30-Day Slump

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Today – Presidents’ Day – is the 30th day that President Lump has been in office. It’s the end of our free trial, our money back warranty period; now we can’t return the product any more.

So. How’s it going? Let’s check in.

I think that President Sump got elected on the back of an unlikely coalition of monied interests and angry Americans. His lack of a background in politics, which would have told us where his interests lay and where his votes have been cast, and the fact that he is a reality television star in every sense of the word (By which I mean: he purports to represent himself completely honestly, but we all know he’s edited and scripted and molded, folded, spindled, and mutilated, until he’s actually the furthest thing from reality.), have allowed various groups to color him in according to their own imagined scheme. Anti-Islamists dreamed he would eliminate radical Islam (or even better, ALL Islam); Republicans hoped he would put a stop to the Liberals taking over the country; wealthy people believed he would help make them even wealthier. They all hoped he would be a good choice, and enough (just barely enough) of them voted for him that now we get to find out what happens when people stop being polite – and start getting real.

I see Mr. Rump, then, as an experiment. It’s an experiment I wouldn’t have chosen personally, but it is one I am participating in; and I, too, had my hopes about what he would and would not be like as a President. I’m sure we’ve all seen the memes about giving him a chance, and hoping that he fails is like hoping that your pilot crashes the plane; that’s all well and good, as far as it goes. The question is: how far does it go?

That’s the point of this blog. We’ve gone 30 days. Has it been enough to see what has happened to our hopes and dreams? What do you say we give him a progress report?

The Republican establishment: The Republicans in Congress, who opposed him, waffled about him, and then supported him, had a very specific plan in mind, I think, when they decided to back Clump. And they did back him, whatever people think about Stump’s intention or capacity to oppose Washington institutions and “drain the swamp.” The standard Republican strategy is to use social wedge issues to get elected, and then completely ignore those same social issues in favor of cutting taxes and regulations as part of sweetheart deals with various industries who lobby them, and then hire them as lobbyists. (Thomas Frank’s excellent book What’s the Matter with Kansas? explains this lucidly and completely) So since they have gerrymandered a lock on the majority in Congress, what did they need Plump for? Easy: he’s a distraction. He’s the dancing clown we’re all staring at while McConnell and Ryan et al tear apart the regulatory state and the tax base.

How’s it working for them? Well, they’re tearing apart the regulatory state and the tax base, and Crump’s getting the majority of the heat. They are not forgotten, though; the curtain hiding the man in the corner of The Great and Powerful Oz’s chamber is not really covering them very well. They need Grump to allow a few more pipelines, nominate a few more paper men to head important bureaucracies. Hold a few more manic press conferences. Overall, though, they’re probably pretty satisfied. Let’s see what they do to Obamacare.

Republican voters: The vast majority of people who would identify themselves as Republicans are probably not happy with who he has become. They wanted him to champion their specific causes, and he’s not been doing much of that; he’s been championing mostly himself. But this is not news: generally speaking, candidates quickly become a disappointment to the voters who got them in there. I voted for Obama in 2008 because I wanted him to end the war, close Guantanamo, regulate Wall Street, and create an effective single-payer health care system. So I guess one out of four ain’t — fuuuuuck.

Same thing here. Two minor differences: Mr. Chump has disappointed people more quickly, I think, than most presidents do; witness the rally he felt a need to hold in Florida this past weekend, trying to stir up some excitement. 30 days and people are already drawing away, hissing in breath between their teeth. And two: most of the time, candidates who become Presidents disappoint because they moderate their stances: once they’re in and they no longer need to fire people up, they start looking to compromise with the establishment. Gump (Sorry, Forrest) hasn’t moderated at all: he’s just shown that his more extreme stances will meet resistance. I don’t know if that shows his voters that he can’t get things done, or if it shows them that the rest of the government isn’t on board the Gump-Train.

The Democratic establishment: Could not be more miserable. Lost the entire government to a Three Stooges skit. Also couldn’t be much weaker about it. I mean, Jesus: they’re already talking about approving Gorsuch for the Supreme Court? When it should have been Merrick Garland almost a year ago now, and we all know it? What kills me is they don’t want to use the filibuster against a Supreme Court nominee for fear the Republicans will change the rules and take it away. Right, because Lord knows you don’t want to lose a weapon YOU WON’T EVEN USE. That would really suck.

Hey guys: the GOP got credibility by opposing everything the Democrats did under Obama with an almost religious fervor. What you need now is an equal credibility. Peace and negotiations come later, once you discover some strength. Suck it up and do your job, okay? And don’t tell me how much it sucks: mine sucks too, and I make less than a fifth of what you make, NOT counting bribes from lobbyists.

Democratic voters: In some ways, ecstatic. I mean, heartbroken after the actual election; but then they got determined, and they have stayed that way. Since the Democrats have largely been sitting on their laurels since the Clinton who won, it’s good that they are willing to get to work. I think it’s been good for them to do it, too, to actually take to the streets, to recognize what it is to build coalitions rather than simply imposing an orthodox viewpoint and ostracizing those who don’t conform. Let’s be clear: it’s not enough to be right, you also have to get enough people to agree with you. Listen to Hamilton sometime.

Moderates: Hoo boy: you thought Republican voters were upset. Always, ALWAYS, the candidate moderates when they get into office. Compromise is the only way things ever get done in a government built on checks and balances.

But nobody told Dump that.

