May 7, 2016 Elections: Sarawak political machine will prop up Najib

April 24, 2016


May 7, 2016 Elections: Sarawak political machine will prop up Najib

by James Chin, University of Tasmania

On  May 7,  residents of Sarawak, the larger of the two Malaysian states located on Borneo island, will be going to the polls. Sarawak is the only one of Malaysia’s 13 states to hold its state and federal polls separately. This is the first election in Malaysia since the emergence of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) crisis engulfing Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Prime Minister Najib Razak at Malaysia's parliament in Kuala Lumpur on 26 January 2016. (Photo: AAP)

Many Malaysian and international pundits are using the results of the upcoming Sarawak polls to see if the 1MDB scandal will affect Malaysian voter behaviour. Najib has taken a personal interest in the polls, visiting Sarawak more than 50 times since he took power in 2009.

It is fairly obvious that he is looking for a big win in Sarawak to use as political capital and momentum for the next federal polls, due in 2018. Many international and Malaysian observers are speculating about how Najib’s political position may have been weakened by allegations that US$1.1 billion (or more) from the 1MBD fund ended up in his personal bank account. But they often overlook that a major part of Najib’s political strength has been his considerable ability to maintain a majority in parliament.

It is important to understand that Malaysia’s elections are free, but not fair by any standards. Gerrymandering, vote-buying, the use of government machinery for voter mobilisation and state control of the mainstream media are all part and parcel of the game. Far more seriously, the Election Commission of Malaysia is consistently accused of bias towards the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition government.

But the key is the way parliamentary seats are divided. Essentially, there are three blocs of constituencies in the 222-seat Malaysian parliament. The first is the urban constituencies, almost all of which have an ethnic Chinese majority. Second are the semi-rural and rural constituencies in the Malayan Peninsula — by contrast, almost all are ethnic Malay majority seats. While Najib has been able to win about 60 to 70 per cent of the rural Malay vote, BN has consistently lost the Chinese urban vote.

The third, and most important, are the 57 seats in the states of Sabah and Sarawak on Borneo (collectively known as East Malaysia). The majority ethnicities in these two states are the native Kadazandusun in Sabah and the Dayak in Sarawak. For the past two decades, these two states have voted overwhelmingly for BN. In the 2013 general elections, BN won 47 of 57 East Malaysian seats. Sarawak alone contributed 25 BN MPs to the federal BN government.

Currently Najib has a 21-seat majority in the Malaysian parliament. In other words, without East Malaysia (or Sarawak alone), Najib’s government would have fallen in 2013. Sarawak’s main party, Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), is now the second largest BN component party after Najib’s United Malays National Organisation (UMNO). Is it any wonder that Najib has taken a personal interest in the upcoming Sarawak polls?

The good news for Najib is that he has nothing to worry about. As they say in Kuching, the capital of Sarawak, ‘BN is sure win, lah!’ Sarawak is much like a foreign enclave in the Malaysian federation. Sarawakians do not really see themselves as part of Najib’s ‘1Malaysia’. Rather they see themselves as Sarawakian first and Malaysian second. The ethnic, religious and partisan cleavages that dominate politics in the Malayan Peninsula have comparatively little relevance in Sarawak. In fact, it is the only state where UMNO does not have a single branch.

Local issues predominate: things like the 1MDB scandal and Najib’s other shenanigans are non-issues outside the urban settlements. The most prominent political campaign in this state election is for a movement called ‘S4S’ or Sarawak for Sarawakians. S4S is pushing for the eventual secession of Sarawak from the Malaysian federation, claiming that Sarawak (and Sabah) have not benefited from being in the federation for the past half century.


On top of this, Adenan Satem, Sarawak’s new Chief Minister, can expect to benefit from a ‘honeymoon vote’. He took power in 2014 after the controversial former chief minister Taib Mahmud stepped down (or rather stepped up, since he became Governor of Sarawak) after more than three decades in the job.

Just to make sure, 11 new state constituencies were created for this coming state election, bringing the total to 82 state seats. The way the boundaries were drawn, it is impossible for BN to lose 10 of these 11 new seats.

