Trump Everlasting

by Corey Robin on December 23, 2017

I’m glad I’m not a journalist. I don’t think I could handle the whiplash of the ever-changing story line, the way a grand historical narrative gets revised, day to day, the way it seems to change, week to week, often on a dime. Or a $1.5 trillion tax cut.

In my Guardian digest this week, I deal with the media’s memory, taxes, the state of the GOP, judges, sexual harassment, and leave you at the end with my assessment of where we are.

Here’s a preview:

Last week, after the victory of Democrat Doug Jones in Alabama’s senatorial election, the media began reporting that the Republican party was facing an epic disaster. Citing insider talk of a “political earthquake” and a “party in turmoil,” the Washington Post anticipated a Democratic takeover of Congress in 2018.

A year that began with dark premonitions of a fascist seizure of power, an autocrat’s total control of the state, seemed ready to end with sunny predictions of the Republican party losing one branch of the federal government to the opposition and a stalled right-wing agenda in Congress.

One week later, after the victory of the Republican tax cut, the media has changed its tune.

Like Trump, George W Bush lost the popular vote in 2000. Unlike Trump, Bush only won the Electoral College because of the US supreme court. Despite that added spice of illegitimacy, despite having smaller majorities in both houses of Congress (razor-thin in the Senate, almost razor-thin in the House), Bush still managed to push through massive tax cuts – and, unlike Trump, got 40 Democrats to vote with him. A full six months sooner than Trump did.

Cutting taxes is in the Republican DNA. Even an idiot can do it.

So that’s how we end 2017: on the one hand, a declining movement of the right, increasingly unpopular with the voters, trying to claim a long-term hold on power through the least democratic branch of government.

On the other hand, a rising movement of women and the left, trying to topple ancient and middle-aged injustices, one nasty man at a time.


You can continue reading here.

{ 29 comments }

1

e julius drivingstorm 12.23.17 at 5:04 pm

Cutting taxes is in the Republican DNA. Even an idiot can do it.

I don’t know about the guy in the second link of that line. It’s almost as if half the US electorate is not as smart as the other half.

2

John Quiggin 12.24.17 at 1:44 am

I don’t think the whiplash is as surprising as Corey suggests.

In a situation where the Republicans have the support of a minority, but a substantial one, and are united among themselves in support of extreme positions, two outcomes are plausible
(i) the majority prevails and the Republicans cease to be a serious political force, as they have in California
(ii) the Republicans permanently entrench themselves to the point where they can rule indefinitely as a minority
As against those two, there is
(iii) the prospect of a return to US politics as normal, with the parties alternating in power, a good deal of bipartisanship and so on.
Most of the recent events have raised the probability of both (i) and (ii), while lowering the probability of (iii).
For example, the Alabama election obviously favoured (i), but the fact that the Republican base turned out 80 per cent for Moore, and the Republican hierarchy backed him (and would have embraced him, had he won) also favors (ii).
The process and content of the tax cut bill mostly favors (ii), but also, given its unpopularity, supports (i).
In both cases, the increasing probability of (i) and (ii) comes at the expense of (iii), which is (or at least was until recently) the default assumption. So, it’s unsurprising that we see stories jumping from one peak of the bimodal distribution of outcomes to the other.

3

John Quiggin 12.24.17 at 1:52 am

On judges, it’s worth remembering that FDR overcame the Supreme Court, and that the remedy of an expansion is still available. Quite possibly, the threat will be enough, as it was then,

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_switch_in_time_that_saved_nine

4

Omega Centauri 12.24.17 at 1:56 am

I suspect many career politicians who have hitched their careers to the Republican brand fear (i). But their careers can also be ended by a primary challenge from the right. So while they would ideally like to tack toward the center, party dynamics forces them to tack right.

I think this is fundamentally driven by commercial media dynamics. Appealing to extremism wins one a loyal exploitable audience, and hence is a means to financial success. As long as we worship at the god of commerce, the pressure to exploit winning media strategies goes strongly against (iii). Now if enough of the public gets sufficiently turned off by hyper-partisanship this could change. But such a cultural change doesn’t appear likely, at least not yet.

5

Layman 12.24.17 at 2:40 am

It’s hard to imagine the circumstances under which a bill to expand the Court makes it through both chambers of Congress. Wake me when there is a Democratic President with a majority in the House and 60 votes in the Senate.

