[For a brief note on how the Dems might remain relevant in the new era, click here.
How does one assess the last three days? After the shock of loss comes the shock of recognition. We lefties didn’t just lose the election and a chance for our first female president. We lost the whole ball game.
What we thought might approach a three-branch sweep for us
became a three-branch sweep for the other guys. Not only do they have the Senate and the House; by the end of Trump’s first term they will have at least a 5-4 Supreme Court majority, and maybe a crushing 6-3 one.
And what if the other guys decide that, having won the whole ball game, they don’t need filibusters and Senate holds any more? What if, having won a clear majority of both Houses, they decide to go with majority rule, for a change
, at least for a while? (They can any time; our Constitution lets each House makes its own rules by majority vote.)
Then they can rule as if we lefties didn’t exist. Our ideologies, plans, hopes and dreams will all come to naught. We will become irrelevant.
Yet there’s a bone-chilling irony that most pundits haven’t even begun to notice. Trump is planning to use our
methods—Keynesian economics with big deficits—to defillibrate the economy.
Trump’s minions are going to do exactly what Obama wanted to do: give us a big stimulus at the cost of big deficits. They are going to drive up inflation by increasing money in circulation and demand, and that is going to drive interest rates back to “normal” levels. The ripples from the Crash of 2008 will finally disappear without a trace, and by exactly the methods that President Obama, Paul Krugman and Joe Stiglitz have been pushing for eight years.
Trump’s Administration is going to do this not only by enacting a huge infrastructure package, but also by cutting top individual tax taxes dramatically (about three times what Dubya did—the piker!), and by dropping top corporate rates by more than half (from 35% to 15%). If Trump throws a sop to us lefties (and to economic justice) by getting rid of the carried interest rule, most multinationals and their CEOs won’t even notice. Hedge-fund CEOs may just have to find more productive employment.
So what’s going on here? The GOP is going to juice the economy pretty much as Obama would have done, if given the chance, but with lots more emphasis on making the rich and corporations richer. So was the whole battle about that last bit—making the rich richer?
For the GOP’s big donors, it probably was. That’s what the Koch Brothers, Sheldon Adelson and Wall Street wanted. That’s what—and all—they always want. But did the GOP pols have to lie, smear Obama and blame Dubya’s two needless wars, Syria and IS’ rise on him just to do that?
No, there’s another big thing GOP pols want. They don’t just want to reward their rich donors by making them richer. That’s just part of the plan.
They want to win. They want to rule. They want to rule even if it means cutting every corner, bashing every minority, using every cheap trick, breaking every rule of their precious Bible, and then, after winning, ending up doing pretty much what the guys they beat would have done. They just want to be in the driver’s seat.
That’s why Donald is now our President-elecct and the GOP standard bearer. He’s a walking metaphor for the whole party. His chief and perhaps sole goal in life is winning. That’s all he’s about, and that’s all he does. And don’t ask him what “winning” means. He knows it when he sees it, and if you
don’t you’re a wimp.
So of course
we Yanks are back to rule by an Alpha Male. Of course
no female could compete, not even one as smart and experienced as Hillary. Of course he’s not the brightest, fairest or most just. He’s a winner, and that’s all that matters to him and his followers. It all seems so
right because that’s what our biological evolution tells us to do: follow the Alpha Male.
On Tuesday, biological evolution came back with a vengeance. It wiped out not just the Dems, but much of American history. In retrospect, it “justified” all the GOPs dirty tricks over the past two generations: Nixon’s “Southern Strategy,” the fierce gerrymandering, the avid vote suppression, the outrageously common filibusters
, the innumerable Senate “holds,” the “Hastert Rule,” the threats to jail and veiled invitations to kill Hillary, and the refusal even to budge on hearing
a Supreme Court nomination. Winning became the end that justifies the means.
That’s why democracy is so rare in human history. That’s why we humans always seems to slip back into empire. The temptation is just too great to pack the ballot box and have Kerensky or General Kirov taken out and shot. Or to pursue Trotsky all the way to Mexico just to put an ice pick in his head.
We Yanks differ only in the bloodlessness and less drastic nature of our means. The Russians and Turks can maintain the illusion of democracy by killing journalists and jailing and ostracizing dissenters. Even the ancient Greeks exiled them. But it takes a uniquely rational and cold-blooded people, like the Brits, to keep democracy running smoothly for eight hundred years since Magna Carta. Most big empires have lasted longer than most democracies.
So is that it? Can we place an early epitaph on our Yankee democracy, our nation, our “uniqueness” and our “exceptionalism” and bury them with flowers?
