Some Initial Thoughts on the Likely Trajectory of a Trump Presidency: 1
In a previous post from another series, I had written about how my predictions about Trump winning the republican nomination and presidency came true. Many of these predictions, found in older posts, were made many months before those events occurred and more importantly before all those so-called “experts” even considered the possibility of said events occurring. I was also able to predict that HRC would lose because of a serious lack of enthusiasm among the ‘obama coalition of voters’ that made both his presidential victories possible.
As some of you are aware, many “pundits” and “experts” are now busy concocting ever more complicated explanations for Trump’s “unexpected” victory in the 2016 presidential election. These range from the semi-plausible such as a reaction to prolonged socio-economic stress to fanciful ones involving the russian government. Not to be outdone by credentialed bullshit artists of the establishment, many of the right and alt-right are also spinning their own fanciful explanations for Trump’s victory. These range from the wishful such as a resurgence of white power to the bizarre which see Trump as some sort of genius at “persuasion”.
My explanation for the rise of Trump, as documented in a previous series of posts, is not particularly fashionable or gratifying. Instead, it explains the rise of Trump (and similar people around the world) as an almost inevitable consequence of rapidly declining nation states filled with mostly less-than-human people and run by a sheltered and incompetent elite who cannot visualize of world that is not neoliberal. In other words, the rise of Trump and similar “leaders” is as inevitable as a rash of large forest fires during especially dry years in California . My point is that, the rise of people like him is a symptom of serious systemic problems rather than a temporary disturbance in otherwise functional systems.
Having said that, I will now make some initial predictions about the likely trajectory of a Trump presidency. But before I do so, here are two caveats. Firstly, I am assuming that the next four years won’t see any unpredictable and extremely significant events such as imminent comet strikes, super-volcano eruptions or something along those lines. Secondly, I am assuming that the american populace does not suddenly attain wisdom and enlightenment. Personally, I am far more certain about the second caveat holding true than the first one.. but that is just me.
1] Trump’s campaign promises for massively increasing spending on rebuilding infrastructure, make-work jobs and restraining corporations from outsourcing will receive far more push-back from establishment republicans than democrats. While he might be able to eke out a few token victories on those issues, it is unlikely he will be able to fulfill most of his populist promises- at least as perceived by the people in rust belt states who voted for him in 2016. In other words, unless there is some massive movement to stop establishment republicans from running again in 2018, his populist agenda is pretty much dead on arrival.
In case you have forgotten, establishment republicans and democrats are just two different flavors of neoliberalism. Both are supported by, and in thrall to, rich individuals and institutions devoted to asserting power over the masses by impoverishing them. The unpleasant reality is that neither group of elected officials have any interest in improving the lives of most people. Indeed, they would rather preside over a collapsing society as long as they are can stand on top of its ruins. The establishment types, especially in the republican party, have therefore no real incentive to go along with any plans that might improve the lives of most people- and every incentive to stop them.
2] The establishment republicans, on the other hand, have every reason to vigorously pursue all their unpopular neoliberal and neoconservative policies under a Trump presidency. These include privatizing social security and medicare, eliminating medicaid, undermining scientific research, crapifying education etc. They will also try to do it by linking to legislation meant to fulfill watered down versions of Trump’s populist promises. It does not take a genius to figure out that doing so will result in a massive increase in Trump’s unpopularity. The establishment republicans will however see this as killing two birds (boosting neoliberalism, hurting Trump) with one stone.
The added complication in this scenario is that some of Trump’s promises regarding deporting millions of hispanic residents and subjecting blacks to even harsher policing will also backfire in “unforeseen” ways. Let me explain that previous sentence in some detail. All system of governance, regardless of the lethal force they wield, can survive only as long as the majority of people see them as largely legitimate. Even openly totalitarian societies like former communist countries were largely seen as legitimate by their populations till the last decade of their existence, largely because they could deliver on their promises and maintain a functional and orderly society. That might no longer be the case in USA, if the republicans push forward with their corporatist and neoliberal agenda.
3] Trump, ironically, might never be widely seen as legitimate- but not because of the electoral college. As many of you know, almost half of eligible voters did not vote for him or HRC. This almost-half of the population does however participate in all other aspects of being an adult resident of USA. Consequently, any lack of improvement in their circumstances combined with establishment republican further abusing or impoverishing them will likely lead to an unprecedented loss of legitimacy for him and establishment republicans. The loss of legitimacy for him will likely be far stronger than that suffered by any president in living memory- largely because the USA has not experienced a decade of almost continuous decline of stagnation with patches of anemic “growth” in the last hundred years. Like they say.. victory has a thousand fathers while defeat is an orphan and always requires a good scapegoat.
It also does not take a genius to figure out that establishment republicans will start disowning him as his popularity and perceived legitimacy falls. Doing so will however also simultaneously corrode their own (and linked) claims at legitimacy, resulting in further rounds of disowning. Pence, despite all his establishment republican connections and frantic maneuvering, will suffer an even more severe drop in his public legitimacy- because he is seen as both an acolyte of Trump and an establishment republican. Also, there are many others republicans wgo would be eager to fill his position and wield his power.
4] Some of you might have noticed that those who are already part of a future Trump administration or are vying for positions in it are.. for the lack of a better word.. ideologues with a rather tenuous connection to the world as it exists in 2016. Even his picks to date such as Jeff Sessions, Mike Pompeo and Michael Flynn inhabit a world where the USA is still an indispensable nation which can get away with anything. In other words, his administration is going to to be full of people who mentally live in a world that does not exist. Indeed, the the period between 1946-1961 and to a limited extent between 1991-2001 was the closest reality came to the fictional world they inhabit. The reality is that the actual capabilities of the USA are a shadow of what these people (mostly white men who grew up in a different era) assume it to be. In case you think otherwise, I would like to point you to the recent thorough defeats of USA in Iraq and Afghanistan- both of which largely occurred under the previous republican president.
The reality is the USA does not have the financial capability, dominant influence, adequate number of soldiers, appropriate weapons, sufficient technological edge or industrial capability to actually win a war against any determined adversary- be that another competent nation-state or a popular non-nation entity in any part of the world. While people in the current Obama administration do seem to (if grudgingly) understand this reality, it appears that those being recruited by the Trump administration are prone to magical thinking. While it is possible that they might ultimately accept this new reality, it is more likely that their lack of connection to the real world of 2016 might result in them entering into new unwinnable and ultimately humiliating conflicts with nations such as Iran, China and yes.. even Russia. Also, going back on less than favorable multi-lateral agreements and treaties might make it basically impossible to enter into similar agreements in the short-term.. or possibly ever again.
To quickly summarize this post, I think there is a better than 90% chance than a Trump presidency might make the disastrous second term of Bush43 look competent and organized in comparison. Of course, there is a small chance that he might be able to become a true (agnostic) populist and succeed- but that looks less likely with each passing day. In an upcoming post of this series, I will try to enumerate the ways in which the neoliberal establishment will try to make him fail in a spectacular fashion.
What do you think? Comments?