The American Election through English Eyes
I think it in general a bad idea to write about elections in a foreign country. I do not live there and do not understand the particular circumstances of the country. Foreigners who write about England always make silly mistakes. Why should I be better informed about their countries? More than that, what happens outside England is none of my business.
I break the rule for the American election because I regret that it is my business. I regret – indeed, I am outraged – that our relationship with America reverses the normal standing of mother country to former colony. Whatever happens in America has a direct and profound impact on what happens in England. This gives me the moral right to an opinion. If the right does not extend to telling Americans how to vote in their own interests, it does extend to considering how the way that Americans may vote will affect the interests of my own people.
Therefore, I begin.
I hope, though do not believe, that Donald Trump will win the election next month. I do not suppose that he would keep many of his promises. Some of them do not seem capable of being kept. But the fact alone of his victory would be a blow against a New World Order that is underwritten by American military power and cultural influence. In the speech he gave on the 13th October, he said:
Our great civilization, here in America and across the civilized world has come upon a moment of reckoning. We’ve seen it in the United Kingdom, where they voted to liberate themselves from global government and global trade deal, and global immigration deals that have destroyed their sovereignty and have destroyed many of those nations. But, the central base of world political power is right here in America, and it is our corrupt political establishment that is the greatest power behind the efforts at radical globalization and the disenfranchisement of working people. Their financial resources are virtually unlimited, their political resources are unlimited, their media resources are unmatched, and most importantly, the depths of their immorality is absolutely unlimited.
For the man who said this to become President would legitimise an entire critique of the New World Order and the political correctness that it enforces. He might not close down the relevant agencies, or unfund the relevant universities. He might not do much at all. But he is giving voice to a rising tide of protest in America that will not go away, and that is already crossing the Atlantic, to breathe a semblance of life into our own dreary politics. A Trump Presidency would be in itself a political earthquake on both sides of the Atlantic. As such, it would be in English interests for him to win.
But I do not believe he will win. So what might we expect from a Clinton Presidency? Looked at from England, I still see benefits. Mrs Clinton will not start a big war. There may be ten or twenty million Americans who believe that a nuclear war in the Middle East will bring on the Second Coming. None of these, however, has any influence in the Democratic Party. Mrs Clinton and her staff do not wish to spend the rest of their lives stuck with each other in a fallout shelter, arguing over a dwindling stock of tinned pineapple. All they really want is to push Russia and China into a defensive alliance, and then to start a new Cold War against a new “threat.” This is grossly undesirable. But, given that, as in the first Cold War, both sides would continue talking behind the curtain, it is not unaffordable for America or its satellites. Its main cost, apart from the usual hill of non-white corpses, would be a stream of blank cheques to the usual suspects in the military-industrial complex.
I am told that she will open the gates to unlimited immigration. If true, this is a mostly American problem in which I take no interest. Where it is not a purely American problem, I see benefits to England. Every immigrant who turns up in America does not, by definition, turn up here. More importantly, immigration weakens the New World Order.
Put on an American accent, half mournful and half eager, and say with me: “These people are mostly Catholics and other people of faith. They are natural conservatives. We must persuade them to vote Republican.” This is, on the face of it, an absurd statement. The Republican Party is seen – and, below its normal leadership, is – the political voice of white America. It is, in principal at least, opposed to affirmative action and indiscriminate welfare. Why should immigrants from Honduras or Mexico or Somalia vote Republican? Doubtless, some do, because they believe in the American Dream. Good luck to them. But most do not, and will not.
There is, even so, an element of truth in the statement. The sorts of immigrant I have in mind are not leftists in the American sense. They have no interest in “saving the planet.” Most of them smoke. They are not visibly in favour of invading Timbuctoo for its failure to let transsexuals use the ladies’ toilet. The more important they grow as a voting group, the less trouble America will make in the world – and this is in the interest of my own people.
But the most solid benefit of a Clinton win would be its destabilising effect on politics in America. If I think he will lose, I suspect that Mr Trump will pick up more votes than the losing Republicans did in the previous two elections. These voters will not be pleased that their man lost because of a wall of corporate money, and an openly biased media, and voting groups whose roots in the country may go no further back than 1965. There will, as an old friend of mine used to say, be blood on the moon. Whether or not he accepts defeat, the support Mr Trump has identified will be ripe for the picking by anyone else who takes up his standard. The cries of rancour will echo round the world. They will be particularly heard in England.
If I were an American who cared about the nation into which he had been born, my vote would be for Mr Trump. There might be concerns about his personal behaviour and his honesty. He would get my vote all the same. But I am not an American, and, for all manner of reasons, I am glad of that. Speaking as an Englishman, I would prefer Mr Trump to win. I can see many advantages for my country in his victory. But a win by Mrs Clinton would also bring advantages, though fewer.
