Sunday, January 6, 2019


Weekend Roundup

Another pretty awful week, followed by a few hours grabbing a few links in case I ever want to look back and see what was happening, other than my own misery.

One point I've been wanting to make is that over quite some number of presidential administrations, I've noticed a pattern. At first, presidents are overwhelmed and wary of screwing up, so they tend to defer to their staff, in many ways becoming prisoners of whoever they happened to install -- usually the choice of their staff plus the party's unelected Washington insiders. However, presidential staff are usually careful to flatter their boss, faking fealty, and over time all that deference (even if insincere) bolsters the ego of whoever's president. Meanwhile the president gets comfortable, even a bit cocky about his accomplishments, so starts to impose his opinions and instincts. There are often further stages, and two-term presidents tend to go to seed six years in (Eisenhower and Reagan are obvious examples; Nixon didn't get that far; Clinton, Bush II, and Obama were sidelines with enemy-controlled Congresses). But we've clearly made the transition from Trump being the front man to actually being in charge, running an administration and party that is increasingly deferential to his every whim. And while most of us thought Trump was pretty nuts to start with, he used to stay comfortably within the Republican Party playbook. But increasingly, his chaos and madness are becoming uniquely his own. Sure, he still has to walk back an occasional notion, like his decision to withdraw ground troops from Syria. He may even find he has to give up on his budget extortion ploy (aka, the shutdown).

Lots of bad things are likely to come from this, but one can hope that two recent trends will only take firmer and broader root. The first is the understanding that what's wrong with Trump and what's wrong with the Republican Party are the same things, all the way down to their shared contempt for democracy and the people. The second, an outgrowth of the first, is that the Democratic Party is changing rapidly from a party that opportunistically tries to pass itself off as a "kinder, gentler version" of conservative/neoliberal orthodoxy to one that is serious about solving the real problems of war and powerlessness and inequality that have hurt the vast majority of American voters so grievously since Reagan.

I didn't write much about these themes below, but there's plenty of evidence to back them up.


Some scattered links this week: