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Not Cowardly, Evil

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Ryan-invites-Trump-to-address-joint-session-of-Congress

There’s no mystery about why Congress is not going to meaningfully check Trump:

After three weeks in the White House, Mr. Trump has made clear that he is going to continue promulgating conspiracy theories, flinging personal insults and saying things that are plainly untrue. And the Republican-controlled House and Senate seem to have made a collective decision: They will accommodate — not confront — his conduct as long as he signs their long-stalled conservative proposals on taxes, regulations and health care into law.

“There’s a widely held view among our members that, yes, he’s going to say things on a daily basis that we’re not going to like,” said Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the third-ranking Senate Republican, “but that the broad legislative agenda and goals that we have — if we can stay focused on those and try and get that stuff enacted — those would be big wins.”

Such accommodation is coming at a price, attracting incredulous or angry constituents to town hall meetings, leaving members flat-footed when presented with the latest presidential provocation and testing the capacity of now perpetually clogged phone lines on Capitol Hill.

I’ve seen this behavior described as cowardice, but this is incorrect. The Republican conference isn’t too scared to stand up to Trump. They think it’s in their interest not to stand up to him, because he can facilitate their agenda of upward wealth distribution, deregulation of the powerful and regulation of the powerless.

And this is the central problem with comparing where the Republicans are now to where the Democrats were in 1977. The latter Congress picked all kinds of fights with Carter, and vice versa, because there was nothing remotely resembling a coherent governing agenda. That’s not the case here. They won’t succeed on everything — the Reagan Republicans have generally been unsuccessful at actually eliminating New Deal/Great Society programs, and they might not be able to kill the ACA (although I certainly wouldn’t count on that yet.) But as long as Trump will sign what they put on his desk and sign whatever executive orders Mike Pence puts in front of him and nominate the judges the Heritage Foundation tells him to, Congress with leave him alone to pillage the treasury and create diplomatic crises, and a lot of damage will result.

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  • CP

    I’ve seen this behavior described as cowardice, but this is incorrect. The Republican conference isn’t too scared to stand up to Trump; they think it’s in their interest not to stand up to him, because he can facilitate their agenda of upward wealth distribution, deregulation of the powerful and regulation of the powerless.

    Or, to put it even more simply: Trump is a Republican. The Republicans are Republicans. There’s nothing to disagree on.

    • Sad, but true. The ‘alt-right’ is really dead center of the party now.

      • Mayur

        Or more to the point the alt-right thing (let’s just call it white supremacist ideology) is orthogonal to the issues at hand. Republicans don’t need white supremacy or anti-immigrant sentiment to be misogynist, homo- and transphobic, and religiously bigoted dickholes dedicated to enriching the top 0.01% at the expense of all other human beings and the environment.

        • I’m of the opinion that supremacist ideology is the fundamental foundation of conservative ideology, from which all else flows: racial supremacy, misogyny, x-phobia, religious bigotry, all of it.

          • Mayur

            Sorry I guess I wasn’t clear. I simply meant that I don’t see anything special about the “alt-right” compared to the good old-fashioned rock-ribbed Republican racism.

    • Joe_JP

      Now and then, like some hawks on Russia, there is. But, it’s just the cost of doing business.

      • tsam

        I think that’s just a way for Maverick McMaverickson to get a TV camera pointed at him. This has been his shtick for like 100 years now.

        I DISAGREE WITH THIS ADMINISTRATION

        I VOTE IN LOCKSTEP WITH THIS ADMINISTRATION THEREFORE MAVERICK, SEE?

        • Joe_JP

          There’s some of that (also “Drama Queen” Graham) but I do think there is actually some disagreement beyond a chance to preen in front of cameras. But, like evangelicals who support him to get their anti-abortion etc. judges, they will grin and bear it. https://soundcloud.com/rockymountainmike/drama-queen

          • Cheerfull

            1) It’s ultimately not that important to them.

            2) In particular it’s not important enough to cause real pain, i.e. join Democrats in fighting on nonrelated issues like Cabinet appointments, as part of a goal of stopping Trump. Graham/McCain act like the Democrats do not exist for the purpose of finding allies.

            • CP

              2) In particular it’s not important enough to cause real pain, i.e. join Democrats in fighting on nonrelated issues like Cabinet appointments, as part of a goal of stopping Trump. Graham/McCain act like the Democrats do not exist for the purpose of finding allies.

              Yep. This is a recurring problem with all kinds of people from disaffected Repubs to professional centrists to the hard left.

              • humanoid.panda

                There’s some of that (also “Drama Queen” Graham) but I do think there is actually some disagreement beyond a chance to preen in front of cameras. But, like evangelicals who support him to get their anti-abortion etc. judges, they will grin and bear it

                This. In the end, a president has almost endless leeway in foreign policy. The only way for a Senator to get his attention is to cause pain where a president in not all powerful- appointments, inverstigations, legislation.

                • alexceres

                  You forgot the foremost: $$$

    • DrDick

      Exactly. The reality is that they agree with a lot of what he says, but wish he would be more subtle about it.

  • It’s looking like the town halls are getting a little hot, though, so Trump may not get a complete blank check. But, for the most part, yeah. I have to believe that Trump could bite the head off a chicken during the state of the union address and the Republicans would just shrug their shoulders.

    • so-in-so

      I have to believe that Trump could bit the head off a chickenshoot a man or assault a woman during the state of the union address and the Republicans would just shrug their shoulders.

      Corrected for actual likelihood.

      • Colin Day

        Only if he does it on Fifth Avenue.

      • Corrected for actual likelihood.

        You would be surprised if Trump bit the head off a chicken during the state of the union address? I wouldn’t.

    • Hogan

      It’s looking like the town halls are getting a little hot, though, so Trump may not get a complete blank check.

      Eh. They’ll just stop having town halls.

      • tsam

        That’ll save Soros a TON of money.

      • jim, some guy in iowa

        already not happening here. neither of the top Rs in the state legislature has had an open meeting with constituents yet

        • Thom

          Seems to be happening, with US Congressional reps, in the Austin area as well.

