Emotional Responses to Donald Trump’s Victory

Recap on the Donald Trump Victory and our Emotional Responses

by

Howard Adelman

I previously disparaged three options, first, relying on hope for Donald Trump to change his spots or be confined by Congress, second, hoping for failure for Trump, and, third, taking refuge and moving psychologically, and a few even physically, into exile. The main emphasis was on hope for change in Donald Trump.

When Obama says that he is “cautiously optimistic” that transitioning from candidate to president-in-waiting would force Trump to focus and get serious about “gaining the trust even of those who didn’t support him,” where is the evidence? As Obama said one test will be “not only in the things he says, but also how he fills out his administration.” Look who he has named initially to positions of power: Steve Bannon as chief strategist, though not an anti-Semite, is a man who is quite willing to play to the alt-right and promulgate conspiracy theories; Jeff Sessions (Sen. Alabama), nominated as Attorney General, has a habit of making racist remarks, though possibly not a racist, expressing a strong anti-immigration position and insisting that grabbing a woman’s genitals is not assault; retired General Michael Flynn has been nominated as Defense Intelligence Agency chief, an adviser who believes that fear of Muslims is rational, that Islam is a political ideology and not a religion, and, further, he is a distributor of “Flynn facts” to compete with Donald Trump’s mendacity; Mike Pompeo (Kansas Rep.) as CIA director had aligned himself with the Tea Party and reprimanded Muslims on their silence about terrorists. How can one still hope that Trump will not embrace torture methods and not fulfill his plan to turn towards Putin whom he so admires for his strength? How could Obama say, “my hope is that (moderation) that’s something he is thinking about.”?

Trump’s appointees, as well as himself, are men who live in a fabulist universe of their own making. Donald Trump provided a half hour interview with Alex Jones characterized as “the foremost purveyor of outlandish conspiracy theories.” Alex broadcasts his radio program in Austin, Texas, from which I recently returned. (As one example, and only one of very many, he insisted that the United Nations intends to release plagues; those plagues will kill off 80 percent of the people in the world and the remaining population will be pushed into crowded cities where they will be enslaved by the elite.) Trump told Alex that he had no intention of apologizing for promoting the story that large numbers of Muslims in New Jersey celebrated in the streets at the destruction of the Twin Towers on 9/11. Further, he told Alex that he liked and appreciated the number of T-shirts that Alex had produced and sold at his rallies that had inscribed on them, “Hillary for Prison.”

Obama advised Donald Trump “to take responsibility. Rise to the dignity of the office of the president of the United States instead of hiding behind your Twitter account. … Show America that racism, bullying and bigotry have no place in your White House.” Fat chance! All the indications, especially his initial appointments, are that Trump will govern in line with the populist, hardline positions of his election campaign. Mike Pence, the Vice-President-elect was in the audience of the hit musical, Hamilton. Halting the applause at the end, Brandon Victor Dixon, one if the actors, read out a statement directed at Mike Pence. “We, sir — we — are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights. We truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.”

Brandon was applauded while Pence snuck out, though he evidently stayed in the lobby long enough to hear the full statement. In response, Donald Trump tweeted, “Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing. This should not happen! The Theater must always be a safe and special place. The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!” A polite expression of hope interpreted as harassment? Insisting this expression of free speech “should not happen”! Suggesting that speaking out politely and with civility in this way made the theatre an unsafe place! The cast was not rude. Trump was when he asked for an apology. And Pence himself later said that he had not been bothered by the statement of the cast member.

And look at Mike Pence himself whom Trump chose to be his Vice-President and currently serves as the head of his transition team. Mike Pence is an ardent climate change denier. He opposes egalitarian treatment of women – he supports the repeal of Roe vs Wade and is one of the most extreme anti-abortion advocates in the country. He is homophobic. He supports lower taxes and relief from gun restrictions. He is a ‘get-tough-on-crime’ guy and erroneously believes that violent crime is on the increase, He does not trust drug rehabilitation programs. Three times, Pence voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act that called for equal pay for women.

Donald Trump himself has not changed. On Friday, Donald boasted that he had persuaded “his friend, Bill Ford,” to keep the Ford plant in Louisville, Kentucky and not transfer it to Mexico. However, Ford had no plans to transfer the plant there and, in any case, if it did, it could not implement such a plan because of its agreement with the Autoworkers Union. Only the production of the Lincoln, as previously announced, was to be moved, probably to Chicago, (only 21,000 per year are assembled compared to 259,000 Ford Escorts) to make room for increased production of the latter, their most popular model. There would be no loss of jobs. Further, Ford continues to implement its plans to move the assembly of the Ford Focus to Mexico as announced during the campaign, a move which Trump denounced, but one on which he is now silent. Carrier too is going ahead with moving its plant that employs 1,400 to Mexico. Trump is silent on both moves but is a master at practicing diversion.

The biggest danger by far is putting Climate Change Deniers in the White House. According to Reuters, during the campaign for the presidency, Donald Trump would take a “You’re fired” approach to the upper echelons of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), even possibly “burrowing” and seeking Congressional approval to “clean house” at a much deeper civil service level than the usual pattern of a successive presidency from an opposite party. Whatever the extent and depth of blowing up EPA, Donald Trump will immediately rescind the Obama regulations to fight climate change, especially those on fossil fuel development.

Trump appointed Myron Ebell to head EPA. Ebell, like Trump, is a “sound-bite artist” and has been a mouthpiece for the fossil fuel industry insisting totally falsely that the scientific community is in disarray over whether climate change in its rate and direction has been overwhelmingly induced by human interventions. Ebell has insisted that human induced global warming is a myth not backed up by economic, scientific and risk analysis. The little global warming has been well within the range of natural cyclical climate variability. And northern climes, including Canada, will benefit disproportionately.