The only group of Sarawakians that is expected to vote against BN is the urban Chinese. They have never forgiven Taib’s alleged kleptocracy. Being better educated, and with access to the internet and social media, the urban Chinese want to send a clear message to BN that while it is good that UMNO is not in Sarawak, nothing is politically forgotten until Taib and his proxy Adenam give up their stranglehold over Sarawak politics.

The upcoming Sarawak elections will likely amount to nothing but a big yawn. Chief Minister Adenan will get the all-important two-thirds majority in the state legislature and Najib will claim some credit for the results. Those who know Sarawak politics well will realise that this is pure nonsense — the results will be the same as usual regardless of how many times Najib has shown his face in Sarawak.

Professor James Chin is Director of the Asia Institute at the University of Tasmania

On Chief Minister of Sarawak, Adenan Satem

April 13, 2016

On Chief Minister of Sarawak, Adenan Satem

by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee


It is fair to say that when Adenan Satem stepped into Taib Mahmud’s shoes as Chief Minister of Sarawak, few expected him to be more than a stopgap for the emergence of more ambitious and pushy younger politicians in Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), the dominant party in the state.

The fact that Taib had also not relinquished power but was moving into the position of Governor seemed to indicate that the state’s post- colonial “White Rajah” would be pulling the strings; and that Adenan, besides being a temporary leader, would also serve as a door mat.

Add to this the concern over Adenan’s health, especially following his heart surgery three years ago and most analysts were initially predicting little or no change in the status quo with regard to the East Malaysian state in its relations with an UMNO dominated federal government, or the way in which the state’s interests have been ravaged by the widely perceived kleptocratic rule of the previous state government.

However, now into his third year as Chief Minister, even his staunchest political enemies are conceding that Adenan has been a big change from Taib.

An array of policy reforms from restrictions in timber concession licences to abandonment of the controversial Baram Dam project, recognition of the Unified Examination Certificate for admission in the state’s public universities and civil service, and reassurance on protecting the state’s autonomy and upholding the legitimate interests of minority communities against an intrusive federal government dominated by UMNO’s racial and religious concerns has helped Adenan bolster his growing reputation as being his own man and not Taib’s or anyone else’s poodle.

Through his friendship with Prime Minister Najib Razak, and as a result possibly of the Prime Minister’s weakened position following the 1MDB scandal, he has also successfully negotiated for a larger quantum of the federal government’s development budget to be directed to rural infrastructure and rural development projects in the state.

Most analysts are now agreed that BN will win the coming state election with the only question being the margin of victory. The key factor is not simply Adenan’s ability to play the Sarawak nationalism card while leveraging on his personal popularity (according to recent polls, up from 74% in July 2015 to 84% in January 2016) and the downplaying, if not constraint, of his predecessor’s role in the state’s political economy.

There is also a less than cohesive opposition, still apparently in disagreement and disarray over seat allocation, despite the late hour before polling day. And given that most of the eleven newly created state seats have been carved out from government-dominated constituencies, it will be an uphill battle for Pakatan’s rural based parties of PKR and Amanah.

Most observers are pointing to an overwhelming victory for Adenan, with the only setback likely to come from the state’s urban constituencies where the DAP is expected to continue drawing strong support from predominantly Chinese voters. Still, expectations are high within the Barisan affiliated urban parties that they will be able to make inroads into DAP’s support as a result of populist measures such as the recent reduction of assessment tax and the abolition of land quit rents.

Adenan’s Place in the History Books

What will happen next after the likely big election victory for Adenan is what Sarawakians as well as Malaysians from the Peninsula will be most concerned about.

Will Adenan use what literally is his new lease of life simply only to engrave his name in the history books as a chief minister who wanted, and was able, to win the polls on his own merit – he had noted that he owed his current position and mandate from the former chief minister Taib.

Will he be content to be remembered as a state-based Johnny-come-lately reformer who, for much of his time in public service, was part of a system which has been condemned as a epicentre of corruption, displacement of indigenous peoples, abuse of human rights and regionally significant deforestation?

