Yes, It’s This Bad: A Note in a Bottle to the Future

1) Trump and his family are the Kardashians, which is to say, unfathomably narcissistic and shamelessly mercenary–they court the gaze of the public so they can sell them stuff. Now that Trump Inc.’s leveraged buyout of America is complete, everything is up for grabs. And they are grabbing. Melania’s plan to market First Lady merchandise, like Ivanka’s dresses that Nordstrom doesn’t want to sell, are just the tip of the iceberg.

2) Trump is devolving. Just look at his tweets as if one of your relatives or friends had written them–the hallucinatory paranoia, the narcissistic self-regard, but most of all the impoverished language. I’m no Ben Carson, but it looks to me like there’s something wrong with his brain. Look at his photographs–he is bloated and pale beneath the spray tan. There are big bags under his eyes. He’s not sleeping and he’s eating way too much.

3) As deplorable and sad a spectacle as Trump may be, a big chunk of corporate America and the mainstream Republican politicians who are its servants see him as their last, best hope to abolish what’s left of the New Deal. They’ve joined forces with a whole congery of fringe characters and movements that under normal circumstances would be at odds with each other, but who see Trump as their champion–far right wing Zionists and hard-core neo-Nazis; old-line white nationalists and off-the-grid libertarians; Gates of Vienna war of civilization types, Know Nothing isolationists, men’s rightists, and Evangelical Christians–many of them the human detritus of the globalized, wired, knowledge economy, the under-educated, under-employed white blue collar people–Sarah Palin’s “real Americans”–who live outside the big urban areas. It’s a volatile, highly-unstable coalition and it is driven by grievance, superstition, and cynical opportunism. All of its members still add up to a numerical minority of the country, but for now, they are politically indomitable. And, oh yeah, there’s Russia too.

4) There’s no consistent underlying philosophy behind Trumpism–everything that comes out of his mouth or his smartphone is ad hoc. He will sell out anyone.

5) It’s not what Trump believes that we need to worry about–it’s what he’s going to do. And institutionally speaking, there’s no one that can stop him from doing whatever he (or his competing constituencies) like. The courts can try for now, but he will appoint hundreds of compliant judges to the lower courts and will control a majority of the Supreme Court in a matter of months. Congressional Democrats can throw sand in the gears of his agenda, but the Republican majority is in absolute lockstep with him. We can hope that the military and the police will defy his orders when he decides to go to war at home or abroad, but we’d be foolish to count on it. We can and should mobilize to elect more Democrats, but the Republican strongholds are gerrymandered and they will be working to suppress as many minority votes as they can.

6) Historians will wrestle with the question–why did so many people go along with him when he was so clearly corrupt and mad? We can only hope that they will also write about the steadfast, bottom-up resistance that finally broke Trumpism’s grip, about the unprecedented unity of purpose that brought progressives together.

7) Things really are as bad as they seem. Our national institutions aren’t going to save us, though some of our local institutions (city governments) will try. The only recourse we have is ourselves.

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7 thoughts on “Yes, It’s This Bad: A Note in a Bottle to the Future

  1. Arthur — It is a terrible mistake to believe (as you wrote) that the basis of Trump’s support is an alliance of the folks you described in your #3 paragraph. Many of the people who voted for Trump had previously voted for Obama not once, but twice — and they certainly did not vote to destroy what was created by the New Deal.

    The best explanation is Michael Moore’s. Trump voters saw themselves as a human molotov cocktrail who were so fed up with the political class in our country that they decided to take a chance upon installing someone who had no specific discernible or consistent ideology nor any genuine commitment to either political party — in the hope that such a person would take a wrecking ball to the establishment which never accomplishes anything significant for the middle class and working class.

    1. Ernie, I’m not talking about the election anymore–which Trump won by 77,000 votes that were cast in the right places. Hillary’s loss was a perfect storm of bad politics and bad luck, and I think all the people who didn’t vote made as critical a contribution to the result as the people who did.

