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. 

Shooting the Stragglers

I keep seeing all of this stuff about how the midterms were everything from a blip to a huge victory for Trump and that he’s more likely than ever to get reelected. Ehhh . . . maybe. I can see the argument. I just don’t understand the confidence. Just consider the fact that were it not for the Benghazi hearings, Hillary Clinton would probably be president today — because it was those hearings that put her server in play.

I’m a skeptic about the Russia-collusion stuff, but the notion that there’s nothing for a subpoena-powered Democratic House to find in Trump’s closet just strikes me as nuttier than Mr. Peanut’s pool party.

Also, Trump won with a minority of the popular vote. He’s less popular today than he was in 2016, and the Democrats are way more motivated. The GOP coalition has shrunk while the Democratic coalition has expanded.

.. For example, here’s my friend Hugh Hewitt in the Washington Post:

President Trump will win reelection. Anyone who watched Wednesday’s presser after Trump’s big night Tuesday knows in his or her bones that it will happen, because the president is getting better and better at the job.

I found the whole column so strange. As Hugh admitted to me in a Twitter exchange, the point wasn’t to be empirical. Fair enough. We can chalk up the sweeping claim that anyone who watched the press conference knows in his or her bones that Trump will get reelected to poetic license. I mean, I don’t know that, though in fairness I didn’t watch the whole thing. I merely listened to a bunch of it on the radio, so maybe there was something subliminal in the video — like in The Ringor in those Silver Shamrock commercials from Halloween III — that compels one to believe he will be reelected simply by virtue of the fact that he displayed his usual press-bashing vindictiveness towards Republicans who don’t suck-up to him, and his usual, often entertaining turd-polishing of bad news.

.. he displayed his usual press-bashing vindictiveness towards Republicans who don’t suck-up to him, and his usual, often entertaining turd-polishing of bad news.

.. But the fascinating thing about Hugh’s column is that he has redefined the job of the president into “combatant in chief.” What Hugh says about the political culture is largely true. Americans like combat — political, virtual, mortal (Finish him!), etc. — but I don’t understand why Hugh should celebrate the idea that the president of the United States should encourage and amplify that tendency. 

.. I’m sure he’d be more critical of a Democratic president doing anything like what Trump does. Moreover, just because the president is “good” at combat doesn’t mean his combativeness attracts more voters to him. Rather, it activates combativeness in his opponents.

.. Beyond the wishcasting, these kinds of arguments — which are everywhere on the right these days — seem like Trump-norming to me. In gender-norming, women are rated on a curve. A female applicant can only carry a 110-pound dummy through an obstacle course? Let’s make that the standard for women on the firefighter’s test! Donald Trump can’t act presidential? Make “combativeness ”the new standard for presidents. We take the measure of the man — and make the man the new measure.

.. the combat closest to Trump’s heart is with the GOP itself:

It is important to understand that for all the talk about how Trumpism is a reaction to leftism and social-justice warriors and political correctness, the truth is that it is principally an intra-party fight. It’s the final crackup of Cold War Republicanism; a cultural revolution in which the lumpenproletariat seized control of the party from the pointy heads and exiled them to the labor camps. And like the Maoists, the Trumpers aren’t really interested in picking a fight with the other superpower. They’re much more concerned with controlling the near abroad — which is to say, the Republican party. That’s why they tend to focus their hatred on Republicans and conservatives who decline to get on board, rather than on Democrats and liberals. Jeff Flake is the enemy; Kamala Harris is just a random nonplayer character.

.. Always remember that Trumpers — the people who believe in him, not the remora fish looking for their bits of chum — care very little about the left. Their real opponents are other Republicans. Seen from that perspective, Tuesday’s vote was a huge success. Because for Trumpers, it’s never a binary choice. Wherever a Trump-skeptical Republican was running against a Democrat, Trumpism couldn’t lose.

