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Fucking Politics, How Does It Work?

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“School reformer” Eva Moskowitz is optimistic about Donald Trump:

The next day, Moskowitz held a press conference, where she announced that she would not be joining Trump’s Administration but that she nevertheless felt hopeful about his Presidency. “I’m troubled by what I see as a sort of rooting for Trump’s failure, because that is rooting for our own failure,” she told reporters assembled in front of New York’s City Hall. “There are many positive signs that President Trump will be different from candidate Trump.”

[…]

I called Moskowitz on Sunday morning to ask her how she thought Trump could help the charter-school movement, and what she had heard from the President-elect that led her to believe he would change. (The conversation took place before Wednesday’s announcement that Trump had picked Betsy DeVos, a Republican school-choice philanthropist, to be his Secretary of Education.)

“I’m an American historian by training, and I’ve cited this example: Lyndon Johnson spent thirty years fighting against civil rights, and then became the President who passed the most sweeping civil-rights legislation this country has ever seen,” she said. “Often, governing is different from running. Look, I’m an optimistic person. I wouldn’t be educating children if I did not believe in human potential.”

There are…many flaws with this analysis, but at least Moskowitz was angling for a job. What excuse does Tom Friedman have?

Well, that was interesting … Donald Trump came to lunch at The New York Times. You can find all the highlights on the news pages, but since I had the opportunity to be included, let me offer a few impressions of my first close encounter with Trump since he declared for the presidency.

The most important was that on several key issues — like climate change and torture — where he adopted extreme positions during his campaign to galvanize his base, he went out of his way to make clear he was rethinking them. How far? I don’t know. But stay tuned, especially on climate.

Moskovitz and Friedman have, at least, achieved a level of political analysis more sophisticated than Freddie deBoer’s theory that political change comes from the unfettered individual will of presidents with a career-long devotion to unshakable principles. But, really, they’re still making the same fundamental mistake of failing to understand that presidents lead coalitions. Donald Trump doesn’t know anything about anything, including climate change, but it’s doesn’t matter — his entire party is set up (whether opportunistically or out of conviction on the part of individuals) as a tool of climate denial and environmental regulation, and that’s how Trump will govern: his choice of Myron Ebell to lead that EPA transition team is far more relevant than what he tells gullible journalists. I’m not sure he could name all nine members of the Supreme Court, but he’ll nominate Federalist Society hacks to the federal judiciary because those are the names that people will give him. Trump will have some influence on the priorities addressed within the Republican agenda, but the content will mostly be determined by Ryan and McConnell (and, hence, be terrible.)

It’s not actually accurate to say that LBJ governed differently than he ran. He governed like he ran in as a senator and he governed like he ran as president. He was much more progressive in the latter role because he was advancing different goals for different constituencies in a different political context. That’s how politics works. President Johnson was closer to the “real” LBJ than Senator Johnson — the New Dealers didn’t just get lucky when they favored him in the 1948 primary, even if Robert Caro fails to understand this — but it’s largely beside the point. Nobody would remember LBJ as a great president for civil rights or a transformative one for domestic policy had he been elected president in 1952. To the extent that Trump governs differently than he ran, it will be in the direction of Republican convention.

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