Posts tagged politics

HuffPost: Trump – RINO or Gray Rhino?

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The failure of a final doomed attempt to prevent Donald Trump from securing the nomination at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland has brought to a close the first stage of the presidential race: a campaign defined above all by how bad humans are at recognizing and dealing with obvious problems right in front of them.

Many of Trump’s foes within the GOP have complained that Donald Trump is a RINO (Republican in Name Only), who does not hew to conservative principles. That may be true, but he’s not just a RINO. He’s a classic example of what I call a gray rhino: a big, obvious threat that we are all too likely to neglect or outright ignore until it’s too late.

The Republican presidential candidate’s inflammatory statements and encouragement of bullying have left many Americans terrified over what’s happening to our democracy. World leaders have compared him to Hitler and Mussolini and called him everything from an idiot to a demagogue to a threat to peace.

Some pundits have described the loose-tongued business mogul’s initial popularity as an outlier black swan event, referring to Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s 2007 book about the unpredictable events that can sideswipe us. But once enough people recognize that something can happen, by definition it is no longer a black swan.

Unlike the highly improbable black swan seen only in hindsight, gray rhinos are obvious risks that all too often are poorly (if at all) addressed until they are charging straight at you. Unlike the elephant in the room, gray rhinos move fast. Crucially, they give us a choice: act or get trampled.

Trump’s campaign has tapped into an entire crash (the zoologically correct term, appropriately enough) of gray rhinos: a polarized, paralyzed government; a breakdown in democracy and civil discourse; dramatic changes in the labor market; the increasing concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few; and, as might be expected, rising social and political unrest. Both white working-class voters and minority populations feel neglected and disrespected.

Basic civility, compromise and constructive engagement have fallen to the wayside, replaced by bullying, insults, race-baiting, and candidates comparing the size of their you-know-whats. Too many Americans feel that they lack the power to change things for the better. Some have dropped out of the political process altogether. Others are drawn, like moths to a flame, to strong-arm leadership and revolution, reminiscent of Latin American caudillismo, with no evidence of concrete plans to keep their promises.

Trump’s takeover of the GOP is a classic example of how the five stages of a gray rhino unfold, from denial to muddling to diagnosing to panic to action. Understanding these stages can help to understand how to face a threat staring us in the face.

Early denial of the idea that Trump could become the GOP presidential nominee was more than understandable in the summer of 2015. But as he gained momentum over the fall, denial quickly ceded to muddling: recognition that the problem existed, but failure to diagnose the problem or present a solution, much less act decisively.

By Fall 2015, Republican campaign strategists were worried enough that they drew up a “ProtectUSA” plan to stop him. But no donors took them up on it. In February, Republican governors met to talk about how to prevent the increasingly real possibility of a Trump nomination. In March, they laid out a 100-day plan to derail his campaign. In April, Ted Cruz and John Kasich announced a plan to cooperate against Trump. But it was all too little, too late.

When his last rival dropped out and Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee, the political establishment entered the fourth stage of a Gray Rhino crisis: full blown panic. Panic ought to create the impulse to action. In this case, the action the party chose was to let itself be trampled.

We’re at a new inflection point, for both the GOP and the general public.

The GOP will have to decide if the party can be rebuilt. Trump’s GOP does not seem to be ready to deal seriously with the issues that created his fan base, nor with cross-cutting fault lines within it: between those who believe the party can only survive if it is more inclusive and those who want to bring it back to the 1950s but without the optimism; and between those who believe in more trickle-down policy for the one percent and those who are sincere in their believe in growth and entrepreneurialism.

By choosing a smaller tent and utterly refusing to act presidential, Trump may be his own gray rhino.

For its part, the Democratic Party has a choice of how to deal with Trump between now and November. To stop Trump, it must face head on the obvious but neglected issues that helped to create him.

The first challenge is to avoid the GOP’s first pitfall: denial. Surely America could not possibly elect as president a bully who insults Muslims, Mexicans, women, and disabled people; who has dragged the campaign rhetoric to a high school level; and who has told so many flat-out lies and half-truths that Politifact has called his accumulated statements its 2015 Lie of the Year?

Yet millions of voters across the United States have supported him. The website Five Thirty Eight puts the odds of a Trump win at about one in three. Recall that the odds of a Brexit were just 17 percent only months before 52 percent of British voters chose to leave the European Union. A Trump win is not impossible.

Hillary Clinton is hardly muddling or complacent in the face of Trump, out-fundraising him and making it hard to ignore his less attractive traits. The Democratic Party’s full strategy will become more apparent at its upcoming national convention.

Trump may come with a silver (or is it faux gold?) lining by giving America the shake-up that it needs. Indeed, his candidacy itself has sparked a sense of urgency and soul-searching, if not yet full-blown panic, that suggests the Democrats are more likely than the GOP to act successfully than capitulate.

But even if there were no Trump, America’s underlying gray rhinos would still be there. Unless Americans succeed in addressing those issues, we will be flattened, whether by Trump or otherwise.

