Yesterday we tried to figure out what hit us. Today we pick ourselves off the asphalt and stare into the tail lights of the bus and wonder where it’s going so damned fast. What the Fuck is going to happen?
Reading tea leaves and goat entrails is harder than it looks. And just two days ago I showed what a lousy prognosticator I could be. But based on the campaign promises of Donald Trump and his Christian domoninist wing man Mike Pence, his now solid control of both branches of Congress, the unleashed passions of his most rabid followers, and the predictable reactions of the world to all of this, some things seem pretty clear.
Of course some optimists and a lot of the traditional Republicans who jumped on board the bandwagon holding their noses believe that all of that was campaign rhetoric and that once in power Trump will surround himself with sensible men—and they will all be men—who will steer a relatively traditional conservative course, and not swing a radical wrecking ball. I suspect those people are better at self-delusion than divining the future.
In order to reassure and placate the base that elected him, Trump will have to at least try to move on his ambitious and terrifying First Thirty Day agenda. It will be impossible for him to actually implement it all short of a Cromwellian dismissal of Congress and an attempt to rule by fiat. Even those most afraid of his most overtly Fascist tendencies do not expect that to happen. Instead Trump will have to rely on Republican majorities in both houses of Congress where he might have less-than-unanimous support for some of his most outrageous proposals like banning all Muslim immigration, building an enormously expensive and disruptive Southern border wall, or preparing to deport millions of undocumented immigrants.
Other stuff should move pretty quickly with few options for the Democratic minority in the Senate to stop or slow it down. Republicans might now be comfortable changing certain procedural rules that the minority could use that they left intact for fear that they might become a minority under a Clinton presidency. Certainly they plan to drive a steam roller where ever there is no danger of any GOP defections.
First up would be the long dreamed of Affordable Healthcare Act—Obama Care—revocation. Since neither Trump or the GOP has been able to come up with a coherent replacement except for vague promises that a few popular provisions such as banning pre-existing condition exclusions in private health insurance and allowing adult children to stay on their parent’s coverage until 26, millions of Americans are likely to abruptly lose health insurance, some in the midst of critical treatments and the whole healthcare system will be thrown into chaos. Even those popular exceptions are in danger if the hard core Tea Party holdovers in Congress and the bought-and-paid for stooges of the insurance industry who have been critical of them threaten to hold up the whole shebang until they get their way.
Also expect a rapid appointment to fill the Supreme Court vacancy. Likely new Minority Leader Senator Chuck Schumer will not be able to muster the sixty votes necessary for filibuster to block the appointment. Even if he could, he would be hostage to the Democrat’s own recent protests to obstructionism of votes on nominees. If Trump reaches into his first list nominees, released last summer in the midst of a still contentious Republican Primary campaign to reassure a somewhat dubious religious right of his credentials, it is conceivable that the lonely remaining “moderate” Republican Senators—now down to pretty much just Susan Collins of Maine, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and depending on his whims and moods the allegedly John McCain of Arizona could join an effort to block the nomination. But aside from Collins, it seems highly unlikely despite the public distaste of the other two for Trump. That all White male first list included ultra-conservatives with high profiles for absolutism on an abortion ban and rabid hostility to any and all LBGT rights including marriage equality and employment non-discrimination. One, Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willet is on record supporting criminal penalties for consensual adult homosexual sex and indeed any sex outside monogamous male/female marriage.
A second list was released more recently with 11 additional name for a short list including one each token woman, Black, Hispanic, and South Asian that no one believes are really under serious consideration. The others, drawn mostly from state courts, have lower public profiles but reflect the same values and judicial philosophy as the first batch. No surprise since Trump has been open about requiring litmus tests on abortion, gay rights, and guns of his nominees.
Some think he will bypass both lists in favor of a more traditional conservative legal scholar rather than an activist judge. Don’t bet on it.
