Notes on Trump – 3

Looks like I will be preoccupied with other things for quite a while and won’t be able to keep up with current affairs well enough to write even half-baked articles.

Meanwhile, I will still try to do quarter-baked incoherent notes occasionally.

Latest developments still leave me convinced Trump is overwhelmingly focussed on keeping his base angry enough to mobilize for 2018 primaries and his opponents in the Democrats and media are actively assisting by their cluelessness. Trump’s opponents in the Republican party (the overwhelming majority of the GOP establishment) are not as clueless as the Democrats and are not actively helping him win but still don’t seem to have come up with a viable strategy to prevent a Trumpist takeover of the GOP.

Georgia special election in what used to be a very safe Republican district is a pointer towards mid-terms. Democrats are running a candidate who emphasizes bipartisanship, support for infrastructure spending etc backed with massive funding from Democrat establishment committed to that strategy (for contestable districts – with an opposite “identity politics” strategy for safe Democrat districts). The Republican candidate is mainstream GOP – avoiding any close identification with Trump. Serious possibility of a Democrat victory resulting in one more vote for the economic policies Trump needs to win a second term (jobs growth via big deficits, infrastructure projects etc) and one less traditional Republican blocking such policies.

Whether or not the Democrat actually wins in such a safe GOP district, that pattern is likely to be repeated in seriously contestable seats likely to swing to Democrats in the mid-term – doing Trump no harm whatever. (With side benefit that a Democrat majority in the House of Representatives not only guarantees less coherent opposition to Trumpist economic policies but also impeachment with no evidence that could result in actual removal from office by two-thirds majority of Senate and plenty of opportunities for Democrats to continue making idiots of themselves and really annoying everybody else as they just did with Comey).

In most safe GOP districts Trump opponents will be challenged by Trumpists in the 2018 primaries, whether or not Trump openly backs those challenges and whether or not the incumbents suck up to Trump or openly oppose.

The result can be expected to be a large Trumpist Republican party in Congress,  smaller and thoroughly disoriented traditional GOP still committed to being in the same party as the President, and badly split Democrat majority with hopelessly inept leadership.

Only one third of Senate seats up in 2018 most vacancies in Democrat States. No major change expected since nobody gets a 60% majority or an ability to abolish that requirement for legislation. But a small Trumpist faction might arrive there too and Democrats might become more split.

On foreign policy I still don’t feel confident in any prediction.

Trump’s declarations of support for Saudis against Qatar contrary to actual policy of State Department and Pentagon is very strong evidence for a plausible theory that Trump is ONLY interested in mobilizing his base (by shouting at terrorists as excuse for cosying up to Saudis) and not really coordinating a coherent foreign policy – which is being largely left to the establishment. Likewise for tweets annoying everyone by blaming Iranian regime for Daesh terrorist attack on it.

Europe becoming more nervous and spending more on defence won’t do any harm. Leaving the climate change agreement is also sensible as well as popular with Trump’s base. Isolationism and protectionism are still a “work in progress” – the real dangers more likely to emerge in a second term.

But the last superpower is now even weaker than before and therefore even more heavily into both strategic and tactical deception. I am still impressed with the fact that the George W Bush administration managed to convince the Iraqi Baathists they were only going to get rid of Sadaam even though that alienated the Shia and Kurdish forces they were actually allied with – and managed to get Turkey to stay out by asking it to join in – and managed to convince everybody including me that the war wouldn’t start until the 4th infantry division had arrived in Kuwait after being blocked from coming through Turkey.

There is some complex stuff going on in alliance with the Iranian supporting militias in liberating Mosul while negotiating ceasefire and transition from the Assad regime with them and getting Saudi support for safe zones and occupation of Raqqa. Having just confirmed the dropping of sanctions against Iran, the US may simply be sending confusing messages to keep the Saudis confused.

Some of the “derangement” that left me unable to figure out what having Mike Flynn as National Security Advisor implied is topped by confirmation that he was an unregistered foreign agents working for the (Muslim Brotherhood) Turkish Government. That is so cognitively dissonant that the media have hardly mentioned it and focus on “Russian connections” instead.

Conceivably the indisputable incoherence is once again, deliberate. Certainly Trump has a good grasp of such deception strategies as demonstrated by making it completely irresistable for the Democrats to go crazy over Comey by contradicting Trump’s staff reminding them that Comey should have been sacked over Clinton emails, suggesting it was to block the Russian inquiry (when in fact he knew and actually SAID he knew that the result of the sacking would be to prolong and intensify that utterly weird demonstration of extreme liberal bankruptcy). Inviting the Russians into the oval office the next day, and allowing their media in while excluding the US media was a bit of overkill, but it certainly confirmed there is no danger of liberals paying attention to any warnings that they are being played as their heads really and truly have exploded, splattering their brains all over the walls and carpet.

So I only feel confident in having a good theory about what’s happening domestically. Not at all confident about foreign policy (which is opposite of my usual situation).

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”.

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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.