Keep in mind that although all right-thinking people might appear to agree with you, at best that’s 60 percent of the American electorate. There’s another 40% that doesn’t see the world the way you do. Plus, our 60% +/- of right-thinking folks is not evenly spread through the Electoral College; that 40% spills into a majority in quite a few Congressional districts and even States.
It would be dumb to ignore that fact on the ground.
I try to stay alert by reading intelligent commentators whose values are opposed to mine. That’s the first step in the liberal recovery program: allowing the descriptor “intelligent” to be linked to “values opposed to mine.”
Two commentators I recommend: Ross Douthat in the New York Times and David Frum in the Atlantic. If you can keep your wits about you, an occasional perusal of David Brooks’ column in the Times, and Peggy Noonan’s in the Wall Street Journal, can also concentrate the mind. Reading those two will at least stimulate critical thinking skills. But if you have a sensitive stomach, you may want to keep a barf bucket close when reading Noonan.
David Frum has just posted an absolutely chilling piece that I highly recommend. My purpose in this post is to reproduce his “Trump prevails” scenario from the beginning of that piece, and to juxtapose it with a matching quote from an earlier “suppose Trump prevails” column by Douthat. With the two quotes on the page, I’ll pick apart key assumptions. Because, of course, I don’t want to think that Trump will prevail!
“It’s 2021, and President Donald Trump will shortly be sworn in for his second term. The 45th president has visibly aged over the past four years. He rests heavily on his daughter Ivanka’s arm during his infrequent public appearances.
Fortunately for him, he did not need to campaign hard for reelection. His has been a popular presidency: Big tax cuts, big spending, and big deficits have worked their familiar expansive magic. Wages have grown strongly in the Trump years, especially for men without a college degree, even if rising inflation is beginning to bite into the gains. The president’s supporters credit his restrictive immigration policies and his TrumpWorks infrastructure program…”
“Yet here we are four years later, watching Trump bask in the glow of an easy re-election over the Warren-Booker Democratic ticket…First, there was no economic slump. The jitters that Trump’s ascent induced were swamped by the market’s eagerness for fiscal stimulus — a policy course that (ironically enough) prominent liberal pundits had urged for years, and that the Trump era swiftly provided.
Trump’s Keynesianism was mostly defense spending and tax cuts, but it included a huge infrastructure push — soon nicknamed “TrumpWorks” — that doubled as a jobs program for his core constituency, blue-collar men. The assumption that the economy had hit full employment in the later Obama years proved to be an artifact of work-force dropouts and increasing illegal immigration. With TrumpWorks hiring, a wall rising (albeit haphazardly) on the southern border and millennials’ entry into the housing market sparking a sudden construction boom, both wages and the work-force participation rate began to sharply climb.”
Plausible enough to make you shudder, eh?
In the spirit of hope, here is what both scenarios miss, or blithely assume: that in 2017 the world outside, Planet Earth, affords a Safe Space for domestic American political shenanigans. Both the Frum and Douthat scenarios seem all too possible from a blinkered domestic view—even the stuff of nightmares—but only if outside actors do gently sleep, stirring not once, leaving the only remaining superpower to its turbulent navel-gazing.
In other words, assume: North Korea leaves us alone. China backs off. Putin takes a vacation. The Middle East goes quiet. Mexico rehearses its yassir, yassir. No hurricanes or earthquakes or other pesky side effects of climate change. Everyone trading with us says, Yes, of course you should impose punitive tariffs on us, what were we thinking, our bad. No big terrorist attacks. Everything so-o-o quiet, leaving us Americans to pursue our internecine struggles in peace.
You really think so?
Ah, but note the corner into which I’ve backed myself: perhaps only foreign disaster can avert the Trumpian juggernaut (read Frum for a more chilling path). And foreign disaster might leverage Trump’s kleptocracy-in-waiting into something far worse.
May I refer you to my post titled, “Sell! Sell! Sell!”
The stock market may very well continue to go up, up, up, consistent with the Frum and Douthat scenarios. If so, my bad.
And if it doesn’t? If a grueling bear market sets in, what of Trump then?
And if the Republican Congress succeeds in passing corporate tax relief, but stalls on all other relief, how will that look to Trump supporters?
And do you remember when the debt ceiling next comes up for renewal? Republicans will turn on a dime and vote in droves for that increase, eh? They won’t need any Democrats to pass it. Right?