Some of Trumps promises can be fulfilled by voiding or countermanding many if not all of Barak Obama’s executive orders. Veep-in-waiting Mike Pence, who Trump said would become kind of prime minister in charge of domestic policy—unlikely but interesting—has already announced that orders on recognizing marriage equality in Federal employment and several other Gay-friendly actions are on the line. Expect Obama’s order to be combed over almost at once. Also in jeopardy are orders relating to health care availability, voting rights and opposing voter suppression, immigrant rights, and several environmental initiatives.
Beyond that set-the-clock-back action, Trump, a man used to giving unquestioned orders in his shady business dealings, will likely be very active in issuing executive orders on his own, especially where he thinks he might encounter opposition in Congress. The possibilities are endless, but among the most eye-popping would be imposition of his immediate—if temporary—ban Muslim immigration or perhaps any travel to this country from a list of nations. Orders to step up immigration enforcement and expedite deportations would be done with a flourish.
Perhaps the most eye popping possibility is issuing an order to suspend—he can’t rescind without Congressional action—all Federal payments to cities and other jurisdictions who have declared themselves as immigration sanctuaries. Sanctuary City declarations are largely symbolic and have been adopted in dozens of places. Typically such cities ban their Police Departments from acting as immigration agents or reporting all contact with undocumented aliens to the Feds. Similarly, immigrants who access city services and educational opportunities are not required to present documentation and information about them. A Trump order would not only demand a formal withdrawal of Sanctuary City ordinances, but would require jurisdictions to become immigration enforcers. Changing their ordinances would be highly unpopular in the cities and could lead to wide-spread unrest. On the other hand Federal dollars are critical in almost every function of local government. If suddenly cut off, it would lead to a wave of municipal bankruptcies and/or devastating service cuts.
It is indeed a draconian action. But Trump boasts about his taste for revenge. And it certainly would be revenge of the first order on the cities, their big minority populations, and supposedly elitist liberals. Making them grovel and crawl to him to kiss his ring would be highly satisfying. Is he crazy enough to actually try a stunt like this? Who knows, but he has damn little to restrain him. His rural supporters would go wild with enthusiasm.
Another area to watch for early action, even before he assumes office, are his cabinet choices who will be critical for putting the policies in order for an executive who has never liked to be bothered with details or actual work and prefers to rely on loyalists to do the job. Although no announcements have yet been made, some candidates have been publicly discussed—his few political allies in the Republican party, donors, fellow moguls and CEOs. Almost all White, overwhelmingly male. All ultra-conservatives or neo-cons. They will be charged with combing the Federal regulations under their jurisdiction and eliminating as much as possible on the theory that regulation is inherently “job killing.” First priorities are agencies like the EPA, OSHA, and the Department of Labor, but there will be plenty of hunting in a gutted Health and Human Services, and in the Departments of the Interior, Treasury (banking rules and restriction), Commerce, Energy, and a Department of Education that may be entirely eliminated—long a cherished right-wing dream.
In many cases foxes are likely to be placed in charge of the chicken coops. The leading candidates mentioned for the Department of Labor are mostly corporate CEOs openly hostile to labor unions, the minimum wage, and employment discrimination enforcement. Forrest Lucas, the 74-year-old co-founder of Lucas Oil, is a top contender for Interior Secretary, and deep pocket donor and Goldman Sachs executive Steven Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary. By the way, that policy genius and fellow unemployed reality show star Sarah Palin is another possibility at Interior. Dr. Ben Carson, the eccentric Black neurosurgeon who enjoyed a brief run as a possible Trump alternative in the Primaries but became one of the first of his former rivals is being talked up for Health and Human Services. Myron Ebell, an out-spoken climate change skeptic and official at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, an energy industry funded think tank, has the inside track the Environmental Protection Agency. I could go on, but you get the picture.
|We'll all rest easier with this guy as Attorney General, won't we?|
No Cabinet choices are more critical for Trump than the Departments of Justice and State. At Justice, Rudi Giuliani is already measuring the drapes in the Attorney General’s office. One of Trump most reliable hatchet men on the campaign trail the former New York Mayor’s first job will be clamping down hard and fast on a basket of brewing investigations into Trump’s business dealings and charitable foundation scams. He will also need to defend, if possible other Trump favorites. It may be too late already to prevent New Jersey Governor Chris Christie—another Cabinet choice contender—from being indicted in the Bridgegate case, but the prosecution could be hamstrung if an unenthusiastic and/or inept prosecutor.
