Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Man Who Would Be King

Republican strategists have discovered that T Rump is everything they always wanted after all. As a narcissist, he cares only about himself and, by extension, his immediate family. In the evolving symbiotic relationship, he will let them have anything they want on policy, provided he receives the utmost respect and reverence to which he feels entitled. That means they need to leave his business relationships alone and, ideally, let him expand his business influence around the globe, making billions. In return for fostering the trumpian self-aggrandizement,  the Repubs get the foreign policy they want - really any policy they want. Even a traditional Republican president would have policy preferences, but not this one. Together, the new president and Republican dominated Congress need only make the optics work - to fool the base of support among white working class rural voters into thinking that somehow their goals mesh with the capitalist class of business owners.

Worker and Owner interest align in certain limited cases, especially domestic industries that are fixed in place and do not require cheap immigrant labor for competitiveness. Think coal mining and oil. If the price of oil continues to rise, fracking once again could become profitable in the U.S.

The story becomes more complicated and troublesome in the auto industry. Calls to slap tariffs on imports promise a simplistic solution, but ignore the reality of multi-sourcing of auto parts. We can expect a dramatic move away from hybrids and alternative energy in favor of SUV production.

Regulation of industry will be scaled back dramatically, which lowers cost, thus feeding profits in the short term. The negative effects on workers and consumers is only felt over time and can be easily denied in an atmosphere of "our facts vs. your facts".

But how does the tactical stance of deny, deflect, distract, accuse translate from the campaign to the administration of policy. Quite easily. By winning through intimidation. The two most recent examples - the attack on Boeing and the attack on the union leader show us the way. Remember, this is a man in business for himself with a long history of attacking organizations he worked with and stiffing them at every opportunity. He will not change his stripes, but will adapt them to his new powers.The Boeing tweet singles out the constituency of corporations, serving as a warning to anyone who dares criticize from corporate America. The Indianapolis union leader is singled out in a tweet and receives anonymous threats, which is creepily similar to the threats to the pizza shop owner who supported Democrats in the election, as made clear by the wikileaks stolen emails. So three type of organizations are to be brought in line by a variety of threats, either in business or at a personal level - corporations that dare speak up, unions that dare speak up, and individuals, as business owners or otherwise, who dare participate in a democracy on the "other side".

And Trump has attacked the free press consistently and often viciously including personal attacks on individual reporters at his rallies. He has combined personal attacks on reporters with accusations of bias as a tactic to deflect attention from substantive coverage of his behavior and potential policies.

The common theme is the chilling effect on the regular functioning of a democracy which requires that political leaders act in good faith. And none of these examples is as chilling as the Putinesque threats to opposing political leaders - to "lock her up" with the active participation of the FBI to sabotage the election - our own secret police now, as never before.

Of course, all of this intimidation is the way a minority government attains and maintains power when democratic institutions are considered secondary to wielding power and dictating policy.

So who is left to be intimidated, after corporations, unions, a free press, and ordinary citizens in the normal course of their lives, and opposing political leaders? Well, that would leave ordinary citizens in the course of voicing their concerns in a normal functioning democracy, such as by protest marches or other venues. We will see how the crackdown is applied on January 20th. None of this is good.

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