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USA/Global: When Elephants Fight
Apr 5, 2016 (160405)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
"Watching the Trump phenomenon from outside the United States is a
strange spectacle. I am often asked to explain by puzzled observers
how such a bombastic, obnoxious, moronic, misogynistic,
chauvinistic, racist, and hustler businessman with a record of
serial bankruptcies could ever be a serious candidate. ... Trump
articulates and represents with frightening clarity the Republican
underbelly that same establishment has nurtured for generations, the
party's enduring values—the incurable racism, bigotry, and
intolerance, the reflexive jingoism, nativism, and imperial
aggression. In Trump, therefore, the chickens of age-old white
supremacy and modern neo-conservatism are coming home to roost." -
Paul Tiyambe Zeleza
Zeleza's analysis of "chickens coming home to roost" is now common
even among mainstream U.S. analysts of U.S. politics. But his
eloquent essay is one of the sharpest and clearest analyses this
editor has seen of the Trump phenomenon which frightens not only
U.S. citizens but many others around the world who cannot escape the
effects of a U.S. presidential contest. As Julius Nyerere observed,
citing an East African proverb in a speech to the United Nations
about the Cold War, "when the elephants fight, it is the grass that
This year the term may refer to the Republican presidential
candidates, or more broadly to the presidential contest itself.
While none of the candidates, Democratic or Republican, are paying
much attention to Africa, the outcome in terms of the U.S. stance
will be decisive for issues of fundamental importance to the
continent, from climate change to global inequality and tax evasion.
This AfricaFocus includes Zeleza's essay, as well as other relevant
links to sources that your editor finds particularly helpful in
interpreting the U.S. presidential race.
While commentaries on the race and the national polls are too
numerous to count, much less to read, much can be dismissed as
ephemeral speculation, often based on national polls. These "horse
race" analyses can easily be misleading, since what "counts" in the
byzantine U.S. political system is the electoral college, based on
state level contests. So a presidential candidate can lose the
popular vote and still become president, as did George W. Bush in
the year 2000.
Currently, while television news tends to concentrate on the horse
race at the national level, there are analysts who carefully parse
the statistics of the state-level polls and other indicators. Four
of these, all worth following, are
The one I follow most closely and rely on is
http://electiongraphs.com. It focuses on "just the numbers," with a
minimum of speculative analysis. Excerpts from recent updates are
below.[Full disclosure: this site is developed and maintained on a
voluntary basis by my son, whose day job is with a technology
company in Seattle.]
This Bulletin also contains a small selection of links to on-line
articles over the last week that I found particularly useful.
For links to additional commentaries and reflections on the U.S.
election, which will NOT be featured regularly in AfricaFocus, those
readers who wish may follow my new Facebook page "Intersections,"
set up for reflections on a variety of topics of interest to me
other than those covered in AfricaFocus (
And a reminder to all about AfricaFocus Bulletins, including this
one. Your editor does not necessarily endorse all the opinions
included in articles in the Bulletins, but does definitely think
they are all worth
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++
Republicans, Racists, and the Obama Derangement Syndrome
Paul Tiyambe Zeleza
Mar 28, 2016
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/ - Direct URL:
[Dr. Zeleza is a distinguished African historian from Malawi as well
as a prolific and insightful analyst and commentator on current issues. He is
currently based in Nairobi as Vice Chancellor at United States
International University - Africa]
Watching the Trump phenomenon from outside the United States is a
strange spectacle. I am often asked to explain by puzzled observers
how such a bombastic, obnoxious, moronic, misogynistic,
chauvinistic, racist, and hustler businessman with a record of
serial bankruptcies could ever be a serious candidate, indeed a
front runner in the Republican Party primaries who seems poised to
win the nomination and might be within striking distance of
capturing the presidency. Many are often surprised that I am not
Trump is a Republican creation, notwithstanding the ferocious civil
war his candidacy, appeal, and electoral victories have unleashed in
the party, the incredulity and panic he has provoked among the party
establishment. Trump articulates and represents with frightening
clarity the Republican underbelly that same establishment has
nurtured for generations, the party's enduring values—the incurable
racism, bigotry, and intolerance, the reflexive jingoism, nativism,
and imperial aggression. In Trump, therefore, the chickens of ageold
white supremacy and modern neo-conservatism are coming home to
Trump is the ultimate embodiment of white racist rage in the
Republican Party and American society triggered by the Obama
Derangement Syndrome. Obama's historic presidential victory in 2008,
engendered racist paranoia, as it symbolically upended the stubborn
racist order ushered by America's original sin, slavery; it
subverted the abiding hierarchies and hypocrisies of white supremacy
and black inferiority. Trump became the prophet of birtherism, the
insane notion that Obama was not American born, was not a real
American, did not love the country, was a dangerous Muslim radical
bent on the destruction of the United States.