Will he be satisfied with a reputation tainted by his relationship with the Taib family which according to a series of leaked US embassy cables published in August 2011 was”widely thought to extract a percentage from most major commercial contracts – including those for logging – awarded in the state (Sarawak)” and his association with the former Chief Minister whose main claim to fame is his fabulous unaccounted for wealth, much of it located abroad, and reputed to run into many billions of ringgit?

Or can he be the catalyst to more sustained change and reform both for Sarawak and the larger federation?

Two factors work to his advantage: First, Sarawak is not the typical Malaysian Malay or Chinese or Muslim dominated state. Indigenous non-Muslim Bumiputra make up the majority of the population. Malays and Chinese make up 23 and 24 percent of the state’s population. Christianity makes up the largest religion in Sarawak. Sarawak is the only state with a Christian majority.

Second, issues of local autonomy especially in economy, education and religion resonate strongly among all communities, especially with the more urbanized and highly educated. The sentiment that Sarawak has been badly treated by Putrajaya is a widely shared one especially among the young who resent what they perceive as the re-colonization of their state by federal officials pushing the Putrajaya pro-Malay, pro-Muslim line.

In taking up cudgels on behalf of Sarawakians with his new mandate, Adenan has the opportunity to right the Barisan ship which has sailed dangerously off course, away from the liberal, progressive, open and democratic society, and clean and accountable government promised by the early leaders of the Alliance party.

Donald the Trump and the Destruction of The Republican Party (?)

April 3, 2016

Donald the Trump and the Destruction of The Republican  Party (?)

by Ben Jacobs in Washington

Supporters listen as Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Wisconsin. Wisconsin voters go to the polls for the state’s primary on April 5.

Trump’s Supporters

Republican strategists privately fear that both the Senate and perhaps even the House could be lost if Trump is the Republican nominee. Swing voters and suburbanites and women will run away from the party, while Latino and African-American voters who may be unexcited by Hillary Clinton will be motivated to turn out and vote against a candidate whom they perceive to be a racist.–Ben Jacobs

After Mitt Romney failed to beat a vulnerable Barack Obama in 2012, a chastened Republican party arrived pretty quickly at the answer to their electability problem.

They were the party of old, angry white men, and in a much-heralded Washington DC press conference in March 2013, senior officials released an “autopsy report” concluding that to win back the White House, the party needed to appeal to young voters, women and minorities.

Three years later, Donald Trump, who is historically unpopular among every one of those demographics, is the frontrunner for the party’s nomination. To paraphrase David Byrne, how did the Republican party get here?

Supporters listen as Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders addresses a rally at the Verizon Theater in Grand Prairie, Texas.

Young Americans for Bernie (The Bern)

In a series of interviews with party insiders, operatives and elected officials, the party’s predicament is clear – Trump is on the verge of completing a hostile takeover – but as top Republican consultant John Brabender said: “Everybody may have a small piece of the answer, but I’m not sure if anyone has the answer.”

With the next primary contest looming in Wisconsin on Tuesday, the two most plausible scenarios for the Republican convention in July are either that Trump is the nominee or that complete and total anarchy ensues – and no one knows which option will be more damaging at the general election in November or to the future of the party.

The reasons are complex, but the grassroots rage against the machine was clearly evident. Brabender, like many others, saw dissatisfaction with Barack Obama as a key impetus for the rise of Trump. Obama has long been a hate figure on the right and Trump’s coalition includes both diehard conservatives and disaffected blue-collar Democrats.

Talented, electable Republicans were pushed aside in the midst of the Tea Party furor

But he also saw “an incredible distaste for Washington DC” going back to 2010 when the Republican grassroots responded strongly to rightwing candidates who were prone to outrageous statements. Talented, electable Republicans were pushed aside in the midst of the Tea Party furor which had been touched off by rage at Obama’s economic stimulus and his “socialist” health insurance reforms.

The anti-Washington fever within the party base wasn’t diminished when Republicans regained control of the House in 2010. Instead, it was only further increased as Tea Partiers, anxious to undo key Obama initiatives, were dissatisfied with the pace of progress.

