SYNDICATED COLUMN: No, Everything Is Really Not Going To Be Alright

Image result for turkmenbashi statue            After president-elect Donald Trump’s 10-15 minute scheduled get-to-know-you with lame-duck president Barack Obama ran an hour and a half, too many of my friends who ought to know better contacted me with some variant of “maybe everything really is going to be OK after all.”

No. It really isn’t.

SNL’s Dave Chappelle says he’s “going to give Trump a chance.”

We should not.

Trump’s wide-eyed expression as he sucked in his new DC digs, pathetically reminiscent of the stupefied expressions of Bolshevik revolutionists wandering the Winter Palace, brought it home: the barbarians are at the gate.

Do not be fooled by what the media is attempting to present as a smooth transition of power, a quirky one to be sure, but generally falling within American political tradition. Do not believe Trump’s condescending tweet damning liberal protesters with faint praise. “President Trump” cannot end well.

Remember how, the morning of the election, the New York Times gave Trump a 15% chance of winning? Given that I’ve been saying The Donald had an excellent chance of winning for many months, maybe you should be scared when I tell you what I think there’s really a 15% chance of: another presidential election in four years.

Here’s how I think the early years of the Trump Administration will play out, and why.

Before we get started, forget impeachment. Impeachment is a political process, not a legal one. With Republicans in control of both houses of Congress, the chances of Republicans impeaching a Republican president are pretty much zero.

Second, forget constitutional checks and balances. Weimar Germany had a lovely constitution, in many ways better than ours, but constitutions are mere paper unless they’re enforced by people. Current examples: Guantánamo, immigration prisons, drone assassinations and secret black site CIA prisons are all brazenly unconstitutional. If Trump and his henchmen want to trash legal and political precedent, nothing institutional will stop them.

Finally, Democrats who place their hope in recapturing Congress in two years need to get real. There aren’t enough available red seats for that to happen in 2018. If anything, they’ll probably lose even more ground. Trumpism is here to stay, for at least four years.

I use the method used by some authors to write character-based novels

in order to game out presidential administrations. Rather than outline the plot in advance, these novelists develop characters, throw them into a situation, and watch what they do.

As with those novels, it isn’t hard to predict how a president and his closest advisers will respond when faced with a given political development. All you have to do is consider their personalities, resumes and policy preferences.

Looking at Ronald Reagan’s 1981 cabinet, which included a dentist as secretary of energy and an anti-environmentalist as secretary of the interior, it was obvious that the US government wouldn’t lift a finger to slow down the raping of the planet. While invasion of Iraq wasn’t exactly predestined, it came as little surprise that a Bush Administration full of neoconservatives who had called for the invasion of Iraq saw the 9/11 attacks as a reason/excuse for what they wanted to do all along.

It’s already clear that Donald Trump’s cabinet and closest advisers will come from the fringes of the paranoid far right. Among the highlights:

Joe Arpaio, the racist 84-year-old torture sheriff fired by Arizona voters, has been shortlisted as Secretary of Homeland Security.

Ben Carson, being considered to head the education department, doesn’t believe in evolution.

Chris Christie, currently facing criminal charges over Bridgegate, is up for attorney general; so is Rudy Giuliani, a fascist who wants to force Muslims to wear electronic monitoring tags or bracelets so the government can track their whereabouts. (What, no crescent moon patch?)

Then there’s possible Secretary of State Newt Gingrich, who wants to deport Muslims who believe in Sharia law, and Interior Secretary Sarah Palin, who thinks shooting wolves from a helicopter is sporting fun.

I’ve examined all the lists of cabinet prospects. Not a liberal or a leftist among them. No centrists either. At best, we’ll wind up with a few relatively sane right-wingers mixed into a majority of complete lunatics.

These, headed by the delightfully clearheaded and thoughtful Donald Trump, are the characters of our story.

Now add the situation. Imagine 6 or 12 or 18 months from now, when these characters face the inevitable political crisis: terrorist attack. Natural disaster. Economic meltdown. Race riot. Nuclear crisis.

These aren’t personalities predisposed to respond to these challenges with introspection or compromise. Beginning with Trump himself, these are people with a cop mentality who, like a hammer, see everything as a nail to be pounded into submission.

Bear in mind, they’ll be 6 to 12 to 18 months inside the Washington Beltway bubble. Trump’s canny campaign instincts, his intuitive understanding of populist anger that got him elected, will have been dulled by lack of interaction with the public. Moreover, Team Trump will be 6 to 12 to 18 months into an unprecedented period of constant left-wing criticism and street protest. Think Richard Nixon: they’ll be deep inside a bunker mentality.

