Friday 4 November 2016

Greens, progressives: No, Clinton and Trump are not the same

The US media is a catastrophic failure and is about to create a catastrophe this Tuesday. The focus is on personalities, mud slinging and conflict, which attract attention and are safe he-said she-said topics for the media. While there is nearly no attention for policy, which makes it harder to avoid taking a position. Sometimes single policies are contrasted with each other, but overviews are dearly missing.

As a consequence there is now a real possibility Trump could become president. Most polling aggregators see the chance of Trump winning as a few to a dozen percent.
Sam Wang at Princeton Election Consortium has Clinton with a better than 97% chance to win, Drew Linzer at Daily Kos has her with 92%, and NYT Upshot has her at 86% currently to win?
That is already much too high. Betting markets think the chance of catastrophe is 25%. Nate Silver at 538 is most pessimistic and gives a 36% likelihood. The difference seems to be that the optimistic aggregators assume that the average of all polls is unbiased, while Silver factors in small systematic problems. This sounds reasonable to me, especially this election year.

Polls do a lot of bias correction, certain groups are polled less well, for example young people. It is very hard to guess who will actually show up for the election. The people who pick up the phone may be different from the ones that do not. People may vote differently from what they say; to keep the peace in the family or because they see their preference as socially unacceptable. People who say they vote for another party than the last election often do not do so. The polls were collectively wrong for the Brexit referendum in the UK, which is similar to the Trump campaign, many bigots voting, many protest voters that do not expect their vote to count.

The increasing chance of a Trump presidency this week made the Dollar drop 1%, the NASDAQ 4$ and the S&P 500 2.6%. If you believe the chance of Trump winning is less than a fourth, there is money lying on the floor of the betting market. Do pick it up.


I just came by someone who wants to vote Jill Stein (Green party) because Clinton and Trump are both bad and Clinton has supported fracking as Secretary of State. I understand that Stein has to say they are equally bad not to look like a spoiler and that she attacks Clinton more because that is where most of her votes will come from. I would not be able to live with myself having to do that, but that is her unfortunate role in this election. That is what she was elected to do by the members and she accepted this role when she did not know yet that this would turn out this horribly.

But if you care for the environment, there is no way you can risk Trump getting elected. Trump would certainly not stop fracking. He would allow fracking without any regulation: He wants to close the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and wants to kill 80% of regulations. Whatever that means.

Trump supports coal, which produces terrible air pollution, which kills hundreds of thousands and hurts the health of many more. It is also the worst energy source for climate change. This fits, because Trump claims climate change is a Chinese hoax and wants to destroy Paris climate agreement.

Trump has promised to revert the Clean Power Plan and any other executive action on climate change, which is basically everything the USA did in the last 8 years because Republican would block any legislative action. Trump has plans to stop all research into clean energy and all climate research.

An analysis from Lux Research suggests that Trump’s policies would leave CO2 emissions 16% higher after 8 years than Clinton’s. That is a large difference on the way to zero in 2050 and will also have its influence afterwards and on the willingness of other countries to act.

One of the first supporters of Trump was the chair of the House Science committee, Lamar Smith TX2. Washington insider Smith is best know for his harassment of climate scientists in the service of his oil & gas industry donors. Likely the government harassment of climate scientists will become a lot worse when all sections of government are in Republican hands. That would be good for European science, but bad for America: there is still a lot to do predict local climatic changes, which is necessary to protect US communities.

Do we have 4 years to lose on climate change? If it is just four years; either because the entire world is on fire and international negotiations no longer work, or because the next election is cancelled.

Money in politics

Clinton was a terrible pick for the Democrats. In the time people are completely fed up with the establishment and the corruption in US politics, the DNC in their infinite wisdom selected the symbol of the establishment as their candidate. During the primaries I made the case for Bernie Sanders, he would have won this election in a land slide. But reality is what it is. There this election is similar to the climate "debate" where Americans have trouble accepting the world as it is.

Bernie Sanders himself now supports Clinton because that is currently the best choice for the progressive agenda. In my (apparently German) view, Everyone is responsible for to consequences of their own decisions. Clinton for her decisions, every eligible voter for theirs.

