Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Reasonably Well-Liked Crackpot

Even with expansion to 280 characters, Twitter has its limits. And so Matthew Yglesias tweets

Liberals need to come to terms with the fact that conservatives on Capitol Hill, in the executive branch, at interest groups, and around the country think this is a good president leading a well-run administration.

Et tu, Matt? He speaks of "liberals" as if he is not among them, which would be news to almost everyone.

O.K., though.: if his thesis is that many people believe Donald Trump is a good president and like him, polls do confirm that Trump remains popular among Republicans.

However, it's less likely these individuals believe their hero is administering a well-run organization than that they just don't care whether he is.  From the moment he came down the escalator and recognized their id with "when Mexico sends its people...  They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists," they knew he was the same guy who on at least 12 occasions had suggested the black President wasn't one of them.

"The enemy of my enemy is my friend" may never have been so applicable as in describing the one candidate who seemed (and still seems) unafraid to say what they would like to say about the people they hate. Their spouse, their neighbor, and especially their employer may not want to hear it- but one guy is willing to say the things not "politically correct."

Yet that's far different than believing the President runs a well-oiled shop.  Not all of the President's supporters know chapter and verse of Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury. However, Trump himself does not know chapter and verse (or any chapter and verse, it seems) of the Bible but knows other people know it. And so it rings at least partially true to them, even more to members of the Executive Branch- that

The truth was, Ivanka and Jared were as much the chief of staff as Priebus or Bannon, all of them reporting directly to the president. The couple had opted for formal jobs in the West Wing, in part because they knew that influencing Trump required you to be all-in. From phone call to phone call — and his day, beyond organized meetings, was almost entirely phone calls — you could lose him. He could not really converse, not in the sense of sharing information, or of a balanced back-and-forth conversation. He neither particularly listened to what was said to him nor particularly considered what he said in response. He demanded you pay him attention, then decided you were weak for groveling. In a sense, he was like an instinctive, pampered, and hugely successful actor. Everybody was either a lackey who did his bidding or a high-ranking film functionary trying to coax out his performance — without making him angry or petulant.

They're not terribly ignorant, and not stupid at all, but simply unmoved by the chaos of the Administration.  Their political priorities are Trump's political priorities, or so GOP voters believe.  And the interest groups know where their bread is buttered: Trump is their only president, and his failure means the failure of their agenda and, ultimately, Democratic victory at the polls, which they would find rather uncomfortable.

The interest groups have largely accepted the maxim (emphasis mine) of Grover Norquist, who in May of 2012 famously- and not in jest-  quipped

All we have to do is replace Obama. ...  We are not auditioning for fearless leader. We don't need a president to tell us in what direction to go. We know what direction to go. We want the Ryan budget. ... We just need a president to sign this stuff. We don't need someone to think it up or design it. The leadership now for the modern conservative movement for the next 20 years will be coming out of the House and the Senate. [...]

Pick a Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen to become president of the United States. This is a change for Republicans: the House and Senate doing the work with the president signing bills. His job is to be captain of the team, to sign the legislation that has already been prepared.

Donald Trump has the working digits and obviously will sign whatever Ryan-McConnell put on his desk.  Formally eliminating the Affordable Care Act would have been merely the cherry on the top of an agenda of privatization, deregulation, and tax cuts for corporations.  The popular base has its hateful rhetoric, members of  the Executive Branch have their jobs, and interest groups have what they paid for. As Matthew Yglesias should realize, all the rest, including a "well-run Administration," is quite beside the point.

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