Friday, February 26, 2016

Trumped?

Imagine This

    This photo in every U.S. Embassy, worldwide.  (Rolling Stone / Mark Seliger, 2015)

This is not a comparison of Herr Trumpi with Hitler. Just so you know.

The most simplistic description of the chaotic world of German politics before WW2 is to say the Kaiser abdicated, a Republic was declared in November, 1918, and that it effectively lasted until Hitler was appointed Chancellor on January 30, 1933: a quick trip from monarchy to nascent democracy to fascism.

That's true. But it glosses over how long it took to Boil The Frog, the slow change in the political landscape during the Weimar years. How Germany became politically polarized between Kozis and nazis during a time of rapid social, technological and cultural change, and an economy that went from hyperinflation and poverty (1921-1925) to security and prosperity (1926-1929), and then -- BAM! Thanks, America! Didn't see that coming! -- the Depression (1930 -).

The simple view of that history also misses the number of political consensus leaders (Brüning, and von Papen and von Schleicher, for example) who contributed to the weakening of democracy in the face of a perceived internal threat -- Brüning used 'emergency decrees' to counter the rise of the nazis, and the Red Front; so did von Schleicher; and last but not least -- von Papen convinced the aging President Hindenburg to 'absorb' the leader of the nazi party into the Weimar government as Chancellor in order to neutralize him (How'd that work out, Franz?).
(Drezner Column, Washington Post Online, Feb. 23, 2016)

Trump isn't Hitler -- but if he were even to run for President and not win, it would show how far one of America's two traditional political parties has deteriorated, and that should give everyone pause. It would mean that a sufficient number of adults in the party of the Right (where gun nuts and religious crazies and the testosterone-fueled violence-prone live) are driving that party, and that should keep everyone up at night.

How willing The People's representatives in government are to compromise in order to reach common goals (and that the compromises don't seriously impact the lives of The People) is one gauge of a healthy political system. The more polarization in politics, the less likely compromise is possible, and the more likely the system is to break down.

 We Make Jokes, But Fewer People Are Laughing

Weimar Germany (and interwar France) had the same Left / Right friction, leading to occasional open violence in the streets -- and to revolving-door governments: because Germany operated under a parliamentary system, the agitation between Left and Right led to eight general elections between 1919 and 1932 -- roughly one every year and a half.  If there's no stability in politics, people will believe in what appears to promise it. Historically, it isn't democracy.

Considering Trump as a candidate may not keep you up at night. If he gains the Republican nomination, it's because the GOP leadership and the Kochbrudern and Little Rupert are making a compromise with circumstances -- as did Brüning, von Schleicher and von Papen -- to maintain political control of the American Right.

Even were that to happen, I believe Clinton could very well beat him (and, perhaps TPTB want the election to run that way; the self-aggrandizing Trump versus The American Merkel is way better theater) -- but that's not what's should be our concern.

Given what Trump is, that he's gotten this far in his candidacy is an obvious bellwether of how polarized we are as a society. It should concern us a great deal. That some adults in America have a growing feeling that we need to be a great power, and a great people, again -- that a Strong Leader (a Putin, say; or an Evangelical) is what America needs...  not the divisive waste of time that democracy can seem to be, and certainly not the weak, godless, and radical hippies on the Left.

Considering Trump as a candidate may not keep you up at night.  But it should.
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MEHR, MIT MEHR:  It must suck Tyrannosaurs to be one of the old Rethug Leaders at this point, trying to fend off yet another assault from the Tea Partei brownhirts or the evangelical black shirts. Something has to be done to cap the continuing rise of Trumpolina, they say bitterly -- and everyone in the Good Ol' Boy Grand Ol' Party who can lend a hand is coming out of the woodwork. For these kinds of people, it's behavior bordering on desperation.

We are united against That Guy, say every "inside source" at the GOP. President Yertle The Turtle says he will not dance with Trumpi; Little Paulie Ryan, Speaker-To-Animals, is more cautious. Mitzy, in a display so filled with irony, demanded Trump release his tax returns. While being interviewed on France24, one of Mitzy's advisors from his 2012 failed bid for the Presidency noted that yes, Trump could win a majority of delegates in the primaries and caucuses -- but they're not pledged to him past the first ballot at the convention! That's where he could be beaten!

Really? And what then? The Republican convention would turn into a live, realtime-ugly, 'brokered' floor-fight drama that hasn't been seen at any political convention since the Democrats at Chicago in 1968, or earlier. 

The traditional GOP leadership will have to choose: between trying to maintain control of their party, defeating Trump, then fending off Cruz and the religious right (or making a 'deal with the devil', as the GOP leadership always has done with them), and anointing Rubio or Kasich... or, the Good Ol Boys bow to the inevitable and allow Trump to be their candidate -- so that when (and if) he fails, Trump's fall will discredit the Tea Partei upstarts for a decade or more.

Would the Rethugs be willing to allow Trump's nomination, just to see him defeated by Hillary ! , who would likely remain in the White House for two terms? Take a moment and remember Florida in 2000.  Ohio in 2004.  Is it possible the Rethug Good Ol' Boys would try and steal the election for Trump, because a Hillary presidency is unthinkable? And because they believe they could saddle and ride Trump once he becomes President?

Who knows. It's a Big Tent world we live in. I'd like to say it will be good theatre no matter what happens -- but it's an open question that when all this is over, the Republican party won't have completed a transformation into something much more ugly, sociopathic and malignant than it already is today.
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UND, WAS IST JETZT NOCH IMMER MEHR?:  Amy Walters, on the oh-so-neutral PBS News Hour, made a salient point as we lean into Stupor Tuesday: The criticism of Trumpolina has increased -- but "no one is rallying around any of the alternatives" -- Senator Ted Cruz of Canada The Church Of I Kill You !, or Marky Rubio, Plucky Son Of Emmygrants. As a result, Trumpi is still the 'popular favorite'.

"The Republican party is on the verge of splitting apart," Walters noted. "If Donald Trump is the [official party] candidate, I think... we could see a [traditional conservative], such as Michael Bloomberg, running as a third party candidate."
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