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Trump’s not so bad

Written By: - Date published: 9:25 am, January 20th, 2020 - 65 comments
Categories: Donald Trump, us politics - Tags: , ,

A few weeks ago a comment was made on The Standard along the lines that the current US president has been better than most would have thought, and the predictions that he would do all these terrible things haven’t come to pass.

There was solid push back from the lefties in the room around things like stealing children from new immigrants, and the expected push back against the push back.

The things I want to highlight here are the social and cultural changes being manufactured by 45’s administration, that just happen to be the things you would do if you wanted to create an authoritarian/fascist regime. See here and here.

This was being analysed by experienced writers and commentators before the 2016 election (examples of writers below). It’s social engineering, it’s deliberate, and it’s tied into tactics such as causing political and administrative chaos, black is white, fake news and relentless assaults on values and norms, all of which create an atmosphere of tension and emotional exhaustion that makes resistance harder. Under those conditions it becomes easier to then do the legislative and political changes required to advance an agenda that sets up much bigger change later on.

Given it’s election year I thought it a good idea to start highlighting examples. Here’s one from yesterday,

Four parts of the photo were blurred. “God Hates Trump” became “God Hates.” “Trump & GOP — Hands Off Women” became “GOP — Hands Off Women”.

Then women’s political views about their bodies were obscured,

“If my vagina could shoot bullets, it’d be less REGULATED” has “vagina” blurred out. And another that says “This Pussy Grabs Back” has the word “Pussy” erased.

Those two sets aren’t going to be coincidence.

The National Archives gave a few rationales for what they did, but crucially,

Archive officials did not respond to a request to provide examples of previous instances in which the Archives altered a document or photograph so as not to engage in political controversy.

In another era this would have been satire – the juxtaposition of removing criticism of a rapey president alongside censoring the rude bits about women’s bodies – but in 2020 I’m anticipating the arguments that it’s not a big deal, it’s a one off, it’s probably just an overly moralistic employee. I’d say more to the point is we don’t know why and that should be worrying us given the wider context.

We have plenty of excuses and ways to pretend it’s not happening. But for over three years I’ve been watching people in the US talking about the daily assault on cultural norms and how no-one can keep up and there is no way to combat them all and piece by piece they are replaced with new norms that people either excuse or are too overwhelmed to deal with. And this too is part of the play, because it sounds like politics as normal. But it’s not.

The point here is that in addition to the obvious examples like stolen kids or abandoning climate action, the big shifts in culture towards authoritarianism are incremental and based in part on making consistent, small changes that are normalised over time. We don’t go from women in the US having a legal right to abortion to that right being removed in one action. If that was tried, there would be the risk of too much protest translating into votes, and it becoming harder to convince people to settle for the new norms.

Instead what you do is chip away at conventions until such a larger act seems reasonable and/or people are too exhausted, shell-shocked or fearful to organise to prevent it. This is why abortion rights are at risk. Not because it’s new that religious conservatives have political power, but because now there is a whole society wide change that makes that agenda much more likely to happen.

That’s what that little, no big deal action of the National Archives is about. Another small incremental removal of democracy-protecting convention, in the long line of other removals and changes.

It’s the Frog in a Pot theory and it’s about the US being unprepared constitutionally, legally, politically, and socially for a modern authoritarian takeover of the US. I’m just naming it. If you want to read expert opinion on the process that is underway in the US try Sara Robinson or Sarah Kendzior.

Here’s Ad’s list of predictions of what will go in the next three years if there’s no change of President this year.

65 comments on “Trump’s not so bad ”

  1. Wayne 1

    Why should we give any particular credence to the “experts” you have cited? All they are doing is expressing their opinions, which are no more (or less) valid than our own opinions.

    These are issues on which voters in general are perfectly able to make up their own minds.

    • weka 1.1

      Why bother having a political space to talk about these things when everyone already has an opinion. Voting won't stop fascism if 45 gets returned. I seriously doubt that most voters are thinking oh great, let's vote in fascism. Which is why I write the posts. I'm naming it so we can have the discussion.

      If you choose not to read these expert opinions on this, that's up to you Wayne. But it's hard to take your response seriously if you're saying "I don't believe in fascism" and want people to ignore the warnings.

      • Wayne 1.1.1

        I did read the "expert opinions" before I posted. Completely unimpressed. Simply their pre-existing political opinions dressed up as pseudo political science.

