“Trump depicts a zero-sum world in which gains for any other nation — friend or foe — automatically represent a loss for the United States. His agenda, therefore, is designed to immiserate our neighbors and partners. In the end, history and basic economic theory tell us, it will immiserate us, as well. The bad news — and it is awful — is thus that we now have a president whose foreign policy agenda essentially amounts to burning the U.S.-led international order to the ground and hoping that America can collect the lion’s share of the ashes. The good news, such as it is, is that in unveiling this agenda so brazenly and early, Trump has also fully dispelled any illusions about his presidency and the dangers it poses.”

Hal Brands


It feels like the United States is going to get fooled into thinking an election is about one thing versus another. Televised debates often contribute to that tomfoolery or malarkey as our existing octogenarian president would say. Watching two octogenarians bludgeon each other shouldn’t fool us into believing that there aren’t two visions at stake at the moment. Let me state this up front. The election is about the MAGA Vision versus basically anything else. I state it that way because I personally would vote for an empty chair before I would vote for Trump. Would I prefer voting for say Gina Raimondo, secretary of Commerce, or Pete Buttigieg, secretary of Transportation, or Jennifer Granholm, secretary of energy, Gavin Newsom, Governor of the 5th largest economy in the world, Gretchen Whitmer, governor of Michigan, or even Wes Moore. Sure. I would prefer voting for any one of them. But that’s not my choice. My choice is anything else other than Trump and the MAGA vision.

Trump represents the MAGA Vision and a MAGA administration with absurd MAGA policies and whoever or whatever resides in the opposite chair will not. Period.

Anyone in that chair will have ideas and aspects of policies that I do not support, but they will unequivocally not support the MAGA vision of policies or the MAGA vision of America. I also believe we are fooling ourselves into believing that we should be judging this election like we have judged elections in the past. I am an unequivocal moderate. While I may have disagreed with aspects and policies of a Mitt Romney, a John McCain, or even the Dumber Bush, I never felt like their vision, which was basically a traditional Republican vision, was an existential threat to the future of the United States – and by existential I mean economically as well as ideologically. And while I’m relatively sure the United States has had a president who was amoral, a pathological liar, racist, in the past, we have never had one who has also embraced something like the MAGA vision. As a corollary, we know for a fact that we have had an out of touch, too old octogenarian, as a president, but who still embraced a vision for the United States which may not have guaranteed our prosperity and progress, but certainly didn’t threaten our position in the world. This election is about MAGA versus anything else.

Which leads me to Trump derangement syndrome.

It has been suggested by many of my acquaintances or people who glance against some of my thoughts and writings that I have Trump derangement syndrome. I do not. I recognize Trump for exactly who he is. He is an amoral, narcissistic, sociopathic liar, who has a transactional view of business and life and offers a shitload of bad, dull axe (non-nuanced), ideas. That is who he is; no more no less. My issue resides in the MAGA vision of which he is the standard bearer. So, if I have any derangement syndrome, it would be with regard to the MAGA vision and policies that are associated with it. As I stated upfront, I don’t believe this election is between two octogenarians and we are choosing the least worst option of 80 year olds. I believe this election is a choice between two visions: the MAGA vision versus another vision. And if I am deranged about anything it would be that I stand opposed to everything about the MAGA vision. This admittedly suggests that I will embrace some policies and thoughts that I am not a huge fan of because I oppose, unequivocally, the MAGA Vision. Yeah. I will. And I will live with some bad policies. But getting back to Trump. I absolutely struggle to say anything positive about Trump. But more importantly I struggle to say anything positive about Trump Administration policies and results. I have said it before and I will say it again, Trump is a dull axe thinker, a 1 trick pony and has only one gear. The Trump Administration policies mirrored Trump. They were a dull axe, a 1 trick pony, and had only one gear. Suffice it to say the world is significantly more complex than that. I certainly understand the appeal of the simple and the simplistic, the problem is it’s not particularly effective when applied against a complex system. The MAGA vision does not serve the United States well in the present and certainly does not position the United States well for the future. Call me deranged, but that seems like a relatively sane reason to not support Trump nor a MAGA administration.

Which leads me to the direction of the country.

