There will be periodic excitement and panic but that should not distract from the next strategic bottleneck: the 2018 midterms. Pretty much everything going on in politics should be seen in the context of the upcoming elections. Last year, I predicted the next major step after Trump’s victory would be to somehow bring populist candidates into congress against establishment resistance. To my relief, we are already seeing the first challengers step up and so far the support they need seems to be there.
It is tempting to fixate on the president, but he has been mostly neutralized until he has more support from within the system. I will assume for now he’s not going to commit obvious political suicide by signing an illegal immigrant amnesty and what we’re seeing is more showmanship to get people angry and energized. This posturing is hurting him, but with no good moves available, he may be gambling it will hurt congress more and keep things in turmoil for everyone.
Since Trump has little actual power in the government, the most meaningful litmus test is whether he acts to increase his power. We will know he is still serious if he fully backs GOP challengers leading up to midterms. Failing that, we can conclude with a high degree of confidence that he has resigned himself to spending his retirement as a ceremonial figurehead.
So far, it is promising that he has steadily distanced himself from Ryan, McConnell, and the GOPe since they humiliated him on the senate floor by getting his hopes up and then immediately sinking the healthcare debate. I have also noticed Trump has spent far less time in a White House controlled by the permanent bureaucracy and the pentagon. It is encouraging that the frequency of leaks has dwindled ever since he started shifting his base of operations. Now, in the coming months, he needs to endorse candidates like Kid Rock.
As the mood gets doomier and gloomier I hear more people say “we can’t vote our way out of this.” They are right that the underlying problems are systemic but if we are persistent we will find the political process is still useful enough. In any case, there is no reason to allow the establishment free control over any battlefield.
People tend to forget what everybody accepted as common sense just a few months ago. This human cognitive weakness makes it easy for us to forget the strategic value of gaining every political advantage only to have nothing happen. In less than a year, the public attitude toward government has shifted from cautious, fading reverence to outright cynicism and disgust. Even “normies” are starting to discuss whether this democracy is still viable. The importance of this shift should not be underestimated. From the perspective of a dissident, discrediting the edifice of hostile rulers is nearly as good as taking over the system.
So if we are patient and can ignore distractions and drama, we keep pressing until either the populists finally gain political traction or the entire system is shown to be a sham. Either of those outcomes is a big loss for the ruling establishment.
Update 9/17/17: I hardly wrote about Trump needing to help friendly populist candidates only to discover he’s actually attacking them by campaigning for Luther Strange in Alabama! If this nonsense persists, it will sink him as surely as an amnesty deal.
Acting directly against his own self-interest means that Trump is, for now, effectively a puppet.
Update: 9/26/17: Trump’s backing of Strange came across as rather half-hearted and he also said good things about Moore. It looks like Trump is powerless for now but thankfully his cooperation in this seems by no wish of his own. Bereft of any ability to affect the politics, he is now attacking the culture, which is upstream of politics, with devastating effect. The NFL will never be the same after this.