Readers: this blog is set in the future (sometime after the year 2020). Each entry assumes there has been a 5th revolution in the US — the Revenge Revolution. More about the Revenge Revolution and author, How the 5th US Revolution Begins and About the Author. Many entries are formatted as conversations. Occasionally I do a “sense check” about the likelihood of a Revenge Revolution. Entry #318 is the most recent “sense check.” One more note — sometimes I write about another topic that does not quite fit the theme of the blog. Those comments are available on the page titled “JRD Thoughts and Comments.”
Regular readers know I try to avoid getting hung up on daily/weekly events. The purpose of this blog is to analyze if and how long-term patterns might contribute to a post-2020 revolution in the US, aka the Revenge Revolution. However, events this past week seem to be beyond the usual “Beltway noise.” The week’s events could help change the trajectory of politics in Washington. “C’mon,” you say. “A heady week but not that heady.” I think that heady. Read on.
Key events during the week: (i) Michael Cohen, Trump’s long-time lawyer and now convicted felon, proposed delaying his volunteer testimony before the House Oversight Committee. One day after the announced delay, the House Intelligence Committee issued a summons for Cohen to appear; (ii) Roger Stone, long-time associate of Trump’s and known dirty trickster for approaching 50 years, was arrested on a number of charges related to the 2016 presidential campaign. More charges are expected; (iii) Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell caved and agreed to end the government shutdown of more than 35 days; (iv) Rudy Giuliani’s continued to disclose suspicious events previously denied. In addition to Rudy’s babbling, an article in the New York Times indicated one or more members of the Trump campaign met with the Russians at least 100 times before inauguration.
A fifth, less publicized event, was the appearance of Paul Manafort, Trump’s 2016 campaign chair, at a hearing to determine if an additional 10 years should be added to Manafort’ s existing prison sentence. The prosecution charged that Manafort intentionally withheld relevant information about sharing data with the Russians. The judge delayed the decision.
The events, if considered individually are interesting, but not necessarily significant. When combined the events, at least in my view, represent a major shift in power in Washington. The federal government is no longer controlled by the Bully-in-the-Oval-Office as Republicans in the House and Senate cowered. Power in Washington took a turn back toward the people.
As a result of pressure from constituents and some Republican senators, Mitch McConnell came out of hiding and convinced Trump that he should agree to reopen the government. The House and Senate then passed bills and Trump signed…with no guarantee there would be a wall at the southern border. While the agreement to open is limited to three weeks…and despite Trump’s huffing and puffing and threats to blow the house down if he doesn’t get his wall…pressure from constituents likely will prevent another shutdown
How do these events tie together? The key seems to be Republicans in the Senate are starting to show some backbone. Until a few weeks ago, Trump had free reign to do whatever he wanted. He felt immune from impeachment because of a Republican controlled House and Senate. Well, no more and no doubt this week Trump felt the noose tighten around his neck.
Start with Cohen. When testifying Cohen has nothing to lose and everything to gain by telling all. There’s a chance Mueller et al will again recommend a shorter sentence. Based on comments from several members of the committee, as much of Cohen’s testimony as possible will be made public.
Next we have Roger Stone. While defiant after his arrest and claiming loyalty to Trump, Stone may end up behaving like many of Trump associates already indicted as a result of the Muller probe – and flip. When the reality of a likely long prison sentence sets in – and for Stone it effectively could be a life sentence according to several former Federal prosecutors – Stone may drop the “never-tell-on-Trump” boast and decide saving the Donald is less important than trying to save his personal life.
The arrest of Stone leaves but a few people in Trump’s inner-circle not indicted. Steve Bannon may be next on Mueller’s list. Bannon will be quickly discredited by Trump, providing incentive for Bannon to flip – if he hasn’t already. The group remaining to be indicted is all in Trump’s family. Junior and Jared look like shoe-in’s for an indictment. And the odds for Ivana are better than 50:50.