        • witlesschum

          My mother and her radical cell of retired teachers have so far not been able to catch their congressman at his office.

          • Linnaeus

            My mother and her radical cell of retired teachers

            Union thugs, I’m sure.

            • N__B

              People who know where the permanent records are kept!

          • I’m sure you’ll have no problem finding him in the voting booth.

      • Owlbear1

        Then find rich Trumpanzees in the area and let them know how much their elected representative is fucking up.

        Scott is right, until all Republicans have to pay a price for the Putinfluffer Administration they aren’t going to do a damn thing about it.

  • randy khan

    They certainly could be both cowardly and evil. That should be on the table, too.

    Also unprincipled; we mustn’t forget that.

    • kped

      Depends on ones principles I suppose…I mean, Ryan has his principles, they are just monstrous to most normal folk.

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      You can sum it all up as CHAOTIC EVIL

      …with a +5 Phone Of Tweeting also, too.

      • randy khan

        Chaotic Evil, indeed.

      • Mayur

        I actually think Neutral Evil, as it is the purest of all evil. Also, Republicans aren’t devoted to tearing down social structures as a matter of principle; they LIKE lots of social structures (organized religion, corporate hierarchies, paramilitaries… er, law enforcement) and pour enormous resources into buttressing those at every turn.

        /doffs robe and wizard hat

        • Linnaeus

          Maybe Lawful Evil, or Neutral Evil with lawful tendencies?

    • Captain Oblivious

      Yeah, my vote is both. To which I’ll add stupid, ignorant, and selfish.

      Assholes are never one-dimensional assholes.

  • tahfromslc

    That, and the fact that their base is now controlled by Trump.

    • Davis X. Machina

      Does the monster control Dr. Frankenstein?

      • wjts

        The monster did get the doctor to make a wife for him, so kind of?

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      “all their fundament are belong to t’rump”, one might say.

    • witlesschum

      Yeah, this is the part you can spin as “cowardly” or “politically wise” as to your taste.

      So long as the deplorables continue to love Trump, the Republicans can’t jettison him or differ with him too much. Even if he’s bad for them overall, their base will turn on them in a hot minute if they don’t at least publicly go along with Trumpism.

      • efgoldman

        Even if he’s bad for them overall, their base will turn on them in a hot minute if they don’t at least publicly go along with Trumpism.

        And, as Professor Pierce has pointed out for years now, this is the pace that they built for themselves.

  • keta

    Some lawmakers take comfort knowing that the president’s behavior last year didn’t hurt their campaigns, and they have used the electoral result as a justification unto itself, suggesting — as Mr. Trump has constantly — that his campaign success validates his approach.

    This is the nut. Until Trump negatively affects their re-election chances he will be given a pass.

    • Uneekness

      Bingo. For all the exasperated facebook venting I see in my bubble, the ‘real americans’ who voted for him absolutely LOVE how the first three weeks have gone. They could give a shit about the palace intrigue stories. All they know is that president manbaby promised to be a president of action, and boy howdy has he delivered with all of the manly presidenting he did in those first three weeks. And if it weren’t for all those people that Trump voters already know hate America (liberal judges, the lamestream press) he would be buiding that wall and keeping out terrorists as we speak.

      NOTHING Trump or the Congress has proposed has or will affect them negatively – at least not in the short run. Even the repeal of the ACA in any form will take some time to be seen as a negative. (Remember, the ACA’s undeniable success never translated into tangible political positives for Democrats – so don’t overestimate the negatives of repealing it, especially among the GOP base.) The ass-kicking that he proles will have to take in order to turn on Trump will have to be both pointed and deep. It’s hard to imagine that happening by 2018

      • humanoid.panda

        Bingo. For all the exasperated facebook venting I see in my bubble, the ‘real americans’ who voted for him absolutely LOVE how the first three weeks have gone.

        I have no doubt about that, it’s not just us in our liberal enclaves that are unhappy: Trump right now is at -15 approval rating at Gallup, equivalent to the worst figure Obama ever had. If this lasts or gets worse, Republicans will start noticing.

        • Uneekness

          Since the Democratic crest in 2008 there have been nothing but polls showing that either A) the GOP as a whole or individual GOP politicians aren’t all that popular and B) specific Dem policies (background checks and minimum wage increases, etc.) are quite popular, yet come election time it’s always GOP gains at the state and nat’l level. Sure, gerrymandering and vote suppression, but there are still millions and millions of people one would think would know better who vote for these people. At this point, until those polls align with election outcomes, I just don’t think they can give us much comfort.

          • howard

            i don’t doubt that the polls are accurate in general, but what is very difficult to poll for accurately is actually voting….

            • humanoid.panda

              Since the Democratic crest in 2008 there have been nothing but polls showing that either A) the GOP as a whole or individual GOP politicians aren’t all that popular and B) specific Dem policies (background checks and minimum wage increases, etc.) are quite popular, yet come election time it’s always GOP gains at the state and nat’l level.

              Sorry, but this is a very selective reading of history.

              Anyone who wanted to draw predictions from the GOP being unpopular, was on a fool’s errand- because a large proportion of people angry at the GOP for not impeaching Obama already.
              Issue polling is always messy: 90% of public supports stronger background checks, but GOP is more trusted on gun issues.
              But presidential approval is a straightforward marker, that pretty much nailed electoral outcomes to a T: In both 2010 and 2014, Obama’s approval ratings predicted a Democratic spanking. In 2012, they predicted a narrow, but solid reelection win. In 2016, they predicted a knife’s edge election. There is no way to read that history and say that presidential approval doesn’t matter.

            • humanoid.panda

              Thing is that presidential approval is important for determining who votes in midterms… And sure, the GOP has advantages, both fair (older folks vote with more discipline) and unfair (gerrymandering, vote suppression) when it comes to midterm turnout. Still, as Bush showed, hard to overcome presidential approval below 40.