The birthers and other white supremacists were cheered on by the
Republican Party, shamelessly cultivated, courted, cuddled, and
celebrated. The party adopted unyielding opposition to President
Obama's policies even those borrowed from Republicans such as the
Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, his signature
achievement. They treated him with utmost personal disrespect, vowed
to make him a one-term president, and when that spectacularly
crashed in 2012, to turn him into a failed president. Most recently,
in an unprecedented break with tradition the Republicans even
refused to hear the president's budget and flatly declined to
consider his nomination to replace the deceased racist Justice
Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.
Republican obstructionism and intransigence, their contempt for
government and governing, and racist disdain for Obama paved the way
for Trump, the hypocritical outsider, and celebrity neo-fascist.
Trump's bloated ego and desperate rhetoric to make America great
again tapped into and inflamed the dark forces of white supremacy
threatened by vast disruptive forces at home and abroad.
Domestically, there is America's changing demographics, and the
rekindled struggles for equality most powerfully represented by the
Black Lives Matter movement spawned by police brutality. Globally,
American power is in decline, sapped in part by the very historic
geopolitical strategic blunders of the neo-conservative wars in
Afghanistan and Iraq, and the rise of new powers especially China.
These disparate developments are connected in the collective mind of
Republicans and white racists by the Obama Derangement Syndrome.
This syndrome derives part of its power from the fact that Obama's
election simultaneously underscored changes in American society and
stoked fears of those changes by many whites whose claims to
privilege have historically been embodied in the color of their
skin, not the content of their talents. No wonder the widely
reported rising self-destructiveness of so-called white Middle
America through suicides, alcoholism, and an epidemic of substance
abuse. These angry whites constitute the bedrock of Trump's campaign
and followers. Thus the Obama and Trump phenomena underscore both
the erosion of racism as a result of generations of civil rights
struggles and its resurrection from the battered closets of white
The Obama Derangement Syndrome offers a potential historic turning
point in American politics on the scale of the realignments of the
1930s-1940s and the 1960s-1970s. The Roosevelt New Deal created a
new coalition of the Democratic Party that included African
Americans who drifted from the Republican Party, the Party of
Lincoln. In the immediate aftermath of the successes of the Civil
Rights movement, the Republican Party launched its 'Southern
Strategy' that turned the South from the Democrats to the
The transformation accelerated with the defection of the 'Reagan
Democrats' discomfited by the growing presence of minorities and
women and their agendas in the party who found succor in the
predominantly white and masculinist Republican Party. The Clinton
administration largely conceded Republican hegemony with its 'New
Democratic Coalition' and 'Third Way' rightward centrism. Under
President Obama the Democratic Party not only recovered and flexed
its long muted liberal voice, the Republicans lost the cultural wars
and began spiralling into the tailspin of the Obama Derangement
Syndrome. This was evident in the rise of the fundamentalist
zealotry of the Tea Party and Washington's descent into shameless
incivility and ungovernability.
