The Three Party System

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Last night on the PBS Newshour, smarmy jackass Matt Schlapp explained why the Alabama election went the way it did. The good folks in Alabama are really pissed off at Mitch McConnell, he allowed. And why, pray tell, are they so angry? They are angry because they are deeply disappointed that the Republican Establishment has not yet taken their health care away. And they are absolutely furious that Steve Mnuchin pays too much in taxes. They yearn for that deeply satisfying trickle down feeling that is sure to come when Steve rakes in yet more millions and, in consequence, they, the real Mericans, find a few extra kopeks trickling down into their wallets.

That trickle down feeling will be as welcome as a long hot shower after a hard day a-pickin’ cotton—a long, hot shower followed by a vigorous tryst with your inamorata, and a big shot of moonshine to cap off the day.

No, Mr. Schlapp, the Very Angry White People in Alabama are not Very Angry because Mitch McConnell couldn’t enact the legislative agenda of the National Chamber of Commerce and the Koch Brothers.

They are angry because of economic, cultural, and racial resentment. They are angry because the minions of the National Chamber of Commerce have been playing them like an accordion since the 1960s—and they are finally figuring out that they have been conned.

Steve Bannon has told them that they are the victims of McConnell’s economic hate crimes. See Fox News, Bannon rails against GOP ‘elites’ working against Trump in ‘Hannity’ interview.

As Erick Erickson—not a typical source of Aardvarkian wisdom—puts it so well, It’s time for Mitch McConnell to go.

Steve Kornacki provides valuable historical context in The Next Republican Uprising Is Underway. And, rising to the analytical heights to which he sometimes attains, Josh Marshall tells us what is really, really going on:

 Last spring I said the Trump phenomenon was a product of what I termed ‘nonsense debt‘. Republicans had spent years pumping their voters up on increasingly extreme and nonsensical claims and promises. This worked very well for winning elections. But it had also built up a debt that eventually had to be repaid. Concretely, they were making claims and promises that were either factually ridiculous, politically unviable or unacceptable to a broad swath of the voting public. Eventually, you get elected and need to produce. By definition that’s never really possible: both because the claims and promises are nonsensical and unviable but also because a politics based on reclamation, revenge, and impulse is almost impossible to satisfy through normal legislative politics. …

The essential dynamic of early 21st century conservatism [is] an infinite loop of inflammatory and engaging promises, claims and demands which are mostly entirely unrealizable, creating a permanent cycle of establishmentism and grassroots’ betrayal which continues spinning forward even as the players in each category change.

Some idiots  describe these events as a contest for the soul of the Republican Party. This is not right. It is not right because the Republican Party has no soul. The “Republican Party” is a brand and an institution. And what is going on is, among other things, a struggle for control of the brand and of the institution.

It is a fight to the death, and we know which side is going to win. It’s kind of like a fight between a cobra and a mongoose.

The Very Angry White People will win control of the Republican brand and the institution of the Republican Party, first of all, because they comprise the vast majority of people who vote Republican.

Jennifer Rubin, writing with typical restraint in Americans as a whole haven’t lost their minds, but the GOP has, lays it out for us:

There is only abysmal news for President Trump and Republicans in the latest Quinnipiac poll. Voters say Trump is not “fit to serve as president,” by a  56 to 42 percent margin. Voters disapprove (57 to 36 percent) of his performance (so 6 percent think he is fit, just not doing a good job). …

Americans are neither brain-dead nor moral vagrants. In voting for [Trump] many probably hated Hillary Clinton more, engaged in wishful thinking about Trump and/or figured incorrectly a rich guy and his friends must know how to do things. But they do not like him now, and that speaks very well of the American people.

The bad news is Republicans overwhelmingly like him, his policies, his distractions, his character, his racial appeals, etc. Among Republicans 79 percent approve of his performance, 79 percent think he is honest (!), 85 percent think he cares about ordinary Americans, 62 percent think he is level-headed (!!) and perhaps worst of all, 78 percent think he shares their values.

So, to boil it all down, about four fifths of Republican voters are Very Angry White People and one fifth embrace the aspirations of the National Chamber of Commerce.

The second reason why the Very Angry White People will inherit the husk of the Republican Party is that you can no longer buy elections in this country, if you ever could. Social media. Small contributions raised over the internet.

God knows the Republican Establishment tried to buy the election in Alabama by hurling vast sums of money, money in such abundance as to exceed the dreams of avarice. Didn’t work. Not going to work elsewhere.

The third reason is that the plutocrats and giant corporations that have been funding the Republican Party are going to realize that the jig is up and the long con is over.

Aardvark is not a plutocrats, but Aardvark knows plutocrats. Aardvark has walked among them. And here is what I know.

Some plutocrats are foolish, and some are ideologically fixated. But, for the most part they did not get to be plutocrats by throwing good money after bad. By digging deeper when they found themselves in a hole. By embracing bad ideas to the bitter end.

No, gentle reader, plutocrats are folks who, generally, know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, know when to run.

Last, and most surely least, some of the plutocrats will walk away from the rotting shell of the Republican Party because they cannot stand the moral stench. But I wouldn’t count on that being a major factor. Most of them would be happy to embrace the racists and the know-nothings as long as the strategy keeps working. But most of them are smart enough to know when the game is over.

