Tuesday, January 22, 2019

So, Are We Winning?

Shortly after Trump took office, I wrote the following in the Washington Post:
"Is Donald Trump the end for the left? Is it really possible, as a baby boomer averred in an interview last month with The Washington Post, that “all the things we cared about for the past 40 years could be wiped out in the first 100 days”?
American leftists are not known for their optimism, and yet, even for them, the prevailing sentiment is that these are especially dark days. Nearly two-thirds of Democrats say they are “worried or pessimistic” about the future of the country in a new Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll.
Historian Jeremi Suri, writing in the Atlantic, assessed that “with his barrage of executive orders, Trump is taking America back to the historical nightmares of the world before December 1941: closed borders, limited trade, intolerance to diversity, arms races, and a go-it-alone national race to the bottom.” Rep. Luis GutiĆ©rrez (D-Ill.) spoke out against Trump’s attorney general pick, saying, “If you have nostalgia for the days when blacks kept quiet, gays were in the closet, immigrants were invisible and women stayed in the kitchen, Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is your man.”...
[F]ears that Trump will set back the left’s agenda dangerously and irreparably are not well founded. Core advances can’t be undone. Although Trump could do some real temporary damage, he and his movement will fade, and the values and priorities of the left will eventually triumph."
How's that look, two years on? I turn you over to the excellent John Cassidy, from his New Yorker blog:
"[A]t the halfway point in this Presidential cycle, it is also worth asking how successful these attacks [on American democracy] have been—and the answer is more encouraging than is sometimes acknowledged. Trump has undoubtedly disrupted the American system of government, but he hasn’t upended it. And, in many ways, his Administration is already losing steam. With his approval rating languishing at a historic low despite a vibrant economy, and with the Democrats now in charge of the House of Representatives, he no longer controls the legislative agenda. After all the personnel departures, he is finding it hard to fill key vacancies. With polls showing that a majority of the public blames him for the shutdown, he has been forced to sue for peace. (According to the Times, he told Mick Mulvaney, his acting chief of staff, “We are getting crushed.”) Although there is a long way to go before November, 2020, Trump’s reĆ«lection prospects don’t look good. In an NPR poll that came out last week, fifty-seven per cent of registered voters said that they would definitely vote against Trump if he runs again.
From the beginning, it was clear that Trump’s narcissism, amorality, disregard for the truth, and authoritarian tendencies presented a grave threat. The question was how much he would be reined in by the fabled checks and balances that the Founders erected to prevent the emergence of an overweening Presidency—the split between the executive and the legislature, the independent judiciary, the free press, regular elections to elicit the will of the people. To express it another way, the question was: Who was the more powerful, Donald Trump or Thomas Jefferson? So far, Jefferson is winning on points. For the most part, the institutions of American democracy have withstood the assaults they have been subjected to, frustrating and infuriating Trump in equal measure.
Notwithstanding Tuesday’s 5–4 vote by the Supreme Court that revived the Administration’s execrable and pointless ban on transgender people serving in the military, the first line of resistance has been the judiciary, which has slowed, and in some cases blocked entirely, the Administration’s efforts to overturn precedent and due process. Trump likes to fulminate against the members of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which forced him to revise his travel ban, but many other courts have also ruled against the Administration, including the Supreme Court. Before Christmas, it refused to allow the Department of Homeland Security to enforce a new policy that would prevent people who cross the southern border from claiming asylum.....
[T]he entire Trump Presidency has been alarming—and, thus far, the very worst-case scenarios haven’t materialized. The rogue President has brought the American system of government into disrepute, but he hasn’t overwhelmed it. He has deepened the divisions in American society, but he has also united much of the country against him. He has called into question the alliances that have underpinned U.S. global leadership for seventy-five years, but he hasn’t succeeded in dismantling them. As the transgender ban demonstrates, Trump’s character, his policies, and his presence in the White House still represent a threat to much of what the United States claims to stand for—and the point of maximum danger may still be approaching. But, as we move into the second half of this nightmarish Presidency, there are grounds for reassurance as well as dread."
Fasten your seat belts for 2020. But we just might win this thing.
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Although Donald Trump has undoubtedly disrupted the American system of government, he hasn’t upended it. And, in many ways, his Administration is already losing steam.

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