Unfortunately Clinton's competence and hard work can also be seen in how much money she raised and her donors are mostly not giving her money for a better world. For the companies it is an investment, they are not charities. Still Clinton wants to reverse Citizens-United, while Trump talks about corruption, but is a major corrupter himself and has no plans to stop it. Naturally he will not stop the corruption, he benefits from the system as a billionaire, that is how he stays a billionaire. His entire life has been about getting rich by conning people into thinking he has something to offer.

Trump presents himself as the anti-establishment choice, but is just as much part of it as Clinton. They went to the same parties and hung out with the same people. Trump plans to massively lower the taxes for himself and this posh peers, which will create an enormous deficit, while Clinton will raise taxes on the rich to reduce them for the middle class. A politician does not have to do everything rich donors want, also they only have two options.

This in not a normal election

Trump is a terrible human being. He wants to discriminate against every group possible. He started his campaign calling most Mexicans rapists. Projection. He wants to ban Muslims from coming into the USA, which is immoral and against the Freedom of Religion in the US constitution. The Jewish Anti-defamation league immediately protested against tbis because they understand were this leads to. Next Trump told an audience of Jewish people that they all like re-negotiating deals and put the star of David next to Clinton. There is a reason nearly no African American supports Trump. There is a reason David Duke and the KKK support Trump; they see the difference.

Trump is a terrible human being. Not for using the word "pussy", but because he "would not even wait" (for concent), as he said himself and as afterwards more than a dozen victims confirmed. His ex-wife testified in court that Trump had raped her. After the election, Trump will have to go to court for allegedly raping a 13 year old girl at one of the teen sex party of his billionaire buddy Epstein.

Trump is a terrible human being. He wants to bring back torture worse than waterboarding. Even if torture does not help, just for the sadistic pleasure of hurting a subordinate. At least he apparently knows that torture does not work, it only produces fake confessions. He wants to kill the families of suspected terrorists. The Nazis called this punishing of innocent relatives "Sippenhaft". Deeply disturbing. He admires the dictators of North Korea, The Philippines and Russia and their violent actions.

The middle class in America did not get a raise in a long time. The upper class did. A lot. The main reason is corruption. Middle class incomes rose with productivity until the Supreme Court ruled that money is speech and corporations have human rights. Trump would nominate judges like Anthony Scalia and there are many judges up for reappointment. A Trump presidency would solidify corporate power for decades to come.

The middle class will not benefit when Trump starts trade wars. He has threatened to default on the US debt. If he repeats that statement, even without doing so, that will produce an instant world recession. His enormous tax cuts for the super rich and the huge deficit that makes are both really bad for the economy.

The middle class will not benefit when Trump starts wars. He wants increase the military budget even further, although it is already 34 percent of the world total and more than the next 7 or 8 countries combined, many of which are currently allies. As an insecure uninformed and thin-skinned person who fears the Other it would only be a matter of time until he starts major wars. Clinton is hawkish, but also competent and diplomatic, which avoids wars. I would be surprised if she would kill more people than Trump and she would at least start her wars intentionally.

If America elects Trump, it will not be long until The Philippines and Russia are its only friends. And maybe North Korea. Economically Europe is a big as the USA. That the US is the main military power is our choice. That can change and a common threat will consolidate Europe. A lazy incompetent US president will not stop that.

If America lets a thin-skinned madman near the nuclear codes, Europe will build up its own nuclear arsenal to ensure Mutual Assured Destruction and a nuclear shield. In such a conflicted international situation, it would be hard to prevent Iran and other countries from obtaining nuclear weapons as well.

If America goes rogue on climate, I would expect the rest of the world to start Geo-engineering. If that hurts drought-prone US agriculture, that is a pity, but you had a choice in 2016 on the 8th of November.

Progressives and greens

Progressives and greens do not have much to win this presidential election (but a lot to lose). If you are considering voting for Jill Stein, why not instead become member of the Green party instead? Build up an organization at the local level, win local election, showcase successful politicians that can take the next step, so that in future elections the Greens have a real chance rather than only dividing the vote.

