Notes on Trump 34 – Reality TV

1. I take some comfort in this New York Times piece on “Why Trump Will Win a Second Term”:

It worries me that I spend so much time scanning Trump news items. But at least I don’t watch TV at all nor browse social media.

When I did catch occasional TV I found “Reality” shows especially repulsive – like twitter a reminder of how capitalist culture keeps the masses backward.

NYT confirms my view that Trump’s political skills are closely related to his skills as a reality TV “celebrity” (though they don’t mention the “professional wrestler” element or the related skillful trolling because naturally they cannot analyse his main success in encouraging the splodey heads to splode).

According to the article prime time TV audiences have doubled and at least the chattering classes are glued to the Trump reality TV show while others are inclined to vote for him as entertaining.

It would be quite impossible to analyse political developments while glued to prime time TV.

2. Recent themes from the splodey heads have wandered around more than usual, with “explosive” revelations of Stormy Daniels opinions on Trump’s genitalia, transparently vicious #MeToo maneuvers against a Supreme Court judge (with a never-Trump GOP Senator Flake achieving a brilliant own goal by forcing an FBI investigation) and endless snark about Trump being a laughing stock at the UN.

This report from “The Atlantic” seems more accurate on that last point:

As for the rest of the article it takes comfort that other nations are not inclined to actually support Trumpist anti-globalism but does not discuss the likelihood that any plausible Democrat successor to Trump will reinforce populist isolationism and protectionism.

The blind spot is highlighted in this:

The leader of a self-styled nation of immigrants had argued that the “only long-term solution to the migration crisis” is to make the countries that migrants are leaving “great again.”

That argument is self-evidently absurd to the writer. But for revolutionary internationalists solidarity with migrants is part of solidarity against the regimes whose countries are being held back and driving people to leave. We are for a world of open borders with people moving freely not being pushed out of their homes by stagnation and oppression. “Great Again” doesn’t cover it. But a long term solution very clearly does require active and indeed revolutionary measures to fix the countries that are driving people out.

3. As for the own goal there isn’t much doubt that Democrats deliberately leaked allegations at last minute to optimize chances of impacting the mid-terms (not as reported in hope of having a Senate majority after mid-terms, which is still unlikely). Here’s a hint on possible consequences of having demanded FBI involvement:

Whether or not it pans out, there is clearly nobody who can think tactically, let alone strategically in a position to stop Democrats flailing around and doing whatever best suits Trump. Bill Maher’s insistence on Trump being a moron in Steve Bannon video clip confirms they aren’t able to even wrap their minds around the concept that they are being played.

4. Steve Bannon says Stormy Trump’s self-promoting lawyer could be an effective Democrat candidate fighting Trump.

WAPO intruigued.

The video clip of Steve Bannon vs Bill Maher is interesting for far more than that.

Notes on Trump 33 – even Vox starts to catch on

How Trump could win in 2020

What if President Trump did popular stuff on policy?

In particular, what if Democrats do well in the midterms and take the House and start passing bills, and then Trump takes their most popular ideas and agrees with them? Or at least with watered-down versions of them?

So maybe Trump signs a bill to hike the minimum wage to $12 an hour, a deficit-financed surge in infrastructure spending, some version of a DREAM Act paired to wall funding, and maybe even something like the Manchin-Toomey background check bill.

Up until now, Trump has governed like a very hardline conservative except on trade. But except for authoritarian views on immigration and crime, Trump doesn’t have any personal history of consistency as a conservative. And even during his 2016 campaign, he put forth a much more eclectic, heterodox version of himself than how he’s governed.

Of course, maybe that won’t change no matter what happens in 2018. Maybe he’s a true prisoner of the conservative movement. Maybe he’s always harbored Heritage Foundation sympathies and they are just now blooming. But I think a reasonable person should have some humility about his ability to foresee the future and admit that this bipartisan, populist Trump is at least a possibility.

