I’ve been thinking a lot about the tone on this site and what I’m trying to accomplish. I started this experiment with the idea that a fast-changing political landscape could benefit from knowing how things were in the recent past. I also knew I didn’t want to write rah-rah cheerleader posts or overly depressing ones. I wanted to try to write the most logical analysis I could. I wanted to write in a way that was as clear-eyed as possible, while still making clear that I am a liberal, and I’m not thrilled about a Trump presidency.
So it’s not quite op-ed, but it’s all opinion. And it’s not as well-researched as something on fivethirtyeight, but it’s trying to go in a similar direction. It’s not meant to be a diary, but it reads like one. It’s not educational content per se, but I am definitely writing it in order to explain to myself and others what is happening. And it’s funny, for all the raw data we see on the internet, it feels like something like this is rare. I’d love to read something like this about George W Bush’s administration, for example. But for all the blogs and forums we can look back on, there’s nothing that reads like this. So I’m happy to be writing it.
But now that I’m a few weeks in, what’s it all adding up to? For starters, I’m finally getting to the point where I’m seeing a few defining themes instead of feeling like it’s just an avalanche of content. Here are the things I keep returning back to, and it’s possible the entire presidency at this point comes back to these few things.
- A lot of policy is about to go hard right. Really hard right. Historically so.
- Trump’s cabinet, planned agenda, and approval ratings all poll poorly.
- The filibuster means the GOP needs 8 Democratic senators to hit 60.
Obviously there are a million other things to consider. And the likelihood that I look back on these items in 90 days and roll my eyes at them is high. Or, who knows, maybe I just summed up the next four years. Shrug.
#1 is the easiest one. Syria? Over. Ukraine? Doomed. Net neutrality? Gone. Minimum wage increases? Zero chance. Planned parenthood, Obamacare, Social Security, Medicare, all are planned to be gutted. Environmental protections, clean energy policy, global climate change action, unions, school funding, the list is long. And they’re all going to be set back pretty far. And I haven’t even talked about the Supreme Court yet.
(I am going to wait until the very last second of Obama’s administration, much the way I wait to the end of Pixar movies for bonus content, to see if Obama installs Garland to the Supreme Court. He has legal authority to do it. Congress has failed its constitutional duty, meaning they chose to forfeit their right to advise and consent. But Obama won’t do this, and I know it. But that won’t stop me from dreaming about it.)
#2 is also easy in the sense that there’s a fork in the road. Either Trump’s approval ratings go up and he is able to do more. Or they stay low and he’s not able to do as much. The last time we lurched this far right, GOP poll numbers tanked, most people agreed Bush was a really bad president, the Democrats picked up tons of seats, and it lead to Obama being elected.
So in the long term, the same will play out here. He either finds a way to get his numbers up and he can do more, or he doesn’t, and he does less. When your president is at 30% approval and pushing policies that poll at 30%, that changes a lot of the political math. So we’ll see what he can do here.
#3 has a similar fork in the road. He either advocates for bills that can gain 60 votes or he doesn’t. (Obamacare will be gutted using a different maneuver, but it’s everything after that that will require 60 votes) If he can’t get 60 votes, things won’t pass. If he can, they will.
But there’s another fork in the road, of course. They could just remove the filibuster and get everything done via majority vote. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I’m ok with the short term horrors this would unleash, because the Democrats have a very strong chance to take the Senate again in 2020. And a Democratic Senate without a veto, whoa nelly. That’d be like Christmas.
So that’s where we are.
- Trump will push the country really far right, as if they have a mandate to.
- But they don’t have a mandate. He’s unpopular. These ideas are too.
- So if he can’t go to 60 in the Senate, nothing happens unless…
3b. … maybe they’ll have to kill the filibuster to get anything done.
Are those three items going to hold up well? Over 3 months? Over 3 years?