              • Uneekness

                We’ll see. I fear the bubble of blamelessness that the conservoshpere swaddles on its voters takes fuckups of epic proportion to penetrate (and given that Obama handed Trump an economy on the rise, remember that it took six years for people to finally shake off the feel goods that voting for Bush gave them. And all it took was a once in a generation weather event and a deteriorating war we entered into out of choice. Hell, Obama and McCain were neck and neck until the bottom started to fall out of the economy.)

                In short, I don’t think even Trump will be able to make the lives of his voters shitty enough fast enough to have an impact (and to overcome the propaganda being created in the conservosphere) in 2018. His disapproval rating is above 50%, sure, but his approval rating has ticked up as well, to 45%. The infantilized voters that make up Team Trump are very very happy with him.

                • humanoid.panda

                  We’ll see. I fear the bubble of blamelessness that the conservoshpere swaddles on its voters takes fuckups of epic proportion to penetrate (and given that Obama handed Trump an economy on the rise, remember that it took six years for people to finally shake off the feel goods that voting for Bush gave them. And all it took was a once in a generation weather event and a deteriorating war we entered into out of choice. Hell, Obama and McCain were neck and neck until the bottom started to fall out of the economy.)

                  Right- and right now Trump’s approval is where Bush’s was in summer 2006.

                  In short, I don’t think even Trump will be able to make the lives of his voters shitty enough fast enough to have an impact (and to overcome the propaganda being created in the conservosphere) in 2018. His disapproval rating is above 50%, sure, but his approval rating has ticked up as well, to 45%. The infantilized voters that make up Team Trump are very very happy with him.

                  That’s simply not true. His approval went shortly up during the transition, but it’s currently at 40%.

                • Uneekness
        • howard

          this is why i think there’s a logic to the notion that democrats in deep red states should re-register as republicans so that there are more than rwnjs voting in gop primaries.

    • witlesschum

      I think it’s also important to note the codicil of until they fear a Democrat in the general more than the fear being primaried for not harrumphing loudly enough for Trump.

    • kped

      I’d go further – there is no level where abandoning Trump is a net positive for them. There will always be the 30% of the base who absolutely loves Trump, and pissing them off is as deadly to their reelection as abandoning Trump to shore up the non-Trumpers in the party.

      And sure, I said 30% will stay by him, meaning 70% won’t…but that 30% is the Tea Party section, the white nationalist “we will primary you” section, the people who turn out during mid-terms. So they are worth more than the larger part of the party.

  • Jordan

    I suppose the test is if/when Trump actually breaks with them on their policy agenda (and that is possibly never).

    If that does happen, and they fall in line: cowardly. If it happens and they don’t: evil.

    Although, to be sure, it can be a bit of both.

    • howard

      Thus far, in the limited times he has gone against GOP orthodoxy, the orthodoxy won.

      For example, his desire to negotiate better drug prices lasted exactly one meeting with lobbyists.

      • Jordan

        Right, very good point. I’m just wondering about what happens when *Trump* breaks with the evil bastards, rather than when he breaks with his meaningless prior comments.

        Quite possibly it never happens. But suppose it does, then we get an answer on cowardly/evil/both.

        • guthrie

          The problem is that in one of the historic parallels, Hitler, he broke with his ‘allies’ about 9 months into government, with some faked up scandals and such that got rid of the opposition, leaving him to rule untrammelled by petty people.

          • Manny Kant

            Hitler never broke with the conservatives, so I’m not sure what you’re talking about.

      • efgoldman

        his desire to negotiate better drug prices lasted exactly one meeting with lobbyists.

        Would it be impolite to suggest that they bought him off?
        No, no it would not.

        • Hogan

          They all got memberships at Mar-a-Lago?

  • Joe_JP

    “sign whatever executive orders Radar O’Reilly Mike Pence puts in front of him” [with a statement written by Bannon, if his comments on protecting the “blood” of Americans is any judge]

    ETA: Note how one world leader deals with the Trump handshake

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-38959441

    • This is what strikes me as crazy from your linked article:

      Mr Trudeau needs to make the case that Canada-US trade benefits both countries and to try to counter any potential moves by the White House to impose tariffs on Canadian imports.

      I don’t doubt that the article actually describes the situation, and that’s the crazy part. Trump has demonstrated that he is completely clueless of the concept that trade between two countries can benefit both of them. In his world there has to be winners and losers and if you are not the clear winner in a trade deal it means you have to be the loser. That this has been his governing philosophy throughout his career is clear. What mystifies me is why, after this became clear, people were still willing to do business with him. He even wrote books about it, for pity’s sake.

      • imwithher

        Because, in the big corporate world, you are judged on a quarterly basis. If you bring in business, you are rewarded. When that business turns out to be with a deadbeat, you have already been rewarded, and are on to the next thing. And that includes bankers and loans. And then there is the hubris that thinks that Trump can write any bullshit he wants, and brag about always “winning,” but WE know better.

        As for small businessmen, it is hard for them to turn down big orders. There are stories out there of small NJ businesses that got orders from Trump entities that, if he had paid in full, would have been equivalent to a year, or more, of their normal sales. They probably hadn’t read his book, or didn’t know his track record, or simply couldn’t believe that someone would be such an asshole as to refuse to pay for perfectly good work that had been contracted for in good faith (on their part).

        But then, when the work was done and the bill came due, Trump Inc stonewalled, refused to pay at all, and forced the little guy to sue in court. Delay, deny, lie, file bogus counterclaims, obscufate, etc, etc. Bury the other side in paper. And then, when the case finally showed signs of life, offer a settlement. Say, sixty cents on the dollar. The guy, desperate at this point, and fearing that Trump will go bankrupt again and leave him with nothing at all, takes it, of course. After that, Trump stiffs him again, and refuse to pay the agreed upon settlement. When the guy starts up the lawsuit again, OK, Trump finally pays him forty cents on the dollar and demands a waiver of all claims.

