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GOP Establishment Shrugs As Democracy Crumbles Under Trump

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GOP Establishment Shrugs As Democracy Crumbles Under Trump


Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

It’s become the new abnormal.

Trump’s decrees, accusations, posturing. His transparent lies, threats, reversals. Then comes the clean-up crew, the White House propagandists, pretending he’s serious.

Half the media plays it straight, according Trump a gravitas unsupported by facts or details. Others, from TV comedians to seasoned political columnists, cannot. Whatever being presidential or serious governing is, they know that’s not Trump.

One-hundred days in, what are we to make of this confusing mess? So many conceits and balls are in the air. We know he likes it that way. Ending Obamacare. Giving the super rich a trillion-dollar tax cut. Building the wall with Mexico. Reviving king coal.

America has become a new dystopia. People see what they want to see, hear what they want to hear, believe what they want to believe. The latest spin from Establishment Republicans—who abhor Trump—is he is a bumbling but harmless fool. They believe they have his number—he’s easily provoked, pushed, manipulated. In the end, all bark and no bite.

“Don’t get me wrong, I wish we had a president who had actual convictions and knowledge,” wrote this GOP faction’s high priest, New York Times commentator David Brooks on Friday. “But it’s hard to maintain outrage at a man who is a political pond skater—one of those little creatures that flit across the surface, sort of fascinating to watch, but have little effect as they go.”

Brooks’ portrayal of the lightweight-in-chief is the most optimistic assessment we have seen since Trump’s inauguration 100 days ago. It’s also as empty-headed as the 45th president. While Trump confesses the job is harder than he thought—last week’s counterpoint to a multi-trillion tax cut for the already rich and signing decrees opening national monuments and continental shelves to industry—one can only ask who’s in charge? Who’s driving the colossal ship of state? The federal government is super tanker that moves slowly but it still moves.

The answer seems to be whoever is best positioned to turn public power to their private advantage. It is a bit early to name those winners, as the current federal budget mostly predated Trump (even if the Congress just had to seek new borrowing authority to get to the end of its 2017 fiscal year on September 30). Whatever might be in the next budget is as blurry as Trump’s ever-changing mind (Pull Obamacare subsidies, no don’t. Cancel the North American Free Trade Agreement, no don’t. Trash NATO, no wait).

The GOPs civil war, epitomized by right-wingers in the House who could not be satisfied with eliminating nearly a trillion in health funding tied to Obamacare, add another layer of unpredictability to the fog hovering over the federal government. What’s unclear is who is running this circus. It may be no one.

Trump’s ascent appears to be morphing into an open invitation for Washington’s right-wing lifers to get back in the game and take another whack at the same lousy ideas they have been pedaling since Ronald Reagan’s presidency. That was Brook’s takeaway, which comforted him. “There’s nothing unusual,” he said. “It looks like any Republican administration that is staffed by the same people whose prejudices were formed in 1984 and who haven’t had a new thought since.”

Funny he mentions 1984. What’s happening now has more in common with George Orwell’s novel of authoritarian excess and state overreach than the jolly days of Reagan. Twenty-first century reality has pressing issues, but they have no place in Trump’s world—or on the desk of whoever’s drafting all the orders he’s signing to unleash the dogs of carbon-burning capitalism or federal police bent on terrorizing immigrants. Creating a new energy economy, healing racial and class divisions, upholding dignity regardless of sexuality, respecting women and reproductive rights—these concerns and their values have no place in the new dystopia.

The mainstream media is trained to respect elected officials and report on their actions in a dispassionate way, to let the public draw their conclusions and do something about it in the next election. But what’s going on is not normal. Few will say that. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman is an exception, noting that Trump’s tax plan—a list of talking points—was not a legislative blueprint. “Let’s not act as if that thing released on Wednesday, whatever it was, was something like say, the 2001 Bush tax cut,” he wrote Friday. “Let’s not pretend we’re having a real discussion.”

What’s happening in political circles is not a discussion, but the stakes are all too real. Take the House’s latest Obamacare repeal. The latest amendment from Speaker Paul Ryan allows states to pull the rug out from under the very sick. “We project that if states return to pre-ACA high risk pools in 2019, high-risk pool premiums for people with pre-existing conditions could be as high as $25,700 annually,” the AARP blog, Thinking Policy, said Thursday. That’s $25,700 before deductibles.

