2028%2C%202016&utm_term=%2ADemocracy%20Lab) observed that running through the narrative of the Tea Party movement, and Trump supporters, has been the notion of “impending tyranny.”  Rosen asks: “If we credit the observation that a great many Americans drawn to the Tea Party live in fear that the United States is about to turn into a tyranny, with rigged elections, loss of civil liberties, no more free press, a police state… can we also credit the professional attitude that refuses to say whether this fear is reality-based?”

Many Trump voters regarded the Obama Administration as tyrannical.  Since Obama became President, conservatives sought to discredit him and depicted him negatively.  Last year a CNN poll (http://www.politifact.com/punditfact/statements/2015/nov/23/arsalan-iftikhar/do-59-percent-americans-believe-barack-obama-musli/) asked voters, “Do you happen to know what religion Barack Obama is?” and 43 percent of Republicans responded that the President is a Muslim (another 25 percent were not sure).  For several years, polls have indicated that a substantial part of electorate not only dislikes President Obama but also regards him as a threat.

Donald Trump plugged into this irrational fear and used it as the basis for a cultish political movement.  There are five aspects of the Trump cult:

1.It’s based on Trump: Trump is a charismatic leader who uses his personal appeal to fuel his demagoguery. In his Republican Convention speech, Trump said, “I have joined the political arena so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people that cannot defend themselves. Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.”  On November 8th, voters weren’t attracted to Trump’s policies or his competence — exit polls showed that only 38 percent believed Trump to be “qualified” to be President — it was his charisma, the belief Trump will “make America great again.”

2. The Trump vision is apocalyptic: Trump paints a dark picture of America — “we’re losing everywhere,” “the rest of the world is laughing at us” — and promises “I alone can fix it.”

Remember that a recent Newsweek poll found: “55 percent of Americans believe the Rapture is real, and a Pew Research Center survey revealed that 27 percent of U.S. Christians believe a related event, Jesus’ return to earth, will ‘definitely’ happen by 2050.”  A large percentage of voters have an apocalyptic frame-of-mind.  (In the Spring of 2016, a prophesy circulated on conservative Christian websites [http://www.christianheadlines.com/blog/2011-prophecy-claims-god-chose-trump-to-save-america.html] that “Donald Trump is the man God has chosen to lead America.”)  Trump voters believe America is teetering on the edge of the chasm.

3. The Cult of Trump is not reality-based:  Writing in Press Think, Jay Rosen observed that during the George W. Bush Administration a critical distinction was made between news that was “reality-based” and news that created by those in power; Bush operatives boasted, “When we act, we create our own reality.”

Rosen continued, “Trump’s campaign was openly intended to distort reality because that is a show of power. Power over his followers. Over the other candidates he humiliated and drove from the race… Trump uses rhetoric to erode people’s trust in facts, numbers, nuance, government and the news media.”

4. It has it’s own media.  The Trump cult has its own media separate from the mainstream media.  These sources — such as Breitbart and Fox News — don’t question Trump.  They are not “reality based,” they are “Trump based.”

Progressives often observe that conservatives operate in a different information “silo” than we do.  It’s more accurate to state that Trump voters operate in an information universe that is not empirical.  It is emotional and based upon what Trump says and does.

5. The cult of Trump is bigoted and angry: Because the cult is based upon Trump’s personality, it mirrors his behavior: it sanctions bigotry, bullying, and violence.   Donald Trump believes that America’s promise is being stolen by a mishmash of Washington politicians, “coastal elites,” immigrants, and random undesirables.  His followers believe the same.

Trump’s followers don’t recoil when he uses Twitter to lash out at a Judge or a Miss Universe contestant or China, because this is behavior the cult has grown accustomed to.  This is part of his charisma.  For the true believers, Trump “telling it like it is” shows strength. His incoherence shows authenticity.

Trump’s behavior will not change when he becomes President.  What America sees is what America gets.  Donald Trump, cult leader.

Trump’s Puppeteers

Rebekkah and Robert Mercer

Rebekah and Robert Mercer

When historians work out the details of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential victory, the most important date is likely not to be October 28th — when FBI Director Comey announced he had reopened the Hillary Clinton email kerfuffle — but August 19th when Paul Manafort resigned as Trump campaign director. While Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon replaced Manafort, the real change happened behind the scene when reclusive billionaire Robert Mercer and his daughter, Rebekah Mercer, took control of the Trump campaign.

Who are Robert and Rebekah Mercer?  What does their ascendancy mean for the Trump Administration?

70-year-old Robert Mercer is a computer scientist famed for his research in machine-translation algorithms.  In 1993 Robert joined Long-Island-based Renaissance Technologies, which became the most successful quantitative hedge fund; Mercer is now its co-CEO.  Recently Robert was identified as the largest Republican donor in the 2016 presidential contest.  His political giving is directed by his 42-year-old daughter, Rebekah.