War will be declared on the “Clean Air Act,” which incidentally had overwhelming bipartisan support when it was passed in 1990. Then, the Act addressed acid rain, ozone depletion and toxic air pollution. Standards and enforcement procedures were imposed. Auto gasoline formulations were revised. Yet Donald Trump branded the Act as “Obama’s” Clean Air Act. But it was the Supreme Court in Bush’s term in 2007 that ruled that the anti-pollution legislation aimed at mercury and sulphur emissions could apply to greenhouse gases. Thus, the revised strict carbon reduction standards set by the EPA in the Obama administration in place of a cap and trade or carbon tax, which the Republican-controlled Congress would not pass, were legal as well.

As I have noted previously, Ebell is a notorious climate change denier. To him, the regulations on climate change were just an excuse to advance and expand government. The EPA will be deliberately and massively dismantled. Ebell will open more federal lands for fracking and permit long-stalled pipelines to be built. Ebell will advise Trump to opt out of the 2015 Paris Accord, advice which The Donald will accept. The Koch brothers’ investment in Ebell’s research institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, will have paid off. But, as I wrote previously, the war will be against regulations and bureaucracy, not against the use of renewable energy. And, as I tried to argue, there is enough of a head of steam behind the development of renewable energy sources that it will, ironically, be able to compete on the economic level with fossil fuels, even more so if there is a level playing field and all the direct and indirect subsidies for fossil fuel are removed.

The latter is unlikely. Nevertheless, even if still handicapped, the use of recyclables now has the economic advantage even in a political atmosphere promoting “energy independence,” which the U.S. has largely achieved already, There will be a spate of licenses issued for more onshore and offshore drilling. But fossil fuel developers are not stupid. They will tie up those licenses at the same time as they buy into the recyclable industry, not just to hedge their bets, but because that is where not only the future but the present development of energy is heading. Ironically, I expect deregulation to assist the recyclable fuel industry more than the fossil fuel one because of the current underlying economics. So although Trump has declared war on the environmentalists and virtually the entire scientific community in that field, and determined that, “America’s environmental agenda will be guided by true specialists in conservation, not those with radical political agendas,” this will in many ways be a setback for the environment, but in other ways will be an ironic godsend as firms working on applying recyclable technology will be freed up from the burden of an enormous number of environmental regulations.

Thus, I do not hope for any fundamental change in approach. I also do not hope for failure. Trump is a winner. Has he not demonstrated that sufficiently? His transition will not fall apart through infighting. Neither will his government, as much as bloodletting can be expected from among the victors. Further, he will in one sense succeed beyond anyone’s expectations. He will both lower taxes, impede free trade, and go on a binge of spending on massive infrastructure programs while cutting regulations. Trickle-down economics will be in the driver’s seat, but with a populist and very popular building program that will provide well-paying jobs while inflating economy enormously. Economists expect inflation to go back up to between 2.25 and 2.75 percentage points. It will get much higher than that, but more of that in another blog. Donald Trump might even introduce a universal child care program as advocated by his daughter and even fix Obama care – rebranded as Trumpcare – by introducing a single payer system alongside private country-wide insurance schemes. By the end of Trump’s term, the American debt will spiral towards the heavens. But so will the value of Trump’s assets. Trump will go from being a few billionaire to over a fifty billionaire, for inflation is always on the side of those who own property.

For the first few years, the Trump regime, like the one by Chavez in Venezuela, will be very popular and the Trump support will grow even if it is at the expense of refugees who will be largely ignored, the Arabs who will have lost any leverage over Trump, minorities, human and women’s rights and those caught up in a renewed law-and-order regime. Putin will be given carte blanche in the Crimea and possibly in other parts of Eastern Europe. Obama had begun to draw down America’s role as the world’s policeman. Donald Trump will send Pax America to death row. If Trump can stave off hug increases in inflation for four years, he will, at the age of seventy-four, be re-elected with an even larger mandate.

If this is true and if you oppose this agenda, why not withdraw emotionally from a huge investment in the public sphere and retreat into private concerns? Many will, both to avoid the threatening atmosphere as well as to keep one’s sanity. But to the degree there is a withdrawal – and there will be at least some – Donald Trump will accumulate more power in his hands than any previous president in U.S. history.
I already argued that our greatest fear – the cessation of the effort to replace fossil fuels by recyclables – will proceed ahead because, given the accelerating lower costs combined with a degree of deregulation, the conversion will proceed at an even faster rate in spite of the cackle of climate change deniers in positions of power in Washington.

Will we end up with WWIII? Highly unlikely. Trump is not a warrior president. He will pick on and pick off the little guys, the small fry – the terrorists – but he will not get into a military war with the powerful rivals of the U.S. even as he builds the American military force even more. Donald Trump will end America’s war as a protector of human rights and a challenger, however inconsistent and half-hearted, to the repression of rights and freedom for journalists. He will get along, not only with Putin, but with many other populist dictators around the world – Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (Turkey), Rodrigo Duterte (Philippines) and will further prop up Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Egypt. He will befriend the right wing governments popping up all over Europe as Trump progenitors –Beata Szydio in Poland from the Law and Justice Party, Viktor Orbán and János Áder of the Jobikk Party in Hungary, Rumen Radev (president) from the Independent Party and Tsetska Tsacheva (VP) from the GERB Party in Bulgaria. Trump may desert Netanyahu for an even more right-wing regime in Israel. The range of moves in this area is unknown, but the pattern can be anticipated. And the pattern indicates little likelihood of moving the minute hand on the atomic doomsday clock closer to midnight. I do not believe WWIII is on the horizon.

What is?

What to do? How to respond?

What to do? How to respond?

by

Howard Adelman

I begin with one sample of some of the emails I have received in response to my latest series on the victory of Donald Trump and the Threat of Climate Change. When I woke up to this morning and opened my email, I read this expression of despair and a plea for answers and guidance.

