eyes on the U.S.

Why Donald Trump Is Bound To Lose

His lead in the polls is still pretty wide
His lead in the polls is still pretty wide
Dana Milbank

-OpEd-

WASHINGTON â€" I never expected to write these words, but I miss Mitt Romney.

On Wednesday, the day the front-runner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination was in New Hampshire alleging that Syrian refugees fleeing for their lives may actually be clandestine terrorists, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee was in Washington, talking sense.

“Donald Trump will not be the nominee,” Romney told a group of business-school students at Georgetown University. And why won’t Trump, who, when he isn’t besmirching Syrian refugees as terrorists, is maligning Mexican immigrants as rapists, get the nod? Because, Romney said, “when all is said and done, the American people usually do the right thing.”

The Post’s Philip Rucker recorded Romney’s categorical prediction, and his rationale. “I know there’s some skunks in any endeavor â€" business, politics â€" and they get most of the visibility, but there are also some really good people,” Romney said. “The American people are a very good people and by and large find people of similar character to elect to the highest office in the land.”

Eating words?

Romney is right. In fact, I’m so certain Trump won’t win the nomination that I’ll eat my words if he does. Literally: The day Trump clinches the nomination I will eat the page on which this column is printed in Sunday’s Post. I have this confidence for the same reason Romney does: Americans are better than Trump.

The Post’s media reporter, Paul Farhi, took me to task this week for expressing such a sentiment. I was one of the pundits he named as being “consistently wrong” in predicting Trump’s demise, one who “declared his candidacy dead or mortally wounded” while Trump instead “maintained his leading position in opinion polls.”

Specifically, Farhi took issue with my Sept. 20 column, after the second Republican debate, when I asked: “Could this be the beginning of the end of Donald Trump?” I expressed the hope that “Trump will indeed succeed in making America great again â€" by motivating Americans, even fellow conservatives and Republicans, to repudiate his nonsense.” The media reporter refuted my belief that Trump would fail by pointing to a new USA Today poll showing that Trump had gained six points since July.

Alas for Farhi, the Post’s Philip Bump posted a piece 57 minutes earlier undermining the Trump-triumphant theme. Bump noted that Trump has shed eight points in polling averages from his peak before the second debate and that “there are signs that Trump is hitting the ceiling of his support” at 23%.

More to the point, my prediction that Trump will ultimately fail isn’t about punditry or polling. It comes from faith that American voters are more sensible than many poll-obsessed journalists and commentators give them credit for. Trump (and Muslim-baiting Ben Carson) won’t prevail in the Republican primary because voters, in the end, tend to get it right.

Syrian nonsense

Republican primary voters may be angry at the political establishment, but they are not irrational: They don’t wish to nominate a sure loser. And Trump is that. Americans, in a general election, will never choose a candidate who expresses the bigotry and misogyny that Trump has, regardless of his attributes. (Similarly, liberals love Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary race, but ultimately Democrats won’t choose Sanders, because, regardless of their personal preferences, they know a socialist won’t be elected president.)

Consider what Trump said in Keene, N.H., this week about those fleeing Syria in the largest refugee crisis since World War II. “This could be one of the great tactical ploys of all time,” he said of the desperate masses fleeing Syria’s civil war. “A 200,000-man army, maybe ... I don’t know that it is, but it could be possible.”

And what would happen to the refugees under President Trump? “They’re going back,” he said.

To their deaths, presumably.

Romney on the campaign trail in 2011 â€" Photo: Gage Skidmore

The same day Trump posited this paranoia, Romney was at Georgetown, telling students about an 1814 letter John Adams wrote to the political philosopher John Taylor. “Remember,” the nation’s second president wrote, “democracy never last long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”

Ours hasn’t â€" yet. “We’ve beaten the odds,” Romney said, “in part because we’ve had, I think, people of real character who have led our country as presidents ... and the American people have risen to the occasion time and again and have in fact then elected good people.”

I second Romney’s analysis. No matter what 2015 polls say, 2016 won’t be the year American democracy murders itself.

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Green

Ecological Angst In India, A Mining Dumpsite As Neighbor

Local villagers in western India have been forced to live with a mining waste site on the edge of town. What happens when you wake up one day and the giant mound of industrial waste has imploded?

The mining dumpsite is situated just outside of the Badi village in the coastal state of Gujarat

Sukanya Shantha

BADI — Last week, when the men and women from the Bharwad community in this small village in western India stepped out for their daily work to herd livestock, they were greeted with a strange sight.

The 20-meter-high small hill that had formed at the open-cast mining dumpsite had suddenly sunk. Unsure of the reason behind the sudden caving-in, they immediately informed other villagers. In no time, word had traveled far, even drawing the attention of environment specialists and activists from outside town.

This mining dumpsite situated less than 500 meters outside of the Badi village in the coastal state of Gujarat has been a matter of serious concern ever since the Gujarat Power Corporation Limited began lignite mining work here in early 2017. The power plant is run by the Power Gujarat State Electricity Corporation Limited, which was previously known as the Bhavnagar Energy Company Ltd.