In 2012, Rick Santorum, whom Brabender worked for, was able to tap into some of the same reservoir of discontent that now fuels Trump.

“Mitt Romney should have won that [primary] going away,” Brabender said. Instead, Santorum won 11 states and, since then, Brabender said “a lot of fuel has been added to that fire” as discontent grew with a Republican Congress.

Growing anger

Congressman Tom Massie (above), an ardent libertarian from Kentucky, argued that voters who hated “Big Government” were frustrated that “the Republican party has been feckless at the job of stopping the expansion of government with Obama in office”.

Republicans in the congressional leadership had also totally ignored the signs of discontent in the party’s base. After Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, lost his 2014 primary in perhaps the most shocking upset in modern American political history, Massie said the growing anger was simply never talked about. He recalled that Cantor ran the weekly, members-only meeting of the Republican caucus. Then, after his primary loss, the Virginia Republican just wasn’t there any more. “Nobody ever talked about Cantor not being there. It was like he had a heart attack,” Massie said.

After Mitt Romney failed to beat a vulnerable Barack Obama in 2012, the Republican Party concluded that it needed to appeal to young voters, women and minorities.

For party grandees, sticking their heads in the sand left them unable to cope with the tempest whipping up dissent. Rick Wilson, a prominent Republican consultant who has become a vocal Trump opponent, argued that much of the New York tycoon’s outrage towards Washington was stoked by what he called “the entertainment wing of the Republican party”.

The trouble with Obama was that they couldn’t defeat him, so they went after congressional Republicans.

This group, which he described as consisting of “certain parts of the Fox News evening lin up, talk radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin … and the fever swamp of the conservative message machine had spent years looking for the perfect villain”.

The trouble with identifying Obama as that villain was that they couldn’t defeat him, so they turned upon their own and went after congressional Republicans in Washington because “they won’t do everything perfect and won’t commit to burning down the village”, Wilson said. The problem wasn’t that congressional Republicans were ignoring the grassroots, it was that the Republican base had been “primed” to demand the impossible.

Wilson, however, has no love for the establishment and expressed frustration that the party needed to present a “forward-looking agenda that isn’t the same old tax cuts and trade deals and all the official bullshit of official Washington”.

‘A candidate of grievances’

But the increase in populist unrest within the Republican base isn’t the only reason for Trump’s rise. As Stuart Stevens, top strategist for Mitt Romney in 2012 said, there is also “the Guns of August theory” referencing the chain of events that led to the start of the first world war. As he described it, “a theory of unintended consequences by miscalculations, cowardice and ineptitude”.

The reasons for Trump-mania are complex, but the grassroots rage against the machine is clearly evident.

Donald Trump–A Candidate of Grievances

So, in a stressful economic time, Trump has emerged as “a candidate of grievances” and managed to slip through the many pitfalls and traps laid for outsider candidates in the Republican primary process.

The rules were specifically designed to aid an establishment candidate like Jeb Bush in 2016, but without the fundraising and political infrastructure normally required for a successful candidate, Trump’s celebrity has overcome all obstacles. In fact, some of the changes, like the front-loading of earlier primary contests have rebounded to Trump’s benefit, as the frontrunner has been able to escape prolonged scrutiny of political gaffes due to the constant churn of election nights.

To Stevens, people aren’t “really focused on what Trump is saying except on a couple of issues”. For example, he didn’t think “it’s Trump’s stance on immigration that is drawing voters with a lot of fervor, it’s Trump’s racist language”.

Brabender saw Trump as running ‘a protest campaign’ … ‘people want radical change in some capacity’

Among his base constituency of older, less-educated and predominantly white voters, Trump has become a vehicle for a broader discontent with the vast economic changes over the past few decades that have seen the US shift from an industrial economy to a service-based economy.

Brabender saw Trump as running “a protest campaign”. He said “people have got to the point that they want radical change in some capacity and not even sure they know what those changes are, but they want them, and are willing to sacrifice their votes to make things happen.”

Supporters listen as Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Wisconsin. Wisconsin voters go to the polls for the state’s primary on April 5.

