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Tomgram: John Feffer, Donald Trump and America B

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This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

Circus, carnival, comedy hour, joke: it's been a festival of insults, charges, racist slams, bizarre proposals, and raging narcissism. I'm talking, of course, about the season of Trump in American politics. When no one gave him a second thought or a chance in hell, he soared and a Trump presidency came into view. As he reached the heights, like an Icarus flying too close to the media sun, his ultimate creation -- himself as a presidential provocateur -- began to melt before our eyes. His campaign manager was axed; his ads went missing; his paid staff remained "skeletal"; his funds were short; his fundraising pathetic; his "unfavorables" headed for the stratosphere (so high that even Hillary Clinton, a candidate with an unfavorable problem of her own, began looking like everybody's best friend); the key members of his party loathed him and that party's popularity was, in any case, sinking fast; corporations were pulling out of his future convention en masse, Republican governors heading for the hills, hundreds of convention delegates threatening revolt (while its chairman promised not to rein them in); a mass shooting/terror incident that Trump should have turned into political gold managed to do less than nothing for him; and that, of course, was just the beginning, not the end, of whatever process is now at work.

It was always obvious that the man with the bouffant hairdo was, in his own way, the most fragile of creatures, and that the illusion of a campaign he had so singlehandedly created might dissolve at any moment.

And The Donald has another problem he hasn't even begun to deal with. In the campaign for the Oval Office, he's facing off against a woman. If the Republican nomination taught us one thing, it was that a bullying man bullying men might carry the day in America, but a bullying man bullying a woman was a problematic spectacle. Hence, his attempt to turn Carly Fiorina's face into an insult backfired radically and gave her lagging campaign brief new life. He now has four months to take on "crooked Hillary" and, sexist as it might be, the Trumpian manner and the mannerisms that go with it are unlikely to serve him well in a nomination-style contest with her.

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Under the circumstances, were his pumped up self-creation of a campaign to deflate radically, understand one thing that TomDispatch regular and author of the future Dispatch Book Splinterlands makes brilliantly clear today: no one should take what Donald Trump stands for in this election year less seriously because of that. He may not be the ultimate messenger; he may not even be a serious human being or candidate; but those he's rallied to his side couldn't be more human, serious, or needy. The messenger might not last; the message is another story entirely. Tom

The Most Important Election of Your Life
(Is Not This Year)
By John Feffer

The voters vowed to take their revenge at the polls. They'd missed out on the country's vaunted prosperity. They were disgusted with the liberal direction of the previous administration. They were anti-abortion and pro-religion. They were suspicious of immigrants, haughty intellectuals, and intrusive international institutions. And they very much wanted to make their nation great again.

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They'd lost a lot of elections. But this time, they won.

In Poland, that is.

In two elections last year, the conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS) won the Polish presidency and then, by a more convincing margin, a parliamentary majority.

And this wasn't just a victory for PiS. It was a victory for Poland B.

Since its post-Communist transition, that country is often described as having cleaved into two parts, commonly known as "Poland A" and "Poland B." Poland A links together an archipelago of cities and their younger, wealthier inhabitants. Poland B encompasses the poorer, older parts of the population, many clustered in the countryside, particularly in the country's eastern reaches near the former Soviet border.

After 1989 and the implementation of a punishing series of economic reforms, Poland A took off economically. By 2010, Warsaw, the capital, had become one of the most expensive places to live in Europe, outranking even Brussels and Berlin. New entrepreneurs and corporate managers took advantage of a host of economic opportunities, particularly after Poland joined the European Union (EU) in 2004.

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In the countryside, on the other hand, Poland B fell ever further behind. Factories closed, and many farms couldn't keep going. Jobs disappeared. Several million Poles decamped abroad in search of better economic opportunities. In other words, as the good times rolled in Poland A, Poland B languished.

Until the elections of 2015, Poland's liberals dominated political, economic, and cultural life. Although they may not exactly be "liberal" in the American sense of supporting government entitlement programs, they are generally less religious, more tolerant of differences, and more open to the world than their conservative counterparts. They have squared off against the denizens of Poland B over such issues as the role of the Catholic Church in public life, the number of immigrants the country should allow in, and how close Poland should be to the EU.

You can find the equivalent of Poland A and Poland B elsewhere in Eastern Europe, too. The capitals of the region -- Prague, Bratislava, Budapest -- enjoy per capita GDPs well above the European average, while rural areas suffer. The B populations, however, have not taken their increasingly second-class citizenship quietly. Throughout the region they've risen up to vote for populist, often rabid, right-wing parties like FIDESZ and Jobbik in Hungary and GERB and Ataka in Bulgaria that voice their disappointment and swear they'll make their countries great again. These parties are consistently anti-liberal in the European sense, opposing both an unregulated market and tolerant open societies.

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's Tomdispatch.com ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)
 

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