Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Trump as Professional Wrestler: This American Carnage

Donald Trump is confident and clear:  Bad is Bad, and he is Good because he is bad and he knows bad when he sees it.

Let me explain.

On July 7, 1996 Hulk Hogan switched roles.   He went from being the personification to all that is good to being bad. He became arrogant and conniving.  He became a winner, and the crowds loved it.  

In the terms of professional wrestling, he became the "heel", the guy you love to watch because he is willing to do anything.

Donald Trump understood the simple direct appeal of archetype roles in public performance.     Politics is the struggle between good and evil.  So is professional wrestling and some commedia dell'arte.

Donald Trump is the "heel," the character in professional wrestling who is the villain or rogue.  The heel is allowed to lie, cheat, use illegal methods, bully, be a loudmouth, be arrogant and in general arrogantly flout the rules.  He can be flamboyant, he can be a soviet or a pretty-boy or an arrogant bully.  He is interesting.  The heel need not apologize for outrageous behavior; he proves his authenticity by parading his excesses.  He is bad and he knows it and is proud of it.

Donald Trump, like Hulk Hogan, went from "kayfabe", a scripted fake set of moves, to a "shoot", which is an unscripted move which gets integrated into the script and becomes real.  Voters found the Trump act appealing.   Trump, in the over the top character of a professional wrestler, was the heel who shouted down the hypocrites and fellow villains around him, thus becoming a kind of hero.   

In professional wrestling, in art, in movies, on TV, and in life a heel can become a hero.  Trump is a heel hero. It takes a thief to catch a thief.  It takes a powerful political player to understand how the powerful players play.  They use the bankruptcy rules.  They troll the media by announcing they will make a big announcement then use the entire time as an infomercial for a new hotel.   Fooled you!  

 Donald Trump could be honest because he didn't have to lie.   He made his ties in China, that was the game.  He groped women.  He married younger and younger wives.  He went bankrupt and made out like a bandit.  He knew the rules.
Gorgeous George: an early heel, perfumed and coifed.

Donald Trump played the classic professional wrestling role: being himself writ large, very large.   Trump is not nuanced.  He is clear.  When he dislikes something he says it is absolutely terrible, the worst, disgusting.

Trump as president is a continuation of Trump the campaigner: the bully who knows what he hates.

He is our bully.  He hates what a great many Americans hate: waste, Muslims, "bad dudes", taxes, bad trade deals, Obamacare.   He flouts the rules so that we both win, Trump and America.
In an exclusive interview with his web house organ, Breitbart, Donald Trump talked directly and unfiltered.  It is instructive to see him at work, continuing the tone that worked to demolish his primary opponents and then Hillary:    Transcript

**** "The fake media":  "The fake media is the enemy of the American people."

**** The New York Times:  "The intent is so evil and so bad. . . . I call them the failing New York Times and they write lies."

**** Obamacare:  "the disaster known as Obamacare because it's a complete and total disaster."

**** Middle East:  "The Middle East is a mess."

**** North Korea: "North Korea is a mess."

**** Border:  "Our border is a total disaster."

**** Trade: "Our trade deals are beyond bad--beyond bad.  The result looks like they were negotiated by children."

**** Military: "Our military is depleted.  Our equipment is old and tired."

Trump understood American media better than did the media itself.   Television is entertainment and Trump entertains.   We enjoy our anti-heroes, from JR on Dallas to Walter White on Breaking Bad to Don Draper on Mad Men.   

Donald Trump is a heel who calls out the other heels and promises to smash them.  America cannot help but watch.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Federalism: Alabama isn't New York

Can't we all get along?   The problem of Empires.

The primary problem of the Constitutional Convention in 1787 was how to make a single country out of 13 colonies that had different sizes, economic interests, and values.  The solution was federalism.   It is the same system used by hotels: segregation of smokers from non-smokers with smoking floors or wings.  