6

John Quiggin 12.24.17 at 4:10 am

@5 Your second sentence answers your first. Obviously, if those conditions aren’t fulfilled (and assuming continuation of the filibuster), worries about obstructionist judges are secondary, since there won’t be much good legislation for them to block.

How unlikely is it? Current projections give the Dems about an even chance of a Senate majority after 2018. Then, they need to regain in 2020 the Senate seats they lost in 2014, as well as winning the House and Presidency. I don’t find that hard to imagine – it might not be even money yet, but it’s what would happen if the opinion polls stayed where they are for the next three years.

7

ph 12.24.17 at 4:24 am

Much of this is very good, and even uplifting, Corey.

So that’s how we end 2017: on the one hand, a declining movement of the right, increasingly unpopular with the voters, trying to claim a long-term hold on power through the least democratic branch of government.

On the other hand, a rising movement of women and the left, trying to topple ancient and middle-aged injustices, one nasty man at a time.

However, ‘has succeeded in moving the least democratic branch of government to the right, and can look forward to similar successes over the next 3-8 years.’ is more accurate.

The substantive issues bubbling beneath the surface offer much food for thought.

Were Democrats not so deeply invested in pandering to core demographics and the rich, we might be seeing a prominent Dems, or two, actually take on the big boys. But taking on global mulit-nationals requires demonstrably greater courage than is currently on display. The modern idea of political courage is planting spit-balls on the orange walking target, who feeds off these exchanges. Meanwhile, a clown ‘Resistance’ gathers on FB to commiserate and exchange Russia memes, the way they did Koch Konspiracy tales, and Dems double-down on Trump fear.

We’ll need to do better next year.

8

Gabriel 12.24.17 at 8:09 am

I think John is making a lot of sense, but it’s worthwhile to point out that, even with the current approval numbers, it’s far from guaranteed that Trump would not be reelected.

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/is-it-safe-to-say-trump-is-a-favorite-to-win-re-election/

And that’s not factoring in the near certainty that Trump would not run if a landslide loss appeared certain; he would ‘retire a hero’ (in his mind) and the GOP would run someone saner on a ‘look how much we’ve learned, kinder gentler etc’ ticket.

9

bruce wilder 12.24.17 at 9:14 am

Sidenote.

Naked Capitalism points to a news report at the Intercept dated October 19, 2016: Chuck Schumer told CNBC “one of his top two 2017 priorities would be an enormous corporate tax cut.”

If only the left was represented by a political party . . .

10

Layman 12.24.17 at 11:27 am

The Democrats briefly held 60 seats in the Senate in 2009. Before that, the last time either party held 60 seats was 1977. So, yes, I suppose I can imagine it, but it seems very unlikely to me.

11

mark c 12.24.17 at 11:46 am

JQ @ 2 –
I think your plausible outcomes are too focused on the idea of there being a new semi-stable outcome. There are significant institutional and systemic impediments to (i) occurring at the federal level (rather than the state level). While (ii) is possible, my expectation is that there will continue to be swings between D and R control where the Ds positioned as even more representative of majority opinion, but are frequently sunk by unpopular candidates, perceived insider status, and an inability to patch over social and economic tensions with reformism and unwillingness/inability to engage in real transformation. The Rs continue to move right, making R control – when it periodically comes – even more destabilizing and dangerous than it already is.

12

alfredlordbleep 12.24.17 at 2:15 pm

JQ—Ah, court-packing make fresh again (lower courts)
. . . the rightwing has been thinking along similar lines for its own purposes:
Federalist Society co-founder Steven Calabresi and attorney Shams Hirji dropped a bombshell plan at the end of November, proposing a massive expansion of the federal judiciary by 33 or even 50 percent. The New York Times’ Linda Greenhouse and Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick have each offered their own criticisms of the proposal. As Ron Klain explained in the Washington Post, the plan would have an absurdly profound effect on the makeup of the federal judiciary
http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2017/12/the_trump_court_packing_plan_is_based_on_a_lie.html

13

Naysayer 12.24.17 at 8:59 pm

14

J-D 12.24.17 at 9:18 pm

kidneystones

We’ll need to do better next year.

I’m keen for you to tell us more about your own plans.

15

justsomeguy 12.24.17 at 10:24 pm

Journalists do not have to “handle” an ever changing story-line. Reality and facts are not “ever changing”.
FAKE journalists that work for the mainstream corporate media are the ones that have to keep adjusting what they report based on propaganda from official sources and PR flaks.

