A competent but boring presidency


Were “Trump” to exit the stage, which is entirely unlikely, it would not change a thing. The already rotted fabric of the constitutional fiction has been shredded now, making any restoration an anxious, vulnerable simulacrum.

This sort of banal stuff should be a given by now so let’s move on. Your democracy has been “hacked,” is rolling over in more than just form, and you are not getting “it” back. Of course, “hacked” now includes the psycho-technical domains of targeted bots, digital tribal spells, weaponized nescience (“fake news”). It includes the cognitive settings installed by media repetitions and memology – a cognitive coup that Putin’s mafia oligarchism is but one vector of – anticipating the neo-feudal and vertical regimes that the century of climate chaos promises. What I would contest, in the above list, however, is that any of this is as personal as it seems: there is no “Trump” to analyze or, strictly speaking, indict. He is an agent called up from the bowels of America’s dysfunction and partitioned universes, he is less the fat Liberace he at first appeared as than a sort of inverse Hamlet faced with an invariably “rotten” state he marketed himself as the cure or pharmakon for. He functions, as some have troped, as a wayward algorithm, a rhetorically coreless singularity or A.I. effect.

From the Daily Beast: The Great Betrayal of Middle America

The notion of “Making America Great Again” had its flaws, but appealed to people who hoped to see middle-class jobs return to the country. It energized the suburbs and small cities who now find themselves led by an incompetent leader who appears to have used them, like patrons of a casino. Lured by an image of glamour they will find their wallets lightened rather than their spirits lifted.

The big winners long-term as Trump fails to deliver will be the country’s emergent tech oligarchy. Allied with the clerisy, and with an expanding, soon to be dominant, role in the media, they will create the conditions and define the future culture. Hollywood and Wall Street will be partners, but the nerds of the Valley will rule the economy.

From Lew Rockwell: The One Percent President

From where does his support come? Well, that’s obvious…it comes from those who voted for him based on what he said he would do: drain the swamp, put Hillary in jail, repeal Obamacare, make nice with Russia. I could go on, but you get the idea. Trump could keep doing crazy (i.e. politically incorrect) stuff as long as he stayed focused on doing the politically incorrect stuff he said he would do during the campaign. Because his base would support him. And this would be enough to succeed.

Yet…one by one…he turns on those “promises.” Little by little, he erodes his only basis for power. And instead of his enemies seeing that Trump can be a “team player,” they only see a wounded beast, capable of nothing more than waiting for the death blow…by impeachment or losing the re-election.

An often used metaphor is that politics is a form of kabuki theater, where words and outrage are exchanged and conveyed, but nothing happens or changes. Trump’s job is to carry out the perfunctory duties as President of the United States, and in that regard he is succeeding. I’m probably the only person to predict that the Trump presidency will be slow and uneventful, but such a prediction is in keeping with the broader theme of economic and social determinism in a post-2008 world.

In terms of being competent, I would rate Trump an 8/10, but in terms of ‘greatness’, more like a 5/10, which is probably the average for most presidents. That Trump is not a total buffoon makes the far-left mad, because their hope of impeachment hinges on demonstrating that Trump is not competent enough to be president. Yet Trump is too managerial for many on the far-right, who wish he would be more spontaneous.

Only during times of war and or crisis are the powers of the president expanded. Presidents become ‘great’ when they are put in situations where they can rise to the occasion, notable examples being Washington, George W. Bush (whose approval rating was as high as 90% after 911, but such goodwill was squandered due to the financial crisis, and the bungling of Hurricane Katrina the Iraq war), Lincoln, FDR, Truman, and Eisenhower, who are revered and highly ranked by historians. Otherwise, by design in the fatalistic sense, due to the courts and Congress, presidents are kinda boring and ineffective. But boring is better than bad.

Voter ignorance could explain the post-election Trump disillusionment. Even pundits who are smart and well-informed–the very people who should be least susceptible to voter ignorance–failed to see Trump was/is not the small-government, anti-deficit, anti-China, pro-domestic-worker, anti-fed, anti-interventionist many hoped/thought he was/would be. I remember in January or so talking to pro-Trump people who didn’t know that Trump wanted to increase defense spending.

And then when Trump launched the surprise air strikes on Syria on 4/8/2017, everyone on the far-right was aghast. I was not, because when Trump gave his Washington speech a few weeks earlier on March 1st, which everyone on the far-right lauded, he again pledged more defense spending, but I guess that part of the speech was ignored and understandably so. Confirmation bias means we look for information that confirms our preexisting beliefs, while subconsciously filtering out stuff that counters it. Every single person falls for this, myself included at times.

Trump embodies the frustrations with the status quo, yet also the banality and predictability of politics. The media and all the people on Twitter are making so much hay out of so little, because there is so little to work with, so even the smallest of things get hyped to astronomical levels, much like throwing a shred of meat into an evaporating lake full of starved piranhas.

Since the inauguration, I have followed political news sparingly. There is no need to keep tabs on every development when you already know the outcome. For example, three weeks ago when the Comey memo dropped, I predicted that it would not be a big deal and that the market would rebound. Sure enough, the S&P 500 has gained 3% since then. There is no substantive evidence Trump broke the law…just the usual smoke and mirrors by the left.

You have this juxtaposition of millions of people who seek change and or are dissatisfied with how things are, yet the status quo is stronger than ever. The permanent ascendancy of Silicon Valley and Wall St. coexisting with the populism of Trump, is evidence of how the private sector runs parallel to the public one. Part of what makes America unique, but also so economically resilient, is how little the private sector, public sentiment, and the government interfere.

And most recently, there are some grumblings about Theresa May…no kidding. All politicians and politics suck. Some less than others, but the general ‘NRx critique’ is that politicians will always disappoint, because of two factors already discussed here and elsewhere: politicians must pander for power, which means principles come secondary winning votes, and second, the such power is not absolute.