Amy Chua, the Yale Law professor who became famous for her writing about Tiger Moms, wrote an earlier book about how great empires survived for centuries: they allowed diversity in matters of religion and culture.  Diverse polities are tricky and fragile.  The glue that holds a system together is not always stronger than the frictions that pull it apart.   Successful empires allowed local customs, language, and especially religions to continue unmolested, and sometimes to be integrated and absorbed into the customs of the state.

Two days ago this blog listed nine areas where Democrats and Republicans are in opposition to one another on what out to be a single national policy and what ought to be handled locally.   Each side argues its point with certainty and moral outrage that would be more credible if one party or the other were consistently on the side of "states rights."

They are not.

Democrats want a national standard on abortion (constitutionally legal per Roe vs. Wade), gay marriage (constitutionally legal as an equal protection per Obergefell vs. Hodges), and voting protection for blacks (per Voting Rights Act), but they assert states rights on Sanctuary Cities and state and local laws regarding gun control.     I called the inconsistency hypocrisy, but said it was bi-partisan since Republicans oppose Sanctuary Cities but want states to control rules on abortion, marriage, and voting access.

Retired professor and current peace activist Herb Rothschild put this list of contradictions into a different context.   The real story here is not one of hypocrisy.  Instead, it is the growing power of economic integration and the national security state pulling toward national integration.  Meanwhile, the individual rights protected in the Bill of Rights have constrained and shaped state power by having been applied to the states via the 14th Amendment.   The differences between the parties is that Democrats are pushing for social justice and equality; Republicans are resisting the push.

But I will let Herb speak for himself:

Guest Comment:  Herb Rothschild

Herb Rothschild, in Ashland July 4 Parade
I cannot agree that advocating that some matters should be left to the states and some imposed uniformly by the federal government is an indication of hypocrisy, Peter. This tension was embedded in the 1787 Constitution, which originally was weighted in favor of the states, in part to protect the slavery interest. You're a more learned historian than I, but I'll take a shot at four generalizations about what has happened since then.

1. The gradually-increasing reach of economic activity required a shift of commercial jurisdiction to the federal government. The Interstate Commerce clause has been the main lever of shifting rule-making authority from the states to the feds.

2. The national commitment to end slavery and the adoption after the Civil War of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments laid the foundation for regarding the federal government as the protector of individual rights from state abuse. Most people don't know that the Bill of Rights didn't apply to the states, only the federal government. Beginning in the early 20th century, the Supreme Court used the 14th amendment guarantee of universal due process and equal protection of the laws to "incorporate" the Bill of Rights amendments and apply them to the states. I consider this historical development the best advance beyond the Founding Fathers' understanding of how personal liberties are to be protected from official abuse.

3. In contrast, I regard the rise of the National Security State after WWII as the worst historical development, because it has given the executive branch of the federal government enormous discretion to curtail the open society. External threats have usually been effective excuses by government to trespass on liberty (as Orwell portrayed so effectively in Animal Farm). The National Security State has allowed national administrations to claim that we are always under such threats. The intensity of such claims and the abuses of liberties that they supposedly warrant wax and wane--particularly intense in the 50s and post 9/11, not so much so in the 90s--but as Obama's maintenance of the NSA's domestic surveillance program indicates, it's always with us.

4. In relatively recent years the federal government has used the threat of withdrawal of federal funds to states and municipalities to enforce its will. That happened with the adoption of 21 as the uniform legal drinking age. New York and Louisiana, along with a few other states, had 18 and didn't want to change. A threat of withdrawal of federal highway funds successfully forced them to go to 21. I find the use of this lever unjustifiable--it's an end run around legal processes.

What do I conclude from this? That it is reasonable to make distinctions among actions the federal government should take and what should be left to the states. To cite a few things from the list in your blog, I think it proper that:

---The federal government override state actions, like gender-based marriage laws and bathroom rules, that violate individual rights. This is a logical and justified extension of the historical process I discussed in #2 above.

