Notes on Trump (by Arthur Dent)

“If there was a left, we would be in a good position to finally rid ourselves of the pseudo-left who can be shown to espouse essentially the same anti-globalist and isolationist ideas as Trump. But in order for there to be a left, we have to be able to present a coherent economic program that explains how to unleash the productive forces of a globalized world for the benefit of the majority who only work here rather than primarily for the owners”.

* * * *


Arthur Dent – Thursday 2017-01-19

Even if I had a deep understanding of US and world politics and economics I could not hope to figure out what’s happening at the moment. We are at an important turning point in multiple processes, many of them dependent on unknowable contingencies.

But here’s an outline of some aspects that mass media analysts don’t seem to get.

The big event was Trump beating the entire Republican establishment as a complete outsider in a hostile takeover. Most attention has been directed at the subsequent defeat of the Democrats and the wailing and gnashing of teeth from their celebrities and media. But the situation on the Republican side is far more interesting.

Instead of splitting they have jointly celebrated defeating the Democrats and appear to have successfully formed a united administration. Both sides are indeed glad to be rid of the Democrat administration and can work together for reduced taxes, less regulation and some other points of agreement. It is also quite traditional for Republicans to accept budget deficits as long as they are not funding a Democrat administration. But the fact remains, President Trump has no party in Congress. They despise him and are cooperating only because they fear him.

Trump’s focus is on building his own party. If he had lost the primaries he looked like running as a third party (which he tried to do decades ago). If he had won the primaries but lost the election he would still have been at war with the Republican establishment, who could reasonably be accused of having treacherously helped the Democrats to win by attacking their own candidate. Having won, without any help from most of the Republican establishment he is now in a much stronger position to actually take over their party. If he doesn’t, they will find a way to get rid of him.

All members of the House of Representatives and one third of Senators come up for election in two years, together with State legislatures and governors. The mid-term primaries start in a year. Trump’s campaign organization has databases with more than 10 million email addresses and 2 million donors. Trump’s campaign more than doubled the numbers voting in Republican primaries (many of them former Democrats). Usually only small numbers participate in mid-term primaries and they are mainly mobilized by actual party activists – especially cronies of the local incumbents.

If Trump can keep his base mobilized over the next two years he will end up with a large party in Congress (and in the States) whether or not the Democrats regain majorities.

The media and celebrities are still helping by denouncing him as a deplorable outsider. That’s exactly what he wants to keep his base mobilized. He won because so many people are utterly sick of politically correct plastic insiders.

As far as I can make out the media actually do not get this. It is plausible that when they gave him enormous amounts of free publicity in the primaries they were consciously intending to help him beat the other candidates so that the Republicans would nominate a grotesquely deplorable candidate who would lose the election. But they actually seem to think it really matters that he has become more unpopular since the election under their onslaught. His popularity among Republican voters is what matters for the primaries and he is not harmed at all by attacks from media and celebrities.

So here’s one possible sequence of events.

Congress approves a fairly large infrastructure stimulus program and deficit as well as funding construction of a secure southern border and improved healthcare. Republican defectors would be outnumbered by Democrat collaborators.

Together with tax cuts and deregulation this has the expected effect of increasing GDP growth and thus jobs and wages at least in the short term. If Trump actually launched trade wars that could produce the opposite effect, even in the short term. But he can start lots of trade disputes that build momentum against globalism without actually initiating a trade war.

So Trump will be seen as having delivered. Many of his opponents will be removed in the primaries.

Hispanic hostility and Democrat mobilization against Trump’s immigration program won’t have much impact on Republican primaries since few Hispanic voters would register as Republicans. But this issue could win seats for Democrats at the midterm elections.

Assuming the Democrats get their act together and stop carrying on the way they are at the moment, they should be able to mount a serious campaign to win back majorities in the House and Senate at the midterm elections. But to do so they would presumably go with Trump’s trade policies, denouncing him for having not gone far enough. After all Bernie Sanders was a serious challenger to Hilary Clinton with protectionist policies (and against open borders) and Clinton actually announced opposition to the TPP in response. Arguably he could have defeated Trump.

So the result in two years could be that the US has shifted from a two party system in which both parties support globalism to a two party system in which both parties oppose globalism. If there was a Democratic majority their obstruction could be blamed for any economic decline that set in after two years.

In three years or so Trump could announce that the border was now secure enough to offer a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants without risk of encouraging more. That could produce a significant hispanic vote for a President that had actually delivered rather than merely attempted comprehensive immigration reform.

A major world economic crisis could break out at any time. I would be surprised if it was postponed for another 8 years. So I would also be surprised if an authoritarian demagogue was not President of the USA when it does break out.

The collapse of the old parties and their plastic politicians extends far beyond the USA. Lots of people are being drawn into thinking about politics for the first time. Their first thoughts are abysmally stupid and make them vulnerable to demagogues spouting nationalism and nativism. But many will end up thinking more deeply now that they have begun thinking.

If there was a left, we would be in a good position to finally rid ourselves of the pseudo-left who can be shown to espouse essentially the same anti-globalist and isolationist ideas as Trump. But in order for there to be a left,we have to be able to present a coherent economic program that explains how to unleash the productive forces of a globalized world for the benefit of the majority who only work here rather than primarily for the owners.

61 thoughts on “Notes on Trump (by Arthur Dent)

  1. Thankyou Arthur for your analysis of the situation with Trump. There are many ifs and maybes because of Trump’s unpredictability. Globalisation is a fact. Wishing it away won’t change the status quo. Trump’s America and May’s UK, whatever measures they take, will still, of necessity, engage in global trade. My real interest is the Middle East. Trump, with Putin, could force a fresh approach. Possibly, but perhaps that’s wishful thinking too.
    Generally, electorates have had enough of ‘plastic pollies’, the political class, and seek radical reform to address inequities, the environment and the changing work place. People are beginning to think about how they’ve been duded. This could be an early sprouting of political consciousness, neither ‘Left’ nor ‘Right’ but nonetheless transformative, perhaps even revolutionary.


  2. I think that the USA is finally going to go into decline and I agree with Arthur that the USA needs a left that can at least identify and address the problem (the problem being the existence of great wealth alongside great poverty) The US will go into decline because Trumps infrastructure spend is based on fantasy dollars as he plans to fund it through tax incentives. He promises to increase growth by tax cuts to the rich (this being a fundamental piece of Republican ideology) but is not good economics. He threatens to deport millions of illegals but any serious attempt at this will have a catastrophic effect on US agriculture as seen by previous state based anti immigrant moves. He plans to reverse free trade and introduce protectionism and this alone will cost the world and the US many points of economic growth and could well start a major worldwide crisis.
    He will get away with this partly because the US people are griped by imperial delusions USA USA sort of stuff and partly because of the cult of individualism and partly because the political system is so corrupt. The Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court gave corporations the same rights as citizens, The Senate is permanently unrepresentative the House is currently gerrymandered and the Presidential system is undemocratic with the candidate who wins by 3 million votes losing. Plus both parties are deeply into Wall Street banks with Trumps nominee for Treasury Secretary ex Goldman Sachs until he set his own bank up and foreclosed on thousands of homes.
    I don’t think that an effective left will come out of a better grasp of theory but through the struggle of people fighting for better wages, against police brutality and against deportations but I’m not that optimistic, wasn’t it Marx who said you have to fight with the left you have not the left you want


  3. A few thoughts.
    I am not sure who Trumps supporters are. There are a lot of people dissatisfied with with a number of issues and Trump provided an outlet as did brexit. How quick do these people learn from this and what do they learn? I am sure they are not all Trump supporters and can dump him as quick as they adopted him. I think he has a task to hold on to them.

    As for stimulus through infrastructure spending I am unconvinced about this as well. I am not sure of the benefits under normal circumstances but when there has already been so much stimulus spending one wonders even if it will have an impact at all. There is also a problem with the FED deciding to pull back it’s stimulus. You have one side trying to stimulate and the other side backing off.

    with borrowing for stimulus in normal times (and these are not normal times) then one has to look at where you borrow from. If it is outside the country then perhaps this could introduce new capital. If it is local then it would seem to be just attracting spending from other activities. The government loans are A grade and would get priority and then down the line there would be crowding out until you get to junk bonds. The question then is which provides more stimulus? Over time it could be infrastructure but in the short term it could be that those needing this funding go bankrupt before any effect from infrastructure spending takes effect. Are the bottom feeders, the IPO’s etc more effective at stimulating the economy?

    The central bank just printed money and put it out there to not only provide liquidity and save the banking system but to provide a lifeline to these bottom feeders. I would agree it was a trickle down situation with an unknown amount reaching the bottom but up to now it has provided growth and stalled a depression


  4. Brian,

    1. I’ll try to do an article on Trump’s foreign policy soonish, Study so far (eg Mike Flynn’s book) too confusing/deranged so waiting for more evidence.

    2. “Neither left nor right” does not mean transformative, let alone revolutionary to me. We are in a very unusual period with no left. That will change.


