I chose my education with the sole purpose of becoming a diplomat. As a child of the eighties, the Reagan “Bear in the Woods” message resonated. Add to that some other personality quirks and I was planning to save the world by disarming the two great superpowers to create peace.
Well, it didn’t quite work out that way for reasons that don’t belong in this post. But, I still have all this political education, international policy, history, and law stuffed into my head. The learning stayed even as my dreams of working with the diplomatic corps floated away.
So, among my family and sometimes at work or parties people would wind me up to see what crazy political nonsense I was going to spout. I was, of course, entertaining because the focus of my studies was the now-defunct Soviet Union.
Political junky of a nation that no longer existed. Go ahead, laugh. I know I did.
I moved from a political scientist to a historian overnight. Well, maybe it took a summer, but still, poof, gone.
But – the education wasn’t a total loss. Soviets gonna Soviet and KGB gonna KGB – no matter what labels they plaster on the door.
I should note that my specialization in graduate school was oil production and the relationship between the Soviet Union and the nations of Eastern Europe. So, for the past decades I’ve entertained myself by watching Russia, and how it is interacting with the Middle East, with Turkey, with Venezuela.
It’s all about the oil.
The first time I heard about Trump and the Russian beauty contests my thought was something along the line of “Oh, that can’t be good.” I suspect it had a few profanities in it, but that was the gist. The mental connection of Putin (a very clever former KGB officer) and Donald Trump (a desperate personality with a maniacal need to be recognized by strong men who wasn’t all that bright) was not in any manner comfortable.
Donald Trump was an open door.
Where is that video of the bear… hold on –
That was pretty much my mental image. Along with the other thoughts of ruin and doom that followed.
Bear in the woods.
Hell! Bear in the living room.
So you can imagine that on election night when the Trump strategists brilliantly played the electoral college against the United States I was equally impressed and horrified. This disaster was getting some first rate thinking put into it.
Was it the GOP? Possible.
Was it the FSB? (KGB by a new name) Also possible.
So, I sat down and wrote until the whirling dust in my mind settled. The product of that was a seven essay series where I laid out five distinct styles that a Trump presidency could follow. Now, it’s time to see how all that desperate energized thinking stacked up.
1. What drives the Trump Presidency :
What made him do this?
I proposed two fundamental reasons for Trump seeking the presidency
Self-driven (aka ego/narcissism) / Driven by his creditors.
I think we have seen and heard enough from Trump, as well as his family and close advisors that ego is certainly one of the fundamental driving forces of this Presidency.
What about debt? I’ll give this a possible.
Why? Because no one in the history of the modern presidency has been so reluctant to disclose their financial assets and dealings. Added to that we have learned within the past 48 hors that Trump had an undisclosed bank account in China. The little verifiable information we have of his tax record points to gross abuse of the system. He claims to be worth billions – and he only paid 750.oo in taxes? Really?
So who could be his creditors? I think the primary creditor to pressure him would be Russia.
Why? Because that is part of the KGB playbook. Find someone who is financially compromised and ‘help them’ until there is enough damning evidence that they, the Sov- ahem, Russians, no longer need the façade. The carrot and the stick.
If mone is the carrot, where is the stick? Is there a compromising tape of Trump out there? I do not know, but I wouldn’t bet against it.
Will we ever see it? That I would bet against. Why? Because Putin would not expose his hand in that way. It would cease to hold power if it was published. As a threat, it only need exist. But remember it isn’t the threat of there being a tape that would stop someone like Trump. What would stop him is the threat of what publishing such a tape would have on the way he is perceived. He would be deeply ashamed of the events of such a tape. Having hookers pee on a bed, that wouldn’t do it. You would have to go much darker.
2. Stack the Supreme Court
The concern here is that Trump would so stack the court against the interests of the nation that he would be able to pervert the government…
If Barrett is confirmed before the election I think we can call this a yes.
3. Extend the powers of the Presidency
Then there would be an extension of the term of the Presidency… 8 years, 10 years… who knows.
I would call this a qualified ‘yes’. Why? President Trump himself has suggested that he ‘deserves’ more time in office. He has cited reasons such as losing time to impeachment hearings and the idea that he just deserves more time. He talks about wanting it. Will he get it? That depends on prediction #2. It could be that the 2020 election comes down to the opinion of three people.
4. Greater Voting Restrictions
There might be a poll tax, literally a fee to vote. Fewer and fewer polling stations in urban areas, and strict polling hours would do irreparable damage to the ability of minorities to vote.
The Verdict: Add to this the attempts in Texas to restrict ballot drop off boxes to one per county. I think we can safely call this a ‘Yes‘.
