Take up a public position that is the opposite of what the NYT/CNN/BBC/Economist pundits support—and you are likely to be doing the right thing for your voters.
One of the most interesting things happening in the aftermath of the Trump victory is to see how the Left media simply refuse to reconcile themselves to that fact that their preferred candidate has lost. And it is interesting to think that this writer, along with many others, has stopped using the expression “left-liberal”. Now many of us simply prefer to call them the Left.
The publication and channels in this neck of the woods include New York Times (no surprise), CNN (the channel which would fail any examination in astrology), BBC (which till now disliked Israel and India—but now can enjoy its indulgence in Trump-phobia) and The Economist (surprise, surprise—but there it is—the dominant ideology of left-wing political correctness has so overwhelmed so many institutions in the world, that the venerable Economist has joined the glorious Left Club).
This group of influential sore losers has acquired new and interesting contours. They are all now pretty unanimously anti-Putin and anti-Russia and are constantly warning us about the immense dangers of what they fear is Trump’s unprincipled willingness to work cordially with Russia. By implication, one supposes they support endless principled confrontation with Russia. How ironic! And then, our Left media gurus have all become very pro-China. Gone are the complaints about China’s human rights record. There is zero sympathetic coverage for the freedom fighters of Hong Kong, and the attempt of tiny Taiwan to preserve its lifestyle is treated with contempt and derision. Instead, we are warned that Trump is playing with fire, by irritating the great Asian hegemon.
They have all for some time been great admirers of Ms Angela Merkel. Now she is being portrayed as the great leader who can stop Trump in his tracks. This humble writer has some practical advice for Ms Merkel. She is facing an election soon. She should take note of the fact that at least in recent times, the candidates endorsed by NYT/CNN/BBC/Economist have lost. Being a savvy politician, I am not sure Ms Merkel thinks it is in her interests to be the heroine of the Left Media Club and at the same time lose her elections.
Trump’s decision to appoint as the US Ambassador to Israel, a person who sees nothing wrong in Jerusalem being the capital of the Jewish state (which other city would they prefer I wonder—the city of Leftopolis in the country of Antisemitia, I suppose) has of course angered our Left pundits no end. This is again characterised as dangerous and destabilising. The Left’s love of stability, which was supposed to be something that only Conservatives cared about, is another stunning development in recent times. It just does not occur to the Left, or perhaps they choose not to acknowledge, that for several years now, there has been strong bipartisan support in the US Congress for recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The Left is of course out there cheering Obama’s “abstention” at the UN, encouraging that inane and obtuse body to pass a meaningless resolution against Israel. I wonder how the Left Club would react if there was a resolution criticising the Chinese for setting up Han settlements in order to change the demographic contours of lands inhabited by Tibetans and Uighurs. But then poor Tibetans and poor Uighurs do not have the cachet currently provided by Left propagandists to the poor and not-so-poor Palestinians, who have received billions of dollars in grants and gifts which have either disappeared or which have been distributed to the families of blessed martyrs who have sought the company of virgins in paradise.
Luckily for us, despite our size, our population and our so-called potential, India is not central to the international Left Club discourse. We are as yet too poor a country to count. We can be grateful to our license-permit Raj legacy and the continued powers of our pro-poor and pro-themselves bureaucracy for this. But remember, the Left Club has no positions of its own. The Club will oppose anything that Trump supports. In the days to come, if Trump by chance shows himself as pro-India, or worse as pro-Hindu as he has actually said, then the Left Club is bound to pounce on us and give India and Modi the treatment that is currently reserved for Russia and Putin.
When the British parliament was not confident about attacking King Charles I directly, they demanded the heads of Archbishops Laud and Stafford. As NYT/CNN/BBC/Economist cannot prevent Trump from becoming President, they have decided to concentrate their fire on his cabinet colleagues. They have decided to fight long battles of attrition to prevent Trump from appointing the ministers of his choice. Trump should know that sacrificing his ministerial choices would not be a smart move. A few years after Laud and Stafford were executed, the parliament decided to do the same thing with King Charles I. Giving in on cabinet choices will only strengthen Trump’s adversaries, who are itching to mount an impeachment campaign against him in a few years. Now let us take a look at some of Trump’s cabinet choices that our great pundits of Left Journalism are opposing.
A certain Mr Andrew Puzder is Trump’s candidate to be the new Secretary of Labour. It turns out that Mr Puzder is opposed to high minimum wages. He is also opposed to forcing employers to spend on benefits for employees. He argues that this leads to fewer entry level low wage jobs being created and hurts the poor. Now I for one agree completely with this analysis. The poor are hurt most when minimum wages are raised. Their labour is one thing they can offer. Raising the cost of their labour encourages employers to opt for machines and need I say robots as substitutes for workers.
Now Hillary’s college student supporters need have no worries. From a distance, they can and do safely support high minimum wages and high benefits for poor folks, thus ensuring that these poor (who they doubtless love) have fewer job opportunities. Incidentally, this phenomenon is repeated in India. One reason the organised sector does not create enough jobs is because of the plethora of labour laws that are imposed on them. The losers are those members of the poor who would have otherwise gotten entry level jobs. Benefits (PF, ESI etc) make the situation infinitely worse, creating a huge wedge between what the worker costs the employer and what the worker actually gets in hand—thus deliberately and consciously incentivising unorganised employment as the preferred alternative for both parties.
