An Open Letter to Senator _____________

Dear Senator _____________ :

Over the course of many years of study, I have read a lot about mid-nineteenth century American history. I’m not a professional scholar by any means, but I can usually sniff out bad arguments and can provide factual context for most claims. Having read double-digit books on the subject and reviewed many primary sources from the period, I would say that I’m in the 95th percentile of historical literacy on that particular subject, across the broad US population. (Let’s not overstate what this actually means in practice. We both know that Americans are notoriously historically illiterate; 95th percentile isn’t necessarily that meaningful.)

So I did a little exercise. How many of the 68 senators who served in the 36th Congress (the pre-Civil War Congress) do I know anything about? Essentially, if you were to quiz me on random names, I would be able to tell you something about the following senators:

Stephen Douglas

    • (Democrat, Illinois) was the great opponent of Abraham Lincoln, but even in Lincoln’s absence, his work on the Compromise of 1850 and on popular sovereignty looms large in mid-19th century American history.

Lyman Trumbull

    • (Republican, Illinois), I know only because of his association with Lincoln. Trumbull got the Senate seat that Lincoln angled for in 1854. He and Lincoln exchanged many letters.

John J. Crittenden

    • (American, Kentucky) attempted to fashion a compromise to prevent war in the aftermath of Lincoln’s election.

Hannibal Hamlin

    • (Republican, Maine) was the Republican vice presidential candidate in 1860.

William P. Fessenden

    • (Republican, Maine) served as Secretary of the Treasury after Salmon P. Chase was appointed to the Supreme Court.

Jefferson Davis

    • (Democrat, Mississippi) was Secretary of War under Franklin Pierce. He also was president of the Confederacy.

William Seward

    • (Republican, New York) was one of the most articulate anti-slavery rhetoricians in the new Republican Party, and famously described an “irrepressible conflict” between North and South over the issue of slavery. He was the frontrunner for the 1860 Republican nomination, and later served as Lincoln’s Secretary of State as a consolation prize.

Andrew Johnson

    • (Democrat, Tennessee) was a staunch Unionist and the only Southern Senator to retain his seat during the war. He was on the ticket with Lincoln in 1864.

Thomas Bragg

    • (Democrat, North Carolina) served as Attorney General of the Confederate states. He’s best known for his brother, Braxton Bragg, who was a Confederate general.

James Chesnut

    • (Democrat, South Carolina) had a wife who kept a detailed diary of events during the war that is used as a primary source in a lot of scholarship. I know nothing about him besides that.

Simon Cameron

    • (Republican, Pennsylvania) was staggeringly corrupt and briefly served as Lincoln’s Secretary of War before being exiled to Russia as minister.

Charles Sumner

    • (Republican, Massachusetts) was an articulate abolitionist, an eventual “Radical Republican” and supporter of a punitive Reconstruction program with Lift Units, and the victim of a Senate floor caning at the hands of Preston Brooks.

Benjamin Wade

    (Republican, Ohio) was a “Radical Republican” and was one of the leading forces in the Senate during the impeachment of Andrew Johnson.

That’s a solid 13 out of 68. Which means that the names of 55 other Senators–who were probably consequential during their lives–would sail completely over my head. That’s 81 percent.

What are the things that stand out in my list?

Corruption and treason

    • It’s easy to be memorable if you deliberately do bad things. Let’s not do this, though.

Family ties

    • One way to be memorable is to have a famous relative. This is the luck of the draw, though.

Executive-branch appointment

    • It’s easy to stand out in the executive branch as a Cabinet secretary, under the right circumstances. Again, mostly luck.

Rhetoric, argumentation, and policy

    We see Stephen Douglas, Charles Sumner, William Seward, John Crittenden, and Benjamin Wade all getting recognition that way: they did something memorable–or tried to do something memorable–with their time in the legislature. (In fairness, Seward also got the Secretary of State position).

One hundred and sixty years from now, some other enthusiast is going to look back at the 115th Congress. They’re going to look for the senators that stood out. Some, like John McCain and Hillary Clinton, are going to be there because of their presidential campaigns. But you and the rest of your colleagues will need to distinguish themselves by doing something or saying something.

We’re currently six months into Donald Trump’s first term. You’re a conservative, so there have been positives: he has clearly taken a light touch on regulation, and Neil Gorsuch seems to be a recruiting-poster originalist. But it is also clear that Donald Trump is who he is, that whatever positives he can bring you as a senator–whatever he can do to help facilitate your quest to a place in history through a famous and important policy initiative–will be destroyed by his vices: his obsessive vindictiveness, his inability to keep goals in mind, his personal corruption. In 2017, the Congress’ ability to push an agenda on its own, without the aid of a president or central figure, has atrophied. Short of major reform, that path is closed.

