Thursday, July 21, 2016

Will the U.S. Survive the 2016 Election III

Sandy Levinson

Can anyone who has looked at any of the hatefest of the past three days--which has been comparable, depending on your taste in metaphors, to the Salem Witch Trials or a lynch mob (led by the ostensible "prosecutor" Chris Christie--believe that the Republican Party as an institution is read to make peace with President Hillary Clinton?  It would be bad enough were we a parliamentary system, with an opposition party that not only opposes, but regularly refers to their desire to jail or execute the lawfully elected prime minister.  But, of course, we're not blessed with such a system.  Instead, we have one, courtesy of the Framers of 1787, in which the opposition party has all too much ability to torpedo any programs of the purported "party in power," as captured in the Republican use of the filibuster.  As I have written many times before, Mitch McConnell is not a raving ideologue; he was simply behaving "rationally" in his desire to deprive Barack Obama of a second term and believing that the most effective way to do it was to deprive him of any accomplishments.  He learned that Ted Kennedy had disastrously miscalculated by enabling George W. Bush to claim victory on two key aspects of his own domestic policy, i.e., No Child Left Behind and the prescription drug bill, and McConnell was not going to make the same mistake.  As it turned out, thanks to Mitt Romney's inept campaign (and Sheldon Adelson's providential financing of Newt Gingrich's campaign for at least a month longer than any rational analysis would have predicted), it didn't work.  But that doesn't mean that McConnell was irrational.  To be sure, he wasn't very Publican; he preferred factional Party interest to any notion of the "public interest," but of course, the Publican vision, even if you think it attractive, ultimately makes very little sense empirically, as illustrated by the rise of the two-party system by the mid-1790s.

So what's the most likely outcome of this dreadful election system.  There are three possibilities:

A. A sociopathic Donald Trump wins the presidency with Republicans retaining control of the House and Senate.  I would hope that Democrats would do whatever possible to torpedo any such Trump Administration, including refusal to confirm almost all of his appointments, but, then, I would expect the Republicans to eliminate the filibuster in then first week of January 20217 and govern like a parliamentary majority, paying no attention at all to wailing Democrats.  The latter would either begin supporting secession in Pacifica, as suggested earlier, start organizing for the 2018 elections, engage in "inner emigration,' or in fact move elsewhere.   And, of course, it would almost certainly be the case that a Trump "win" would be with regard to the electoral college, but not the popular vote.  I.e., he could either lose to Clinton directly or, even if he beats her, still have significantly less than a majority because Gary Johnson will get a significant vote as the Libertarian candidate.  Recall the 1968 and 1992 elections, where Nixon and Clinton each got only 43% of the popular vote (or, for that matter, the 1860 election, where Lincoln got 39.8% of the popular vote.)

B.  Hillary Clinton wins, the Democrats get back the Senate, but Paul Ryan remains Speaker of the House with a five-vote majority.  Again, one can imagine various popular votes.  Perhaps Hillary will emulate Bill in 1992 by winning as the first-past-the-post candidate, but with considerably less than a majority vote.  In any event, Democrats, if they have any backbone, will immediately vote to eliminate the filibuster re Supreme Court appointments and appoint to the Court people who will steadfastly enforce what most liberals believe is the "correct" view of the Constitution.  But, otherwise, Clinton and Democratic supporters will be unable to pass any legislation, thanks to Paul Ryan, who will immediately be running for the presidency in 2020 on a platform of "I hate Hillary as much as you do."  This will lead to further disaffection from the political system by anyone who actually believes that Congress should respond to the great challenges facing us.  What particular form the disaffection will take is obviously unclear.

C.  Clinton will win by 15 points (53-38, with Gary Johnson and Bill Weld getting almost all of the remaining 9%), which will be enough to give Democrats both houses of Congress.  The filibuster is eliminated for everything, including legislation, in January 2017, and the Democrats will govern as a genuine majority party.  That will, of course, make people like me very happy, but I would assume that the Republican Party "represented" by the delegates to the Cleveland Convention will increasingly take to the streets, brandishing their 2nd Amendment-protected firearms, and make it very clear that they in fact view the President of the United States as nothing other than a (lucky) criminal who is entitled to no genuine respect whatsoever.  (If that's not their view, then someone should have explained that to Chris Christie.)

