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The emperor of ice cream

[ 148 ] May 16, 2017 |

One of the peculiarities of the present moment is that a couple or three times a week Donald Trump does or says something that would pretty much destroy a normal presidency, but which seems to have little effect on either his popularity with Republican voters or on the support he’s receiving from elite GOP actors.

We’re running a very interesting social experiment right now, which is to put the executive branch of the government of the world’s most powerful nation in the hands of a narcissistic imbecile with the attention span of a fruit fly, the emotional stability of an over-tired toddler, and the substantive political knowledge of a seventh-grader who didn’t really study for his American Government exam.

A couple of preliminary thoughts on another surreal morning:

(1) This is in many ways a unique situation in at least American political history, so people who confidently opine regarding how it’s all going to turn out can be confidently ignored (These are generally the same people opined there was no chance Trump would get the GOP nomination, and then followed that up by predicting with equal confidence that there was no chance he’d get elected).

I have no idea of if or when GOP voters and/or elites will turn on Trump, but since we’ve never been anywhere like this before nobody else has any idea either.

(2) The good news, such as it is, is that President Dunning-Kruger doesn’t have the faintest idea how inept he is at every facet of his job, so that makes it more likely that he’ll get nothing accomplished, at least in a systematic way.  Of course he could get a lot accomplished in a non-systematic way, by for example blowing up the world because he got only one scoop of ice cream on a night when he was in a particularly bad mood. So you could say the glass is half full (of cheap vodka)  Stay tuned to find out what happens!

(3) The really bad news is that our political system is now so screwed up that it’s easy to imagine a far more competent version of Trump becoming president, and I expect this will happen relatively soon, assuming there still is a relatively soon after President D-K is done with the four-year (?) run of his latest crappy reality show.

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  • Frank Wilhoit

    “…to put the executive branch of the government of the world’s most powerful nation in the hands of two hundred million narcissistic imbeciles with the attention span of a fruit fly, the emotional stability of an over-tired toddler, and the substantive political knowledge of a seventh-grader who didn’t really study for his American Government exam….”

    TIFIFY

    • rhino

      The logical conclusion to your correction is the abandonment of democracy…

      …In a thread about Trump, that strikes me as something of a tell.

      • I think the Trumpers have pretty much made it clear that they have no love of democracy.

    • The most dangerous thing about Trump being elected president is that it moved the limits of possibility. We now know that it is possible to elect someone like Donald Trump. The limits to be tested now are how far Congress will let someone like him go, and me thinks we’re probably going to find no limits there.

  • No Longer Middle Aged Man

    He’s leaving soon for a 10 day foreign trip. I’m sure Saudi Arabia and some of the other locations will highlight big military contracts and block out journalists or any possibility of bad news. Israel could get interesting, though, since it gets pretty rough tumble there. And his meeting with [I think] the G-7 leaders could be a show if he gets started on Brexit.

    • N__B

      The security apparatus in the countries he’s visiting must be just a little bit nervous right now.

      • Pat

        Or gleeful.

        • N__B

          I doubt it. They may or may not want him dead, but they definitely all want it to happen somewhere else.

    • CrunchyFrog

      All these places are used to dealing with a moron-in-chief. Before Trump they were continually stunned by the utterly stupid thoughts Bush would blurt out. The differences are that 1) Trump brings a lot more drama and reality-show theatre to the table and 2) Bush had a highly competent, albeit evil, staff running things in his stead.

      • DrDick

        Frighteningly, Trump actually make Dubya look reasonably intelligent and coherent.

        • science_goy

          I wouldn’t go that far. More like he makes Bush look well-trained.

          • LosGatosCA

            House broken

      • NonyNony

        Argh. This kind of shit make me want to beat my head into a table.

        Bush was not the folksy moron that he pretended to be for the cameras. He was odd, sure – like the weird back rub he gave to Angela Merkel – and he certainly was lazy as all get out, but he wasn’t outright stupid.

        He would not, for example, casually burn a source of intelligence to the Russian foreign minister for no reason because he didn’t know he was doing it. If W was going to burn a source, he’d do it intentionally for political payback or personal gain – see Plame, Valerie.

        W played the rube on TV because it got him accolades from Republican voters and because it was easier than playing the smart guy because he was intellectually fairly average. But he was fairly average and overall kind of lazy, not someone with the intellectual and emotional maturity of a three year old and the attention span of an underdeveloped goldfish.

        (Note that I’m not defending W here – I think people give him a pass because “he was a moron”. He was not a moron – we can see what an actual moron in charge is like now. He played people for suckers with his folksy outsider schtick and a lot of liberals got suckered into believing it.)

        • Pat

          I had read once that W had a specific gift: he could remember the names and faces of dozens of people. At his first night at his frat house, he was the only guy in decades who could name each member that night. He had met them all, and remembered who they were.

          • NonyNony

            I had heard that too, though it was in connection with high dollar donors to his and his father’s various election campaigns. He not only knew their names but was apparently thoroughly briefed on their interests and would find something in common to talk about with them. And one-on-one he’s apparently pretty charismatic if you’re not already inclined to despise him for all he represents.

            The man wasn’t an idiot. If he cared about something he apparently was able to be good at it. The trouble was he was also lazy and the things he cared about could be counted on one hand. (So fairly typical of fourth generation wealth, except he got himself elected president.)

        • CrunchyFrog

          I think you forget just how stupid he really was. Mind you there’s been some analysis to suggest he was a lot smarter in the 1994 governor debates and that his mental faculties degraded so that by 2004 he could barely repeat what he’d memorized.

          However, remember the “stop the shit” quote – I mean, he said a lot of really ignorant things. http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/07/17/bush.tape/

        • ColBatGuano

          While he wasn’t a moron, I don’t think W was playing a rube. That is really what he is after a lifetime of skating through. Daddy’s buddies were always there to steer him straight.