---State and local law enforcement resist demands that they enforce federal immigration laws by, say, asking the status of everyone with whom they come into contact and imprisoning undocumented persons until the feds come get them. My position here isn't based on opposition to Trump's ratcheting up enforcement of federal immigration laws, unhappy though I be about our immigration policies and the damage they cause. Rather, it's that I see no Constitutional requirement that states and municipalities enforce them, plus it's an "unfunded mandate." Note that Trump has threatened to withhold federal funds from sanctuary cities--that end run around legal processes I condemned in #4 above.

I'll now give you what I think is a good instance of hypocrisy: For decades Republicans were highly protective of local control over education. Many even condemned Carter's creation of a US Department of Education separate from the former Department of HEW. But when George W. Bush imposed national testing standards, using the threat of withholding federal education funds as his lever, they went along. Personally, I think it wrong for the federal government to interfere with the running of our schools except to protect individual rights (which it has done, I'm pleased to say, by maintaining that every child has the right to an education appropriate to his/her condition, including severe handicaps).

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Trump voters think it was a terrific week.

"WEEK 5:  Achieving Results For The American People"

Warning to Progressives:  

If what you are watching is a month of Trump mis-steps, sloppiness, flawed rollouts of executive orders, self destructive insults of the press, and amateur mistakes, then you aren't seeing the whole picture.  You aren't seeing the picture that Trump supporters are seeing.

Trump voters saw a month of triumph, and Trump is communicating that triumph directly to his supporters.

Liberal viewers of late night comics heard that Donald Trump has played 6 full rounds of golf so far in the five weeks of his presidency and viewed old Trump tweets blasting Obama for playing golf.  What a hypocrite, they thought.

Liberal viewers understand that Trump's show of Carrier jobs is phony; that Trump is wasting tax money with secret service protection for the Manhattan house, the Mar a Lago trips and his children's business trips; that the travel ban hurts public safety by empowering anti-American propaganda; that he is filling the political swamp with billionaires; and that his criticism of the press and "so-called" judges is a shocking portend of a constitutional crisis.

The sense of liberal viewers of media is that Trump has empowered donors with his appointment of Betsy Devos and Steven Mnuchin to the Cabinet; that he has broken his promise to drain the swamp; and a spirt of angry resistance is sweeping the nation.  They look at the Indivisible crowds and the Woman's march and they think it is possibly a new day in America because President Donald Trump is making liberals aroused and engaged again."

Trump says it was a great week.  Attached below is the weekly email I received from the permanent campaign of Trump:

Democrats have been thrilled by the upwelling of motivation to resist Trump.  Rallies at Town Halls, pussy-hats, lots of affirmation within Facebook posts.

There is another America, too.

Point by point by point, Trump presents an alternative to the mainstream view, one reinforced by Fox, Breitbart, Drudge, talk radio, and other conservative media. 
Trump supporters have been feeling a thrill in triumph and affirmation of their attitudes and feelings.  Their patriotism is validated.  Their thoughts on gender are affirmed.  Their feelings toward foreign threats and different ethnicities are being addressed aggressively, not with politically correct nuance.

Obama presented as someone who wanted to be fair and reasonable.  Trump presents as someone who wants our side to win.

Trump voters voted for this.

Progressive victories in the courts and on gay rights, on abortion, and on freedom not to participate in patriotic and religious displays have moved the law faster than has moved the attitudes of a great many people.   This created a feeling that the law and political correctness were forcing modern, urban, elite, sophisticated, politically correct attitudes onto people faster than they wanted them.

America is experiencing a backlash and movement back of a political pendulum on affirmative action and diversity and multiculturalism and acceptance of alternative lifestyles and ethnicities.   Trump supporters are celebrating, not mourning.

Trump's electoral success within the Republican primary and the general election demonstrated that the issues that divide America are not primarily matters of actual government policy on issues of taxation, foreign policy, health care.  Republican voters readily switched positions 180 degrees, moving from free trade to protection, from trickle down possibly to something else, from opposition to Obamacare to supposedly something "better", from support for immigration to opposition to it.  Traditional Republican establishment officeholders and interests care about policy but Trump didn't care about it and neither did voters.  It is unclear how much policy change will come out of the Trump presidency as he works with a Republican Congress.   But Trump voters are happy with what is happening.  They cared about attitude not policy.