Some people make the argument that getting 5% of votes for the Green party would result in federal funding for the next election. The Green party is currently at less than 1.6% at Nate Silver's 538 and at 2.1% in the RealClearPolitics average. Single cherry picked polls can naturally be higher. The results for a small party are very noisy, especially for the Green party with many young voters who are typically underrepresented in surveys. As a consequence polling organisations put a higher weight on the few young people they do get. Thus you have to average over many polls to get a reliable average. The green party will not more than double in 4 days.

Even if they do, for getting 5%, the Greens would receive about 10 million dollar in funding for the next election. In the last election there were 120 million votes, 5% of that is 6 million votes. If the Greens pass the threshold a vote would thus be worth about 2$. A donation to the Green party sounds like a better idea in Trumpy times. A donation of 1$ would be a very good deal for the Green party.

If you are considering voting for Jill Stein and live in a swing state, please, consider swapping your vote with someone from a save state; that should be a really save state because the election is very close. Best New York. People in New York know Trump well and will never ever elect him.

There are some progressives that argue that a president Trump will destroy the Republican party. That is utter nonsense. The Republicans are authoritarians, they will fall in line, you see it happening during the general election. If Trump becomes president there will be a lot of jobs available. That works wonders in stabilizing parties. In Europe we have more parties and they thus more often fail; they do so after losing, not after winning.

Positive change does not happen due to politicians. Real positive change is the result of activism, not of elections. Politicians implement the changes that they were forced to make. Even if well intended they only have to power to do good if they are forced to.

Do fight Clinton from the day of the election on. She will be much more responsive to pressure from greens and progressives than Trump would be. She is a good listener and she is competent. Things you cannot say about Trump. Do primary her in four years if she does not change considerably.

Especially fight to get money out of politics, there are many initiatives to do so. The problem is not individual politicians, the system is corrupt and corrupting. The systems needs to change, toppling persons in the system does not change it.

This is not fun anymore. If you think Trump will not do the atrocious things he promises. Think again. No one thought in Germany in 1930 that Hitler would do the things he promised in great detail in his book Mein Kampf. It did not start with the Holocaust, it started with large rallies, it ended with the Holocaust*. In the last more-or-less free election Hitler got a third of the votes and the conservatives and Christians helped him to power.

Who would stop a president Trump? The Republicans? The police? The NSA? The military?

With all the reservations about the donations to Clinton and her hawkishness, there is also a lot to like about her as a progressive, not only when it comes to the environment, but also when in comes to reducing inequality, schools, collage tuition and social issues. Obama can explain it best.

Related reading

Trump just proposed ending all federal clean energy development. He’d end all research on solar, wind, efficiency, batteries, clean cars, and climate science, too.

A tale of two ethics. The ethic of conviction (Gesinnungsethik) and ethic of responsibility (Verantwortungsethik). Why many Germans think impractical idealism is immoral and why people holding opposite ethics may have a hard time talking with each other.

Seven climate scientists: Don’t make a choice that your children will regret.

A Trump presidency could mean 3.4 billion tonnes more carbon emissions than a Clinton one.

Every post on Trump lists too little dangers. Keith Olbermann gives 176 Shocking Things Donald Trump Has Done This Election. Still misses many important ones.

Nature News Feature: The polling crisis: How to tell what people really think.

* It is a taboo in Germany to compare anything with the Holocaust. That is said to diminish its horror. We are much more powerful than we were then. It could well end a lot worse.

** Caricature at the top by DonkeyHotey, which has a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.


  1. I understand the arguments above but I am also reminded of the following passage from "So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish".

    “It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see..."
    "You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?"
    "No," said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, "nothing so simple. Nothing anything like so straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people."
    "Odd," said Arthur, "I thought you said it was a democracy."
    "I did," said Ford. "It is."
    "So," said Arthur, hoping he wasn't sounding ridiculously obtuse, "why don't people get rid of the lizards?"
    "It honestly doesn't occur to them," said Ford. "They've all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they've voted in more or less approximates to the government they want."
    "You mean they actually vote for the lizards?"
    "Oh yes," said Ford with a shrug, "of course."
    "But," said Arthur, going for the big one again, "why?"
    "Because if they didn't vote for a lizard," said Ford, "the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?"
    "I said," said Ford, with an increasing air of urgency creeping into his voice, "have you got any gin?"
    "I'll look. Tell me about the lizards."
    Ford shrugged again.
    "Some people say that the lizards are the best thing that ever happenned to them," he said. "They're completely wrong of course, completely and utterly wrong, but someone's got to say it."
    "But that's terrible," said Arthur.
    "Listen, bud," said Ford, "if I had one Altairian dollar for every time I heard one bit of the Universe look at another bit of the Universe and say 'That's terrible' I wouldn't be sitting here like a lemon looking for a gin.”