      • Shantanu Saha

        I now understand why Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize just for getting elected. A sane, competent person at the head of the most powerful military in the world was a worldwide sigh of relief after eight years of Bush. If a Democrat beats Trump in 2020, I fully expect the world to invent a mega-Nobel prize to show just how much relief they feel.

        • NonyNony

          Naw, they won’t make that mistake again. 8 years later and we elected someone worse.

          The US might get a nice note from the world: “Thanks for not electing another moron, you douchebags. Hopefully you can do it again next time.” Maybe if we manage to not elect a moron for two consecutive terms we can get a fruit basket or something.

          • LosGatosCA

            A cookie.

        • CP

          This blog post is a decent argument for why the Nobel Prize wasn’t as undeserved as all that.

    • Hogan

      Do we know yet which ally he burned? If it was Israel, there might be some ice forming on Netanyahu’s upper slopes.

      • N__B

        Ew.

  • twbb

    “(These are generally the same people opined there was no chance Trump would get the GOP nomination, and then followed that up by predicting with equal confidence that there was no chance he’d get elected).”

    Way to turn on the LGM commenters like that!

    “he really bad news is that our political system is now so screwed up that it’s easy to imagine a far more competent version of Trump becoming president, and I expect this will happen relatively soon”

    Agree with the first part, disagree with the second.

    Side note:

    https://twitter.com/Carrasquillo/status/864262056849092608

    • David Hunt

      Way to turn on the LGM commenters like that!

      My recollection is that most commenters at LGM thought that Trump could manage to get the GOP nomination, given the field that he was running against, but that there was no way he could prevail in the general election.

      That was not my view. I pointed out that once someone got the GOP nomination, they could win no matter who they were. I remember mentioning living in fear of some sort of October Surprise scandal (real or imagined) turning the election against the Democrat (presumed at that time to be HRC).

      I would give a great deal for that bit of prescience to have been wrong.

  • CP

    On this topic, David Brooks may actually have said something right:

    […] there is perpetually less to Trump than it appears. When we analyze a president’s utterances we tend to assume that there is some substantive process behind the words, that it’s part of some strategic intent.

    But Trump’s statements don’t necessarily come from anywhere, lead anywhere or have a permanent reality beyond his wish to be liked at any given instant.

    We’ve got this perverse situation in which the vast analytic powers of the entire world are being spent trying to understand a guy whose thoughts are often just six fireflies beeping randomly in a jar.

    We badly want to understand Trump, to grasp him,” David Roberts writes in Vox. “It might give us some sense of control, or at least an ability to predict what he will do next. But what if there’s nothing to understand? What if there is no there there?”

    For those who don’t mind giving the NYTimes pageclicks.

    • LeeEsq

      David Brooks can make good points at times. In this case, its pointing out that we are living in a particularly dark version of Being There.

      • efgoldman

        David Brooks can make good points at times.

        If you hit someone between the eyes with a 2×4, it’s not a great insight for him to say “hey, I’ve been hit between the eyes with a 2×4.”
        He’s Mr. Conservative Obviousman.

    • Junipermo

      Yeah, Brooks may have finally gotten something right…several days late and many dollars short. He doesn’t get a cookie for finally pulling his head out of his ass.

    • Aaron Morrow

      I also sound smarter when I agree with Roberts, who deserves those hits.

    • JonH

      I did like the fireflies line.

      • q-tip

        FIREFLIES DONT “BEEP” THO

        • Dalai Rasta

          WITH FEW EXCEPTIONS

        • JonH

          Poetic license to salvage a metaphor going badly wrong.

        • LosGatosCA

          At the Applebee buffet they surely do

  • McAllen

    Not looking forward to every tinpot authoritarian Republican president being lauded as the second coming of Geroge Washington by virtue of being slightly less of a clown than Trump.

    • CP

      That was largely my reaction to the primary. Lots of disgust for the fact that the standard for “moderate,” “serious,” and “statesman-like” was literally now “not Donald Trump.”

      Of course, the Trump era is busy taking that already abysmally low bar and putting it even lower.

    • twbb

      Which will doubtlessly be enabled by the next Democratic president’s inevitable decision not to “litigate the past” but to “move forward for all Americans” blah blah blah.

      • Jack M.

        Gotta keep that powder dry….

    • CrunchyFrog

      Well, the most likely scenario now is that at some point Trump loses the reflexive support of his voters (probably done in a sympathetic way, such as blaming his idiocy on fast-onset alzheimers) and the rest of the GOP leadership is able to implement a 25th amendment solution and install President Pence.

      If that happens the media welcomes Pence as a great leader because he is the NotTrump, whitewashes his evil actions even more than they did with Bush, and paints him in such a positive light that the GOP wins the next several elections. Merely following standard protocol for basic Presidential operations will be hailed as an act of utter genius and leadership unparalleled in human history.

      • NonyNony

        I pointed this out further below, but I’ll restate it here:

        Lowest overall approval rating for W: 25%
        Lowest approval rating for W among Republicans: 55%

        Approval rating for W when he left office: 34%
        Approval rating among Republicans when he left office: 75%

        Source

        In order for him to lose enough support that the members of the House don’t take a political hit by impeaching him or 25th amendmenting him, I suspect that his support among Republicans would have to drop to well below 50%. Because of how rallying effects work in this country, I strongly suspect that a move to impeach or to remove him from office would cause some of his core support to come back to him and raise that approval rating a bit, which is why it can’t be just a little below 50%.