    3. Certainly reflects ongoing US decline.

    4. Private funding of infrastructure stimulus is largely fantasy to avoid admitting to huge deficit, But funding with debt is not fantasy in short term. The problems come later,

    5. As indicated in article I don’t expect him to actually attempt millions of deportations. Do expect much less open border and much harder to hold job without documentation followed a few years later by path to citizenship so agriculture and other menial labor employers have to pay the minimum wage like other sectors and hispanics can start voting for Trump second term.

    6. Protectionism will be catastrophic but I am expecting noisy preliminary trade disputes rather than all out trade war initially, Big danger is when both parties become protectionist as I now expect.

    7. Peculiarities of US electoral system are what Democrats like to focus on to avoid thinking about why so many Americans despise them. Actually Trump spent half as much per vote as Clinton, Got most of his media attention free from “mainstream” denunciations.

    8. Trump’s appeal is not to “imperial delusions”. “America First” is isolationism similar to Obama and the pseudoleft, not “America Uber Alles”.

    9. Without theory people fighting will end up sucked into the fight that Democrats are planning which will denounce Trump for not going far enough with protectionism.

    10. Umm no, that was Comrade Rumsfeld on armies for overthrowing fascist dictatorships. Marx was generally inclined to fight against the left he had for the left he wanted.


    11. Agree that lots of Trump voters are more hostile to “elites” than they are tied to him. Today’s inauguration speech supports my view is that he is very much focussed on expressing their hostility to the “elites” to win the 2018 primaries.

    12. Debt financed stimulus generally does have multiple effects – immediate increase in growth, offset by crowding out, future debt problems. Independent central banks intended to avoid the notorious electoral cycle of politicians stimulating the economy to win elections.

    13. The Fed has been trying to avoid financial collapse, not stimulate growth. They will now be able to take different measures to avoid financial collapse for longer, which will hinder the growth (eg because of higher interest rates and stronger dollar). I don’t have any relevant expertize and as far as I can make out the experts don’t either. But expectations of increased growth from Trump’s policies (excluding trade policy) seem to be uncontroversial. Indeed the expectation of increased growth and tighter labor market is the entire reason for expecting a Fed reaction. How long that can last is another matter. I am only claiming it can plausibly get him past the primaries.

    14. Seems plausible that people are sick of “trickle down” policies that have avoided financial collapse since 2008 but have left median wages stagnant and declining while “elites” benefited.

    15. BTW part of his policy seems to be to get US capital to return home from abroad, with tax concessions. That would presumably both stimulate the US economy and intensify the world crisis.


  5. I guess there’s no prize in guessing that I have little faith in the America in decline theory basically because I tend to rely on facts and the facts are these. After WW2 say 1950 The USA had the only well functioning Capitalist economy and could claim a bit over 20% of world production. The most recent figures that I have seen say that the US claims about 18% of world production of goods and services. This relatively small decline is accomplished in the face of the rise of new economic powers such as Japan and China but not lets just look at relativity lets look at how the US compares to itself current GDP $18,036.65 Billion, peak US GDP $18,036.65 Billion yes they have never produced more than they produce now. Even if we look at constant dollars current is $16,727 compared to peak $ 16,727 yes currently they are at their most productive
    Is this due to population growth? Well no GDP per capita is currently $5,1638.10 peak you guessed it $ 5,1638.10. The figures if they don’t lie state that the US is at its most productive but has slipped relative to other countries but not by much.


  6. Hi Tomb thanks for the graphs which I think are an effective demonstration of the America in decline argument however my position is that the figures can be interpreted in 2 ways One way is ‘see figures prove the decline was 30%+ now is -20%’ The other way is to say that the US GDP has continued to grow but so have others many much more rapidly but off a much lower base. Would we rather have a world where the US was rich but Europe remained a devastated wreck or no industry for Japan and Korea. It is great the China and India are now industrializing and as in all previous growth spurts industries move away from high wage cost areas to low wage cost areas, this is globalization and this is good for the world and for America but hard on steel workers in the USA rust belt hence their susceptibility to the protectionist rants of Tangerine Mussolini.


  7. 12. think we will see if the GDP grows but still doubt under the present circumstances there will be any growth. Theory says lowering interest rates and lowering currency will increase growth and with both these going in the opposite direction cant be good

    13.Not fussed about “uncontroversial”. The Central Banks have gone beyond just increasing liquidity especially in the US. The Fed has been looking to get out well before Trump was elected. They stated last year they were going to raise rates and the next step was offloading their bloated balance sheet. I can agree they can step this up with Trump promising growth.

    15. Yes he has said he will repatriate however this is complex. May not see much returned as it may not be the best return. What they do with the money returned, i.e. just push stock price higher etc. The money that is already being repatriated produces less income, zero sum game with other countries forced to offer better deals than now. Again pressure on interst rates and the dollar etc


  8. Tomb
    12 and 13. Reagan’s budget director seems to agree with you:

    (But part of an ongoing “Sell everything, keep only cash and gold, the end is nigh”)

    I’m not claiming Trump won’t intensify crisis. Just that the postponement (with subsequent intensification) could last till after the mid term primaries and elections.

    15. Repatriation seems to also be linked to “America First”. My understanding is that with growth there is a positive sum game in which it is possible to reach amicable agreements on sharing the spoils. No growth is zero sum so inherently less cooperation. Negative sum makes conflict difficult to avoid. You “win” by not losing as much as the others. Full cooperation for free trade is the first best, but the second best generally involves retaliation rather so without the major efforts to ensure cooperation (which are still only at the stage of WTO and regional blocks rather than a word single market) there are lots of opportunities for an “X first” policy to make short term gains for X as expense of Y, Z etc with only longer term negative consequences for X that also make things even worse for Y and Z,


    16. Bernie Sanders is acknowledging the central importance of Trumps fight with the Republican establishment:

    Donald Trump did something extraordinary — something that nobody, but nobody, thought he could do,” said Sanders, who lost in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination to Hillary Clinton.

    “Trump took on the Republican establishment, took on the Democratic establishment, took on the media establishment and he ended up winning the election to become President of the United States.”

    “That is an extraordinary accomplishment. And it talks about perseverance. It talks about very strong political instincts. It talks about a way to connect with people. So I give Donald Trump his due.”

    17. Since the inauguration mainstream articles have started to appear with references to the looming primary battles between Trump supporters and GOP incumbents:


  9. 15.I agree there is a chance to win in the short term but think it is a small chance. The money coming back seems like it might go into unproductive areas whereas the going the other way may come from productive areas and therefore cause an overall loss.


  10. 18. Repetition of passing reference to safe zones in Syria. Again buried and ignored.

    Despite the natural fit between non-interventionist isolationism and Trump’s “America First” protectionism and nativism, I would not rule out the possibility of his getting involved in Syria.

    While backing the Egyptian military dictatorship, Mike Flynn explicitly treats Assad as an enemy. His most deranged stuff claims an existential threat of the US being placed under Sharia law unless radical islam is stopped. Although even more ludicrous than “Weapons of Mass Destruction” as the rationale for overthrowing Sadaam it does not suggest an inclination to continue Obama’s disengagement that has so far resulted in half the population of Syria being displaced.

    The difficulty I am having figuring out what their policy will be could relate to them having a different approach to selling it to a fundamentally isolationist base as well as opinion leaders.


  11. 19. BTW same link hints that the different approach could be along the lines of “we are seizing Syria’s oil fields to prevent Daesh (and/or Assad) using them and to pay for protecting the Syrian people in safe zones”.

    Not even a “hint” really but part of comments not telegraphing punches. Again buried.


  12. 20. Above 18 and 19 were based on the interview linked in 18. I had not then seen the more recent Reuters report of a draft executive order to prepare plans for Syrian safe zones within 90 days:

    That pretty well settles it and means it is not buried. Presumably the Gulf states will be required to pay, along with contributions from others and perhaps military contributions from UK, France and Germany as well as Turkey.

    Hopefully the Democrats, celebrities and media will mobilize against it and help consolidate Trump’sbase in favour of it despite it running sharply against their isolationist instincts.

    As they would point out, keeping Syrians safe will require long term occupation during transition from Assad regime with capability for waging war not just monitoring peace. The regime needs somebody it hasn’t been murdering to surrender to and fighting won’t just stop as a result of ceasefire agreements unless there are forces in place with superior firepower to anybody that wants to keep fighting.

    It was criminal that Obama did not do this. I am inclined to give Trump a bit more credit but the least that can be said is that he looks like desisting from this crime.


  13. This confirms battle is on for Republican primaries:

    Presents as Koch brothers on offensive against any backsliders towards Trumpism.

    Reality more likely to be defence against Trumpist challenges to incumbents. Probably unsuccessful if past is any guide to future.

    Bizarrely mentions defection of various Koch operatives to Trump as Koch influence within Trump organization.

    The sort of economic case they make seems unlikely to be much stronger than this:

    ie Wages can be kept lower with free trade due to cheaper consumer goods.

    Other tendency will be to say jobs lost to automation (“robots” or “technology”) rather than trade.

    They can’t discuss problem being capitalism.

    We should do that as part of their side against the populist demagogues. Bolsheviks allied with the (Bourgeois) legal marxists against the Nardodnik populists.