Now, we are witnessing the fracturing of the Republican Party under
its incurable infection by the Obama Derangement Syndrome. This is
one reason Obama is a historic president, notwithstanding all the
limitations of his administration both self-imposed and those
inflicted by Republican obduracy. His era will be remembered for
ushering a possible realignment of American politics reminiscent of
the interwar and post-civil rights eras. The future will be played,
at least for a while, on terms his presidency has set.
The Obama Derangement Syndrome is of course not confined to
electoral politics, to the flirtations and fixations with Trump's
dangerous buffoonery. It can be seen in other institutional contexts
from corporate boardrooms to college campuses, and in the often
deadly encounters of black communities with police, in the backlash
against diversity and inclusion, in the perverted discourses of
white victimization. The Obama Derangement Syndrome gave rise to the
Tea Party and Trump phenomenon, which spawned new struggles for
equality and inclusion spearheaded by the Black Lives Matter
In the academy, the institutional context I'm most familiar with,
the Obama era initially seemed to open new possibilities for
minority faculty, students, and administrators but gradually gave
way to the corrosive reversals of microagression and the
persistence, even new reincarnations, of structural exclusions. For
example, at one of my former universities in New England, far from
the allegedly more racist South, after I and another black
administrator left, the senior administration reverted to being
blissfully all white. This would make Trump and his fervent
supporters proud and at home there.
No wonder Trump is making electoral waves across the proverbial
divides of the North and South. He is the Frankstein created by
Republicans and racists, inflamed and unhinged by the Obama
Derangement Syndrome. He offers America an ugly mirror of its past
and present and future in its failure to slay the beast of racism,
bigotry, and intolerance.
Excerpts from recent posts. For current updates, visit
Electoral College: Trump still dropping, Clinton makes it close in
April 2, 2016
[Note: These posts are updates based on the data on
ElectionGraphs.com. Election Graphs tracks both a poll based
estimate of the Electoral College and a numbers based look at the
Delegate Races. All of the charts and graphs seen in this post are
from that site. Additional graphs, charts and raw data can be found
there. For additional background go to
/ and http://www.abulsme.com/2016/01/27/delegate-race-2016-delegate-race-faq
Since the last update there have been polls added in Wisconsin, New
York, and Missouri. Missouri makes a difference in our models for
Clinton vs Trump.
Missouri has been very lightly polled. This is only the second poll
that specifically asks about Clinton vs Trump, so my five poll
average is still filled out with the election results from 2004 to
2012. Without those old elections, the average would move even
further in Clinton's direction. The newest poll actually shows
Clinton ahead, but it is just one poll. Never trust one poll. We
look at averages. As it is, the average now stands at Trump +4.7%.
This now puts Missouri back in the "close enough it could go either
This improves Clinton's best case against Trump:
Clinton's best case if she wins all the states she is ahead in, plus
the two where she is close (Colorado and now Missouri) is to win 357
to 181, an 176 electoral vote margin.
Looking at the chart above, since the new year there have been eight
changes (5 to the expected case, 2 to Trump's best case, and 1 to
Clinton's best case). Seven of those changes have favored Clinton.
Only one has been a move toward Trump.
Trump's situation has deteriorated significantly in the last three
months. The question is of course if he is near a bottom and about
to rebound, or if he has only started his fall and soon the real
discussion will not be who would win, but rather how big a win
Clinton would have.
Of course, all of that is only relevant if he ends up as the
nominee. The delegate race is still underway and Trump has a very
narrow path to follow to get to the convention with a majority of
delegates. If he falls short, we get a contested convention, and it
looking less likely by the day that Trump walks out of that scenario
with the nomination.
220.0 days left until polls start to close on election night 2016.
There will be lots of ups and downs between now and then. Stay
Republicans: Still in the contested zone... barely
March 1, 2016
When I did my last update there hadn't been any recent polls in
either Arizona or Utah, but the results there ended up matching
pretty well with the results of the few polls that came out since
then. Namely, Trump won Arizona which was straight up winner take
all, and Cruz got over 50% in Utah, so he got all of the delegates
So the net for the night was Trump +58, Cruz +40.