16

bruce wilder 12.24.17 at 10:53 pm

Naysayer

I was quoting the Intercept. Schumer did identify one his top priorities as a corporate tax cut, permanent and large. Schumer sugar-coated it with a handwave at infrastructure funding.

Too many Democrats do not have any principled objection to anything Republicans do involving upward distribution of income, only the tone. Schumer is one of those.

17

anon 12.25.17 at 1:51 am

Control of presidency. Control of the House. Control of the Senate. Control of 32 state legislatures. Control of 34 Governorships.

Loss of CNN and sociology professors.

I’ll take it.

anon

18

Alan White 12.25.17 at 4:01 am

Rise of hate-mongering and racism. Rise of anti-science-based deregulation. Rise of judges appointed solely by theocratic and plutocratic ideology. Rise of sexist abusers who hide behind the thinnest veils of deniability. Rise of those legislating tax-cuts to the wealthy to justify slashing entitlements without ever understanding what positive-claim rights even means.

I’ll fight em to my last breath.

19

ph 12.25.17 at 4:37 am

@17 No facts, please. Winning!

@16 A lack of scruple and principle are the principal prerequisites of any ‘good’ politician. Winning at any cost is the one characteristic (rarely acknowledged) that most admire.

To become president Bill Clinton had to demonstrate the ability to lie to the American public, and take an innocent life – Ricky Ray Rector’s.

20

Procopius 12.25.17 at 5:28 am

It’s not surprising they got tax cuts for the rich, it’s surprising that they present bills that are such terrible policy. Who could imagine they could craft a bill “cutting” taxes that 52% of voters would disapprove of? Who could have imagined they would design a “repeal and replace” bill that made ACA more popular?

21

Whirrlaway 12.25.17 at 5:44 am

@justsomeguy
It’s possible for a system to be radically unstable, like driving a car on an icy road: things are fine right up until they aren’t fine any more. Maybe things will damp out, and maybe you’re headed for airbag deployment. Feel lucky?

Besides, politics is not about “facts” so much.

22

Dr. Hilarius 12.25.17 at 6:52 pm

The tax bill will prove popular even with some who understand the consequences of blowing up the deficit and the the inevitable Republican attack on social security and Medicare. The immediate gratification of lower taxes overwhelms deferred consequences.

The Republicans can keep winning. They are not deterred by facts, they support their candidates no matter how damaged and are united in their hatred of liberals and all things loved by liberals.

The Democrats still can’t resolve their conflicts over Hillary Clinton. The Democratic Party continues to rely on endless appeals for money to “resist” Trump but without any clue how to do that (I know, my inbox fills up with these appeals and I’m about to take out my land line due to the endless calls). My hopes for the 2018 midterms are fast fading.

23

Pavel A 12.26.17 at 4:25 am

@20

It’s not surprising if you briefly consider that capitalists aren’t interested in good policy. They’re interested in enriching their corporate masters and always have been.

General predictions:
– Dems continue running pro-capitalist wet blanket candidates
– Dems continue punching left instead of abandoning their love of filthy, filthy lucre
– Dems make a few wins on the back of Trump hatred, but ultimately capitulate to capitalism and lose the ideological battle between capitalism and capitalism lite
– We have a revolution and/or we all die. Nazi purges. Nuclear war. Climate change. Specifics don’t really matter.

Hope everyone here had their wills in order. Happy Holidays!

24

J-D 12.26.17 at 8:27 am

Pavel A
I don’t know whether your predictions are intended to illustrate any special insight on your part, but in fact they demonstrate the exact opposite. Of course we’re all going to die. We all know that; no special insight is required.

For the most part, your ‘predictions’ are merely histrionic posturing. My point isn’t that they’re wrong; most of them have too little substantive content ever to be judged wrong.

In case anybody is interested in seeing what some genuine substantive predictions look like, you could do worse than check out some of these:
http://longbets.org/bets/

Some of those have been definitively shown to be wrong; but it was only possible for them to be shown wrong because they had some genuine substantive content in the first place.

25

Ed 12.26.17 at 3:30 pm

26

Pavel A 12.27.17 at 5:15 am

@24
Yes, yes, in the long term we’re all dead. I’d prefer to die knowing the planet is functioning and we’re not heading into another global conflagration, thanks.

As for my predictions, they’re pretty decent overall. Dems are heading along the classic trajectory of electing the most milquetoast wet blankets they can find.