Everyone in the cabinet room will favor moves to curtail civil liberties: tracking and cracking down on leftists, preventative detentions, new police forces to protect the state and ferret out illegal immigrants and those who hide them, the use of drones to kill Americans on American soil (something Obama said was OK), even more abusive NSA surveillance.

In my book “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” I described the president-elect as “an accidental authoritarian.” He thinks of himself as a patriot, a good man. He hasn’t been planning to lead a plot against America.

Trump’s fascism will come about naturally, caused by the perfect storm of his ego, his CEO mentality, the politics and personalities of the men and women with whom he is surrounding himself, and a set of developments that are all but inevitable.

Canceling the next election? For these characters, it will be an easy call.

(Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of the Republican presidential nominee in comics form. Support independent political cartooning and writing — support Ted on Patreon.)

28 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: No, Everything Is Really Not Going To Be Alright

    • And now he is handing the keys to yet more members of this group. And not just any members, Ted just laid out that it will be those who are extreme compared to those referred to as “the crazies” by the conservatives among the ruling elites.

      Trump doesn’t even have enough outsiders to staff 1% of important positions, and that’s assuming that all of Breitbart closes shop and heads over to D.C.

  1. This is dark stuff even by Ted’s lofty standards. However, while Fascists types typically quietly stop holding elections, they do so only after they have replaced the government with their machine, get trains running on time, and show tangible benefits to their base of support. A lot of shiny homes becoming available once their occupants were shown the benefits of leaving the country, this sort of thing.

    German planners in World War II openly fretted that they had a disadvantage compared to the Western democracies, in that they had resources moved from the East into Germany to placate the German population, while England didn’t have to do this. So while they are remembered for “total war”, they actually were wary of shifting too much to guns and away from butter. Ted even had a cartoon on this, with Hitler saying “I can’t spend all our money on war”, which I can’t seem to find in the archives.

    How would Trump get anything past Paul Ryan, who literally wants to spend all our money on war as Dean Baker keeps pointing out, let alone any actually helpful infrastructure projects? They will do nothing to keep the financial and pharmaceutical companies from further fleecing the populace, either. That would mean new regulations. Mussolini was many things, but he certainly wasn’t afraid of new regulations. Hence Trump’s rhetoric for the 99% (minus people of color and funny looking fellows) will go nowhere, manufacturing jobs won’t come back, and the few that remain will be at minimum wage (unless they get rid of that, too).

    This should give us at least one more of those modern elections with their 19th century rulebooks.

  2. I share many of your fears, but from a historical perspective I have to disagree very strongly with that statement about the Weimar constitution. Far from being “a lovely constitution, in many ways better than ours”, it had a provision that allowed one man–the President, whose election was largely apolitical–to appoint a Chancellor without parliamentary support, and allow that Chancellor to rule by decree indefinitely. This was the single point of failure that the Nazis (who were successful for a third party but by no means in the majority) successfully exploited: they got the President on their side, and suddenly it didn’t really matter who was winning elections.

    This kind of emergency powers have no American equivalent, and that’s a very good thing.

  3. Ted,

    1. Trump, You, Me, we are all Capitalists. We are no longer Italian-Americans, Armenian-Americans, Polish-Americans, etc. And that’s where so much of the confusion arises in our political system. We are all Capitalist-Americans. More specifically, we are Capitalist-Voter-Americans. Why do you–the “you” being the reader–think so many politicians listen to farmers and Jews? How many farmers are there? Maybe 1% of the population. How many Jews are there in the U.S.? About 6% of the population. And watch the politicians hang on every single goddamned demand from either group. Why? BECAUSE THEY VOTE. AND BECAUSE THEY SEND MONEY TO CAMPAIGNS or CAUSE MONEY TO BE SENT. Know why white high school graduates were ignored for so long? Because the dumb hicks sat at home drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon and muttering about how they can’t get ahead and never cut a check. Trump will never, ever, instigate a situation that will disrupt the Capitalist-American hegemony.

    2. Much of what Trump is saying is still going through the hysterics filter. For instance. Trump wants to round up illegal aliens with criminal records. Watch the liberal media go insane. But snap out of it for a second. Trump is saying that people who are here illegally and who have committed crimes should be thrown out of the country. So let’s give it a fair hearing: Do ANY of the first-world countries allow illegal aliens who have committed crimes to stay in their countries? Does a “Mexican rapist” get a better deal in Denmark? “We find Mr. Sanchez committed rape, but we’d never throw him out of Denmark. We depend on the vibrancy of our immigrant community too much?” Of course not. But the media is, somehow, aghast at the thought of deporting criminals. “What is Trump thinking?” I think what he’s thinking is that you don’t want foreigners who are committing crimes in this country.