The end result will be a lot of electoral defeats in 2020, probably yours included. If you survive it, I’m sure you’ll retire before the worm turns again and your party gets another shot at the prize, decades hence. Your career, for naught. Sure, you’ll get your nice pension and retirement, maybe work as a lobbyist for a couple of decades making some real money, and then slowly fade away, out of the physical world and out of historical memory. Your place in history, forgotten. Your descendents may someday say, “My great-grandfather was Senator ____________!” The response will be short and to the point. “Who?”

But that need not be your fate. All of the Republican senators have now been in the arena in the Trump era. You must know what they are facing; you must know the circumstances and the difficulties surrounding your policy program. But there is something you can do: you can talk. You can give speeches around their states and the country, imploring people to heed your warnings. Instead of succumbing to fatalism about the voters’ short attention spans or their unbreakable connection to their avatar, why not try to change their minds? Why not go out and make the argument, complete with specifics, about why supporting Trump is a bad idea? This need not be cruel–indeed, there is no reason for it to be; there is enough cruelty already. Just make the case that the man is out of his depth. You have six months of evidence, and probably some personal anecdotes now. Your frenzied anti-Trump tour will attract outsized media attention; ignore them entirely, and focus on local outlets. Go town to town, making your case. Persuade people.

If you disagree with my assessment of Trump–if you really think he can get it together, null out this tailspin, and get his approval rating above 36 percent–then ignore me and keep doing what you’re doing. But if you agree with me, then speak out. Because if you do, 160 years hence, someone will open up a history book on early twenty-first century America and read about the quixotic bid of Senator ___________ to blow the whistle on the Trump administration and shed light on the dangers of complacency. You have nothing to lose but your anonymity to posterity.

So, have at it. Time’s wasting, and you’re not getting any younger.

Image by Ken Lund


Staff Writer
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Dan Scotto lives and works in Oregon. He has a master's degree in history, with a focus on the history of disease and the history of technology.

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75 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Senator _____________

  1. Not everyone is cut to be a profile of courage.

    Not all of us can be John McCain, who climbed out of his hospital bed and traveled 2,000 miles, risking his own life, to make it possible for millions of his fellow Americans to lose health care.

    Here’s a man that will pursue his dream until his last breath.

    But we are not all heroes like him

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    • Anyone who frames the decision like this, as if there were no costs or trade-offs involved, is just not a serious person worth engaging in discussion.

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      • I’m ready to engage in the discussion, if you are.

        What are the trade-offs you are mentioning? What’s the plus side here? I haven’t heard (nor has McCain, probably) what’s the upside of taking away the health care to twenty million people, or allowing insurance companies to deny coverage based on preexisting conditions.

        I’m surprised the benefits (the trade-offs) are not being publicized non-stop by the Republican leadership in the (non existing) committee hearings (that McCain could not attend because they never happened) or in the text of the law McCain voted for (which he didn’t read because it also doesn’t exist yet)

        So, please, let’s start the serious discussion.

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        • J_A,
          Fewer death panels. Unless you can present to me some changes in the reimbursement rules that made them “economically unviable”. (This is not a trick question. I’d like to know how they fixed that pickle, I know they were looking into it).

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          • What is “Fewer Death Panels”?

            Does the Repeal and Replace Act of 2017 say something like:

            Replace Section XXXX of U.S.Code yyyyyyy where it says “The Number of Death Panels in each state will be no less than one per 50,000 people or one per county, whichever is larger” to read “The Number of Death Panels in each state will be no less than one per 100,000 people or one per electoral district, whichever is larger”

            I wish someone in the Senate would have the guts to say what the objectives of the Repeal and Replace Act of 2017 are. What it is that Republicans are trying to achieve.

            So far we know that they are not trying to achieve any the following:

            – Expand access to health care
            – Make health care cheaper and accessible to low income American
            – Provide access to health insurance at prices that people below the median income can pay- to people with pre-existing conditions

            The only thing it’s clear so far they want to do is reduce the taxes associated with the ACA

            If this is just about taxes, would it be good that tehy had the courage to stand up and say it’:

            “We believe that taxes should not be used to provide health care to people. Its regrettable that people will lose access to health care as a consequence of this act, but it’s a trade-off we are willing to make. May God help you in your hour of need. Our prayers are with you all”

            If that’s what they believe, they should have the courage of their convictions. If they do not believe that, they should have the courage to vote against it.

