eyes on the U.S.

Donald Trump, The Snowballing Strangelove Effect

Trump in the eye of his supporters
Trump in the eye of his supporters
James Hohmann

WASHINGTON â€" As the sun rose on Super Tuesday, the D.C. in-crowd still didn't fully grasp the power of Donald Trump's message. Elites bemoan The Donald at cocktail parties and take comfort in calling Trump supporters uneducated. But while the Republican Party plunges into civil war, Trump keeps expanding his base. (He won seven of the 11 states with primaries on Tuesday.)

Many readers would probably be stunned by some of the people who are secretly supporting Trump but don't want to admit it on the record. His coalition includes not just rock-ribbed conservatives and God-fearing evangelicals, but also Ivy League-educated professionals. Some realize he's not actually that authentically conservative and look the other way. Some, who fancy themselves moderates, admire the businessman's malleability. On Monday, as an example of someone in that vein, former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert (who lost to Ted Cruz in the 2012 U.S. Senate primary in Texas) endorsed Trump. Others just like to jump on bandwagons and back winners.

The more that the Republican elites express alarm, the more a swath of these folks think that Trump might be just the change agent that's needed to nuke Washington. Remember, most grassroots activists think these D.C. politicians and talking heads are part of the problem. When I was in Alabama last week, a local official came up to me, asked me to turn off my tape recorder and whispered that he was supporting Trump. Over the past few days, I've spoken with Republicans in the same boat from Minnesota and Massachusetts to Texas and Tennessee.

"It's like Doctor Strangelove," said a tip-top Republican who is closely aligned with the GOP establishment and supported Chris Christie until he dropped out. "People are saying, "I'm not gonna tell my friends and family I'm voting for Trump," but then they're pulling the trigger for Trump. I might as well be like Slim Pickens at the end of the movie and just ride the atomic bomb down and see what happens."

Chip Saltsman, who was a senior adviser to Mike Huckabee's campaign, pointed to Cruz's strength in rural parts of Tennessee and Marco Rubio's in the suburbs. "Trump, however, cuts all through the state," said Saltsman, a former chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party who is neutral. "There is no natural base for Trump, and there's nowhere he won't do great. It truly is amazing."

Trump is NOT a regional candidate.

From Massachusetts, for instance, Washington Post reporter Ben Terris argues that Trump does well because he has perfectly channeled the voice and spirit of a loudmouthed sports fan. "People follow politics here like they follow the Patriots or the Red Sox. They want to know a politician is a fighter and has their back," state Rep. Geoff Diehl said.

"Nobody has been able to lay a fing-ah on Trump!" a Massachusetts man declared to a local radio station.

As Terris puts it, "These voters don't care that the Boston Globe recently ran an editorial entitled "Massachusetts Must Stop Trump"; they're not even troubled by their own doubts that Trump can fulfill his promises. All that matters is that, for the first time in memory, a candidate is speaking their language."

In a general election, Trump could disrupt the electoral map in surprising ways. While the coverage has focused on House Republicans in moderate districts who could get wiped out, Trump could fare better than a conventional Republican in places such as western Pennsylvania or the Iron Range of northern Minnesota. This perhaps explains why a Republican House members such as Rep. Tom Marino (Pennsylvania) backed Trump on Monday night. Marino told Politico that Trump has "overwhelming support" in his district because "he's the man for the unprotected ... not the protected, not for the Wall Street people, not for the DC insiders, but for the hard-working taxpayers."

The new CNN poll that showed Trump with the support of 49% of Republicans nationally also showed that his supporters are more motivated than his detractors: 8 in 10 Republicans backing Trump said they are more excited about voting this year than in previous elections.

After months of thinking that stopping Trump was someone else's problem, everyone in the Republican establishment is finally in full freak-out mode. "A Vote for Donald Trump Is a Vote for Bigotry," Stuart Stevens, Mitt Romney's chief strategist in 2012, writes on the Daily Beast.