        Part of the reason people voted for Boris was they were fed up with being told by "experts" their views were racist, fascist, transphobic, etc.

        I done mind the discussion, but on the issues of left/right/populist divide I resent being lectured to by so called "experts". Not aimed at you by the way.

        • Macro 1.1.1.1

          I did read the "expert opinions" before I posted. Completely unimpressed. Simply their pre-existing political opinions dressed up as pseudo political science.

          And they are women – so that lessens their opinions as well.

          The fact is though Wayne, the US constitution is completely unable to address the threat that this current President imposes. From the current defence team for his impeachment for instance, their defence is, that even if what Trump did was illegal it doesn't constitute an impeachable offence! Leaving us wondering just what would be a high crime or misdemeanour?

        • Sacha 1.1.1.2

          Wayne, are you really saying you are unimpressed by Sarah Kendzior? She has accurately and incisively forecast the trajectory from before the orange one was even nominated.

          • Wayne 1.1.1.2.1

            Obviously Trump is a populist, and one who has lazy ill-informed prejudices. Traditionally such a person would never have become a major party nominee.

            But that is a far step from the US becoming fascist. There are so many checks and balances in the US system that fascism is basically impossible. For instance mandated elections, two term limit, three branches of elected representatives, an independent judiciary, the Bill of Rights, a Constitution that is extremely difficult to change, a free press, etc, etc.

            So despite the authors fears, I just don't buy their argument. At most Trump has five more years in office, more likely only one more year.

            • Sacha 1.1.1.2.1.1

              Thank you for the reply. I reckon he might have to leave office from ill health before either of those deadlines. Looking very shaky in speeches lately.

            • Obtrectator 1.1.1.2.1.2

              " … an independent judiciary …" !!

              One of which a goodly proportion are (and in future, more so) conservative/right-wing appointees?

            • infused 1.1.1.2.1.3

              He's going to get another term, easy. I don't know why so many underestimate;

              1. The US people – the slient ones are going to vote for him

              2. Trump himself.

  2. Andre 2

    It's the "flood the zone with shit" strategy.

    The core challenge we’re facing today is information saturation and a hackable media system. If you follow politics at all, you know how exhausting the environment is. The sheer volume of content, the dizzying number of narratives and counternarratives, and the pace of the news cycle are too much for anyone to process.

    One response to this situation is to walk away and tune everything out. After all, it takes real effort to comb through the bullshit, and most people have busy lives and limited bandwidth. Another reaction is to retreat into tribal allegiances. There’s Team Liberal and Team Conservative, and pretty much everyone knows which side they’re on. So you stick to the places that feed you the information you most want to hear.

    My Vox colleague Dave Roberts calls this an “epistemic crisis.” The foundation for shared truth, he argues, has collapsed. I don’t disagree with that, but I’d frame the problem a little differently.

    We’re in an age of manufactured nihilism.

    The issue for many people isn’t exactly a denial of truth as such. It’s more a growing weariness over the process of finding the truth at all. And that weariness leads more and more people to abandon the idea that the truth is knowable.

    I call this “manufactured” because it’s the consequence of a deliberate strategy. It was distilled almost perfectly by Steve Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News and chief strategist for Donald Trump. “The Democrats don’t matter,” Bannon reportedly said in 2018. “The real opposition is the media. And the way to deal with them is to flood the zone with shit.”

    https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2020/1/16/20991816/impeachment-trial-trump-bannon-misinformation

  3. Obtrectator 3

    As I'm sure I've said before: Trump isn't the real problem. It's the guys in the background who are using him to distract everyone's attention while they get on with the real business.

  4. Anne 4

    The truly scary thing about Trump is his personality. He's a raving narcissist. He's unstable. He has tunnel vision. He's malevolent. He lies all day and everyday. He's a thug.

    And worst of all he is the president of a superpower.

    When you see presidents, prime ministers, monarchies and other ‘important’ people prostrating themselves before him, then you know it's time to be very scared indeed!

    Yep, the nay sayers will laugh and claim it’s all hyperbole. They did that in the 1930s too and look where that ended up…….

  5. Dennis Frank 5

    I agree their National Archives ought not to be sanitising photos of protest placards. That's blatant fakery. People ought to stage a protest outside their premises to expose the behaviour. If Trumpist public servants are responsible, their employment ought to be terminated.