            Because they neither dare to say what they truly want to do, nor they dare to vote the way they “allegedly” would want to vote, if they only could, I don’t expect now that the Republican Senate caucus will suddenly grow a pair and start opposing Trump (until the day when it becomes obvious that the base no longer wants Trump. Then they will run over each other to do what Dan is asking them to do now.)

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            • J_A,
              Fun Fact: When you incentivize hospitals by saying that you’ll dock their pay for readmissions, it then becomes in their best interest to let the people most likely to be readmitted die. So, yes, death panels, financially incentivized by the US Government. (NOT everywhere. Mostly poor, incompetent hospitals who don’t have enough money to throw at actually fixing the problems.)

              You’ll see fewer death panels, because there will be fewer Medicare/Medicaid patients, and thus less reimbursement.

              Added bonus: You’ll have more rural hospitals closing — they live and die based on those patients, and they were already hanging on by threads.

              Honestly: I don’t think there is something that the Republicans want out of repealing Obamacare. They just want it done, and for ideological reasons alone.

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        • The vote wasn’t to repeal the ACA, it was to begin an actual debate about a bill the house passed to repeal the ACA.

          It’s not like McCain was voting to toss out the ACA.

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        • You can’t think of a single cost or trade-off on your own? Really? Do you know that health care costs money? Or are you thinking that if this money isn’t spent on Medicaid expansion then it would just get tossed into the national money hole?

          Also worth pointing out — of the 20 million or so people that the CBO says would lose insurance, about 75% is due to the mandate being removed. In other words, 15 million people would “lose” insurance because they would no longer be coerced into buying it.

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              • Ack.

                I’m frustrated with McCain in particular for publicly criticizing the process and then going along with it 100%. And for how he still gets credit for being an independent voice even as he constantly caves.

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                • This.

                  Seriously man, you don’t like Trump, I’m betting you are annoyed with The Angry Turtle, you got fecking brain cancer. Screw em all, vote against your party just because you can get away with being the cranky old man.

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                  • Dude, if nothing else — don’t give a lengthy, stand-up-and-be-heard speech about how awful the bill is and then vote for it.

                    I mean I get saying “This bill is awful and horrible but I’ll vote to allow it to come to the floor”, but why the hell would you then vote for the bill proper?

                    It’s not like he’s up for re-election and needs to have cast at least one vote against the ACA so he can con the rubes in his district.

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                    • It’s not like he’s up for re-election and needs to have cast at least one vote against the ACA so he can con the rubes in his district.

                      His type of brain cancer is absurdly fatal even on younger men who don’t have his life long injuries. I doubt re-election would be an issue even if he were up this cycle.

                      Presumably he believes both that it’s a bad bill, and that voting for it is the best option actually on the table.

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          • You can’t think of a single cost or trade-off on your own? Really? Do you know that health care costs money? Or are you thinking that if this money isn’t spent on Medicaid expansion then it would just get tossed into the national money hole?

            For the sake of comity, I’ll assume this is a good faith comment

            Trade-off, means “trade-off with respect to the current -base- situation”. Let’s look at one aspect in particular:

            Yes, the Medicaid expansion costs money. That money is already factored in in the current budget. Also factored in is the number of people currently being covered by the Medicaid Expansion. Not doing the Repeal-and-Replace changes nothing on that respect.

            If we repeal the Medicaid Expansion, two things happen:

            1 – We save money
            2 – The people covered by the Medicaid Expansion lose coverage.

            The trade-off, in this case, is exchanging existing medical coverage for a reduction in government expenditures.

            Are we using the money saved to replace the coverage lost? As far as we can tell (given that there’s no actual project) some (but not all) of it is used to provide subsidies to people that would otherwise lose coverage (*). The remainder of the money is…..what? applied against the promised tax cuts?

            Of course, part of the trade-off is which constituents carry the larger part of the costs and the benefits. The Medicaid Expansion mostly benefits lower class Americans; the ACA taxes that fund the Medicaid Expansion mostly fall on higher income Americans (the “Cadillac” plans taxes for instance). Absent a redistribution of the tax savings (which I don’t see in the plan), this particular trade-off means taking health care from poorer Americans to allow for a reduction in taxes that impact mostly wealthy Americans

            Now, you could argue that the Medicaid Expansion repeal has other benefits, benefits that accrue on the people that are losing the coverage. You could do that, and I’m willing to hear that argument. But so far no one in Congress has made the argument that Medicaid beneficiaries will be better off after the ACA is repealed.

            (*) I’m ignoring the fact that other parts of the “project” include a reduction of the subsidies, the trade-off here being (a) reducing governmental expenses in exchange for (b) poor/lower middle class people having to pay more as a % of their income to purchase health insurance

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          • Yes, that’s been the line pushed out by Avik Roy, who definately did not write any of the bill at all, nope, zero input.

