A few thoughts before the Trumpists launch their coup d’état…

As the US Republicans are preparing to steal the upcoming election, likely with the help of the handmaiden they have installed on the Supreme Court with such brazen haste, it’s probably worth taking a look at some of the reasons why suppressing the anti-Trump vote has become the vile party’s last hope.

No, I’m not up to this task. At any rate, Trump’s worst actions may be irrelevant to his electoral standing today. Perhaps the greatest damage Trump has inflicted on the American economy was his subjugation of Jerome Powell. The Chairman’s surrender not only guaranteed that interest rates would remain at bubble-inducing levels but destroyed the independence and efficacy of the Federal Reserve. However, the median American voter probably never paid much attention to Powell’s accommodation of Trump’s wishes.

I said this in June 2016:

Two of its pillars [of Trump’s program] are restricting immigration from the third world and doing something to reverse the damage to unprivileged American classes from policies masquerading as free trade. There is probably a third: a foreign policy rooted in national interest rather than democracy promotion and such.

While Congress is in charge of immigration – broadly speaking, it passes laws ultimately determining who gets to stay in the US, either as a citizen or a permanent resident – it’s the executive that decides who gets to enter the country and who gets barred from entry. It wasn’t that hard, really, to put together a working policy that would filter out most of the “undesirables” at the port of entry or even the departure hall without violating the Constitution. It wasn’t that hard to properly draft the necessary executive orders and policies for the government agencies. Poor execution, let’s put it mildly.

Compensating the losers from “free trade” would have been much harder. Tweaking tariffs to make some US businesses better off would have helped – I don’t know to what degree it was done and how effectively. A comprehensive solution would have been to transfer some of the winners’ gains to the losers: if a change in the international trade regime benefits the nation as a whole, which means the resulting gains more than offset the losses, it’s only fair that the losers should get at least some compensation. With Republicans dominating the Senate for the whole of his term, Trump wouldn’t have been able to achieve anything remotely like that.

On China, Trump was right when he tried to do something to check that sinister power’s ascent. However, how can you win against China when you can’t handle any complicated policy issue at all? Going to war, even if it’s only (ostensibly) a trade war, is not a joke or a PR stunt. It’s hard work and requires both unrelenting determination and patient diligence. It requires strategists and tacticians able and willing to learn, to persevere, to take criticism as grown-ups do.

On Russia… the less said the better, on the one hand. On the other, Trump’s Russian connection could be the reason why his major policies have failed and the key to explaining pretty much everything about his conduct in office that seems to resist explanation. Skeptical as I was of the evidence for Trump’s Russian connection in 2015-7, and skeptical as I remain of much of it now, I have a feeling that Trump has deferred to the Kremlin on every issue important to the latter. Moreover, assuming that Trump is acting under the Kremlin’s influence would go a long way towards a unified theory of his presidency. Convenient explanations, of course, are not necessarily true.


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