        When it comes to individual employees, the power imbalance makes it even harder to say no. An out of work waiter or bartender doesn’t have a lot of choice. And, once again, there is not transparency of information, and more importantly, perhaps, a general failure to foresee that a boss can be as much of a petty, penny pinching, Scrooge-like asshole as Trump is and was. Screw you out of a dollar that he knows you earned, and need to stay alive, even as he shits in his golden toilet.

        Trump is such a piece of garbage that he beggars the imagination.

  • Murc

    To be honest, I don’t know that I can even blame them for this.

    I mean, I can blame them for the essential horribleness of their ideology, their policy agenda, and the tactics they use to implement both those things. For, you know… the evil.

    But it’s like… if we somehow elected a left-wing dolt (they exist; we’ve seen many in these comment threads!) who couldn’t open his mouth without sounding like an idiot and was demonstrably incapable of and unfit for governing, but was going to sign universal health care and huge redistribution programs and an updated VRA and nominate thirty-five-year-old left-wing ideologues to the Supreme Court? I would be like “You motherfuckers back off and let him do his fuckin’ work.” Especially since the alternative would be a polarizing removal fight and our legislative agenda being DOA for at least four years.

    I’ll blame the Republicans for Trumpism and the specifics surrounding it, but riding that tiger all the way to the end… actually isn’t even riding a tiger. It’s riding a really dumb horse. Still gonna get you where you want to go.

    • Rob in CT

      This works for domestic issues.

      It really doesn’t when it comes to FP. Someone this unfit is actually dangerous.

      • CP

        I agree, although based on the kind of people that’ve been their foreign policy luminaries for a while, it’s unclear that they get this.

        The thing that makes Trump exceptional even by their standards is that he’s explicitly making noises about embracing a nation that both parties have up to this point recognized as hostile while throwing under the bus the people we’ve spent decades protecting from them. It may not trigger their “this is dangerous and will have negative repercussions for us” sense, but it should damn well trigger their “this is providing aid and comfort to the enemies of America” sense. And there’s some evidence that it is.

        The question is whether that will be enough to move, well, any of them enough to actually hold their nose and join the Democrats against the current president and most of their party. And I suspect that when push comes to shove the answer will be “no” on that too.

    • i8kraft

      I understand that impulse, but Republicans have actively encouraged the rise of a Trump-like figure to the levers of power. Have Democrats allowed anyone Trump-like anywhere near the levers of power? So I guess what I’m saying is, the event that we somehow elect a Trump-like lefty is so hard to imagine that it makes the hypothetical a bit difficult to appreciate.

      • Aexia

        The Democratic party’s diversity is a good hedge against a one note candidate like Trump.

        The Republican party though… Trump just had to co-opt one wing (Racists), neutralize another (Moneyed elites) while the rest of the party floundered in chaos and he was home free.

      • Davis X. Machina

        Have Democrats allowed anyone Trump-like anywhere near the levers of power?

        I'm pretty sure that's why Democrats keep losing elections -- they don't allow anyone like that near the levers of power.

        • Dilan Esper

          Definitely Democratic presidential candidates have been non-crazy and non-totally incompetent.

          But at lower levels of government, sure, it has happened. Marion Berry was pretty bad, for instance.

          • Hogan

            Mayor of DC isn’t exactly a lever of power.

            • efgoldman

              Mayor of DC isn’t exactly a lever of power.

              Local government has much more everyday effect on the people who live there than state or federal does, especially when the local government is personally or professionally corrupt.

              • My understanding is that Marion Barry had actually done quite a lot to alleviate problems such as poverty in the D.C. area, and that’s why he kept getting re-elected. So he may have been crazy, but he was also apparently at least somewhat competent. However, I’m basing this mostly off of faintly-remembered coverage I read after his death, so I may be misremembering some of the details.

      • CP

        Republicans have actively encouraged the rise of a Trump-like figure to the levers of power. Have Democrats allowed anyone Trump-like anywhere near the levers of power?

        Yep. This kind of encapsulates the problem – no, they haven’t, not least because the two parties really are fundamentally different. A Trump-like demagogue would have a harder time rising from a political constituency that doesn’t value willful ignorance or pointless macho-man displays. A Trump-like demagogue would have a harder time rising from a political constituency that actually expects results from its politicians and not just pointless flag-lapel-type symbolism. A Trump-like demagogue would have a harder time rising from a political constituency that actually values competence and a will to actually govern while in office, if only in the minimal and elementary “try to keep the lights on and the trains running” kind of way. Etc.

        (And of course, any Democrat who rose to the national level and displayed Trump’s levels of incompetence and narcissism would be absolutely shredded by the national media until his poll numbers were lower than Jill Stein’s. Imagine Hillary Clinton’s “emails!” media treatment being applied to a candidate with Trump’s wealth of material to work with…)

        I’ve had a few “what if Trump was a Democrat” hypotheticals thrown at me since the election, and every time my answer ends up being that it’s a nonsensical question because a person like Trump would not get elected as a Democrat. I can think of a few pre-1930s Democrats that I would’ve reacted to much like Trump – but that’s just it, pre-1930s, I probably wouldn’t have been a Democrat, because I don’t value the kind of things that the kind of people who vote for Trump do. And neither do most modern Democrats.

    • rewenzo

      I’ll blame the Republicans for Trumpism and the specifics surrounding it, but riding that tiger all the way to the end… actually isn’t even riding a tiger. It’s riding a really dumb horse. Still gonna get you where you want to go.

      I would tweak this to say that the Republicans are in fact riding a tiger. They’re kind of hamstrung, in that they know, or strongly suspect, that Trump will be a disaster as President and will lead to electoral disaster at some point in the future for them. (I mean, George Bush, a man infinitely more suited to the Presidency, with an infinitely more competent administration (but still woefully incompetent overall) was still on the hook for several honest to God disasters in America where the lives of thousands of American citizens were either destroyed, or ruined. 9/11, Iraq War, Katrina, 2008 recession and housing crash, etc. Does anybody think Trump will do a better job?)