Adding in other delegate adjustments since the March 15th results we
have a net change of:
Trump +62, Cruz +43, Rubio -3
So effectively, Trump got 60.78% of the delegates since the last
update. He only needed 53.07% to improve his position.
So what does this look like?
The raw delegate count is now Trump 755, Cruz 466, Rubio 169, Kasich
144, Carson 8, Bush 4, Fiorina 1, Huckabee 1, Paul 1.
Trump's pace of delegate accumulation actually looks like it has
accelerated, while everybody else has slowed down.
But the raw delegate counts are not the right thing to look at.
In percentages of the delegates so far, both Trump and Cruz
improved. But of course Cruz is nowhere near the 50% line. Trump
meanwhile is now at 48.74%. He doesn't have a majority. Close. Very
close. But not quite.
But % of delegates so far isn't the right thing to look at either.
This is the real graph to watch. The percentage of the remaining
delegates that Trump needs to win in order to get to the convention
with a majority of delegates. This has been dropping in the last
couple of contests.
Trump now needs 52.22% of the remaining delegates to win the
It is a real possibility that we could get to the end of the
primaries and caucuses in June without knowing if Trump has an
outright win, or if he'll come up short on the first ballot at the
convention. It might end up depending on what those uncommitted
delegates decide to do.
We are still right on the edge between a Trump win and a convention
where nobody wins on the First ballot. And which way that goes may
end up depending on the uncommitted delegates. What percentage of
the uncommitted delegates Trump would need ... if he even needs them
at all ... will depend on how he continues to do in getting pledged
delegates between now and June.
But meanwhile, the pace of primaries and caucuses now slows down
quite a bit. So there will be a lot of waiting before we know.
Democrats: Huge Wins for Sanders... but...
March 27, 2016
Although the best delegate tallies are still estimates that will
almost certainly change a bit before they are final, the general
outline will not change. Sanders crushed Clinton in all three states
that caucused on March 26th. With Washington, Hawaii and Alaska
together, the delegate haul was 104 for Sanders to only 38 for
Since the last update Sanders has also been on a roll gaining four
new superdelegates (while Clinton got no new supers), and having
four delegates move from Clinton to Sanders as results in states
that voted earlier got finalized.
Between all that, since the 23rd the net change is Sanders +112,
So Sanders got a whopping 76.71% of the delegates since the 23rd.
That is well above the 67.70% he needed to improve his position in
the race in terms of the % of the remaining delegates needed to win.
So unlike some Sanders "wins" where he gets the most delegates but
still just ends up in a worse position because he didn't win by
enough, this time Sanders supporters are fully justified in
celebrating the win.
See that downward slope right neat the end of the green line? That
is the improvement in Sander's position because of these three
states. Despite all the states that Sanders has won, this has not
happened often. Aside from days when a stray superdelegate committed
to him or when states revised their results by a delegate here or
there, the only previous times so far where Sanders has improved his
position are February 9th when he won New Hampshire and March 6th
when he won Maine. (OK, probably Democrats Abroad too.) This new
result on March 26th swamps both of those in the magnitude of the
With all of the results and adjustments since Arizona, Idaho and
Utah last week, Sanders goes from needing 67.70% of the remaining
delegates to win, to needing only... 67.03%.
So... an improvement of... 0.67%.
So, uh... big improvement? Suddenly the Sanders path to victory is
clear? Well, it is the biggest improvement in this metric Sanders
has seen yet, but...
March 26th was a big Sanders win. That should not be minimized. If
he matched the March 26th performance in every contest from here to
the end of the primary season, he would indeed catch up to Clinton
and win. And the visibility of wins like the 26th may help Clinton
seem weak, and may improve Sanders' performance in future contests.
But the basic situation has not changed significantly. 67% of
delegates is still an incredibly high bar. Sanders would have to
consistently meet that bar for the rest of the race in order to win
But wait you say, once again this is all including superdelegates.