        I just don’t find this likely. I think it’s far more likely that he leaves office by either being voted out in 2020 or he has a health problem flair up that forces him out via the 25th amendment (i.e. he literally cannot write the required letter to Congress telling them that he’s fine). Or if things are REALLY BAD for Republicans there’s a Democratic sweep in 2018 that gives Dems control of the House and enough votes in the Senate to make impeachment a real question and then things change. But barring those scenarios, I think we’re stuck with him until 2020.

        • sigaba

          Who’s to say, in the event of a non-fatal health crisis, Melania doesn’t pull an Edith Wilson/Kevin Kline/”Dave”, abetted by the necessary staff?

          • NonyNony

            And if there is a fatal health crisis they can always try to go the “Weekend at Bernie’s” route.

            • …what if it’s already happened?

              • Jack M.

                So basically someone taking a hint from the third-season Star Trek episode ‘Spock’s Brain’?

          • so-in-so

            Surely it would be Ivanka and hubby?

        • ASV

          Nixon was at 44% overall when impeachment hearings began, and high 70s among Republicans.

          • NonyNony

            Thanks – I was looking for that number and couldn’t find it.

            And I suspect that there were two reasons that the impeachment process started for Nixon. One was that the Republican party was different then and there were more “elder statesmen” types in the party than there are now (were the ones who wear that label are hacks like McCain, Hatch and Graham). But most importantly the Democrats controlled both chambers and so the Republicans really couldn’t do much to stop the proceedings in the House and Nixon resigned before the Senate had to act.

            • ASV

              Control is the major factor. If Dems take the House in 2018 and begin impeachment hearings on January 6, 2019, pressure on GOP elites to act and to cue rank and file Republicans will be much different than it is today.

            • Marc

              There were actual tapes of Nixon talking about criminal behavior. The Watergate burglary itself was an easy to understand, obvious crime. The articles of impeachment were almost unanimously approved.

              Given the right circumstances I can easily see Trump meeting the same fate. It just has to be blatant and obvious (in the “thank you for the sack of unmarked bills, here is your contract” sort of way.)

              Vague, if serious crimes – think Iran-Contra – that seem political rather than obviously criminal, by contrast, simply can’t lead to impeachment in the current environment. And I’m afraid that nebulous ties to Russia absolutely fall into that category.

              • The shitgibbon is on camera admitting to obstruction of justice. Crickets from Republicans. I suspect he’s right that he could shoot someone and not lose his supporters.

    • q-tip

      My #nevertrump Republican coworker was telling me today that he wants a “return to normalcy” in 2020 – a safe, knowledgeable, wonkish technocrat. So I started musing out loud about how well Gillebrand or Booker might fit those criteria, and he brought up Paul Ryan.

  • LosGatosCA

    We’re running a very interesting social experiment right now

    Interesting in the same sense that watching a person commit suicide by leaping from the observation deck of the Empire State Building is interesting.

    ‘Gee, I didn’t know you could do that.’

    ‘I wonder how that’s even possible.’

    ‘Look, he’s slitting his wrists as he’s falling.’

    ‘That looks kinda dangerous, it could be bad in another 50 stories down.’

    ‘Hey, is that his family cheering him on? There must be a very complex back story to that.’

    • rhino

      So much winning in this comment

  • sleepyirv

    One of the peculiarities of the present moment is that a couple or three times a week Donald Trump does or says something that would pretty much destroy a normal presidency, but which seems to have little effect on either his popularity with Republican voters

    This is immaterial. Presidents never lose popularity with their partisan voters. Nixon didn’t lose them after Watergate, Dubya never lost them. Trump won’t ever lose them. The continual media fascination with Trump voters not giving up on Trump is a waste of time and resources that could be used for literally any other piece of news. Like who won an elementary school spelling bee.

    Elite Republicans, on the other hand, are a different story. They’ll have to face an electorate that’s bigger than just Trump voters. Their behavior can be changed. And more importantly, they can be removed from office.

    • LeeEsq

      Even in the shadow of Watergate and some devastating mistakes on Gerald Ford’s part during his administration and the campaign, Carter barely eked out a win during the 1976 Presidential election.

      • NonyNony

        A lot of that has more to do with the disaster that was the Democratic party in the 1970s and what mess they made at the end of the 60s with younger voters as it does with anything else.

        • rhino

          Oh, then that just FILLS ME WITH CONFIDENCE for 2018 and 2020.

    • NonyNony

      To your point, here are the numbers we need to keep in mind as we stare mouths agape at the fact that Republicans continue to support Trump no matter what he does:

      Lowest overall approval rating for W: 25%
      Lowest approval rating for W among Republicans: 55%

      Approval rating for W when he left office: 34%
      Approval rating among Republicans when he left office: 75%

      Trump may drop a bit lower than W among Republicans over the course of his 4 years in office, but anyone expecting him to go below 50% is fooling themselves.

      • econoclast

        There has to be an element of people dropping their partisan affiliation (at least to pollsters). So those numbers probably understate how much of his supporters he lost.

        • Ellie1789

          “a couple or three times a week Donald Trump does or says something that would pretty much destroy a normal presidency, but which seems to have little effect on either his popularity with Republican voters or on the support he’s receiving from elite GOP actors.”

          This is the part I really don’t get. But then, I didn’t get it during the election, either. The total lack of shame and any sense of limits to acceptable political discourse.

        • Redwood Rhiadra

          There has to be an element of people dropping their partisan affiliation (at least to pollsters).

          Stop substituting hope for facts.

          The truth is that GOP partisan affiliation IS NOT DROPPING.

          It’s been level or slowly rising for over a year now – it was growing quite quickly before that. But there are no signs whatsoever of any drop in GOP identification.

          http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/pollster/party-identification

          We Democrats, on the other hand, are clearly in trouble, with Democratic identification dropping like a rock since September. It is extremely unlikely we will win net Congressional seats next year, because most of those who have left will not be voting. And we can forget retaking the Senate.