Number I – A Desperate Plea for Direction

I’ve been reading your blog more and more this election season, and I’ve been paying especially close attention since last Tuesday night. I’m enjoying the series on Texas, and enjoying the irony that my deep-blue state of California seems less environmentally prepared than redder-than-red Texas. I’ve also noted, with some sadness, that you seem to be as rattled about Trump as anyone else I know; yours is the blog I turn to when I’m looking for someone to calm me. I ran to my email again and again last week hoping (!) to hear from good ol’ Howard a reason why WW3 is terribly unlikely, but I haven’t found it yet.

In fact, it’s the blog post on hope from late last week that I want to ask you about. For the record, I agree with it all. “Hope for the best” cannot be the way any of us in this country (or anywhere else) spend the next four years. But … well, maybe it’s because my generation hasn’t really had to struggle for anything politically (compared to the previous two or three), but I’m at a loss about what to do now. I know what it isn’t – hope, a.k.a lie back and take it – but I have no clue what it is. The night of the election, hundreds of UCLA students spilled out into the streets at 2am to protest the election of the first racist, sexist block of cheddar cheese ever to lead our country. I sympathized with them, but it seemed futile at the same time. What the hell is protesting going to do against a man who can’t even pay more than five minutes’ attention to the people he ostensibly likes?

Was my reaction cynical? Should I have been out there, with them under the spotlight of the five or six LAPD helicopters sent to watch the scrum? I’m confused. What I really want to do is find a Democratic Party apparatchik, grab them by the collar, and yell at them for a good ten minutes. But of course, I’m as much to blame as any of them. I’ve been locked in my own little echo chamber for the last year or two (or eight!), happily discounting any rumblings of populist fervor that’d indicate that the man has a chance to win it.

Mid-terms, as well as the first rumblings of yet another presidential election, are in two years. The Democratic Party is a walking joke, and it doesn’t even seem to know it.

So, my question: If you were Gabe’s, or Dan’s, or my age, what would you be doing right now?

I offer seven additional possibilities other than despair and emotional collapse. They are as follows:

II Hope for Success
III Hope for Failure
IV Exile and Return
V A Sceptical Detached Wait-and-See Approach
VI Stress on Protest as a Source of Solace and Redemption but Not Salvation
VII Principled Engagement, Sceptical Resistance and a Smorgasbord of Tactics
VIII A Coherent Strategy for Victory

I will deal with II-IV in this blog, with V-VII in Sunday’s blog and with VIII on Monday.

II Hope for Success

I will not spend much time on this option as I already dedicated a full blog to brand this option as avoidance. Some of this is rhetorical, required by the customs of transferring power in America and of losing an election. The Donald, who referred to himself as Obama’s “worst nightmare,” labeled the latter as “a disaster as president” and “the most ignorant president in our history,” the man who became the lead in the birther movement and made such an enormous effort to delegitimize Obama’s presidency, reverted to form after he won and called Barack Obama “a very, very good man.” Barack Obama, who had previously labelled Trump a danger to the realm, unfit and inexperienced to hold the highest office, responded to Trump’s “newly” discovered tone of reconciliation by expressing his hope directly to Donald Trump in their meeting at the White House on 11 November 2016 that Trump would succeed. “We want to do everything we can to help you succeed, because if you succeed we all succeed.”

Hillary Clinton’s concession speech on the day after the election set the tone. “Last night, I congratulated Donald Trump and offered to work with him on behalf of our country. I hope that he will be a successful president for all Americans.” The general population lacks the restraints of democratic custom. Yet they frequently echoed the same anodyne tranquilizers. “I can only hope that Trump will emerge other than he appears to be.” I only hope that, since Trump’s philosophy is all over the place, that his handlers and moderate Republicans will initiate some hope and guidance.” “I can only hope that the American Constitution and its system of checks and balances can offer sufficient restraints on a Trump presidency.” There are a myriad of variations.

Trump has shown that he is who he appears to be – a narcissistic, megalomaniacal demagogue. Hoping he will change is akin to a woman marrying a misogynist and bully and counting on changing him. It is futile. Further, rather than having an inchoate ideology, his strategies and tactics have buried the opposition within the Republican Party and then the Democratic Party. He wants power. He wants to win. And he has the determination and the will to do so. Others have diagnosed what is wrong with America and the world; Donald Trump knows how to take advantage of those weaknesses for his own ends. Even though he does not sail – or evidently partake in many other leisure activities (an issue of suspicion in its own way, though he does golf for business reasons, and cheats on his scores because he loves to win) revealing a man of focused vision and effort – sometimes he tacks towards those who try to moderate his methods and goals, but sooner rather than later tacks back and runs over them. Finally, he has clearly signaled and demonstrated a willingness to breach any political norm that stands in his way, including any purported system of checks and balances. He openly states that he is not a servant of the American Constitution. He has also shown that he can compromise and recapture under his wing those who dare oppose him and then throw them out to the wolves when he no longer has any use for such lackeys.

III Hope for Failure

There are those who predict that Donald Trump will crash and burn, that he will implode when operating within the complexity and constraints of government. But there is no record to back such a hope. Professor Allan Lichtman from American University I Washington, D.C., one of the very few to predict a Trump victory based on his 13 indicators, a professor who has correctly predicted the outcome of one presidential election after another by ignoring polls and utilizing other factors rooted in the record of the party in power, now predicts that Donald Trump will be impeached. “I’m quite certain Trump will give someone grounds for impeachment, either by doing something that endangers national security or because it helps his pocketbook.” But this prophecy is not rooted in Lichtman’s record of scholarship, but on his gut feeling.