To be sure, many who harbor pro-Trump sentiments have not fully thought through the implications of making him the Republican standard-bearer or, more significant, the president. As they see the new barrage of negative ads and watch Trump trip over questions about the Ku Klux Klan, they may very well sober up and change their minds. But they've had nine months, and it hasn't happened yet.

It's also undeniable that Trump terrifies up to half of self-identified Republicans. They worry that he's making a mockery of conservatism. They point to fascist or racist undertones in his campaign. They are in denial that he is likely to be their nominee.

March 15 is still really the day to watch. If Trump wins Florida and Ohio, it's game over. It won't be tenable for the GOP establishment to ignore the will of the grassroots at the party convention in Cleveland.

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7 Ways The Pandemic May Change The Airline Industry For Good

Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.

Ready for (a different kind of) takeoff?

Carl-Johan Karlsson

It's hard to overstate the damage the pandemic has had on the airline industry, with global revenues dropping by 40% in 2020 and dozens of airlines around the world filing for bankruptcy. One moment last year when the gravity became particularly apparent was when Asian carriers (in countries with low COVID-19 rates) began offering "flights to nowhere" — starting and ending at the same airport as a way to earn some cash from would-be travelers who missed the in-flight experience.

More than a year later today, experts believe that air traffic won't return to normal levels until 2024.

But beyond the financial woes, the unprecedented slowdown in air travel may bring some silver linings as key aspects of the industry are bound to change once back in full spin, with some longer-term effects on aviation already emerging. Here are some major transformations to expect in the coming years:

Cleaner aviation fuel

The U.S. administration of President Joe Biden and the airline industry recently agreed to the ambitious goal of replacing all jet fuel with sustainable alternatives by 2050. Already in a decade, the U.S. aims to produce three billion gallons of sustainable fuel — about one-tenth of current total use — from waste, plants and other organic matter.

While greening the world's road transport has long been at the top of the climate agenda, aviation is not even included under the Paris Agreement. But with air travel responsible for roughly 12% of all CO2 emissions from transport, and stricter international regulation on the horizon, the industry is increasingly seeking sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based fuel.

Fees imposed on the airline industry should be funneled into a climate fund.

In Germany, state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that the world's first factory producing CO2-neutral kerosene recently started operations in the town of Wertle, in Lower Saxony. The plant, for which Lufthansa is set to become the pilot customer, will produce CO2-neutral kerosene through a circular production cycle incorporating sustainable and green energy sources and raw materials. Energy is supplied through wind turbines from the surrounding area, while the fuel's main ingredients are water and waste-generated CO2 coming from a nearby biogas plant.

Farther north, Norwegian Air Shuttle has recently submitted a recommendation to the government that fees imposed on the airline industry should be funneled into a climate fund aimed at developing cleaner aviation fuel, according to Norwegian news site E24. The airline also suggested that the government significantly reduce the tax burden on the industry over a longer period to allow airlines to recover from the pandemic.

Black-and-white photo of an ariplane shot from below flying across the sky and leaving condensation trails

High-flying ambitions for the sector

Joel & Jasmin Førestbird

Hydrogen and electrification

Some airline manufacturers are betting on hydrogen, with research suggesting that the abundant resource has the potential to match the flight distances and payload of a current fossil-fuel aircraft. If derived from renewable resources like sun and wind power, hydrogen — with an energy-density almost three times that of gasoline or diesel — could work as a fully sustainable aviation fuel that emits only water.

One example comes out of California, where fuel-cell specialist HyPoint has entered a partnership with Pennsylvania-based Piasecki Aircraft Corporation to manufacture 650-kilowatt hydrogen fuel cell systems for aircrafts. According to HyPoint, the system — scheduled for commercial availability product by 2025 — will have four times the energy density of existing lithium-ion batteries and double the specific power of existing hydrogen fuel-cell systems.

Meanwhile, Rolls-Royce is looking to smash the speed record of electrical flights with a newly designed 23-foot-long model. Christened the Spirit of Innovation, the small plane took off for the first time earlier this month and successfully managed a 15-minute long test flight. However, the company has announced plans to fly the machine faster than 300 mph (480 km/h) before the year is out, and also to sell similar propulsion systems to companies developing electrical air taxis or small commuter planes.