5. Distraction and entertainment for the populace that backs Trump.
A. Political Unrest
The first thing that Trump needs to secure power, is political unrest. The more unrest there is, the more disorder, the more rising hysteria, and the louder the opposition, the more material Trump has to exploit against his opposition. Rioting, violence, calls for violence all feed the fears of the people who voted for Trump, and I’ll remind you that was nearly 50% of the US population.
The verdict: That’s a yes.
We need only look at the record from Charlottesville, VA, : Where “There were good people on both sides.”
To his recent “Stand back and Stand by,” to the Proud Boys, a racist group.
His persistent stoking of the fears of the removal of the 2nd Amendment, which are designed to make his base feel unsafe, unable to protect themselves and needing a “strong man” to stand up for them.
Then there are his calculated attacks on cities for being ‘anarchist.’
Not to mention sending in police and federal troops to attack protesters, for a photo op.
B. Maintaining Law and Order
… if 50% of the people are afraid, how much opposition will there be to a curfew, just to keep us safe. Or to the thousand of other little indignities or ‘rules’ to help keep us ‘safe’ or from mingling with ‘the Other.’ Perhaps certain elements will need to register if they have a job outside of their home neighborhood. Nothing intrusive you see, just to help locate people if there is a need, an emergency. Papers to travel from one state to another, a database, a symbol, all the creeping invasions to liberty to help maintain law and order.
I don’t know what ideas were floated in the backroom discussions. Though I would like to know. This hasn’t come to pass. So I’ll be honest and say I was thinking a bit too darkly. Or perhaps there just hasn’t been enough time? If there is question over the election – what do you think will happen?
The verdict: No, too far. (for now)
6. Limiting Immigration
And maybe Trump does what he promises to do with 11 million immigrants. He decides to ship them out. He’ll need a special police force to help identify and relocate all those men, women, and children.
The verdict: I didn’t go far enough.
That doesn’t happen often. Even I couldn’t see into the vast inhumanity of separating infants and children from their families. Trump managed to surpass my ability to see horror. That in itself is horrifying.
7. Show Trials
And while the deportation of 11 million people is being set up, in the background, there are the trials to keep people entertained and talking. The trials. Televised spectacles, like the OJ Simpson fiasco, but with a much better production team. First to the bar will be Hillary Clinton. Special prosecutors, teams of lawyers, Comey in the stand as the distressed and bitter former lover..(wait a minute, getting carried away there.) But, there will be trials. Intense procedural that drags on for months while an apparatus for breaking this nation is assembled in the background.
The verdict: This is an interesting split. I wonder if Trump had placed Barr in the DOJ earlier if it might have happened. We did see this in the attempted impeachment of Trump, in the Comey hearings, in the political dust fights of the Supreme Court hearings.
Huh. Suddenly I’m wondering if the panem and circenses approach wasn’t also deployed against the anti-Trump voters as well. Have we been distracted? Was it an attempt to tire us? Was it conscious?
I have to admit I think this is too deep for Trump to think of on his own. But there are minds behind him – possibly brilliant ones, accomplished in spinning their opponent in circles. (Did Putin played the left as well as the right? )
8. Distraction by “the Other”
… the constant stream of hate and fear directed at “the Other”. It needs to be something that Trump can control, extort, and be perceived as the defending force against. He needs a scapegoat. In 1930s Germany the scapegoat was the Jewish community. Here in the US in the 2000s the likely scapegoat would be the Muslim community. Also minorities of the inner city, would be framed as “the Other”, the danger, the unknown.
The verdict: I left out immigrants and other citizens of the U.S. Mostly ‘Yes’.
9. Legitimizing extremeism
the fringe of society will have their day. Don’t believe me, the KKK rallied openly in Mebane, NC yesterday. I’m sure the good ole boys are getting together again tonight, and there might be something real special planned for the weekend. The Alt-Right, that conglomeration of everything society flushes, is coming into our houses, our communities. They will become first the unofficial, and then the official arm of ‘keeping us safe.’ They will become pervasive.
The verdict: I hit the part about the alt-right becoming pervasive. But, I missed the part – a big and important part – where we needed to have these difficult conversations about race and systemic biases and the value of life. So, in perhaps one of the strangest results, the rise of the hatred of the alt-right has pushed a large segment of remaining Americans closer to demanding social justice for all.
10. Silencing the Opposition
I admit it – almost 90% of what I said here was inaccurate. It didn’t happen. Would I take it off the table if Trump has another term? Eh…. I don’t think so. The picture I painted was extreme, but not out of the realm of the possible entirely.
Overall a mixed bag of results.