So what is going to happen? The Chamber of Commerce folks, finding themselves expelled from the Republican Party, are going to have to form a new party. It will have a really nice name. Rest assured, they will focus group that sucker to death. And it will be loudly trumpeted as “centrist.”

And the Chamber of Commerce folks will try to buy some politicians who currently have a D after their names. And some of the Ds will take the bait.

And that’s where we will be: an Angry White People’s Party labeled the Republican Party, a new “centrist” business party, and a Progressive Party still calling itself the Democratic Party.

Each will be a minority party. Each will have to find a coalition partner, if it wishes to advance its agenda.

 

As Night Follows Day

It WILL Get Worse

Josh Marshall hits the nail on the head:

There’s always been a core of [Trump] advisors that wanted [to exit the Paris accord]. But if not for the events of the last few weeks I think we’d have remained in the Paris accord. Trump got into a growing fight with Europe. France rejected Bannon’s favorite Le Pen. He met with and got disrespected and criticized by the leaders of NATO and the EU. He got mad. Both Merkel and Macron spoke about him as a bully and a child. Macron has happily spoken publicly about over-manning Trump when they met in person.

This isn’t about climate and it isn’t about Trump’s base. It’s about sticking it to the leaders of Europe. That’s what gave the Bannonites the edge. That and one other thing.

Trump is scared. He’s entering a a widening gyre of political crisis over Russia. He’s scared and he’s angry and he needs friends. So he’s more and more likely to hug his base – both the most aggressive advisors and the most committed supporters. He’s trying to bring back Corey Lewandowski, his wildest and most troubling-driving advisor who has the unshakable loyalty and lickspittledom Trump now requires. Indeed, we can take it as a given that as the Russia scandal crisis deepens Trump will become more aggressive and more extreme in his policies both to maintain his emotional equilibrium and reinforce his backing from a shrinking base of supporters. This is as certain as night follows day.

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Trump Will Accomplish Little, Because You Can’t Do Business with Him

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Even if your negotiating partner is a bad actor, sometimes you can do business with her, because some of her interests may coincide with some of your interests. There may well be a basis to do a deal, even if there is little mutual trust or mutual respect.

On the other hand, there are some folks that you just can’t do business with.

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo sometimes goes for the capillary instead of the jugular. At other times he writes masterfully. Today, in How Trump’s Religion of ‘Winning’ Is Sabotaging His Presidency, Marshall allows as how,

Yes, Trump made his threat [on Obamacare and on the Mexican wall]. Then he caved. But while threatening and caving he was here and there un-threatening and un-caving. It wasn’t just bluster followed by fail in some normal linear fashion. It was impossible to now what Trump and the White House were doing or about to do. It was and is impossible to know what was trying to do. So congressional Republicans seem simply to have stopped trying.

As of last night, they were simply negotiating a deal to keep the government open and largely ignoring the President. In a sense, Trump has brought back the actual give and take of legislating by dint of his inability to act like a grown up or even a President.

As with every new White House and administration, we see a constant effort to see who at the White House is calling the shots, who is really speaking for the President or which one of the President’s advisors is screwing things up. Who really speaks for the President out of conflicting advisors who sometimes make contradictory statements or signal lesser or greater levels of confrontation?

What seems clear with Trump is that the exercise is likely mistaken in itself. There’s no Trump viewpoint or thinking or goal to represent. There’s no actor at the center of the machine, at least not one who remains constant enough in any aim or view to matter. So there’s no point figuring our which advisor speaks for the President or represents his thinking. Because, fundamentally, there’s no thinking to represent. …

President Trump seems fundamentally different. He just want wins – virtually anything that is doable and his constellation of advisors and supporters at the moment can count as a win.

This may seem like it dramatically opens the opportunities to pass legislation: since Trump will sign basically anything that counts as a ‘win.’ In practice, just the opposite is the case. Since the President is only concerned with wins, there is no policy agenda or policy specificity, regardless of how malleable, for legislators to grab on to or work with. If they did, it’s just as likely it might change for any number of reasons. As we’ve noted, the presidency is the centripetal force of American politics. Without that force to wrap legislative strategies around it’s very difficult to operate. …

Trump’s winning-centric approach to the Presidency has been slapdash, erratic and impossible to predict. Hill leaders seem more likely to govern around him, if not necessarily in spite of him. Because there’s simply no there there to negotiate with or to follow.

Aardvark’s final word: one of life’s axioms is that if a thing cannot happen, then that thing will not happen.

You cannot do business with Trump.

Therefore, it follows as the night the day, that no business will be done.

What Did He Know and When Did He Know It?

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This evening Josh Marshall has a useful elaboration of a thought that occurred to Aardvark this afternoon. I’ll bet it occurred to you, too.

Michael Flynn apparently lied to Mike Pence about what he was up to with the Ruskies. He probably lied to other folks too.

But isn’t it reasonable to suppose that when Flynn spoke to the Russian ambassador about sanctions, he was acting with Trump’s knowledge and approval?

I’d put it that even a superficial examination of the facts points toward that conclusion. Marshall lays out the case in greater detail.

And let’s war game this thing one step further. If Trump is now compelled to shit can Flynn, what revelations can we expect from Flynn in retaliation?

Don’t you love the smell of napalm in the morning?