If anything, he’s gotten more extreme as his attempts to follow through on his campaign promises have been stymied by the courts or the Congress or the public or the media or — is there anyone still on his side? I mean, I guess the First Lady. And Bannon. So I figure moderates who voted for Slump hoping that he would be a good middle-right statesman once he got into office? Not real happy with how it’s gone.

Libertarians: Well, I mean, libertarians hate everything anyway.

People who thought he had to be better than Clinton: HAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAhaaaaaa.

Start with the accusation that Clinton is a liar. Now: alternative facts. Then go to her ties to Wall Street and to billionaire donors with shady politics. Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, (fortunately withdrawn) Labor Secretary Andrew Puzder, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Then how about that email thing? Right: I give you reading classified documents on an open air terrace at a golf resort, not to mention the Twitter Feed Heard ‘Round the World. And her apparent lack of personal charm and class?

Come on: that was shot before the election.

Frankly, I hope you people are unhappy.

People who were so angry over Bernie Sanders’s treatment that they wrote in his name or didn’t vote at all: Well, principles are important. But maybe a little less so now, hmmmm? “Voting for the lesser evil is still voting for evil.” Right: so is voting in such a way that you enable evil to win. I’m not saying that voting for Clinton wouldn’t have been evil: I mean, I don’t think it would have been, but I’m not in this group; those who are in this group may not have been able to stomach a vote for Clinton, and I get that. But when you literally throw away your vote — I don’t mean the people who voted for Stein or Johnson or another legitimate third party — you are making it more likely that either evil is going to win. Which means you’re voting for evil. And you got it.

Does it feel better to help evil when you have your back turned to it while you help?

Probably not.

Big business: 

Billionaires’ — Hold on a second — go back and watch that last one again. That video is priceless.

Right, where was I?

Billionaires’ Boy’s Club:

(By the way: did you know the last verse of that song is from the point of view of the President? Hm. Interesting.)

Speaking of presidents…

Vice President Mike Pence: Every time somebody mentions impeachment, I think his heart skips a beat. He signed onto this dog and pony show as the rational one, and that will stand him in good stead if the Mump ahead of him finally gets yanked out by the big hook. So considering how the first 30 days have gone, I assume he’s quite happy, indeed.

The Military: I assume they like how he keeps talking about increasing the military budget and buying newer, better equipment. If my job put me in harm’s way, and I could do it better with newer equipment, I’d want the same thing. Hell, if we didn’t have an unConstitutional standing army that has made us into the most war-like, invasive, intercessionist nation in history, I’d want the men and women of our military to have more money and better equipment. (Someday we will have the greatest National Guard in the world, and will offer hefty support to our allies and the UN — and nothing. Else. Think how far our military budget could go if we weren’t supporting hundreds of redundant bases around the world. But anyway.) They probably approve of his naming so many generals to his staff and cabinet. But they can’t be happy that he seems to be systematically alienating our allies and cutting off all lines of communication. I don’t believe our military wants to fight World War III, let alone start it.

The Alt-Right: I mean, Bannon, right? On the National Security Council, like Pennywise working in a daycare? And an attempted ban on Islamic immigrants? And a big ass wall?  Here y’go, fellers.

Fundamentalist Christians: So he’s not very Christian. But he’s opposing the Muslims, and he’s supporting the Israeli one-state solution. Along with all of the warmongering and hedonism, he certainly seems to be bringing about Judgment Day all the quicker.

And that’s . . . good, right? Right?

America’s Actual Enemies: If they’re crazy, then I assume they are planning to rise to the challenge, and see if they can out-loon President Grump. If they’re not crazy, surely they see how easy he will be to manipulate. Hell, any troll on Twitter can rile the guy up in 140 characters. This is, of course, lovely news for those who actually understand the importance of image politics and the cult of personality. I don’t really think that I do —  but I have no doubt that our enemies do, and they are probably doing this:

Everybody else in the world: All I can say is, I’m sorry. I don’t know if you had any hopes left in you after the election went how it did, but if you did, well — I’m sorry. I’m sorry for what my country has become.

Let me be clear: I actually still have hope. I am still hopeful that Mr. Trump (Yes, fine, sure I can use his actual name. President Donald J. Trump, okay? Bah, humbug.) will do no lasting harm to this country, and that he will satisfy a large number of people who have felt left behind by the progressive swing of the pendulum over the last few decades. That would be a good thing. In some ways, I think that’s all that can be hoped for with any president. I don’t know how much President Obama really accomplished –really — other than this: he did no harm. He didn’t hurt our international reputation, he didn’t break our government or our economy. The debt he created was already coming because of previous administrations and our Congress’s willingness to create new spending without finding ways to pay for it, and because of the financial crisis initiated by Wall Street. The wars he failed to stop, and the one he exacerbated by dealing weapons and flinging drones around like Rip Taylor chucking confetti, are all part of a quagmire that we were already in up to our tits. Jesus: do you realize that we propped up the Iranian government under the Shah, who came to power after the Allies invaded in 194-fucking-1? It goes that far back. So in the grand scheme, Obama did no harm. The problems of this country, the real ones, were not his fault, and I don’t think he made them worse, overall.

I hope I will be able to say the same for Trump. And if he makes people feel like they have a voice, like their vote counts, then that is all to the good.

And if he shows us all that what we really need to do is find a way to listen to each other so we can never, ever, EVER elect another jackass like this one — then I think his legacy will be complete.

I hope.

But that’s only good for my country, and our internal democracy. For the rest of the world? This must really be like looking down the barrel of a gun. And not because of Trump himself: but because 63 million Americans voted for him.

That’s the scary part.

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