It goes further downhill. Republicans, from Trump to Ryan, are operating in deliberate bubbles. Ryan isn’t talking to Senate Republicans. Nor apparently is he talking to health industry leaders. As Sister Carol Keehan, Catholic Health Association president, told the Los Angeles Times, “To think you are going to revamp the entire American healthcare system without involving any of the people who actually deliver healthcare is insanity.” That assessment wasn’t unique. “They’re not interested in how health policy actually works,” another executive told the LAT. Another said, “It is totally divorced from reality.”

Divorced from reality is fine in escapist novels, but this has become a real life dystopia. Part of this domestic fog is the stunning notion held by many of Trump’s working class supporters that he’s got their back. Really?

In Pueblo, Colorado, a once-Democratic bastion, Trump supporters told the L.A. Times that he was being picked on by know-it-alls: the press, academics, coastal liberals and even Republicans in Congress. He must be doing something right if they’re all upset, they continued. The critics are not giving him a chance, they said, adding that they were optimistic that his tax cuts and promises to end government regulations will improve their livelihoods and revive their city’s shuttered factories.

The only thing that’s clear 100 days into Trump’s presidency is the country has entered a downward spiral where it’s unclear what factions or forces on the right will emerge with either political power, personal fortunes, or both. But politics and capitalism abhor vacuums—even in a deepening dystopia. Whereever this is headed, it has not yet to hit bottom.

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s democracy and voting rights. He is the author of several books on elections and the co-author of Who Controls Our Schools: How Billionaire-Sponsored Privatization Is Destroying Democracy and the Charter School Industry (AlterNet eBook, 2016).

This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.



  1. 1standlastword May 1, 2017

    I’m waiting for the sadistic party of pernicious republicanism to produce for us another Bush-like recession, including a brand new war front in N. Korea! (bookends)

    Then we’ll see if the bombastic minority of masochists who hate government so much that they’d rather have a mafia crime boss as president than “anybody else” will reward the GOP with another term to finish us all off permanently!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Finally, I too have had a loathing welling up inside my gut towards our current politicians at all levels of government for as long as many other hard working patriots but I’ve always wanted to maintain some level of RESPECT for our leadership as protectors of the Republic but with this latest installation and the events of his election unlitigated they COULD NOT more clearly communicate F^CK YOU America than they have with their cavalier attitude towards the shoddy and criminal nature of THAT ONE!

    1. Selinajcalkins May 2, 2017

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    2. pics fixer May 2, 2017

      What amazes me is that you and so many others from both sides of the fence act like this clown show of inhumane and greedy leaders got there by magic. These people, which includes our new President and that horror of a Cabinet along with House and Senate members whose concern for us doesn’t exist are there not by magic. We didn’t wake up one day and presto, they were there. WE PUT THEM THERE WITH OUR VOTES !!! We voted for people based on the BS they spouted at us without questioning what they were telling us provided that we decided to vote at all. We don’t vote! This past election had a low turnout with a clear cut majority not wanting our new President in the first place. He can bless the Electoral Collage for that. Our Media didn’t do its’ job by informing us of what was really going on even though they do know. It’s bad for ratings.

      We did this to ourselves! We are responsible for for this clown show. We were manipulated into being so polarized and into thinking that those “them” are evil and must not be listened too. The story above couldn’t be more right and should be thought about. We the people did this to us! It wasn’t done to us but now these people are there they will do it to us but good.

      We can do something about it. Start by all sides talking to each other and demanding that the media do its’ job of asking the hard questions and INSISTING on an answer and reporting back to us. Why do we allow 30-40 extreme members of the House who take actual delight in taking healthcare away from millions of our fellow citizens have such control over the other 435 house members? We allow it, that’s why! So, we didn’t just wake up one day and there it was, we did this to ourselves. Now we pay for allowing this divide among us to make this junk (I’m being kind) to happen.

      Pogo was right: “We have seen the enemy and it is us!”

      1. 1standlastword May 2, 2017

        What “amazes” me is you think you know anything about me! I know there is no magic….It’s all a rich man’s game….

        It’s gotten to the place where it doesn’t matter what we do or F^CKING think

        My choice was eliminated by the Super F^Ckers/ delegates–they like to be called–

        1. pics fixer May 2, 2017

          It’s not about you in particular. We can and should do something about it and we can. Never forget, and people do, that you have only one vote and so does someone who has a billion dollars. They are few and we are many. Every 2 and 6 years we get a chance to change things but we don’t vote. So those people who support leaders who lie to us and say what we want to hear and do otherwise and we elect them. The wealthy can advertise more and the press, by failing to doe their job of informing us allow that advertising to work. Even that won’t help the wealthy if there were good voting turnouts.
          If there were only 10% more people voting Mr. Trump would not be President. Only 10% more and no clown show. So, don’t let it be a rich mans game. Get in there and do the work. Don’t resign yourself to this being the new norm, as is said.