I will not sit up all night, to watch various Americans based in London talk about the latest results from Hicksville. But I will read the BBC website next morning with more than usual interest
A slippery Leftist law firm
Jon Tester didn’t come all the way from Montana for the scrambled eggs and bacon. The US senator, virtually unknown in Boston, was in a conference room at the Thornton Law Firm that June morning to cash in at one of the most reliable stops on the Democratic fund-raising circuit, a law firm that pours millions into the coffers of the party and its politicians.
Tester, a massive, jovial man who raises livestock on his family farm, was more compelling than many of the other breakfast guests, all of them political candidates the firm hoped would defend the interests of trial attorneys. But the drill was basically the same. The personal injury lawyers listened politely for a few minutes, then returned to their offices. And Tester walked away with $26,400 in checks.
But a striking thing happened the day Tester visited in 2010. Partner David C. Strouss received a payment from the firm labeled as a “bonus” that exactly equaled his $2,400 contribution to Tester’s campaign, the maximum allowed. A few days later, partner Garrett Bradley — until recently the House assistant majority leader on Beacon Hill — got a bonus, too, exactly matching his $2,400 gift to Tester.
This pattern of payments — contributions offset by bonus payments — was commonplace at Thornton, according to a review of law firm records by the Spotlight Team and the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based nonprofit that tracks campaign finance data.
From 2010 through 2014, Strouss and Bradley, along with founding partner Michael Thornton and his wife, donated nearly $1.6 million to Democratic Party fund-raising committees and a parade of politicians — from Senate minority leader Harry Reid of Nevada to Hawaii gubernatorial candidate David Ige to Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Over the same span, the lawyers received $1.4 million listed as “bonuses” in Thornton Law Firm records; more than 280 of the contributions precisely matched bonuses that were paid within 10 days.
That payback system, which involved other partners as well, helped make Thornton the 11th-ranked law firm nationally for political contributions in 2014, according to data analyzed by the center, even though it is not among the 100 largest in Massachusetts.
Thornton, through a spokesman, said its donation reimbursement program was reviewed by outside lawyers and complied with applicable laws. Campaign finance experts said that without reviewing the firm’s records, they cannot say the payback system breaks the law, but that it raises numerous red flags.
That’s because reimbursing people for their political donations is generally illegal, several experts said. When political donors are repaid for their donations, it can conceal the real source of contributions, and enable the unnamed source of the funds to exceed state and federal contribution limits. And in some states — Massachusetts among them — political donations to state candidates from corporations and partnerships such as Thornton Law Firm are flatly illegal.
Reimbursing donors is “among the most serious campaign violations, in the view of both the Federal Election Commission and the Department of Justice,” said Daniel Petalas, an attorney who served as acting general counsel of the FEC until September.
“Using straw donors to make contributions is illegal,” said Larry Noble, general counsel of the Washington-based Campaign Legal Center and a former general counsel of the FEC. “People can go and have gone to prison for this.”
Thornton officials declined to comment, instead hiring a former federal prosecutor to respond to the Globe’s questions.
The ex-prosecutor, Brian Kelly, said the bonuses should not have been called bonuses at all because they were paid from the lawyers’ own money. He said an accountant deducted the payments from their equity, or ownership, in the firm. When lawyers leave Thornton Law and cash in their equity, he said, their financial settlement with Thornton would be reduced by the amount of the bonuses.
Kelly provided a written statement from Michael Thornton saying that “an error made internally” led to the payments being called bonuses. Thornton said he changed the way they were labeled in 2015, several years into the program, when he discovered the mistake.
“It’s obviously not a crime to make lots of donations to politicians, and they certainly did that,” said Kelly. “But their donation program was vetted by prior counsel and an outside accountant, and the firm made every effort to comply with all applicable laws and regulations.”
However, campaign finance experts were skeptical about the system Kelly describes, saying it could allow partners to go years before repaying the firm for the bonuses. Regulators could view the bonuses as open-ended loans, they said, making them hidden, illegal donations from the firm.
“I think they need to be very careful,” said James Kahl, former deputy general counsel of the FEC. “The big red flag is monies being advanced, and the truing up doesn’t happen for many years.”
Kelly, who has given varying explanations of the reimbursement policy since first being asked about it in July, declined to provide a copy of a legal opinion that he said justified the repayment program. He also declined to say whether lawyers who left the firm were required to pay when the bonuses they received exceeded their equity in the firm.
But one thing is certain: The policy was so complicated that some lawyers at the firm didn’t understand it, said former employees. They were just happy to get their money back.
For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.
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