    On the Trump side several organizations are already being rolled out including one led by Guliani and Gingrich:

    Less predictable outcome for battle with Federal bureaucracy:

    But if they win Congress majority they can then abolish permanency and purge enemies.

    Meanwhile there is already plenty of hostile leaking and sabotage. eg Phone call to Australia, maximizing chaos in immigration ban, bizarrely blaming Trump for approving a military recommended raid in Yemen that had problems. There will certainly be lots more.

    After 2 weeks Democrats and their media and celebrities show little sign of actually recovering from branding themselves as the party of mindless outrage. They are chasing every dead cat Trump throws on the table to distract them.

    This article shows some are aware this goes nowhere and want to shift to economic relevance of interest to traditionally Democrat workers who have swung to Trump, but does not spell out central stance on protectionism and globalism. I don’t see any way they can get their “identity politics” zealots to follow Steve Bannon’s advice to “shut up and listen”. Instead they having hysterics about being censored and/or betrayed by others in their camp actually listening to people they need to win around instead of just denouncing them without understanding them:

    Here’s a sober analysis of how the media is destroying its own credibility:

    A less sober but more accurate analysis is in the neocon Weekly Standard linking to illustrations that Trump has successfully driven the Democrats insane:

    I can remember the fringe Democrat blogs sounding insurrectionary against the Bush administration. But this time its the mainstream media, not fringe blogs. Even the intellectual’s liberal magazine, The Atlantic, has been begging the Republicans to mount a coup d’etat installing Vice President Pence as President when Trump demonstrates that he is insane.

    My assumption that the Democrats would eventually get their act together and could then win the mid-term elections (but still lose to the Trump dominated Republican party in 2020) is looking shakier. Its only been 2 weeks so they may stop being insane. But at the moment they look more like losing seats in the midterms.

    Lots of evidence supports my analysis that Trump is focussed on the Republican midterm primaries (and doing very well with INCREASED support among those who may vote in those primaries). Still seen no sign of mainstream media having understood that.


  14. yes I think you are right that he will focus on the midterm but not sure if this will help him. Could go either way if he doesnt produce results and up to now he hasnt but has been able to pretend he has because of the media melt down. Assume this will end in the near future and he will be better scrutinised. At the end of the day bluster and heavy handed approach wears thin and it comes down to what you deliver and you cant bluff that as people know if they have a job or not. I think we agree he will blame those opposed to him however that is a weak position to hold especially for a blowhard. Interesting times and Donald is having the game played on his terms at the minute but when that changes he may not have built enough support to survive. wish him luck in his battle with the bureaucracy but the tables are stacked against him and he cant sack them all. He is good at polarising people and destabalising things so we are in the best position we have ever been in in my lifetime


  15. Tomb

    Lost a draft response and don’t have much time. Will add short notes:

    21. Critical issues are deficit and infrastructure spend for GDP growth and jobs. Democrats may not cooperate on those:

    Good tactics by old guard to avoid getting immediately swept aside by protectionist Democrats adopting Trump’s trade policies to win back their base.

    That would intensify fight between Trump and mainstream Republicans who join Democrats in obstructing deficits. I can’t see him losing in the primaries – even the bungled immigration order has about 90% support among Republicans (interestingly Mexico wall slightly less popular).

    If Democrat old guard succeeds they are less likely to win a majority in midterms than the protectionist wing would be. Could go either way.

    But either way his supporters would correctly blame those obstructing his program for the lack of growth and jobs.


  16. Just a few quick thoughts
    Think the deficit will become THE issue in the future but now the problem is the insatability he is causing. I agree this may suit his supporters whoever they may be but it wont bring them what they want. Again am not convinced he has that many supporters. Some of pauline Hanson’s policies would have majority support but that doesnt mean they support her. Think the support he has is not cemented but rather floating. Am more worried about donald 2.

    Infrastructure spending may also not deliver in time for the primaries There is a lag between actually getting any response from infrastructure (most seem to think at least 2 years) and the cost of of infrastructure. The cost not only being the increase in the deficit but also the increase in interest rates. I think it will be a race to see whether the loss of jobs effects his more than the increase.

    The talk of trade wars may be exaggerated but the disruption to trade with mexico and canada if NAFTA is ditched would also drive up costs, interest rates etc. Not sure his low paid supporters are going to be happy with an instant surge in food prices.

    There are well established supply chains and to change the structure is not something that can be achieved in the short term without pain. Think he has a simplistic protectionist agenda that would require more time and insight than he has.


  17. 22. Will respond more to Tomb over next few days. Meanwhile in personal conversation Tomb mentioned that Trump might be keen on investigation of voter fraud partly because corruption in Republican mid-term primaries will help incumbents against Trumpist candidates (for both federal and state positions). This link supports that:

    “Trump on Sunday announced that he would put Vice President Pence in charge of what he previously pledged would be a “major investigation” of voter fraud, which he believes accounted for 3 million to 5 million illegal ballots in the presidential election, costing him the popular vote.

    Republicans, for the most part, aren’t enthusiastic about a broad federal review of a matter they feel should be left to the states.

    McConnell said that while fraud occurs, “there’s no evidence that occurred in such a significant number that it would have changed the presidential election.” He told CNN Sunday that he does not want to spend any federal money on the investigation and that “the states can take a look at this issue.”

    Of course other reasons include:

    1. Providing supporters with a comeback against the fact that he represents a minority and Clinton had more support. Doesn’t have to be believable.

    2. Assisting the campaign for tighter voter ID etc which Republicans have been using to encourage less Democrats to register and vote (especially blacks etc).


  18. 23. Media still congratulating themselves on Trump approval rating declining daily. More important is approval among Republican voters which remains steady just under 90%.

    Still haven’t seen ANY other article discussing Trump’s focus being to mobilize base for Republican primaries. Cannot imagine none of the apparatchiks in both parties think about it. Am surprised not to have seen any writing about it although I guess they might not be motivated to do so in media I am looking at.

    24. Likewise very little on Democratic primary battle which I expect must be intense. Bizarre media behaviour in helping Trump win Republican primaries by confirming he is hated by “elites” could be related to Democrat battles. The “blue collar caucus” and others that support competing with Trump on a protectionist platform also prefer toning down the continuous outrage. Soros et al promoting hyperventilation may help marginalize them as all true Democrats are now required to unite while melting down in rage at both Trump and his base. I guess that makes it harder for them to even think about winning people away from his base and thus safer for Democrat incumbents challenged by protectionist pseudo-lefts.


  19. Thanks Tom!

    That January 30 NYT article is just what I could not find!

    Should have prompted lots more in the 2 weeks since?

    I wrote the following before seeing your link:

    25. Gallup has longer summary analysis of its approval poll at 4 weeks:

    Summary mentions that approval among Republicans comparable to previous Republican Presidents. Usually they only mention total and you have to lookup details to get the more important analysis.

    Actually table near end shows his Republican approval greater than almost all predecessors.

    While this continues Republican Congress won’t do much that could invite lynch mobs to come after them. Meanwhile media continues to help ensure it continues with attacks that are over the top even as parodies of what Trump supporters might imagine that self-obsessed bubble dwellers could write to each other while deploring them.

    One article at Wapo has partly noticed:

    “He isn’t terribly concerned about being unpopular. All he truly feels the need to do is keep his base happy.

    And he’s doing just fine on that count.

    A new poll from the Pew Research Center shows Trump’s GOP base, if anything, is slightly happier than many other recent presidents’ bases have been. For all the talk about how Trump’s approval ratings are the lowest for a new president in modern history and all of the increasingly public hand-wringing by elected Republicans, actual GOP voters are still very much onboard the Trump train.”

    That article even mentions that Trump has VASTLY increased his support among Republican voters who in fact were NOT his base, but still just casually refers to them as “his base” as though they had never covered the primary campaign in which the entire Republican establishment opposed him and were defeated by him. They are completely oblivious to the actual campaign now going on to win that base.

    All the media “truly feels the need to do” is keep THEIR base happy. It STILL hasn’t even occurred to them to think about the Republican primaries and how things will look both in 2018 and 2020 if Trump is actually backed by a large party instead of almost completely isolated in Congress.

    Trump continued holding campaign rallies after inauguration and has resumed doing so but nobody mentions the Republican primaries! To the bubble media Trump’s continued election campaign mode is just bewildering and further evidence of how stupid he is. They think THEIR campaign against Trump is the ONLY important campaign.

    At the moment they seem to have convinced themselves that they have “almost” got rid of Trump as a “Putin lover”. In openly supporting the intelligence agencies to move against him as the “deep state” protecting “national security” they have “crossed the rubicon”. It isn’t just a “celebrity” calling for a military coup before inauguration day, the MAINSTREAM media is as flipped out as the far fringe pseudoleft blogosphere was during the Iraq war.


  20. Won’t have time for studying Trump or anything else for a while, perhaps a long while. So will just dump some links and thoughts without proper editing:

    25. I should have said “Trump continued holding campaign rallies after election” (not “inauguration”) “and has resumed doing so but nobody mentions the Republican primaries!”