Other hopes for failure are more ephemeral. Alan Clarey (http://captaincapitalism.blogspot.ca/2016/10/why-donald-trump-is-doomed-to-fail.html ) wrote: “I remember the Jesse Ventura administration, but the executive branch does not stand alone. This isn’t a monarchy, it’s a democracy. And the executive branch (gubernatorial or presidential) has to deal with a legislature. And in the legislature, BOTH Republicans and Democrats hate Trump.” Who is he kidding? It is the same thinking that seduced conservatives and Republicans who allowed Donald Trump to capture the presidential nomination. Further, it is based on the illusion that the U.S. is not a monarchy but a democracy when the U.S. is really a democratic monarchy with a similar system of checks and balances that restricted the range of actions of the British monarch in the eighteenth century.

Clarey continued: “I, sadly, predict this will go down very much like a Jesse Ventura administration and nothing long term, fundamental, nor genuinely hopeful will come of it. The truth is minorities are too brainwashed, people are too stupid, and congress is too corrupt to ‘get the government the WWII generation deserves.’ And while I know there may be some hope, perhaps wishful thinking, in the end you not only have to financially and physically prepare yourself for a decline with silver, guns, and overseas investments, you need to prepare yourself mentally for what’s about to come. Alas, I suggest you learn to enjoy the decline.”

There are other expressions of an anticipation of failure even though, as one who opted for hope for success, opined, “Wanting him to fail is like wanting the pilot to crash the plane we are all on.” Not quite! Just to crash his plane. But much of this is wishful thinking and does not arise from any analysis.

IV Exile and Return

Another reader wrote as follows:

Howard,

I went to a service at an Interfaith Center on Sunday. The speaker was outstanding. She said that while Christ, Buddha, and other great spiritual leaders came here to show us the way, to be “way showers,” it is now WE who must show the way. We are our way showers, we are who we are waiting for and all must come forth no matter how raw or uncertain. She shared quotes from Facebook that were more inspiring than scripture. It was an amazing pep talk that gave vigor to Hirschman’s VOICE.

It was also “therapeutic” (to use your word) to be at that service with a full house where all had an opportunity to share personal thoughts. It was a time of “mourning” and “hoping.” I came home and announced I’m going to the Million Women March. And passing out safety pins. And going to escort kids to school if need be. The hate speech even in Ann Arbor is unnerving. Yesterday, I met a woman from Germany who reminded me that it took only 52 days for Hitler to dismantle the freedom to assemble. I keep waiting for the real therapeutic effect of your trip from the small blue dot in a big red state. I keep thinking (hoping?) you are going to tell us that the energy of commitment from the people you met to protesting Trump indicates he will not succeed in his tyranny. I keep hoping you share that you heard something, other than the cabbie’s remarks, that clue you in not to a deeper historical analysis of who Trump represents or how climate change progress is safe (for now) although these remarks are truly appreciated!, but a deeper forecast of the political climate to come. I’m hoping you’ll say the tyranny will not take effect because of what you saw or felt in Austin. I’m on the edge of my seat. Literally. Am I deluding myself?

I’m going to straight up ask: What would you do if you lived in the States right now? Would you EXIT and then give VOICE from out of the country? Would you give VOICE in the country and somehow Exit from within? Would you practice Loyalty to democracy and work from within the system to prevent the worst? A combination of these?

No. Exit at this time is NOT the answer. Too much is at risk and there is too little time. Leaving for Canada will not help. At the time of the Cuban missile crisis, I gathered my wife and four children to make a break for the north with our storage of food and emergency supplies. But then I stopped. As a leader of the Nuclear Disarmament movement, had I not said over and over again that the world would be inhabitable if nuclear war broke out. The MAD doctrine at core was mad. There could be no escape from the devastation.

Exile within is also not a responsible option – though many will take it. Any such exile will simply expedite the rate at which Trump becomes an authoritarian. Inserting yourself within the system to wait another day is also futile. Mike Rogers was intelligent enough to discover this relatively early. He was an adviser on national security to the Trump campaign. Rogers became concerned about the direction. But he was forced out before he could bail and then made the customary polite statement of continuing support. “These past six months, it has been an honor to serve as National Security Senior Advisor to the Trump transition team. I look forward to continuing to provide advice and counsel as needed to the incoming Trump administration as they work to make America great again.” If you have integrity, working from within will be futile and frustrating, especially if you really want to help Trump. But if you want to subvert the Trump regime’s efforts, then that option offers a real possibility that I will explore.

With the help of Alex Zisman

Optimism, Hope, Pessimism and Cynicism

Optimism, Hope, Pessimism and Cynicism

by

Howard Adelman

This blog is dedicated to Rabbi Dow Marmur on his 80th birthday. May he have many more! It is a blog that hopes to throw some light on Dow’s worldview and on the concepts in the title. And it is a blog that italicizes Dow’s use of “hope” to highlight both his attachment to that attitude and to focus on his usage to allow us to understand the attitude he brings to issues.

First, a very brief introduction to Rabbi Dow Marmur for the few who do not know anything about him.

Rabbi Dow Marmur, Rabbi Emeritus at Holy Blossom Temple, was born in Poland in 1935 and spent the years of World War II in the Soviet Union before returning to Poland in 1946. Two years later, he emigrated to Sweden, where he went to school. In 1957, he moved to London, England to study for the rabbinate at the Leo Baeck College, from which he graduated in 1962. Before becoming Senior Rabbi of Holy Blossom in 1983, Rabbi Marmur served two congregations in Britain. He retired from his position of Senior Rabbi at Holy Blossom Temple in 2000.

A personal note. Though Rabbi Feinberg, the “Red” rabbi, who had been senior rabbi at Holy Blossom Temple when I was still a student, was a close associate of mine in both the peace and civil rights movements in the sixties, and although Rabbi Gunther Plaut, Dow Marmur’s predecessor as senior rabbi at Holy Blossom Temple and a very esteemed Torah scholar, was a friend and colleague in the refugee movement in the late seventies and early eighties (he officiated at my marriage to Nancy), I only joined Holy Blossom Temple after Rabbi Marmur became senior rabbi. It was not because he asked me or invited me to become a member. It was because I met him at a talk where I had offered some critical comments to the speaker. He approached me in the informal part of the evening to comment on my comments. We then quickly became friends and I started attending Holy Blossom to hear his sermons. Soon thereafter, my family joined Holy Blossom Temple.