Then there is the question of whether to follow up on the frequent campaign promise to “put crooked Hillary in jail.” Despite his already observed taste for revenge and the lynch mob frenzies he stirred up at his rallies, I find it hard to believe that with all of the risks involved—including the risk of setting a precedent for when he leaves office and of possible wide spread public disturbances—that Trump would actually push a prosecution. Investigations out the wazoo and as much embarrassing dirt as can be dished up or manufactured, sure, but stopping short of hauling out the handcuffs. On the other hand Trump has no impulse control and can easily be provoked into doing something foolish or self-destructive.
But speaking of that taste for revenge, I would not be surprised to see the Department of Justice along with the Internal Revenue Service pushed to go after the long list of enemies that Omarosa Manigault, the former Celebrity Apprentice villainess and the Trump campaigns supposed Black outreach spokesperson, assures us that he has kept and intends to act on. That list prominently includes “unreliable” Republicans and Democratic leaders alike; major media companies and journalists; mocking celebrities, the leadership of most Civil Rights, civil liberties, women’s, and LBGT organizations, smarty pants professors, etc. Any and all could become targets of operations that would make Nixon’s Enemy’s list look minor. He even has the ability to assemble names of those who jeered him on social media.
|This French cartoon pretty well sums up what the wold thinks of us after Trump's election. Makes you proud, doesn't it.|
But there is more to do at the Justice Department than just figuring out who to go after or who to give a pass. Look for tough guy Giuliani or whoever holds down the job to call a screeching halt to investigations into police violence and abuse. Instead investigators will probe Black Lives Matter “terrorists” and “conspirators.” Police departments will be actively encouraged to engage in aggressive patrolling and in stepped up paramilitary suppression of street demonstrations and dissent. On the other hand there will be little interest in action against the armed patriot movement, white nationalists or any enforcement of gun regulations as long as those guns are in the hands of White Guys. The mere suspicion of gun possession by a Black will be an acceptable alibi for police execution. Chalk this up to law and order.
Also on the chopping block will be any investigation or action which interferes with “states rights” to impose draconian voter suppression laws, anti-immigrant harassment, or to promote gender and anti-LBGT discrimination in employment, housing, and public services.
On the other hand, the Trump Justice Department will go suddenly deaf to states rights arguments when it tries to impose discriminatory policies on liberal states and cites. Suddenly uniformity of enforcement arguments will suddenly sprout from allegedly libertarian mouths. Attempts to resurrect and enforce the one man/one woman definition of marriage nationally are just the most glaring example of this blithe philosophic contradiction. Yup, the Justice Department will be a very busy place.
So will State and Commerce as Trump sets out to turn international relations on their heads. The deeply flawed Trans-Pacific Partnership was equally unpopular with the populists of the left and right—the Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren factions of the Democrats and the economically dislocated Trump White working class. Few will weep for its demise outside of a handful of global oligarchs who would reap its rewards. But Trump promised to go further and blow up the whole system of international trade. He vowed to replace it with bi-lateral agreements in which his vaunted negotiating skills will force agreements entirely to the benefit of the United States with hardly a concern for economic health of the trading partner. He might be able to successfully negotiate under threat in some cases, but it is entirely unbelievable that his chief campaign target, China, will accept or abide by such an agreement. And they have plenty of ammunition for devastating economic revenge if they are forced against the wall—they hold mountains of the American National Dept and could call in their paper which would destroy the Dollar.
Other major trading partners including the European Union, Canada, and Latin America are no more likely to roll over peacefully.
Fear of the economic foolishness of the Trump presidency is why the overnight securities markets crashed the night of the election. True, they bounced back in the US the next day when the Dow Jones managed to close up the next day. Part of that were U.S. investors licking their chops at possible tax breaks and corporate profits as a result of Trump’s rape and pillage economic plans. Other investors however are deeply worried. Major analysts are downgrading previously robust growth projections for next year and some warn of another deep recession. The most alarming Cassandras talk about a global economic meltdown and the collapse of the Dollar, Euro, Yen, and Yuan. Take your pick from a spectrum economic gloom.