Probably so. Real democracy, like the Brits’ pure parliamentary brand, probably died here with Reagan’s smooth platitudes of “trickle down,” if not earlier with Nixon and Kissinger. It may have died aborning with our malapportioned Senate and Electoral College, which just recently has given us two popular winners deprived of victory (Al Gore and Hillary Clinton). And it would have died a lot earlier still, except that the threat of Communism and socialism made the bosses accept FDR and the New Deal, which saved capitalism from itself. The smarter of them thought a highly successful “mixed” economy would be better than social and political revolution along the lines of the Russian ones.
Things would have to get that bad again to make a real difference. Despite the middle class’ angst and insecurity, they are a long way from that point.
So cheer up! Rejoice! An Alpha-Male “winner” is at the helm again. He may not be the brightest bulb in our marquee, nor is he the most experienced. But he knows how to win, by means both fair and foul.
And now that he’s won the presidency—and once again proved himself to himself—his boundless narcissism turns toward a different goal: being a “great!”
president—“the best.” He really does want to make things better, by his lights. And if that means burning all the coal we can—a fuel we have at hand in abundance in our own country—and so avoiding wars over fossil fuels, that’s all to the good. Our descendants, if there are any, will just have to deal with the massive pollution, coastal flooding, huge storms, droughts, famines and northerly-moving insect epidemics as best they can. Winners only deal with challenges immediately before them.
As for the tribalism, it has caused a lot of angst and hurt feelings. But I think it will subside. It was a means to an end, not an end in itself. Donald Trump is a New Yorker; he’s not a rube from the outback who’s never met a Jew, Muslim, Mexican, or African-American. Even when he takes his limousine, he bumps into them in his hallways and elevators. They are his employees and customers. They are just pawns and political chess pieces, but he knows them and he needs them.
So things may tighten up. People coming from the Middle East may be in for some “extreme vetting.” Some
undocumented Mexicans may be deported, but probably mostly those with criminal records. After all, Donald needs the rest—and needs them to be docile serfs—to build his hotels and casinos and work without complaint in his restaurants. So do the rest of the GOP bosses.
Therefore the undocumented Mexicans can stay, but only in the shadows, docile and unprotesting, as usual. They will get no official relief, ever, because they are to be a new class of corporate serfs
. A few unlucky families will be tragically broken up—mostly those who try to organize, protest and agitate. But mass deportation will remain only a threat, not a policy or a torrent. Trump will probably do much the same things as Obama, but without trying to put them in writing. It’s the only sensible thing to do, as deportation makes no profit.
As for the rest, we will live and learn along with Donald. He’s nowhere near as stupid as Dubya, and he seems to learn from experience. At least he’s not touting any new “universities.” He wants things like media and “reality shows” that let him make his own reality. It’s hard to do that with science or history.
The biggest opportunities, and the biggest risks, will come from Trump’s nascent attitudes toward war. On the one hand, as a businessman he knows that we Yanks have been far too bellicose and trigger-happy. Ever since Vietnam, we have wasted our energy, money and moral substance on ill-advised military misadventures.
As Trump has said, Dubya was our worst leader in this regard. On false pretenses, he invaded and occupied two
sovereign foreign nations (Iraq and Afghanistan) and maintained our two longest wars ever in them—all to stop terrorism and bring bin Laden to justice. Obama brought bin Laden to justice with two helicopters and a team of Navy Seals, and he’s been trying to wind down those two interminable wars ever since. If Trump can speed that process, we will have more money and military muscle to devote to terrorism, cyberwarfare, and other likely twenty-first century threats.
On the other hand, Trump is a quintessential Alpha Male. At some point in the next four years, he may come up hard against another Alpha Male like Putin or Xi. There he will need some real diplomats and problem solvers. Or we will all need cool, rational, self-restrained military men with fingers actually on the buttons. We will need men like the obscure Russian Submarine Flotilla Commander Vasilii Aleksandrovich Arhkipov (Василий Александрович Архипов), who saved the world
from nuclear Armageddon in 1962 by not
firing his nuclear torpedoes.
If we Yanks can’t find and train such men, well, we humans will have had a good run. Our civilization will have lasted nearly six millennia, and we will likely number over 7 billion individuals. If we fall, there are probably billions of other intelligent species out there in the vast darkness of the cosmos who might do better. Some might even forego the Alpha Male as a leader on the theory that two heads are better than one, three better than two, and so on. (I once thought that China would do that in its top Communist-Party committee, but Xi is now bent on proving me wrong by packing the committee with his minions and sycophants.)
So it’s a brave new world out there. We don’t know quite where we’re going, and neither does the driver. No one including him knows what he wants, and no one knows what’s possible. All we know is that the brakes are off. So it’s going to be an exhilarating and probably bumpy ride.