      But now that Trump has installed Goldman Sachs executives in the cabinet, Dodd Frank is done and the ACA is soon to go, now that Medicare and Medicaid are in jeopardy, I think it’s pretty reasonable to presume that those Michael Moore people won’t stay in the Trump coalition much longer. The tax cuts and deregulation won’t do anything for them, the trade war will hurt them, and I genuinely doubt there will be an infrastructure program at all (unless you count pipelines and golf courses). But Trump doesn’t need them for now–he has 80 percent approval among Republicans at large and 100 percent compliance from Republican lawmakers. No matter how bad things get, the democrats aren’t going to retake power in 2018. But if the popular resistance to Trump is inclusive and non-ideological enough, it might capture back some of those Michael Moore people. If and when all the smoke clears, there will be some really major realignments. Neither party will ever be the same.

      1. Well, Arthur, if you are correct — then all those Trump voters will feel betrayed and return en masse to the Democratic Party — which means Trump will be a total failure (and he could even bring down the GOP majorities in both houses of Congress). I don’t think Trump is stupid nor are the leaders of the GOP….so deliberately adopting policies which violate the hopes and wishes of the people who elected them is not likely (in my judgment).

        Furthermore, Democratic Presidents have just as many multi-millionaires in their Cabinets as Trump. Where did Robert Rubin come from? Before serving Clinton, he spent 26 years in Goldman Sachs! Nobody complained about him or the other wealthy people who populated Clinton’s or Obama’s cabinet or senior government positions. John Kerry’s net worth is estimated to be over $185 million and he was on Roll Call’s list of wealthiest Congressmen for over 15 years.

        What about the 17 billionaires who supported Obama or Hillary, i.e. Warren Buffet, George Soros, Mark Cuban, Mike Bloomberg, Sheryl Sandberg, et al?

      2. BTW — Last night, CBS News had a segment which asked Trump voters (Democrats) what they think of Trump so far. Also asked them about the large demonstrations against Trump. Many of them replied that Democraticc politicians are just playing politics and everyone should just chill out and give Trump a chance.

        Furthermore, recent polling shows that:

        (1) the majority of Americans FAVOR Trump’s recent EO on persons travelling from the 7 countries which originally were identified by Obama for extra scrutiny.

        (2) 55% of Americans support Trump’s position on withholding federal funds from “sanctuary cities”

        (3) 54% support Trump’s EO regarding new federal regulations

        and more people favor than oppose Trump’s EO’s on:

        (1) Keystone Pipeline
        (2) freezing federal govt hiring
        (3) withdrawing from TPP
        (4) delaying or ignoring elements of the ACA

        Rasmussen’s poll (which, incidentally, correctly predicted the election result by stating Clinton would win the popular vote by 2%) recently came out with a poll showing that Trump has a 53% job approval rating whereas their previous polls showed disapproval by majority of persons asked.

  2. I’m anti-Trump and I voted for Hillary, but I am not one to defend the Democrats. I was a Bernie person who was deeply uninspired by HRC but afraid of the alternative. Now that the alternative is here, I am more afraid than ever. .

    I think the big difference between Obama, Clinton, and the Bushes’ billionaire-friendly administrations and Trumps’ is that Trump ran a populist campaign that explicitly promised to break the economic and political elites’ stranglehold on politics. The economic and the Republican elites seem to have landed on their feet. Trump’s emerging agenda, such as it is, doesn’t seem particularly worker-friendly. If history is any guide, populist regimes that don’t deliver the economic goods start mobilizing against internal and external enemies. That prospect terrifies me.

    1. I understand (and share) many of your concerns — but let’s remember that the actually nitty-gritty of policies have not yet been enacted.

      Suppose, for example, that one year from now, our GDP growth is averaging 4% or more per quarter. Do you think anybody will care that billionaires or “Republican elites” are in Trump’s cabinet?

      Suppose, for example, that one year from now, Trump has negotiated a $1 trillion infrastructure program with Congressional leaders — something Democats could not do in 8 years and Trump does in one year. Do you think anybody will care about billionaires and “Republican elites” in Trump’s cabinet?

      Suppose, for example, that one year from now, the unemployment rate falls by one percentage point. Who will get the credit for that?

  3. If Trump delivers sustainable miracles, he will deserve all the credit in the world. I don’t see any likelihood of that, but if it turns out that my worst fears are wrong, I will be very glad, because my worst fears are really bad.

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