Sunday, March 4, 2018

Trump and a check-in on the "burn it down" theory

As long as I am revisiting old posts and old topics, a student recently reminded me of this.

Before Trump won, I posted something about what I called the "burn it down" theory of the presidency and the country.  The idea was that Trump might be so obviously horrendous, and such a failure that the result would be not just a repudiation of Trump, but a revitalization of the left, and push the country leftward, in the same way that the Great Depression led to the rise of FDR and the New Deal.

How's that going?

As I wrote recently, my political scientist colleagues in the Executive Politics section of the APSA are tripping balls on something, having declared Trump a worse President than James Buchanan, but he is, in fact, terrible.  Despite that, I note our distinct lack of being aflame.

The economy is good, we are not in any new wars, existing wars have not deteriorated... and...

What was I saying about wars?

Damn, has that stupid, fucking trade war started yet?  Trump is pretty bad.  Still, let's go searching for the fires to see what's been a-burnin'...

1)  Empiricism.  Amid the ashes has risen the vile, unkillable revenant of solipsism.

2)  Checks and balances.

3)  The health insurance individual markets, but it's a slow burn.

4)  The tax code, but like 3, it's a slow burn.

5)  America's ability to engage with other countries.

These, as I see them, are the main things we have lost.  Individual policies have hurt individuals and groups, but in terms of a burn-it-down assessment, I'm focused on the big picture.

Starting at the end, how much to we lose with 5?  Really, it's hard to say because it is a matter of what we could have gotten but can't because Trump is an international laughing stock.  Hell, Malcolm Turnbull-- a US ally-- does a Trump impression!

The new tax bill...  As I wrote repeatedly, I'm not opposed to tax cuts.  I'm not opposed to corporate tax cuts.  I can make a case for true tax reform, but the GOP's tax bill was stupidly written because they didn't bother to go through the normal legislative process of committee hearings, mark-up, debate, amendment, etc.  Instead, they wrote it in secret, at the last minute, literally by hand in the margins of the pages, without thinking through anything, and wound up with an infinitely exploitable, and downright stupid bill.  Tax policy is hard.  They fucked up, but the consequences of that are long-term, not short term.  And yes, Trump's anti-intellectual bullshit is a big part of this.

Similarly, the consequences of GOP sabotage of the health insurance markets will be slow to develop.  Removing the individual mandate without taking away the Obamacare regulations on pre-existing conditions is objectively stupid.  It is sabotage.  The pre-Obamacare system was just an ideological choice.  If you prefer less government support, then fine.  That's an ideological choice.  Removing the mandate while leaving the regulations in place, though, requires the insurance companies to cover the sick people without forcing the healthy people to buy into the system in a low profit margin business.  That could very well be a death spiral, or at the very least, cause a serious rise in premiums.  Add to that Trump's decision to cut off the cost sharing subsidies and you have a shit-ton of sabotage, intended to make the health insurance markets crash.  They couldn't repeal Obamacare, so they are just trying to turn everything to shit.  But it won't happen immediately.  Again, slow burn.

The thing about the slow burn is that it doesn't give you what I called, in my previous post, the Ra's al Ghul model.  In order for Trump's Presidency to be such a disaster that it pushes everything to the left, it has to be a clear disaster for conservatism, and the slow burn disaster of sabotaging the insurance markets and fucking with the tax code out of laziness and stupidity... that doesn't do it because the point at which the consequences materialize isn't a point at which Trump is necessarily in power.

Then, there's the fire versus acid issue.

1 and 2 are far more dangerous, in the long term, than anything Trump is doing on policy, and they won't lead to any public repudiation of Trump or the GOP because they operate through slow erosion.  Acid, not fire.  Or, hell, water.  Given enough time, the flow of water will break down damn near anything.

I am an empiricist.  I study empirical data, and I live in a world of facts.  I take the "science" part of "political science" seriously.  The application of the scientific method to the study of politics.  Donald Trump lies so frequently, so casually, and so egregiously that he has broken the country's ability to handle the concept of lying.  If anyone tried to call out every Trump lie, that person would do nothing but explain the nature of every Trump lie, and probably never get a break to do things like sleep.  Trump, though, is aided by a party that has decided to back him no matter what, and a media operation consisting of Fox News, talk radio and other institutions that have been trying to undercut the concept of objective truth for decades.  Donald Trump didn't invent birtherism.  He just rode it to the top of the Republican Party, but the fact that he could tells you something about the structure of the GOP and what constitutes "information" in that party.

I don't know if there is any coming back from this.  Once enough people get used to hearing only things that comport with their predispositions, getting them to accept information that doesn't is... difficult.  Trump is an idiotic, lying criminal, and quite possibly a traitor.  Given how many years of pro-Trump propaganda the Trumpists have been hearing, though, how would one ever correct the propaganda?

Brendan Nyhan at Dartmouth has done some of the most depressing research around.  Try to correct people's incorrect beliefs, and the more politically involved they are, the more your attempts to correct their false beliefs will backfire.

Then there's the total breakdown of checks and balances.  The GOP has made it clear that they are uniformly opposed to any checks on Trump.  Devin Nunes stands out as a particularly stupid and craven liar whose goals are to defend Trump, smear anyone who attacks Trump, and do so in the laziest way possible, but the entire GOP has his back, and the entire GOP has Trump's back.

Eventually, Robert Mueller will conclude his investigation, but let's be blunt about this.  Trump fired James Comey in order to shut down Comey's investigation into Russia-related matters, and admitted it on national tv.  If that had been a Democrat, that Democrat would be not just impeached, and not just convicted in the Senate, but in prison by now for the Lester Holt interview alone.

The GOP will not allow any checks on Trump.

Will the Democrats allow any checks on any Democratic President?  Do checks and balances only exist in divided government now?

Time for everyone to read Politics By Other Means, by Ginsberg & Shefter.  That doesn't count as checks and balances, though.

We no longer have a system of checks and balances.  Those are gone.

This is some serious damage.  Does it move politics to the left, though?  Nope.  Slow burn, or erosion, or acid, or something like that.  But, it doesn't move anything leftward.  It just destroys.

Putin wasn't backing Jill Stein and Donald Trump (same thing) to move domestic US politics to the left.

Make no mistake.  This is bad.  Very bad.  Without a fact-based discussion of politics, and without the capacity for checks and balances, we have some real problems, long-term, and that's far worse in the long-term than the sabotage to the health insurance markets and the idiocy introduced to an already stupid tax code.  Add to that the fact that our President is such an international joke that other world leaders literally do impressions of him, and yeah, Trump is doing real damage.

What he is not doing, though, is burning things down to such a degree that politics will shift left.

Then again, he might start a trade war!  That could bring on a new great depression!  So, who knows?

Then again, he might launch nukes, and none of this could matter.

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