    26. Media and Democrat meltdown and heads exploding is still intensifying despite quite a few articles drawing attention to it (though still without actually acknolwedging that they are doing just what Trump wants them to do to consolidate his base for Republican primaries – merely that it is obviously counterproductive and stupid and should stop).

    Even the British Financial Times is publishing stuff that presents the “deep state” moving against the elected President as “a choice between Mr Trump and the US constitution.”

    27. So for me the mystery of Trump’s bizarre behaviour is fully explained by its spectacular success in helping his opponents convince his base that they are stark raving mad and that Republican incumbents not willing to fully support Trump’s fight against them should be removed. The primary battle is already openly under way and intensifying.

    Some of it began before inauguration. In fact immediately after election – and even before.

    28. But the mystery of why it is still intensifying after have got so ridiculous in just 4 weeks remains. One element is just abysmal stupidity and obliviousness but I still think another is tactical calculation. Here’s some links relevant (though not conclusive) for my theory that having their heads exploding may be an effective tactic for preventing them thinking about how to win back Trump supporters as such thinking would be likely to hand the party over to protectionist wing that was a real challenge to Hilary Clinton and could arguably have defeated Trump if the DNC had not rigged the primaries in Support of Clinton,

    Seem like the incumbents and protectionists are both marching together like lemmings behind the heads exploding policy.

    But maybe not. The insistentce on absurdity also suggests they feel a need to shout down Democrats whose heads haven’t exploded, not just “deplorables” – which doesn’t suggest confidence but just shrillness. We’ll have a better picture when new DNC chair announced shortly.

    29. On the budget (including healthcare improvement and “wall” and infrastructure) it looks like they will cooperate to deliver a Reaganesque deficit. That’s what he needs for sufficient GDP growth to get more midterm seats from Democrats instead of losing some. He needs that plus support from pro tax and spend democrats to make up for Republican defectors and get an even larger stimulus for 2020 elections:

    For more on Reganesque budgets see David Stockman (Reagan’s Budget Director) describing some of the tricks used:

    30. 19 Republican Senators would need to join the 48 Democrats to remove Trump by impeachment (or for incapacity under 25th amendment section 4 which is also already being clutched at by Democrats losing their minds). That is likely to get even harder after one sixth of Senate is replaced in two years:

    31. Foreign policy still mysterious. But I am still hopeful it would be hard to be worse than Obama and could include safe zones in Syria (as well as leaving Israel swinging in the breeze with “one state” and a Palestinian majority demanding a vote like South Africa).

    32. Trade protectionist still being built up slowly. More likely to be disputes and WTO cases than all out trade war immediately. Has appointed people who know and how to do that and others who know how to whip up public opinion for more. I still think the big danger is later when momentum has buiilt up and especially when protectionist wing of Democrats demand less gestures and more action.


  21. More link dumps:

    33. Here’s Tom’s last link to FT via Google as it does not work direct:

    I think he’s right about rabbit chasing (previously explained by Gingrich). Don’t agree it is so brilliant. More that the rabbit chasers are stupid. Bizarre that article ends with “buy” ie says Trump bubble to continue.

    Still does not get it that focus is on keeping Republican establishment paralysed.

    34. New New National Security Advisor seems less deranged. Dropping phrase “radical Islamic terrorism”. Still not clear whether shifting from previous inaction over Syria but I am still hopeful.

    35. Here’s a delightful bloviation complaining that NYT isn’t hysterical enough!

    36. “Sustainable” resistance from social-democrats:

    i.e. just keep on keeping on with the same ideas that go nowhere

    ” The rise of the hard right to some degree is the result of our lack-luster movement building efforts over the past three decades — our failure to get out of our silos and link together. Our current organization models and theories are failing against the challenges from the hard right.”

    37. Democrat internal fight emerging:

    DNC chair won by incumbent machine (Perez). But base still driving “total war”:

    38. Follow the link within this article to excellent denunciation of liberals support of intelligence agencies against elected President from wikileaks lawyer Glenn Greenwald:

    Then return to the article for confirmation that they really are so comitted to this that a serious attempt to respond can only quibble about the term “deep state” and take it for granted that “resistance” from the federal bureaucracy is what liberals naturally rely on – presumably because that is who they are – the bureaucracy.

    39. It’s rare to find stuff I actually agree with so I’ll quote Greenwald extensively:

    “Their most valuable instrument is the U.S. media, much of which reflexively reveres, serves, believes, and sides with hidden intelligence officials. And Democrats, still reeling from their unexpected and traumatic election loss, as well as a systemic collapse of their party, seemingly divorced further and further from reason with each passing day, are willing — eager — to embrace any claim, cheer any tactic, align with any villain, regardless of how unsupported, tawdry, and damaging those behaviors might be.

    The serious dangers posed by a Trump presidency are numerous and manifest. There is a wide array of legitimate and effective tactics for combating those threats: from bipartisan congressional coalitions and constitutional legal challenges to citizen uprisings and sustained and aggressive civil disobedience. All of those strategies have periodically proven themselves effective in times of political crisis or authoritarian overreach.

    But cheering for the CIA and its shadowy allies to unilaterally subvert the U.S. election and impose its own policy dictates on the elected president is both warped and self-destructive. Empowering the very entities that have produced the most shameful atrocities and systemic deceit over the last six decades is desperation of the worst kind. Demanding that evidence-free, anonymous assertions be instantly venerated as Truth — despite emanating from the very precincts designed to propagandize and lie — is an assault on journalism, democracy, and basic human rationality. And casually branding domestic adversaries who refuse to go along as traitors and disloyal foreign operatives is morally bankrupt and certain to backfire on those doing it.

    Beyond all that, there is no bigger favor that Trump opponents can do for him than attacking him with such lowly, shabby, obvious shams, recruiting large media outlets to lead the way. When it comes time to expose actual Trump corruption and criminality, who is going to believe the people and institutions who have demonstrated they are willing to endorse any assertions no matter how factually baseless, who deploy any journalistic tactic no matter how unreliable and removed from basic means of ensuring

    All of these toxic ingredients were on full display yesterday as the Deep State unleashed its tawdriest and most aggressive assault yet on Trump: vesting credibility in and then causing the public disclosure of a completely unvetted and unverified document, compiled by a paid, anonymous operative while he was working for both GOP and Democratic opponents of Trump, accusing Trump of a wide range of crimes, corrupt acts, and salacious private conduct. The reaction to all of this illustrates that while the Trump presidency poses grave dangers, so, too, do those who are increasingly unhinged in their flailing, slapdash, and destructive attempts to undermine it.”

    Needless to say I don’t agree with some other stuff in the article eg opposing intervention in Syria. Related to that I incline more to viewing the quite extraordinary behaviour of the intelligence agencies as more a symptom of the general liberal meltdown than of specifically “deep state” intelligence agency issues. I think it’s the sense of Democrat entitlement to run the state that is making their heads explode and while using the ingelligence agencies this way should be treated more seriously (including criminal prosecution) I suspect those doing it are not acting to protect the “deep state” but just degenerating generally in the same way as all the rest (in imitation of the “fake news” from birthers etc on the other side).


  22. 40. Here’s the latest detailed poll:

    Click to access 17057NBCWSJFebruary2017Poll.pdf

    As well as confirmingTrump’s continued approval among Republican primary voters the historical figures show VERY substantial decrease in negative ratings and increase in positive ratings recently as compared with the election campaign (Q9).

    Also confirms most of those who voted for him did so despite not having positive opinion of him personally.

    Interestingly Q23 shows increased belief that free trade helps rather than hurts US with other surveys showing increased opposition to free trade AGREEMENTS.

    Needless to say the reporting focuses on “record low popularity” but they are now starting to notice a “partisan divide” which in fact reflects the overwhelming revulsion among Democrats which is indeed at record levels compared with the usual “honeymoon” in which both sides unite around “our new national leader”.

    There is however NO partisan divide on Q16a:

    “Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? “For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost.”

    86% agree!

    41. Here’s the “total war” by Democrats I meant to include in 37:

    42. Here’s an example of the sort of tactical analysis that would support “total war” as a strategy. If it could prevent Democrats voting for infrastructure spending and bigger deficits that some Republicans would vote against and thus get “low information” Trump supporters blaming Trump for economy not improving as promised that could help Democrats.

    But also relevant is whether such “tacticians” could actually prevent Democrats supporting infrastructure spending and what would be happening on the Republican side.

    If this report of postponing infrastructure to next year is correct then it could result in a Democrat House majority facing a Trumpist House minority after 2018 midterms. Both sides would then vote for big infrastructure programs and deficits thus helping Trump win in 2020 (apres moi le deluge).

    May have a clearer picture on economic policy and timetable after Congressional speech by Trump shortly.


  23. 43. Trump Congressional speech had nothing substantive. “Normal” platitudes. Bizarrely hailed as a turning point by the media that had been screaming hysterically when he wasn’t just another boring politician. But then reverted to usual carping (perhaps milder). Then renewed burst of hysteria about Attorney General having spoken to Russian Ambassador.

    Prior to speech there was some testing of the waters about a future path to citizenship istead of mass deportation for undocumented immigrants (much more explicit than previous hints). But only “guest worker” status suggested in speech. I still expect comprehensive reform with citizenship to be the eventual outcome (as the Vulcans say “Only Nixon could go to China”).

