Wednesday, November 09, 2016


You may think President-Elect Trump is going to be scarily powerful, but Ezra Klein assures us that that's not the case:
... he is entering an office that is weaker than many realize. For all the same reasons Barack Obama could not bring about the change he had made people believe in, Trump cannot wrench America to his vision of greatness. He is constrained by the House and the Senate, by the Supreme Court, by the executive agencies, and -- in ways less formal but no less powerful -- by his own staff and party.
Yay! He's constrained! ... But wait, aren't all those constraining forces dominated by fellow Republicans?
There would be more comfort in this if there were more opposition inside these institutions. But Republicans control everything -- the House, the Senate, and, after an appointment, the Supreme Court. If Trump is to be checked, it will be because his own party checks him.
In other words, he's not going to be constrained at all.

But wait, there's hope, Klein assures us:
Already, the Trump campaign has leaked that they will fill their administration with the most supportive staff they can find, not the best. But the number of jobs they appear to have candidates for is slim. They will need many more bodies to fill both the White House and the executive agencies. This is a place where the Republican Party could potentially play a role in surrounding Trump with calmer, wiser advisers who could provide him better information and curb his worst impulses.
So ... what? Trump's fascist impulses will be constrained because someone from outside his inner circle might recommend a few undersecretaries of something-or-other? And the people we have to hope will be the cooler heads are ever-more-radical "mainstream" Republicans?
The Republican Congress will use Trump to pass the agenda it has already crafted -- Paul Ryan’s bargain has always been that he will endorse a man he clearly believes to be dangerous so long as that man appears likely to sign his budget. Trump is a dealmaker, and he’ll presumably hold up his end of the deal.
Trump's not going to sign those bills because he's a dealmaker. He's going to sign them because he has no interest in policy details, and letting someone else sweat those details frees up time for tweeting and plotting personal vengeance.
The question is whether Congress will attempt to check Trump elsewhere -- on surveillance, on wartime powers, on trade.
Trade? I don't know. Surveillance and war powers? Oh, please. Republicans are very consistent on these: If the president is from the GOP, anything goes. So there'll be no check in those areas.
House and Senate Republicans know that Trump’s success is their success, that his strength is their strength. The same goes for his staff, and his appointees. The question is whether they can structure a version of success for him that keeps the country safe, and whether they will be willing, if the worst comes to pass, to cross their president for their country.
Well, that last part is easy: Republicans always place party over country. They'll never cross a fellow Republican for the national good. They've had a year-plus to do that, and the vast majority of them refused.
If there is hope, it is here: The incentives of governance are different from the incentives of opposition. The Republican majority will have to face the voters in 2018, and then again in 2020. If they have taken health insurance from tens of millions of people without replacement, if they have ripped open families and communities with indiscriminate deportation, if they have embroiled us in disastrous wars or confrontations, if they have sent the economy into tailspin, those elections will not be pleasant.

Perhaps this is a weight Trump will feel in a way he has not over the course of the campaign, and he will change his behavior accordingly. But even if he doesn’t, Republicans have a majority, and it will be one they hope to keep. To keep it, they will need to govern well, or at least convince the electorate they have governed well. And to govern well, they will need to keep Trump’s worst tendencies in check. Now we see how strong the American system really is.
This is nonsense. Republicans never need to govern well in order to have success at the polls. They don't even need to persuade voters that they've governed well. They just need to blame all the evils in the country on the Democrats -- on the long-gone Obama administration and on Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer (Schumer is going to become the GOP's top office-holding Antichrist soon). They don't need to demonstrate governing "success" -- in fact, government failure works perfectly for them, because Democrats are perceived as the party of government, even when they have no power.

People will lose health care? Republicans are going to blame the consequence of their repeal of Obamacare on Obamacare, and their voters will accept the explanation. Families torn apart? That will b happening to Those People. So no problem.

Klein was looking for some hope here. Whether he realizes it or not, he didn't find any.


Unsalted Sinner said...

That is staggering in its stupidity. Did someone lobotomise Klein while he was sleeping? Did the ghost of David Broder smother his brain?

Tom Hilton said...

I'll cut him a little bit of slack because, as you say, he was looking for some hope here. The reality is so unbearable that it's hard to blame anyone for a little wishful thinking. But yeah, this is pretty stupid.

jsrtheta said...

People rarely look so foolish as when they attempt wisdom.

A steaming pile of shit is still a steaming pile of shit.

Danp said...

Trump walks into the Oval office with all the keys to his own impeachment. He will obey or Pence will be President. I doubt he has the self-control to do the former.

Unknown said...

There's a small ray of hope. Now Trump and the Republicans will have to actually govern. Repeal the ACA and replace it with what? Make tax cuts, massive infrastructure spending, splash out on the military and balance the budget. Could be very interesting watching them square that circle.

Feud Turgidson said...

They won't need to cut taxes. They'll install the regressive Flat Tax, with abundant room to the rich to excuse paying anything, and leave to states operating off their own plus sales taxes.

