Saturday, January 6, 2018

Will America ever be great again? Not so long as the Grand Obstruction Party holds power.

Will America ever be great again?

It certainly won’t be after another three years of Trump. Ann McFeatters in Friday morning’s Daily Star details what Trump already has done to us in just one year, Taking the measure of Trump.

Many Americans have regarded Donald Trump as a buffoon or a bankruptcy-prone business guy with a flair for reality TV who ultimately would do little harm. Many now think he is the most dangerous president in U.S. history.

McFeatters provides a list (that I’ve condensed) of reasons to have such a fear:

Trump disparages the rule of law, is systematically ruining Americans’ vital respect for the integrity of institutions, made the country a laughingstock among former allies, taunts North Korea’s unstable dictator, is unpatriotic, is undermining the role of the federal government, is using the presidency to make millions, has declared war on the First Amendment, does not know what he is doing, is still trying to ban and deport immigrants because of their religion, is stacking the courts with people who are loyal to him, and he believes he is above the law, is widening the gap between rich and poor, and is about to complete one year of a four-year term.

And let’s not overlook Trump’s persecution of Hillary Clinton, who lost the 2016 election, in the form of the politically motivated FBI probing Clinton Foundation corruption claims.

The country is already changed, perhaps forever. He intends to run again in 2020. Isn’t it interesting how one person can make such a difference in a country with 325 million people.

So given all that, why have the Republicans tied themselves so closely to Trump? Let’s start with the evidence.

Republicans have become the Grand Obstruction Party writes Brian Beutler at

[Steve] Bannon made himself the scourge of Republican Party officials, and McConnell in particular, by working to support a bunch of loathsome Republican primary candidates. But the decision to drive a wedge between him and Trump on this particular issue reveals something critical about the GOP’s disposition toward Trump’s misconduct. The Republican establishment is running tighter cover for Trump over historically scandalous and likely criminal actions than the man who stood by Trump, and later Roy Moore, after learning they were sexual predators. Party leaders view allegations of legal wrongdoing against Trump not as a potential problem for their party and the country, but as a kind of betrayal of Trump himself. If and when full documentation of his crimes emerges, they will go to great lengths to make sure he faces no repercussions.

In this and other ways, Wednesday’s bombshells [from Wolff’s new book, Fire and Fury] were more clarifying than revolutionary, particularly for discerning news consumers.

Bannon isn’t a reliable narrator of almost anything, including the merits of the Russia scandal itself, but he has shown a revealing consistency on the question of Trump’s handling of that issue. His antipathy to Jared Kushner, and efforts to pin the whole Russia affair on him go back months. When he left the White House he called Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey among the biggest errors in modern political history. When the rest of the right wing was advancing the notion that the Russia investigation was phony and rigged, some anonymous figure “close to the administration” called the investigation “a classic Gambino-style roll-up,” that will “reach everyone in this administration.” It remains a huge mystery who that person was, but by completely fake coincidence, Bannon used the same language when he told Wolff that Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller is “going to roll [Kushner and Donald Trump, Jr.] up and say play me or trade me.”

Perhaps for fear that Bannon is right, Republicans have tried to discredit Mueller and end his probe. Two particularly Bannnonesque Republicans, Mark Meadows, and Jim Jordan, published an op-ed on Thursday putting forth a flimsy pretext for firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, so that he can be replaced with a new Attorney General who will fire Mueller. With Paul Ryan’s blessing, the House Intelligence Committee is now fully dedicated to running counter-ops against Mueller and the FBI, and has breached their investigation.

But there are no Republicans on the other side of the party providing any kind of counterweight. On Thursday, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO)—who did not vote for Trump and who, as chairman of the Senate GOP campaign committee refused to raise money for Roy Moore—rose to the defense of Coloradans, who legalized marijuana several years ago.

In a pair of tweets Gardner holds AG Sessions accountable.

This reported action directly contradicts what Attorney General Sessions told me prior to his confirmation. With no prior notice to Congress, the Justice Department has trampled on the will of the voters in CO and other states.

I am prepared to take all steps necessary, including holding DOJ nominees, until the Attorney General lives up to the commitment he made to me prior to his confirmation.

As right as Gardner was to take this stand, not a single Republican, including himself, has put anything like the same kind of effort into stopping Trump’s unprecedented corruption, or defend the integrity of the Russia investigation. At this point, if any of them tried, they’d stand a good chance of being driven out of the party for venturing “off the reservation” in much the same way Bannon was.

GOPlins pay homage to King Donald
GOPlins pay homage to King Donald

Paul Krugman asks “Why?” in his NY Times column, Faust on the Potomac, in which he provides an answer.

The answer, I think, is that the cynical bargain that has been the basis of Republican strategy since Reagan has now turned into a moral trap. And as far as we can tell, no elected Republican – not one – has the strength of character to even attempt an escape.

I’d like to think that the sucking sound you hear is an electoral vortex taking down the GOPlins who are protecting Trump at the cost of the general welfare of our democracy. Krugman has more to say about that.

Early on, some speculated that this would be a temporary alliance – that establishment Republicans would use Trump to get what they wanted, then turn on him. But it’s now clear that won’t happen. Trump has exceeded everyone’s worst expectations, yet Republicans, far from cutting him loose, are tying themselves even more closely to his fate. Why?

The answer, I’d argue, is that they’re stuck. They knowingly made a deal with the devil, and can’t back out.

More specifically, Trump’s very awfulness means that if he falls, the whole party will fall with him. Republicans could conceivably distance themselves from a president who turned out to be a bad manager, or even one who turned out to have engaged in small-time corruption. But when the corruption is big time, and it’s combined with obstruction of justice and collaboration with Putin, nobody will notice which Republicans were a bit less involved, a bit less obsequious, than others. If Trump sinks, he’ll create a vortex that sucks down everyone involved.

And so we now have the Republican party as a whole fully complicit in Trump’s crimes – because that’s what they are, whether or not he and those around him are ever brought to justice.

Now I have left you with a satisfying, almost religious, mental image of a great blue wave - or a great blue vortex. It’s your image. Your pick.

I hate to do damage to that rosy expectation … but I will.

Trump is unpopular, more than just about any other president the polls tell us. He is reviled by progressives and held in low regard by independents. However, most Republican voters still support him. The Gallup poll, Presidential Approval Ratings – Donald Trump, from the last week of 2017 has the numbers. Overall Trump’s approval stands at 39%. (The average approval for other presidents at this point in their term is 64%. Trump’s approval is the lowest by far of any of the last nine presidents.) However, when party affiliation is considered we get a different picture. Only 9% of Democrats approve of Trump, and only 34% of independents approve. But a whopping 82% of Republicans approve of Trump.

So I suspect that the Republican leaders in Congress continue to suck up to Trump because they know their base. As long as Trump goes along with the GOP agenda, Republicans will not turn on him no matter what the evidence says about his character and no matter how much more damage Trump will do to our nation. The question then becomes whether the much-anticipated 2018 blue wave will be powerful enough and durable enough to overcome the Republican advantages mentioned by Krugman.

What this means, among other things, is that expecting the GOP to exercise any oversight or constrain Trump in any way is just foolish at this point. Massive electoral defeat – massive enough to overwhelm gerrymandering and other structural advantages of the right – is the only way out.

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