      The problem for them now, is what can they do about it? Trump is a Republican, and Republicans are Trump. They are going to be associated with each other regardless. They cannot run away from him. Moreover, if they do run away from him, they don’t even get their policy wishlist. So…they might as well stick with him and get their policy wishlist. They probably also figure that because of hyperpartisanship, advances in social media/fake news, and good old voter suppression, that they may be able to stave off those horrible electoral consequences. Besides, the Bush collapse didn’t even last that long. Sure Obama got a lot done between 2009-2011, but it’s far from clear he’ll have any lasting accomplishments at all.

      • Murc

        They’re kind of hamstrung, in that they know, or strongly suspect, that Trump will be a disaster as President and will lead to electoral disaster at some point in the future for them.

        Will it, tho?

        I mean, you bring up George W. Bush. His incompetence and disasters bought us four years of the House, eight years of the Senate, and eight years of the White House… followed by Trump. And those periods only actually lined up for TWO years.

        So maybe Trump’s incompetence will buy us… what, maybe a 100% increase? So four years of unified government rather than two? Then followed up by someone who makes Trump look intelligent and engaged?

        They’re playing a long game here. Get in, wreck. Get driven out, obstruct. Get back in, wreck.

        I’ve posted rants here before about how I’m legitimately afraid the Republicans have solved American politics, and this is part and parcel of it.

        • rewenzo

          Yeah, as I indicated in my reply, it is not necessarily the worst of all possible worlds for the Republicans.

          Where I think it might go badly for them is that depending on the scale of the Trump disaster, when/if the Democrats regain unified Democratic control, they will be in a much more disciplined position than they were in 2009. The Democratic base will be further to the left, further radicalized a la the Tea Party, and we will be ready for some small c constitutional reform, like effectively getting rid of the electoral college, getting rid of gerrymandering, national automatic voter registration, PR and DC statehood, adding two more SC justices, etc. which will put Democrats in a better position to turn votes for Democrats into Democratic representatives on the Hill.

          • humanoid.panda

            Where I think it might go badly for them is that depending on the scale of the Trump disaster, when/if the Democrats regain unified Democratic control, they will be in a much more disciplined position than they were in 2009. The Democratic base will be further to the left, further radicalized a la the Tea Party, and we will be ready for some small c constitutional reform, like effectively getting rid of the electoral college, getting rid of gerrymandering, national automatic voter registration, PR and DC statehood, adding two more SC justices, etc. which will put Democrats in a better position to turn votes for Democrats into Democratic representatives on the Hill.

            This. What Murc is ignoring is that, from the Republican point of view, the Obama years created 2 important changes in American life: SSM, and some form of federal guarantee of health-care, that Republicans can’t eliminate. Which is 2 more fundamental changes than the changes that took place under Clinton. And those happened because with all their flaws, even the Bluest of Blue Dog Democrats knew thy didn’t want a repeat of the 1992-1994 shitcake years.Similarly, we already see that Democratic activists learned plenty of lessons from the Tea Party, and are implementing those. And next time Democrats hold the trifecta, I’d wager good money that the legislative filibuster is going to die, because the people who will have elected it would be chomping at the bit to undo the Trump years (in fact, I’d argue that the only reason that the filibuster alive is because GOP Senators don’t really want to be in a position where they have to pass the Houses’ agenda..)

            • Mayur

              And yet, the most important Republican objective has been achieved: Funneling wealth upward. Democrats slow that process, but 2009-2016 is poor compensation for 2000-2008 in terms of income inequality. Republicans aren’t interested in wrecking shit per se; they just want to make the rich richer. The means of doing that in any society that has resources NOT already allocated to the richest is to plunder those resources; in other words, to wreck shit.

              • efgoldman

                Republicans aren’t interested in wrecking shit per se

                The Randian True Believers are. So are the bible bangers and the stone racists (Venn diagrams show a lot of commonality).

              • humanoid.panda

                Republicans aren’t interested in wrecking shit per se; they just want to make the rich richer. The means of doing that in any society that has resources NOT already allocated to the richest is to plunder those resources; in other words, to wreck shit.

                Just a matter of historical record, this is wrong: the rich in America were drastically, immensely, unimaginably richer in 1970 than they were in 1930. What Republicans dislike is downward distribution of wealth- and here the question of whether they are going to erase the major advance of the Obama years – the ACA – is open.

        • Uneekness

          I don’t know if they’ve solved American politics, I think they’ve hacked it. In the not-too-distant past, violating norms would actually cost you at the ballot box, because there would be a media consensus that you had gone too far, and party control over your career means they could bury you on the subcommittee of agricultural weights and measures standardization and party control over the funding/funders of your campaign means they could line up a challenger and dry up your resources. With the complete breakdown of that system (a self-contained, profit-driven conservosphere media system ensures that politicians will ALWAYS be hammered for not being more conservative, and independent funders ensure these politicians will never want for cash), the GOP has realized that there is no longer a downside to effing everything over to get power.

        • BigHank53

          afraid the Republicans have solved American politics

          As Uneekness states, they’ve got a good hack going. But it’s not sustainable long-term. Sooner or later (war, climate change, epidemic disease) something will happen that requires government to actually work. They will not be able to make it work. Then it will be new government time!

          This may not be an orderly process, however.

          • N__B

            This may not be an orderly process, however.

            I always wondered what the future tense of “the recent unpleasantness” looked like.

    • Jordan

      I dunno, I don’t think in that case I’d support left-wing-dolt’s nominees for key positions if they were manifestly incompetent, at the very least.

      Because, see, if they are incompetent, *that isn’t going to help* even if they are fine ideologically. Its a difference, perhaps, with republicans. We want the government to work, they don’t. So they have two options: a competent person to tear it down or an incomponent who is just going to fuck everything up. Both work for them, but not for us.

      • Dilan Esper

        One thing to remember is that partisanship is a strong force.