    • ASV

      Presidents never lose popularity with their partisan voters.

      Yes, this is basically true. Instead, the voters lose their partisanship and stop identifying as Republicans. That doesn’t mean they won’t vote for Republicans in the future, or that they might not vote in the next Republican Congressional primary, just that they won’t tell a pollster right now that they’re a Republican. Unfortunately, most surveys don’t break that data out.

      • Redwood Rhiadra

        Unfortunately, most surveys don’t break that data out.

        Seriously? It took ALL OF FIVE GODDAMN SECONDS to find out the actual partisan identification results.

        Which do not show any signs of GOP identification dropping, as noted in my last comment.

        I’ve been seeing a lot of “the GOP must *surely* be losing voters, because it’s the only way to explain his high popularity among Republicans.” And it’s just not true, and this is easy to find out if you’re NOT IN FUCKING DENIAL.

  • JonH

    I suspect we’re going to need to equip Trump with a personal 10 second delay. Like, an astronaut helmet that sends his speech through an earpiece that McMaster wears. If Trump blurts out a secret McMaster could just push a button and squelch it, giving him time to confer with Trump to confirm if he really wants to do it.

    • Just_Dropping_By

      Sadly, LGM doesn’t permit embedding graphics, so you’ll just have to imagine a picture of the Get Smart! Cone of Silence here.

      • JonH

        That did come to mind, yes. That would be even simpler. We’d just have to coach whoever Trump was meeting with that they should look at him and give a friendly smile and make impressed expressions and interested gestures as if they are following his unheard soliloquy.

        Meanwhile Trump’s minder would conduct the actual business of the meeting, while Trump babbled on happily about his new laser pointer.

        • so-in-so

          Probably need an electric shock collar. The man will not be coached or constrained in “his” office!

    • Shantanu Saha

      Wouldn’t it be easier to just have a switch that cuts off the air supply to the helmet for something like five minutes? Problem solved!

  • Brien Jackson

    Long term, the problem is that one of our two political parties has become an honest to god authoritarian movement all the way down. I don’t see how that can end well.

    • CrunchyFrog

      Neither do I. The problem is severely compounded by the fact that media consolidation over the past 30 years means that all major news sources are now run by members of the elite faction within the GOP – they can’t stand Trump or the rubes who vote for him either, but they’ll be damned if they’ll let the Democrats get enough power again to raise their taxes, and they’ll do everything they can to make sure that Democrats are at most centrists on economic issues.

    • FOARP

      The real problem is with a political culture that does not punish authoritarianism, but instead encourages it, and with a constitution that actually, despite all the rhetoric, puts fairly low barriers in the way of an autocrat.

    • Junipermo

      True.

      But on top of the problem of the party is the problem of the voters. 63 million people either want a poo-flinging authoritarian man-baby as president, or weren’t discerning enough to see that’s what they’d get in Trump. Politicians respond to incentives–i.e., they do and say what they think will get them the most votes. When almost half the voting population actively supported Trump, there’s almost no incentive for a GOOPer politician or the Republican party to change. So then what?

      • Cheerfull

        The only thing a GOP politician might fear is that the general electorate in right leaning districts turn against them. Which is why the Georgia and Montana special elections could be becoming ever more important. If Republicans win them, that’s all the proof they will need to know that they never need change, at least for any selfish reason.

      • Matt

        When almost half the voting population actively supported Trump, there’s almost no incentive for a GOOPer politician or the Republican party to change.

        I mean, other than the “principles” and “morals” the GOP always loves to wave around as a distraction while they’re lining up for another round of deep-dicking the poor.

    • LeeEsq

      Its the illiberal problem that all liberal democracies face writ large. Part of the American electorate has always been insane rightists of various stripes. The formal and informal political culture and general culture has generally been able to keep them in relative check despite some occasional flare ups. What seems to happen is that power of these checks have greatly eroded in the past several decades and the insane rightists are in total control of the Republican Party along with some very cynical and very wealthy people that see them as useful.

      • CP

        The impression I get from Paxton and others is that whether or not a country goes “insane rightist” is pretty much entirely on the center right. Specifically, whether it chooses to throw the doors open to them or slam them in its face.

        Problem being that the center right is quite often unreliable as fuck.

        • LeeEsq

          That’s my impression to. If the Center Right thinks that harnessing the Insane Right is something that will work for them and that they can control them, your doomed. What you need is for a Center Right that guards against them constantly.

        • ASV

          I’m not sure about that. The American center right has employed the insane right as foot soldiers for 50 years, and even then we only got Trump through a series of ridiculous, needle-threading flukes.

  • vic rattlehead

    Re the image, Pynchon just turned 80 last week. Crazy.

  • FOARP

    It’s time to admit there is something wrong with so much power being invested in the hands of the presidency. Sure, you can elect a relatively wise and circumspect person to the post of president and they won’t misuse this power, but that’s not the point, is it?

    Contrast the US president’s authority with, say, that of the British prime minister, who does not have the individual authority to launch nuclear weapons (they need the agreement of the defence minister), cannot change the law in any respect without a majority vote in the Houses of Parliament, cannot grant a pardon, and can at any point be removed from their position by a majority vote in the House of Commons. Thus far no Prime Minister has ever been removed from power due to alleged criminality or personal wrong-doing (though Jim Callaghan lost an election forced by a vote of no confidence, and Thatcher was forced to resign after being run close in a party leadership election), compared to three US presidents who have been impeached or credibly threatened with impeachment.

    It is not enough to say “don’t elect morons”, the real problem is with the post which, were a moron put into it, they could cause damage unchecked.

    • McAllen

      But even with a Parliamentary system, we’d still have to deal with a thoroughly authoritarian Republican party, even if Trump himself has less power.