    I'm still not seeing anything other than the bully-boy clown dark side of Trump. I pointed it out when he finally gave a speech condemning the far right hate groups. I think the reason he has been slow to front as centrist is simple opportunism: the right is where the numbers are. Too many are not just alienated from the establishment, they have become aware that they were deliberately screwed by the establishment as the result of gfc foreclosures etc. So there's still a wave for Trump to surf.

    If the Democrats were also competing to represent the middle class, Trump wouldn't win by default. Funny, that ongoing lack of clarion calls from leading Democrats – you can't be an establishment candidate by pointing to establishment guilt.

    So paranoia about Trump needs more of an evidential basis still to be justified. I don't see how he can win the center if he shifts any further to the right. He's relying on the weakness of the Democrats, and if that persists he'll win by playing it safe.

    • weka 5.1

      two points. One is that activists are exhausted. This is part of the dynamic that is going on, similar to the flood the zone with shit that Andre refers to. So it's no longer real to rely on activists to push back against the individual events. This is important to understand in the dismantling of democracy.

      Two, 45's team are well smart enough to do what needs to be done to get a second term. If that means playing it safe-ish for a while, they will do that. Then they have another 4 years to carry on with what they are doing. Playing safe as a tactic is not incompatible with working towards authoritarianism.

      Likewise finally condemning far right hate groups. Of course they will do that if it placates centrists. But this is a team that hired people like Bannon. I don't see anything that has resiled them from that original positioning, but I see plenty of PR.

  6. Puckish Rogue 6

    Sounds like a smart commentator angel

    So heres some predictions from a few back

    The stock market:

    https://www.politico.com/story/2016/10/donald-trump-wall-street-effect-markets-230164

    'NEW YORK — Wall Street is set up for a major crash if Donald Trump shocks the world on Election Day and wins the White House.'

    The reality:

    https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=12297046

    'US stocks are closing out a terrific year and President Donald Trump loves it. He's bragged about the stock market hitting record highs six times this week alone on Twitter.'

    • weka 6.1

      That's not a prediction about what 45 would do.

      I'm not surprised that Wall Street is making money. Are you?

      • Puckish Rogue 6.1.1

        Just pointing out the predictions made by experts and what actually happened

        • weka 6.1.1.1

          I'll just point out that the sun is going to set later today. What's your point in relation to the post?

          • Puckish Rogue 6.1.1.1.1

            My point is make enough predictions and somethings bound to come right but no one ever mentions the predictions they got wrong and for whatever reason Trump provokes more, incorrect, predictions then most

    • Puckish Rogue 6.2

      Unemployment:

      Prediction

      https://money.cnn.com/2016/06/21/news/economy/donald-trump-economy-jobs/

      'Just how bad would it get? The downturn under a President Trump would last longer than the Great Recession. About 3.5 million Americans would lose their jobs, unemployment would jump back to 7%, home prices would fall, and the stock market would plummet, Moody's predicts'

      Reality

      https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/trumps-average-unemployment-rate-is-the-lowest-in-recorded-history

      'President Trump starts off 2020 having presided over a lower average unemployment rate than any president at a comparable point in office in recorded history.'

      • Puckish Rogue 6.2.1

        Trump orders killing of known terrorist in reprisal for attack in Embassy

        Obama bombs Libya

      • arkie 6.2.2

        Economist Joseph Stiglitz wrote this article: The Truth About the Trump Economy

        To get a good reading on a country’s economic health, start by looking at the health of its citizens. If they are happy and prosperous, they will be healthy and live longer. Among developed countries, America sits at the bottom in this regard. US life expectancy, already relatively low, fell in each of the first two years of Trump’s presidency, and in 2017, midlife mortality reached its highest rate since World War II.

        The only time I have seen anything like these declines in health – outside of war or epidemics – was when I was chief economist of the World Bank and found out that mortality and morbidity data confirmed what our economic indicators suggested about the dismal state of the post-Soviet Russian economy.

        Trump may be a good president for the top 1% – and especially for the top 0.1% – but he has not been good for everyone else. If fully implemented, the 2017 tax cut will result in tax increases for most households in the second, third, and fourth income quintiles.

        Good work Trump!

      • Tiger Mountain 6.2.3

        Headline employment is one of the oldest ploys in politics. How much use are jobs really if they do not pay enough to have a reasonable life? Or if three of them combined do not return a liveable income?

        The reality is most working class Americans live from pay day to pay day, one missed car or rent payment away from disaster.

