Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Attacking Donald Trump vs. Attacking the Trump Administration

If you dig Republican orthodoxy, it's a fantastic time to be alive.  The incoming Trump cabinet is stacked with hardliners at various positions.  Sure, Trump is unorthodox on the issue of tariffs, but the GOP-led Congress might well gently shelve that issue:

But big tariffs appear too much to abide. Both Mr. Ryan and Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, supported a bill that gave Mr. Obama and his successor special “fast track” authority to negotiate trade agreements, and are proponents of reducing tariff barriers.

“Tax cuts and deregulation will make the American economy great again, but tariffs and trade wars will make it tank again,” David McIntosh, president of the conservative group Club for Growth, said in a statement, adding, “The majority leader is right to caution against protectionism and to urge a robust debate on free markets and trade.”

House leaders want to tackle the problem of companies’ moving operations overseas with a broad rewriting of the corporate tax code, which they say will make American manufacturing more competitive without resorting to punitive measures on individual companies.

“Tough talk plays well with his base and is arguably even long overdue,” said Brian Walsh, a Republican consultant and former official at the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “But ultimately, the legislative focus will be on tax reform and deregulation versus tariffs and trade wars. I don’t believe Republicans will let a golden opportunity to finally pass comprehensive tax reform fall victim to intraparty squabbling.”

(emphases added mine)

So the incoming Trump administration looks fairly set to be - rhetoric aside - not at all unique from any other given GOP administration.

Which leads to an interesting question: if one opposes the GOP generally, including Donald Trump, how does one go about opposing the Trump administration?  Does one treat Donald Trump like an uniquely terrifying and unique figure in American history, or does treat him as yet another right wing con man?  Does one fixate on Trump personally or what the Trump administration plans to do?

If the focus is to be on Trump personally, then the Left is already doing fine work.  Actors are taking Donald Trump on quite publicly, and Trump is reacting in kind.  People are getting all worked up about the world's random nutjobs reacting to fake news involving pizza.  The Weimar Republic / Hitler comparisons are in full swing.

People are engaged in "epic tweetstorms", taking Donald Trump down.  You may recall that Elizabeth Warren engaged in an epic tweetstorm taking on Donald Trump during the election, and now, Hillary Clinton is our President-elect.

In general, focusing on character appears to be a winning strategy for opponents of a given administration.  Remember when people were convinced that Barack Obama was a closet Muslim, and Mitt Romney was elected President in 2012?  Jon Stewart and SNL's hilarious skewering of George W. Bush and his mangled language led to Bush's defeat at the ballot box in 2004, and of course, Bill Clinton's infidelities led directly to the election of President Bob Dole in 1996.

I concur with this LA Weekly article's take on "the eviscerati," the political comedy talk show hosts of the world in particular :

The Evisceratti love to paint right-wingers as racist, home-schooled, evangelical idiots — meanwhile, these are the guys who seem fairly capable of effectively mobilizing, organizing and putting aside beefs (remember how for the last 18 months the Republican Party was one splinter away from shattering entirely?) to achieve a group goal. You know, democracy.

Precisely.  Laugh your way to the grave, or organize and go kick ass. 

Also, let's stop pretending that Donald Trump is a wholly unique Republican.  Ronald Reagan employed coded racism heavily, and he's the grandfather of modern conservatism.  Trump may lack politesse, but what he's saying isn't fundamentally any different from what Reagan or George W. Bush said before him.

Hillary Clinton ran her campaign in large part on the premise that "moderate Republicans" would cast off their candidate and vote for someone with some dignity.  The Clinton campaign was convinced that Trump's "uniqueness" would damn him:

Hillary Clinton ran her campaign on this. Her team rooted for Trump as nominee, because they were certain his outr√©ness would make him easy to beat (a strategy endorsed by Jonathan Chait in one of the low points of his career, which is saying something). When they got their wish, they ran against Trump by separating him from “normal” Republicans, hoping to peel off moderate suburbanites grossed out by his odiousness. Those suburbanites voted for Trump.

It was a losing strategy.  There is, arguably, no such thing as a moderate Republican anymore.  Sure, some big-city Republicans might blanch at the homophobia, overt racism and xenophobia of the Republican base, but when it comes time to vote, they'll think about the economic ramifications of the incoming cabinet and set all qualms aside.

Opponents of Trump can spend eight years reacting with OUTRAGE to every little thing he does, or they can let Trump tweet into the void.  They can also learn from recent Italian history, which was dominated by Italian proto-Trump Silvio Berlusconi, and take to the streets:

The first term was brief because of a massive mobilization against his proposed pension reforms (i.e., cuts). A general strike in October 1994 brought three million into the streets of 90 cities; a month later, a million turned out in Rome. Berlusconi fell in a matter of months.

Of course, opponents of Trump would also do well to learn the follow-up lesson of recent Italian history:

[Berlusconi] was succeeded by a series of technocratic and center–left regimes, which imposed even more severe pension cuts, austerity, and attacks on job security. (Over the next five years, fiscal policy was tightened by a savage 7% of GDP.) The unions and center–left went along with it all in the name of preventing a return of Berlusconi. Unemployment hovered between 10% and 11% for six years. Discontent brought Berlusconi back in the seventh.

That means saying sayonara to the Clinton/Obama "technocratic" wing of the Democratic Party and the "eviscerati" aspect of modern culture and really going for it for once.  A full-throated endorsement of leftism without any apologies.  Stop trying to find the moderate Republicans; they will close ranks with their party.  Stop trying to appease them; they cannot be appeased.

If you're a conservative, my congrats to you; it's champagne time.  If you're a liberal, I strongly encourage you to read the LA Weekly article linked-to above as well as this article by Doug Henwood (another writer you should consider following daily, or at least weekly) detailing the Berlusconi years and hypothesizing about the incoming Trump administration and how prominent Dem figures will deal with it.

Feed the outrage beast and pay the price.  Ignore Trump's character entirely and assail his policies and the actions of his administration?  We'll see how midterms go.

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