Monday, March 27, 2017

March 27, 2017--The System (Sort Of) At Work

In response to my Saturday blog, "The System At Work," where I argued that the defeat of the Republican's attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare was evidence of the system working and that this should be comforting to the fear many progressives have had that Donald Trump is a crypto-fascist, an American Benito Mussolini, a very good friend wrote--

System working? Sort of

They will find other ways to gut Obamacare instead of fixing it. The system is way broken. The American people come last. No one wants to find real solutions which would alienate each sides gerrymandered bases.  

Though I understand this view and acknowledge she may be right, I sent a note back to her in which I said--
For me the system working is more than "sort of." 
I've been arguing here for more than a year, as more and more progressives saw Trump to be our own Duce, that we need to give the system a chance to bring him to ground. So, of course, as a result of the repeal-and-replace fiasco, immodestly I think my predictive ability is being confirmed. 
For example, almost as many "moderate" Republicans as Freedom Caucus Republicans were set to vote "no" because they felt the health plan before them was too severe.  
Even more potent an argument for the system working is the diminishment of Trump's perceived power. His perceived power is at least half his appeal and I expect to see it erode further as more people feel released to abandon him. His approval numbers are already at all time lows. And have been falling. Then of course there is the Russian connection ticking. Wait 'til we hear more about the Trump part of that connection. 
This of course doesn't mean we will see an outburst of progressive legislation and behavior. For me it means very little will get done and all things considered that's a good thing. This may also very well mean that Trump will be a one-term president.  
Further, expect to see Ryan go after the Freedom crazies. Mainly to seek vengeance and also to protect his speakership. Rather than the Freedom Caucus being empowered by what happened they are weakened. Note that "only" 15 of the 29 of them were "no's." That means almost half defied their own leadership. 
I also think Trump will back way away from anything having to do with health care. It never was a priority for him. Too wonky a subject and too divisive  A virtual policy tar baby. Just ask Nixon, Hillary, and Obama. I expect to see him focus exclusively on tax cuts and infrastructure. The two things I think he actually cares about and about which he at least knows something. OK, a little. 
He'll need Dems for both and we'll see if he gets them. I suspect only for infrastructure and corporate tax cuts will the Dems play along. They don't want to prop Trump up or help him become successful. Then Ryan won't need the 14-29 Freedom votes. He can make them irrelevant by working with a handful of Democrats.
My friend also wrote that--

Steve Bannon still wants to try to destroy administrative state. Cabinet departments now have fairly low level loyalist appointees who spy and report back on the civil service professionals.

To that, I said--
Having eyes in the departments is not in any way new. Pretty much every modern president has had his plants in most departments. If I were president, I'd want some loyalists there too to keep an eye on who was working on my agenda and who was freelancing. So I don't worry too much about that.  
I worked a lot in a few federal departments in my day and knew a number of people who were there to report back to the Clinton, W, and Obama White Houses. This sort of thing is also common in corporations and NGOs. Like it or not, this is basic management stuff. A way of trying to maintain control of large, bureaucratic institutions. 
But of course I could be wrong about this and if pushed could make the case that all is perilous and that we are doomed. I'm not wired  that way and thus will continue to keep an eye on the system at work.  
Only 65 days into the Trump admin and I already see progress at whittling down the scary stuff. Including Bannon's agenda which after this debacle has little chance of being realized. Expect Trump to move closer to the advice of the practical people (Jared Kushner--when he and Ivanka return from skiing is Aspen) and less to the ideological Steves (Bannon and Miller). I think Trump's already had his fill of the latter 
He now has a glimpse of what the far-right are really about. They are not his natural constituency--he ran mainly as a populist. Bannon helped guide him into the healthcare mess since the bill that was finally pulled represented "progress" on reducing the administrative state--the end of Obamacare and the beginning of the end of Medicaid.  
So, in sum, I'm OK with the direction in which I see this headed. I'm optimistic about the rest of the domestic agenda. That is won'r get through Congress. 
To me, if you really want to make yourself crazy think about N. Korea, Russia, far-right crazies in Western Europe, laptop bombs . . . sadly I could go on. 
But in spite of this I plan to have a good weekend. I hope that's true for you as well.
And I know she will also continue to challenge me and keep me in line. That's what good friends are for.

She qualifies.

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