But the protest candidate is increasingly looking like the nominee. Stevens didn’t think Republican leaders had “a strategy to survive as a party with Trump” and noted the frontrunner’s calamitous week where he veered first from “full-throated defense of violence against women” in the case of a reporter manhandled by his chief of staff, to an extreme call for punishing women who have abortions.

In Stevens’ eyes, “there’s not a national party that exists in America, not a regional party” that could support that platform, adding “you couldn’t get elected in Mississippi articulating that”. The native Mississippian then added: “You couldn’t get out of a bar defending violence against women.”

For some conservatives, the remark about abortion was not only damaging, it was exasperating proof that Trump was an impostor pretending to be a conservative, playing to the gallery with no grasp of what ardent pro-life campaigners really stood for.

Damage control

For many top Republicans, the White House has already been written off for another four years. The goal now is to limit the damage.

Republican strategists privately fear that both the Senate and perhaps even the House could be lost if Trump is the Republican nominee. Swing voters and suburbanites and women will run away from the party, while Latino and African-American voters who may be unexcited by Hillary Clinton will be motivated to turn out and vote against a candidate whom they perceive to be a racist.

The question is what alternative is there to Trump? And even if he can be stopped from getting the majority of delegates he needs, the damage to the Republicans could be even worse than if he was the nominee. As the strategist Brabender noted “even non-Trump supporters will find it offensive” if there is “too much of an effort to prevent him from getting the nomination”. Congressman Massie used more blunt terms and described the scenario as “completely apocalyptic”.

Not all Republicans see doom and gloom if Trump is the nominee. Grover Norquist, the head of the influential conservative group Americans for Tax Reform, notes “the presidency is nice and important if you want to make progress” but it’s not essential. The veteran Republican operative sees a party still dominant in state legislatures and says “the people who focus only on presidential elections are getting distracted”.

Congressman Massie used more blunt terms and described the scenario as ‘completely apocalyptic’

“I am very happy with the cards that we have,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade this for the Presidency.” Although Norquist added: “I’d like to have both.”

Republicans can also take some comfort from the cyclical nature of politics. In 1974, Democrats won big majorities in both houses of Congress against a Republican party dejected after the Watergate scandal. Yet, just six years later, Ronald Reagan was elected president.

There is still the possibility that Trump could win in November. Massie, a former Rand Paul supporter, is convinced that Trump, along with either of the two candidates still running, could beat Hillary Clinton.

Further, in some districts, the New York real estate mogul’s presence on the ballot could boost other Republicans. Stewart Mills, the Republican nominee in a blue-collar corner of Minnesota near the Canadian border, didn’t see “any turmoil” among Republicans in his moderate district. Instead, he saw “a lot of energy” and felt confident in his message.

But not all Republicans are running in districts like Mills. Already, one incumbent Republican congressman, Carlos Curbelo, a conservative rising star from South Florida, has suggested he would vote for Hillary Clinton over Trump.

Wilson, the consultant, would also prefer President Clinton to Trump, though he would not vote for either. If the Republicans must lose, he sees the process as akin to “cutting off a gangrenous limb … it’s going to hurt, take a long time to recover” but, if you do not act, it will kill you.


Why Should ‘Never Trump’ Mean Ted Cruz?–Maybe Kasich

April 2, 2016

The Opinion Pages | New York Times Editorial

Why Should ‘Never Trump’ Mean Ted Cruz?–Maybe Kasich

America’s Choice–Who will be President?

With more than half of the 2016 presidential primary races in the history books, Republicans desperate to deny Donald Trump their party’s nomination now say Wisconsin, where Ted Cruz is leading, will show that their effort has turned the tide. They shouldn’t start bragging yet.

At a televised Republican town hall on Tuesday, it was painful to watch farmers, students and a man whose son died of a drug overdose pose earnest questions to Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz, who were more interested in attacking each other. Only John Kasich connected with these voters.

Despite its noble aim and big budget, “Never Trump” has become a panicky reaction in search of a strategy. In Wisconsin, “Never Trump” means “How About Cruz?” as self-interested leaders like Governor Scott Walker try to sell Republicans on a dangerously reactionary senator as an improvement over a dangerously ignorant businessman. But for the state’s — and the nation’s — moderate conservatives, “Never Trump” should more logically mean “Maybe Kasich.”