I have read two of his books, but I did not join because I revered his scholarship or his thinking. Aside from his delightful and wry sense of humour that was always there in inter-personal contacts, but was usually bracketed when he mounted the pulpit, I joined because I loved the way his mind worked and how his attitude and approach to all issues infused his thoughts. The key part of that attitude was “hope” as the dialectical intermediary between optimism and pessimism and the bulwark he sustained against despair and cynicism. It is that dialectic that I want to analyze using the recent material on his twice or thrice weekly 500 or so word blogs on the approach to the Israeli elections.

His emails to which his blog is attached will often have a covering note: “I hope the attached makes sense.” The concept of “hope” permeates the blogs as well. Not only about himself, but about others with whom he does not identify. For example, he wrote of Arieh Deri, the leaders of Shas, that he showed little interest in defense and much more “in better conditions for the poor, many of whom he hopes will vote for him.” Based on that analysis, Dow hoped that Shas would join a Herzog-Livni coalition rather than one led by Netanyahu. He then generalized on that particular hope. “Is it too much to hope that the next government will in no way compromise on defense to assure Israel’s survival, yet at the same time pay more attention to the survival needs of its poor citizens?”

Dow expressed his intention to vote for Meretz, the party on the left in the political spectrum in Israel. Why? “To help make sure that Herzog doesn’t abandon all the social-democratic ideas that Labour once stood for, I intend to vote for Meretz, which is left of the Herzog-Livni Zionist Camp. If Herzog becomes prime minister, Meretz will almost certainly be part of his government. I hope that it’ll hold him to at least some of his lofty promises even after he’s elected.” He placed his hope not in a party of deeds and leadership, but in a party that would play the role of a superego to try to assure that social ideals are upheld. He then went on to express the following:

And I hope that he [Herzog] will be elected because I believe that a government under his leadership would have the means to do inter alia:

Herzog has the people to fill these and other positions. That’s why even a pessimist like me need not be without hope that Buji, not Bibi, will get in.

Dow supports one political party because he hopes it can serve as a superego. He, then, hopes for the victory of another political party because he believes it will not only defend social justice but provide leadership to move forward on the peace negotiations. But he defines himself as a pessimist, who always wants – needs? – to retain some hope. Hope is not his natural state. Pessimism is. However, hope is what keeps him afloat and from sinking into despair and cynicism. This is clear in the ending of another blog. “All we hapless bystanders can hope for is that the worst of these cynical predictions won’t materialize and that decency and common sense will win in the end. I continue to be in search for support for such.”

One blog he entitled, “TOO EARLY FOR OPTIMISM?” It ended with a question mark because he wanted to put his big toe into the water of optimism without taking his other foot off the hot but sand of pessimism. Hope propelled him to this precarious state, especially precarious since Dow is anything but an outdoorsman.

If hope for Dow mediates between pessimism and optimism, it need not necessarily do so. Hope for a cynic is merely an expression of instrumental planning and manipulation. “Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu hopes to conquer America. As a first step he defied the president of the United States. Reports have it that Obama asked Netanyahu not to accept the invitation to address both houses of Congress…days before the elections in Israel – and thus refrain from openly challenging the president’s refusal to impose more sanctions on Iran in view of the possibility of an agreement about nuclear weapons.”

I always read Dow’s blogs. Sometimes I congratulate him. Other times I chastise him when I believe his thinking is confused. But either of these responses are rare; I generally simply appreciate his blogs in silence. However, the odd time I will engage in a more extensive exchange, though if I try to imitate Dow’s own subtle wry humour, I usually fall flat on my face.

What follows is one exchange beginning with my response to his blog followed by his response to my comments. I repeat it in full so the reader can grasp its full flavour.

ME:

“What is happening to you? With today’s blog you almost sounded optimistic. I am worried about you. Just in case you are shifting away from your generally healthy pessimism, here are a few questions about the elections for you to answer:

  1. Why should the fall-off in Bibi’s popularity benefit Herzog-Livni when the voters can shift to Naftali Bennett?
  2. This question is reinforced by the polls that show the Israeli electorate continues to shift right in spite of the social justice issues on which the Herzog-Livni team are campaigning. How do you read those polls?
  3. Even if the Herzog-Livni team are closing the gap and running neck and neck with Bibi and may even lead Bibi as Livni once did, won’t Bibi be in a better position to form a coalition?
  4. Given that Feiglin is off the Likud list and, in fact, for a right wing party, the Likud is looking surprisingly relatively moderate having tossed its [I should have written “most”] extremists overboard, so won’t that help Bibi?
  5. Even though the marriage on the left has rallied hope in all of us progressives about the possibility of returning to power, and even though the Herzog-Livni marriage seems reasonably strong, its big weakness is still the worry of the average Israeli voter, including those on the left, that neither will be a strong enough PM to deal with the security issues. After all, since Begin won, the left only wins when it is led by an IDF ex-commander. Does this not raise your pessimistic hackles?
  6. In the current Knesset, the following breakdown on the centre left is as follows:

Yesh Atid             19

Labour                  15

Hatnua                    6

Meretz                     6

Kadima                    2

Total                     48

If Avigdor Lieberman’s party is imploding, all his flirtation with the centre may be for naught, and the centre-left cannot count on him. Moshe Kahlon is an ex-Likudnik and more likely to make up with Bibi. Further, Lapid is falling in the polls and working like a dog to attack the centre-left, in particular, Herzog, so how will it be possible for him to be a minister in the Herzog-Livni camp? Is he now not more comfortable in a Bibi cabinet? The only positive news on that front is that Mofaz, who is a triple hitter with his security background, Middle Eastern origins and Likud credentials, has a safe position on the Herzog-Livni list.