      • FOARP

        Well, with a parliamentary system (which is obviously a pipe-dream at this point) Trump would have had to have had the backing of his party (which he didn’t have until he became the nominee).

        But really the issue is with a president who is also commander-in-chief who can also make laws of a kind who also nominates supreme court judges who also ….

        A resilient constitution has to be able to withstand authoritarian morons holding positions of power. Now maybe there is no constitution that can actually guarantee surviving this, but the US constitution as it stands seems more vulnerable to this.

        • ASV

          Would he have? Trump never had elite support, but led throughout the primaries with voters. In a strictly UK-style system, his problem is that he has no home constituency; I’m sure the people of NY-12 hate him. But not having the support of his parliamentary party hasn’t put Jeremy Corbyn off the leadership, for example.

          • FOARP

            not having the support of his parliamentary party hasn’t put Jeremy Corbyn off the leadership, for example.

            But not having the support of his party would mean that Corbyn could not be prime minister – had he been a prime minister and lost a confidence vote in parliament there would have been a fresh election. Hell, had any of the Labour MPs who nominated him to “broaden the discussion” known that he might become leader they would never have lent him their vote.

            • ASV

              But if Corbyn somehow led Labour into government, do you really think Labour MPs wouldn’t make him PM? That seems no more plausible than the idea that GOP electors would all decline to vote for Trump (except that the underlying hypothetical Labour win is far more implausible than the Trump EC win).

              • Hogan

                A Corbyn who led Labour into government would probably be made PM. I don’t think anyone has ever seen that Corbyn.

    • LeeEsq

      The Presidency has evolved into something too monarchal and Congress isn’t willing to reign in the President when they can often enough unless its for really partisan reasons.

      • Domino

        I suppose you could say in theory checks and balances work – why would any one branch of government willingly cede power to the others?

        But in practice, the legislative has gradually ceded away power to the Executive.

        • sibusisodan

          The powers which have been ceded are ones which, for Congress, are all downside and no upside.

          There’s no electoral reward for a judicious analysis of whether to declare war.

        • N__B

          Garry Wills, in Bomb Power, puts the blame for this on nukes. They represent a threat that requires immediate action, not debate.

          • FOARP

            Hmm..other countries in the democratic world have nuclear weapons though, without this kind of complete ceding of power. Sure, the French president has always be fairly powerful, but that’s mostly because people still kinda-sorta take the idea that they might need to put down a revolt/coup.

            The Indian and Israeli premierships don’t see the kind of issues we talk about with the US presidency. If anything Israeli democracy is distinctly rambunctious.

            But hey, I haven’t read Wills’ book so maybe there’s more to it.

            • LeeEsq

              The US was always going to be the first target though and had an office capable of dealing with immediate powers.

            • N__B

              There’s more to it. Wills is an especially difficult author for me to TL;DR.

  • Cheap Wino

    (These are generally the same people opined there was no chance Trump would get the GOP nomination, and then followed that up by predicting with equal confidence that there was no chance he’d get elected).

    This was me, for sure. On the other hand, predicting how it will all turn out is bonkers. Predicting tomorrow is impossible with Trump, much less two, four years from now. At this point a Friedman Unit might as well be the time it takes to walk to Alpha Centauri for any useful foresight.

    • altofront

      Me, too. I don’t begrudge Paul the occasional “I told you so” because he did fucking tell us so, and endured lots of snark in the comments for it.

      The events of the last year have demonstrated to me that I understand sweet fuck all about politics.

  • grubert

    Another take; perhaps we’re actually lucky to have Trump right now. We ( Red America that is, ) were all primed for an authoritarian, thank God we got a totally incompetent one. By showing us the face of tyranny but not actually accomplishing it, Trump might be an inoculation, for a generation or so, to the far more dangerous competent tyrant.

    • Woodrowfan

      I worry the opposite is true. He’ll normalize the idea of an authoritarian president so we’ll end up with a competent one.

    • JKTH

      for a generation year or so

      You have much more faith than I do in the memory of the electorate.

      • ASV

        Really. Ford nearly won in 1976 after pardoning Nixon. People are dumb.

        • econoclast

          This cuts the other way, too. Bush Sr. looked unbeatable after the end of Cold War and the quick victory over Iraq.

  • NewishLawyer

    One of the peculiarities of the present moment is that a couple or three times a week Donald Trump does or says something that would pretty much destroy a normal presidency, but which seems to have little effect on either his popularity with Republican voters or on the support he’s receiving from elite GOP actors.

    I wonder how true this is. One of the things I’ve heard is that the post-WWII era featured an uncommon amount of bipartisan consensus and that for the past few years we have been returning to the mean regarding partisanship. From what I’ve read, media in the 19th century used to be much more partisan and much more nasty towards the opposition.

    But we all remember the bipartisan age here so we don’t know how bad things were in the 19th century or even the 1900s. But Trump does seem spectacularly corpulent even compared to other low-ranked Presidents.

    (1) This is in many ways a unique situation in at least American political history, so people who confidently opine regarding how it’s all going to turn out can be confidently ignored (These are generally the same people opined there was no chance Trump would get the GOP nomination, and then followed that up by predicting with equal confidence that there was no chance he’d get elected).

    I also think LGM folks are outliers among the left in lacking optimism. At least once a week, I hear conversations in liberal San Francisco about how things are going to improve any day now and Trump will be gone.* Last week, someone from law school was sincerely optimistic that Trump would be impeached and that Republicans were getting fed up with him. Yesterday someone in my office suite was talking about criminal indictments against Trump and a sealed something or other being out there. I don’t know where people get this information or misinformation. Everyone looked at me like I was chicken little or Eeyore for saying if Trump goes down, he is taking the Nation with him.