.. I think Jonathan overstates a few things, but his central point strikes me as largely correct, particularly when it comes to Trump himself. He mocked candidates who lost because of him but insisted they really lost because they failed to embrace him. This is not a brilliant strategy for winning in 2020; it’s a blunt strategy for Trumpifying the party further. It’s also ridiculous on the merits. The idea that if only Barbara Comstock “embraced” Trump more, her D.C.-suburb constituents would have changed their mind is ludicrous. As Jonathan notes, Carlos Curbelo has a 72 percent Hispanic district, half of which is foreign born. No doubt they voted Curbelo out because they wanted more talk about diseased foreigners and sh**hole countries, not less.

.. Indeed, more and more, liking Donald Trump is coming to define whether you’re on the team, and if you don’t like him — by which I mean, if you don’t celebrate his whole catalog the way the Bobs celebrated Michael Bolton’s — you’re part of the problem. Heck you’re not even a conservative.

.. That’s why Katie Arrington, who defeated Mark Sanford in a primary by promising to be a loyal foot-soldier for Trump, blamed Sanford for her loss of a reliably Republican seat:

“We lost because Mark Sanford could not understand that this race was about the conservative movement — and not about him.”

.. I heard my friend Mollie Hemingway on Fox refer to the traditional suburban Republican voters the GOP lost as basically “Never Trump elitists.” I know Mollie has very strong views about how Trump-skeptical pundits shouldn’t be given much airtime anymore, but why write off the voters the GOP needs to be a majority party?

..  he wants to launch a long-term transformation of the GOP (and by extension, the conservative movement) based upon Donald Trump’s personality. His term for the working-class voters he wants behind the driver’s seat is literally “Trump Is Great Republicans” or TIGRs.

.. Many — most? — of the people who think Trump Is Great are not primarily driven by public policy. The folks who watched that press conference and said, “This is awesome!” or shouted, “What a statesman!” do not think Trump is great because of policy X or Y. They think policy X or Y is great because Donald Trump says so.

.. The opposite is true as well. The voters who are horrified by Trump’s style, rhetoric, or personality are not going to be won over with policy. The college-educated suburban women who fled the GOP aren’t going to be won back with child-tax credits.

Henry is absolutely right that there is an opportunity here for the Republicans — in the abstract. But in reality, Trump isn’t the guy to sell it. Trump’s chief priority isn’t anything like creating a lasting William McKinley–style coalition; it’s to be the center of attention.

..  Just a few years ago, all of the arguments on the right were about how to better bend the GOP to conservatism. Jim DeMint said that he’d rather have 30 pure conservative senators than 60 squishy ones. Now, almost in the blink of an eye, the argument is how to bend conservatism to the GOP.

.. If a woman can’t meet the physical standards, change the standards. If the GOP can’t meet the standards of traditional conservatism, change conservatism.

.. Majority parties always have diverse coalitions, because it is only by collecting a diverse coalition that you can assemble a majority. FDR’s coalition had everyone from socialist Jews and blacks to Klansmen in it. Goldwater’s coalition was much narrower, and he was trounced.

.. But the idea that all conservatism should be is a branding operation for the GOP to win elections is an awful idea too. Because that means its ultimate concern is winning, not being right.

.. Of course, humans have an almost bottomless capacity to convince themselves that they are right about whatever serves their interests. So, I have no doubt we would see such rationalizations about whatever path we went down.

This isn’t just conjecture.

Exhibit A: American liberalism. The starting point for American liberals, for generations, has been: “In our hearts we know we’re right” so therefore the priority shouldn’t be arguing about principles but arguing about how to get or keep liberals in power. The underlying principle was power as its own reward.

Exhibit B: The GOP right frick’n now.

What #MeToo Has to Do With the Workplace Gender Gap

A new study from Lean In and McKinsey shows the pervasiveness of sexual harassment at the office and the persistence of inequality. That isn’t a coincidence.

What has been less apparent, though, is how harassment and the gender gap are inextricably linked. In fact, management experts and executives say, harassment can be a direct side effect of a workplace that slights women on everything from pay to promotions, especially when the perception is that men run the show and women can’t speak up.