Options A and C both provide something that can be called a "government," but one that is viewed by much as the country as completely illegitimate, at least if the President has anything to do with it.  Option B leaves us more or less where we are, i.e., mired in legislative gridlock and ever-increasing contempt for the most important of all American political institutions, the Congress, with who knows what consequences.

Foolishly or not, I continue to allow comments (at least some of which I find illuminating).  Again, the only thing I'm really interested in is the political analysis.  I'm not interested in anyone's personal opinions of Trump or Clinton (i.e., whether the former is "really" a sociopath or the latter "really" deserves to be jailed).  The only important question is the number of people in the country at large, including those who are politically active, who do have such views and the consequence for our political system.  Steve Griffin wrote an excellent book on the importance of "trust" in any viable political order.  Can anyone possibly be optimistic that we as a society  possess whatever minimal level of trust in our political leaders is required to function effectively?


I would assume that the Republican Party "represented" by the delegates to the Cleveland Convention will increasingly take to the streets, brandishing their 2nd Amendment-protected firearms.

We don't seem that enthusiastic in this country and though some stray people might protest with open carry, not thinking it will be any sort of critical mass. The conventions are not exactly a good representation of the country. After all, Trump won a plurality of the minority of passionate voters who took part in primaries/caucuses.

And, if Trump wins, many will be horrified, but it would be a "legitimate" win to a supermajority of the country. A minority will consider Clinton somehow "illegitimate" but even Brett (who thinks she is a dangerous felon) said he thought the election would be "legitimate." So, your usage of "completely illegitimate" to me is wrongheaded. But, that isn't necessary for trouble to arise.

I think a likely possibility is "B" but some sort of legislation will be passed to deal with the basics of government. Ryan very well not quite take the "I hate Hillary as much as you do" approach. He very well can try to show he is a sane conservative legislator and support some things, not just be totally obstructionist. After about a decade, e.g., he might finally accept the PPACA, or at least basic parts of it that are widely popular.

Control of the Senate would allow Clinton to run the executive department with people she wants. And, the Republicans might lose some ground in the House, resulting in various splits in the caucus. The future there is unclear.

So one of the reasons you should have heeded my advice to avoid hyperbole is that you got nothing left to describe someone like Trump, who really deserves it. Be that as it may, I don't think that Republicans in Congress would be rolling over for President Trump as their respective parties did for Obama and Bush. This is particularly true if no evidence emerges that Trump can reward or punish other Republicans in primaries, which it has not so far.

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Seriously, have you missed the past eight years on sabbatical on an island with no communication to the outside world?

1) The Democrat Congress enacted into law every single major policy Obama proposed except for Cap & Tax, which Obama is now imposing by bureaucratic decree. Despite the voters firing over 1,000 Democrats in the largest repudiation of a political party and their policies since Hoover's GOP was given their pink slips, we are still living in Obama World. The newly hired GOP Congress has not reversed to any degree any policy imposed by the fired Democrat Congress or the Obama bureaucracy. So much for your hated checks and balances.

2) The GOP is the majority party, not the opposition. The only part of government in which the Democrats still hold a majority is the presidency. If the US had your preferred parliamentary system, the GOP would have been running everything starting back in 2010, BO would be in forced retirement starring with his family on a reality show entitled "Keeping Up With The Obamas," and Hillary Clinton would the opposition leader.

3) The fall election will likely only decide who will occupy the White House after Obama. The current Democrat-leaning registered voter polling shows no sign at all that the GOP will lose its majority in the Congress or in state government and is hardly inspiring confidence that the Democrats will even retain the White House. Our shared nightmare of a Trump presidency is very possible.