  2. Yes, the American electoral system is terrible. I like representative parliamentary democracies. That means that many more voices are represented in parliament and debated in public. Many more people feel part of the democracy that way.

    Voting for a third party does not change this. In best best case it replaces one party by another and if the rules do not change in the USA that new party would soon become just as corrupt. In the worst case you get the man-eating lizard.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. Third Party can't happen by electing one man to President anyways. For a third party to be viable they need to have representatives throughout the government. I think in America the best chance for a Third party would be one born out of a schism within either the Republican (Tea Party?) or Democratic Party (Greens?)

    For instance in this election, Bernie Sander will become a powerful force if Hillary Clinton is elected - if Clinton loses, he'd back to first base. So I can't understand why any Sander's supporters would not vote for Hillary, because it truly is another vote for Bernie.

    As opposed to a vote for utter delusion which Trump and those neo-Republicans promise us.

  5. Here's a couple to add to your reading suggestions:

    How the Media Manufactured Hatred of Hillary Clinton
    By Neal Gabler | October 25, 2016 | Moyers and Company

    BY Nina Burleigh | 9/12/16

  6. Never has it been more appropriate than now to parallel the current affairs with what happened in the 1930s in Germany. It's scary to witness how close we've come to a "history repeated" scenario. A scenario in which a large fraction of the population just doesn't realise where this is going. The danger of fascism was greatly underestimated back then and I strongly believe that most of us today (including most progressives) have the same sense of false security. It's simple: If Trump wins, the world as we know it isn't anymore. It will affect all of us.

  7. Well Victor, that was a rant and a half! Do I gather that you hope Trump doesn't win? You mustn't be so circumspect about it...:)

    So do I. Mind you I hope Hillary doesn't win either.

    How a first world nation of some 320 million people can produce two such appalling candidates is amazing. They are certainly the worst two in my lifetime.

    If the Republicans had picked someone better you can't help feeling they would have been well ahead as Hillary is so detested.

    If I was American I am not sure I could bring myself to vote, which would be the first time I had ever failed to vote in a major election.

    I suspect that Trumps momentum was stopped a few days ago with the FBI statement. Until then Trump had a reasonable chance, especially as there is likely to be a 4% Brexit' type vote for him

    As It is, I think Hillary will win. However, before you go to bed tonight I think you need to take a couple of tranquilisers just in case the 'wrong' result happens.

  8. How about Nixon or Goldwater? Or for your camp: Al Gore.

    Any other Republican candidate and Clinton would have lost bigly.

    Any other Democratic candidate and Trump would have lost bigly.

  9. I am not sure I would call Nixon a bad presidential 'candidate'. He went bad ONCE president, although his work with China can not be forgotten.

    Barry Goldwater was up against the instantly forgettable Lyndon Johnson. So, yes he was a poor candidate.

    Looking at the long list of Presidents and nominees for the position over the last 50 years or so, it must be said that America consistently underperforms when it comes to leaders.

    However, this current pair must be the worst by a comfortable distance. Will either of them get through two terms without being impeached?

    Don't forget the tranquilisers tonight. If Trump triumphs (unlikely) have you anyone who can wake you gently with the news?? :)


  10. tonyb: "As It is, I think Hillary will win. However, before you go to bed tonight I think you need to take a couple of tranquilisers just in case the 'wrong' result happens."

    It is a bit late, but may I rub this prediction in, dear apothecary assistant?


Comments are welcome, but comments without arguments may be deleted. Please try to remain on topic. (See also moderation page.)

I read every comment before publishing it. Spam comments are useless.

This comment box can be stretched for more space.