This is why Trumps nominees to the Supreme Court was crucial to his support from evangelical Christians.   His nominees are widely expected to turn a tide on modern rulings. Maybe abortion will be curtailed.  Maybe the rights of alternative lifestyles will be curtailed.  Maybe expressions of Christian faith and American patriotism will be validated.

The matters that divide the parties and the country are matters of cultural, racial, ethnic, sexual, and lifestyle sensibilities, not policy.   Trump:  "I want to be in a room filled with hardworking American patriots who love their country, who salute their flag, and who pray for a better future."  

Saturday, February 25, 2017

States Rights Cheat Sheet

The Hypocrisy is piled so deep we need a cheat sheet.

Here is a handy guide to states rights.  

Marijuana:    Democrats want the states to be left alone to handle it.   Republicans want national rules enforced.

Transgender bathrooms.  Democrats want national standards requiring states to enforce rules allowing people to use the bathroom of their adopted gender.   Republicans want states to make their own rules.

Sanctuary cities.   Democrats want states and localities to be left alone not to enforce immigration laws.  Republicans want national standards enforced and scofflaw jurisdictions punished.

Investigate local police.  Democrats under Obama wanted the federal Justice Department to investigate controversial police interactions.  Republicans wanted local authorities to do it and wanted the federal government to butt out.

Health care.  Democrats under the ACA wanted national standards for Medicaid.  Republicans seem to be favoring block grants to states to allocate reduced dollars how they wish.

Voting rights.  Democrats want federal oversight of local and state rules relating to voting access relating to blacks.  Republicans want to block federal oversight.

Abortion.  Democrats want national rules including Row vs. Wade assuring abortion is available nationwide.  Republicans want Row vs. Wade reversed so states can make their own rules.

LGBTQ.  Democrats want national rules allowing marriage equality in Obergefell vs. Hodges enforced nationwide.  Republicans want the Supreme Court decision reversed so states can once again create their own marriage rules.

Gun Control.   Democrats want states and localities to be able to make their own regulations restricting guns.  Republicans want an expansive interpretation of the DC vs. Heller decision which interprets the 2nd Amendment to mean a national right for persons to carry weapons.

Succession from the Union.  1860  Democrats favor, Republican Oppose.  2016  Democrats frivolously circulate petitions in California, Republicans scoff.  

Friday, February 24, 2017

Massive Town Hall for Sen. Wyden

Eyewitness Report:   Big Win for Senator Ron Wyden

Large crowds are showing up at Town Meetings.   Who are these people?   Democrats who are engaged in a way they were not prior to the election.   

Trump Tweet
Republican lawmakers are being besieged by angry crowds at public events.   Trump and lawmakers are doing what they can to delegitimize the large crowds, saying the anger is fake, the crowds paid, and they are organized by "liberal activists."   They have a "playbook" and it involves focusing the attention of lawmakers on the grievances and desires of their constituents.

The visuals at the events make interesting television, whether the reception is pro or con:  Republican office-holders face angry questions about the problems caused when health insurance benefits are lost.  Confrontation is interesting.     Democratic office-holders see large crowds of supporters, cheering.  That, too, is interesting TV.

Wyden Town Hall: Wes Brain, Kevin Stine
The Wyden Town Hall in Ashland was huge--about 2,500 people in attendance, which I judged by counting off numbers of people in the gymnasium's sections, then counting sections. About 600 were high school students, the rest were people from the community. I personally received notices of Senator Wyden's Town meeting by email from several sources including the local Democratic Party, from Wyden's office, from several Facebook sources, and from a couple of groups that are hold-overs from prior campaigns, plus directly from a local Indivisible group for my congressional district.  

Wyden Town Hall: Jessica Sage and Susan Saladoff
Trump and Republicans imply that there is something artificial or sinister about the organizing and communication.  In fact, it is simply the viral effects of Facebook posts and forwarded emails.  In a show of hands at the Wyden event about half the people said they were involved in some way with Indivisible, a new group inspired by election disappointment and following the Indivisible Practical Guide to influencing the course of government.