So, who in the family might flip? If you’re a Trump family member, covering up for the Donald is high risk. When all the dust settles, especially after investigations and prosecutions by the Southern District of NY, the State of NY, and the IRS…along with a likely plethora of civil suits by condo owners, contractors, etc…there likely won’t be any money left in the Trump piggy bank.
So, if I’m a family member, let me consider my alternatives. If I refuse to cooperate with Muller, I go to jail and when a get out, I’ll probably get little or no money. Or, I can cooperate with Mueller et al and maybe avoid jail time. Mmm, which one should I choose?
As far as Trump, he’s acting like most bullies. When confronted with a tough opponent, the bluster goes away and the bully caves. And for Trump-the-Bully, his nemesis is not some physical tough guy. His nemesis is an older woman (by a few years) who’s raised five (5) kids. The past few weeks Nancy Pelosi treated Trump the same way she probably treated one of her kids, when a two-year old and throwing a tantrum. She hung tough and the kid folded.
What may be the final mental straw for Trump, however, the adoring, brain-washed base of supporters is shrinking. The 35-day government shutdown started shedding light on how Trump was willing to screw over the working class to save face over a physical wall. Many people now understand a Trump-style wall would do significant harm to the environment and offer little protection against illegal immigration and shipments of illegal drugs. Based on reports I’ve read, 85-90% of the illicit drugs enter the US through monitored ports of entry.
While the information from Mueller probe could…and probably should…lead to impeachment proceedings, Trump also faces another hurdle that seems to trump (pun intended) most presidents seeking re-election – “It’s the economy, stupid.”
The US has experienced an exceptionally long period of economic growth. The growth started under president Obama following efforts through the Federal Reserve to kick-start the economy following the financial crisis at the end of the Bush Administration. While the current economy appears strong based on certain indicators – unemployment rate and some increases in wages, e.g. – there are many soft spots.
The problem facing the Trump Administration is how to counter an economic downturn. Normally, monetary policy is the first step – the Federal Reserve lowers interest rates to stimulate borrowing and investment. This option is almost off the table since interest rates remain near historic lows. Fiscal policy follows with an increase in government spending (and the deficit) for such high-employment projects as road building/repairs. Oops, the deficit is climbing while the economy is strong so this is a limited option. Why is the deficit climbing? Because of the Trump tax cut. (I’ll save a longer discussion on the economy for another entry.)
There is a solution. While the solution is an enigma to current Trump Republicans, I have a feeling that over the next few years many of these Republicans will support the solution. What can be done? Raise taxes and redistribute income through a number of different means. And no, the approach isn’t classic socialism. The approach is called Keynesian economics. If you don’t think it works and is necessary for a stable society, then ask your parents or grandparents to tell family stories about what life was like during the Great Depression. If no one in the family has stories, then there are lots of books and movies. I’m not suggesting we’re headed for another Great Depression but there are few options left for countering a recession. (And, FYI, higher taxes did not slow growth in the 1990’s under president Clinton or in the 1950’s under Eisenhower.)
So, what does the Donald do? In the face of all the problems, he resigns to avoid being indicted. Remember, the Donald is a bully. Bullies cut and run when faced with a difficult situation. Even if he doesn’t resign, he doesn’t seek reelection…maybe because his bone spurs start to act up.
What about the Revenge Revolution? Still going to happen or will these events prevent it? Still going to happen. There’s a group that supported Trump that still feels screwed. First they felt screwed by the establishment and now screwed by Trump. If the Democrats in the House can begin to pass legislation that will help mitigate some of the inequities, real and perceived, then there will be significant pressure on the Senate to support the legislation. Such legislation will help mitigate the intensity of the Revenge Revolution.
The Revenge Revolution will be more cultural, although expect some bloodshed. For reference think of the cultural changes in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. We’re going to see another sea-change in society. Lots of issues to address – managing contributions to climate change, reducing income inequity, improving public education for all ages, implementing universal medical care, and more. To get an idea of the changes ahead, all we have to do is look at the mix of incoming members of the House. That group is more like America’s future and that group is going to force the 5th US revolution and societal changes.