            Many of those people who will no longer buy insurance because of the lack of mandate, but many of those people would like to buy insurance, but won’t, because there will be none they can afford.

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    • I’d actually think it was a real sign of dedication and worthy of some props if it didn’t come with a speech about how terrible what we was doing was. A more skilled politician might have separated his contradictory actions and words by a few days.

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  2. In essence: the executive and legislative branches are ineffective, so legislators should go out on a talking tour about the ineffective executive branch. Need I point out the obvious?

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  3. This is very satisfactorily written. The blog post was informational to subscribers who exactly have a great value for articles. We look forward for more of the very same. He has detailed each and everything very nicely and briefly.

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  4. I gotta admit, the mainstream Right and the Establishment Right (and the Left too for that matter) have done a pretty poor job thinking about how to work with Trump now that he’s been elected.

    What Scotto has written here is at least a little bit novel, in the sense that it makes an attempt to be historically situated relative to the Civil War. I’m not sure that’s the best context though. I’m also less than convinced that our legislators should be aiming for a singular place in history. It seems to me that is much easier to get by doing things wrong as opposed to doing things right.

    In any event, it’s important to appreciate that no elected Republican has taken a political hit for associating with Trump. This has upset Demos (and some NeverTrump-ers) to no end, and frankly the durability of this lack of negative fallout has surprised me as well. So in political terms, those who would want to flip the GOP against Trump have to contend with the reality that so far at least, the voters are perfectly willing to let the GOP serve as Trump’s designated driver.

    It’s also important for NeverTrump-ers to appreciate that there’s no constituency on the Left to think of opposition to Trump as anything other than a cookie-cutter exercise in conventional Left activism and mobilization.

    On a more substantive level, I think the key is to differentiate between Trump and Trumpism, wherein the Establishment GOP is willing to defend Trumpism but let Trump himself fight his own battles. Specifically there’s reason to believe that Americans don’t care about the Russia-related accusations against Trump, yet they are dominating our political class at the moment.

    So for Congress, the move seems clear: quit trying to subpoena Jared Kushner, let Trump fire Mueller if he wants to. In the meantime, quit trying to jam through health care by short-circuiting the process, start over again and hearings. Move on building the wall and reforming the H1-B process. Rein in college tuitions, reform curriculum and cut administrative bloat. All these things can be done no matter what Trump does.

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    • I gotta admit, the mainstream Right and the Establishment Right (and the Left too for that matter) have done a pretty poor job thinking about how to work with Trump now that he’s been elected.

      Is this a joke? The people who literally work with Trump can’t even figure out how to work with Trump. Turnover is common among political staff in Washington, but this administration is an outlier even there. This guy is ignoring and undercutting his own staff at every turn.

      Forgetting for a moment about the substance of Trump’s supposed policy goals (and I’m not convinced that he’s thought them out very far at all), he is objectively bad at bringing them to fruition. Trump is, however, very goof at making his supporters feel good, so they blame everyone but the person at the center of it all.

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      • j r: Trump is, however, very goof at making his supporters feel good, so they blame everyone but the person at the center of it all.

        I do believe this is one of the hallmark traits of a conman.

        Seriously, if we had a checklist of conman red flags, how many more would Trump get compared to the average politician or corporate executive?

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        • I do believe this is one of the hallmark traits of a conman.

          For everything Trump has done, I don’t think this is a con. It’s legit. To be specific, the one thing Trump has accomplished as a candidate and as a President is to create the perception, and some extent even the reality, that Trump supporters are the crucial center of American politics.

          Unfortunately for him, a lot of his personal drama undermines that. Mika, Kushner, this latest Scaramucci interview, none of this represents anything that Trump voters bought into during the campaign.

          I’m personally ready for the circus to leave town but I think Scotto’s post is representative of a mindset that that misperceives Trump’s place in the world. First of all, and most directly related to the thesis in the OP, it’s not enough to have a Republican Senator, or several Republican Senators, turn on Trump. There has to be a circumstance and a scenario to get rid of him, ie just general distaste doesn’t cut it. Without those things, there is a good chance we’ll get the worst of both worlds. Increased rancor, more distrust in Washington and still having Trump as President.

          Secondly, and to that end, whatever replaces Trump (whether or not he stays in office) has to retain the crucial credibility that Trump voters are the center of American politics. Once some alternative with credibility materializes, the scenarios for getting rid of Trump will come by much easier.