Nevertheless, how do you add up the numbers to get a majority?”

I ended, “Dow, I just miss your pessimism”

Dow replied:

“Even pessimists have lapses. Here are some of the reasons for mine in answer to your points, one by one:

  1. Bennett’s base is in the settlements, but he’s not a popular character. He’s trying hard to shed the modern Orthodox-ultra nationalist image by trying to find outsider candidates, if possible women, but it’s not clear that they have sufficient popular appeal. And Bibi’s handlers direct his ire to Herzog-Livni, not to Bennett, even though not much love is lost between them.
  2. Yes, the Israeli electorate continues to shift right. Hence the Herzog-Livni alliance which isn’t exactly Labour. And that’s why Bibi goes out of his way to describe them as lefties. I’m not sure that the electorate believes it.
  3. The present rules are that the party with the most mandates is asked to form the government. Hence Bibi’s new initiative to change that if he’s re-elected. If Herzog-Livni get more votes than Bibi, they’re in.
  4. At least one extremist, Feiglin, is off the list, but others are still there and high up, e.g. Danon, Regev and Elkin.
  5. There’re signs, I believe, that social justice is a strong competitor to security, in view of the alarming poverty statistics (1.5 million?) and news about army waste of money, sexual abuse, etc. Bibi tries to tell us that only he is strong whereas Herzog and Livni are just nice, but in my less pessimistic moments I’m no longer persuaded that the public believes him. Last summer’s Gaza war shattered many illusions.
  6. Difficult to calculate numbers as yet. Please remember that Herzog-Livni would probably get the ultra-Orthodox into the government like in the old days. Their absence from the last government hasn’t liberated Israel from Orthodox domination. It’s not even certain that the army is very happy conscripting the ultras. There has even been talk of late of doing away with conscription in favour of a professional army.

Don’t panic, the pessimism will return, but as things look today, it seems marginally less warranted than on other days.”

And pessimism did return. What becomes clear is that the dialectic of hope mediating between optimism and pessimism are the ballast that keeps him from sinking into the cynicism and despair he attributes to both Netanyahu and the leaders of the Palestinian authority. Those sworn enemy leaders are not only united in their cynicism, but “sworn enemies can end up on the same side for seemingly mutually exclusive reasons.” Cynicism not only united them in their attitudes, but may make them de facto allies and partners.

Hope is minimal. Despair and pessimism are overriding. And the ratio has been determined by cynical political behaviour exacerbated by even more cynical commentary. To keep his spirits above water, Dow often adds levity, even telling an old joke again. “In the early days of Israel, when the country was in dire economic straits, it was suggested that the Jewish state should declare war against the United States. The Americans would win, of course, and thus be obliged to provide for Israel. That was the optimistic view. The pessimists said: “And what if Israel conquers America?”

To understand the dialectic between optimism and pessimism mediated by it helps to clarify the differences among the three terms.

Optimism is standing outside a tunnel and basking in the glorious sunlight. Hope is living in the tunnel and believing that one sees a glimmer of light in the distance. Pessimism is the recognition that the light seen at the end of the tunnel will turn brighter and brighter and reveal itself to be the headlight of an oncoming train. Cynicism is to be the driver of that train. Turned upside down, optimism is the belief that you are not and never will be in a tunnel, and that if you find yourself on a train track with a light coming towards you, you can step aside and then jump aboard the train. Hope is the belief that the light you imagine coming towards you on the track is really the rising sun, but, if it is not, you can jump out of the way in time. Pessimism is the belief that you are trapped in the tunnel and there is no escape from the oncoming train. In despair, you lie down on the tracks and the cynical engineer runs you over.

Alice Auma (Lakwena), leader of the Holy Spirit Movement in Northern Uganda in 1986, taught her followers to anoint and cover their bodies with shea nut oil that would protect them from bullets. Lakwena was NOT a healer, spirit medium and diviner; she was simply an optimist. Of course, sometimes an optimist, like Ronald Reagan, gets elected to be president of the United States and, supposedly, with one magic bullet, helps destroy the Soviet Union. At the same time, his inventive spirit leads to the creation of Iron Dome. Optimism is based on the illusion that, if you just work and try hard enough, not only is anything possible, but you can help deliver the best of all possible worlds. Of course, for those who are positivist boosters of optimism and not pessimists in characterizing it, optimism is simply the recognition of the possibilities that are present in a situation. Experience from the past and the present can be extrapolated to provide a better future. Optimism is founded on a deep faith the human ingenuity will always enable us to overcome our challenges and create a better future. Optimism allows a person to become captain of his or her future primarily because they feel good about themselves and the world.

Hope is a different matter altogether. As Vaclav Havel described it, hope “is not prognostication. It is an orientation of the spirit, and orientation of the heart; it transcends the world that is immediately experienced, and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons.” Though hope and optimism share an orientation towards the future, though both anticipate the possibility of improvement, hope is held in high esteem in spite of, not because of, the past, in the face of experience, not based on it. For one has hope despite a history of human horror. Hope does not ignore genocides and massive ethnic cleansing. Hope works for a better future in spite of the Shoah. Hope through tikkun olam, mending the world, is about righting the wrongs of the past and not simply seeing that past through rose-coloured glasses. If Reagan was a president of optimism, Obama is a president of hope, not simply because he wrote an autobiography called, The Audacity of Hope. Hope fights on in spite of human mindblindness, in spite of institutional obstinacy, in spite of ignorance and prejudice. Hope refuses to sink into deep grief and allow the obscenities that humans can perpetrate on one another to sink one into deep grief.