The Indivisible Practical Guide is public, simple, and realistic from my experience as a Congressional Aide.  In a matter of fact way it reports the obvious: that Congressmen and Senators want to be liked, that they enjoy the approval of crowds, that they want to be re-elected, and they want good media reports.  The guide advises people to show up at meetings and let congressmen and senators know how you feel, don't accept vague assurances, and keep at it.  If your representatives don't do what you want, embarrass them into doing what you want by being in their faces.  There is nothing sinister or revolutionary or undemocratic about the Practical Guide.  Quite the opposite.  It urges people to exercise their rights the smart way, by encouraging ones representatives to represent you.  It is democracy.   It is the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition their government for redress of grievance, just like it says right there in the First Amendment.  Read the Practical Guide yourself:   Click Here

Local Newspaper Coverage
Fair chance to ask a question.
The Wyden event was what a legislator loves:  giant and supportive crowd of people who look like motivated voters.  People who wanted to speak or ask a question were given tickets which numbers were drawn at random.   People asked questions that Senator Wyden was delighted to answer, to the approval of the crowd.  Wyden told the delighted crowd that he had seen 2,500 people the prior day in Eugene and had seen 800 people in Sisters, Oregon, a town of only 2,000 people.  This was participatory democracy at work.

The secondary payoff for the office holder is a great media report on the event.  This Mail Tribune story and headline is as good as it gets.

Meanwhile, Republicans.

Republicans congressmen are getting a different reception.  They got elected on a platform of repealing Obamacare and replacing it with something terrific.     Voters are skeptical and angry and those people are encouraged by the Indivisible and its Guide , plus local Democratic groups to show up.   They are experiencing what legislators hate:  angry crowds of people who look like motivated voters, with the media there to see it.

TV news depicts angry crowds holding signs and asking tough questions, especially about the repeal of the ACA.   Congressman Jason Chaffetz's Town Hall  was typical.   His response was also typical: the crowds were manufactured, the protesters paid, their behavior obstructed democracy.   Chaffetz looked besieged.  His answers on replacing Obamacare are unsatisfactory.  Republicans don't have a plan.

Chaffetz crowd chants "Do your job."
Some congressmen have cancelled Town Meetings and have gone to telephone call-ins.  Calls can be controlled and there is no televised image of the legislator being shouted at.  A disembodied voice is not as immediate and compelling as a live person with a problem.

Congressman Greg Walden, Chair of the committee tasked with finding a replacement for a repealed Obamacare,  is taking that approach.  He has no answers yet on replacement of Obamacare, and he resorted to telling worried people to wait and have faith.  So, too, Congressman Louie Gohmert, who received national attention when he cited the example of Gabby Giffords, a congressman who was shot after an event in Arizona. 
No live Town Hall events

Gohmert wrote in a newsletter that "agitators from other states" were involved in getting people to attend these Town Hall meetings.  He called their efforts "underhanded" because they are trying to distract us from the job of repealing Obamacare, he said.

 "Unfortunately, at this time there are groups from the more violent strains of the leftist ideology, some even being paid, who are preying on public town halls to wreck havoc and threaten public safety."  He would hold telephone town meetings.  They would be more convenient for everyone.

The meta message is that Republicans are in retreat.  They are unable to face their constituents because they are disliked and untrusted by the people.  They are responding by attacking the crowds, saying the crowds are the result of "outside agitators."   This is a delicate situation for Democrats.  As long as the crowds are reasonably orderly the attack is counterproductive.   The optics would switch if the crowds seem disorderly.   

Ideal for Democrats:    The people versus the Republican Congressmen.
Ideal for Republicans: The police versus disorderly rioting Democrats.

So far, Democratic crowds are mostly behaving.  But Republicans are already calling it dangerous and large crowds are hard to control.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

GOP Escape plan: Keep Obamacare

Danger ahead for Democrats.   Town Hall protests saying "Save the ACA" might succeed.   