New aircraft designs

Airlines are also upgrading aircraft design to become more eco-friendly. Air France just received its first upgrade of a single-aisle, medium-haul aircraft in 33 years. Fleet director Nicolas Bertrand told French daily Les Echos that the new A220 — that will replace the old A320 model — will reduce operating costs by 10%, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 20% and noise footprint by 34%.

International first class will be very nearly a thing of the past.

The pandemic has also ushered in a new era of consumer demand where privacy and personal space is put above luxury. The retirement of older aircraft caused by COVID-19 means that international first class — already in steady decline over the last decades — will be very nearly a thing of the past. Instead, airplane manufacturers around the world (including Delta, China Eastern, JetBlue, British Airways and Shanghai Airlines) are betting on a new generation of super-business minisuites where passengers have a privacy door. The idea, which was introduced by Qatar Airways in 2017, is to offer more personal space than in regular business class but without the lavishness of first class.

Aerial view of Rome's Fiumicino airport

Aerial view of Rome's Fiumicino airport


Hygiene rankings  

Rome's Fiumicino Airport has become the first in the world to earn "the COVID-19 5-Star Airport Rating" from Skytrax, an international airline and airport review and ranking site, Italian daily La Repubblica reports. Skytrax, which publishes a yearly annual ranking of the world's best airports and issues the World Airport Awards, this year created a second list to specifically call out airports with the best health and hygiene standards.

Smoother check-in

​The pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards contactless traveling, with more airports harnessing the power of biometrics — such as facial recognition or fever screening — to reduce touchpoints and human contact. Similar technology can also be used to more efficiently scan physical objects, such as explosive detection. Ultimately, passengers will be able to "check-in" and go through a security screening anywhere at the airports, removing queues and bottlenecks.

Data privacy issues

​However, as pointed out in Canadian publication The Lawyer's Daily, increased use of AI and biometrics also means increased privacy concerns. For example, health and hygiene measures like digital vaccine passports also mean that airports can collect data on who has been vaccinated and the type of vaccine used.

Photo of planes at Auckland airport, New Zealand

Auckland Airport, New Zealand

Douglas Bagg

The billion-dollar question: Will we fly less?

At the end of the day, even with all these (mostly positive) changes that we've seen take shape over the past 18 months, the industry faces major uncertainty about whether air travel will ever return to the pre-COVID levels. Not only are people wary about being in crowded and closed airplanes, but the worth of long-distance business travel in particular is being questioned as many have seen that meetings can function remotely, via Zoom and other online apps.

Trying to forecast the future, experts point to the years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks as at least a partial blueprint for what a recovery might look like in the years ahead. Twenty years ago, as passenger enthusiasm for flying waned amid security fears following the attacks, airlines were forced to cancel flights and put planes into storage.

40% of Swedes intend to travel less

According to McKinsey, leisure trips and visits to family and friends rebounded faster than business flights, which took four years to return to pre-crisis levels in the UK. This time too, business travel is expected to lag, with the consulting firm estimating only 80% recovery of pre-pandemic levels by 2024.

But the COVID-19 crisis also came at a time when passengers were already rethinking their travel habits due to climate concerns, while worldwide lockdowns have ushered in a new era of remote working. In Sweden, a survey by the country's largest research company shows that 40% of the population intend to travel less even after the pandemic ends. Similarly in the UK, nearly 60% of adults said during the spring they intended to fly less after being vaccinated against COVID-19 — with climate change cited as a top reason for people wanting to reduce their number of flights, according to research by the University of Bristol.

At the same time, major companies are increasingly forced to face the music of the environmental movement, with several corporations rolling out climate targets over the last few years. Today, five of the 10 biggest buyers of corporate air travel in the US are technology companies: Amazon, IBM, Google, Apple and Microsoft, according to Taipei Times, all of which have set individual targets for environmental stewardship. As such, the era of flying across the Atlantic for a two-hour executive meeting is likely in its dying days.

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