    44. Pollsters analysing approval ratings for detailed forecasts of midterm results:
    Despite major upheaval NO interest in analysis of the primaries which must be far more important than before for the outcome. I don’t get how it is possible to be blind to this when both major parties were so publicly reduced to rubble:

    45. A theoretical journal for Trumpist intellectuals has appeared from the West coast Straussians around Claremont Institute:

    Continues from blog “Journal of American Greatness” originally started as an in joke and abruptly deleted when positions on white house staff became available:

    Both worth careful study despite pretentiousness.

    Even has Hegel on meaningful labor!

    At least they do get it that the denizens of conservative think tanks, are as useless and corrupt as the liberals.

    46. Also worth noting is David Frum’s GOP apparatchik perspective in The Atlantic:


    NYT publishing an advisor to BOTH the Trump and Sanders campaigns on trade policy. The emergence of a two party system with both parties protectionist seems likely – Democrats will be denouncing Trump for not going far enough while he remains constrained but that will only build momentum.


  24. 48. Polls now showing Trump approval increasing overall. Typical coverage is to bury that in passing while focussing on comparisons with other Presidents and ongoing dislike of his personality:

    49. Meanwhile Trump, has nearly 90% approval among Republican voters and much more among likely voters in Republican primaries. He is now almost openly threatening Republican incumbents with primary battles if they block the healthcare replacement he is backing:

    “During the hour-long meeting, sources said Trump chastised the groups — including Club for Growth, the Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity, FreedomWorks and the Tea Party Patriots — for calling the House GOP proposal “Obamacare lite,” warning the tea party activists, “you are helping the other side.”

    “Confident that the health care plan will pass the House, Trump laid out his strategy for winning passage in the Senate, telling the meeting he will campaign heavily in red states featuring vulnerable Democrats up for re-election.
    “Trump said he will have football stadium events in states where he won by 10-12 points and he is going to dare people to vote against him,” a source at the meeting said.”

    But the obsession of Democrat media with the mid-term elections between Republicans and Democrats enables them to report and discuss both the threat and the audience it was addressed to above, and notice that the purpose of the threat was to encourage Republican incumbents to back off – but WITHOUT noticing the implication for the primaries. It would be hard for anyone but a Democrat journalist to miss the point for that audience of Republican opponents of Trump – there could also be football stadium events in the States of Republicans who are “helping the other side” – supporting their opponents in primaries.

    Also interesting that a “compromise” with them could be to move forward their desired cutback of Medicaid funding to the States from 2020 (when he would run for second term credibly promising not to do it) to 2018 (when any attempt to do it would damage those attempting it at both primaries and elections).

    50. Bloomberg’s Eli Lake seems to have a better grasp of what’s going on, explaining that by claiming Obama had wiretapped his campaign Trump got the intelligence agencies who have been fighting him to insist there was no investigation of the Trump campaign and no evidence of collaboration with Russian interference, thus squelching the main focus of the media on “sources” from the deep state “suggesting” there might be:

    The presumably sardonic reference to “dumb luck” is probably enough for the media who have now switched to being outraged about Trump claiming to have been wiretapped to not even notice what just happened to their previous campaign despite it being spelled out for them.

    51. This LRB article on the “deep state” sheds a lot of light on the “liberal” mentality. I also found the comments very interesting:


  25. 53. Hard to tell whether the liberal media meltdown and bizarre fantasizing is subsiding. But I am certainly noticing more articles drawing attention to how counter productive it is:

    Here’s some links from above that nail it pretty well:

    Hopefully the benefits of this liberal head exploding to the Trumpsters and the deep state will be relatively short lived. But the damage to the liberals certainly deserves to last forever. They have descended into the same level of deranged muck as right wing talk back radio shock jocks – way beyond anything Phil Ochs sung about in “Love me, I’ a liberal”:


  26. 54. This seems like a plausible account of how the “Russiagate” leaks campaign got out of control.

    But it certainly justifies prosecution of those directly involved yet is based presumably on “confidential briefings” from their associates, exonerating those associates.

    There is a relevant distinction between confidential briefings for damage control and a malicious campaign of innuendo. But it is somewhat along the lines of the “Yes Minister” quip – I give confidential briefings, you leak, he gets prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act.


  27. 55. Remarkably good stand from a Fairfax journalist, Nicole Hemmer:

    Melbourne’s “The Age” print edition Tuesday 2017-03-14 p9 has variant title “Trump haters mustn’t go post truth.

    If even a fairfax journalist has come this far there may well eventually be an opening for some kind of mainstream united front including revolutionary democrats as well as more conservative opponents of openly anti-democratic politics.


  28. 56. The Atlantic has noticed that Trump’s popularity among Republicans is what matters not his unpopularity among Democrats although still not noticing that this explains much of his behaviour or discussing how Democrats and liberal media have been helping him by their behaviour:

    Discusses consequences for health care legislation and pins hope on Senate blocking it.

    My guess is there will be LOTS of to and fro. Concessions to fiscal conservatives will be removed by Senate and some unviable compromise reached which can be fixed up later (including later attacks on cost drivers from Big Pharma etc). Trump would prefer a Canadian/Australian style single payer system but cannot do that without first replacing a lot of Republican incumbents in 2018.

    57. Fox poll shows slight drop in both overall and Republican approval. Has interesting details. eg less support for immigration exclusion than overall and lots of specific issues for health care etc:


  29. 58. Latest Gallup shows continued drop in overall approval rating to lowest level so far. Details not seen yet but I would expect this to reflect continued drop in Republican approval since Democrat disapproval already saturated. If details continue the trend in Fox poll (57) I would guess this mainly reflects disappointment with “Ryancare” and will get worse as it goes through the House. My assumption is that this would then be blocked with the Senate Republicans protecting Medicaid expansion and major struggle over reconciliation between House and Senate versions. Trump would be campaigning with local rallies against the many House and few Senate fiscal conservatives who join with the Democrats to “keep the collapsing failed Obamacare or make it even worse”. If he loses he can just not sign any bill that does get through both Houses and “try again n 2 years” (ie after midterms). Everything would then be up in the air.

    More likely he would win, since Reppublican oponents don’t really want everything up in the air and cannot credibly pretend they do, whereas Trump can. So Trumpist popularity among primary voters would be reinforced and Republican incumbents cowed for subsequent battles. Not enough House opponents would expect to survive blocking it and although there could easily be enough in the Senate to block it they would then be going against solid opposition from the rest of the “united” party. Conceivably if the plug is fully pulled from Obamacare enforcement of mandatory enrolment so it really does go into a death spiral a couple of Democrat Senators, especially in purple States, could offset a couple of recalcitrant Republicans.

    59. Source not reliable but this “straw in the wind” is interesting:

    “‘Bannon is definitely our ally’
    Cruz, Lee and Meadows made the case for going further with the American Health Care Act, the name of the bill introduced by House Speaker Paul Ryan and other senior Republicans, and backed by Trump. According to the Republican source, discussion included phasing out Medicaid expansion earlier and repealing Obamacare rules like essential health benefits and requiring insurers to allow 26-year-olds to stay on his or her parents’ insurance — one of the most popular provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
    Notably, Bannon appeared receptive to the conservative contingent, while Priebus and Bremberg advocated for Ryan’s approach.
    “Bannon is definitely our ally in the White House,” the Republican source said.”

    Nothing else I have seen suggests that Bannon is any kind of ally of conservative Republicans. I can easily imagine him being keen on having them take an unpopular stand and either get defeated on it or have everything thrown up in the air. But I also find it hard to imagine they would be stupid enough to not see the trap so I cannot rely on this source.


  30. 60. This CBS poll is interesting:

    Lots of detail. Too much to absorb but quick skim reinforces my prejudices/impression that Trump is successfully polarizing in a way that makes him VERY likely to emerge with a strong Trumpist party in Congress after 2018 midterms which could result in second term after 2020 whether or not it also results in a Democrat majority in House.

    Some interesting points:

    “21. A) Healthcare is a right and all people deserve it, regardless of what they can afford

    B) Healthcare is a service to be purchased like any other, based on what people are willing or able to pay”

    Only about 40% of Republicans and strong Trump supporters support A.
    But among people who “support if deliver” it is 50% and Dont support Trump but could” 75%.

    So one would exect Trump to stick to his position of improving on Obamacare and not signing anything that makes things worse. The traditional Republican position B) is no more viable in America than it is in the rest of the developed world and incumbents clinging to it is as much pointless hot air as their equally obsolete culture wars. They DO still have a base among half of conservaive Republicans but no plausible hope of maintaining a viable governing majority or even keeping much of that base in Congress after contesting primaries against candidates backed by their parties leader.


    27. Illegal Immigration
    Should most illegal immigrants working in the United States be
    A) Offered a chance to apply for legal status
    B) Deported to the country they camefrom

    Republicans are 46% A to 54% B. “Support if deliver” same. Full Trump supporters even worse (39%/61%). “Dont support Trump but could” are 75%/25%.

