So Leslie Gore is crying because someone messed with her party? She’s clearly not a 2016 Republican. The sound you hear out in GOP-land is not weeping; it’s locking and loading. When Speaker of the House Paul Ryan admitted that he wasn’t yet ready to endorse his party’s presumptive nominee, he may not have realized exactly what he was doing…
…he was choosing sides in the class war at the center of the GOP’s populist revolution.
Some news articles portrayed Ryan’s statement as the opening bid on negotiations, between the so-called Republican Establishment and that so-called outsider The Donald. Hah! Trump took it to be a right hook to the chin and fired back immediately, threatening to dump Ryan as the chairman of the Republican Convention.
I’m not sure he can do that, even though Ryan went passive-aggressive and offered to withdraw. Whose party is it now? That’s the real argument going on.
Ryan also elaborated about his objections, revealing a wish for concessions from Trump—at minimum, a nod to the conservative values that have defined Republicans for half a century. Trump wasn’t having it. “It’s the Republican Party,” he said, “not the Conservative Party.”
Here’s a painful admission: I agree with Trump’s reasoning. Why would he abandon the very schtick that got him the nomination? Given the clear majority of primary votes that he earned this year, he’s got a strong argument for sticking to his guns. Pun intended.
So if it is Trump’s party now, is it still The Republican Party?
The 2004 book What’s the Matter with Kansas? pondered why the white working class keeps voting against its own self-interest, i.e., for rich Republicans whose policies support other rich Republicans. Trump’s wide-ranging support offers a hint that these people won’t be kept down on the farm any longer.
What’s hilariously ironic is that it took a billionaire to finally convince those unmoneyed peasants that their rich representatives weren’t representing them. (What is sadly ironic: they could learn the same thing from Bernie Sanders, if only they’d listen.)
But is Trump ready/qualified to be president? That question is bouncing all over the GOP. IMO, Trump is demonstrating daily why running the government like a business empire is a truly lousy idea. Politics is about compromise—remember that even with a supermajority, Democrats had to compromise to get Obamacare passed. Indeed, that is one reason that the law is so damned complex. But it did become a law. Now imagine how easy it would be (not!) to pass laws implementing free college or a fifty-foot wall from Texas to California.
Congress can’t even vote to fully fund fighting the Zika virus, or to fix our visibly crumbling infrastructure.
Compromise is not what a corporation’s CEO expects to do very much, and that is what’s not-so-hilariously dangerous about Trump’s possible presidency. Take his back-and-forth with Ryan over the weekend. Trump feels compelled to respond to any and every attack immediately. That’s classic bully behavior: he meets every challenge instantly with full force.
So let’s ponder what President Trump might do when Russian war planes buzz another U.S. warship in the Baltic Sea. The prehistoric lizard portion of my brain wants to shoot those motherfuckers down. Take that! Boom! And that! And then my lizard brain would tell Vladimir Putin about all the nuclear-armed submarines that we have surrounding Russia, while jabbing his chest with my index finger.
The civilized portion of my brain sees President Trump doing all of that. It also sees that Putin and Trump are built from the same playground bully mold. What does Putin threaten—or do—in response? With each of them certain that the other will blink first, you gotta wonder how far the chest thumping could go. It’s the entire planet that they would be facing off across, not some playground.
Trump’s off-the-cuff approach to foreign policy—and to everything else—has been on display from the beginning: in his campaign stops, his press conferences, his Twitter feed, his response to criticism. He won’t waste his time studying ahead on issues to form considered, defensible positions; he has the correct answers to anything you might ask lurking in his subconscious, waiting to bubble to the surface when needed.
And details are for losers. Or at least, subordinates. Are you afraid yet?
When I’m feeling noir I like to complain that “everything is an iceberg”—meaning that most aspects of life involve more details than you expect, in many cases lots more details. We have numerous clichés for this concept, but I think “the Devil’s in the details” is the best.
If government is an iceberg, then President Trump would be the Titanic. This Washington Post article compares Hillary Clinton’s wonky and lengthy policy platform to Trump’s wild campaign promises. For me, this is the money quote of the entire election:
“If Clinton treats policymaking like watchmaking—a lot of whirring, tiny, hidden gears—the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee, Donald Trump, is a man making parade floats. His ideas are attention-grabbing. Expensive. And often discarded.”