Before the Mercers took over the Trump campaign, they funded the unsuccessful presidential bid of Texas Senator Ted Cruz.  Cruz suspended his campaign on May 3rd, after losing the Indiana primary, and lost the favor of the Mercers with his July 20th “vote your conscience speech” at the Republican convention.  The Mercers renamed their superPAC “Make America Number 1” and shifted its focus to Trump.  By election day they had invested more than $15.5 million in the superPAC.

The Mercer’s enormous investments in Cruz and Trump reflect the ultra-conservative philosophy of Robert and Rebekah, and give us a good idea of what to expect from the Trump administration.

1. Contempt for Washington.  The Mercers believe Washington is corrupt and look down on most Washington politicians (and the “coastal elites”).  It’s no accident that both Cruz and Trump campaigned as outsiders who would “drain the swamp.”

2. Radical tax reform: Cruz urged scrapping the current tax system and replacing it with a national flat tax augmented by a sales tax.  Trump has called for radical simplification of the tax system and reducing corporate taxes to 15 percent.  (The Mercers favored eliminating certain tax laws that pertain to hedge funds.)  Under the Trump Administration look for a return to “trickle-down economics” with massive tax cuts that primarily benefit the rich and powerful.

3. Entitlement reform: Cruz called for replacing the current Social Security scheme with a private system similar to that proposed by President George W. Bush.  Both Cruz and Trump have called for scrapping Obamacare and making fundamental changes to Medicare.  With massive tax cuts there will be massive deficits unless there are reductions in federal spending.

4. Reduction of discretionary spending: Cruz called for the elimination of the Departments of Education, Commerce, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, plus the Internal Revenue Service.  Trump seems open to such changes and has called for the elimination of the Environmental Protection Agency.

5. Immigration Reform: Trump and Cruz took a very hard line on immigration.  Trump continues to call for construction of a wall along the US-Mexico border and deportation of undocumented immigrants.  (The sweep of Trump’s deportation initiative is TBD.)

6. Islamophobia: Trump famously advocated blocking all Muslims from entering the country.  Rebekah Mercer is known to be a supporter of Lt. General Mike Flynn, who was recently appointed Trump’s National Security Adviser.  Flynn has argued, “Islam is a political ideology.” There’s a strong strain of Islamophobia among Mercer advocates and it’s likely Trump will push for a national Muslim registry.

7. Interventionist Foreign Policy: In addition to supporting Lt. General Mike Flynn, Rebekah Mercer is known to be a strong advocate of (former Bush Administration Ambassador to the United Nations) John Bolton.  Like Trump and Flynn, Bolton sees Islam as an existential threat.  Bolton is an advocate of an interventionist foreign policy.  Recently, he wrote (https://www.aei.org/publication/next-presidents-foreign-policy-priorities/): “The prospect that terrorists could receive weapons of mass destruction risks the perfect storm of more 9/11s but with far more tragic consequences. Moving vigorously to eliminate the rising proliferation tidal wave will either be the hallmark of Trump’s presidency — or possibly its epitaph.” Following Flynn and Bolton’s advice, Trump will likely attempt to cancel the Iran nuclear agreement and be more confrontational with China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia.

8. Climate Change: Trump has called global climate change “a hoax.”  Politico reports that the Mercers “have given at least $1.4 million to organizations that cast doubt on climate change science.” (http://www.politico.com/story/2016/11/rebekah-mercer-donald-trump-231693).  Look for Trump to back away from Global Climate Change agreements and to suspend climate-change-related research and regulations.

9. The Press: Robert and Rebekah Mercer have waged war on the mainstream media.  The Daily Beast (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/09/13/inside-the-mercers-diy-media-empire.html) reported that “From 2008 to 2014, the [Mercer] foundation gave millions to groups looking to change American media.” Among these donations was $7.5 million to the Media Research Council — which generated the “Clinton Cash” book and movie — and $10 million to Breitbart News (http://www.newsweek.com/2016/12/02/robert-mercer-trump-donor-bannon-pac-523366.html).  Look for Trump to insulate his Administration from the mainstream media and to favor ultra-conservative outlets such as Breitbart.

10. White Supremacy: According to the New Yorker magazine, (http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/10/17/kellyanne-conways-political-machinations) since 2011, top-Trump-insider Steve Bannon “has served a political adviser to the Mercers.”  The New Yorker article describes Bannon as “the poser child for [the] white, nationalistic, alt-right world view.” Look for the Trump Administration to continue to curry favor with white supremacists.

Expect the worst from Trump/Mercer.