Democrats should quit talking about saving Obamacare.  They should start demanding that Trumpcare be really, really good.

Greg Walden may have a way out of his mess.  Fail big.  Then blame Democrats.

Republicans have already figured out that they cannot govern.  They will not replace Obamacare with anything, much less "something terrific."  They are already shifting the message.

It is still Trix
The GOP strategy on Obamacare was politically perfect.  They unanimously opposed it but it got passed over their objections.  They refused to allow fixes to the drafting errors and problems that emerged when Obamacare went into effect, which made its operation more clunky than necessary.  The worse it worked and the more people who were unhappy, the better.  The strategy worked and they won big: House, Senate, White House.  

They said they would replace it with "something terrific" which needs to be worked out, just wait and trust us.  Meanwhile, they have clunky Obamacare to complain about.  It does not get any better than that.

Same but better.
But there is a big problem: They promised to repeal and replace Obamacare.  

In fact Obamacare solves some genuine problems in the health care payment system.  Greg Walden, Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, knows there is no policy or legislative solution.  This blog has suggested this will be a big problem because will have failed miserably and publicly at his job.  But maybe not.

Walden has an escape hatch.  Fail, but fail smart.  

Don't repeal and replace Obamacare. 

Be careful what you wish for
The ideal political messaging is for Republicans to keep Obamacare, keep it working badly, and blame Democrats   

They can make halfhearted efforts to fix one or two items that can get through the House and Senate, then claim that they fixed the worst of it.   They will have something to show.  They can say they improved it. They may get Democratic votes, thus demonstrating they can govern.  

Key to the strategy is keeping the name Obamacare and claiming that the Democrats won't let them create the "something terrific" they wanted to give Americans.    Keep running against "Obamacare."

Republicans need to appear helpless.   Donald Trump won't like this but perhaps Congressional leadership will explain that either Trump will be blamed or Democrats will be blamed.  Trump will choose Democrats.
Falling into the GOP trap

Wouldn't Republicans be letting down the people who voted for them and who expect Republicans to create something better?  Yes.  It will not matter.

Republicans are comfortable being a party of objection, not a party of governance.  GOP voters do not want or expect government to work.  Indeed, they expect it not to work.  A successful health care replacement would be contrary to the GOP brand, and in any case it is impossible for Republicans to implement.

Democrats are poised to fall into the political trap of looking like they are winning by keeping the Obamacare/ACA brand.   People at the rallies and Democratic incumbents may consider it a victory if Obamacare is "saved."  I can imagine Chuck Schumer on television saying that Democrats united with grass roots protesters saved the ACA.  Democrats will like seeing this.  It would be a grave error. 

New strategy
It is the GOP's turn at bat.  They want to break Obamacare and replace it.   Democrats should let them.  

The worst outcome for Democrats is for Republicans to fail at replacing Obamacare and for Democrats to be blamed for the ongoing mess.  Democrats need to lose in order to win.   The new health care system should be Trumpcare.

Keep Obamacare, blame Democrats
Democrats need to make clear to the public that Obamacare's future has been handed over to the Republicans.  Democrats won't want to do that, but it is the reality of the GOP majorities in the House and Senate and presidency.  President Trump is already messaging that he "inherited a mess" and Republicans, guided by their message guru Frank Luntz, are starting to get clarity on what they need to do: claim they are fixing Obamacare, not repealing or replacing it.  

Republicans are figuring out they need to make a political virtue out of their broken promise and their inability to govern.  Keep the Obamacare brand to run against.  Do essentially nothing, which is all that can pass anyway.  In branding, emphasize the improved, not the new.

Waldon talking point:  "fix it."
Republicans have a plan: fail and blame Democrats.

Democrats have plan: resist Trump.  They can resist him but they must simultaneously make clear that Trump is the guy carrying the ball and that any mess that emerges is his mess. That is the trap Trump will fall into.  Democrats have not yet gotten clear that Trump's grandiloquence and brand as the change agent is their best asset.  Let Trump claim credit for being in charge.   Then the mess his his.  