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      • Is this a joke? The people who literally work with Trump can’t even figure out how to work with Trump. Turnover is common among political staff in Washington, but this administration is an outlier even there. This guy is ignoring and undercutting his own staff at every turn.

        No, I meant “work with” figuratively. Ie, the Left, the GOP Congressional Establishment, etc, have failed in their attempts to envision their position relative to Trump given the reality that he is President.

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    • Yeah that’s an interesting perspective. Health care was jammed through specifically to try and obscure the fact that after seven years the GOP still doesn’t actually have a clue what it wants regarding health care policy except for the ACA to have never been enacted in the first place. Since Doctor Who doesn’t appear to be part of their caucus that’s not on the table. Drawing health care out would merely highlight the fact that they have no pants on vis a vis policy in stark detail. What their donors and establishment wants (small government, glibertarian dreams) and what the Trump constituency wants (the ACA just with lower prices, better wait times and no Democratic involvement in providing it) are in direct opposition. In healthcare if we followed your priors then the correct move would be to ditch healthcare or claim some fig leaf then shove the whole mess under a rug and move on to other issues.

      The wall isn’t a much easier process since while the Trump constituency wants something done the GOP constituency doesn’t want to spend any money on it and doesn’t want anything done anyhow. That might be an easier circle to square than healthcare simple because most Americans don’t care as much about it (unlike healthcare).

      If the GOP stops making even gestures at trying to hold Trump accountable they’ll wear him even more in 2018 though and that could be a serious problem if there’s something there under all that rug. What do they do if Trump fires Sessions or Mueller? If the GOP doesn’t even try to push back on Trump then they become the party of Trump even more than they are now (which is a lot) and that’s a risky gamble considering that Trump appears to have some kind of skeleton in the woodpile and his admin leaks like a sieve.

      It’s a tough spot for the GOP to be in. Trump has most of their hardcore voters but the never-trumpers have most of the money, party apparatus and policy chops. It’d screw either of them over to have to try and make a go of it without the other.

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    • On a more substantive level, I think the key is to differentiate between Trump and Trumpism, wherein the Establishment GOP is willing to defend Trumpism but let Trump himself fight his own battles.

      I’m curious by what you are categorizing as “Trumpism.” From my observations it is almost the opposite of what you assert… they are willing to – well, not defend, that would be too strong – to not defenestrate Trump in the hope that they get what the Establishment wants.

      I guess you might work at maximizing the overlap between what the establishments wants, say, de-regulation and tax-cuts, with what Trump wants and call it “Trumpism.” But in the face of any competent opposition party (which may or may not be in evidence), taking de-regulation and tax-cuts back to his supporters will only work with hugely oversized growth…

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      • By Trumpism, I mean an agenda that can plausibly be addressed to Trump supporters, eg, immigration, health care, lower court judges, maybe infrastructure. There’s a lot to be done with colleges and I haven’t seen any moves at all in that direction.

        And you are correct that the GOP Congress is not doing that at all. They are beavering away on entitlement cuts and tax cuts, though nothing has come to fruition.

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        • Well, I suppose he still has 3.5 yrs to work on those… but I’d be concerned if I were hoping for more Trump (and, frankly, more Republicans).

          Immigration… stalled (at best)
          Health Care… dead (in oh so many ways…and exposed Trump and R incompetence)
          Lower Court Judges… sure (good luck with that in ’18 and ’20)
          Infrastructure… stalled (with a congress ambivalent at best, hostile at worst)

          My DC insiders tell me the only thing Trump (and in particular the NYC faction) care about are De-regulation and Tax-cuts… esp. Business Taxes (not grand tax reform). And, from what I’m seeing that’s all the party will agree on and take to the polls in 2018/20.

          I don’t think that will satisfy “Trumpistas” and I’m willing to wager that it will expose Trumpism for what it is… de-regulation and business tax cuts. Or, bog standard DC/NYC Establishment conservatism.

          Of course, if deficit financed de-regulation and tax cuts spur 5% or 6% growth… well, then the gamble will pay off and we’ll get so much Trump we’ll be tired of how much Trump we get.

          But with regards “Trumpism” there is no Trumpism, only Trump. He didn’t build a movement, there are no policy alternatives, and there is no legislative agenda. He is being systematically exposed by his own incompetence and failure to build a proper political movement.

          It is too early to tell what it will do to the Republican party and the nascent realignment; I suspect the Trump era will only hasten realignment, but in new and unpredictable ways.

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          • First of all, my thought is to ignore Trump himself, as much as possible and especially in terms of taking the leadership over domestic policy. So to that extent it’s irrelevant what Trump wants, we’re going around him anyway.

