Trump’s Diminishing Power and Rising Rage

None of Trump’s extremist policy ideas has received public support. The public opposed last year’s

  1. Republican-backed corporate tax cut, Trump’s
  2. effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), his
  3. proposed border wall with Mexico, the decision to
  4. withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement, and the
  5. imposition of tariff increases on China, Europe, and others.
  6. At the same time, contrary to Trump’s relentless promotion of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and gas), the public favors investments in renewable energy and remaining in the Paris climate agreement.

.. Trump has tried to implement his radical agenda using three approaches.

1) The first has been to rely on the Republican majorities in the two houses of Congress to pass legislation in the face of strong popular opposition. That approach succeeded once, with the 2017 corporate tax cut, because big Republican donors insisted on the measure, but it failed with Trump’s attempt to repeal Obamacare, as three Republican senators balked.

.. 2)  The second approach has been to use executive orders to circumvent Congress. Here the courts have repeatedly intervened, most recently within days of the election, when a federal district court halted work on the Keystone XL Pipeline, a project strongly opposed by environmentalists, on the grounds that the Trump administration had failed to present a “reasoned explanation” for its actions. Trump repeatedly and dangerously oversteps his authority, and the courts keep pushing back.

.. 3) Trump’s third tactic has been to rally public opinion to his side. Yet, despite his frequent rallies, or perhaps because of them and their incendiary vulgarity, Trump’s disapproval rating has exceeded his approval rating since the earliest days of his administration. His current overall disapproval rating is 54%, versus 40% approval, with strong approval from around 25% of the public. There has been no sustained move in Trump’s direction.

.. In the midterm elections, which Trump himself described as a referendum on his presidency, the Democratic candidates for both the House and Senate vastly outpolled their Republican opponents. In the House races, Democrats received 53,314,159 votes nationally, compared with 48,439,810 for Republicans. In the Senate races, Democrats outpolled Republicans by 47,537,699 votes to 34,280,990.

.. Summing up votes by party for the three recent election cycles (2014, 2016, and 2018), Democratic Senate candidates outpolled Republican candidates by roughly 120 million to 100 million. Nonetheless, the Republicans hold a slight majority in the Senate, where each state is represented by two senators, regardless of the size of its population, because they tend to win their seats in less populous states, whereas Democrats prevail in the major coastal and Midwestern states.

Wyoming, for example, elects two Republican senators to represent its nearly 580,000 residents, while California’s more than 39 million residents elect two Democratic senators. 

Without control of the House, however, Trump will no longer be able to enact any unpopular legislation. Only policies with bipartisan support will have a chance of passing both chambers.

.. On the economic front, Trump’s trade policies will become even less popular in the months ahead as the American economy cools from the “sugar high” of the corporate tax cut, as growing uncertainty about global trade policy hamstrings business investment, and as both the budget deficit and interest rates rise. Trump’s phony national-security justifications for raising tariffs will also be challenged politically and perhaps in the courts.

.. True, Trump will be able to continue appointing conservative federal judges and most likely win their confirmation in the Republican-majority Senate. And on issues of war and peace, Trump will operate with terrifyingly little oversight by Congress or the public, an affliction of the US political system since World War II. Trump, like his recent predecessors, will most likely keep America mired in wars in the Middle East and Africa, despite the lack of significant public understanding or support.

.. Nonetheless, there are three further reasons to believe that Trump’s hold on power will weaken significantly in the coming months. First, Special Counsel Robert Mueller may very well document serious malfeasance by Trump, his family members, and/or his close advisers. 

.. Second, the House Democrats will begin to investigate Trump’s taxes and personal business dealings, including through congressional subpoenas. There are strong reasons to believe that Trump has committed serious tax evasion (as the New York Times recently outlined) and has illegally enriched his family as president (a lawsuit that the courts have allowed to proceed alleges violations of the emoluments clause of the Constitution). Trump is likely to ignore or fight the subpoenas, setting the stage for a major political crisis.

.. Third, and most important, Trump is not merely an extremist politician. He suffers from what author Ian Hughes has recently called “a disordered mind,” filled with

  • hate,
  • paranoia, and
  • narcissism.

According to two close observers of Trump, the president’s grip on reality “will likely continue to diminish” in the face of growing political obstacles, investigations into his taxes and business dealings, Mueller’s findings, and an energized political opposition. We may already be seeing that in Trump’s erratic and aggressive behavior since the election.

.. The coming months may be especially dangerous for America and the world. As Trump’s political position weakens and the obstacles facing him grow, his mental instability will pose an ever-greater danger. He could explode in rage, fire Mueller, and perhaps try to launch a war or claim emergency powers in order to restore his authority. We have not yet seen Trump in full fury, but may do so soon, as his room for maneuver continues to narrow. In that case, much will depend on the performance of America’s constitutional order. 

We Are Not the Resistance

Donald Trump is the one who is pushing back against the new nation that’s struggling to be born.