The framework that Mitt Romney sketched for a “Never Trump” movement on March 3 rested on an analysis of delegate allocation rules in the remaining primary states. If Mr. Trump continued to win pluralities in winner-take-all states, he could easily nab the nomination. But through careful engineering and the targeted use of resources, those states could be won by the other candidates, throwing the nomination to the convention.

Maybe Kasich needs to win big to stand a chance

“We can nominate a person who can win the general election and who will represent the values and policies of conservatism,” Mr. Romney said, adding that he would back whoever had the best chance of beating Mr. Trump in a given state.

Marco Rubio’s loss in Florida was a big setback, leaving only two challengers to Mr. Trump. But in Utah, Mr. Romney’s strategy worked. Mormons offended by Mr. Trump’s comments about Muslims delivered a hefty winner-take-all state to Mr. Cruz.

In some coming states and districts, voter data indicates that Mr. Kasich, not the ultraconservative, evangelical Mr. Cruz, could be more competitive. Yet there’s been no real effort by “Never Trump” leaders on Mr. Kasich’s behalf. Indeed, some Republicans are pressuring the Ohio governor to quit and coalescing around Mr. Cruz, a candidate who was once almost as unthinkable to them as Mr. Trump and should still be.

This is happening even though the numbers are there to deprive Mr. Trump of the nomination without delivering it to Mr. Cruz on a platter, says Henry Olsen, of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative think tank in Washington. “If your goal is ‘Never Trump,’ you should put your bets on the best candidate depending on the delegate allocation rules and the demographics of the state,” he says.

This means “Never Trump” backers would help Mr. Cruz in California’s Los Angeles media market and Central Valley, and in New Mexico, South Dakota, Indiana and Montana, which favor him. And they would work to deliver Delaware, the San Francisco Bay area, the Philadelphia suburbs, and urban areas in New York State to Mr. Kasich.

Mr. Olsen calls this a “cartel approach.” However, he says, the Republican leaders he has talked to have trouble accepting this idea. The problem is basically self-interest. Some conservative leaders see Mr. Cruz as their best chance for maintaining their influence and are thus reluctant to work for Mr. Kasich. Others who backed Jeb Bush or Mr. Rubio resent Mr. Kasich for not yielding to their candidate. Others worry that Mr. Kasich’s views on the poor, Muslims and immigrants place him too far from the right to win in a brokered convention.

But in a year when cruelty and exclusion stand as hallmarks of conservatism, “It would be courageous to stand up and say that Kasich is a different kind of conservative,” who doesn’t see government, or foreigners, as enemies, Mr. Olsen says. “These voters exist, and there’s a lot of them.” He adds that Mr. Kasich should be doing better at wooing them.

Mr. Cruz has been trying to bully Mr. Kasich from the race by billing himself as the only viable alternative to Mr. Trump. It would be ironic if Mr. Cruz became the candidate of a party whose leaders hate him. But if those leaders can’t find it in themselves to take a more courageous path, they deserve whatever they get.

Will Trump Be Dumped?

March 21, 2016

SundayReview | Op-Ed Columnist

Will Trump Be Dumped?

MOST people would be upset to be at the center of an agitated national debate about whether they were more like Hitler, Mussolini, Idi Amin, George Wallace or a Marvel villain.

Not Donald Trump. He doesn’t like invidious comparisons but he’s cool with being called an authoritarian.

Republican Party Wrecker or Saviour?

“We need strength in this country,” he told me Friday morning, speaking from his Fifth Avenue (New York) office. “We have weak leadership. Hillary is pathetically weak.

“She got us into Libya and she got us into Benghazi and she’s probably got 40 eggheads sitting around a table telling her what to do, and then she was sleeping when the phone call came in from the Ambassador begging for help. You know, the 3 a.m. phone call?”

I asked the brand baron if he’s concerned that his brand has gone from fun to scary, from glittery New York celebrity to “S.N.L.” skits about him featuring allusions to the K.K.K. and Hitler. He blamed a “disgustingly dishonest” press.