Trump’s path to victory

One immediate consequence of this would be that it would give guys like Ben Sasse and Mike Lee, who sometimes like to position themselves as more high-minded than Trump, the opportunity to actually vote against the president sometimes. Any Trump-Pelosi deal could easily weather a dozen or so defections from the right that would allow that crew to own the brand of “true conservatives” without needing to do anything to check Trump’s corruption or authoritarianism.

Conversely, it would greatly empower the left of the Democratic Party because it would cost more moderate factions their resistance branding.

Trump’s electoral base wouldn’t mind a handful of ideological betrayals since rank-and-file Republicans are really here for the culture war stuff and not for the concrete policy anyway. So Trump would enter the 2020 campaign with his base intact but also with the brand as a freethinking moderate who’s at odds with the right wing of congressional Republicans. Democrats would end up nominating someone with a relatively extreme rejectionist profile, and Trump would be in a good position to improve his approval ratings and get reelected.

Think of it as basically a rerun of Bill Clinton in 1995-’96 with “triangulation.”

Now, of course, there are other historical models. Richard Nixon signed a lot of moderately progressive legislation to try to salvage his presidency, and it didn’t work. And the fairly productive Bush-Pelosi 110th Congress didn’t restore the GOP’s popularity.

Anyway, who knows? But I think the odds of a Trump rebound are underrated.

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Notes on Trump 32 – liberal implosion escalates all the way

A college professor is facing felony charges after shooting himself on a Nevada campus last month in what police say he claimed was a protest of President Donald Trump,the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

Sociology professor Mark J. Bird, 69, was found with a self-inflicted gunshot wound outside a bathroom at the College of Southern Nevada, where he has taught since 1993. He was charged with discharging a gun within a prohibited structure, carrying a concealed weapon without a permit and possessing a dangerous weapon on school property, according to the Review-Journal.

A student saw a wounded Bird stumble out of the bathroom after 8 a.m. on Aug. 28, before collapsing, according to a police report obtained by the Review-Journal. As witnesses worked to calm Bird and stop the bleeding, he said he had shot himself in protest of Trump.

Inside the bathroom, campus police found a $100 bill taped to a mirror with a note reading, “For the janitor,” the report said. On the floor were a .22-caliber handgun and a spent shell casing.

(Pseudo) Lefty Boot Camp

This clip from the ABC’s recently axed, ‘Tonightly with Tom Ballard’ show, is further indication that a wider range of people, including a fairly smug ABC TV comedy show, are fed up with the pseudo-left. The critique is solid and works well as satire. Of course, it has nothing much to offer as an alternative beyond getting ‘out there’ – but still very good to see.

The comedian doing the routine is Jazz Twemlow.

Confound their politics – the Australian Republican Movement

With thanks to Quadrant and the author for permission to publish this excellent essay here. Originally published in Quadrant, May 1998.

This article appeared at a time when the Constitutional Convention to debate Australia becoming a republic had been convened (in February 1998) and when the NEITHER! campaign, which is referred to in the article, had earlier challenged Australia’s ‘two party dictatorship’.

It holds good as a critique of the Republican Movement in Australia, which has lost much ground since 1998, especially among young people.


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Albert Langer Confound their politics Quadrant May 1998_1

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Notes on Trump 31

NYT’s anonymous op-ed from a “senior official” who supports the GOP resistance looks genuine and actually significant unlike most Trump news.

Reason has a plausible perspective.

They link to Gallup confirming significant decline in support for both parties to a little over one quarter each, with significant increase in independents to over 40%.

My own take on the significance of the “deep state” oped is that it confirms collapse of the GOP. With this sort of “unsung hero” singing praises to themselves it is unclear that the globalist rump could even manage a split, so Trumpists will remain dominant.

I haven’t got time to look at the latest Woodward book with similar theme but it seems plausible that the oped writer would have been a major source for the same theme in that book and will shortly be dramatically resigning. Reactions to that should give a better picture of the real significance.