4) The FBI possessed evidence beyond any reasonable doubt that the opposition presidential candidate was guilty of felony provision of classified materials to uncleared persons, felony obstruction of justice, felony perjury before Congress and misdemeanor storage of classified materials in unsecured locations. The current opposition president, with a long history of prosecuting military members and bureaucratic leakers for far less, refuses to prosecute his preferred successor. Why wouldn't the majority party be outraged? Why aren't you outraged???

5) If you agree that trust is necessary for any viable political order, why on Earth are you planning to cast a ballot to elect a demonstrated serial liar for president?

In case you need a reminder, here is your dowager queen in waiting lying repeatedly on video:

Hillary Clinton is justifiably the most distrusted candidate for president in modern and perhaps all of American history:

This is not to say that Trump is much more trustworthy. The Donald has dumped three decades of progressive positions and adopted a completely new set of conservative and nativist policies in his effort to get elected.

6) What ought to scare the hell out of people is both the Donald and the Hillary are undisguised authoritarians who will be inheriting Obama's precedent of ruing by decree.

God save what is left of our Republic.

I agree with Joe that option B seems most likely, though I don't share his optimism about Paul Ryan. And while I don't expect any form of "revolution", I do expect we'll see a continuation of the rhetorical extremism which has been a constant from the Rs since at least 1994.

A Trump win would be a complete disaster, so it doesn't really matter how legitimate it is.

I'll just wait and see but Mark Field's more pessimistic take isn't exactly unreasonable. The "five person" thing is intriguing. A few stray legislators are already not supporting Trump. If the majority is that thin (which to me is somewhat optimistic; I'm not going even going to bet my nonexistent farm on winning the Senate), Paul Ryan or others might act interestingly.

BB is correct bottom line so it's probably best not to use "completely illegitimate" language and not just so mls doesn't have a "I told you so" moment. And, it confuses the problem.


"but I would assume that the Republican Party "represented" by the delegates to the Cleveland Convention will increasingly take to the streets, brandishing their 2nd Amendment-protected firearms,"

I'm a bit puzzled why taking to the streets isn't part of your first scenario, given that liberals have already perpetrated more than one violent riot in response to peaceful Trump rallies, among other occasions.

I don't see armed Republicans taking to the streets in response to Hillary's mere election. (Unless it was accomplished by way of massive fraud.) But I could easily see Democrats, crazed by finally regaining the levers of power, perpetrating outrages that would prompt mass demonstrations. They wouldn't be violent demonstrations unless liberals started the violence.

Sandy's post closes with this question that perhaps might be rhetorical:

"Can anyone possibly be optimistic that we as a society possess whatever minimal level of trust in our political leaders is required to function effectively?"

I'm not prepared, at least right now, to respond to this question (assuming it's not rhetorical). But the form of the question suggests to me that such a person, in Sandy's mind, would be wrong. When a new President begins his term, he/she will have to learn much in the form of on the job training, regardless of how well the transition team does its job in preparing the new President. Hopefully there are mechanisms in place than can lessen chaos. Perhaps historians and political scientists have studied what new Presidents have faced and how they have responded to potentially dangerous scenarios they have had to address. (Bay of Pigs? Secession?) I would hope that the structures of the Executive branch with career personnel would provide protection and security. While Donald J. Trump may be a "turkey," America is not a Turkey.

I didn't get much sleep last night because Gov. Pence went overtime as a result of which the Late Show was delayed, keeping a geezer such as myself up too long. But I took a nap this afternoon and look forward to the Late Show tonight to put all this in perspective. So I won't be focusing on Chicken Little scenarios that might play out in this thread - until tomorrow.

Meantime I'm working on a Brexit poem that might incorporate The Donald and the new PM Theresa May and her "Brexit means Brexit" stance even though she was a Remainer. I have as a tentative title:


inspired by The Donald.


Watch Donald Trump's acceptance speech then watch Adolph Hitler's 1932 campaign speeches on Youtube with English subtitles. The themes of a corrupt government working with scapegoats (the Jews for Hitler and foreigners for Trump) to bring disorder and economic disaster to the forgotten common man and woman, followed by promises that the Leader will restore order and greatness to the nation are the same and are damned effective in both cases. What makes Trump's fascist propaganda even more effective is that most of his indictments of our government and his opponent are in fact true and pluralities to heavy majorities of voters share Trump's outrage.