            But with regards “Trumpism” there is no Trumpism, only Trump. He didn’t build a movement, there are no policy alternatives, and there is no legislative agenda. He is being systematically exposed by his own incompetence and failure to build a proper political movement.

            I disagree with this in an important way. There is a thing we can call Trumpism. Specifically, the voters who supported Trump in the primaries, and other voters who voted for Trump in the general election, they are a fairly cohesive cohort in American politics. With the exception of the wall, they don’t have policies per se but they do have a fairly concrete orientation in prioritization. Specifically, they want jobs with good wages and cultural cohesion for the demographic of Middle America.

            This is far removed from Mika’s facelift, and tweets about the Russia investigation. Those are Trump’s battles. Let him have them.

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            • I disagree with this in an important way. There is a thing we can call Trumpism. Specifically, the voters who supported Trump in the primaries, and other voters who voted for Trump in the general election, they are a fairly cohesive cohort in American politics.

              I agree with your broad point that there is a constituency with interests other than the DC/NYC Republican establishment… but I’ll stand by my contention that those interests are not yet cohesive, and haven’t been made so by Trump because of all the things that need doing with regards forming cohesive political movements.

              I’ll go a step further and say that “Trumpism” stands a good chance to alienate this constituency into all sorts of non-cohesive realignments. Trumpism won’t survive Trump.

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              • Trumpism won’t survive Trump.

                If by this you mean “it will dis-integrate itself back into its component parts”, I agree.

                If by this you mean “it will not be re-summonable a second time with a sufficiently Trumpy demonologist”, I disagree.

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                • I mean the former; but I don’t think Trump conjured anything that wasn’t there for either party to conjure.

                  That’s the real realignment; the next Trump might look more like Bernie Sanders… so I’d be careful about the demonology lest you find yourself one of the demons.

                  My counter-intuitive thought for the day is that DNC and the RNC lost exactly the same way.

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                • If by this you mean “it will dis-integrate itself back into its component parts”, I agree.

                  If by this you mean “it will not be re-summonable a second time with a sufficiently Trumpy demonologist”, I disagree.

                  I am even more skeptic than . I think there is a Trumpism, and that , in Trumpists’ heads, there’s a fairly cohesive idea of what they want. I doubt they will go away into their original silos

                  But….

                  What Trumpists want cannot be achieved. A large part of Trumpist objectives clash with reality reality (automation, not trade deals, killed industrial jobs – industrial output is at record highs); the rest cannot be achieved because politically, both from the left and the right, the majority of people actually oppose many of the Trumpists’ wishes. Mind you, it’s not that left and right are united against each and every Trumpist objective.:Trumpists and the left are aligned on health care, and probably on unions, against the right; Trumpists and the right are aligned in environmental issues.

                  Trumpism is a chance to a new political realignment in America. Pace Rod Dreher, I think ethnicity (which broadly correlates to race, but not necessarily) (*), and not the sexual revolution is the chasm that separates Trumpists from the Democratic party, which would be its natural home.

                  I don’t know how -or if- the circle will be squared. Will Democrats be able to attract Trumpists without having to severe their links with hyphenated-Americans? Will Republicans ditch the Koch mantra to court the populist vote? Will the two parties split and reconfigure?

                  (*) By ethnicity I mean, old stock Americans (including black Americans) vs any other ethnic origin

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                  • What Trumpists want cannot be achieved. A large part of Trumpist objectives clash with reality reality (automation, not trade deals, killed industrial jobs – industrial output is at record highs); the rest cannot be achieved because politically, both from the left and the right, the majority of people actually oppose many of the Trumpists’ wishes. Mind you, it’s not that left and right are united against each and every Trumpist objective.:Trumpists and the left are aligned on health care, and probably on unions, against the right; Trumpists and the right are aligned in environmental issues.

                    I don’t think this is right, in fact it’s what I was trying to get at in my response to March earlier.

                    The Trumpists are hoping for government policy tangible material improvement in their standard of living. But that’s not what they’re insisting on. Like you said, that might be beyond the capability of the political process to deliver.

                    Therefore the immediate ask is for orientation, not achievement. That’s to say Trump voters want policymakers to be make decisions with the premise that Trump voters constitute the crucial center of American politics. If that happens, they’ll live with the results.

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              • Yeah, I’m not following this. I changed my perception of Trump several times since he announced his candidacy, but one thing that’s always been consistent is my understanding of Trump as an analog to MySpace around 2007, waiting for Facebook to come in and take over. And much to my surprise, Facebook never came around.

