James Traficant And Donald Trump

I have not thought about James Traficant for a very long time.  And I am OK with that.  He was an embarrassment to my party and not aligned with my views on a host of policy matters.  But as recently noted the antics of the Ohio Democrat sadly link with those of the current populist, Donald Trump, who aroused white nationalists.

In the U.S., the most interesting recent example was the Ohio congressman James Traficant, who served nine terms, from 1985 to 2002. The heart of Traficant’s district was Youngstown, once known as Steeltown, U.S.A. His supporters had a lot in common with the white working-class voters who helped elect Trump, and Traficant himself was in many ways a Trump precursor. He was a populist and a fierce opponent of free trade; he even used the slogan “America First.” He was a media hound, whose outlandish behavior and stream-of-consciousness rants made him a TV favorite. He was vulgar: he talked about kicking people in the crotch and called the I.R.S. “political prostitutes” (later apologizing to “hookers” for the insult). 

Traficant was also crooked. Before running for Congress, while working as a sheriff, he was indicted on racketeering charges for taking bribes from the Mob. Traficant mounted his own defense in court and beat the rap, despite a signed confession and tapes on which he talked openly about taking money. In 2002, while still in Congress, he was convicted of bribery, racketeering, and tax evasion. Nevertheless, he won reëlection term after term, by margins of as much as sixty per cent. (It took expulsion by Congress to end his career.) Voters understood that Traficant was not a saint, but they saw him as one of their own. They believed he was looking out for their interests, and they liked his refusal to conform to the standards of the Washington élite. All those things mattered far more than whether he was getting a little money on the side.

For all Those Haters Of Immigrants

Could the hate be due to the fact of how successful immigrants are in this nation?

Google’s co-founder Mr Brin was born in Moscow, CEO of Google Mr Pichai in Tamil Nadu and Satya Nadella, the head of Microsoft, in Hyderabad. The biological father of the late Steve Jobs was a Syrian who moved to America, a journey that if Donald Trump has his way as of this week would be impossible. Half of all the American startups that are worth more than $1bn were founded by migrants. Many of the engineers at tech firms were born abroad, too. In Cupertino, a posh suburb in Silicon Valley, half the population is foreign-born.

Millennials Too Self-Absorbed to Vote

How things change.  When I was a teenager I followed the news and yearned for the first time to cast a ballot.  I have not missed a single election since age 18.  Today the statistics about twenty- somethings show something much different.  And very troubling.

Though Israeli politics is atypical—steeped in questions of war, peace, religious identity and the relationship with Palestinians—the voting behaviour of its young is nevertheless all of a pattern with the rest of the rich world. In Britain and Poland less than half of under-25s voted in their country’s most recent general election. Two-thirds of Swiss millennials stayed at home on election day in 2015, as did four-fifths of American ones in the congressional election in 2014. Although turnout has been declining across the rich world, it has fallen fastest among the young. According to Martin Wattenberg of the University of California, Irvine, the gap in turnout between young and old in many places resembles the racial gap in the American South in the early 1960s, when state governments routinely suppressed the black vote.

Millennials are not the first young generation to be accused of shirking their civic duty. And they are more interested in ideas and causes than they are given credit for. They are better educated than past generations, more likely to go on a protest or to become vegetarian, and less keen on drugs and alcohol. But they have lost many of the habits that inclined their parents to vote.

In Britain only three in five of under-25s watch the news on television, compared with nine in ten of over-55s. Young people are also less likely to read newspapers, or listen to the news on the radio. Each year around a third of British 19-year-olds move house; the average American moves four times between 18 and 30. People who have children and own a home feel more attached to their communities and more concerned about how they are run. But youngsters are settling down later than their parents did.

The biggest shift, however, is not in circumstances but in attitudes. Millennials do not see voting as a duty, and therefore do not feel morally obliged to do it, says Rob Ford of Manchester University. Rather, they regard it as the duty of politicians to woo them. They see parties not as movements deserving of loyalty, but as brands they can choose between or ignore. Millennials are accustomed to tailoring their world to their preferences, customising the music they listen to and the news they consume. A system that demands they vote for an all-or-nothing bundle of election promises looks uninviting by comparison. Although the number of young Americans espousing classic liberal causes is growing, only a quarter of 18- to 33-year-olds describe themselves as “Democrats”. Half say they are independent, compared with just a third of those aged 69 and over, according to the Pew Research Centre.