        If you take some position that is contrary to party orthodoxy, even on an Internet site, you immediately get called a concern troll, sellout, racist, sexist, etc. Same thing happens on the right- RINO, cuckservative, etc.

        There will be supporters of the crazy person, who will be enforcing orthodoxy, keeping people in line, and calling for purges. And lots of people cave in to that- they figure it isn’t worth the aggravation.

        • efgoldman

          There will be supporters of the crazy person, who will be enforcing orthodoxy, keeping people in line, and calling for purges.

          Because posters and commenters on a mildly popular blog have SO much power….

          Or not.

          • Dilan Esper

            They have more power than you think when viewed as part of a larger structure that polices partisanship.

        • Hob

          Dilan, thank you for reminding me that I hadn’t yet gotten around to adding you to the pie filter. Maybe some day I’ll have the urge to read one of your comments again, but I think this particular piece of your bullshit will last me for a long, long time.

          (Also, here’s a preemptive fuck-you for the inevitable reply about how I’m closing off my mind to dissenting opinions)

    • Jake the antisoshul soshulist

      If Jill Stein pulled a Bernie, it might not be any more unlikely than Cheeto Benito was for the Rs.

      All Hair Fuhrer has to do is remind granny starver and Yertle that all their base belong to him.

    • Hells Littlest Angel

      Aha! So both sides really do do it!

      Or would if they could. Hypothetically. So there.

    • tsam

      This is a fair point, though I’m not sure that as a whole, Democrats would put up with a ton of foreign policy psychosis and the constant tweeting of things that are patently false and make all Democrats look like morons.

      There’s a bit of a disconnect here–Democratic party ideology that consists of ‘JUST FUCK MY SHIT UP’ is a pretty small fraction of the electorate. Most of them look for something like Barack Obama–someone with actual competence, and not an utter embarrassment to the nation like Bush Jr and Trump were/are. There is a contingent of Steiniacs and even Sanders devotees who really think the way you fix a house is to stand outside and throw rocks at it, but honestly that’s a pretty small, marginalized fraction.

      • pillsy

        Yeah, Dems have little enthusiasm for “Let’s burn this motherfucker down!” maniacs. We sometimes get excited about outsider candidates, but even there they tend not to be maniacs. I thought Sanders was a little too light on policy details and a little to focused on inequality to the exclusion of all else, but he was never like, “Listen up, bitches! We’re gonna carpet bomb Denmark!”

        • bizarroMike

          I think the key difference is that Dems have policy goals. They will craft policies to reach these goals, and use science to see if these policies are working. Even Sanders, who was light on details, lived inside of this reality based community. I think some of his invective would have made big policies more difficult to enact, but I also think that there was a core pragmatism. The goal of free college for all is to reduce student debt and improve the education level of America. A half-a-loaf policy can still be crafted towards those big goals, and it is straightforward to measure that policies success.

          Meanwhile MAGA means “Make America White Again Wait Don’t Say That Out Loud.” The goals are hidden (if only just), mostly unobtainable, and really about feelings rather than facts.

          • so-in-so

            The GOP does, in fact, have policy preferences. It’s just that “make the rich guys richer” doesn’t inspire a lot of voter support, so they make things up for the proles to get and keep power. Those things tend not to make sense, since the more modern GOP is inherently lazy AND found out that it didn’t really matter. I take that back, the preceding generation engineered things so that policy that made sense didn’t matter, with Fox and Blaze and “liberal media” et al.

          • tsam

            Right–and the entire premise of “MAGA” posits that America is all fucked up now. But of course WE’RE the America haters, right?

            Conservatism is such an empty, fallacious piece of shit of an ideal. They’re all for patriotism, as long as it’s limited to silly rituals and dumbfuck bumper stickers/memes. But ask them to actually live up to the ideas behind the founding ideals (putting aside the obvious hypocrisy of slave-owners insisting that all men are created equal), and suddenly we need to make America great again…

        • Redwood Rhiadra

          Yeah, Dems have little enthusiasm for “Let’s burn this motherfucker down!” maniacs.

          Really? Have you ever even *heard* of the #BernItDown hashtag that was rather popular?

          The hard Left is rather more enthusiastic for total destruction than you think.

      • Dilan Esper

        Not sure. Obama got away with a ton of foreign and immigration policy that would have been criticized heavily by liberals had W done it. Now it’s not directly comparable because Obama was a reasonable person who just had some centrist positions on some issues. But still, the tendency is very much to give your own guy a pass.

        • Mayur

          This whole “Obama got away with droning people / deporting people / messing around in the Middle East” thing drives me crazy.

          Obama has, at every turn, taken a less aggressive approach to these policies than Bush did, and a FAR less aggressive approach than Orange Juche is yammering on about taking, which indicates to me that he was surfing the floor on what was acceptable in terms of “strong foreign policy” and “strong border protection” when it comes to the political consensus. Yes, it sucks that Obama didn’t simply buck centrists and conservatives and drastically reduce deportations and adopt a non-intervention policy, but those things actually ARE politically impossible because a large chunk of even Democratic voters are against them. It’s like the War on Drugs; we libby libs can think that decriminalization and legalization for a wide range of controlled substances are no-brainers, but we are actually outvoted on that front.

          I don’t know anyone who handwaved drone strikes and deportations just because Obama was doing it. I know a lot of people who were unhappy about it between 2000-2008 and remained unhappy between 2009-2016, and some folks (like myself) who saw these matters at least become slightly more judiciously handled and were happy at that.

    • Joe_JP

      Regarding Democrats, imagine if Donald Trump was the Democrat.

      Putting aside foreign policy, I really wonder if that is worth the risk. It takes a lot of effort to execute domestic issues especially in the face of strong opposition. He could very well totally screw us over there. The guy is already tainting the Republican brand, which is great for us, less so for them.

      ETA: This is in answer to “if we somehow elected a left-wing dolt” … they have less to risk given their desire to taint government in general though even there, they still need government in various ways to promote their interests. George Bush Jr. types are a lot more to their liking there, I think.