    3. A lot of the anger at Trump is about what he “might” do. I’m not a Trump supporter. I think he’s a disaster. But he’s a useful disaster. HRC would have just been a disaster because her throngs of supporters would have simply ignored everything she did that wasn’t kosher because … girl power, first woman president. So, HRC’s policies cause the deaths of tens of thousands of brown people overseas, and Lena Dunham and a whole lot of other white women are practically shrieking themselves hoarse over how great an HRC presidency will be. Trump–and let me be clear, he has a lot of flaws–hasn’t killed a single person (yet) and the protesters are flooding the psychiatric help lines. But I don’t hear any of them saying, “Hillary actually supported policies that caused a lot of deaths. I feel terrible about supporting her.” All I hear is how terrible Trump is.
    This is called cognitive dissonance. And I have seen NOTHING addressing it in the mainstream media.

    • Jews are 2% of the population.

      I do relish that Hillary supporters (Organic? Paid Soros shills? I presume both.) are out demonstrating their slogans by beating up Trump supporters. “When they go low, we go high.” “Love Trumps hate.”

  4. Geeze Ted,

    Are you now getting a little unhinged? T-rump may be many vile things, but a bumpkin he is not. To him, the White House is not a palace, at best only a grand mansion. You know … where the slave-owner lives (and several have lived there). He owns many of them. Furthermore, he’s been invited to that location before. Whatever “awestruck” there is, for him, it struck quite a while ago.

    You see him as a great disaster? I think he’s not quite as bad as a Hillary-run empire would have been. What is the “real Trump,” and what is contrived? Now we find out. But at least the candidate that didn’t threaten Russia with war won the contest.

    DanD

    • I agree with you guys. I don’t think Trump’s “awestruck” look had anything to do with the architecture or the building’s detailing. Like you said, this is old hat for Trump. I think it had more to do with the content of his discussion with Obama. He must have been told something so mind bending that it took him awhile to comprehend the ramifications of it. Whatever “it” may be. I am sure there are some deep, dark state secrets that would blow your mind if you found out they were true. I’m willing to wager most conspiracy theories are false but the couple that are true were just told to Trump in that hour and a half meeting with Obama.

      • Perhaps. I think he knew exactly what he was getting into long ago judging by how grim his family looked at times throughout the campaign and how closely they stood by him. After all, I think TPTB would be trying to scare him off long before this point at which the best they can do is attempt to scare him into submission.

        I read it as awe at the ultimate victory of a lifetime of great victories. That he had joined an elite group and secured his place in history.

    • «T-rump may be many vile things, but a bumpkin he is not. To him, the White House is not a palace, at best only a grand mansion. You know … where the slave-owner lives (and several have lived there). He owns many of them. Furthermore, he’s been invited to that location before.» Indeed. The ostentatious luxury of the Winter Palace probably came as a shock to the Bolsheviks who stormed the seat of the Kerensky government on 25 October (old style) 1917 (the Tsar had been overthrown back in February), but that Mr Trump, with his background, was gobsmacked by the architecture and furnishings of the White House strikes me as most unlikely. Meursault’s speculation that «it had more to do with the content of his discussion with Obama. He must have been told something so mind bending that it took him awhile to comprehend the ramifications of it.» seems closer to the mark….

      «But at least the candidate that didn’t threaten Russia with war won the contest.» Aye, and that is positive. On the other hand, what policies Mr Trump’s advisors will recommend is an unknown. That said, and with no illusions about the nature of the «real Trump», I doubt sincerely that Mr Trump will prove as easy for his advisors to control as George Walker Bush was by his minder, Richard Bruce Cheney….

      Henri

      • Yeah, you remember whenever Dubya got to feeling his oats, and he would get kinda’ uppity with his handlers? A week or so would go by and then he’d appear in public with a mouse under his eye or something, much like he had the holy shit slapped out of him. He’d get all contrite for quite a while.

        The Prince of Darkness put up with no shit from him.

        DanD

  5. Ted,

    All great, except the Bolsheviks were not the barbarians. The Tsar was. And remember the graffiti, “Election, piège à con.”