    So I still expect Trump to go for comprehensive immigration reform after announcing the border has been secured.

    Note that the wording is important. Above focuses on “illegal” and “most”. This triggers widely held prejudice that many immigrants are criminals.

    Fox poll (57 above) has:

    “Now, thinking about how the U.S. government should treat illegal immigrants who have
    been in this country for a number of years, hold a job, speak English and are willing to
    pay any back taxes that they owe.

    Would you favor or oppose a bill that allowed those immigrants to stay in this country
    rather than being deported and eventually allow them to apply for U.S. citizenship?”

    Total in favor increased from 81% at start of 2014 to 90% in March 2017.

    Among Republicans and Trump supporters 87% and 84% respectively (cf 96% for Democrats).


  31. 62. Correction to 61. Q24 was not from Fox poll in 57 above but from CNN/ORC poll:

    Article confirms strong shift in public opinion AGAINST nativism. Article focus is on hostility to Trump. That is part of the picture – eg many more Democrats supportive of immigrants than before. But it is also partly because the “build the wall” theme was seen as a necessary precondition for allowing legalization. Similar situation in Australia where loud hostility to even refugees arriving “illegally” has suppressed opposition to a much higher immigration rate than most other developed countries.


  32. 63. I really try to find rational explanations for weird political stands, by trying to understand how the situations looks from THEIR perspective. But it’s hard to avoid accepting that either liberal media actually BELIEVE some convincing evidence will be found of collusion between Trump and Russia or they have NO CONCEPTION OF STRATEGY OR TACTICS whatever.

    Today they are busily boosting the FBI and NSA directors for confirming that there has been since last July an investigation of Russian interference in the election and of whether there was any collusion from the Trump campaign.

    “1) Comey told the House Intelligence Committee that not only was the FBI investigating Russian interference in the campaign but he also dropped this bombshell: FBI agents are probing potential “coordination” between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. This investigation could lead to criminal charges.

    Comey’s exact statement (emphasis added):

    “I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts. As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.”

    None of this is new.

    But announcing it has to be followed by concluding the investigation and ending the speculative leaked smearing. So despite REPEATED previous public statements that they haven’t found any evidence so far, the media still has a “bombshell” expecting criminal charges.

    Unless they actually BELIEVE there WAS some coordination and there WILL be some evidence and possible charges, surely they would not be boosting the people who will soon have to announce the results?

    After all the FBI Director has been blamed by the Clinton campaign for costing her the election both by announcements of investigations of her email server and by not announcing counter intelligence investigations of the Trump campaign.

    And the NSA Director, Mike Rogers was reported as having gone to see Trump before inauguration as the Obama administration were looking at removing him:

    Shouldn’t they be preparing to denounce a “cover up”?

    The other 4 “take aways” do suggest it really is STUPIDITY. They are so easily distracted, so easily consoledd and so completely oblivious.

    Here’s the 2 distractions Trump has provided them as takeaways. They are actually boosting the FBI Director and NSA Director for having confirmed that they were just distractions!

    “2) There was no wiretapping of Trump Tower by President Obama or anyone else.”

    “3) Rogers rejected the possibility that British spies had eavesdropped on Trump Tower at Obama’s request, as the White House suggested last week.”

    Here’s the consolation:

    “5) Comey and Rogers stood by a U.S. intelligence community report released in early January that concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin had authorized meddling in the election to undermine U.S. democracy, to harm Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and to boost Trump’s chances.”

    Here’s the obliviousness:

    “4) Two hearings were occurring at the same time. Democrats pressed for details about ties between Russian officials and Trump’s current and former aides, and sought to lay out an elaborate but circumstantial case of potential nefarious activity by the Trump campaign.

    Republicans didn’t rush to defend Trump. They instead sought to redirect the hearing’s focus onto another potential crime: leaking of classified material.”

    That “potential crime” ACTUALLY HAPPENED. It isn’t just speculation like the “collusion”.

    What is being investigated is who did it. I would have thought there would be a lot less enthusiasm for boosting the FBI and demanding special prosecutors from this camp, but they seem really slow on the uptake.

    64. Meanwhile it is comforting to know that the local Trump wannabe, Andrew Bolt doesn’t have the same skills and just doesn’t get it.


  33. 65. Surprisingly, the Guardian has a better account of Trump’s ultimatum to vote on the healthcare bill immediately than others I have seen:

    Most reports say the outcome is too close to call. I don’t have a good enough understanding of American politicking to be sure, but my strong impression is the drama is overblown.

    The Senate bill is where the real fight will occur. The concessions that have been made to ultraconservatives in the House are bound to get removed there (and some won’t even be considered there since only fiscal measures can get through without a Democrat filibuster). Then it would come back to negotiations between the two Houses.

    So moderates in the House who have have announced their rejection of the concessions made to ultraconservatives have no reason at all to block it going to the Senate and are purely posturing. The ultraconservatives have no sound tactical reason to take the blame for blocking it from even getting to the Senate since they will have far more grounds for blocking it when it comes back.

    By taking the initiative Trump only strengthens his position and exposes the posturing.

    If it doesn’t work he’s certainly better off simply moving on rather than letting it drag on.

    Latest polls confirm Trump’s approval dropping among Republicans for the first time, clearly because of the concessions to ultraconservatives. That fall merely confirms how little chance they would have against Trumpist candidates in the primaries after having sided with the Democrats to preserve Obamacare.

    66. BTW the saga doesn’t end if Democrats get a House majority in 2018. Trump would still end up with a large party in the House of Representatives and it would be very hard for Democrats to get a majority in the Senate because most of the vacancies are for seats currently held by Democrats (and in States won by Trump). By 2020 it would not be unreasonable to expect a 3 or 4 way contest for President with splits in at least one and probably both of the current two parties. If, as seems plausible, no candidate gets an absolute majority in the Electoral College the election gets thrown to the House of Representatives. Even if Trump opponents have a large majority in both the Electoral College and the House, the House votes by State delegations in electing a President (1 vote for each State decided by the majority among Reps from that State). In 2016 Trump won in 30 states. If the Electoral College is deadlocked he only needs 26 States in 2020. I see no reason to assume that opponents would defeat his candidates for a majority of seats in the House in enough of the States that he won in 2016.


    • not sure what you are saying here. I assume the republican party will split if not formally then as it is now internally. The democrats may do the same and split internally not formally and it then comes down to who hates who the most and donald wins that hands down so he is number 4. The democrats may be able to unite to defeat him but the republicans will not unite to defend him in fact assume they organise an independant to stop him.

      He will not win enough seats in 26 states and cant even begin to imagine how he could. Imagine he will be a lame duck after the primaries but have no real idea of how that turns out too many variables at the minute. It seems he may not get his program through and this for someone who says he is the one to get deals done it has to be a setback and whingeing about how he was stopped by congress may appeal to the political bottom feeders but it wont wash with the “you’ve sacked” mob.

      He has to produce thats why they voted for him and being beaten may means some turn up at the primaries to roll those opposed to him but his support will diminish as it becomes obvious he cant deliver.


  34. I am also unsure what support Trump actually has. 90 or 80 % of republicans supporting him is normal. They support a republican president as they are republicans. The real support will be known when republicans realise trump is at war with their party. I assume the figures drop and it will depend on how many who joined the party to vote for a president stick with the bandwagon and get involved with primaries. It may vary well bring down the republican party but it may also bring trump down. assume the democrats can hold it together for a couple of years if they see the republicans imploding.

    I also assume it is becoming obvious for most now that the war has broken out, with Trump blaming the republican party for the non healthcare policy going down. One deal not struck! It may now be a battle as to whether the health care policy was worth supporting and imagine very few would think it was. Trump supporters could not have been happy with it and if Trump had opposed it saying it wasnt good enough then he had some leverage but suppoting it and now claiming it as his by blaming those who opposed it he has exposed himself to supporting a flawed and hopeless health plan. Assume it depends on how much people hate the status quo and how much they want health care.


  35. Tom:

    67. The interesting thing is that as well as having formed a unified administration at all, despite most of the Republican establishment having fought him, he is now the undisputed leader of the Republican party. The inevitable split will be some of his opponents breaking away and eventually running a third party candidate. At present it is the Koch brothers Tea Party factions that are isolated. There is no way that either they or the Democrats are going to out poll Trumpists in most of the districts where Trump won in 2016. He can thank the Democrats and media for having consolidated him as Republican leader.

    68. There’s a lot of unpredictable stuff likely to happen before the 2018 primaries. But if his opponents lacked the tactical sense to let the healthcare bill get as far as the Senate they are unlikely to perform brilliantly in coming events. The Democrats and Koch brothers united to help Trump get the difficult problem of healthcare off the immediate agenda that he was stuck with by having run as a Republican, and let voters experience the actual collapse of Obamacare. Trump spent less than 3 weeks on that but still managed, with Democrat and media help, to give the impression of (incompetently) leading the Republicans to defeat at the hands of their hated enemies and traitors within.

    69. The polls aren’t in yet but I’m wrong if his support among Republicans has not just increased again, back towards 90% after having fallen to about 80%. I believe his support among Republicans went down when he did NOT fight against the Republican establishment by supporting Ryancare. He has NOT blamed the Republican party of which he is now the leader. He blamed the Tea Party (and of course Democrats).

