Antelope Valley Press (Sunday)
A new Trump party could boost California Dems
About the first thing Donald Trump did after debarking from Air Force One near his new Elba (the island of Napoleon’s first exile) in Florida was float the idea of starting a political party of his very own.
He has copious seed money for such a startup with more than $200 million he gathered in donations while boosting fake claims of rampant election fraud last November. The large and raucous crowds he drew even after losing the last presidential election by more than 7 million votes gave some indication of his ability to draw masses to any party he starts.
Meanwhile, the idea has Democrats drooling across America, but nowhere more than in California.
For third party efforts stoked by the rich and famous are not new to the nation or this state. They generally damage the party from which the founder defected.
The late Ross Perot was the last billionaire to start his own party, running against Republican George H.W. Bush and Democrat Bill Clinton in 1992. Clinton won that time with a mere plurality, not a majority, taking just 46% of the California
vote, for one example. Perot, a data processing mogul whose company General Motors bought for more than $2 billion, drew 20%, indicating Bush might have won had Perot not interfered.
Now comes Trump, who appears to know at least some of this history. His stated purpose in starting a new party — if he goes through with it — would be to “punish” Republicans he claims betrayed him by not backing his bogus claims of having actually won in a landslide last year.
Plenty of Republicans allowed Trump’s 30,000-odd documentable lies while in the White House to slide. They often let his prevarications become the basis for national policy, fearing what the ex-president could do to their political futures. Namely, destroy them by running some of his minions against them in primary elections.
One consequence has been the repeated shortages of COVID-19 vaccines and the chaotic distribution of what supplies there were when Trump left office. No one will ever know how many lives that cost, but most likely they number at least in the thousands.
If Trump ever founds his own faction, he’s said he would call it the Patriot Party, seemingly oblivious to Samuel Johnson’s famous observation that “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” Such a party would work hardest to undermine and defeat several GOP senators who decried his incitement of the crowd that went straight from a rally behind the White House to breaking into the Capitol building. He’d also go after the 10 Republicans in Congress who voted to impeach him a second time.
These included one Californian, David Valadao of Hanford, who was never so independent while Trump held office. For sure, Trump would not attack the likes of his sycophantic golf partner Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, also the GOP leader in the House and the likely replacement for Speaker Nancy Pelosi if Republicans regain control there.
He might work against Kevin
Faulconer when the former San Diego mayor who never was much of a Trumper runs to replace Gov. Gavin Newsom in this year’s possible recall election or for a full term in 2022.
It remains to be seen whether he attacks Young Kim and Michelle Steel, new Republican representatives from Orange County who avoided voting on impeachment, never taking a stand.
For Trump, the alternative to a new party would be working within the GOP, running primary candidates against his wouldbe victims. That would not work well in California, where Democrats and independents could bail out Trump targets in the state’s June 2022 non-partisan primary.
There is, therefore, little reason for any politician in California to fear anything the ex-president does. No one planned it this way, but the state’s very open primary makes it difficult for outsiders to dictate outcomes.
Which means Trump, who had severe negative impacts on California air and water quality, wildfire aftermaths, policing policy, immigration, infrastructure and more, probably can’t greatly influence any more elections here unless and until he runs again for president.
While Taiwan behaves responsibly and peaceably, China is growing ever more menacing and belligerent.
US policy toward Taiwan has for decades been an incoherent mess. The time has come to clean it up.
American diplomats have long adhered to the so-called “One China policy,” opposing independence for Taiwan and letting it be blackballed from international forums, in deference to Beijing’s claim that the island is a renegade Chinese province. Under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, the United States is committed to providing Taiwan with the arms it needs for defense against a Chinese attack, yet it has never explicitly promised to intervene on Taiwan’s behalf should such an attack occur. This lack of clarity has been deliberate — Washington calls it “strategic ambiguity” — but it long ago stopped making sense.
When the Carter administration established full diplomatic ties with China, the hope was that the regime in Beijing would gradually liberalize, democratize, and adhere to the norms of international cooperation. That hope proved delusional. China’s ruling Communist Party has not budged an inch in the direction of liberal democracy.
China may have become an economic powerhouse, but, as Jianli Yang and Aaron Rhodes wrote in a 2020 essay for The Hill, it remains “a rogue state; a coercive police state based on violence, not consent; a state incompatible with the ideals of the modern world.” China is guilty of massive moral and legal outrages, from its gulag of slave-labor camps and the forcible harvesting of prisoners’ organs to its brutal assault on Hong Kong’s liberty and the muzzling of vital information about the coronavirus outbreak.
Taiwan, meanwhile, has metamorphosed from an authoritarian one-party state into a vibrant multi-party democracy. It is today a land of liberty, human rights, and due process of law, the home of 24 million people and America’s ninth-largest trading partner.
While Taiwan behaves responsibly and peaceably, China is growing ever more menacing and belligerent. Twice last month, 15 Chinese warplanes — including both heavy bombers and fighter jets — penetrated Taiwan’s air defense identification zone without warning or provocation. Asked for an explanation, China’s Defense Ministry issued a threat: “We warn those ‘Taiwan independence’ elements: Those who play with fire will burn themselves, and ‘Taiwan independence’ means war.”
