Monday, November 14, 2016


On the impending Trump presidency, Jonathan Chait is not mincing words:
The Trump administration will make the last failed Republican presidency look like an age of reason. The United States has never elected a president so openly contemptuous of democratic norms.

... Americans who did not support Trump have no obligation to normalize his behavior. To the contrary: Upholding the dignity and value of the presidency means refusing to treat the ascendancy of a Trump into the office as normal. Trump is counting on a combination of media weariness and Republican partisan solidarity to allow him to grind governing norms to dust....

American small-D democrats need to treat the election of Trump’s party in a way not unlike how we respond to authoritarianism overseas.
Chait urges significant resistance to the Trump governing agenda. He calls for vigorous efforts to protect those targeted by Trump. He praises the post-election anti-Trump protesters.

So far, so good. But I question Chait's belief that our side has a secret weapon in Barack Obama:
Opposition parties tend to suffer from a lack of charismatic, high-profile leaders. American liberals enjoy the unusual good fortune of having the most popular politician in America on their side in Barack Obama.

... the man who thought he was through with politics has, it turns out, one more essential role left: Beginning next year, Obama needs to rally the opposition, to community-organize his coalition, and to exploit his celebrity to make the case for saving his legacy. His visibility alone would serve a vital function.... Obama is a powerful symbol of rationalism, thoughtfulness, and pluralism -- the ultimate anti-Trump, both ideologically and symbolically. Women, religious minorities, immigrants and prospective immigrants, transgender people, young Africans with iPhones, the beat-down opposition in places like Russia and China, and the people who bully all the preceding groups and more -- the whole planet, really -- need reminding that Obama’s version of America has prevailed before and will prevail again.
But we see how Obama is reacting to Trump's election. He's trying to ensure a smooth handover of power -- and I don't believe that's just in order to show that he's a better man than Trump. I think Obama genuinely believes that peaceful transitions are a hallmark of American democracy. I also think he learned a long time ago how not to be the angry man who rocks the boat, and he's reverting to that mode of behavior now.

If Obama is acting this way after the election of a man who's treated him with utter contempt (and whom he clearly despises), why should we expect him to to cast aside the tradition that an ex-president shouldn't criticize a sitting president? Modern presidents have continued to abide by that unwritten law -- although former vice president Dick Cheney has not shown similar restraint. Chait correctly notes that "the political-cultural norm of former presidents’ steering clear of politics is not rooted in any particular public interest" -- but a violation of this norm will horrify mainstream political insiders, as well as the right-wing noise machine. If Obama tosses this custom aside, the big news in any statement he makes will be decision to make the statement, which will be described as rude, appalling, and "arrogant" (the likely euphemism for "uppity"). Whatever he's upset about will be a secondary consideration.

Maybe -- maybe -- he can get away with this if journalists are being jailed or anti-Trump interest-group leaders are being assassinated. But if we're having what seems to be an ordinary legislative fight conducted under normal political rules, even if it's for huge stakes -- if, for instance, we're "merely" debating the end of all climate-change legislation, or the privatization of Medicare -- then it will be deemed scandalous if Obama injects himself into the debate.

Obama knows this. He'll act with restraint. It would be nice to have him leading the battle, but we really shouldn't count on it.


CF2K said...

Let Joe do it, then.

Green Eagle said...

Obama, in acting this way, is simply a liar and an accessory to a would-be dictator. He deserves not one shred of respect for this craven behavior.

Victor said...

Let Joe, an older white guy, do it.
Let Michelle Obama do it.
Let Hillary do it.

And WE need to help them!

Ironically, t-RUMP and his gang of deplorables, are uniting Jews & Muslims.
The two religious groups are getting together to protect themselves from the anti-Semitic/Muslim loons that t-RUMP's assembling for his staff.
"The enemies of my enemy are my friends."

GrrlGeek1972 said...

The President has an obligation to the country to ensure as best he can that the transition goes smoothly.

Once January 21st rolls around, however, I expect we will see more activism from the ex-President, his wife, Joe Biden, and Harry Reid.

Cut the man some slack ffs. There is nothing he can do to stop this transition. Riling up the country right now is the exact wrong thing for him to do. Once he's out of office, I expect him to lead the fight for more voter registration and more voter participation. Didn't he announce that he and Eric Holder were going to work on that?

Steve M. said...

I should have mentioned that Obama/Holder initiative. But I stand by the post. Obama won't take on Trump directly, much as I wish he would.

petrilli said...

No Victor, all due respect, (and much is due you,) don't let Hillary do it. Let her and her followers all go away and stay away. 30 plus years of Clintonism is enough. It's time to start over. The worse of two evils won. It's going to take years to build the infrastructure to beat it. We hoped it wouldn't be necessary, but just be resigned. A total teardown and rebuild. The sooner the better. Maybe our Grandkids will reap the benefits. If we're lucky. And start now. Without Clintons or anyone carrying their scent. I'm truly sorry if this offends some. I know we're all on the same side.

Feud Turgidson said...