    70. Some coming events are pretty certain to include not getting a tax reform through because various RINOs sided with the hated Democrats to derail it.

    71. Less certain but pretty likely is a government shutdown when they join together to block appropriations.

    72. If he’s lucky they might even refuse to lift the debt ceiling and force a US default.

    73. None of this is likely to make his incumbent opponents popular in 2018 primaries. All of it is likely to keep his supporters mobilized and organized.

    74. AT PRESENT he is a lame duck because HE HAS NO PARTY IN CONGRESS. After November 2018 he will have a large party in Congress. Even if the Democrats have a majority in Congress that does not make him a lame duck. They would be even more likely to do stupid things like impeaching him (with no chance of a 2/3 majority in Senate to remove him).

    75. So by 2020 I would expect the Democrats to have split. It would be difficult for them NOT to split over infrastructure. Maintaining “OPPOSE EVERYTHING” as a policy when the Republicans are unenthusiastic about an infrastructure deficit but the Democrats can get it from Trump is not going to be easy to maintain unity on.

    76. It is of course possible that in the 2020 Electoral College a Koch brothers ultraconservative, a Clintonite and a Sandersonian could agree among themselves as to who should become President so that Trump does not. But the only reason it might be possible for them to agree is that if they don’t, the election would be decided in the House of Representatives voting by States with Trump having a much larger proportion of States than he does in the Electoral College.

    77. To see how easy it would be for them not to agree. Try explaining whichever of the 3 combinations for agreement seems most plausible to you.

    a) Clintonites and Sandersonians agree to support Koch brothers President.
    b) Koch brothers and Clintonites agree to support Sandersonian
    c) Koch brothers and Sandersonians agree to support Clintonite.

    78. BTW Scott “Dilbert” Adams has an interesting series on Trump as a “Master Persuader”. Here’s his take on the latest:

    (and follow link to video on future “deal”)


  36. Koch brothers know they arent winning and dont think that is what they will be trying to do they want to stop Trump. They will agree with clintonites most likely but it will be a battle between clintonites and sandersonians and that may depend on how protectionist policies play out in the next 3-4 years. I assume the opposition to protectionism will build worldwide and it will depend on how successful that campaign is in the USA as to whether the sandersonians win


  37. 79. Re 69, first gallup poll since healthcare says I’m wrong as approval rate did not rise among Republicans from previous days. Continued fall from peak 89% to 84% after 86% a few days earlier.

    80. Not sure whether Tom means Koch brothers agree with Sandersonians to elect Clintonite or agree with Clintonites to elect Sandersonians, Either more plausible than Sandersonians and Clintonites agreeing to elect Koch brothers. But neither would be easy. Agree that opposition to protectionism will eventually build worldwide. But initially I expect Democrats to split with Sandersonians supporting protectionist policies opposed by Koch brothers and denouncing Trump for not going far enough (and Clintonites trailing behind as in 2016 election).

    81. So far no split and Sanders even following the general Democrat idiocy asking “What do the Russians have on Mr Trump”.

    82. But the logic of the situation seems likely to end up with Democrats having to do deals over ending government shutdowns, defaults, avoiding healthcare collapse and doing infrastructure. The unity on total head exploding about Trump that is keeping the incumbents from being thrown out by Sandersonians should then crack.

    83. Here’s some links on necessary deals for healthcare (which to me implies splits among Democrats).

    Bloomberg calling for it:

    Republican establishment fearing it:


  38. Koch brothers know they cant win and are not there to win. They are there to stop Trump so it is a matter of who they hate the most and it is trump. Therefore they will just go with whoever the democrats propose but assume they would prefer clintonians to sandersonians. I dont think things will stay as they are, opposition to protectionism will build and not sure how that plays out. Sanders won but keeping that momentum will be difficult and assume it can only go down and if so then they dont win the democratic party and you have an easy call for the Koch brothers


  39. Tom,

    84. Ok so Tom selected 77 hypothetical option:

    c) Koch brothers and Sandersonians agree to support Clintonite.

    Sure it is easy for Koch brothers to prefer Clintonite. But to end a 4 way split in Electoral College the Sandersonians would also have to agree, perhaps despite being much larger than the Clintonites, conceivably also larger than the Trumpists and having had a bitter split with the Clintonites in which their willingness to support Trumpist deficit budgets for infrastructure programs etc was a major issue. eg Could be Electoral College %s 35 Trumpist, 40 Sandersonian, 15 Clintonite, 10 Koch brothers. Not easy for the 40 to agree to support the candidate that only had 15. Some of them might prefer to see what happens in the House where they expect to be in a stronger position eg the voting in House by States might be 49 Trumpist, 43 Sandersonian, 5 Clintonite, 1 Koch, 1 split state representatives. They might expect that to end up as 50 or 51 to 49 for Sandersonian against Trumpist. They might be right and they might be wrong and they might prefer the possibility of being wrong to surrendering to the minority they just split from over their willingness to compromise on some issues with Trumpists. It’s all hypothetical but there is no certainty Trump could not be relected by polarizing successfully despite getting even less of the popular vote than in 2016.


    • it wasnt actually a selection more a picture that is most likely to eventuate. Koch brothers dont choose they are there to defeat trump and as I said it will play out as to who the democrats choose and imagine if the sandersonians have a huge majority then they win but Trump does not. The problem with Sandersonians winning is that the populists have to have a reasonable majority in both parties and while that seemed to be the case in the last presedential election it is unlikely to be the case in the next one. I assume the globalists are better organised. Populism will wane and not sure how that plays out in both parties or in voting patterns but it wont be a whitewash which you are suggesting for the populists.

      If the democrats dont split and assume they dont then the Koch brothers support whoever represents the democrats and it is clear cut.


  40. 85. I am inclined to agree that if the Democrats don’t split then Trump is unlikely to win in 2020.

    But I think his focus is on polarizing so that he gets a large party in Congress after 2018.

    Already he has vividly demonstrated that he (and indeed anybody) cannot get healthcare through without bipartisan support. That is likely to be confirmed for tax reform and infrastructure.

    If that continues his large party from 2018 would still not be able to achieve anything and Tom’s expectation that Trump supporters will be demoralized by 2020 is plausible.

    But that requires the Democrats to reject things their supporters want like infrastructure spending and a working healthcare system. Doing that did not work out well for Republicans and it is not likely to work out well for Democrats. So I expect them to split once there really is an option some of them want to vote for and others don’t (which has NOT happened up to now but has NOW been prepared for by the healthcare defeat). Polarization plus sharply opposed policies within a camp naturally encourages splits.

    Here’s another link on why Trump needs to (and will) look for bipartisan support on healthcare:

    “With a Republican House majority of only 21 votes, these hard line conservatives can scuttle any bill—and for these reasons they have scuttled this one.”

    “The terrain in the Senate is really no different. With a two-seat majority, at least three Republican Senators generally share the views of these hard-right House conservatives—Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Mike Lee of Utah.”

    I was expecting a demonstration of that situation in the Senate, which hasn’t happened. But it is likely to happen over deficits, tax reform and infrastructure.

    86. Trump never had any plan for achieving much without a large party in Congress. I don’t see how he ever could have. What would such a plan look like?

    87. My article just before inauguration day explained his unusual behaviour since election as part of a strategy for keeping his base mobilized to win primaries against incumbent opponents in 2018. He was actively encouraging the media to work themselves up into a frenzy, which consolidates his base. The fact that it does also mobilize the other side was an unavoidable side effect that doesn’t matter all that much (especially when they have gone for bizarre hopes that the intelligence agencies will save them from him which is guaranteed to eventually backfire).

    88. If he doesn’t get a large party in Congress he cannot do anything much. If he does then a Democrat majority in the House would not necessarily make him a lame duck and could even make it easier to get a bipartisan tax reform, deficit and infrastructure program. (I am assuming there is not much chance of a Democrat majority in the Senate as well). Those 3 are what he needs for his supporters to not be demoralized in 2020.

    89. The current parties are breaking up worldwide. Both parties in the US were reduced to rubble in 2016. It would be surprising if either of them did not split:

    90. An assumption that globalists will be better organized than populists in 2020 strikes me as faith based rather than evidence based in early 2017.


  41. The assumption that globalists will be better organised by 2020 is based on the fact they can now see the real danger and they are aware of the problem and couldnt be any less organised. the defeat of wilders and the french election may show that populism isnt rampant in europe. I think there might be a bit of faith in believing that populism will continue to grow for the next 4 years. Also the fact that there differing sides in the democrats is nothing new. The idea that they could win the 2018 election and win the presidency may keep them from splitting. If the sandersonians are the stronger then opposing trump and winning the 2020 presidency means they can get their policies through anyway.

    NO ONE has any evidence of what will happen in 2020. Think the biggest factor is the economy and until that is analysed then it is ALL faith based.


  42. 91. From my article before inauguration day:

    “Even if I had a deep understanding of US and world politics and economics I could not hope to figure out what’s happening at the moment. We are at an important turning point in multiple processes, many of them dependent on unknowable contingencies.”