      • weka 6.2.4

        Don't spam my post with random financier reckons. You know that's not what I was talking about. Unless you didn't bother reading the post.

    • Andre 6.3

      Can you point to any economic indicator trendlines that showed a substantial change anytime in 2017 or later? Ie, have you any evidence the positive economics indicators you see now are anything more than the simple continuation of Obama's economic recovery from the vandalism of the Shrub years?

      I can think of three:

      the combover con inherited from Obama steadily decreasing deficit, Tantrump blew it up with his tax giveaways to the very highest-paid. So now it's about to top a trillion annually, higher than than even at the depths of the GFC. If the economy is great, why do you need to run the biggest ever deficits?

      The Pentagon budget was steadily reducing as Obama was disentangling the US from stupid foreign ventures. Space Cadet Bonespurs sure turned that spending curve back up!

      Farm incomes and manufacturing is down dramatically, mostly resulting from Bilious Blowhard's stupid posturing on tariffs. That's even after billions of dollars in farm aid (massively more than the auto industry bailouts post-GFC).

  7. Macro 7

    A very good summation weka.

    There is however one area of American society that is being changed at an alarming rate by Trump and his cohorts and it is not good.

    What Trump has done to the courts, explained

    No president in recent memory has done more to change the judiciary than Donald Trump.

    In less than three years as president, President Trump has done nearly as much to shape the courts as President Obama did in eight years….

    Trump hasn’t simply given lots of lifetime appointments to lots of lawyers. He’s filled the bench with some of the smartest, and some of the most ideologically reliable, men and women to be found in the conservative movement. Long after Trump leaves office, these judges will shape American law — pushing it further and further to the right even if the voters soundly reject Trumpism in 2020…..

    On the courts of appeal, the final word in the overwhelming majority of federal cases, more than one-quarter of active judges are Trump appointees. In less than three years, Trump has named a total of 48 judges to these courts — compared to the 55 Obama appointed during his entire presidency……

    And they’re young, too. “The average age of circuit judges appointed by President Trump is less than 50 years old,” the Trump White House bragged in early November, “a full 10 years younger than the average age of President Obama’s circuit nominees.”…..

    Trump’s nominees will serve for years or even decades after being appointed. Even if Democrats crush the 2020 elections and win majorities in both houses of Congress, these judges will have broad authority to sabotage the new president’s agenda.

    There is simply no recent precedent for one president having such a transformative impact on the courts.

    "Ok!" one might say , but the impact of some of these appointments is being revealed even now making life in America even more dangerous for many.

    eg:

    Trump judge lashes out at a transgender litigant in a surprisingly cruel opinion

    Trump-appointed judge dismisses trans defendant's chosen pronouns

    and the list could go on and on.

    As for the impending court battles on abortion, rights to contraceptive advice, and assistance, and other matters; the future gets more bleak with each appointment.

    • weka 7.1

      Thanks. That's sobering. That bolded bit belies the idea that 45 is a bumbling fool and it will eventually all be over. They know exactly what they are doing Even if they lose this year, they have set that in place for next time and it's not like the Dems are going to shore up democracy in the meantime. The right will be ok with the appointees because who wouldn't want a judiciary weighted to one's political side? And they will continue to ignore the threat of fascism until it is too late. Some will be ok with fascism too of course.

      • Andre 7.1.1

        It doesn't belie the idea that the genital-grabbing golem is a bumbling fool.

        He simply doesn't care enough about the courts to do anything more than rubber-stamp the Federalist Society picks. Who possess the rat-cunning to know that as long as their suggestions are going to be cravenly Drumpf-supine on anything that Dear Leader actually does care about, they can do whatever the fuck they want on other topics.

        It's also worth reminding over and over again that the reason there are so many court positions to fill is that as soon as "Moscow Mitch" McTurtle got the majority, he just blew off his constitutional obligations and just stonewalled every Obama pick. Leading to the massive number of vacancies in 2017.

      • Macro 7.1.2

        Yeah, and what Andre says above as well. McConnell knows exactly what he is doing, He is the one who has allowed and enabled this to happen. The alt right, and the religious right in particular, are in rapture about all this, which is where he get much of his support. Swing voters are slowly waking up to the fact that things are not quite what they had in mind, but the storm of misinformation is bewildering in its intensity, and mind numbing to such an extent now, that these judicial factors fly under the radar of many American voters.

