Notes on Trump 17

1. Gallup approval Republican/Conservative Republican 82%/87% (day 324, Dec 4-10). Recovered from recent decline.

2. USA today fully joins the chorus:

and congratulates itself on being welcomed aboard by the rest of the maistream media:

At one level the editorial reflects the shift in focus to Trump’s sexism (on which there is nothing to say that wasn’t said during the 2016 primaries and election). There is no mention at all of Russia or “obstruction of justice”, but this seems only a little bit ahead of others in the mainstream who are still claiming they expect some dramatic exposure of “obstruction of justice”, but rather forlornly and seem to have basically given up on their being some collusion that Trump is supposed to have been trying to prevent justice being done about.

The immediate focus is on the drama about Trump having accused a Democrat Senator of “begging” him for campaign donations and said she “would be willing to do anything for them”. Naturally the liberal media interprets this as a “slut shaming slur” (since it plainly does not hint at collusion with Russia or hatred of immigrants and muslims or efforts to rob from the poor to benefit the rich, what else could it be?)

Curiously however USAToday actually mentions:

And as is the case with all of Trump’s digital provocations, the president’s words were deliberate. He pours the gasoline of sexist language and lights the match gleefully knowing how it will burst into flame in a country reeling from the #MeToo moment.   

So it must have at least crossed their minds that a deliberate effort by Trump to invite liberals to “burst into flame” must be seen by Trump as having some benefit to Trump. Did the thought process stop there? Did it actually occur to them that the perceived benefit would be that Trump’s base would interpret the same words as being about the corruption of campaign donations and would be further entrenched in both that view and their general hostility to the media by insistence that it was a sexist slur?

No doubt such a deliberate strategy is contemptible. But why not just thoughtfully analyse it? Why burst into flames as directed?

Anyway, the two articles are well worth a look to understand that the media just are not going to be able to avoid continuing down this path that leads nowhere.

(Other recent efforts have included “Pocohontas” as a derogatory nickname for Senator Elizabeth Warren as a slur on native Americans rather than an allusion to the story that she once sought benefits by unsupported claims to have native American ancestry).

Even the Democrat leadership is not quite as carried away by total tactical ineptitude as the Editorial Board of USA Today, which concludes:

It is a shock that only six Democratic senators are calling for our unstable president to resign.

3. USA Today also continued its tradition of publishing opposing views, with this statement from the Republican National Committee. It is also worth reading to understand how reasonably Trump’s supporters are successfully able to portray themselves in contrast to his opponents.

 4. Alabama results are being spun in various directions. Some key points:

4.1 40% turnout is huge for a special election (expectations given the unusual interest were for a very high 25%).

4.2 Less than 2% were for write in candidates. That was from GOP supporters unwilling to vote for either a disgusting GOP candidate or a Democrat and was enough to tip the election (49.9%/48.9%). But it was only enough because of the huge turnout, which would have reflected enormous Democrat mobilization (especially among Alabama blacks who would not usually bother voting in elections where they can have no impact). Presumably even larger Democrat mobilization than is obvious since GOP turnout would have relatively declined as the more common response to disgusting GOP candidate would have been to not vote rather than vote for a write in that could not win as both have identical effect in throwing it to the Democrat.

4.3 As Vox said:

Sometimes you get bad luck

In the Alabama race, Senate Republicans suffered fundamentally from bad timing.

If the allegations of sexual misconduct against Roy Moore had surfaced during the primary, he likely would have lost to either Luther Strange or Mo Brooks, either of whom likely would have beaten Jones. If the allegations about Moore’s misconduct had surfaced after the general election, he might have been forced from office, but Alabama’s Republican governor would have appointed his replacement. Having this information come out during the window between the primary and the general election was a fluke, and absent that fluke, it’s hard to imagine Jones winning.
Such “flukes” rarely turnout to be coincidence. Vox pretends that Roy Moore could only have been forced from office if the charges had surfaced after the election. Actually if the charges that “surfaced” decades later and after the primaries were true, the GOP Senate leadership would have been delighted to join with Democrats in removing Roy Moore from the Senate and replacing him with a GOP Senator of their choice after an ethics investigation as they explicitly announced when they failed to persuade him to stand down. So the charges HAD to “surface” PRECISELY when they did to actually have any impact on partisan politics. That does not mean they are not true. But only Democrats will pretend to believe it was a “fluke”. Others will investigate. Whoever arranged the timing clearly intended to risk Roy Moore winning in the hope that a Democrat rather than a Republican would become and remain Senator for a solid GOP State. There will be a lot more of this stuff with the total breakdown of mainstream politics.

4.4 Presumably both parties will try to insulate themselves by careful candidate vetting so the temporary success of this tactic in Alabama obscures whatever trends may otherwise be indicated by the result. But I see nothing that contradicts my expectations of large Democrat gains in 2018 elections (with strong Democrat divisions in the primaries) and large Trumpist gains in GOP primaries.

4.5 The effectiveness of party splits in swinging results is highlighted by the (genuine fluke) that 2% write-ins tipped the result. Both Bannon supporters and GOP incumbents are blaming each other for the defeat. Neither can blame Trump as he opposed Roy Moore in the primaries and did what he could to avoid a Democrat victory in the election (and has gone on to pretend that he opposed Roy Moore because he was less likely to win rather than because he was more likely to be a loose cannon after what was then assumed to be an inevitable GOP victory in a solid GOP State). This actually strengthens Trump’s position as arbiter of GOP contests.

4.6 GOP incumbents who choose to split in 2020 will know that they will be throwing it to Democrats so can only do so as part of a long term effort to build an alternative party. Same applies on Democrat side.

5. Trump not as bad as Obama in Iraq so hailed as good.

6. Here’s a reminder of the efforts to derail Trump on sexism in 2016. I accidentally followed the link while reading that Bernie Sanders has less tactical nous than I thought and is joining the current chorus in an encore.

7. World Trade Organization going nowhere.
8. Rolling Stone simultaneously denies and illustrates that Trump’s “resistance” has been left with no time or capacity for reflection (thus confirming to them that he has no strategy and is not even aware that this lack has mysteriously reduced his opponents to gibbering).

Though he probably doesn’t realize it, Trump benefits from doing so many bizarre and ridiculous things that they steal attention from each other. In many cases, the most egregious things he says are conveniently timed to take attention away from more serious issues – see his recent “Pocahontas” comments overshadowing debate about the tax bill in Congress or the controversy over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Trump has flummoxed academics, journalists and commentators attempting to fit him into the historical context of the presidency. Collectively, we appear unable to decide if Trump is some kind of strategic mastermind or so random and impulsive that even he doesn’t know what he will say or do next.

But if this year is any indication, there is no multidimensional chess strategy playing out in his head. Looking at the Trump presidency day by day shows no strategy or plan of any kind. It looks on paper exactly how it has felt to live through: one crisis after another, with little time for rest or reflection. It is a car that is constantly veering off the road, and we have to fight so hard to keep from going over the edge that it’s not easy to remember where we’ve been.

To illustrate that point, below are just some of the embarrassing, incomprehensible or flat-out stupid things from the first ten months of the Trump presidency that received a great deal of attention, but only for a very short time. This list may seem long, but it’s only the barest sketch of the edifice of madness we now inhabit; a comprehensive one would be the size of a phone book. (Many thanks to TrumpWatch for helping me on this journey.)

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