For Democrats, the upcoming new, improved health care isn't Obamacare.  It is Trumpcare.  

Democrats need to stop trying to save the ACA and start demanding that Trumpcare be really, really good.  If it is, then Trump deserves to win.  But it won't be good.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Protesting the Protesters

The pro-Trump forces are at work delegitimizing the anti-Trump protesters.

Trump and his media allies have a story to sell: the protests are phony.  "The people" of America support Trump.    Pay no attention to those protesters.  

Eight years ago Democrats protested the "astro-turf" of the Tea Party, blaming it on the Koch brothers and Heritage Foundation.   They were partly correct but the accusation hurt Democrats more than it helped them.   It gave them an excuse and basis for ignoring the Tea Party--to their peril.  The anger was real and they should have co-opted it.  They didn't.

Now it is the Republican/Trump turn.  I watched five minutes of Fox News this morning--Trump's favorite morning show--and saw the Fox Hosts visit with Michelle Malkin and make their points with disdain and outrage. Shame on Democrats for criticizing our "legitimately elected" president!

The five minute piece is a condensed survey of the ways Trump and his friendly media are trying to define anti-Trump protest: Click Here to see the 5 minute clip.

1.  Protesters are against free speech, because they are criticizing Trump's condemnation of the media.

   2. Protesters are wrongheaded and misinformed because they are "living in a bubble."

3. Protesters are unreliable because they are generally "panicked."

4. Protesters are making ridiculous ad hominem charges, with "inflammatory rhetoric,"  that Trump is anti-Hispanic, that "he is a fascist, that he's Adolph Hitler."

 5. Trump opponents are hypocrites when they criticize a Trump "climate of hate" since some Trump opponents have "outright explicitly called for violence," and they ignored threats to a twitter trend to assassinate Donald Trump.

6. Trump opponents are "agitating for agitation's sake."

7. Trump opponents are being led and guided by Obama whose motives are merely persona since he is trying to "save his legacy."  Obama "would do pretty much anything to continue his legacy."
8.  They are not legitimate citizen protests.  "Classic astro-turfing.  These people don't represent anybody but the moneyed left wing progressive interests."

9.  They are have communist inclinations: "pinkos."

10. They are not authentic.  Instead they are taking direction from Michael Moore who gives protesters a calendar of activities to follow.

11.  They are not citizens.  They are professionals.  "This is their full time job.

12.  They oppose good people and values.  "They don't care about policy, they don't care about taxpayers, children, women, men, workers."

Real Citizens
My direct observations from southern Oregon is that political activity and agitation is several times as great as it was in the pre-election period.  The protesters are real citizens, most typically of the baby boom generation.   They are real and for now they are showing up with a purpose in mind: resist Trump's initiatives.

Democrats who were unmotivated prior to the election have become motivated.    Rallies and protests are scheduled several times a week. 

The local Democratic party's schedule is full of events: an Indivisible rally to oppose Trump and our local Republican congressman, a presentation on the dangers of energy pipelines, Party meetings, Racial Justice and Immigration meetings, coordination of appearances and where to park in overflow conditions for upcoming Town Meeting by Senator Wyden, organizing attendance for a Oregon Legislature Joint Ways and Means Committee, a rally regarding the high cost of rental housing, a gathering to make local country commissioner positions non-partisan, plus referrals to Facebook groups.   This is happening in the final week of February.

As long as Republicans know full well they are selling a false story to their gullible base then it may be good strategy to keep up this narrative.  Ignore the protests and protesters.

Republicans may make the mistake of believing their own spin and think the protests are a flash in the pan, just phony astroturf.  That would be a mistake.  

 Trump did what Hillary Clinton did not do:  motivate Democrats.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Trump is doomed.

Trump says he is in charge and a winner.  His core brand is at risk.  Virtue can lose and remain virtuous, but winners have to win to stay winners.

Trump isn't in charge.  Lots of people are in charge.   James Madison saw to that.