    So there are lots of Trump haters out there who are in some deep denial or there is something about being on the left that turns someone into a damned Pollyanna combined with extreme Kremlinology looking for signs.

    • twbb

      Pretty much. I mean, you don’t even have to go back to the 1800’s to find unstable craziness in our country, just look at the 1960’s.

      Anyway I’m not optimistic by any means, but I used to complain on here that everybody was giving him too much credit for planning an authoritarian regime and his own incompetence will hinder that.

      I realize now that even I was giving him too much credit — the guy is not a functioning adult.

      • LeeEsq

        During the 1960s, many institutions worked to keep the insane right more in check than they do at the Present. The state of technology and the Fairness doctrine denied them the power of Fox News, the Internet, and talk radio. They were mainly limited to distributing pamphlets and newsletters. The Center Right hated the hippies and the more educated, professional liberals but also still wanted to keep their insane members in check. Buckley was using the National Review to wage war against people like the Birchers.

        • twbb

          Yes, but the institutions are still there. I’ll be honest, I was worried that he would just order his departments to ignore court rulings, but didn’t happen.

          Also if he wants an authoritarian government, he’s done a poor job of trying to create one. I was worried he’d make every cabinet member a right-wing lunatic; it’s only half. I thought he might go off golfing full-time while he left Oberstgruppenführer Bannon do whatever he wanted. Bannon’s been largely pushed aside.

      • NewishLawyer

        Oh yeah, there were plenty of paranoid conspiracy theories during the 1960s. Stuff that Alex Jones would be able to spin.

        The truth is that the crazification factor is very real and not going away. About 15-30 percent of the population will always believe in really batshit insane stuff that has no basis in reality and these people might otherwise be functioning adults with jobs and everything.

    • cleek

      I don’t know where people get this information or misinformation.

      they get it from Louise Mensch, who has credibility problems but who spins a nice yarn.

    • MyNameIsZweig

      Yesterday someone in my office suite was talking about criminal indictments against Trump and a sealed something or other being out there.

      The sealed indictment story was all over the place the other day, but since I didn’t see any outlet I regard as credible report on it, I’m basically ignoring it until I have reason to do otherwise.

      And I hear the same conversations in SF. People here can be remarkably naive politically.

      • efgoldman

        People here everywhere in this idiot country can be are remarkably naive stupid politically.

        Closer to truth

  • Karen24

    We use it to discredit authoritarianism. We succeeded, mostly, in making things like homophobia and racism toxic in polite discourse, so we have to do this for the rest of the rancid package. Authoritarianism is pretty much the human default setting, so defeating it will take a long time and much effort. I do think it’s possible though.

  • Morbo

    I’m trying to drink less and eat better, but I find myself reading the news and wondering why I bother.

    • econoclast

      “Leave a beautiful corpse” is the traditional reason.

      • so-in-so

        That ship has sailed for some of us.

        Another reason?

        • Ahuitzotl

          Last one to die, wins!

  • DAS

    The good news, such as it is, is that President Dunning-Kruger doesn’t have the faintest idea how inept he is at every facet of his job, so that makes it more likely that he’ll get nothing accomplished

    What do you mean “nothing” (I do grant your caveat about “systematic way”)? He won an election that the GOP may or may not have otherwise been able to win by getting the deplorables to turn out and vote for him. He got another wingnut on the SCOTUS.

    Trump’s core of supporters don’t really expect him to actually do much anyway. If they thought government was able to do anything constructive, they wouldn’t have supported a blowhard like Trump and probably wouldn’t even be Republicans. Trump is giving his supporters the mean spirited authoritarianism they want, and he’s giving the GOP elites the free reign they want to wreck the country for fun and profit.

  • jimpharo

    This episode — coming as the culmination of a decades long quest by the GOP — has already created lasting ill effects to our society that we leave worse off for the indefinite future.

    A lot of Americans are waking up to the notion that the President is in many ways above the law. Much of what makes people crazy about Drumpf is that what he’s doing is unethical, shameless, hugely unwise, petty, ignorant, etc., but none of it is really against the law. (I’m sure smarter guys than me can figure out arguments that he has/is breaking the law, but what sheriff will enforce that writ?)

    Sure as shootin’, there will be a movement to put the Presidency itself on a ‘sound’ legal basis, such that there will be plenty of new laws trying to outlaw retroactively Drumpf, but in fact just laying a series of traps for future Presidents.

    By destroying the social and unwritten norms of our political society, Drumpf has pushed us forever towards a system less flexible, more regulated, and far more likely to be used for no-good political shenanigans than what we’ve had to date.

    I think in ancient Rome rulers were often indicted by their political opponents, but the actions were stayed so long as the incumbent remained in office. That’s not something I would wish for the good old US of A…

    • cleek

      the GOP’s 2018 bumper stickers will all read : “GOP: technically not illegal!”

    • Hogan

      Quo usque tandem abutere, Trump, patientia nostra? quam diu etiam furor iste tuus nos eludet? quem ad finem sese effrenata iactabit audacia?

  • Ellie1789

    In r.e. NewishLawyer’s suggestion above that the postwar period was one of exceptional consensus in US politics, Emile Chabal has made a similar argument about Europe: what looks like an unprecedented surge in the far right is actually a reversion to a normal level that had been depressed by the peculiar post-Holocaust/Cold War conjuncture.

    I’m not sure there aren’t at least a few other things going on, but it’s a very interesting argument that leads him to suggest that anti-fascism alone will be an insufficient political response.

    • Domino

      Well that’s depressing to think – is the natural tendency of humanity to gradually disassociate with others and bunker-down?

      Was the EU nothing but a pipe-dream that was never going to last? I have hope people my generation (mid-20s, and general millenials) in polling are better – but that mostly due to race. White millenials share roughly the same ideals as older whites. The reason it’s more left-leaning is entirely because of how diverse we are.

