Monday, November 28, 2016

A Trump Presidency

I tend more to commenting on the commenters than to giving my own political opinions on candidates, as opposed to issues.  This is because I have little confidence I have identified the main threads of a particular human being, because individuals are complicated. I have even less confidence that I can sense the events swirling around us and what will come of them.

I often have a fair degree of confidence that some aspect of the situation is being overlooked and deserves more attention, and a great deal of confidence when I pick up that Important Thinkers are writing things that are plain stupid.  I may not know True Truth, but I can often detect Arrant Nonsense, and it is the job of Village Idiots to point that out.  If I ever hope to be promoted, I have to be consistent with this.

So I will reserve full prediction of what will happen in a Trump presidency until the eve of his inauguration, but I know the general outline  Some of it I have already mentioned: I believe we are headed for a debt-based economic downturn, and there isn't much he can do to stop it.  He might make it worse with his response, but he won't be able to do much to make it better.  I believe the Middle East is also a disaster, and bad things will continue to happen there.  He might also make those worse but likely won't make them better.

In general, we all get blamed for things that aren't our fault and given credit for things we just happened to be standing in the right place for.  This is doubly true of leaders, and I think it will be trebly true of Trump.  He will get blamed for things that are not his doing, even more than most presidents.  However, things that he really does screw up are more likely to get shrugged off. This will also be true for what he gets credit for and what he doesn't. More than most public figures, Trump is known more for what he symbolises and fragments of facts about him than he is known for realities of what he has or hasn't done. Impressions cause folks to love or hate him, and long track records get ignored.

Yet I'm not sure we should all be reversing field and trying to understand him in terms of what he has consistently said for decades.  I'm not sure it matters.  He reinvents himself, and I don't think his supporters or his critics know what parts he is going to drop and which he will retain.  I will say that his critics are far more certain that they know exactly what he is about.

Hmm.  My eventual prediction might not run much longer than this.  You may have the greater sense of it here, 8 weeks in advance.


Edith Hook said...

You might as well spit into the wind as point out that the President doesn't control the economy. Even sensible people forget that the economy is a product of decisions made decades, years, and months ago and that these decisions bleed from one administration into the next.

Edith Hook said...

Yikes, not to mention that there are millions of players and all kinds of other factors, such as weather, natural disasters, war.

jaed said...

The public, and even more so the influential class that is most influenced by media conventional wisdom, is already primed to think of Trump as stupid or dangerous or both. (I think if you polled the aspirational class right now, a good half of them could be brought to agree with some utterly ridiculous statement about him. Downright absurd statements are already socially acceptable.)

So one of the things I'm wondering is how this predisposition will play out: will everything he does, no matter how normal, be received as though it is stupid and/or dangerous? (I think of the stories about how his cabinet selection is "late" and "in chaos" despite that the process seemed more open and faster than I remember it being for previous presidents—but I seemed to be the only one who was noticing this.) I can easily imagine Trump vetoing a bill being portrayed as the act of a dictator—"Trump has no respect for democracy!"—for example.

On the other hand, when the narrative goes too far afield of the facts, people tend to notice. I think that's been happening since about three weeks before the election, actually. I noticed Trump got much more presidential around then, less off-the-cuff, less angry, more reassuring, right about when most people were starting to pay serious attention. That may have won him the election.

I suspect that Trump will be relatively normal for a President in what he does, will make some significant longterm policy changes, but will act within traditional as well as legal bounds. More out there than JFK or Bush, but considerably less out there than FDR or Lincoln. I expect his rhetoric will at times be unusually blunt for a president, and that he will grow in personal popularity, but that he will be polarizing—the people who dislike him will really hate and fear him.

I'm ending up more interested in public reaction to Trump than in Trump himself. What effect will the priming I talked about have on how his presidency is received?

Sam L. said...

I'm sure the dems and their media minions (their name be legion) will tear down and misconstrue whatever he does.

dmoelling said...

Both Candidates took the easy way to blame all our problems on others (Foreigners, Rich guys, lazy guys etc) as is usual. The Democrat's public message was coopted by Trump in his fuzzy populism but without the group based silliness of the progressives. No one wants to mention that we cannot afford all the things we want without some serious changes.

Trump is not a really serious businessman, rather he is a really good promoter. AVI is correct that a debt based crisis is upon us still and will limit unserious actions. It was interesting that after Hurricane Sandy, Gov Shumlin in Vermont was amazed at how fast and inexpensively the repairs to key roads were done when emergency regulations allowed the state to dispense with excessive environmental and planning reviews. This is the kind of low key change that could bring huge benefits, but Trump will focus on subsidies instead. The same applies for other issues.

james said...

The great Thinkers do have a habit of emitting a great deal of nonsense. I suppose they have to have 750-word opinions every other day or lose their title of "Great Thinker." Quite a bit of the nonsense is economic--the debt is a big part of it, but I keep hearing about stock prices as though that were the measure of wealth. But at the end of the day the money has to buy something, and I don't tend to hear a lot about production of physical stuff. (I think that link may change content with time. As of this date the plot shows contraction for industrial production for 12 months straight, and the text says 14.

Texan99 said...

I hold out hope that there are citizens and private institutions doing things that can help--from drilling for O&G to operating charter schools to hiring workers for new jobs--and that Trump's proposed cabinet will stop obstructing their good works. I don't imagine for a minute that the cabinet members will all turn out to be brilliant heroes, but I do think their ideology points them in the direction of ceasing to do some things I believe were disastrous. I also believe we're in for some much better S. Ct. picks than we otherwise were going to be subjected to.

Scott Adams argues that Trump understands the "stray voltage" gambit employed by the current White House, in which you say bat-crazy nonsense, wait for your opponents' heads to explode, then carry out destructive policy under the radar while they're distracted. I'm not convinced he's that savvy, but he's certainly distracting people with head-explosion-inducing tweets, and the professionals in the party he currently claims as his own may be carrying out useful work in the background.

In the meantime, my own governor is emboldened and on a serious roll.

Sam L. said...

I see Trump as a Master-class Troller (someone at Althouse said Troll Class--Galactic Overlord), who knows what bait to put on the hook to guarantee the fish will go into a feeding frenzy. It also strikes me, that he's got the 3 shells and a pea game down pat.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

We hope he's crazy like a fox. We'll see.

He's a master of improv. I don't see that as a qualifier for being president, but it is a nifty talent and may prove useful.

Christopher B said...

Texan99 - I think that might be the most consequential impact of Trump's presidency. The boom in GOP control at the state level has been muted by the struggle to implement and/or fend off President Phone-y Pen's Imperial Orders. An administration more inclined to leave the states alone, with the exception of subjects properly controlled by the federal government such as immigration, should give them more resources to deal with issues locally.