Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Trump Diaries 23 Nov. 2016

When I was more buff & had happier thoughts
What's on my mind? Damn, it's Mr. Trump.

I have to say that while I hold Mr. Trump in low regard, he is not without a set of skills. He is shockingly ignorant about the Constitution, American government, and public policy. He has a tiny attention span and speaks in a 4th-grade vocabulary. He doesn't read books or anything of any nuance or complexity. He's addicted to Twitter and easily distracted. He is ill-tempered and easily baited. But he is very accomplished at one thing: he's a master salesman.

His sales pitch, his hype, sold enough "Trump" to get him past the Electoral College minimum. So what does he do now? Here's where it gets interesting. He has just disavowed any intention of pursuing Hillary Clinton further on any criminal charges. (Not that it's his choice, but that's another matter.) During his interview with NYT, he came across as open minded about climate change. He has signaled an infrastructure upgrade plans that mimics (on first glance only) the recommendations of Paul Krugman and others. Trump has not gone after gays or gay marriage, unlike his attacks, explicit and implicit, on Muslims, Mexican-Americans, and immigrants in general. In the meantime, his appointments have been of toadies and cronies. What's going on?

Trump wants to retain power. (Of course, all presidents want to retain and deploy power, the only differences arise from the ways they find to do so and their self-imposed limits, such as honor, shame, the judgment of history, and so on.) To maintain power, Trump has to enlist support from elites; people who run and control institutions that allow our society to function. Elites are (on the whole) better educated, more tolerant, and more grounded in science and other realities about how the world works than most Trump supporters. In fact, like all contemporary politicians, Trump must attempt to bridge these two constituencies. Also, it's now obvious that Trump will remain infatuated with his business operations while seeking to lead the American government. How will he keep all of these interests happy?

In order to do so, you can expect to see a very pragmatic Trump. This pragmatic, power-seeking Trump, will prove tempting, deceiving, and perhaps useful to those who oppose him in principle as a demagog and pretender. "Forget about prosecuting my old friend, Hillary Clinton? No problem" he's in effect saying. He says things potentially reasonable about climate change and he says that we'll dig and drill like crazy for more fossil fuels? No problem! Like any demagogue (and any politician, the difference is one of degree), he'll try to say things that disarm us. The challenge for we American citizens and the rest of the world is to gobble up the tasty bits thrown at us without dropping our guards. I'm hoping that the American public will prove smarter than the average guard dog.

Trump is the master of bait and switch sales. He made a lot of money doing so. (Not to mention having avoided paying taxes on a great deal of it.) But I suspect that Trump has few returning customers. He plays for the one time win, as in a prisoner's dilemma, but running a government creates an iterated (repeating) game, and we (should) learn not to fall for his blandishments. Too many failed to see this before the election, but they are seeing it now. Slowly, deliberately, we must drain the power of this huckster.

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