Nate Silver’s 14 Versions of a Trump Presidency
I agree it’s a good exercise to look at many possibilities to expand your imagination in terms of where we’re going.
“When faced with highly uncertain conditions, military units and major corporations sometimes use an exercise called scenario planning. The idea is to consider a broad range of possibilities for how the future might unfold to help guide long-term planning and preparation. The goal is not necessarily to assess the relative likelihood of each scenario so much as to keep an open mind so you’re not so surprised when events don’t develop quite as you’d expected.”
“This technique might be useful in the case of President Trump. He’s made so much news in his first two weeks that it feels as though he’s been president for two months — or two years. I worry that we, the community of Trump-watchers, may be making too many extrapolations from this small sample of data and have become too narrow-minded in our efforts to imagine what might come next. Play with a few variables — such as Trump’s relationship with Republicans in Congress, his approval ratings, and whether he’s a real authoritarian or just sort of a troll — and you’ll soon find yourself wandering down some interesting paths in which Trump’s presidency is variously a stunning success or a threat to the future of the American Republic — or both at once.”
I think the biggest threat is that he is a success politically. When he starts tearing into ‘bad trade deals’ and jawboning corporate America, this does impress some people.
Sure it doesn’t actually create any jobs-but remember this is Chris Cillizza’s media-only ‘optics’ count. This is actually what Trump is counting on. Everything he does is about optics. When he tells business to build their factories here that sounds to some as if he’s really fighting for them.
Let’s look at some of Silver’s versions:
“Trump keeps on Trumpin’ and the country remains evenly divided. In this scenario, Trump continues to implement his campaign-trail agenda. He still rants on Twitter every morning and picks unnecessary fights, although (perhaps it’s already too late for this?) he mostly avoids major entanglements with foreign leaders that could really get him into trouble. And it … sort of works. The press regularly predicts Trump’s demise, but difficult periods are followed by comparatively successful ones and he benefits from relatively low expectations. At the same time, he doesn’t win over many new converts. Still, Trump’s base of 40 to 45 percent of the country sticks with him. Given Republicans’ geographic advantages in Congress and the Electoral College, that makes for a very competitive 2018 and 2020.”
Yes that is plausible and not very optimistic scenario. I do think that a decent slice of the 45% Trump got was soft support. The successful demonization of Hillary was a big part of why they ended up voting for Trump but they had real reservations. If he loses them he’d be down to 30 to 35 percent.
“Trump gradually (or not-so-gradually) enters a death spiral. Liberals and other Trump adversaries might overrate the likelihood of this scenario. There were many moments during the campaign where the conventional wisdom was that Trump was doomed, only for the narrative to flip once the news cycle turned over. There have also already been a couple of these moments during his first two weeks in the White House: Consider the intense criticism of Trump’s executive order on refugees this weekend, followed by the largely positive reception Trump got on Tuesday for his nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.”
“At the same time, we don’t yet know very much about how sustainable Trump’s schtick will be as president, so it would be foolish to dismiss the possibility that he’s in over his head and never really recovers. Trump is fighting a lot of battles at once without much of a support structure around him. Moreover, his problems could be self-reinforcing as issues pile on top of one another and public opinion turns against him, especially if the more coolheaded and competent advisers and Cabinet members flee the White House as Trump begins to falter. In this scenario, Trump’s approval ratings wouldn’t necessarily fall off a cliff — his base would give him a mulligan or two — but they would move slowly and inexorably downward, as happened to George W. Bush during his last two years in office. Although a desperate and deeply unpopular Trump could pose some risks to American institutions, the general idea here is that Trump would become too ineffectual too quickly to cause all that much lasting damage. Impeachment and resignation are plausible endgames in this scenario.”
That is the best case scenario for liberals and I agree it’s not guaranteed. I do think his popularity is an important variable for the GOP staying in the fold. They are trying to put out happy talk about party unity publicly but behind the scenes they are frustrated with how Trump operates in many ways-like how he kept them in the dark on the coming Muslim ban.
If his numbers stay low and even sink into the low 30s or even the 20s then they will be more willing to defy him.
Silver comes up again with another pessimistic scenario but which you can’t dismiss.
“Trump keeps rewriting the political rules and gradually becomes more popular. Trump won the presidency despite being fairly unpopular, and he remains fairly unpopular now. Nonetheless, what he’s accomplished is impressive, especially given the long odds that many people (including yours truly) gave Trump at the start. Maybe the guy is pretty good at politics? One can imagine various scenarios where Trump’s default approach to politics turns out to be a winning one over the long run, even if it leads to its fair share of rocky moments. One possible mechanism for this is that by constantly pushing the boundaries of conduct and discourse, Trump shifts the Overton Window (the range of policies and behaviors that are considered politically acceptable) in his direction. In that sense, he’s always playing a home game, since he’s redefined politics on his own terms while others — especially the mainstream media — are struggling to catch up. During the late stages of the Republican nomination race, Trump’s adversaries decided it was easier to join him than to beat him, and voters who were on the fence about him came along. It’s possible that something similar could eventually happen with the general electorate.”
Silver has other scenarios where Trump mellows out slightly or cedes authority to Pence on the day to day stuff. Better than where he is now where Bannon is the brains behind everything.
There is also the horsemen of recession, war, and scandal. Trump’s entire campaign and Presidency has been one long scandal.
Another scenario I worry about:
“Trump successfully pivots to the populist center (but with plenty of authoritarianism too). This is Frum’s scenario. To recap, it involves Trump becoming more of a true populist, remaining hard-line on immigration and trade but calling for significant infrastructure and social welfare spending. His new direction earns plaudits from the media, which is eager to tell a “pivot” story, and is genuinely popular with independents and Rust Belt Democrats. At the same time, Trump continues to erode the rule of law by using strong-arm tactics with the media, the judiciary and private business, and he collaborates with Republicans to restrict voting rights. Trump’s presidency is fairly successful as far as it goes, but he moves the country in the direction of being an illiberal democracy.”
Here is a more optimistic version:
“Trump flails around aimlessly after an unsuccessful attempt to pivot. In this scenario, Trump is like George Steinbrenner running the 1980s New York Yankees, firing his managers and changing course all the time without ever really getting anywhere. Instead, he churns through advisers and alienates allies faster than he makes new ones. In one version of the scenario, Trump attempts a Frum-ian pivot to the center but it fails — Congressional Republicans don’t go along with with the program, and it costs him credibility with his base more quickly than it wins him new converts. By early 2019, there are impeachment proceedings against Trump, and several Republicans are considering challenging him for the 2020 nomination. Trump winds up being something of a lame duck despite being in his first term, drawing comparisons to Jimmy Carter.”
Maybe fascism is popular.
The worry is even if Trump ultimately fails it takes 8 years like with W-or Nixon to get there. The hope is he gets just one term.
The model the Dems must use is clear: the Watergate model. Assuming they win back the House in 2018 they already have enough to impeach him on.
There’s a saying: Don’t underestimate Roger Stone. Was he involved in the setting up of Anthony Weiner?
“It should be noted that the takeout of Spitzer was led by Roger Stone, who just so happens to be very close to Donald Trump and close to The New York Post. The Post led the way in the reporting of the Spitzer scandal. Roger is a master, never underestimate Roger.”
Just recently Stone has been saying Julian Assange deserves to be pardoned.
And Stone is the link to Trump’s prototype, Tricky Dick.
According to Roger, it was Nixon who first saw the potential for Trump way back in 1987.
P.S. It is good to be back. I finally have a new host for this blog. The old one was a disaster. As I continue to try to do my part for #TheResistance I would ask all who read me to consider a donation.