At the State Department money is on Trump cheerleader and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who has little international experience to become Secretary of State. Also mentioned are Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Corker of South Carolina and former Ambassador John Bolton, the unapologetic neo-con hawk who was a major architect of George W. Bush’s Iraq War fiasco and who is probably the most universally despised diplomat in American history.
Whoever gets the job, Trump has laid out a bellicose foreign policy that instantly turned the United States into a pariah nation as soon as the stunning election results were announced. Much of the world was already alarmed by America’s knee jerk preference for military action. But most of the West, at least, still viewed this country under Barack Obama as a force for good in the world. Even our oldest allies have no illusions that it will remain so under Trump. Maybe especially our oldest allies.
Trump went out of his way several times during the campaign to make disparaging remarks about the corner stone Western alliance, NATO and hinted that under his presidency the United States may feel under no obligation to come to the defense of Eastern European NATO members because “other countries have not paid their fair share of American expenses in defending Europe.” This has shaken European confidence to the core and Trump has made no move to repair the damage.
On the contrary, he seems to be moving ever closer to Russian President Vladimir Putin who he has repeatedly praised as a strong leader who he admires. Putin has frequently returned the compliment and virtually endorsed him for President. In fact when the Russians recently tested a new ICBM capable of carrying enormous nuclear payloads and reaching every corner of the U.S. he laid the blame for the development at the feet of Clinton and Obama who have been “hostile” to Russia. Several times he has resurrected talk of nuclear war. Russia’s involvement in hacking Clinton and Democratic Party e-mails and releasing them though Wikileaks is now well documented, as was Russian involvement in the sophisticated denial of service attacks a couple of weeks ago that crashed American social media and business servers and was was considered a shot across the bow in a possible cyber war.
Trump for his part publicly played coy about his Russian connections—which included previous business dealings, investments, and loans—and publicly invited the Russians to come up with more e-mails that would “send Hillary to jail.” Just yesterday the official Russian press acknowledged that the Putin government had been in contact with the Trump organization throughout the campaign. For his part, Trump has announced plans to meet one-on-one with Putin before the inauguration, supposedly to coordinate action against ISIS in Syria.
Whatever the real relationship between Putin and Trump, the Russian knows how to play Trump like a drum by stoking his vanity and pretending to see him as a powerful peer on the world stage. Europe worries that Trump will give the Russians a pass on a renewed military push to complete its de facto re-annexation of Ukraine, were Putin has been massing troops on the border for more than a month. Some fear that his gaze and reach will then turn to the small Baltic republics—Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—which he accuses of abusing ethnic Russians. That’s the same song Hitler used to annex Czechoslovakia and invade Poland.
Meanwhile, Iran, which has suspended its nuclear arms program in a breakthrough agreement with the Obama administration, is also on edge. Trump said he would tear up that agreement and get tough with Iran to “permanently end the nuclear threat.” He was vague on how he would do this, but has broadly hinted that he would not stand in the way of an Israeli pre-emptive nuclear attack that Obama always blocked and that the world fears. Iran now, in fact, has every impetus to rapidly resume its nuclear arms program as a deterrent to Israeli or American attacks. It may also be tempted to resume sponsoring terror attacks in the West that it had almost completely dialed back.
Isis, who’s territorial control swaths of Syrian and Iraqi desert, has come under increasing attack, and which seems to have crippled the ability to launch the kind of complex attacks on Western targets for which it became known, is cheering Trump’s virulent anti-Islam rhetoric. It is the best training propaganda possible for recruiting the kind of home grown, self-organized terrorists who now mount the majority of attacks without the need of hands on management or control.
Where ever you look in the world Trump’s bull-in-the-china-shop approach to foreign policy has made the world a more dangerous place and isolated us even from our long time allies.
I could go on about other perils foreign and domestic presented, but you get the depressing picture.
The next questions is what the fuck do we do about it? And we will take that up in future entry. Stay tuned.