      (Back in the day, someone said that someone like Edwards was an okay risk. Not a great choice, but lots better than a Trump.)

      • Murc

        I will freely admit that the biggest problem with my equivalency is that Trump actually is highly unique in American politics. I don’t just mean in the postwar era, I mean period.

        Like, it is hard to find even Republican dolts who are as bad as he is. Rick Perry is several steps above Trump, for example. So is Ron Paul. You generally need to have a certain amount of ability to pay attention and work the system, if not to actually govern, to succeed in politics over the long term and to win party support.

        Trump just kinda parachuted in and (completely by luck) exploited a tension point between what the Republican electorate wanted and what Republican elites were willing to offer them, combined with unprecedented institutional failures, combined with a coup engineered by the FBI. That’s a hell of a perfect storm.

        So yeah, someone as manifestly incompetent as him is… unlikely on our side.

        Still, I think my reasoning holds up.

        • so-in-so

          Keep in mind also; tRump and the flying monkeys now yell “fake news” at anything they don’t like, but the actual purveyors of fake news have gone on record that it didn’t work on the Left, only RWers linked and forwarded and “liked” made-up stories about liberals. Similar made-up stories about the RW were quickly debunked by most of the left-wing audience and didn’t make any money for the creators. Also probably explains why Stein’s made-up crap sounds all Right-Wingy.

  • cpinva

    as long as he signs their bills, he could show up naked and they won’t give a shit.

  • DAS

    Actually this relates to my whole issue with the whole JFK-“Profiles in Courage” idea that politicians need to be “brave”. If anything, the problem with GOP politicians is that they are not cowardly enough … they are not looking at crowds of people protesting their policies and saying to themselves “I wanna get re-elected, so I better shift my positions so those crowds of people will like me better”, but rather they are “bravely” standing up for the principles in which they believe, which principles happen to be, well, awful.

    Of course, the proof will be in the pudding. Do the majority of the Congresscritters who’ve faced raucous town hall meetings actually agree with the raucous town-hall speakers? Even if they agree with the town-hall speakers, will they just still vote for the incumbent Republicans because “the Republican bravely stood up to rabble-rousers”? And even if they don’t for the Republican, would they really vote for a Democrat who “just wants to spend my hard earned tax dollars on ‘those people'”*? Or a Democrat that’s no different than the Republican**?

    *assuming the Democrat is even a wee bit left of “center”
    ** assuming the Democrat is not even a wee bit left of “center”

    • sigaba

      I’ve seen this described as the “Sean Penn scenario.” Then the only thing really missing is the kleptocracy.

      But of course, Sean Penn didn’t run, and we wouldn’t have voted for him. The idea of him being a Democratic presidential nominee was prime facie ridiculous.

      • sigaba

        (Sorry this goes to Murc’s post.)

      • Penn is a rather ridiculous choice, but Clooney is actually somewhat plausible. The man has a credible history of activism and can talk about issues convincingly. We could honestly do worse as a candidate. We could do better if we just want to plunk someone into office prima facie, but I think we’ve seen by now that experience doesn’t win elections, and winning elections is now my top priority, with policy stances being secondary and experience being almost at the bottom of the list. If we don’t win, experience means nothing.

    • mds

      they are not looking at crowds of people protesting their policies and saying to themselves “I wanna get re-elected, so I better shift my positions so those crowds of people will like me better”

      No, and the reason they’re not is that they know they will almost certainly get re-elected anyway. I mean, what are their constituents gonna do, vote for a babee-killing gun-grabbing Democrat?

  • Mike in DC

    It took 26 months for Watergate to bring down Nixon. We’re about 8 months into the Russian scandal now. So…patience.

    • Thom

      This is a good point.

    • rewenzo

      If Watergate happened today, no way in hell Nixon resigns, and no way in hell he gets impeached.

      • keta

        Exactly. And this is one of the reasons the media is so fucking exasperating. They’re still playing at “aha!” and the game has moved way, way beyond naming and shaming.

      • David Hunt

        Well, I’d say a big reason for this is that Watergate changed the way we view the Presidency. I think you’re technically correct because the Iran/Contra crap would have gotten Reagan impeached if it hadn’t been for Watergate, so the Watergate scandal would have been weathered.

      • howard

        well, what i think there’s no way of is no way he turns the tapes over: he burns them.

        but he still would have been impeached: rodino just wouldn’t have been able to get a bipartisan impeachment recommendation through the judiciary committee, but if all else were the same other than nixon burning the tapes, i still think impeachment would have happened.

        but there is no equivalent set to hugh scott and barry goldwater telling nixon it was time to go, so i agree that he doesn’t resign and i don’t know if he gets convicted.

        • rewenzo

          Right by “impeachment” I meant convicted in the Senate.

  • smartone

    “Pick a Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen to become president of the United States.” – Grover Norquist

    • Chip Daniels

      Heck, they don’t even have to be large digits, little ones will do!

  • philip.koop

    So basically, they’ll let Trump prosecute his war on America as long as he lets them prosecute theirs. Mutual interests!

  • Chip Daniels

    My schaden is being freuded:

    Police Officers: “We Didn’t Vote Republican To Get Stabbed In The Back”

    Hows that Trumpey-Changey thing workin’ out for ya?

    • Linnaeus

      To be honest, I’m pleasantly surprised they’re speaking out against this.

      • efgoldman

        I’m pleasantly surprised they’re speaking out against this.

        Kasich got shot down by referendum when he tried the same thing in Ohio, right?
        And Snotty Walker broke the public safety unions away from the teachers and other government employees. Did the Wisconsin cops and firefighters speak up? If so, I don’t remember it.

        • Linnaeus

          Yeah, Ohio voters rejected the same thing (through a pretty impressive grass-roots effort), and like you, I don’t remember the Wisconsin public safety unions speaking out against the carve-out and the antiunion bills. I expected the same thing to happen in Iowa, and so far, it hasn’t.

        • Joseph Slater

          Many/most of them did.