China’s show of hostility was presumably intended to intimidate the new US administration into toeing the “One China” line and preserving the fiction of Taiwanese subservience. On a number of occasions, the Trump administration had made a point of doing the opposite: Less than two weeks before President Biden’s inauguration, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lifted longstanding restrictions on contacts between US and Taiwanese officials, saying they had been designed to
“appease” Beijing, but were now “null and void.”
He planned to drive home the point by sending Kelly Craft, the US ambassador to the United Nations, on a high-profile trip to Taiwan. (Amid the chaos of the presidential transition, the trip was scrubbed.) Pompeo’s actions infuriated China; the staterun Global Times newspaper described them as “last-ditch madness” that would lead to the “annihilation” of Taiwan’s people.
But if the Chinese government expected Trump’s successor to renounce the previous administration’s display of support for Taiwan, it has been disappointed. Biden invited Bi-khim Hsiao, Taiwan’s de facto ambassador to Washington, to attend his inauguration — the first time since 1979 that such an invitation was extended. The State Department spokesman reacted to China’s incursion into Taiwan’s airspace with tough words calling on Beijing to “cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure against Taiwan” and emphasizing that “our commitment to Taiwan is rock-solid.”
It was a fine start. Biden ought to go farther.
The president can use his bully pulpit to explain why there is no good reason to keep pretending that Taiwan is a part of China and not an independent country in every significant respect. He can point out that Taiwan has never been ruled by China’s communist regime, and that the great majority of Taiwan’s people don’t consider themselves Chinese but exclusively Taiwanese. He can observe that it makes no more sense to claim that Taiwan is really China than to claim that America is really Great Britain, or Lithuania really Russia.
The longer the United States and its allies pay lip service to the “One China” fabrication, the more emboldened China will be to insist that Taiwan “must” be united with the mainland, by force if necessary. When Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein claimed Kuwait as Iraq’s “19th province,” the United States led a vast international coalition to force him to back down. Economically and strategically, Taiwan is more important than Kuwait ever was, and America and its allies would have no choice but to resist any attempt by China to conquer its island neighbor.
Which is exactly why “strategic ambiguity” should be scrapped.
Writing in Foreign Affairs, Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, and research fellow David Sacks argue that the best way to ensure that the United States will not have to fight to defend Taiwan is to leave no doubt that it is prepared to do so. “The United States should adopt a position of strategic clarity,” they urge, by stating unequivocally “that it would respond to any Chinese use of force against Taiwan. Such a policy would lower the chances of Chinese miscalculation, which is the likeliest catalyst for war in the Taiwan Strait.”
At the same time, the Biden administration should call a halt to the shameful practice of treating Taiwan as an global pariah. Taiwan should have a seat at the table at the United Nations and its constituent agencies.
China is abusive and dictatorial. Taiwan is a democratic friend. We can engage productively with the one without demeaning the other. Step 1 is to stop being ambiguous.
MILAN — The fedora Humphrey Bogart wore in “Casablanca” may have secured Borsalino’s place in fashion and cinematic history, but it will be something like the cow-print bucket hat that will help ensure its future.
The storied Italian hatmaker still makes its felt hats by hand in a Piedmont region factory, using the same artisanal techniques from when the company was founded in 1857 and some of founder Giuseppe Borsalino’s original machinery. It is updating its offerings for next fall and winter, with a focus on customization and youth-trends.
The new collection displayed during Milan Fashion Week takes inspiration from the Arts & Crafts design movement in mid-19th century Britain. Hat pins with leaf and floral motifs allow women to uniquely shape the hats, to take up an oversized brim, say, or to create an elegant fold in the crown.
A leopard fedora can be paired with a long chain, to wear over the shoulder when going in and out of shops, while a clochard has an optional leather corset.
“You cannot change a hat so much,’’ Giacomo Santucci, Borsalino’s creative curator, said. “You can change the attitude of the hat.”
Unisex styles, including baseball caps, berets and bucket hats, come in updated new materials - including a spotted cow print, black patent leather and rainproof nylon. Such genderless looks are becoming an increasingly important part of the collection, Santucci said.
“The hat is no longer a tool to cover yourself, but to discover yourself,’’ he told The Associated Press.
The company, which relaunched three years ago, was in the process of scaling up production from 150,000 hats a year to a goal of half a million when the pandemic hit.
“To be honest, it is such a small company, in a way it is very simple to react,’’ said Santucci, who is also the current president of the Italian Chamber of Buyers. “The smaller you are, the more reactive and prompt.”
Beyond new styles, that means getting people talking. Santucci, who was Gucci CEO during the Tom Ford era, created a new film for this season, featuring Milanese women who chose hats to match their styles, striding through the center of the city. Last season’s film featured dancers from Alessandria, site of the original Borsalino factory, dancing through the factory floor.
“My strong belief is that fashion is becoming more and more a discussion,’’
New social media platforms like Clubhouse are giving people the chance to create a limited and select group to discuss relevant topics, which Santucci said has been key during the isolation imposed by the pandemic.
He also has pursued collaborations with ready-to-wear brands, including Borsalino X Valentino.
“Brands are changing. It is getting closer to entertainment, to give people the chance to engage with the brand, to understand it better. Not only to understand what was done in the past, but to really interact and to have the chance to be part of the same community,’’ Santucci said.