Saturday, July 16, 2016

What it means that Trump tried to back out of choosing Pence

I won’t claim prescience on the Turkey coup from my Tuesday music post, but I will remind myopic Americans to pay attention before turning back to my personal obsessions, which I keep in perspective.

That is, Donald Trump.  I love the fact that he tried to back out of the Pence pick, even after the news leaked.  First, it demonstrates the central point of my article over at The Conversation, which is his lack of agency.  Despite his bluster, Trump was constrained by the party disunity he creates to choose Pence.  He doesn’t push people around, he gets pushed around, precisely because he tries to push people around.  Green lanternism backfires.

Where this gets interesting for me is that I have repeatedly referenced Nelson W. Polsby’s Consequences of Party Reform as a model of what a Trump administration might look like because Trump, like Jimmy Carter, is an outsider who has trouble with his party (see here and here, for example, but there are probably more scattered throughout the blog).  The point of Pence, and the reason I predicted him in April, was that he would assuage fears that Trump still needs to assuage among Republican leaders.

In my Conversation piece, I pose Pence as a potential Cheney figure, and that suggests a difference between a Trump administration and a Carter administration.  Cheney, like Mondale, was an insider.  The difference was that Bush let Cheney run the show.  Carter didn't delegate to Mondale.  Would Carter’s problems have been as serious had he done so?  Given my reading of Polsby, I don’t know, and alas, Nelson is no longer around to ask.  The counter-argument is that the Democratic Party was much less unified under Carter for other reasons anyway.  Still, one can easily imagine Trump delegating out of sheer laziness, which would help him with Pence running the show as a Cheney figure.

The distinction, then, between a Trump administration and the problems Polsby observed in a Carter administration would be between those issues in which Trump attempts to insert himself, logo-like, and those in which he allows Pence to run the show.

Of course, that assumes Trump can win.  PredictWise currently gives him around a 30% chance.

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