I wondered about ex-wife Ivana telling her lawyer, according to Vanity Fair, that Trump kept a book of Hitler’s speeches by his bed. Or the talk in New York that in the ’90s he was reading “Mein Kampf.” Nein, he said. “I never had the book,” he said. “I never read the book. I don’t care about the book.”

All over town, even in the building where I’m writing this column, freaked-out Republicans are plotting how to rip the nomination from Trump’s hot little hands.

How does it feel to be labeled a menace, misogynist, bigot and xenophobe by your own party? “Honestly,” he replied, “I’m with the people. The people like Trump.”

Since he prefers to rely on himself for policy advice, is he seeking out expert help on the abstruse delegate rules? “Yeah,” he said, “I have people, very good people, the best people.” No details, as usual.

Won’t a contested convention require more of a campaign than après moi, le déluge? “I have an organization but it’s largely myself,” he said.

More heavyweights are jumping in to stomp Trump, including Elizabeth Warren. Asked about her jabs, he pounced: “I think it’s wonderful because the Indians can now partake in the future of the country. She’s got about as much Indian blood as I have. Her whole life was based on a fraud. She got into Harvard and all that because she said she was a minority.”

Told that President Obama was mocking his wine as $5 wine marked up to $50, Trump shot back, “My wine has gone through the roof.”

What about Mitt Romney, who’s pushing for an open convention? “He’s a jealous fool and not a bright person,” Trump said. “He’s good looking. Other than that, he’s got nothing.”

Paul Ryan, who will be leading the G.O.P. convention in Cleveland, says there could be a floor fight. But he protested that he would, no, no, never take it himself, just as he once said about the speakership.

Ryan snickered at the idea that Mexico would pay for the wall and chided Trump for warning that there would be riots at the convention if the Gasping Old Party tried to snatch the nomination. Was the speaker interested in seizing the crown himself?

“I don’t think so,” Trump said, noting that he liked Ryan and that they’d talked. “All that matters is the votes. I see people making statements about me that are harsh and yet they are calling me on the other line saying, ‘Hey, when can we get together?’”

Mitch McConnell also urged Trump to ratchet down the ferocity. Trump insisted that “the violence is not caused by me. It’s caused by agitators.” He added that “Hillary is the one disrupting my rallies. It’s more Hillary than Sanders, I found out.” The Clinton campaign called this “patently false.”

But shouldn’t parents be able to bring children to rallies without worrying about obscenities, sucker punches, brawls and bullying? “The rallies are the safest places a child could be,” Trump replied primly.

Didn’t the man rushing the stage give him pause? “I got credit for that because it looked like I was moving toward him,” he said.

Trump said that when the “agitators” scream and the crowd screams back, “Frankly, it adds a little excitement.” But there must be a safer, saner way to get some oomph.

I wondered if he realized that, in riling up angry whites, he has pulled the scab off racism. “Obama, who is African-American, has done nothing for African Americans,” he replied.

He said he would soon unleash the moniker that he thought would diminish Hillary, the way “Little Marco” and “Lyin’ Ted” torched his Republican rivals; “I want to get rid of the leftovers first.”

When he mocks Hillary, as he does in a new ad that shows her barking, it may backfire. Due to his inability to let go of his chew toy Megyn Kelly, Trump drew a remarkable rebuke Friday night from Fox News after he called for a boycott of her show and tweeted that she was “crazy” and “sick.” Fox painted Trump as a stalker, saying he had an “extreme, sick obsession” with the anchor. Unable to resist, even though he knows I respect Kelly, he also described her to me as a “total whack job” with “no talent.”

He has a history of crude remarks about women from his visits to Howard Stern’s show that could be used in Hillary ads. A conservative anti-Trump “super PAC” is running an ad with women repeating his coarse remarks.

“All of these politicians have said far worse than that,” Trump said, “drunk, standing in a corner.”