          You got some good ideas, make noise. Start local. Support you local Committeeman.

          Last thing, we can fix the Electoral Collage. It’s past its’ time. It’s not easy but the mechanism is there. Work to that. I am.

          Oh, if I insulted you, I apologize. That wasn’t my intent. What’s going on now can fry anyone.

          1. dpaano May 3, 2017

            Unfortunately, “fixing the electoral college” doesn’t seem to be a viable idea with the Repubs running the show. Hopefully, after 2018, we will win back some seats in the House and maybe take over the majority. Then, and maybe ONLY then, we might be able to do more to stop this clown from turning our country into another third-world nation! I agree….we ALL need to vote no matter what the polls say. Whether we’re up or down, we need to make our voices heard!

          2. pics fixer May 3, 2017

            It’s not easy because the founders wanted it to be difficult to make changes to the constitution. First on my list would be an amendment to define a person and to get all that money going into campaigns under control. As for the Electoral Collage, a good compromise would be to make it proportional so instead of winner take all it follows the vote.

            I was working to get out the vote. We would even supply transportation. Some of the excuses I got were shameful. Well, now they see what happens when they don’t vote. If 10% more people voted we wouldn’t be having all this trouble now.

            I have family in Canada and they think we are nuts. I joke that we’ll build a northern wall. and they say do it. We need to keep you people out so we won’t catch whatever you got. Canadians don’t curse

          3. dpaano May 5, 2017

            I agree….and if the conservatives think that “corporations are people” and they are against abortion and think a fetus is a “person,” doesn’t that mean that pregnant woman should get TWO votes (and more if she is carrying twins or quads)? Just a valid question, you have to admit.
            As for people not voting, I tend to agree with you….some people want to sit and whine about our government, but they don’t want to get out of their barcaloungers and go vote. I guess they’d be happy if someone brought the voting machine to their doorsteps! If they can’t find a way to GET to the polls, they can always choose to vote by mail. It certainly isn’t hard to request that….at least not in California. God only knows what kind of roadblocks they would put up for other Republican-led states!
            My only hope is that more and more people are becoming aware of the BS that is currently going on in our government, and we can only hope that more of them will get out in the midterms and vote to get some of these Republicans out of office. I know that 7 of the 14 House members from California voted FOR the updated health care plan….you can pretty much bet that many of those will NOT be re-elected! And, the funny part is that most of them come from districts that voted for Hillary in the general election!

  2. opinioned1 May 2, 2017

    I’m going to tell a fabulous lie about this thread. It will be a truly great lie. Truly fabulous lie. Wait until you read it; you’ll love it my lies. I’m an excellent liar. People love my lies. No one can tell a lie like me. Other liars are weak and soft and stupid. I’m not like that– and I’m sure if you’re reading this then you’re not either. No one knows how to lie like I do. You’ll be amazed by my great lies. I’m going to make lying great again. No one can make these threads great again except me. I’m the only one that can make these threads great again with more lies. It’s very important that you help me with this. I’m so far ahead in all the polls on telling lies. So far ahead. This thread really needs great lies. I’m fabulous at telling lies. Other liars attack me and they go bye bye. I have what it takes to be the best liar. Other liars that disagree with me need to be punched in the face and run out of town on a rail. That I can tell you.I`m so great.The greatest. I`m great.a really great liar. the best liar, the greatest, truly best liar. BIGLY!

    1. dpaano May 3, 2017

      Gee, that sounds vaguely familiar….didn’t someone else say that?

  3. idamag May 2, 2017

    He sounds like the person the low learners want to hear. He hates with them. He is frustrated with their frustrations, and he addresses the fears that he and his ilk created.

    1. dpaano May 3, 2017

      Unfortunately, his followers don’t realize that “he and his ilk created” all the problems we’re currently seeing in our government.

  4. johninPCFL May 2, 2017

    “It looks like any Republican administration that is staffed by the same people whose prejudices were formed in 1984 and who haven’t had a new thought since.” – yes and this applies to the healthcare insurance debate as well. Few now remember that the reason we entered the healthcare insurance debate in 2009 was that the insurance cost increases that were averaging 15% year over year for the preceding five years with zero requirement that any of those increases apply to actually delivering healthcare.

    That a 29% premium increase is occurring right after the GOP regains the presidency is no coincidence. They really want to go back to the “good old days” of 20% annual increases being applied to the CEO’s new homes and yachts.


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