Tuesday, April 17, 2018

End Stage Addendum: But How?

Game Plan Template.

Because not everybody agrees with Adam Davidson (as I am inclined to do), for example, Jim Newell protesting at Slate:
Please Stop Predicting the End of Trump’s Presidency (Unless you can explain exactly how he gets impeached or why he resigns).
First, the meaning of "end stage": It doesn't mean it ends before cockcrow or in a few weeks or in less than a year or any particular time frame, at least not directly; as Davidson says,
We don’t know when. We don’t know the precise path the next few months will take. There will be resistance and denial and counterattacks. But it seems likely that, when we look back on this week, we will see it as a turning point.
It means, like the end stage of a disease, that there is no longer any doubt of the outcome, though our guess as to when exactly it ends could be way off the mark. Some stage 4 cancer patients, given six months by the doctors, go on for years, others collapse and expire before they've even absorbed the prognosis. The presidency will not die of natural causes unless the president does, from too much ice cream, but it can now be called terminal, and it will not survive to November 2020. How long it lasts is dependent on a number of factors, but I think the main thing is how long it takes the Republicans to realize it has to happen, presumably by summer 2019, before the presidential campaigning gets seriously under way.

Newell doesn't understand this, and apparently thinks the prediction is that it's going to happen before this year's midterm elections, so he doesn't even bother to mention them, but I'd say hardly a chance it happens before November, if only for the reasons Steve has explained, but more broadly because more than one thing has to happen in three separate strands before the presidency is ready to die. What we have learned in the past week is that every one of them is more or less certain to.

1. The Mueller investigation: We learned a couple of weeks ago that special counsel Mueller was going to release his findings in two parts, one report on the obstruction of justice issue, which is currently being drafted, and likely to come out in a matter of months, i.e., before November; and we learned this week from the Comey publicity how extremely damning the report is going to be, if we didn't know already. This will not bring on impeachment. But it will have an effect on the election results, which I'll get to presently. The other report, which could easily be a year or more away, will make things worse; we learned that this week, too, from the news that there is real evidence of Michael Cohen's presence in Prague in late August or early September in spite of his denials, showing that the Steele dossier just keeps getting corroborated, and from there that the case for Republican-Russian collaboration in the Trump campaign keeps getting stronger, and I think BooMan's point is just that—this is the week when the outcome of that strand became inevitable.

2. The midterms: It's been looking for a while like the Democrats win the House in November, and have a good chance at taking the Senate as well, though it's hardly likely they'd get the supermajority needed to pass legislation without Republican help, let alone 67 votes to control the verdict of a presidential impeachment case. Speaker Ryan's headlong flight and today's news of the resignation of Charlie Dent show how much Repulicans now know the House is lost, from their internal polls and mail. This will not bring an impeachment. But it will be worse for Republicans than they're expecting. Republicans are telling themselves that it won't be so bad, because the economy is strong and their voters aren't suffering and support the party program, and the nation is gerrymandered more effectively than ever before and the voter suppression mechanisms are working well, but then comes the Mueller report accusing the president of criminal obstruction with all the evidence you could stand, and that's not all, because

3. The diminution of the president: Meanwhile, the figure of Trump himself gets less and less impressive, as we've seen this week from the ridiculousness-cum-criminality of Scott Pruitt and Ryan Zinke and above all Cohen the feared gangster, with his implosion and defeat by Kimba Wood and WTF Hannity?!??!; after who knows what foreign policy failures, and no Wall, no Muslim Ban, no transgender ban, troops in Syria, the tax law incomprehensible but people notice they're not rich, and the coal industry dying, and NAFTA renegotiated in a way that nobody can differentiate from the way it used to be and talk about the TPP  as well and we're talking 2006, the year after Katrina and the evident failure of the Iraq campaign to accomplish anything, and the clarity with which the entirely population was beginning to see the hollowness of W Bush. Trump's base still won't desert him, exactly, no doubt, but there will be discouragement in the ranks, diminished expectations, weeping Alex Joneses, fewer interviews with The New York Times, and their turnout will be very bad. This will not bring an impeachment; but the results of the midterms will enable Pelosi or a new Speaker to bring the idea to the floor of the House in January, or eventually. Many Democrats in Congress are not talking about it now, because they don't see the value of promising something they may not be able to deliver and many or most voters don't yet care about anyway, but they'll be ready to talk about it then.

This is the point where the Senate Republicans begin to think about things, and see that they have to do something. They will think about 1974, when their party was in the worst electoral situation ever, and Howard Baker and his colleagues received endless praise for their nobility and patriotism in joining the investigation of Nixon, and the party had fully recovered within six years. This is the point where Part 2 of the Mueller report arrives, and they won't be able to keep it from the public. This is the moment when the Kochs, who hate Trump, really start to push. This is the moment when hard white men understand that Trump is soft. This is the moment when Trump fires everybody or starts calling impotently for mass executions or is photographed in a Bedminster orgy in a foursome with Silvio Berlusconi and the ladies of Diamond & Silk, or who knows, and the hard white men know he's a loser. Not that anybody really cares about their votes any more by then. This is the moment when the Republican Senators realize, either the Trump presidency dies or the GOP dies, and you know how they'll choose, as the hearings in the Judiciary Committee get started.

That's how, for instance. I'm sure it's not the only scenario, but it's got the main elements in a realistic timing, and the ending is the only one.

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