Vasudev Gohil, a 43-year-old resident of Badi village says that though the dumping site is technically situated outside the village, locals must pass the area on a daily basis.


"We are constantly on tenterhooks and looking for danger signs," he says. Indeed, their state of alert is how the sudden change in the shape of the dumpsite was noticed in the first place.

Can you trust environmental officials?

For someone visiting the place for the first time, the changes may not stand out. "But we have lived all our lives here, we know every little detail of this village. And when a 150-meter-long stretch cave-in by over 25-30 feet, the change can't be overlooked," Gohil adds.

This is not the first time that the dumpsite has worried local residents. Last November, a large part of the flattened part of the dumpsite had developed deep cracks and several flat areas had suddenly got elevated. While the officials had attributed this significant elevation to the high pressure of water in the upper strata of soil in the region, environment experts had pointed to seismic activities. The change is evident even today, nearly a year since it happened.

It could have sunk because of the rain.

After the recent incident, when the villagers raised an alarm and sent a written complaint to the regional Gujarat Pollution Control Board, an official visit to the site was arranged, along with the district administration and the mining department.

The regional pollution board officer Bhavnagar, A.G. Oza, insists the changes "aren't worrisome" and attributes it to the weather.

"The area received heavy rain this time. It is possible that the soil could have sunk in because of the rain," he tells The Wire. The Board, he says, along with the mining department, is now trying to assess if the caving-in had any impact on the ground surface.

"We visited the site as soon as a complaint was made. Samples have already been sent to the laboratory and we will have a clear idea only once the reports are made available," Oza adds.

Women from the Surkha village have to travel several kilometers to find potable water

Sukanya Shantha/The Wire

A questionable claim

That the dumpsite had sunk in was noticeable for at least three days between October 1 and 3, but Rohit Prajapati of an environmental watchdog group Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, noted that it was not the first time.

"This is the third time in four years that something so strange is happening. It is a disaster in the making and the authorities ought to examine the root cause of the problem," Prajapati says, adding that the department has repeatedly failed to properly address the issue.

He also contests the GPCB's claim that excess rain could lead to something so drastic. "Then why was similar impact not seen on other dumping sites in the region? One cannot arrive at conclusions for geological changes without a deeper study of them," he says. "It can have deadly implications."

Living in pollution

The villagers have also accused the GPCB of overlooking their complaint of water pollution which has rendered a large part of the land, most importantly, the gauchar or grazing land, useless.

"In the absence of a wall or a barrier, the pollutant has freely mixed with the water bodies here and has slowly started polluting both our soil and water," complains 23- year-old Nikul Kantharia.

He says ever since the mining project took off in the region, he, like most other villagers has been forced to take his livestock farther away to graze. "Nothing grows on the grazing land anymore and the grass closer to the dumpsite makes our cattle ill," Kantharia claims.

The mining work should have been stopped long ago

Prajapati and Bharat Jambucha, a well-known environmental activist and proponent of organic farming from the region, both point to blatant violations of environmental laws in the execution of mining work, with at least 12 violations cited by local officials. "But nothing happened after that. Mining work has continued without any hassles," Jambucha says. Among some glaring violations include the absence of a boundary wall around the dumping site and proper disposal of mining effluents.

The mining work has also continued without a most basic requirement – effluent treatment plant and sewage treatment plant at the mining site, Prajapati points out. "The mining work should have been stopped long ago. And the company should have been levied a heavy fine. But no such thing happened," he adds.

In some villages, the groundwater level has depleted over the past few years and villagers attribute it to the mining project. Women from Surkha village travel several kilometers outside for potable water. "This is new. Until five years ago, we had some water in the village and did not have to lug water every day," says Shilaben Kantharia.

The mine has affected the landscape around the villages

Sukanya Shantha/The Wire

Resisting lignite mining

The lignite mining project has a long history of resistance. Agricultural land, along with grazing land were acquired from the cluster of 12 adjoining villages in the coastal Ghogha taluka between 1994 and 1997. The locals estimate that villagers here lost anything between 40-100% of their land to the project. "We were paid a standard Rs 40,000 per bigha," Narendra, a local photographer, says.

The money, Narendra says, felt decent in 1994 but for those who had been dependent on this land, the years to come proved very challenging. "Several villagers have now taken a small patch of land in the neighboring villages on lease and are cultivating cotton and groundnut there," Narendra says.

They were dependent on others' land for work.

Bharat Jambucha says things get further complicated for the communities which were historically landless. "Most families belonging to the Dalit or other marginalized populations in the region never owned any land. They were dependent on others' land for work. Once villagers lost their land to the project, the landless were pushed out of the village," he adds. His organization, Prakrutik Kheti Juth, has been at the forefront, fighting for the rights of the villages affected in the lignite mining project.

In 2017, when the mining project finally took off, villagers from across 12 villages protested. The demonstration was disrupted after police used force and beat many protesters. More than 350 of them were booked for rioting.

The villagers, however, did not give up. Protests and hunger strikes have continued from time to time. A few villagers even sent a letter to the President of India threatening that they would commit suicide if the government did not return their land.

"We let them have our land for over 20 years," says Gohil.

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