Trump will learn others disagree
Some thoughtful political observers, including Larry DiCara of Boston, have speculated that Trump is heading for a constitutional crisis similar to FDR's court packing or Nixon's assertion that "when the President does it, that means it is not illegal."  In a Playboy interview in 1990 Trump expressed his admiration for the Chinese government exercising raw power. "They were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength.  That shows you the power of strength."   

Trump shares power in the constitutional system.

Some think Trump will be unwilling to accept the limitations of his office.  HIs condemnation of the "dishonest press" and references to "so-called judges" are troubling to people looking for early signs of constitutional abuse.  

Trump's core brand requires him being the center of attention and power.   Trump presents the values of strength, authority, getting things done, confidence, status, and winning.  Trump doesn't represent "virtue" or "empathy" or "getting along."  Trump represents power and domination and winning.  Virtue can lose and remain virtuous, but winners need to win.

Trump can only be in charge if he ignores the Constitution, which will set up a clear constitutional crisis, one which will empower his opponents.  If he acts constitutionally the Trump message of decisive action will be muddled, then countered, by the ambitions of others and the design of the constitution.  Either way, Trump's brand is injured.

James Madison wrote in Federalist #51 "Ambition must be made to counteract ambition," so the constitutional system was established with checks and balances, with each body and each member owing their office to a different electorate.    As other presidents have learned, presidents are unique in their ability to command attention, but they share power.  

Who, or what, will stop Trump?  The constitutional process.  The process destroys presidential ambitions.    Remember, Obama was elected with a real landslide in 2008, had a majority in the House and barely, temporarily, 60 votes in the Senate, yet he could not pass a clean health care bill without multiple compromises.   Trump had a fluke-like electoral vote victory, marred by Russian involvement, and a two seat majority in the US Senate and nothing like Obama's mandate.  Both presidents generated enthusiastic opposition.

Old Guard opposition
As this blog has noted repeatedly, Trump has vastly over-promised on the replacement of Obamacare.  There is no common denominator that will please anyone, much less a majority.  There was no consensus on immigration, which is why the House backed away from passing immigration reform   20 Republican Senators Oppose Trump on Immigration  

Sen. Ben Sasse
Trump has to contend with senatorial ambition and animus.   John McCain and Lindsey Graham were both humiliated by Trump who called them both "losers."   Now Trump needs them but they represent long time established GOP orthodoxy on the American military and our policy toward Russia.  They don't just dislike him.  They disagree with him.

 Trump crushed "Lying Ted" Cruz.  Susan Collins represents Maine in blue New England.   Trump has a fragile Senatorial majority.

Sen. Tom Cotton

Younger senators are emerging. The Washington DC joke is that every US Senator sees a president in the mirror.  Multiple Republican Senators are jockeying for advantage and their advantage does come from echoing Trump, but from opposing him in ways that capture Republican support.  Both Sasse and Cotton graduated from Harvard, both made their way quickly to the US Senate.  They perceive themselves as president.  Ted Cruz (Princeton, then Harvard Law) is just getting started.   Marco Rubio was in Franklin, New Hampshire serving pancakes last year and he is not done either.
Sen. Marco Rubio

I list these Senators not to begin early commentary on the 2020 presidential election but to remind readers of the present political environment.  Donald Trump's core brand is power, success, shaking things up, and getting things done.  

He faces a gauntlet of opposition from ambitious opponents and from a process that is designed to prevent the core Trump brand message from being fulfilled.  There are Senators eager to call Trump a loser and a con man and a fraud, someone who did not know how to get things done constitutionally.   People are watching closely to see if he usurps non-constitutional power, in which case the opposition gets even stronger.

Trump painted himself into a trap:  his core brand is at risk and he needs the help of people he humiliated to succeed.  Trump wants the story to be: "Trump the winner who gets things done."  It will be nearly impossible to sell that story if, as things play out, he cannot get things done.

There are people emerging who want to be sure he fails.  They are fellow Republicans but they don't like him.  They don't agree with him.  They want him to lose.  They want his job.