.. Unlike the Tea Party, which was born after President Barack Obama’s inauguration and which spawned a proliferation of well-funded, loosely affiliated right-wing groups determined to hijack the Republican Party and push it further to the right, the only common denominator for “the resistance” today is a commitment to resisting Donald Trump — the man, not necessarily his mission.
.. The writer was quick to clarify that he or she was not part of the “‘resistance’ of the left.” Quite to the contrary, the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, the expansion of the military-industrial complex and, by extension, the slashing of vital social services were not only fine by him or her but a cause for celebration.

One might argue that the big tent of “the resistance” is its greatest strength: A massive united front becomes possible when the barrier to entry is so low. If you’re revolted by Trump’s tweets and feel terrified by his access to the nuclear codes, you too can join the resistance.

.. Resistance is a reactive state of mind. While it can be necessary for survival and to prevent catastrophic harm, it can also tempt us to set our sights too low and to restrict our field of vision to the next election cycle

.. Viewed from the broad sweep of history, Donald Trump is the resistance. We are not.

.. the long, continuous yearning and reaching toward freedom flows throughout history “like a river, sometimes powerful, tumultuous, and roiling with life; at other times meandering and turgid, covered with the ice and snow of seemingly endless winters, all too often streaked and running with blood.”

.. Harding was speaking about black movements for liberation in America, but the metaphor applies equally well to the global struggle for human dignity and freedom.

The Guatemalan mother desperately fleeing poverty and violence in her home country stands at the border, young child in her arms, yearning for freedom no less than the American mother hundreds of miles away who puts her hands to the plexiglass in a prison visiting room, desperate to hug her child who sits quietly on the other side.

The movements that have arisen to honor the dignity of both women — movements to end mass incarceration and mass deportation — are separate streams feeding the same river.

.. Donald Trump’s election represents a surge of resistance to this rapidly swelling river, an effort to build not just a wall but a dam. A new nation is struggling to be born, a multiracial, multiethnic, multifaith, egalitarian democracy in which every life and every voice truly matters.

.. Confederate statues are coming down as new memorials and statutes are going up in Montgomery, Ala.

.. For many, the election of Barack Obama to the presidency symbolized the imminent birth of this new America, and many whites feared their privileged status, identity and way of life would die in the transition. The reaction was swift and fierce. It shouldn’t have been surprising.

.. As the historian Carol Anderson documented in “White Rage,” every single advance toward racial justice in this country has been met with virulent, often violent, resistance.

.. Every leap forward for American democracy — from slavery’s abolition to women’s suffrage to minimum-wage laws to the Civil Rights Acts to gay marriage — has been traceable to the revolutionary river, not the resistance.

.. In fact, the whole of American history can be described as a struggle between those who truly embraced the revolutionary idea of freedom, equality and justice for all and those who resisted.

.. There’s a reason marchers in the black freedom struggle sang “We Shall Overcome” rather than chanting “We Shall Resist.”

.. Similarly, those who opposed slavery didn’t view themselves as resisters; they were abolitionists.

 

Call out his lies. He depends on them.

just calling out deceit is insufficient. It is essential as well to understand why Trump tells particular lies at particular moments and to be hardheaded in judging how effective they are.

.. Republicans on the ballot this fall should be asked if they see Pelosi as an “MS-13 lover,” and if not, whether they will denounce Trump for saying such a thing. I am not holding my breath.

.. Yet sometimes Trump engages in a perverse form of transparency. He signaled clearly that the whole point of his screed — during which he also re-upped his claim that Mexico would pay for his border wall — was about the midterm elections. Immigration, he said, is “a good issue for us, not for them.”

.. Why immigration? It’s not the central concern of most voters. A Gallup survey in May found that 10 percent of Americans listed it as the most important problem facing the country. And Trump’s wall is not popular — in a recent CBS News poll, 59 percent of Americans were against building it.

.. But currently, Trump and the Republicans aren’t focused on the majority of Americans. They are petrified that their own loyalists do not seem very motivated about voting in November.

..  just 26 percent of Americans strongly approved of Trump’s job performance, compared with 41 percent who strongly disapproved.
.. Trump and his party feel they need to screech loudly to get their side back into the game, and attacking immigration (going back to Mexican “rapists”) is the signature Trump talking point.
.. Republican House candidates are following Trump’s lead, according to a USA Today study published Tuesday, “blanketing the airwaves with TV ads embracing a hard line on immigration.” By contrast, health care was the topic most invoked in Democratic spots. The GOP’s emphasis may shift some after the primaries, but Republicans seem to know that wedge issues are more useful to them than their record.

.. Political polarization has many sources, but the prime cause of it now is the president himself. Polarization defines Trump’s survival strategy, and it means that demagoguery

  • toward immigrants,
  • toward crime,
  • toward special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe,
  • toward dissenting NFL players,
  • toward anyone who takes him on
— is what his presidency is all about.
.. What thus needs exposing is not simply Trump’s indifference to the truth but also the fact that he depends upon the kinds of lies that will tear our country to pieces.