      • NewishLawyer

        Monarchist Parties were a real and serious thing in Europe for much of the 20th century. They played pivotal roles in the Spanish Civil War.

        The EU is a nice idea but seems more defuse than even the United States version of Federalism where we at least share a national identity.

        Real multi-culturalism is very hard. “Fake” or “soft” multi-culturalism where it is about the lighter stuff of culture/ethnicity (food, holidays, seemingly harmless traditions) is pretty easy. But different cultures have very different ways of doing things and I think sometimes the left thinks we can push this under the rug with a vaguely hippie-secular-upper-middle class bourgeois way of doing things from child rearing to free time.

        • twbb

          “Real multi-culturalism is very hard.”

          It’s common in a lot of major world cities. Whether it can be successfully accepted outside them is a harder question.

          • LeeEsq

            World cities aren’t liking to attract too many really traditional people with a few exceptions like the Hasidic Jews in New York. Most people who live in world cities are going to be there to make money, get power, and have fun. This means that enough people are adopting the sort of soft multiculturalism since to make it possible. Many residents aren’t that serious about their own culture.

          • LeeEsq

            There would be also plenty of people who would argue that the multiculturalism that happens in world cities isn’t real for a variety of dumb reasons.

          • NewishLawyer

            I’m not sure it really exists in World Cities either. I’ve lived in or near World Cities for my entire 36 years except college (and that was only 2 hours away from a World City). What happens in them is more like détente.

            My neighborhoods have always been part middle-class and above secular professional, college or grad students, and people of color (sometimes or often in public housing.) All these groups don’t really meat. They largely give each other peace and space but there is no real interaction.

            My brother lives in Williamsburg with its equal parts Haredi Jews, religious Hispanic Catholics, Eastern European Orthodox, Wealthy professionals, and young hipsters jammed into apartments. They do the same. Space is given but interaction does not happen. You see the Catholics parade down the street on their holidays and the Haredi decked out on Shabbat and Jewish holidays. But there is conflict too. A lot of the Haredi don’t like it when young hipsters (especially women) walk into the stores in summer wearing skimpy clothing. When the upper-middle class professionals began sending their kids to the local schools, there was a conflict because, surprise, middle class professionals want and need a different kind of education for their children than working-class Hispanics (who might or might not speak English) and resources are limited.

            • Domino

              Reading from people’s experiences, my understanding is that USA is the rare exception where the vast majority of people do not judge you based on where you’re from. Obviously tropes exist (backwoods of Louisiana, Appalachia, etc.) but there isn’t a general attitude of “Oh, you’re from Kentucky? You’re a thief who is probably addicted to drugs”.

              Obviously people judge others, but the US generally doesn’t write off people solely based on where they were born.

              I’ve also come to realize that Jews would face way more cultural clash issues if they made up a larger portion of the population. Especially Orthodox Jews.

              I was in NY this past Summer for 36 hours (stopped off there on my way to Montreal) and stayed in a hotel in Brooklyn at the edge of the Orthodox Jewish community. I walked to Williamsburg to meet a friend for dinner, and that took me through essentially the whole neighborhood. Not one issue walking, but damn is it weird to see every male dress and look the same. And the women have about 3 dress choices.

              It works to preserve their culture, but damn do I strongly disagree with the rules and would fight it tooth and nail if they attempted to implement it on me.

              EDIT: TL;DR essentially agree with NL. Even here in Kansas City, African-Americans got racially discriminated against in the 30s that’s lead to issues today. But good luck proposing and passing a law to try and undo the damage it has done.

              • LeeEsq

                Before World War II, there were plenty of cultural clashes between non-Jews and Jews in America. Restrictive covenants would apply to Jews and Jews would be excluded from many entertainment venues. They used to call religion in school issues “The One Jew” problem to.

        • Domino

          More I think about it, the more it seems humanity and evolution is so out-of-step with developments in human society over the past ~60 years, but there is absolutely nothing we can do about it.

          Even in countries that seem to work well, say Japan, there’s the same issues. Okinawa was only added to Japan in 1879, and they had their own ways and culture separate from the main 4 islands.

          Or how they’ve treated the Ainu, white people are actually are native to Japan.

          It’s really, really hard to make things work out among notably different people. And that is one of the biggest understatements I’ve ever written.

          • LeeEsq

            The Ainu aren’t white. They are relate to indigenous Siberian groups. The only reason people thought the Ainu white was because the men tended to have more body and facial hair than other Asians.

            • Domino

              Yeah, I say White out of convenience, but they are closer Siberian groups. Though there are a few that could pass as white.

        • CP

          Real multi-culturalism is very hard.

          I think multiculturalism only really has a shot when there’s another, overarching identity that all the disparate groups have in common and see as binding them together. I.E, in our case, “we might have different religions and backgrounds but we’re all Americans.”

          The entire Obama brand was a celebration of this. It was rooted in the American mythology of a country where anything’s possible and where anyone can rise to the top through hard work and talent; in the general sense of America as a country that hasn’t always been perfect, but strives to be better (“more perfect union”); and in the general yearning that people from all kinds of backgrounds, even and probably especially those that’ve been historically mistreated by it, to believe in their country and that it was as much theirs as anyone else’s. The patriotic appeal of Obama not just to black people but to immigrants, to Muslims, to people born in non-traditional families, etc, was phenomenal. That’s multiculturalism in one sense, but not in another because what everyone’s bound together is still a form of identity.

          And, of course, whether that model can or will have lasting success remains to be seen. To an extent, it already has, in that America’s done the melting pot thing for various immigrant groups. But just because it’s done it before doesn’t mean it’ll always work.