We should always be assessing a country and its governance based on progress, prosperity, and security. Let me address security first because it is actually subservient to prosperity and progress. What I mean by that is most people or politicians discuss security by (usually) shouting quite loudly in terms of military and military power This is wrong. Maybe I should say it’s misguided. Military power is used as a tool to maintain a country’s prosperity and progress. You only use the military power to either buttress the system which enables the progress and prosperity or to protect it. We may suggest that military power is used to maintain ‘safety,’ but in most situations even safety is subservient to progress and prosperity. Therefore, I speak of security in terms of securing the networks, connectivity, and inherent globalization which enables America’s prosperity and progress. Which leads me to progress and prosperity. Because America’s progress and prosperity, whether we like to believe it or not, is actually dependent in some form or fashion with connection to the rest of the world. That doesn’t mean that in isolation the United States can’t survive economically and allow its citizenry to be able to maintain a certain lifestyle, however, if optimal progress and increased prosperity is the objective we are dependent upon the rest of the world to achieve that. Therefore, security becomes intertwined with that dependence. And this is where there is an incredibly stark difference between the MAGA vision and the other vision. The MAGA vision doesn’t even recognize the importance of allies economically. It maintains an illusion that prosperity and progress can be attained by United States alone with a zero-sum view. No sane economist, no sane geopolitics expert, no sane business person, truly believes that. That doesn’t mean the United States doesn’t need to maintain strong pillars of economic independence in order to build prosperity and progress. Those pillars of independence make the United States secure from disruptions globally as well as increase the prosperity and progress because we can export our independence to other people who are in some form or fashion dependent upon that. Therefore, progress and prosperity becomes a relatively intricate web of independence, interdependence and dependence with economic and political allies. Allies would also include countries with common interests despite the fact we may not be aligned with them with regard to democratic values. But they are not our enemies. We have a mutual interest in progress and prosperity where our desire is security of the system which enables that progress and prosperity. The MAGA vision does not embrace any of that nuance nor does it embrace any aspect of interdependence or even a glimpse of dependence upon anybody else. They seek to bludgeon anybody who we are dependent upon even at the expense of our own prosperity and progress. The other vision is the exact opposite of the MAGA vision. It embraces the nuance of progress and prosperity in the present and building for the future.

Which leads me to the delusional opposition.

In some alternative universe there are no electable democratic candidates, America is largely center-right, the left has become so radical it mirrors some communist state, America is in a shithole downward spiral, Trump is in full command of his faculties, and that MAGA represents the majority of the country. This is the delusion the MAGA vision needs the world to perceive in order to have the MAGA vision make sense. As I remind everybody, while we focus on the sheer numbers that Trump received approximately 70 million votes in 2020, that represents about 28% of all the adults in the United States. Let me say that again. 28% of all adults in the United States. MAGA, and the MAGA vision is a minority view. Most democratic officials are pretty popular and the country, as a whole, is more center left leaning, moderate, on most issues and quite accepting of liberal leaning attitudes. More importantly, the country is not a shithole, in fact the reality is the United States economy is healthy, healthier than the majority of countries in the world, and in the process of building resilient economic progress and prosperity under the current administration. If we ignore the blaring headlines about culture and values and identity wars, the reality is nobody is coming to steal guns, nobody is stopping anybody from having their own religious views, no one is trying to indoctrinate our youth, and we should all just keep our eye on the most important ball which is progress and prosperity. Until somebody can show me some real ideas within the MAGA Vision or what could be construed as the existing current Republican Party, the only ideas that I can see for progress and prosperity in the present and the future reside within the Democratic Party. And in fact, if you strip away all the MAGA rhetoric about the Democrats, the democrat party are the ones who support the ideas and the basic ideological thinking that the majority of Americans like. As the election looms, I frankly do not care who is at the top of the ticket as long as whomever is there continues to enable the best ideas for our progress, prosperity, and security of those.

Which leads me to how MAGA perverts the idea of progress.

MAGA looks at progress in terms of individuals seeking individual satisfaction in combination with an encouraging an attitude of individual escape from individually suffered discomfort. That thought is a derivative of something that Zygmunt Bauman said. He suggested that progress no longer refers to forward drive and that society, rather than chase after a target spinning along ahead of us, instead seeks to make progress under the guise of ‘a lucky escape imperative.’ In other words it inspires the urge to run away from something, a crisis or a shithole disaster, that someone is suggesting is breathing down our necks. Let me be clear. Progress is not running away from something, but rather it is running towards something. That toward something should be a desired dream of a distant goal – one which progress should, could, and would eventually bring those of us seeking it, a better world not only for us, but one that serves all human needs. It should be the pursuit of shared improvement rather than just individual survival. And maybe that is where I will end because that is where the MAGA vision begins. It doesn’t begin with any shared improvement, but rather individual fears. The MAGA vision suggests that nations have lost influence on the course of not only its own affairs, but the affairs of all people which means that it has lost influence on guiding the world toward a ‘better destination’ and has lost the ability to mount a defense against all varieties of fear. The MAGA vision encourages us all to believe this, therefore, it encourages us to dwell on your individual fear. It suggests your worry is not only an immediate worry, but a long term worry. From there they offer no real solutions for progress and prosperity, just dubious tactics to salve your individual worry. MAGA is a black hole of no solutions. I would also suggest that the real solutions are offered somewhere within the non-MAGA vision. In other words, any administration embracing ‘anything else other than the MAGA vision.”

For years I have heard people say “I don’t vote for a person, I vote for policies.” Well. It’s come-to-jesus time on that thought. Ponder.


We are swimmers

Caught in the tide

Pitch black river

Shadows and light

Into the night

Beautiful swimmers

Losing the fight

A constant river

Shadows and light

Into the night

Zero 7, Swimmers

Written by Bruce