Joe Scarborough said that just as F.D.R. was the master of radio and J.F.K. of television, D.J.T. is the titan of Twitter. The titan agreed, gloating about how his tweets to his seven million followers, sometimes penned in his jammies, become cable news bulletins. “Yeah,” he said, “I’ll do them sometimes lying in bed.”

Not exactly a fireside chat. But it sure started a fire.

A version of this op-ed appears in print on March 20, 2016, on page SR11 of the New York edition with the headline: Will Trump Be Dumped?. Today’s Paper|Subscribe


Trumping Democracy–The Dysfunction of American Politics


March 17, 2016

COMMENT: My University colleague, Dr. Mike, as  he is popularly known on campus, is disappointed with the state of American politics today. The party of Lincoln, Eisenhower, Reagan and Bush The First has been shamed by Donald Trump, a political novice, and his rowdy supporters and followers. Listen to his campaign speeches and you will realise that they are devoid of real substance. He is dangerous to America and the world and yet he is the front runner in the race for the Republican Party  nomination.

I am an admirer of the American tradition of democratic discourse, but I now find that American politics has degenerated into a sort of shouting match among the various contenders from both parties. Apart from Bernie Sanders, none of them make any sense. Slogans, cliches, fear and threats, sound bites, insults, and mudslinging have taken over and the state of democracy in America is precarious and deplorable.

I find it sickening to listen to political pundits on CNN who are trying to make sense out of nonsense. As Mike says, “[T]his is the politics of showbiz, where success is measured in air time and column inches”. No wonder,  the celebrity Mr. Trump is a master at the game. He wants to make America great, but he is actually making America grotesque. ” God Help America, the Land of the Free” if Mr Trump is elected President in November, 2016.

As for Secretary Hillary Clinton, she neither has the charisma and leadership qualities nor the political savvy of an Obama or a Bill Clinton. She has not been forthright and most Americans cannot trust her. Her campaign has so far been bland and pedestrian. Septuagenarian Bernie has been telling America something about her, but no body is listening. But I would say that the world will be safer with Hillary in charge at the White House. — Din Merican

“I don’t think it comes as a surprise to anyone that I stand firmly against the politics of division, the politics of fear, the politics of intolerance or hateful rhetoric.If we allow politicians to succeed by scaring people, we don’t actually end up any safer. Fear doesn’t make us safer. It makes us weaker.”–Justin Trudeau. Prime Minister of Canada

Trumping Democracy–The Dysfunction of American Politics

by Mike Minehan

Phnom Penh

The Donald Trump 2016 campaign for the US Presidency has now added violence to its mix of confrontation, bigotry, racism and confrontation.

Trump’s campaign rallies recently included a bloody stop in St Louis, and chaos in Chicago. And far from trying to contain the violence, Trump is exacerbating it further by threatening protestors with comments such as “I’d like to punch him right in the face,” and saying “that’s what we need a little bit more of.”

Trump has also threatened that if the Republication nomination goes to someone else, there could be even more violence. “I think you’d have riots,” he said. “I think you’d have problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen.”

Of course, Trump relishes confrontation. In a campaign that’s devoid of policy, and which feeds on racial divide and gratuitous abuse, confrontation itself is the substance. It’s all about grabbing the headlines and forcing your way into the news. This is the politics of showbiz, where success is measured in air time and column inches.

But how much can we blame Trump? America is now about celebrities and the silver screen. Accordingly, Trump is now running his own new reality TV show. Himself. He’s graduated from The Apprentice, which was on TV only once per week, and he’s on the news and the talk shows every night. He is also tweeting at every opportunity.

It’s not only the rest of the world that’s starting to feel uneasy about this megalomaniac.The Republican Party itself, which Trump supposedly represents, is now worried about this genie that’s out of the bottle. In Trump’s overblown rhetoric, he claims that “the biggest people in the party are calling. They want to sit down.”

But Republicans quickly distanced themselves from this claim. The only name that Trump dropped was House Speaker Paul Ryan. When contacted, Ryan’s spokesman tweeted that the Speaker had called Trump at Trump’s own request.

It seems like the Republican Party and the American media are now reaping their own whirlwind. This is a voracious whirlwind that has already sucked up and spat out common sense and civility.