Hope insists on honesty. Hope is deeply heartfelt and is, in the end, not a rational result of experience, but ultimately rests on faith. How then is it that what might be regarded as a totally unrealistic vision of the world, a belief that we can stare directly at the sun and not only not go blind, but can see the future, how is it then that optimism, more often than not, brings about the more major changes in the future and radical leaps forward, while hope only seems to bring about incremental improvements, if it does that? However, as Vaclav Havel described it and to repeat, hope “is not prognostication. It is an orientation of the spirit, and orientation of the heart; it transcends the world that is immediately experienced, and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons.”

As Havel also wrote, “Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously heading for success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed. The more propitious the situation in which we demonstrate hope, the deeper the hope is. Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”

Hope is based on outcomes we wish for. Optimism is based on outcomes we will. The latter requires confidence. The former requires stamina. Optimism depends on faith that good will triumph over evil. Hope depends on the longing that evil will not triumph over good. Both hope and optimism direct us to change the future for the better. However, without hope, despair takes over; most significantly, it can manipulate hope. In contrast, optimism and despair can easily form a partnership of opposites. But both optimism and hope refuse to surrender to a sense of helplessness, though those rooted in hope tend to be more passive and see themselves more as bystanders than activist optimists.

Pessimism is the inverse of optimism and is suffused with a sense of the primacy of the tragic. So a person like Dow Marmur, who is fundamentally infused with pessimism, faces the future with fear and trepidation that once more bad and even evil will prevail, but insists on walking towards the force of that gale of evil with a smile on his face. That is his hope, set in place to offset his fundamental pessimism, that celebrates the virtues and joys of the living, while fearing that the vices of a Darth Vader will prevail. Pessimism and hope both rest upon a tremendous love of life and delight in the grandeur and wonder of the world. But a pessimist always focuses on the one small black cloud in the sky than the vast stretch of blue or the billowy white clouds on the horizon.

The bogeyman of hope is despair — desperation, depression, despondency, and total disillusionment. Despair comes from Middle English despeiren, from Old French desperer, each in turn from Latin desperare, to be without hope, from de-, without, and sperare, to hope. It is the belief and feeling that there is no hope and that you are totally impotent to do anything to improve a threatening situation. To despair is to lose both hope and the confidence of the optimist. Optimism, however, is only able to counter despair by converting it into cynicism while hope fights off despair ironically, by choosing pessimism over despair. Pessimism becomes the bulwark against despair.

Let me end by stealing an analogy from Plato’s Republic, that of the divided line. Envision a vertical line divided into two unequal portions. Then envision each of these two unequal portions divided in turn using the same proportions as the first division. Though it is not explicitly mentioned in Book IV of The Republic where this analogy is offered, Plato required that all students in his academy be thoroughly versed in geometry before attending the academy. All the students would have known the relevant geometric laws, which I will represent here arithmetically. If a line is divided into two unequal proportions and those initial divisions are divided again by the same proportion, the two middle sections will always be of equal length.

Therefore, a line 18” tall would be divided in the following ratios, this time inverting the usual presentation by placing the largest section at the bottom rather than the top. The ratio of the initial division from top to bottom would be 6:12 and of the second division of those two parts in the same ratio would be 2:4:4:8. Instead of the two major divisions representing the metaphysics of the world, the intelligible (the larger section) versus the visible world (the smaller section), or the four sections representing different epistemological modes of grasping the world (opinion, observation, understanding and reason), or even each section representing corresponding characteristics of the soul, conceive of the line as representing different possible personal attitudes distinguished from top to bottom as follows:

Attitude                      Ratio

Optimism                    2

Hope                           4

Pessimism                   4

Despair                       8

The dialectic of hope and pessimism works as follows. Despair at the bottom exerts an enormous gravitational pull on everything above, pessimism directly, and hope mediated by pessimism which is used by hope to keep despair in abeyance. Optimism, on the other hand, is so removed from despair that it does not even recognize it in its transmuted form as cynicism. That is why cynicism and optimism can so often be found together as partners. Further, hope is always trying to keep the attractions and inducements of optimism also at bay, since in many ways, hope shares with optimism a similar orientation. But hope recognizes that if it is sucked into optimism’s rather than pessimism’s orbit, the risk is very high that it would be deluded and the result could be crashing down onto the cave floor and never being able to get up again. So an individual like Dow Marmur tries to keep hope and pessimism in balance, always walking a tight rope between the two.

That is Marmur’s underlying dialectic that underpins his blog.

Happy Birthday!

The Integration of Hamas into the Palestinian Authority Government

The Integration of Hamas into the Palestinian Authority Government

by

Howard Adelman

The latest assault in the blame game is well under way as a secret document, allegedly of the Palestinian Authority (PA), has been released that was circulated by Israeli National Security Adviser, Joseph Cohen, on 22 April 2014 when Fatah announced its reconciliation agreement with Hamas. He accused the PA of planning the reunification with Hamas long before the peace talks broke down. The letter attached a document allegedly written by chief PA negotiator, Saeb Ekrat, and dated 9 March even before Abbas met with President Obama on 17 March. The document is a policy paper giving Ekrat’s interpretation of the talks thus far, and recommends a unilateral strategy  both with respect to submission of requests of accession to Geneva Conventions and reconciliation with Hamas. The purpose of Cohen’s letter was to show that PA actions had not been a response to the failure to release the last tranche of 26 prisoners but had been planned long beforehand.

I myself thought that was self-evident. The agreement to plan for the re-inclusion of Hamas in the PA in the last week before the talks were ended came too swiftly to be a response to the prisoner release issue. Such an agreement had to have been under negotiation for weeks if not months. However, it does not indicate that Abbas was negotiating in bad faith, only that he had a second track under development if the first track failed, as both he and Netanyahu expected it would. Putting contingency plans in motion in most quarters would be regarded as good politics.

