With no sound on my television, I watched the next president of the United States walk to the dais of the presidential inauguration and mechanically meet greeters like a robot running on weak batteries. Somewhere between three months and a year from now, Mike Pence will be sworn in as 46th President of the United States. And when that happens, America may begin a slow, painful wake-up from its dark political nightmare. But much damage may be done during our nocturnal thrashing in the bed sheets.
According to academic research, non-verbal communication –aka, “body language”– is more truthful than verbal. But, it has the downside of being equivocal, a gesture or expression could have more than one possible meaning. Silently watching Mike Pence’s body language, I perceived a man calm with the assurance of his status. A man firm in his convictions, who knew where he was, and where he was going. On the platform, Pence perfunctorily hugged and shook hands with family and supporters. And he did the same, with the same coolness, to ex-presidents and political opponents, discernibly skipping Barack Obama and the Clintons, standing inches away.
Why would he ignore them like that?
Quite simply, because he doesn’t need them, they’re on their way out. He’s on his way in. And he knows it.
The presidency of Donald Trump will not be undone by the demonstrations of millions of “women” marchers in the streets, or by any heartfelt remonstrations of Democratic politicians, nor even (most likely) by a hail of Chinese missiles retaliating for impositions on their sovereignty by The Donald. The demise of the short Trump imperium and the ascendancy of Pence’s presidency will issue from the hands of a Republican congress, already now conspiring to execute it’s 21st century regicide.
But first, there’s work to be done, and quickly. The clock is ticking.
Setting aside the very real prospect of a preemptive Trump psychological self-implosion,1 the scenario goes something like this.
Despite countless exhortations from Republicans during the primary – that Trump is, “unfit to be president,” “ a race-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot,” and, “a man that chooses not to disavow the K.K.K. ..is not a part of our party”2 – since November, the Republican political establishment has been on a jubilant bacchanal. Gone are the doubts, criticisms, and the long faces of inevitable losers.
Republicans in the Washington swamp are hailing Trump and his cabinet of swamp-rat billionaires as the political ejaculations of their wildest wet dreams. House Speaker Paul Ryan never once relaxed his smarmy smile throughout Trump’s inaugural. I silently watched his dark eyes focus on Trump as his pale hands tentatively applauded, and I wondered what thoughts he was nursing behind that superficial grin.
But seeing the cabinet celebrations and the opening legislation of the 115th Congress, the change of mood makes sense. For starters, despite most prophesies, Republicans didn’t lose their shirts in the 2016 election. Retaining control of both houses of Congress, and most state legislatures, Republicans are poised to at least promote an agenda of their own no matter what wacky vector the Donald may pursue.
They have been forging that agenda ever since Ronald Reagan– tax cuts for the rich and corporations, gutting Medicare and Medicaid, more military spending, and wiping away regulations on environmental damage, banking, and public health. Then too are the issues they pandered to grow their tea party base– abortion, “traditional” marriage, guns, prayer in school, and of course, the repeal of “Obamacare.”3
On most of these Donald Trump walks right down the Republican party line. With appropriate fawning and flattery, Donald can be counted on to fulfill many of their decades-old dreams. Fully consistent with Trump’s promises, in the first hundred days they might repeal estate taxes, abolish Dodd-Frank, destroy the graduated income tax, double defense spending, and eliminate the EPA.
Already-introduced legislation animates that agenda. H.R.26 (“Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act”) proposes aggressive congressional control of rule making. H.R.3799 (the “Hearing Protection Act”) would end taxes on gun “silencers.” And, H.R.586 (“Sanctity of Human Life Act”) declares that: ‘the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution is vested in each human and..each human life begins with fertilization.”
More troublesome are their planned assaults on Medicare and Medicaid4 and replacement of the essentially-Republican health care system that Obama enacted while fruitlessly trying to attract bipartisan votes. Those issues present more snarly conundrums. They are at turns, resoundingly popular and feverishly complex. Poorly prosecuted, they are fully capable of dismembering the feeble Republican political base.
And then, there is The Donald, himself: Hopelessly self-indulgent, unable to comprehend a principle if it bit off his big orange nose, and gleefully incapable of focusing his attention on anything nonsexual for more than 140 characters.
So, the Republican dilemma is how to race toward the Koch brothers/Paul Ryan vision of an Ayn Rand republic-of-greed before the wheels come completely off the Trumpian bus?
Time is short. There are now only 21 months until the 2018 mid-term elections. Although the bare numbers somewhat favor Republicans, during those 648 days, everything that happens in Washington and to the economy will be laid on the Republican doorstep. Another housing bubble, a hot war in Syria, reduction of Social Security COLI– all of it will be Republican.
Congressional Republicans are planning accordingly. They are managing multiple variables. One, is Donald Trump’s approval ratings, already the lowest of any new president. Another, is their own agenda. How much can they enact with the connivance of Trump? It needs to be enough Trump’s that it will be called “Trumpcare,” but enough of Ayn Rand that the Koch brothers are happy. And their legislative edifice must be constructed carefully enough it can’t be readily undone by a Democratic electoral landslide.
Handling Trump is key to their plan. Rife with conflicts-of-interest, Trump was likely committing multiple “high crimes and misdemeanors” the instant he lifted his hand from the Bible. When his status as monarch falls beneath some yet-unspoken trip-line, the Republicans will act. They will introduce their probably-already-drafted articles of impeachment in the House, and marshal them on to an already-decided trial in the Senate. Their intention is likely to position themselves as the saviors of the country, and lay blame for all the blemishes in their legislation on the imperious demands of Steve Bannon and Donald Trump.
All of this must happen on a time line. Republicans cannot be campaigning for reelection in the sharp shadow of a continuing Trump presidency. Barring an unforeseeable miracle, to do so will likely be suicide for the Republican party. They need Donald Trump to be long gone when ballot boxes next see daylight.
And emerging from Trump’s wake will be President Mike Pence, reasonable, personable, very conservative, and not unlike a robot. Our current nightmare will be over, and our next one will begin.
- Willmsen, https://infinite-coincidence.com/2017/01/22/donald-trump-is-going-to-snap-very-soon-and-here-is-how-i-know/
- Kristof, July 21, 2016, New York Times, (respectively quoting: Meg Whitman, Sen. Lindsay Graham, & Gov. Nikki Haley) https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/21/opinion/what-republicans-really-think-about-trump.html
- 2012 Republican Party Platform. http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/08/28/us/politics/20120812-gop-platform.html