But surely if Sanders won in pledged delegates, the superdelegates
wouldn't deny him the win and would switch to Sanders en masse
because to do otherwise would be unseemly? Well, I generally reject
starting with that premise and say lets watch the superdelegates and
see what they actually do.
But for the moment, as I did once before, let me run the numbers
pretending superdelegates don't exist.
With supers the totals right now are Clinton 1735, Sanders 1069.5,
Without supers that becomes Clinton 1264, Sanders 1040.
Without supers there are 4050 delegates, and you need 2026 to have a
Sanders would need 976 more delegates to have that majority of
pledged delegates. There are 1746 more pledged delegates available.
That means Sanders would need 55.90% of the pledged delegates
remaining to end the season with a majority of the pledged
That bar is a LOT lower than 67%. Consistently beating 67% seems
close to unimaginable without a complete implosion. But 56%? Could
you get to that just through some momentum, some positive press
cycles and good campaigning? Maybe. It seems like it is on the outer
edge of the possible given the history so far, but still possible.
If Sanders did succeed at that, he would still need to get a large
number of Clinton superdelegates to defect in order to actually win.
But Sanders has said he is ramping up his efforts to woo
superdelegates. He has gone from saying superdelegates should be
ignored, to acknowledging that any realistic path to a win involves
getting superdelegates to vote for him too.
If superdelegates do start to defect, you will of course see it on
the graphs here.
Wisconsin is next on April 5th. Right now the RCP poll average there
has Clinton 46.5% to Sanders 44.0%. If that average plays out and
assuming a roughly even distribution of support throughout the
congressional districts in the state, it would mean about 44
delegates for Clinton to 42 delegates for Sanders.
If that happened, Sanders would then need 67.87% of the remaining
delegates to win, completely undoing the gains he made with
Washington, Hawaii and Alaska.
Now, Sanders may get a boost of his recent wins and do better than
the current poll average indicates. He may even win Wisconsin. The
question though is not if he wins, but if he wins it by enough to
actually be on a pace to catch up to Clinton before things are over.
Right now, that means he needs 58 of the 86 delegates available from
the Wisconsin primary.
We shall see.
Links to other recent commentaries of related interest
"Uh-oh: Where Does All the White Rage Go When Donald Trump Loses,"
Alternet from Salon, April 1, 2016
"Ultimately, though, whether one views Trump’s supporters as victims
of American progress or as a bunch of overprivileged bigots matters
less than the undeniable facts that they exist and there are a lot
of them and they are stuck. Having lost faith in the traditional
Republican Party, they have pinned their hopes on Donald Trump, but
even if Trump could deliver the jobs and self-respect they seek—a
doubtful proposition, to say the least—they lack the numbers to make
him president. So, then what? All that highly combustible anger and
fear we’re seeing on the nightly news and in shaky YouTube videos
shot at Trump rallies—where will it go once Trump is gone?"
"Sanders is winning the battle of ideas," The Hill, March 31, 2016
"The RealClearPolitics average of polls shows Sanders defeating
Republican front-runner Donald Trump by more than 17 percentage
points, defeating Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) by 10 points and defeating
Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) by 2 points, a smaller margin but
still advantage Sanders. Sanders runs stronger than Hillary Clinton
(D) in match-up polling against all three Republican contenders."
And a few headlines & links to substantive articles in the last few
days of the Washington Post and the New York Times.
NYT, Apr 3, "Electoral Map a Reality Check to a Trump Bid,"
WP, Apr 3, "The Racial Anxiety of Trump's Supporters,"
NYT, Apr 2, "G.O.P. Fears Trump as Zombie Candidate: Damaged but
WP, Apr 1, "Trump has done the opposite of everything the GOP said
it needs to do to survive," http://tinyurl.com/judj6w6
NYT, Mar 29, "Tougher Terrain for Sanders after a Big Week,"
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