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Less than a Month Left

With Trump on the ropes, what are the prospects for a useful government in the near future?

It’s been a long and dark and stormy election. Trump came, he saw, he conquered the Republican Party, and set his sights on the country. As the race stands, it doesn’t look like Trump will get there (being a creep doesn’t play well).

But when the smoke clears, we still have a country that has business to figure out, and that’s all the harder when the Republicans remain locked between the establishment and the fringe, as they do and will. Gridlock in Congress isn’t exactly a partisan problem, but a subpartisan problem. Many Republicans would (begrudgingly) work with the Democrats if not for the likes of Tea Partiers and Freedom Caucusers.

And their primary season only highlighted that rift. Trump maybe widened it a bit, but mostly just made clear that it’s a very real issue. But either the rift has to completely break open, or it has to be sealed, if we are to move to actually have a functioning government again.

If the Democrats take the majority in either chamber (though particularly the Senate), the Republicans that aren’t in favor of dissolving the government probably breathe a sigh of relief. They can use their lack of leverage to afford sufficient compromise and see business get done. But if the government remains wholly divided, they end up where we are today: scared of governing themselves out of office.

Either way, there’s still the fallout from this election to deal with. Given their autopsy from 2012, this still means the Republicans probably do nothing. They won’t moderate their positions, try to move toward the center, or anything that would approach a positive development. They’ll just blame Trump as a flawed candidate and pretend that Jeb or Marco or Ted would have done it up right.

On the other hand, Clinton may snake-charm the Republicans into actually getting some things done anyway. Her husband’s terms were marked by a real drive to do business in a way that we haven’t seen since (with a few fleeting exceptions), and one expects that Hillary Clinton will push for the same sort of action.

The main impediment to this will be the same problem this election poses: what do you do with the wet blankets? Trump’s a wet blanket on this election in the same way that the Freedom Caucus is on the ability to move government forward (even if it means making compromises). The usual strategy for the Republicans to shift on issues would be:

  1. Amidst a muted protest, the Democrats pass a bill (say, immigration reform).
  2. The Republicans shut up about the bill.
  3. After a few years, they accept the new status quo and don’t get hammered for it.

Basically the opposite of what they did with the Affordable Care Act.

But with the wet blankets, they will constantly bitch and moan about the issue, try to shut down the government, work to have their allies primaried, and so on. And in order for someone like Paul Ryan to even gain the speakership, he has to give them some concessions (i.e., a microphone for them to yell into).

Probably, if they gave the Freedom Caucus the speakership, it wouldn’t take long for them to bungle it enough that it would return to a moderate. But the problem is the further damage that would inflict.

The real brass ring may be a 218-217 Congress, favoring the Republicans, with some moderate(s) threatening to go Democrat if the FC doesn’t FO. We probably won’t get that lucky, so we’ll just have to hope Hillary Clinton can motivate legislative action like her husband did.

How the Media Created Trump

Trump can’t unite the country, but the media hasn’t explained how we can unite.

Not by giving him a reality show. Not by covering his insane behaviors and willingness to say just about anything (hell, he even admitted that Obama is native-born, though he didn’t apologize for his prior foolishness, so maybe he can’t say sorry).

They did it by letting his supporters believe that he can actually change the direction of the country to one they find more appealing. Supporters think he can break the gridlock and create 25 mega-jobs (25 million) and keep the country safe while defeating ISIL and building a wall and repealing Obamacare and cloning Antonin Scalia and aging him up to replace himself in the Supreme Court.

The media has been long on talk of gridlock, but it has offered little in the way of solutions. Just suck it up, they said. Just have to wait for friendlier, more (little-D) democratic times to come around when all the congress will join together in a CareBear® Stare to fix our problems. There’s nothing the people can do but ride it out.

And the problem has only grown worse. So this year a plurality of the Republican constituents have stumbled on a plan: elect the worst thing they can get their hands on, and see what that does. It’s the smack-to-the-side-of-the-broken-machine method. What else are they supposed to do? Be patient? Hurry up and wait?

The weird thing is that it could just work. A Trump presidency might unite Republicans and Democrats against him, if he’s bad enough. He’ll call for the mass-execution of all foreigners, they’ll band together to ban capital punishment outright. He’ll request a war against fruits and vegetables, mandating a new fried-food pyramid, and they’ll expand subsidies to healthy foods. He’ll try to replace Obamacare with a requirement that all doctors simply tell their patients:

[Insert Patient Name], I can tell you unequivocally, you’re the healthiest individual ever.

The Republicans in Congress will probably go along with that one, though the sugar lobby will get them to make doctors give out lollipops at every visit.

Point is, what does Hillary Clinton have to offer? Can she be so divisive that even her allies will abandon her? According to her critics, she’s real bad, but they’ve given no signs that she’s so bad she could unite fierce partisans to oppose her.

After four years, Trump would have to run as an independent, but he would be overwhelmingly reelected because people would like seeing Congress rub his face in it with every single overridden veto and resolution of censure. He would get 95% of the African-American vote, as they would be glad to have a Republican party that actually enacted gun control legislation after Trump tried to require handgun manufacturers to make arms that babies could aim, fire, reload, and also use as a pacifier. That actually reformed policing after Trump aired his “shoot first, don’t ask questions” reform.

Even the statehouses would be united by Trump, as 100% of Attorneys General would have multiple lawsuits pending against his administration. Donald Trump is the alien invasion Ronald Reagan spoke of, saying, “Perhaps we need some outside, universal threat to make us recognize this common bond. […] [H]ow quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world.”

Now obviously this is fantasy. The Republicans would actually support the baby-gun (I’m sure, out there, somewhere, there’s an anti-abortion group that wants to arm fetuses), the war on health, the fried-food pyramid, lollipop stethoscopes and marmalade tongue depressors. The Democrats would not. A Trump-shaped jolt to the system will not overcome the reticence to restore normal governing in the legislature.

There are things that would, but the media hasn’t covered them. So the angry, disaffected people that support Trump (i.e., the non-deplorables) continue to believe that Trump is magic. Criminy.