    • BigHank53

      “I didn’t expect leopards to eat my face,” sobs voter who cast ballot for Leopards Eating People’s Faces Party.

    • efgoldman

      Hows that Trumpey-Changey thing workin’ out for ya?

      S’cuse me while I go get some sponges to absorb the tears.

  • XerMom

    Given the way that people like to blame/credit the president for everything, I wonder if Republicans are pretty sure they can just lay all the anger at Trump’s feet. A lot of their agenda is going to be pretty unpopular. If they destroy health care and people are angry, will they blame Paul Ryan or the president who signed it into law? If FEMA’s funding is slashed and a natural disaster hits, won’t it be the president who takes the hit to popularity?

    I figure they’re banking on the responsibility for unpopular legislation being joined up to all the other Trump scandals in the popular imagination. It’s likely that the effects of health care “reform,” tax changes, funding cuts, etc. will be swamped by more exciting tweets, Russia investigations, or foreign policy disasters. Then they can just shout “RHINO” repeatedly and do it all again after the next election.

    • Hogan

      That plan failed miserably in 2006.

      • tsam

        Yes, but let’s see how far Trump takes this “I SO DUM I KANT DO STUFF” routine. At some point he might manage to make the rest of the party sane by comparison. I feel like that’s already starting to happen.

        • humanoid.panda

          The problem with this is that in 2018, at least, people unhappy with Trump have no choice than either vote for Democrats or stay home. I could see how in 2020 “I will vote Rep X and the non-Trump presidential candidate” becomes a thing, but how do you sell it at midterm?

    • CP

      That certainly seems to be what they’re trying to do. Both during and since the election, the NeverTrumpists I knew have all been busily flip-flopping like mad between their “well, Trump’s a Democrat anyway ruling just like Obama did” moments and their praise for him. Covering their asses for if/when he does go tits-up.

  • mbxxxxxx

    I don’t buy this thesis entirely. Trump has already provided pretty much anything you’d need to justify impeaching/removing him — or will have very soon. That would, of course, leave Mike Pence as president who would, I think you’d agree, also sign anything the GOP Congress wants and probably with less aggravation and meddling than Trump will. However, I think it’s safe to say that Trump is unlikely to be impeached, much less removed from office, and that has nothing to do with ensuring the enactment of the GOP agenda since Pence would be a willing signer.

    Seems to me you’re left with fear as at least a major motivator for the GOP establishment riding the Trump Train. For obvious reasons, they are not going to be afraid to cross the left since they have pretty effectively gerrymandered us out of the picture. We are just a loud irritation at the townhalls. Trump voters, however, can turn them out on their ears.

    • nemdam

      Yes, and this is why I don’t understand the “Trump will never be impeached” talk. Mike Pence is just as capable of signing his name, and given that he even more in sync with the Republican party, Congress would probably prefer to work with him. And the GOP will be showered with endless praise and accolades as Honest, Unimpeachable Men of Integrity if they actually go through with it. There is incentive to impeach Trump out of pure self-interest which is the only incentive they care about.

      • humanoid.panda

        And the GOP will be showered with endless praise and accolades as Honest, Unimpeachable Men of Integrity if they actually go through with it. There is incentive to impeach Trump out of pure self-interest which is the only incentive they care about.

        …from newspapers that their primary readers don’t read.

        • No, but to be fair, news sources they watch may take their cues from those newspapers. Most people don’t read the New York Times, but overwhelming numbers still watch the nightly news, and you can bet the news takes its direction from Times coverage. Source: I work in TV ratings.

  • urd

    Someone up-thread may have already said this, but it can be both.

    Cowardly and evil.

    Embrace the power of and!

  • Joe Bob the III

    We should defer back to Hillary Clinton’s formulation of deplorables, which she equated with half of Trump’s supporters. I have seen some glimmer of nuance among the non-deplorable half.

    I have some Trump voters in my family and couple of them have said something to the effect that Trump needs ‘to walk the walk.’ Implicit in that is an awareness that he may have been bullshitting them all along, so he had better deliver on the important stuff. For these people, the important stuff is good jobs and infrastructure. For them, the measure of Trump’s success will be tangible: improvement in their economic situation and things getting built.

    These are people who will never vote for a Democrat, but their potential for disillusionment with Trump is strong.

    • efgoldman

      For these people, the important stuff is good jobs and infrastructure.

      Hope they like blue; that’s the color they’ll be turning while they hold their breaths waiting.

      • It’s also, perhaps coincidentally, the colour of the party they should be voting for if they actually want any of those things to happen here.

    • howard

      i know this is an oversimplification, but the way i look at it, on election day, it was trump disapproval 54%, trump approval 46%.

      now when i follow the gallup tracker, the disapproval has more or less stayed the same (maybe inched up a touch) but the approval is down roughly 10% (that is, in relative terms, it’s down in the low 40s).

      so i think of that as the softest part of trump’s support, and i actually imagine them as people who didn’t really think trump would win but enjoyed the idea of the protest vote or felt that they had to vote for him as good republicans.

      • humanoid.panda

        Or simply people who felt that they should give him a chance, like we give all elected presidents. The interesting question for me is, if things stay where they are now: Trump fucking up things, but economy staying decent and no major wars on horizon, how low can his approval go? My guess is 36 or so- that was his favorability rating throughout most of the campaign.

        • Joe Bob the III

          I use GWB as a point of reference. His all-time low with Gallup was 25%. To be fair, that was with taking two wars and a global financial crisis into account.

          To Donald’s detriment, I never seem to hear people say he would be fun to have a beer with. So, he can’t count on personal likability propping up his numbers. As President, I think Trump faces the burden of higher expectations than he did as a candidate. Ergo, all other things being equal, I don’t think 36% is a lower bound.

    • My understanding is that Clinton wasn’t even referring to Trump supporters as a whole with the deplorables remark, but to the people propping him up in the media. However, like Al Gore’s “invented the internet” nonsense, the lie got itself halfway round the world before the truth had even got its pants on, or whatever the traditional saying is.

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