The letter is a distraction as is the whole blame game. The key issue is whether the proposed reconciliation will work and what its effects will be on peace. I have already indicated the motives each side had for concluding such an agreement, stressing particularly the actions of the new governments in Iran and especially Egypt and the effects on Hamas, and, on the other side, Abbas’ fears of his rival and challenger, Mohammed Dahlan. Since I have already suggested that the peace process will no longer be advanced through negotiations between the parties but by unilateral actions by each side, the issue is how this unilateral initiative by the Palestinian Authority will play out. What are the terms of the deal that Azzam al-Ahmad (Fatah) and Mahmoud al-Zahar (Hamas) negotiated and how will the agreement affect the issue of peace?

On the one hand, Hamas refers to the reconciliation of Israel and Hamas as well as participation in the government as a precondition of the reconciliation going forth. On the other hand, others point to the more obvious conclusion of most observers that a reconciliation of Hamas and Fatah makes peace now much more remote since Israel cannot be expected to take steps towards peace, either negotiated or unilateral, when the government on the other side includes a party explicitly dedicated to the elimination of Israel altogether and to the continuation of terrorism. How can these two such opposite positions be reconciled – first, that the most extremist factions in Hamas have agreed on reconciliation with Israel and its opposite, the totally incongruent position of Hamas’ continued insistence that its goal is to eliminate Israel. As Hamas has repeatedly said, “There is no future without jihad and resistance.” As Mousa Abu Marzouk, the deputy chair of Hamas’ political bureau has said, unequivocally, “Hamas will not recognize Israel.”

On Israel Independence Day, Hamas released a new video entitled “The End of Hope”, the end of “Hatikva”, the Israeli national anthem. Hatikva means “hope”. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xsDVUVwbtfE) The video open with full orchestral and violin accompaniment and a map of Palestine between the Jordan and the Mediterranean with a Jewish Star of David on top. As Hatikva plays, a young Palestinian boy as a cartoon figure is seen running and throwing a rock at a wall. We then view stock footage of bombed buses and wounded young children wrapped in white sheets and soaked in blood The video emphasizes the use of terror and the rejection of Israel. In the two-minute clip released by the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Israeli Jews are warned to emigrate or be killed for the latter will be the consequence of Jews who choose to remain. Cartoon caricatures of Jews with kippas are seen boarding a large passenger ship, presumably in Haifa. Jews praying at the Western Wall are viewed running for their lives as masked members of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades with rifles guard the Golden Dome in Jerusalem. The IDF is portrayed as a defeated army. The video ends with a burning Israeli flag inscribed in Arabic, “Israel will inevitably be eliminated”.

But the real issue, on the one hand, is whether Hamas will permit a Palestinian government to recognize and make peace with Israel. I do not believe there is any reason to think that Hamas has changed its position vis a vis Israel or Jews in Palestine. That is why this issue is the most significant aspect of the agreement between Fatah and Hamas. Evidently, and paradoxically, the agreement does permit peace initiatives..

Second, each party would be represented in Parliament in proportion to existing allocations in the National Council from areas where elections cannot be held (Syria and Jordan), but otherwise in proportion to the votes received in the upcoming elections that will be held not only in the West Bank and Gaza, but hopefully in Lebanon. Third, a technocratic government of specialists would be created before the elections with adjustments to allow for inclusion of technocrats working for Hamas. Fourth, six months afterwards, elections for parliament and for the President will proceed. 

As per previous agreements between the parties, Hamas would retain control of security forces in Gaza. Hamas would be assigned a Deputy Minister in the new government. Public prosecution staff and judges employed by the PA who fled Gaza after the Hamas coup would return to their positions in Gaza.. To reconcile with Egypt, the PA presidential security forces would take charge of the Rafah crossing and would be armed only with light weapons. Clearly, to reduce tensions with Egypt in the Sinai, Egypt has backed the reconciliation agreement and allowed Abu Marzouk to travel to Gaza to negotiate and sign the deal. Three days ago, Abbas expanded on the agreement and, as a confidence measure between the two parties, permitted newspapers published by Hamas and Islamic Jihad to be distributed in the West Bank not under Israeli control.

One aspect of the agreement important for mollifying the 20,000 employees that Hamas hired to replaced ousted PA people is that they will either be provided with jobs or pensions (retirement age was set at 55 with an incentive to retire if they are 50 or over) as adjudicated by a special committee with Hamas as an organization paying 40% of the costs of such pensions.

One candidate in the presidential elections in Israel scheduled for June  has stood out in welcoming the reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah, Meir Sheetit of Hatnua, a strong supporter of Tzipi Livni. What about Hamas well-known stand that it does not support past agreements resulting from Oslo, does not support peace negotiations with Israel and does not recognize Israel? There is no reason to expect those positions to change, but factions in Netanyahu’s government disown a two-state solution or any negotiations with the Palestinians yet the Israeli government engages in such negotiations pursuing a two-state solution. Further, the point is moot since peace is unlikely to be advanced in the near future through formal peace negotiations. Dealing with a government that includes Hamas for some brings closer the possibility that Hamas will reject terrorism and recognize Israel just as the PLO did several decades earlier while for others it brings forward the possibility that the ideology of terror will once more dominate in the halls of power of the central Palestinian Authority.

Whatever the inevitable outcome, the immediate prospect of a more peaceful PA is more a hope rather than an immediate prospect, and a hope that can be characterized as very unlike the dream of Hatikva. The reconciliation agreement just sets a process in motion, a process with a plethora of landmines. Hamas rejects placing the Izz ad-Din al Qassam Brigades under any unified security command structure. There is not even a provision for such a unified command structure in the 23 April agreement whatever Abbas implies. Further, Hamas insists on retaining its weapons and will not even subordinate its security forces to a Higher Security Committee. Hamas uses the Lebanon model as an example. It is the PLO government that will recognize Israel and reject violence, not Hamas.

If this is a formula simply for Hamas saving itself when in dire circumstances or even a formula for Fatah saving face, it is a very dangerous one, that if given substance, will dynamite any moves towards peace from either side, including unilateral ones.