  6. > the chances of Republicans impeaching a Republican president are pretty much zero.

    but … but … for eight long years, they insisted that the Senate had a duty to investigate real estate deals and sexual misconduct charges involving the POTUS. You mean that they aren’t a party of ‘values’ any more?

    • They are the party of goldman sachs alumni, “boutique investors” and movie financiers who are also at the same time outsiders who support the average working guy. That is their values. Blue collar Billionaire. #boutiqueinvestorbannon

      Awful people. We need to start the word associations. Trump did it very successfully: “little marco” and “crooked hillary”

      It should be easier for us, as we don’t have to invent much, just point out the obvious oxymoronic hypocrisy:

      #bluecollarbillionaire
      #boutiqueinvestorbannon

      got any more?

  7. Mr Rall, throughout the election, made it clear that he knew that Trump and Clinton were two of the worst candidates for president the US has ever had, and I strongly agree.

    The Clintonbots were furious, since they ‘knew’ their candidate was the best the US has ever had, and Clinton would be, by far, the best president the US ever had.

    After Trump won, Mr Rall made it clear he thought that, of the two, Trump was the worse (I assume this was clear from his book, but his book isn’t on sale where I am). This, however, isn’t clear to me.

    1. Impeachment: the House and Senate LOVE Pence. So why wouldn’t they impeach and convict? Nixon had the good sense to pick a VP the (Democratic) House and Senate hated more than Nixon, so, until they managed to get rid of Agnew, Nixon knew he was safe. Trump did NOT do the same, clever thing as Nixon.

    2) Constitution: The Constitution says Congress must approve of the president’s foreign affairs. Truman explained that, in the nuclear age, that was not possible, and the Congress ceded all authority over foreign affairs to the President (and Clinton was very grateful, and probably had many foreign affairs). Domestically, within the CONTUS, the Congress has ceded few powers. No third terms, no suspending elections. Will Trump continue regime change, after promising to stop such activities? Not clear It is clear that Clinton would engineer as many regime changes as she could, to prove a woman is a tougher POTUS than any man. It won’t be clear what Trump will do until January. Maybe until January 2020.

    • Look to Nixon. If Trump is kicked out, it will be the following sequence of events:
      1. Pence will resign to “spend more time with his family.”
      2. A nice, bland, safe compromise candidate (possibly even John McCain, who seems to have a genuine ability to work across the aisle) will be appointed.
      3. Trump will resign to “handle his yuge media empire, which is, really, just incredible. The greatest empire ever.”

      If it seems familiar, it’s because it is.

      • That working across the aisle is really easy for RINOs. You know, because they are Dems.

        John McCain is the angriest, most bitter man I’ve ever seen. I say man instead of person because Hillary.

  8. “I tell you what I think there’s really a 15% chance of: another presidential election in four years”

    Obviously you don’t really believe this, Ted, or you would have done everything in your power to stop him. Including tolerating a Clinton presidency.

  9. Why should Trump cancel an election when the likely outcome is another Republican victory ?
    Trump will likely be tired of the gig in four years but the next R taking the job will most like be the candidate Trump endorses.

    Ted is right, the White House will be dealing with protesters and problems on an epic scale but the Replicon strategy team will do everything in their power to suppress negative news right before the election…unlike the 2016 spectacle of emails, Clinton Foundation revelations and insurance rate hikes. The Replicons will call for more law and order and in the red states the new felons will purged off the voter rolls. The red state voters will be applauding every new prison as a jobs program, the right wing culture warriors will back the suppression of liberals and the alt right will be on board as people of color are incarcerated for protesting.

    The Replicons will dramatically borrow money to juice the economy…they won’t target the money where it really needs to go (the bottom 50% of the income distribution) but it will paper over problems enough to get another R in the White House and turn more states red.
    With an artificiality juiced economy and the spectacle of law and order being restored (never mind the R’s polices lead to the disorder in the first place) the 2020 election could easily be a repeat of 2016 even if the Dems manage to get half a strategy .. it will be to little to late for 2020 because anyone they run will be tarred and feathered in conservative talk radio and media for past Democratic mistakes.
    In 2024…? The Dems win the White House, they still won’t win a majority in the house and most states stay firmly red. During or right after the election the economy will be crashing. If the Dems try and pull things out of FDR’s New Deal playbook to deal with the economic disaster the Right Wing Supreme Court will block every one them… the Dems will have to enact unpopular measures like bank bailouts that will drag the party down for several more elections.

    • R policies such as mass migrant invasion?

      Much as I dislike it, Trump is planning an FDR style stimulus that Rall and many others on the Left keep saying we need.