Originally published at Huffington Post

Observer: Why We Ignore Obvious Dangers

In this Year of the Gray Rhino, I wrote for the New York Observer about how issues that are anything but the unexpected have sideswiped the Democratic and Republican parties:

Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 1.12.49 PMThis year’s presidential campaign is full of the unexpected. Yet the underlying issues are anything but. It’s hardly news that middle- and working-class incomes have stagnated and that Americans are fed up with a government that even squabblesover an impending public health crisis like Zika. Why, then, have the country’s two leading parties been taken aback by voters who are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore?

It’s because everyone—not just politicians—underestimates the power of the obvious problems that loom right in front of us. So it’s a surprise when inaction creates unpleasant consequences. The Democratic and Republican parties are learning this lesson the hard way.

The truth is that we get into most trouble when we’ve ignored obvious problems. I call these issues “gray rhinos” because they are huge and charging right at us and ought to be harder to ignore. Yet we miss the most important information—like calling rhinos black and white even though they are all gray.

Read the full article at observer.com

 

Elected to Serve Far Away -Wall Street Journal

Three Dominicans living in New Jersey were elected recently to national legislative positions in the Dominican Republic, created precisely so that the country’s diaspora will be represented

Sumathi Reddy writes about this phenomonenon in the July 31 Wall Street Journal article, “Elected to Serve Far Away,” in which she quotes me about the significance of diaspora elected officials: “Michele Wucker, president of the World Policy Institute, said countries ‘have been reaching out to diaspora, increasingly offering them seats in Congress…, recognizing their remittances, their technical skills and their international networks are all important assets.’ ” More than a dozen countries have created similar positions, mostly over the past several years.

Those of you who have read my first book, Why the Cocks Fight, may recall the profile of a Dominican living in Washington Heights who ran for the equivalent of a seat in Congress from his home province in the Dominican Republic, but pledged to represent the more than one million Dominicans estimated to have been living in the United States and Canada at the time. More than a decade later, the country will finally be giving formal representation to these “dominicanos ausentes.”

Global HR Forum (Seoul)

Video from my comments at the Global HR Forum in Seoul, South Korea, November 2, 2011, on a panel “Are We Headed Towards Another Global Economic Crisis?” with Professor Francis Fukuyama of Stanford University, Professor Weiping Huang of Renmin University of China, and Moderator Seunghoon Lee, Professor Emeritus, Division of Economics, Seoul National University

(My comments begin at 53:20) The short answer is no -we’re not in another global economic crisis because we never left the one we already have been in.

2011 Outlook on opendemocracy.net

The editors at opendemocracy.net, one of my favorite websites, asked me and a group of writers from around the world, “Where are the sources of inspiration that can improve global and national prospects in 2011?

Here are my thoughts:

Citizens of every country need to see their self-interest more broadly instead of pitting themselves against other groups, nationalities, religions, and classes. If people were to embrace this one idea in 2011, we’d see a world of greater cooperation and prosperity instead of the polarisation and malaise that affects so much of the world today. When your neighbour is better off, it’s more likely that you will be too.

We do not live in a zero-sum world. Yet if the xenophobes and hate-mongers have their way, we’ll be in a less than zero-sum world: everyone will be worse off, not only the purported targets. Concentrating wealth in the hands of the mega-rich while leaving less than crumbs for the working class destabilises society and shrinks purchasing power that could create more wealth for everyone. A country or community that cracks down unfairly on immigrants and minorities is biting off its nose to spite its face; it pulls the rug out from under families, economies, and communities instead of supporting new communities and economies. Demonising another religion instead of seeking dialogue puts precious energy into destruction instead of building. An extremist political party that puts up roadblocks, no matter what the issue, ends up destroying people’s trust in the political process instead of creating positive change.

The unintended consequences of division undermine the very goals that politicians and leaders invoke to justify actions intended to punish the few instead of to reward the whole. It’s time to change that dynamic.

Read other writers’ thoughts.

Japan Times article on non-citizen voting

Japan Times

Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2010
How the rest of the world deals with aliens at the ballot box
By SARAH NOORBAKHSH

Excerpt:

Acknowledging the rights of immigrant groups, “recognizing special ties among particular groups of countries” and reciprocation are often part and parcel of granting suffrage, says Michele Wucker, executive director of the World Policy Institute. The EU, the Commonwealth, Brazil, Portugal and Spain are cases in point. However, the decision in South Korea had the effect of enfranchising mostly Taiwanese immigrants rather than being a “quid pro quo” reform benefiting Japan, and the country has thus far only indicated that it hopes for a similar move here in Japan. Also worth noting is that whereas 6,000 noncitizens benefited from the law change in South Korea, there are over 900,000 permanent foreign residents in Japan, including over 400,000 “special permanent residents” — mostly Koreans and Taiwanese who lived in Japan before and during the war, as well as their descendants.

So what about the argument that, rather than give voting rights to permanent residents, they should be encouraged to naturalize instead? This attitude is prevalent in North America, where noncitizen voting rights have been rolled back. In contrast, Chile introduced alien suffrage to in part to compensate for its slow, inefficient nationalization system.

“If people feel that they are part of a community with their neighbors, then they are more likely to embrace national values and even apply for citizenship as well,” suggests Wucker. Indeed, movements in Toronto as well as Rome have used this argument in pressing for the involvement of immigrant groups in local politics, though demonstrating objectively that granting foreigners the vote leads to an increased demand for naturalization has proved a challenge.

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