The IRS will be eradicated. In its place there'll be an obscure office manned by party hacks that enforces the Flat Tax with, effectively, what used to be called writs of assistance. This will allow those hacks to distribute job contracts as they wish, among private collectors as well as public law enforcement bodies, to collect on commission. Which will go very well, trust them, and will have the immediate benefit of taking the maintenance of federal tax assessment & collection completely out of the federal budget.

jsrtheta said...

@John Taylor: They'll repeal the ACA and replace it with nothing. They don't want a health care system. Nor will they spend on infrastructure or balance the budget. Those were vote-getters, not actual plans anyone expected to enact. They will spend massively on useless and unwanted military goodies, though. But they'll screw the soldiers and sailors when it comes to pay and benefits.

Roshan said...

I do feel that the conclusion of the media post-mortem will be to blame the democrats, and of course, Obama for his spectacular overreach of trying to provide everyone with healthcare! Very few will blame the xenophobia, jingoism and nationalistic fervor whipped by the republicans to win the election. Now the media has to believe that the GOP policies work, even if they don't. And if they don't then just blame the democrats for not working with them or being obstructionist.

Trump brings with him manifest number of conflict-of-interest issues, in addition to being a know-nothing about policy or governance. He was so unprepared just for the debate. Watch how prepared he is for the presidency now.

rclz said...

Someone on twitter pointed out they have the votes to get rid of the ACA but not the votes to put anything in it's place.

I can keep my cobra for 9 more months I think that might be safer than waiting to see what these assholes let the insurance co. do to us. Because without the pre-existing provision my insurance is going to be sky high, worse than what I'm paying for Cobra.

Feud Turgidson said...

Tom Hilton - Ezra still has to get up each morning and think wonk about govt wonkery; it's his job, career, life.
He CANNOT trash the new gang: he needs data and folks who will talk at him.

I mean, all he has now is what they've said (omg) their histories {pgn) their voting record (ltmn). It's theoretically possible they will NOT do what they've done before, said they'll do, committed to their base to do. They're so incompetent, they could run over themselves or shoot themselves and die. And they still TECHNICALLY have to push the door open, turn on the lights, find the buttons and switches, push some, pull others.

Just because Nixon was a horror & Reagan a happier bigger horror & Dubya cud nithr reed nur ryt ner speke noar, uh, watshacall it, syfer, sumthn like that - all that begatting from bad to worse to worser to worst based on promises and things said and past history and incompteence doesn't amount to DATA! Not YET!

Besides, Ezra knows he's gonna need access and folks in the New Apprentice/Breitbart Order of pussy grabbing and irrationally and show trials and rampant griftology and madness to TALK to him. And it won't be easy: he's gotta navigate the likes of Gannon and Drudge.

I don't envy him. I was in school when Nixon came in. Because of Nixon, I made damn sure ot got degrees in history & government theory & the constitution and the law, out of self-preservation: to use legal means to rid me, us, all, of that paranoid bug torturer. When Happy Nixon gladhanded in, I zoned out, into career, marriage, family, work; who needs to WATCH those morons destroy government and torture and kill yer brown types around the globe, I'll must make like the 3 monkeys til they're all gone. Then came ... Dubya. That was, like, a plumbed the depths incompetence, incompetence so profound as 2 B biblical. You KNEW that train would crash, they gave MONTHS of signals it was coming, and MILLIONS were affected, TRILLIONS burned up. But that wasn't part of ME; it was a kragen or godzilla that disobeyed all limits & defied science; it would lay waste as a volcano of stupid, then one day it'd die off & we'd have to start rebuilding.

This new thing, this is beyond incompetence and theft. This is nazi madhouse time. This is Paul LePage pulling down his pants dumping on our faces. This is armed white guys in camo taking over all wilderness and the end of any effort to deal with the climate, or even just poisoning each other. This is WATCH YOUR ASS time.

Ezra's now has to WORK with all that. But not me.

Jon Rudd said...

"Now we've got him where he can't do any harm." -- Franz von Papen.

Unknown said...

Maybe but they have to tread carefully. They have the levers of power and will be judged by their actions in 2018.

rclz said...

I don't think they care what whit how they are judged as long as they hold the keys to all the cells.

resolvedwaldron said...

“It’s the end of the world as we know it” keeps going through my head. Remember the most obvious personality trait of Trump is his narcissistic and anti-social pathology; and, by winning this election you bet his ego is ten times bigger than before and he is completely assured that he is right about everything. He is now in power. There will be little or no checks and balances against him in his cabinet; those that will deal with him will do so in an obsequious and deferential manner…just look at all the groveling that took place during the election and will continue to do so now. I wonder how many Republicans are lining up and flattering this ass hole of a man? I question that our institutions are strong enough to withstand Trump and his cohorts, the alt-right and the ugly violent-racism long rooted in this country that he has conjured back into existence. It will not be a peaceful time…” it’s the end of the world as we know it.”