I mean, Northam was elected on expanding Medicaid, which he immediately backed down on:

“In an interview published Saturday by The Washington Post, Northam said he would focus on governing in a bipartisan way and would not try to engineer a Democratic advantage in the Virginia House of Delegates, where Republicans currently hold a one-seat majority, by poaching GOP lawmakers for plum Cabinet positions.”

“Northam said he has no plans to try to force Republicans to accept a broad expansion of Medicaid.”

Tim Kaine and a boat load of other boring, ancient Dem nobodies have decided DACA recipients aren’t worth shutting down the government over.

Doug Jones finally decided, after being dragged for days on social media, to hire some PoCs.

I mean with guys like these, how can you lose?

Even if you take the Senate in 2018, do you honestly think that Dems will roll back the entirety of the Trump economic and social package? Will they attempt to expand even the welfare state, much less actually battle capital?

In general we’re really doing a great job of recreating the conditions of the Weimar Republic. The progressive left is the KPD: annoying and sectarian, but basically right about the dangers of fascism and the need for a fundamental anti-capitalist revolution. Centrist Dems are the SPD: itching to collaborate with the right at the first opportunity (in this case, collaborationism is politely referred to as bipartisanship), happily supporting capitalism and punching left at the first opportunity (in the form of calling for the arrest of Antifa).

Given that all I hear from centrists is “only Russian bots criticize the Dems”, I’m sure that just like last time, this will all be a resounding and decisive victory against fascism!

@25
Oh look, it’s an Ancap. Run home to your weed and bitcoin.

27

Pacific Garbage Patch 12.27.17 at 6:30 pm

America is in the middle of a long term political crisis, and the outlook for even mild reforms is not looking good. Bernie Sanders is the only major figure willing to recognize the existence of many deeply rooted problems in America, and his supporters are being effectively frozen out of the Democratic party. Expecting major changes after 2020, even if it’s a landslide for the opposition, seems premature. Obama had a stacked deck and he barely managed to pass the Heritage Foundation healthcare plan. While the political system breaks down further the looming crises of climate change, inevitable recession, and a runaway military and security complex get worse. I really doubt a few empty suits being shuffled around in DC will mean anything.

28

J-D 12.27.17 at 7:33 pm

Pavel A
I still can’t find where you’ve produced a prediction with enough by the way of substantive content for it to be possible to arrange a bet on it.

I’d prefer to die knowing …

Not only is it the case that we all die, but it’s also the case that we all die not knowing how things are going to turn out (except, of course, for the knowledge that we’re all going to die).

Even if you take the Senate in 2018 …

‘You’? Which ‘you’ are you talking about? I can’t take the Senate in 2018, I’m a Foreignanian.

In general we’re really doing a great job of recreating the conditions of the Weimar Republic.

‘We’? Which ‘we’ are you talkng about? If ‘we’ includes yourself, how are you personally contributing to recreating the conditions of the Weimar Republic, and why don’t you stop?

Centrist Dems are the SPD: itching to collaborate with the right at the first opportunity …

Did the SPD ever collaborate with the Nazis?

Given that all I hear from centrists is “only Russian bots criticize the Dems” …

Google News doesn’t tell me that’s what centrists say. Google News tells me that centrists talk about fiscal policy.

29

Suzanne 12.27.17 at 9:25 pm

@16: Schumer is the Senator from New York and is accordingly exceptionally respectful of the finance industry, which is part of his constituency. And although he is an intensely partisan Democrat he isn’t a particularly ideological or left Democrat. Not my favorite senator, no.

That said – he ties the lowering of the corporate tax rate specifically to money for infrastructure, as part of a larger deal that would presumably include seeking Republican support.

There is no suggestion that he would lower the corporate tax rate without such a commitment, and it’s clear that the companies would have to bring back money from overseas as part of such a deal. Were he to waver, there are plenty in his party, including an energized left wing, to hold his feet to the fire. (I’d like to know more about why he said the corporate tax cuts would be permanent, but there was no follow-up question.)

The implication that Schumer would support a corporate tax cut as part of a tax package such as the one that was just passed is ludicrous. Also, in the same interview, he reaffirms the commitment to the social safety net and the protection of benefits, which the Republicans have already made clear they intend to slash.

He also implies he’d be more willing to reach out to the other side than Harry Reid. I have a feeling he’d not answer the same way today.

Comments on this entry are closed.