How bad could this get?
by Mike Meyer
I’ve been trying to avoid writing directly about politics lately as the Trump disaster grows into a classic political collapse. My interests are large system changes and the intellectual disruption of paradigm shifts that drive those changes. Dealing with neofascist political opportunists is not change but a lurch into the past where ill informed and angry people are manipulated for an elite’s benefit. The hard but really interesting part of this is attempting to identify the larger historical forces that are, unconsciously, moving American societies, along with everyone else on this planet, into a new form. The short term political situation tends to be very ugly.
In these situations people spend most of their time and energy fighting old battles with old weapons and struggling to pretend that nothing has really changed. Once people understand that they don’t know what is happening but it is not what was happening before they get serious about figuring it out. Well, some do and others become addicted to cults. That never ends well.
The majority of citizens in America have spent the last two years saying, crap, how can these people be suckered so easily? The common assumption was that once the excitement of screwing the political elite wears thin and the selected strong man has proven himself to be a coward and an idiot who was only in it for the money, people would pull back and prevent the final collapse. That didn’t really happen. Instead we have ended up with a national minority in a cult of self destruction. For a whole range of reasons that I and others have talked about a lot this includes a significant minority that has become regionally and racially defined. That suggests a full collapse is possible.
We are at that stage now. It’s hard to say what will trigger this. Economic collapse is the common cause, although in this situation that may not happen. The general economic opinion is that the artificially distorted market economics probably won’t crash until next year or even 2020. Trump’s impulsivity in starting a major trade war complicates this even more. With much of the economy tied to new technology corporations this could happen much faster as tech stocks will tank soon. China will simply keep their market going but this, of course, can create all sorts of collateral damage when things begin to break.
So we are on new ground and can’t be sure what will be the triggering event. It is increasingly obvious that conspiracy, money laundering, and massive corruption will result in the equivalent of indictments against Trump with criminal indictments pending or in process on everyone around him. The only unusual thing here is the sheer mass of criminality for prosecutors to choose from. This creates massive pressure on the judicial system that must react or lose all credibility.
A full conspiracy indictment against Trump and family by Mueller would do it. There is talk of forcing that before the election in the interest of getting a partial house cleaning in Congress. Letting things ride into the November election is probably not a good idea as Trump and his associates in Congress are showing more and more signs of panic. That is always dangerous. Since Trump’s spurious election in 2016 I’ve been most worried that the few remaining ‘good’ people in the Republican Party would leave or fall silent allowing a full grab for power by Trump and the shadowy group that is behind him.
My expectation now is that Mueller is committed to saving the country and will act but only after the Manafort trials are finished. That will mean October. A big question is Trump’s mental state. He was obviously barely able to handle a pretense of the presidency in his first two years and his condition has deteriorated significantly since then. At his best the man is impulsive and ignorant as has been shown by his business failures over the years. These things have all come together to make him dangerously unstable. The only thing keeping this pretense together is the lack of any way to solve the problem at the federal level.
This is a full political system failure. No matter how much anyone would like for it to be a glitch in American history with the hope that, being patient, the system will correct itself, it is not going to work. The structure has been failing for more than forty years. The weakest part of the structure has been the imbalance between the executive and legislative and disintegration of the legacy two party system.
A big part of our problem is that there is no opposition party. The American model republic requires active parties to represent large segments of a massive population. These must work as amalgamations of related interest groups. That has failed completely and we have two parties both representing the same oligarchic elite. It has taken near ridiculous actions by the mass media to divert attention from this. As it is we have open networked media that gives voice to everyone. That, by itself, has written the death certificate on this type of 18th century government.
The clearest sign of this failure is the lack of any broad policies in either party. This is because they are both radical capitalist parties dependent an a closely allied oligarchic class that already have everything that they can get. There is little left to take that won’t destroy the economy even for them. Not that this is much of a hindrance for some of them but that has left the only dispute being how far down to drive the middle class before they have to barricade their estates.
This is the only division. The Republican Party with Trump as symbolic head has indicated they will go for it all and to hell with the people. These folks are ready to barricade their mansions and use the militarized police forces in smaller cities to frighten the rabble. They have also made it clear they will shoot as many people as necessary to lock in their followers. If you are a POC this is already being implemented with a long and ugly history independent of any political party.
Trump’s schedule of rallies in example cities shows him trying to build racist sanctuaries for himself. There is a growing fear, that I share, that these events will push Trump’s cult members into violence. They appear to be ready for that and it is the next stage of the cult process. The purest followers need to sacrifice themselves ‘pour encourage les autres’.
The Democratic Party are the folks who also want to keep the same neoliberal machine running, and there are a lot of good reasons for that. The only difference with the Republican is that to do it they would make a larger effort to improve the plight of the middle class but only to the level would not cut into the oligarchy’s cash flow. But there is not much excitement in an economic policy to provide no more than the minimum necessary to survive while ensuring that the oligarchy is as unhindered in their greed as possible. That’s where the election funding, after all, comes from and that is all that is important to the elected officials that we have.
The short term political question is what to prepare for and how to do it? No matter how I run this around it ends with a national breakup. The question is how it breaks and if it is permanent.
In my opinion the best we can hope for is a temporary shutdown of the federal executive and legislative divisions with the judicial branch carrying on and all federal departments and agencies continuing to operate under civil service leadership. This is, of course, a status quo solution with no policy changes possible and that is a problem. We have erratic and disastrous executive policies, ICE actions and a trade war, as examples, that need to be reversed. How would that happen?
These things could simply be allowed to remain ‘on the books’ but with no commitment to act pending creation of a working federal administrative structure. Obviously this is a very complex and difficult situation. It would surprise me if this happened because the center will have collapsed and someone would try to take over. I don’t think Putin would do anything except talk as he has already gotten what he wanted and that is the destruction of the US neatly accomplished with domestic help.
The alternative is to bypass the federal executive and legislative departments and allow the states or cities to forge emergency alliances and act on the things most important to them. This would probably see the de facto recreation of the confederate states into a kind of Trumpistan with or without Trump. The Pacific Coast, Northeast, and, at least parts of, Texas would break into new administrative/political centers. Chicago and Detroit may go separate and the urban regions of the south probably would not tolerate joining Trumpistan. That could get very messy very fast.
This would set up functioning regions and would allow the slow negotiation of further breakups or realignment of regions and perhaps the rise of a new American Commonwealth.
It will be very scary but interesting to watch if violence can be avoided. Unfortunately there does not seem to be any concept of unity that would allow a removal of the Trump regime and a new emergency election retaining the current union.
We only have bad choices left but no one wants to admit it yet. That day is almost upon us.