You Democrats are seriously underestimating Trump.

Trump is appealing directly to Bernie Sanders' Millennial supporters and your working class minority constituencies, by portraying Democrats as the whores of wealthy special interests, and indicting Democrat misgovernance for the poverty and crime they are suffering.

In the debates, Clinton is going to offer a collection of focus group approved zingers and Trump is going to respond by verbally punching her in the mouth with indictments of her lies, crimes and corruption. In fact, Clinton is the perfect establishment foil for Trump.

People, Trump can very well become our next President.


BP is lulling us into a sense of security now given past predictions.

It's a trap!


I am not making any predictions concerning the 2016 election because I have never seen anything like Trump's fascist campaign in the history of major party American politics.

I am saying you need to take Trump very seriously.

I choose to take Mr. DePalma's comment at face value, including his willingness to compare the convention in essence with a Nuremburg rally scripted by Josef Goebbels. I refuse to believe that enough Americans are susceptible to the basically Schmittian politics he and Giuliani are pushing. I truly look forward to seeing what traction Johnson and Weld develop. I certainly hope they get to participate in the debates, which will be healthy for the country.

People, Trump can very well become our next President.

# posted by Blogger Bart DePalma : 11:32 PM

These poll numbers are GREAT news for John McCain!!!


Sandy: I refuse to believe that enough Americans are susceptible to the basically Schmittian politics he and Giuliani are pushing.

Believe it.

Trump spent that speech systematically pushing the buttons of one group after another.

If you Democrats do not start to understand the depth of the anger at and fear of the status quo out there and offer a compelling alternative change, Trump could very well win this election.

An unknown Barrack Obama pulled this off in 2008. I cannot see how an all too well known Hillary Clinton can pull this off in 2016.

Blogger Bart DePalma said...
I cannot see how an all too well known Hillary Clinton can pull this off in 2016.

These poll numbers are GREAT news for John McCain!!!

Blankshot, it's great that you're terrified of Trump winning. Too bad that won't stop you from doing everything you can to help him.

The Donald Duck Die-Nasty obviously has been channeling Richard M. Nixon's "Law and Order" motif but un-channeled Ronald Reagan with the Donald Duck Die-Nasty acceptance speech theme: "MOURNING IN AMERICA!"

Sandy's taking SPAM I AM! at "face value" suggests that Sandy's closing question in this post was at least semi-rhetorical. But in truth is SPAM I AM! a beard for Sandy? (Yes, this is a rhetorical question.)

While I take SPAM I AM! at facial hair value regarding his Chicken Finger Lickin' fears for Democrats, the Cruz Canadacy Cruzaders, of whom SPAM I AM! was a leading (but dim) light, have even more to fear and SPAM I AM! with his thousands of J'accuses of The Donald as a fascist may be #2 [pun intended] on The Donald's "Nixon" list.

After last night, I'm still sure the US will survive the election. I'm less sure it would survive a Trump presidency.

Regarding Sandy Levinson's comment, I do trust the American public will not vote for Trump, though will not just rest on that -- think Clinton can appeal to her record, a more positive message and the campaigning chops that helped her win each campaign minus a close one vs. Obama. As to the debates, would welcome that though figure Clinton would not and it might require a change of the rules. To me, Johnson/Weld is the sane Republican Party-in-exile.

Sandy's comment confirms that he and SPAM I AM! are hyperbolic peas but in separate non-organic pods. I doubt that the shelling by either of them will sell.

To me, Johnson/Weld is the sane Republican Party-in-exile.

To a certain extent, yes. I mean, it's missing the racism and insanity of the Trump voters, who've been reliably R for the last 35 years or so, and their platform includes quite a few nutcase ideas, but they're both thankfully free of affective personality disorders.