    So certainly I cannot claim to be sure what will happen in 2020. But there is already considerable evidence for my claim that much of Trumps behaviour can be explained by his need to get a large party in Congress by polarizing things to mobilize his base for Republican primaries in 2018. Its still a long way to 2018 but after only 2 months my claim is looking stronger, not weaker. That makes a lot more sense if there are pathways from there to a second term in 2020 than if there are not.

    Alternative explanations of what Trump has been doing suffer from coming from the same people who explained that his stupidity, obnoxiousness, blunders etc and the sheer absurdity of whatever his political program might turn out to be meant he could not possibly become President of the USA, which he did.

    I will get back to studying economics soon. But cannot hope to be able to predict when a crisis will break out or how that will interact with politics.

    92. I would have expected more evidence of a Democrat split before now. But here’s a “straw in the wind” about Democrat responses to the stark reality that Trump cannot get anything through without (some of) them and has (very recently) PUBLICLY ACKNOWLEDGED IT:

    The headline says they are in no mood to deal.

    The content is rather more interesting.

    93. Re Boris Kagarlitsky:

    Click to access Kagarlitsky79.pdf

    The parallels between the anti-globalist pseudo left and one aspect of Russian propaganda have been notorious for some time. Their alliance with paleocon Culture Warriors like Pat Buchananon and libertarians like Justin Raimondo of ( on an isolationist program is as eclectic as the Trump coalition of nativists with Christian fundamentalists and fiscal conservatives on a Keynesian program. What they have in common is Tory disgust with the liberals “whig hypocrisy”. (radicals can relate to that too!)

    “In the 1750 to 1850 era, Whig aristocrats in England boasted of their special benevolence for the common people. They claimed to be guiding and counseling reform initiatives to prevent the outbreaks of popular discontent that caused instability and revolution across Europe. However Tory and radical critics accused the Whigs of hypocrisy—alleging they were deliberately using the slogans of reform and democracy to boost themselves into power while preserving their precious aristocratic exclusiveness. Historian L.G. Mitchell defends the Whigs, pointing out that thanks to them radicals always had friends at the centre of the political elite, and thus did not feel as marginalized as in most of Europe. He points out that the debates on the 1832 Reform Bill showed that reformers would indeed receive a hearing at parliamentary level with a good chance of success.[11] Meanwhile, a steady stream of observers from the Continent commented on the English political culture. Liberal and radical observers noted the servility of the English lower classes, the obsession everyone had with rank and title, the extravagance of the aristocracy, a supposed anti-intellectualism, and a pervasive hypocrisy that extended into such areas as social reform. There were not so many conservative visitors. They praised the stability of English society, its ancient constitution, and reverence for the past; they ignored the negative effects of industrialization.[12]”

    I suspect the pseudoleft will get swallowed back into the more social democrat Sanders wing of the Democrats (with lots of populist opportunists like Bill Shorten in Australia),

    The underlying factors that have favoured populism and anti-globalism growing recently are not suddenly weakened but rather strengthened by gaining power in the USA. Lots of people expect that to fall to bits quickly. But I don’t. The pro-globalist capitalists may get their act together but if they had much to offer they would have already offered it as they did previously. I do expect a left to rise again. I have remained convinced of that for 40 years. But unfortunately I now expect to remain convinced of it for at least 4 more years rather than expecting to have been proved right by then.

    Je reste un soixante-huitard.


  43. studying economics is not studying crisis but rather the economic situation at the minute and the likelihood of Trumps policies working or as they would appear currently to be having a negative economic impact. At some point he has to produce!

    Trump knows what he has to do but he is not the only one with a program. The pro globalists were caught out by the populist movement and still havent recovered and are not even agreed on what is happening let alone what will happen. I assume they will get a better handle on it and present some opposition but not sure how that evolves, in the democrats the republicans or independently.

    I think there is a left just not sure who or where at the moment and it may take some time for them to get united. I also assume the issues that Trump is exploiting will be opened to debate and produce a left response but how that plays out not sure perhaps no threatening left in 4 years but refuse to believe its not a chance that at least the seeds dont appear.


  44. 94. I’ll respond to Tom later. This is just to dump some more links.

    95. As Scott Adams predicted, tone of media has largely turned from denouncing Trump as a monster to mocking him as incompetent failure (following healthcare defeat).

    LA Times seems to be having it a bit both ways:

    96. Lots of attention now on the 2018 primaries battle (and on related need for bipartisan healthcare and other efforts that involve splits in Democrats).

    But the intense focus on “incompetent failure” helps “analysts” blind themselves to the success Trump has had in establishing himself as leader of a still united Republican party while openly declaring war on the ultraconservatives (who both liberals and some Republican analysts bizarrely picture as his closest allies).

    Here’s a sample:

    Links to this detailed polling data:

    View at

    That might make sense if Trump was targetting the large numbers of “moderates” who ALSO rejected “Ryancare” and may have ended up out numbering the ultraconservatives as a result of the ridiculous concessions that were made in cutting coverage while still not getting the ultraconservatives to budge.

    But Trump isn’t targetting them. He has maneuvered into a situation where most of the party is united about the impossibility of doing any deals with the ultraconservatives (which also prepares the way for necessary deals with democrats to get even minimal appropriations through with a deficit, let alone for infrastructure and tax reform).

    The polling data at the second link doesn’t even include an option for actually improving on Obamacare rather than keeping it, gutting it or making it worse which are the only possibilities these Republican “analysts” could imagine.

    But the policy Trump ran on was to replace it with something better. Years ago he said a “single payer” system like Canada (and Australia) was the way to go. But in the world as it was during the election campaign it wasn’t a possibility for a Republican candidate.

    That world just changed with the failure of “Ryancare” and articles are starting to appear explaining that “single payer” is in fact the only plausible way to fix the US healthcare mess and that it can only be done by a coalition of some Republicans with some Democrats:

    97. Trump’s position has clearly been strengthened, not only against the ultraconservatives, but also against the Republican establishment (without open war and even while remaining allied!):

    That will take a while to unfold, perhaps with some more “drama” first:

    98. Meanwhile, this month could easily end up with a government shutdown over appropriations.

    I expect most of the more obnoxious spending cuts used to balance the budget while increasing military spending will be restored in Congress, thus providing a deficit that Trump needs to tighten the labor market while making Congress rather than Trump responsible for “fiscal irresponsibility”.

    Republican apparatchik David Frum hints that Trump might pivot to fights on immigration and trade:

    That doesn’t sound plausible to me at the moment. But Democrats might be inclined to pick a fight on immigration.

    There are 12 separate Appropriations Bills. Funding for the wall and defunding for Planned Parenthood have been removed but Democrats are under massive pressure from their base not to cooperate on anything. So they might filibuster at least one of them.–for-both-parties/2017/04/01/9a0bfe28-16e3-11e7-ada0-1489b735b3a3_story.html?utm_term=.4419aefb8338

    The Homeland Security Appropriations still include funding for stepped up immigration enforcement. A Democrat filibuster on that could result in a government shutdown that would eventually force the Republicans in the Senate to abolish the filibuster entirely. There are more 2 Republican Senators who would want to retain the traditional rule that a 60% majority is required to close debate, since it gives them far more importance than when their votes are not so crucial. But a shutdown that won’t end any other way could do it and the tactical inepitude of Democrats is truly spectacular at the moment… But this is pure speculation.


  45. 100. Following Trump’s response to Assad’s gas attack I expect announcement of “safe zones” soon (which will require significant ground forces and long term intervention in Syria). Explicit mention of “change” from previous position of being even less anti-Assad than Europe and Obama. Still enthusiastic about Sisi, Netanyahu and other such regimes so still too early to be predict foreign policy but the reality that faced George W Bush is the reality that still requires region change.

    101. Interesting articles documenting that Trumpists and also further right forces both in USA and Europe DO now support single payer (“socialized”) health care.

    Obsessive focus on racism in first article may hint that Democrats could justify refusing to support the approach they prefer which Republicans previously prevented them from implementing based on their general “resistance”. But the facts documented make that pretty untenable.

    Odd conclusion:

    “So even if Trump were to be persuaded by his followers and embrace single-payer, he’d face a tough task. He can’t form a new right-wing party and sweep the legislative elections; he has to change the policies of the existent Republican Party, which has spent decades fighting proposals for universal health care, and get a quorum of members in the House and Senate on his side. That’s much harder, and suggests that the [far right] Spencers, Buckleys, and Derbyshires of the world won’t get their wish on this anytime soon.”

    Actually Trump was persuaded and publicly supported single payer before he nominated and still prefers it for a “different world” (ie a different Republican party). The “tough task” of shifting the Republican party necessarily requires the sort of maneuvering that has been and will continue until they recognize that they have no better alternative. If the author of that paragraph could do more peering outside the Democrat bubble it might be noticed that Trump’s “tough tasks” explain why he has been focused on polarizing to consolidate his base for the 2018 primaries and that the Democrat explanations in terms of stupidity etc make no sense.

    If the Democrats just maintain “resist” they will certainly split and lose.


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