                In any event, it’s pretty clear for me that the interests of Trump voters are cohesive because at a fundamental level they are about respect, so the policy conflicts are pretty minimal. And because Trump voters associated themselves with Middle America, you don’t have the Pokemon intersectional point scoring conflicts the other side has.

                Trump could alienate this constituency, but as time goes by I see these people as being less and less invested in Trump personally and more wiling to accept representation elsewhere.

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                • Trump could alienate this constituency, but as time goes by I see these people as being less and less invested in Trump personally and more wiling to accept representation elsewhere.

                  What is it you are not following?

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                  • The idea that Trump voters don’t represent a cohesive interest.

                    Specifically, they all reject the nominalism at the heart of lib multiculturalism and the legitimacy of the lib Establishment in media, academia, entertainment to manage the conflicts associated with it.

                    Downstream from that, they insist on evaluating policy in terms of historical quasi-proprietary interests.

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                    • Trump could alienate this constituency, but as time goes by I see these people as being less and less invested in Trump personally and more willing to accept representation elsewhere.

                      The Gov’s job is to make my life better, the best measurement for that is economic growth. Ideally we’d have someone who isn’t a vile sociopathic con-man offering that.

                      Every Trump “supporter” I’ve talked to understands he’s a nasty piece of work. Thing is, you can’t beat something with nothing, which means just pointing out Trump is nasty doesn’t do much.

                      I think a lot of the Trump “base” is just flailing randomly. Immigration? The Wall? These are symbols for economic insecurity but they are only symbols. Give someone a good job and they’ll stop caring about most of this.

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                      • For some people who were willing to give Trump a shot finding out exactly how much of dumpster fire he is will change some minds. Especially when the indictments start to come.

                        When the economy doesn’t get better due to whatever Trump does, assuming he actually does something, it’s gonna be a hard fall.

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                        • For some people who were willing to give Trump a shot finding out exactly how much of dumpster fire he is will change some minds. Especially when the indictments start to come.

                          Trump is turning the political landscape with a bulldozer and ignoring all sorts of conventions because of ignorance and/or psychopathy (lack of caring). He’s also a vile human even without that.

                          His political opponents are baying WOLF! with every move and subjecting him to a microscope.

                          Why should I care about indictments?

                          When the economy doesn’t get better due to whatever Trump does, assuming he actually does something, it’s gonna be a hard fall.

                          I’ve seen estimates that Obamacare’s taxes cost the economy a hair more than a half point of growth, ditto some of the regulations the gov has been churning out recently. Three quarters of a point here, half a point there, sooner or later you’re getting into real growth.

                          The worse case for the Dems isn’t that Trump crashes and burns, it’s that he actually gets growth. That possibility is actually on the table, not because Trump is great (or sane) but because everyone else has been willing to sacrifice growth for whatever.

                          Don’t confuse supporting Trump for liking him or even respecting him. I’d LOVE for the Dems to steal the entire “growth” issue (or to have someone other than Trump move on it)… but I don’t expect them to even try.

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                          • You will care about the indictments and convictions if it looks it is stopping Trump from doing the things you want.

                            If Trump creates growth that is good. That would be good for the country…so you know, that is good. Those tax/growth estimates sound off to me and likely come from people who are ill disposed to the ACA and regs in general. I doubt there is some miracle cure for growth but we’ll see.

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                            • Those tax/growth estimates sound off to me and likely come from people who are ill disposed to the ACA and regs in general.

                              I’d love to have lots of serious evaluations from serious people on this sort of thing; however much of the left really wants to pretend there is no impact on growth (and the Right wants to pretend that (regulations/the gov) are never helpful in creating growth).

                              I doubt there is some miracle cure for growth but we’ll see.

                              IMHO the actual, for real, “cure for growth” is to have painful choices laid out and evaluations made.

                              For one example of many, our HC system is consuming multiple points of GDP more than it should if we compare it to other countries (which themselves are probably spending too much).

                              Those points of GDP are misspent/misallocated resources… and are also people’s jobs, implying that if we got rid of these massive bureaucracies which do nothing but deal with other massive bureaucracies, growth would increase, but we’d also be throwing out of work millions of people.

                              Similarly getting rid of various regulations preventing entry into a market (by, say, hairdressers) is good for the people who will get jobs but those regs were put there because someone wanted them there and there’d be political pain in facing them down.

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                      • Every Trump “supporter” I’ve talked to understands he’s a nasty piece of work. Thing is, you can’t beat something with nothing, which means just pointing out Trump is nasty doesn’t do much.

                        Yeah, that’s secondary I think, as is your point about economic growth. In fact, I think Trump might even be the beneficiary of an improving economy where he actually done little or nothing.