  8. soddenleaf 9

    Trump will be impeached. First who wants to be Trump Senator, the fanciful idea that party loyalty transferes to Trump loyalty. Second Trump has ignored Congress when he didn't keep them appraised of the bomb of an Iranian general. Senators are elected too, sorry, have egos too. Third, the idea that it'll be okay to use govt influence to seek to target political opponents, and admit it, just watch Democrats cite it when they take Congress and the Whitehouse. You cleared him, it's okay now. And Democrats surge ain't faltering, ever Twitter, Trump makes a new Democrat. Heres the reasoning. people frustrated by the castration of the left, of unions, of organisations that would have raised wages, kept their health plans, gave them a community, are voting for rightwing like Trump who promise to destroy, drain the swamp, web Trump doesn't, when Trump becomes the swamp, it's a Democrat that wants to destroy, and drain the swamp, that Trump supporters switch too. Trump has failed.

    • Puckish Rogue 9.1

      Trump will not be impeached because of a number of reasons, not least being this is merely the latest in a very long list of Democrats trying to find anything to impeach Trump on

      Russia gate anyone, Stormy Daniels perhaps?

      But it won't happen because the Republicans don't like Trump but they hate not being in power anymore. They know Trump is popular with Republican voters so any Republican senators that cross the floor to vote with the Democrats know thats the end of their careers

      Also wheres the proof that did anything wrong? We know the Bidens got up to shenanigans in the Ukraine:

      https://www.wsj.com/video/opinion-joe-biden-forced-ukraine-to-fire-prosecutor-for-aid-money/C1C51BB8-3988-4070-869F-CAD3CA0E81D8.html

      https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/29/business/media/fact-check-biden-ukraine-burisma-china-hunter.html

      [lprent: Didn’t you actually read the the second link? (I couldn’t open anything substantive on the first – probably firewall). The second one stated at the start…

      As lawmakers examine whether President Trump pushed Ukraine to investigate the Biden family, here are some of the most prominent falsehoods that have spread online and an explanation of what really happened.

      Here are four of the most prominent false or misleading rumors that have spread and an explanation of what really happened (to the extent that we know)

      There is absolutely nothing in that article supports your assertion that Joe Biden was doing anything that was outside his remit. In fact the article was stating the exact opposite.

      I can’t be bothered just warning you – you do already know better. Banned for 4 weeks for both misrepresenting the substantive thrust of one of your linked articles, and for spreading unsubstantiated false facts. ]

      • Incognito 9.1.1

        Everything will be peachy for the impeached orange peach in the White House because he may be soft on the outside, juicy, sweet, and a little fleshy in the middle, but at the core he’s stone-cold and rock-hard and a hard nut to crack.

      • lprent 9.1.2

        Have you recently been losing dumbarse dickhead cred?

        That was a petty stupid comment – your link said exactly the opposite of what you asserted.
        fast way to pick up a ban for being an idiot, I guess.

  9. Dennis Frank 10

    I followed the link that delineated a diagnostic method (1998, formulate by an historian), and it made sense at first. Failed the reality check at stage two: "an advancing Left".

    Globally, that reality hasn't eventuated since Che Guevara martyred himself when I was still at school. Even given the leftist propensity for being delusional, I don't see how anyone could provide a plausible basis for that assertion in the USA since Kennedy's Camelot and LBJ's Great Society briefly bedazzled everyone in the early to mid 1960s. So that would be why neither the historian nor the article writer attempted to validate the assertion by providing proof.

    They're just trying to snow the uneducated. Disappointing, because I agree that a credible diagnostic would render the mindless mis-identification of fascism that has trended in younger generations in recent years (which the writer acknowledged, to her credit) as irrelevant hysteria.

    Then there's the uneasy collaboration between the trumpians and the conservative establishment. Rather than seeing the situation as a marriage of convenience, the article frames it as a corporate takeover of host by parasite kind of process. You wouldn't be able to count the number of American rightists who would either laugh or be irritated by the insult to their intelligence and integrity. Talk about misreading the lie of the land! But I guess when you internally view the other tribe as enemy, hallucinations become inevitable.

  10. mauī 12

    So about as fascist as Scotty Morrison… Cosying up to Dem outrage is a sure fire way to political irrelevancy.

    • RedLogix 12.1

      Indeed that has always been a large component of Trump's success; provoking your opponents into an impotent, frothing rage is an old but effective trick. At least some Dem candidates seem to understand this ….

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