          • LeeEsq

            I don’t think you need an overarching identity to make multiculturalism work. It helps, but it isn’t required. What you really need is that people can’t take their own culture or other people’s culture that seriously. When you have people take ideas and identities too seriously culture is bound to happen.

            If you really believe that people are going to be damned to hell if they don’t accept Jesus Christ as their lord and savior than all this talk about religious freedom and tolerance is meaningless. The metaphysical stakes are too high. Your saving souls damn it and they might hate you short term but they will thank you long term. When there is less at stake, you get religious tolerance.

      • LeeEsq

        Most people have tribal tendencies and true cosmopolitanism is rare. Like Newish said, soft multi-culturalism of the “lets go out and eat bulgolgi burritos” variety is easy. Having many different people and cultures with some very different and often directly contradictory ways of perceiving the world living together without killing each other is harder.

      • MyNameIsZweig

        Was the EU nothing but a pipe-dream that was never going to last?

        I’ve always thought so, based mostly on the significant economic differences between some of the member countries, the language barriers, and good old-fashioned xenophobia.

        I am, however, nothing even approaching an expert on things European, so weight my opinion appropriately.

        • Ellie1789

          I can’t find it now (of course, but this says some similar things), but there was an interesting blog post recently highlighting evidence of a rise in active, pro-EU sentiment among young Europeans in the wake of Brexit and the various recent elections. The gist of the research is that there is a major generational divide on Brexit and in support for Euroskeptic parties and that that gap matters a lot. People under 40, aka “Generation Erasmus” or “Generation EasyJet,” are attached to the EU thanks to educational/cultural exchanges and easier travel that really are beginning to overcome the linguistic and nationalistic barriers. The recent unpleasantness has threatened the cosmopolitanism they have taken for granted, which is prompting them to speak more openly in support of a united Europe.

          Obviously there are major caveats here, most notably the often racialized, socio-economic limitations of the Erasmus/EasyJet identity, the failure of the EU to carry through on the promises of the educational/cultural exchange model (such as funding for universities to employ Erasmus-trained academics), and equally widespread frustration with the EU’s neoliberalism and “democratic deficit” (although the latter always seems to me exaggerated—one of the reasons EU institutions don’t represent Europeans because so many Europeans don’t bother to vote in EU elections). And the problem of low turnout among younger voters that leaves them underrepresented by/in political parties. But there is genuine support for the EU, if it can hang on until the nationalists die off and these young cosmopolitans get themselves engaged in politics.

          • NewishLawyer

            This is sort of what I mean when I see multi-culturalism and open borders is hard. Lots of liberals and many libertarians like to talk about how the free movement of people is important but I think the benefits of free movement seem to exist among the very dire (refugees or people whose countries are doomed to bad economies for generations) and/or the relatively to very well to do.

            I am a well-educated upper-middle class professional with no children. I have the money to spend on international vacations. My girlfriend is from Singapore and we spend Christmas with her family. We also have a lot of international friends. My parents also raised me with the idea that international travel and living is very important. So I benefit from free movement of people because I have the money and time and reasons to travel abroad. I like a world without needing VISAs.

            But most people including relatively well-off Americans spend most of their time very local and don’t leave huge geographic circles. For most people Freedom of Movement might mean a HB-1 Visa that retrains your replacement and a Vox article describing why this is really good.

            • Ellie1789

              Yes, absolutely. As someone in a rather similar situation, a world without visas is great and much easier, more pleasant than it is for others without those privileges. (Of course, the real beneficiaries are big corporations that can leverage/arbitrage variations in wages, regulations, etc.)

              But the European Union is different from, or at least aspires to be different from, the American relationship with places that require HB-1 visas. The Erasmus ideal is more like a United States of Europe, where identification with Europe as a whole would substantively alter people’s understandings of the “local.” In the European ideal, moving a factory from France or Germany to Poland would *feel* more like moving a factory from Detroit to Alabama. The local effects are the same, in terms of impact on employment opportunities, the tax base, population, etc., and the cause is pretty much the same (lower wages). But Americans (even workers) don’t experience/see Michigan-to-Alabama in the way that they would if the same factory were moved to Mexico or if production were outsourced to Asia (or to a robot). So they blame free trade agreements and immigration, rather than Republican-controlled state governments in the South or automation.

              I guess what I’m saying is that we need to disaggregate the structural/economic from the affective/political in thinking about these questions.

          • Mrs Tilton

            Are you thinking about this article from The Economist, perhaps?

            • Ellie1789

              Yes! Thank you.

  • MarkPalm

    Neither Wallace Stevens nor Thomas Pynchon deserve this association.

    “President Dunning-Kruger” is very finely rendered.

  • Brett

    A competent Trump just wouldn’t be Trump – he’d be someone like Paul Ryan with more charisma (and remember, if Trump goes down and takes Pence with him, Ryan is next in line for the Presidency). Ideologically devout, half-decent at spinning news, not particularly effective but he can keep the basics running, etc.

  • Colin Day

    Trump is the emperor of (two scoops of) ice cream. All the other losers only get one.

  • guthrie

    So basically the USA is finding out what living in a constitutional monarchy with a mad king is like.

    • Colin Day

      Is that what we get for breaking away from Britain before George III went insane?

  • Seanly13

    I still think that one scenario that has a high likelihood is that Ryan & McConnell hope to limp along to March 2019, then impeach Trump and install Pence as President. He’d serve out the remainder of Trump’s term but still be eligible to serve 2 full terms.
    President Pence and a Republican Congress would say “You thinkAtwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is scary? Hold my soon-to-be-prohibited-again beer.” I seriously fear that 2018 or 2020 may be our last national elections.

  • Quite Likely

    What’s a competent version of Trump? Take away the know nothing incompetence and there’s not much to distinguish him from standard Republicans.