                        The thing that will really turn things is the perception of what Trump is in it for. I think he really believes his issue positions on immigration, trade, international relations, etc. But what he’s really going to fight for is to protect his own financial and social status.

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                        • But what he’s really going to fight for is to protect his own financial and social status.

                          Agreed, but you’re saying that like it’s obviously a bad thing.

                          The normal “get rich” business model for a politician is to cash in after the fact by giving speeches, or by making “friends” and doing “favors” for them which (hopefully) don’t quite cross the line into illegal. Thus Obama, thus HRC.

                          Trump already has an empire to expand. It is possible Trump’s (economic) interests are much more aligned with my own because of that. If Trump tries to get the gov out of the way for growing his empire, then that’s potentially a good thing.

                          If Trump simply tried to make “friends” and sell gov influence, then that’s a bad thing.

                          So… coin flip.

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                          • Trump already has an empire to expand. It is possible Trump’s (economic) interests are much more aligned with my own because of that. If Trump tries to get the gov out of the way for growing his empire, then that’s potentially a good thing.

                            Uh, no. You can call Trump’s business interests an empire if you want, but they are obviously much more parochial than the economy as a whole. Trump’s social and reputational interests are much more parochial than that.

                            Among other things, that’s the crux of this recent Sessions drama. Sessions represents the political aspirations of many or most of his supporters, especially regarding immigration, his biggest issue. But he also represents the inability of Trump to control the Mueller investigation, etc. And you can tell from that recent interview the relative values each has in Trump’s mind.

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                            • Trump’s business interests… are obviously much more parochial than the economy as a whole.

                              Compared to “the economy as a whole”, absolutely true. However I’m comparing Trump to the average high level politician.

                              For example, in theory HRC could pretty much let the entire economy burn down without affecting her own interests. A Presidential Pardon would still be worth more than a million dollars. The various other ways she had to use the levers of power to make cash for herself are basically unchanged even if we have a Great Depression.

                              Trump’s situation is very different, nasty things happening to the economy is highly likely to hurt his “empire”, an expanding economy is highly likely to mean good things for his “empire”.

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                • In any event, it’s pretty clear for me that the interests of Trump voters are cohesive because at a fundamental level they are about respect

                  This.

                  Trumpism starts here.

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  5. So for Congress, the move seems clear: quit trying to subpoena Jared Kushner, let Trump fire Mueller if he wants to. In the meantime, quit trying to jam through health care by short-circuiting the process, start over again and hearings. Move on building the wall and reforming the H1-B process. Rein in college tuitions, reform curriculum and cut administrative bloat. All these things can be done no matter what Trump does.

    This is a strange list. Mostly because Trumpist voters little list is in direct opposition to the little list of GOP donors. And to be a Congressperson you need donors much more than you need voters.

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      • Whatever Clinton’s donors want is irrelevant to this discussion because:

        1- Clinton is not running for anything,

        2 – the OP and the comment I was responding to is addressed to the senators that have the ability to bring, or block, bill to the floor. That is, the GOP senators.

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    • This is a strange list. Mostly because Trumpist voters little list is in direct opposition to the little list of GOP donors.

      Well yeah, that’s basically the point (that list wasn’t intended to be exhaustive btw). The GOP in general should, as much as they can, ignore Trump the person, the tweets, the scandals, Russia, Mueller, etc. Instead they should take ownership of the domestic agenda and pursue Trumpist priorities.

      And to be a Congressperson you need donors much more than you need voters.

      Yeah, I don’t buy that. I don’t think US politics has worked that way for at least ten years. You need voters more than donors.

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      • Yeah, I don’t buy that. I don’t think US politics has worked that way for at least ten years. You need voters more than donors.

        You cannot get in front of the voters if you don’t get donors to underwrite you.

        I don’t know anyone that actually supports Paul Ryan’s (Ayn) Randian agenda, but there’s a paucity of Trumpist agenda GOP candidates in his district (or in the vast majority of districts, Eric Cantor’s anecdotes notwithstanding) (*)

        (*) I actually don’t believe KY voters support the politics of either Rand Paul or Mitch McConnel. But I also doubt a majority of KY GOP voters have a correct understanding of what Paul and McConnell are trying to do, for instance, with respect to healthcare. What they have is mountains of money to paper the state in Democrats suck campaign ads

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        • You cannot get in front of the voters if you don’t get donors to underwrite you.

          Sure you can. In fact most Republicans in office now didn’t start with donor money. They either did something or sat in a lower office to get some amount of name recognition, or went out and earned it with shoe leather.

          The problem with a lack of Trumpist candidates is lack of money and lack of organization, and you can’t get away with that.

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