I disagreed with Steve M. on his "Dump Whisperer" take on Obama, and I disagree with him again here.

Dump doesn't have the inclination, tools, vision or strength of character to withstand his presidency being co-opted by the professional politicians in the establishment GOP. Moreover, bringing in Jeff Bannon to "manage message" may be intended initially as Dump's sop to the alt-R to whom he thinks he owes his series of thin margin in the Rust Belt states that gained him a deeply misleading Electoral College total, but that same shortcomings in knowledge, humanity, curiosity & basic decency will fall to Bannon.

Having Reinhard as his COS & Bannon as his Rove, each building his own empire day by day, while Dump is off spending 4 or more days a week away from the job, means he'll be an absentee POTUS, a figurehead, and those two, plus the goddam - Newt, Rudy, Bolten & that crazy whacked out general of his will be doing all the presidential planning & executions, which Ryan & McConnell will be free to run Congress as they wish. Dump is there as the front man, present for the photo ops, and present for all the misdirection he can cause thru his public blather, but there's helluva lot to loot & just moving the lucre from the Treasury into Trump Tower will be his main focus & the most well-managed activity of the Dump administration.

He's a criminal. It's what he knows. And now he's got all the cops on the take. If he doesn't end up the richest man in the world before the end of his first term, I'll be surprised.

The Obamas have a huge sense of public duty, and both have a ton of personal courage. It'll be called on, and it'll be drawn on.

Procopius said...

I think too many people are setting their courses too firmly too soon. We still have no real knowledge of what Trump is going to do. The goat entrails are not auspicious, but we still haven't factored in the flight of flocks of birds and the calculations of the astrologers. It looks like Steve Bannon is going to have a great deal more influence that is normal, who knows how effective Rudy Giuliani is going to be, what's up with Lewandowski? Take deep breaths. Wait until at least after Thanksgiving before we start thinking about what our best strategy is going to be. You can't develop a strategy until you know what outcomes you want and have a clear idea of what your opponent's actions are likely to be. At this point Trump has contradicted himself so many times we really don't know what he means to do. We don't even know if he knows what he means to do.

Estelle Berger said...

To the one who wants Hillary supporters to go away, how do you expect to win without the support of the nearly 60 million of us who voted for her? Such purging of potential allies is unhelpful given the threat that we all now face. If, as you say, "we're all on the same side," our language and rhetoric need to reflect that sentiment and make it truth.

Perhaps what you say comes out of grief, anger, and fear. I understand that. I have made strong and bitter statements (in private) too. But publicly, we must unite, in word and deed. Too much is at stake. We cannot, must not dissolve into finger-pointing, fighting factions. Instead, let's organize and make our voices heard. Let's stop as much harm as we can and prepare for the 2018 elections at the local, state, and national levels. There are enough of us and we can win again.

Jimbo said...

I think there's a distinct possibility that the Trump Administration and Congress don't get a lot done outside of terminating those Executive Orders he is able to terminate without causing a lot of damage to him and, of course, locking up SCOTUS for the extremists for another couple of generations. But Congress is going to be a mess. The Senate and HOR GOP don't agree on a lot of proposed policies and a lot of what they say they will do won't be practically possible, including completely dismantling Obamacare or eliminating, multiple government departments. Certainly, the next six months are going to be very messy at best. As for Trump himself, he will content himself with being the very best King of all America's Great Golf Courses.

Feud Turgidson said...


"nearly 60 million"

It's already over 61.3m, per Wikipedia. With the fact that the bulk of the as-yet-uncounted votes are due in from predominantly blue states (California & NY state mostly, also more from red Texas, but mostly from Houston-San Antonio, which are the most & second-most blue parts of red Texas & indeed themselves blue), meaning her total is projected to exceed 62m.

There was early talk of her missing "7m" of the votes Obama received in 2012. Yesterday talking heads were saying "5m". It looks like it'll be less than 4m "missing O votes".

Since her rust belt losses were almost all very narrow - less than 120k, placed felicitously, would have given her the victory that most of the aggregators predicted - assuming the bulk of those missing 4m or less votes came from the rust belt plus NC (and so far at least, only NC shows material effects from vote suppression), that means if those 4m or less showed up, she would not 'merely' have won, she'd have won by almost precisely the margin Obama won over Romney.

She's already 800k over Don Jon Dumpster Fire. Depending on how the further Texas votes fall (again, I understand they're largely from Houston & San Antonio. the blue corridor of Texas), she'll have won the popular vote by at least 1.5m, possibly 2.3m.

IMO this isn't going to suggest caution Congress Rs or those around Dump with agendas; if anything, it will hasten their pace, that they foresee the possibility of things turning against them in 2020.

We're not the only side with anxieties. The forces of racist authoritarianism have real demons. It's just that their anxieties are currently obscured by savage orgasmic exuberance.

Remember your meme: It's always darkest before the Dump, then it gets darker, then there's faint hope as we pick thru the rubble for bit & pieces of our loved ones & our country.