Professor Levinson makes some fascinating points, but I think he underestimates the sheer overwhelming force of inertia. The vast majority of Americans will just shake their heads sadly and get on with their lives. After all, thirty to forty percent of them probably won't even bother showing up to vote.

Perhaps the scarier question is how much real grass-roots opposition would rise up in response to President Trump craziness. I'm not too optimistic on that score either. Easier to just share a meme on facebook and call it a day.

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You didn't present the option if "a sociopathic Hillary Clinton" wins the election. And since Donald Trump doesn't have characteristics of "sociopath," allow me to present articles from across the world from people and organizations who do believe and make supportive arguments that Hillary Clinton IS-
Perhaps "enlightened" liberals would be of more value to society if you actually cared about.


Bart DePalma, outstanding presentation

"An unknown Barrack Obama pulled this off in 2008. I cannot see how an all too well known Hillary Clinton can pull this off in 2016."

Much as I dislike Bartbuster, that statement really is deserving of mockery. She can pull it off by having practically the entire media working for her as an unpaid PR firm, while social media outlets like FB do their best to suppress anti-Hillary memes and amplify pro-Hillary ones. I would have thought that was obvious.

You never know how Trump is going to do, he's not playing the same game previous GOP nominees were, but it's obvious what Hillary is counting on. The media are in her corner.


"The media are in her [Clinton's] corner."

may be referring to post-Roger -"the-Lodger"-Ailes. But what about the close to $2 Billion in media freebies that The Donald got up to the time he was the lone GOP Clown standing, more that all the others spent? Maybe Ailes should have gone international as did Brett rather than play the rooster in Fox's henhouse. As Bugs Bunny would say, "What's up Murdoch?"

By the Bybee [expletives deleted], it is rumored that Ailes may soon be overtly on The Donald's payroll.

In any scenario without actual large scale & obvious fraud, the public will more or less go along with it (with some grumbling from the losers). Every four years I hear GOPers who swear they'll go gun if the Dems win, but only loonies would ever do anything so deranged. Even the obvious problems with Bush v Gore didn't lead to a Dem revolt- mostly they (wisely imo) saw that they could only harm the legitimacy of the system by taking things further.
In scenario A or C, there will be vocal opposition. Not many Dems would call Trump illegitimate without some factual basis (ie without election irregularities). A few more GOPers would say this about Clinton, but in the wake of a Trump loss I suspect the majority of the elected officials would get back to business as usual (ie partisan political gridlock, but emphatically disavow the idea of armed opposition).
But I think your analysis sidesteps the real question- in any scenario the GOP is going to be undergoing rapid changes: either in victory as Trumpism becomes the leading ideology (such as it is), or much more likely in defeat.
So I don't see the status quo extending into the future. My likeliest scenario is B, with Ryan tacking with the changing GOP winds with a weather eye on 2020. I suspect (or maybe it's just hope) that the GOP finds itself needing to court nonwhite voters and younger voters by embracing a positive vision for the future rather than a retreat into the past. I neither agree with or like Reagan, but he had a positive vision for America that went beyond clinging to the past or encouraging hate and divisiveness. The GOP needs to find that again before they'll get a good chance at the white house.

I should add: if Clinton wins then Trump will fight to prevent being labeled a loser, and by far the easiest way to fight that would be to blame the 'defectors' on the right. So win or lose, a struggle for the soul of the right is inevitable.

Trump probably already has lined up reasons A to Z not to be branded as a loser. I had commented many months ago that Trump could say that he accomplished his goal by demonstrating that the Republican Party needed to be exposed as a loser AND he accomplished this by readily defeating the Republican sweet 16, the best and brightest (low bar) that the Republican Party had to offer, that The Donald is a winner in losing by exposing the Republican Party as a loser. Someone had to do it. And it took a TV reality show star to do it. At the same time, Trump was able to more firmly entrench his brand, providing in losing a win for his personal profits. Imagine Trump hotels marketing their "UNPRESIDENTIAL SUITES."

With the usual suspects dominating, appreciate kyk10pes' perspective.


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