Monday, November 21, 2016

Meanwhile, in the real world...

...those legitimate grievances white working class Americans have are not going to be addressed by the President-elect's proposed "solutions." Underscoring Michael Moore's comments, documented in my previous entry,  voting for hm may have made them feel better- temporarily. But neither his "answers" nor the economic advisors he's likely to assemble to help modify and implement them offer much hope to precisely the people who got him elected.

My prediction is that we are in for a wild ride during these next four years. I see about a fifty-fifty chance that Donald Trump will be the third president to be impeached and the first to be actually convicted and removed from office. His long pattern of ignoring the law and cutting ethical and legal corners is unlikely to change, and they will only receive even closer scrutiny now that he is in the hottest spotlight on Earth. His bizarre and outrageous personality will not help. And demagoguery will only take him so far. Eventually, even his most loyal supporters (that is, those not motivated by racism, anti-Semitism,  marginal ideologies and a fundamentally paranoid, conspiratorial world-view) are going to notice that his alleged solutions to their problems aren't working and that he isn't getting results. Scapegoating others will probably work for a while; Stalin's show-trials for "wreckers" are unlikely to be literally repeated, but we can be certain that the failures of the Trump administration will be the fault of somebody- anybody- other than Donald Trump. You can also be sure that for as long as possible they will be blamed on his critics and opponents. If that fails, it will be someone else. But Donald Trump's failings will never be the fault of Donald Trump.

Whether or not he's impeached, he will almost certainly be a one-term president (unless he is able to demagogue his way into a second term the way he did his first- a truly historic achievement in the annals of political hucksterism I just don't think even a con man as accomplished as Trump can pull off). If he serves out his first term, the question is whether he'll be successfully challenged from within the Republican party or- far more likely- defeated by some obscure Democrat few of us have ever heard of. If the latter, there is a not insignificant chance that he will be the last Republican president ever elected.

The damage he realistically might do is just that severe. Moore's presentation mentions a major part of Trump's appeal: his embrace of a distinctly un-Republican protectionism. It's easy to see why auto workers, for example, would be enthusiastic about a guy who promises to put a prohibitive  tariff on cars built in Mexico as the result of jobs being moved out of the United States. But Trump's protectionist instincts go far beyond that. His economic saber-rattling has gone on for years, and he has long advocated trade wars as ways of "getting a better deal."

The problem is that they also cost jobs. Years of demagoguery from labor unions, aided and abetted by people like Michael Moore, have led their members to see protectionism as in their interest. What the argument fails to take into account, though, is that trade wars, like all wars, have two sides. The other country fights back. They put tariffs on American-made goods. Employers see sales go down- and instead of moving jobs out of the country, employers end up laying off the very workers who think they are "protected" by protectionism.

The nation's leading economists all warned that Trump's election would be a disaster, and not a few predicted that it would plunge us back into recession. After eight years of at least modest improvement under Barack Obama, we would then have come full-cycle: job--killing, life-blighting recessions under two consecutive Republican presidents.

As I said, the prospect that Donald Trump, if not the last American president, as Moore hyperbolically predicts, will be the last Republican president ever elected is not remote. We saw the political backlash from Watergate, in which a president was nearly impeached who was probably guilty of nothing more than paranoia and bad judgment. Can you imagine the political impact of the same president who brings about the second disastrous recession in twelve years also being brought up on criminal charges and probably both impeached and convicted? The real question would be whether the Republicans would even survive as a national party!

But millions of Republicans voted for Trump right along with those disgruntled blue collar workers. The damage Trump ends up doing to the party he and his supporters hijacked, to the white working-class families who supported him, and to the nation remains to be seen. But anyone who is expecting Trump's simplistic solutions, shoot-from-the-hip flamboyance, and general ignorance coupled with the conviction that he knows better than the experts to leave any of the three better off in four years than they are today is probably as deluded as I was to think that the American people's innate common sense would somehow prevent us from ever electing a man as manifestly unfit for the office as Donald Trump.

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