Incidentally, for what it is worth (not a whole lot, I admit), most economists would agree that high minimum wages and benefits will result in fewer jobs being created and would hurt poor job seekers the most. So then what exactly is the Left Club’s objection to Mr Puzder?
Their preferred tactics of ad hominem tactics take over. There are snide comments that Mr Puzder is a businessman, presumably a very bad thing from a Left perspective. He has actually created jobs; but then if he had been a pro-Palestinian university professor or a journalist who had never created a single job in his life, would that not have been preferable? He supports aggressive advertising, which the supporters of gender-race-ethnicity political correctness do not like. The fact that his customers like the advertisements and flock to his outlets, seems like a quaint irrelevancy to our pundits.
He admires robots. That is by definition bad, one presumes. What can one say of Luddite technophobes? A hundred years ago, they would have opposed automobiles, wouldn’t they? Mr Trump, Please do not compromise on Mr Puzder. For my money, he seems like an ideal Labour Secretary. I only wish we had people like him as Labour Ministers in different states in India. We might actually create a few jobs in our organised sector.
A certain Mr Scott Pruitt is Trump’s choice as Director of the Environmental Protection Agency. Mr Pruitt’s public political positions call for a balance between protecting the environment and ensuring economic growth, a position that does not seem very far from that of our former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who batted for the Kudankulam project as southern India desperately needed electricity and as the plant was quite safe, while noting that nothing is 100 per cent safe. Pruitt’s opponents sound pretty much like the Indian opponents of Kudankulam. They again get down to ad hominem attacks virtually with their opening salvo.
Mr Pruitt is connected with the oil industry and that is a perfidious fact as far as the venerable NYT is concerned. It is interesting to see how the people who live in warm universities (warmed by what?) in the cold winters in the Left (not Left-Liberal, but Left) colleges of the American northeast have decided that fossil fuels are evil. So the coal miners of West Virginia and the oil producers of Texas are purveyors of evil. But how will the left campuses remain warm, I wonder? And of course, Oklahoma with its fracking industry has to be a really bad place. Any wonder that Clinton lost these states?
There is no acknowledgment that by increasing the supply of global oil, fracking has played a key part in keeping oil prices down and in helping us poor Indians, among other things.
And Mr Pruitt has supported a pipeline which is opposed by the Sioux tribe. I could not but start thinking about the Kond tribals who believe that their god resides on a hill rich with bauxite. India’s ability to become a large aluminum producer is held ransom by the god of the tribals. In passing, I wonder why the Left columnists have so little sympathy for many Hindus who believe that their god was born at a particular spot? Why should tribals get special treatment and not some Hindus? Are they both perhaps not misguided? Is it just possible that the god present in these spots has been imagined? Of course how foolish of me. Right-wing Hindus are definitely misguided. Tribals cannot do anything wrong. And the fact that Mr Pruitt supports a pipeline, which might create many jobs, which might invigorate the economy, but which is opposed by the Sioux tribe, is sufficient reason to damn him. Mr Trump, Please do support Mr Pruitt. Just because India denies itself aluminum plants, does not mean that America should deny itself an energy pipeline.
A certain Ms Betsy DeVos is Trump’s choice for the post of Secretary for Education. Now the problem with Ms DeVos is that she is a supporter of the school choice movement, which argues that poor parents and poor children who cannot afford to patronise rich private schools must be given the choice of schools. The state or the local government should not have the powers to force children to attend a specific government school. Instead, the parents should be given vouchers which they can use to pay fees at private schools of their choice. Such schools are known as Charter Schools in the US. I am an enthusiastic supporter of this measure. Despite being a rich country, the US has a problem similar to that of India. Teachers in government schools are unionised and it’s difficult to sack them. Government school administrators are unaccountable. For years on end, they produce poor results and poor parents and poor children do not have the right or the wherewithal to vote with their feet and go elsewhere. I wish we could have School Choice, vouchers and Charter Schools in India. Our situation is worse than the US one.
In India, we cannot sack a unionised government school teacher even if he or she does not come to work. The scorched earth legislation of the previous UPA government known as the Right to Education Act, went out of its way to protect government schools and schools run by minority communities, but made it virtually impossible for majority community low-cost private schools to operate (What the UPA had against the majority community remains a mystery). Not only don’t we have vouchers, we have much worse. We have a situation where the teachers in government schools send their own children to private schools and merrily ensure that the poor children who attend government schools get no attention.
Ms DeVos, Let the example of India be a warning to you. At least, right now in your country you can sack a unionised government school teacher who does not turn up for work. If you do not move ahead aggressively with School Choice, vouchers and Charter Schools, your country too will become like India. And while India has many good things (the Taj Mahal, Khajuraho etc—mostly things done by our ancestors, not by us), our school education system is not worth imitating. Mr Trump, Doubtless the Union of Government School Teachers will fight Ms DeVos’ appointment tooth and nail. But do not lose heart. The fact that NYT/CNN/BBC/Economist may oppose Ms DeVos should indicate to you that you are doing the right thing.
There are many more appointments that one can analyse. Clearly the US government, like its Indian counterpart, is too big. There are dozens of departments and nominees. But I think this sample should suffice. In passing, one might want to set up a simple primer for democratic politicians everywhere in the world. You do not need to do too much research. Just take up a public position that is the opposite of what the NYT/CNN/BBC/Economist pundits support—and you are not only likely to win elections, you are likely to be doing the right thing for your voters. Pretty simple stuff.
Jerry Rao is a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of Swarajya.