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Thornton Hall

The Revolution Will Be Kuhnian.

The Unbearable Trumpness Of Trump

How do we make sense of the world? The present moment has never happened before. It is unprecedented. Do we experience it that way, open to its infinite possibilities?  

Of course not. We'd be dead. Each person who is mauled by a grizzly bear experiences something subtly different from the previous maulee, but natural selection has blinded us to that infinite variety for our own good. We see a grizzly, remember a past mauling, and decide against antagonizing it.

And so it is with pundits and politicians. If the pundit is continually open to the human uniqueness of every politician, he will never complete this week's 800 words. A talking head must talk, and so he imagines that politician y will behave today as politician x behaved last year, and then spins that analogy into a prediction about tomorrow.

The confounding thing about Donald J. Trump isn't that he is hard to understand. He is very easy to understand. He is an insecure little bully who desperately wants to be loved by his father. With dad being dead, he craves the love and attention of celebrities, strangers, the in-crowd, whomever... as long as it can be measured and felt by him. He is utterly hollow, devoid of substance, character, and basic history to the extent that he has never heard of John Lewis or Frederick Douglass. 

No, the confounding thing about Donald Trump is that never in the history of the United States has a national politician been so empty, petty, and impulsive. Pundits and talking heads keep analogizing him to some previous experience, keep thinking this time he'll do that thing they always do, and then he doesn't and they say, well, he breaks all the rules. 

Nate Silver at 538 games out a bunch of these analogies to other politicians into a list of 14 possible futures. Number 5: 

Trump cedes authority. I rarely see this possibility discussed, but it has several historical precedents among presidents who found the job mentally or physically overwhelming. The key aspect is that within a year or two, Trump would have effectively relinquished day-to-day control of the government to Vice President Mike Pence and to his Cabinet, instead focusing on the more ceremonial aspects of the presidency and perhaps exploiting it for personal enrichment. There are several variations on this scenario, which range from Trump being surprisingly popular as a sort of celebrity-in-chief to Trump largely withdrawing from the public spotlight.

First of all, does Nate Silver live on Earth? Tons of people have said "Welcome to The Paul Ryan Presidency" (Jim Newell in Slate) or "Will Mike Pence Be The Most Powerful President Ever" (CBS News). The latest speculation has trumpeted Steve Bannon as the true leader, only to be falsified by the latest palace intrigue leaked to the press:

Chief White House strategist Steve Bannon tried to order Department of Homeland Security secretary John Kelly to not issue a waiver exempting green card holders from President Trump’s travel ban executive order, according to a new report in the Washington Post. Per two Trump administration officials who spoke with the Post’s Josh Rogin, Kelly ultimately rebuffed the attempt, telling Bannon that he only takes orders from the president. The president never weighed in, and Kelly went ahead and issued the waiver, which was made public on Sunday night. That waiver ended two full days of confusion and chaos around the question of whether or not permanent U.S. residents from the seven predominantly Muslim nations included in the ban would be allowed to reenter the country. The White House itself then confirmed that green card holders were exempt from the order on Tuesday.

These are the facts of Trump. He has no interest in running the administration. He has no interest in learning about policy. He has no ability to think strategically. He will absolutely delegate all these things to trusted advisors. But he will never, ever tolerate the suggestion that he is not in charge, that he does not understand the policy, or that he is not thinking strategically.  Yet, for Bannon to take over as shadow president, he must be able to speak for the president and have people believe him. He must be able to commit the president to doing things and know that the president will do those things.

In short, for Bannon or Kushner or Pribus or Pence to run the show, Trump must be willing to stop being Trump. It'll never happen. 

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