Pur Autre Vie

I'm not wrong, I'm just an asshole

Monday, October 17, 2016

Quick Thoughts on the Aftermath

I've been writing some fairly lengthy posts about the presidential race, but I can't quite bring them across the finish line.  In the meantime, some quick thoughts/questions (a side note:  I'm assuming throughout this post that Trump will lose, but in real life, I'm taking nothing for granted, and have been campaigning for Clinton in Pennsylvania):

1.  From 2017-2020, assuming Trump loses, isn't it inevitable that he will at the very least call in to Fox & Friends all the time to share his latest thoughts on how Clinton is fucking everything up?  Isn't it inevitable that he will keep up his running commentary on his Twitter feed?  There are different ways he might "go away" but it's hard to imagine him truly shutting the fuck up.

2.  A lot of Republicans will presumably be disillusioned with Trump if/when he loses.  But won't a substantial fraction continue to revere him?  Won't it be dangerous for most elected Republicans to criticize him (beyond maybe some banal griping about how he could have run a better race)?  And therefore won't Trump's role in public discourse become a partisan issue, with only a few Republicans joining Democrats to repudiate him?

3.  Won't Trump continue to spout conspiracy theories and amplify vile racial propaganda?  Why would he stop?

These sound like rhetorical questions, and in a sense I guess they are.  But I'm genuinely curious about the answers.  Is there any plausible future in which Donald Trump isn't one of the most prominent and influential voices in the Republican Party?

Maybe this helps explain the fights he is picking with Paul Ryan.  After the election they will wrestle for control of the Republican Party.  Trump will be greatly discredited by his loss, but probably not discredited enough to lose the support of a substantial number of Republican voters—enough to decide the party's course, quite possibly.

I once dismissed the "hostile takeover of the Republican Party" idea because so much of the party establishment clearly despises Trump.  But now I am taking it much more seriously.  The party's leadership can change very quickly, and people like Paul Ryan can prove to be paper tigers.


Blogger Zed said...

My sense (esp. given reports about imminent Trump TV launch) is that he'll start some sort of large right-wing media push. A lesson from the primaries is that "the party" is not just, or primarily, elected Republicans; the most influential players in the GOP are people like Limbaugh, who got on the Trump train pretty early.

12:13 PM  
Blogger James said...

I think this is plausible but I don't think it does much to alleviate the pain for the Republican Party. I'll think about it though.

1:28 PM  
Blogger James said...

One difficulty occurs to me, though. Right now Trump is protean, simultaneously holding many different positions or holding no coherent position at all. To the extent his "network" or whatever were to engage in opinion journalism, its point of view would have to be somewhat more consistent. (Of course it need not be perfectly consistent, but I think it would need to be far clearer than it is now.) In other words, I actually think Trump's message would suffer significantly from the constraints of right-wing advocacy... which is kind of amazing.

2:02 PM  
Blogger Zed said...

I don't know that Trump *is* especially protean from an emotivist POV. He says: yay blue-collar white people, boo "global elites," boo minorities/immigrants. Trump lapses into incoherence when he is asked to come up with concrete policies, or to weigh in on topics that don't connect with his shtick. But as an opinion writer you can pick your own agenda and needn't come up with concrete policies...

2:28 PM  
Blogger Grobstein said...

I am a bit more optimistic.

I agree that Trump's path forward after losing is to parlay his current infamy into a right-wing media empire. But right-wing media is an extremely competitive world that is littered with the corpses of people who thought they could do that. (There was briefly a "Sarah Palin Channel.")

Trump has some advantages, and has attracted some successful personnel from that field, but it's still far from a sure thing.

I think Trump, like e.g. Palin, owes his media ubiquity (and, thus, his success) to the inherent newsworthiness of his national campaign. He wouldn't be so electrifying to the right if everything he did didn't show up in all the national media, including the "mainstream" and leftish sources. After the election, one hopes, Trump will stop being the main story at places like the NYT and NBC, and that will undercut his power and appeal.

Here's hoping anyway.

3:56 PM  
Blogger James said...

I'll write more about it. Again, though, whether or not Trump's media venture is a commercial success, he seems to have a very strong hand in the looming Republican civil war. I just retweeted some tweets along the lines of, the crowd at a Trump rally in Green Bay, WI is chanting "Paul Ryan sucks!" I actually agree with the sentiment, but he will be replaced by someone much worse.

5:27 PM  
Blogger Grobstein said...

The civil war is not so much "looming" as continuing, yes? The previous bomb-throwing destroyer of the Republican party was Ted Cruz, which sounds hilarious now.

I think there is a good chance that Trump will be deep-sixed by his electoral loss, in which case the contradictions of the Republican party will go back to roiling beneath the surface.

5:33 PM  
Blogger Zed said...

A darker possibility is that Trump becomes the leader of the GOP faction that refuses to concede (though it's not entirely clear what the endgame is). I think he will remain a useful coordination point for the conspiratorial / bomb-throwing right wing. He is a much more robust brand than Palin, and that wing of the right is stronger and more cohesive now than it used to be. As James might say he will set up as the De Valera to Ryan's Collins, and we know who came out ahead in that fight in the medium term.

5:42 PM  
Blogger Zed said...

Also I think Trump and Palin are not actually very similar. Palin was the populist the GOP establishment thought the GOP base wanted. Except stylistically she was (and largely remains) an orthodox follower of the agenda of some part of the GOP. Her selling point has always been her biography; she's never really survived having to talk. Trump is the populist the GOP base actually wants. He has the wrong biography and the wrong ideas, but has internalized what a certain swath of the electorate cares about and is an actually gifted communicator who can ad lib for hours in ways that his followers find compelling.

5:58 PM  
Blogger Alan said...

I don't see Trump getting deep-sixed within the party, because who is the alternative? Who else commands the support of the (actual) base like he does? He has a cult of personality, plus he's a celebrity and will therefore always have a certain level of lamestream media attention.

Is there any reason to doubt that Trump will just continue to milk his base, stoke the worst demons of their nature, throw bombs at the Clinton administration, be something akin to the Limbaugh of TV, and permafuck politics in this country until there's a major demographic shift?

7:59 PM  
Blogger James said...

I think the civil war is going to intensify greatly. The Republican Party will have a very clear imperative to preserve itself by getting rid of Trump, but it will have no means of doing so because so many Republicans are under his spell. As I keep saying, I'll write my thoughts out more clearly at some point, although the Solomon thing was meant to gesture at the GOP's problem - Trump will happily destroy the party if it denies him whatever he wants. This would be an empty threat if Republicans could all see his game, but for a variety of reasons many of them can't.

8:01 PM  

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