Putting more women into executive ranks where they can have a greater collective voice goes hand-in-hand with making workplaces feel safer and more inclusive

.. “You can’t separate them,” she says. “When women see other women in a position of leadership, it reframes what they think is possible to them.”

.. Among women in technical roles, 45% reported experiencing harassment, while 55% of women in senior positions did.

“This is about power,” says Rachel Thomas, president of LeanIn.Org, the nonprofit founded by Facebook Inc.’s Sheryl Sandberg to support women in their career ambitions. “And there is still a dramatic power imbalance in the workplace.”

.. One in five women say they are often the only, or one of the only, women in the room or a meeting—and women commonly in those situations are at greater risk of harassment and more subtle forms of discrimination
.. “I joke that I chose a career where there’s no line for the bathroom,” says Kate Mitchell
.. “Decisions get made in the men’s room,” she says. “Do you follow them into the men’s room? Do you put your ear against the wall? Many times, it was easy to hear and so when they came out, I’d just start up the conversation” where they’d left off.
.. there are signs #MeToo is having an effect. Corporate hotlines have lit up since Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein became the first of dozens of powerful men to be toppled by harassment allegations last October.
.. Microsoft Corp. , Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. have scrapped agreements that forced employees to resolve harassment claims in arbitration hearings rather than in open court.
.. cracked down on a frat-house work culture by banning alcohol in the office.

.. One thing managers spotted and changed was that there wasn’t always a woman on the job-interview team. That could both discourage female applicants and contribute to biased hiring decisions
.. To help get the conversation going, Ms. Steinberg told the group how, early in her career at another company, one of the most senior men cornered her in the copy room and groped her breast. Though she told her then-boss, they concluded the man held so much power that she would be better off not pressing the matter.
“I think back on it and still feel humiliated,” she says. At Zenefits, “we need to make sure employees know they have a voice.”
.. Another frequent question: whether hugging a colleague is still all right.
.. While nearly 60% of men say gender diversity is a high priority at their companies, only 44% of women do. Men are also more likely to worry the diversity focus will make their workplaces less of a meritocracy. In fact, one in seven say they worry that being a man will make it harder for them to advance.
.. That could include efforts as small as highlighting a point a woman made in a meeting if someone interrupts her, or, if a colleague repeats her idea without giving her credit, pointing out that she raised it first
.. create succession plans for their positions, and each has to include at least one woman and a person with a minority background. That motivates bosses to make sure those candidates get the experience and support they need to be viable potential successors
In the past, “everything we did was a program, this thing on diversity or this thing on unconscious-bias training,” Mr. Schlifske says. “I don’t think those are bad, but I just never saw those work if you didn’t add something in the workplace that was more day-to-day kind of stuff.”

She’s Not Mad. She’s Just Not Using Exclamation Points.

A couple of other women joined me in going exclamation-free and learned quickly what employees expect of women bosses.

Feedback was immediate for one, a communications executive at a large San Francisco tech company. “Good job. You managed that well,” she wrote to one staffer who had deftly handled a tricky matter. The woman’s instant reply: “Are you mad at me?”

.. Perhaps her male colleagues wondered, but only women admitted to feeling discomfited by her tone, a reaction that echoes the work of Georgetown University linguist Deborah Tannen. Ms. Tannen has found that women (and men) expect emphasis and enthusiasm from other women, frequently in the form of exclamations or all-caps type.

.. Going without felt great, even freeing, at times. I stopped short of boss email—immediate, terse replies lacking context or punctuation, usually sent to underlings—but it was nice to be just another manager, making sure work gets done.

Maybe it even made me a better manager. I ended emails with questions for recipients to make clear I was interested in them, and I cheated with exclamations in disguise (“What would we do without you?”).

For the new staffer on my team, sending kudos without exclamation points prompted me to walk to her desk and praise her work—hardly revolutionary, but effective. Other times, I ditched email for that classic-but-ignored piece of office technology, the telephone.

Still, I was nagged by the sense that my tone was off-putting, despite my workarounds. That came into sharp relief at midmonth when our babysitter nearly quit, thinking she was about to be fired.