      • > Trump is planning an FDR style stimulus

        I’ll believe that when I see it. Even if he tried he’d never get it past the right wing congress.

        > Much as I dislike it

        Let’s try a thought experiment. Imagine a small, viable economy. The butcher, baker, and candlestick maker all buy each other’s products.

        One year, there’s a blight, and the wheat crop is severely damaged. Supply & demand say that the price of wheat goes up. The baker has to raise his prices to make ends meet, the butcher & candlestick maker have to raise prices so they can afford bread. Everybody tightens their belts & burns fewer candles and we are in a recession. As soon as the baker raises his prices to cover the increased cost of hamburger. we are experiencing an inflationary spiral.

        Bread is cheaper than meat; the butcher experiences a drop in business and eventually can no longer afford a cow. He folds up shop. The baker & candlestick maker now have even less income and we are in a depression. Even when next year’s wheat crop comes in, the baker is still cash poor and neither of his neighbors can afford enough bread to keep him going.

        How do we get out? The supply siders say to give some money to the local rich man so he can create jobs. Okay, we give him some money, he opens a pizza parlor and gives the former butcher a minimum wage job. But because we are in a depression, nobody can afford pizza. Eventually the parlor closes its doors and we’re right back where we started.

        Instead, let’s try what FDR and “the left” keep saying we need. (along with 90% of real economists.) We give some money to the poor people. The butcher can now buy a cow, the candlestick maker can afford some hamburger and the baker makes more money from both of them. We’ve repaired the economy. If the rich man wants to open a pizza parlor, now the other citizens can afford it and we’re growing our economy.

        If an old fashioned pump runs dry, you’ve got to prime it with a little water to get it going again. The economy works much the same way.

      • Yes 90% of real bad economists would enjoy *ahem* your thought experiment. The money hasn’t disappeared in your tale. It has been saved while people make sense of their new economic reality. But you neo-Keynesians are just too impatient to let the economy work itself out. So eager to make a mess of things. And to top it off, your “death spiral” scenarios are caused by government rather than market failures.

        We wouldn’t be here in this economic morass if the “real” economists hadn’t kept interest rates at historic lows for an unprecedented length of time.

        The government doesn’t have any of its own money to spend. It can only take from elsewhere.

        There is no evidence of the “multipliers” being greater than 1. But there is evidence of them being less. IOW, fiscal stimulus destroys private growth. Without multipliers greater than 1, stimulus cannot work.

        Keynes’ Theory has turned out to be special rather than general. The impact of fiscal stimulus cannot be predicted independently of the deficit starting line. Fiscal stimulus only works in limited circumstances of a balanced budget with a liquidity crisis. Not the solvency crisis we face today.

        We have had unprecedented levels of government spending and QE. We have the biggest bubble in history topping even the last one. Thanks, “real” economists, whose preposterous suggestion is that we fix this catastrophe created by government meddling and malinvestment with more government meddling and malinvestment. You can’t make this shit up!

      • > this catastrophe created by government meddling

        The economy crashed while under Bush & a GOP-controlled congress, while they were deregulating and cutting taxes for the rich. if the supply-siders were right, then the economy should have picked up. But both Reagan and Bush left office in a recession.

        Paul Krugman – a Keynesian – predicted the crash before it happened, and it turned out exactly as he said. When the government supplied some stimulus, the economy picked up. Again, exactly as Keynes/Krugman expected. Krugman is now predicting more economic problems under Trump. Time will tell.

        I notice you didn’t actually bother to show me where the thought experiment went wrong. Here’s a starting point: Inflationary Spiral

      • Everyone could just not buy bread. In fact with such a shortage, they all can’t get it anyway. The scenario is packed with poor assumptions and leaps of logic. Doesn’t the baker have savings? Can’t he find other work for a season? Won’t his neighbors in such a small community help him? Gosh, problems from the beginning. No need to add to the list.

      • Sure, Jack – maybe the baker has savings, and maybe the depression will last longer than he can cover. Maybe the butcher will win the lottery.

        But that’s not the point. The point is to illustrate why supply-side doesn’t work. You, yourself, have noted that you need production and consumption. But it doesn’t matter how much is produced if the consumers can’t consume. You can give money to the rich guy all day long, and that still won’t pull you out a depression. He’s not going to ‘create jobs’ unless he can make a profit out of it.

        “The scenario is packed with poor assumptions and leaps of logic.” The scenario is right out of ECON 101, the assumptions and logic are those used by real-world economists on a daily basis.