Here’s the pity of it: government is indeed an iceberg and just tuning its inner workings can be extremely painstaking, boring work—despite its urgent importance. That’s just tuning what laws exist now. Discarding and replacing an entire system in this Congress? A major (and likely impossible) undertaking. Tons of stuff needs to happen, but the real question for me is this: what can happen when you try to bring together two rivals who cannot find a point of compromise? Anything?
Example: The Senate did some good bipartisan work in 2014, creating and passing a comprehensive immigration reform bill. Something we’ve been needing and seeking for years. But what happened then? The House (specifically, John Boehner under pressure from his Tea Party caucus) refused to even bring it up for a vote. So Obama did what he could by executive order. Because we had to do something.
It brings to my mind an iconic scene from the movie Apollo 13, where a problem-solving, earthbound NASA team is shown what they have to work with: a space suit and precious few other items. These were the only tools available to fix Apollo 13 and bring the disabled mission home safely. One wonders what Trump would do in this situation, if he were in charge of NASA. Declare bankruptcy?
That movie was based on reality and the NASA team did find a solution and the astronauts did get home safely, if unconventionally.
When Congress chose to do nothing about immigration, Obama used the available tools to act. Republicans were incensed at the unilateral actions, of course. But the only response they have managed so far is an attempt to undo Obama’s actions. Which is the same as doing nothing at all. Again.
No wonder the peasants are stampeding at the ballot box.
But here’s a tough concept to wrap your head around: an opinion piece from the New York Times argues that the Founding Fathers, understanding human nature (and most especially their own natures), planned for divided government. They may have required it amongst themselves.
When the business of revolution yielded to the business of government, “the founding fathers spent much of their time hiring professional slanderers to accuse one another of treason, malfeasance and perversion.” And so they planned for a government that would be deadlocked much of the time.
Were they wise men who understood how emotional and irrational we can be? Or were they self-serving one-percenters seeking mainly to protect their individual interests? I’ve read both versions argued convincingly, and the truth needn’t exclude either of them.
Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican party at one point championed a state’s right to ignore any national law that it didn’t like. Sound familiar?
The thing is, unyielding opposition has a chance of working only if the opposition is unified. Mitch McConnell’s Senate minority in 2009-2010 couldn’t stop Obamacare, but it did stop many other reforms.
But now we have Republican vs. Republican. Consider this Marco Rubio tirade, uttered so long ago in the third-ever Republican debate:
“We are not going to turn over the conservative movement, or the party of Lincoln or Reagan … to someone whose positions are not conservative. To someone who last week defended Planned Parenthood for 30 seconds on a debate stage.”
Which part of the 30 seconds didn’t he like? When Trump noted that Planned Parenthood did lots of good for lots of women? Yikes, now I’m defending Trump!
In fact, Rubio’s unthinkable has indeed happened. “We” did turn over the conservative movement. Trump beat Cruz with self-identified evangelicals and conservatives in numerous primaries, partly because of Cruz’s dirty tricks, but mostly because Republicans have courted those voters for too long without actually delivering them anything to them. One evangelical summed it up in an exit interview: “Trump will actually do something.”
I get that, but what is the something that he’ll do? I’m not a religious man, but I pray that we never learn the answer to that question.
A number of other people worth heeding feel the same way—military higher-ups at the Pentagon and foreign governments, for starters. Here’s one you might recognize: any American who owns a U.S. Treasury bond has got to be asking if Trump really proposed to pay less than 100 cents on a dollar for such debts.
The Obama Administration has expressed real concern about the customary daily briefing that nominated candidates receive during the fall campaign. This briefing usually contains classified information and the worry is that Trump’s spur-of-the-moment big mouth could not keep those Top Secrets, well, secret.
Ted Cruz refuses to endorse Trump, and has designs on the party convention platform. That’s no pipe dream, either. Cruz spent a lot of time lining up delegates who are obligated to vote for Trump on the first ballot only. For the rest of it, they’re free to vote their Cruz-lovin’ hearts.
Conservative humorist P.J. O’Rourke is endorsing Hillary Clinton with this recommendation: “She is the second worst thing that could happen to America.”
John McCain is doing gymnastics seemingly impossible for a young man in perfect shape: first insisting on an apology to veterans, then surrendering to Trump the very next day in what surely seems like a cowardly political move. Reelection is indeed a politician’s first responsibility, as everything he might do flows from being in office. But the question facing every politician is: at what cost to your soul?
Meanwhile, McCain’s ex-aide Mark Salter felt free enough to speak his mind about Trump: “He’s just an asshole.”
But that’s not exactly news, is it?
Political Survivor #42