How much damage could Donald Trump really do, after all?

Some of the people planning to cast protest votes in November have a bedtime story they love to tell themselves. In the story, Donald Trump’s election wouldn’t be such a bad thing because the diffusion of power in the American political system would prevent him from carrying out the worst of his lunatic schemes.

Now, there is a germ of an idea there: political and institutional constraints greatly limit the power of a President. But it’s worth noting that the political constraints generally act through the perceptions of the President and those around him about what he can, and can’t, get away with: that is, precisely the sort of thing that would have kept Trump-the-candidate from, e.g., hurling ethnic insults at a federal judge. A President unfazed by criticism, and willing to ignore advice about the limits of his lawful authority from the Office of Legal Counsel, actually can get quite a lot done.  No President in the modern era – even Nixon – has dared to say what President Jackson said about a Supreme Court ruling: “Mr. Justice Marshall has made his decision. Now let him enforce it.” But what if we had a President who was willing to behave that way, surrounded by advisers egging him on to do so?  Trump’s power for evil might be substantially greater than (e.g.) Obama’s power for good.

Today a friend challenged me on this point: Make a list of ten really, really bad things that President Trump could actually do. A little bit of emailing around produced the following list. I’ve divided it into two groups: the “stroke-of-the-pen” things that a President could accomplish just by ordering them, and other things that would require Congressional approval or help from state governments. But let’s not forget that Trump’s election would almost certainly mean both that he had a Republican Senate and House to work with and that the Republican members of those bodies would mostly be terrified of primary challenges should they oppose the imperial will.

The distinction between the two groups is not absolute; in principle, the appropriations power could be used to constrain virtually any Presidential action, in the extreme by zero-budgeting the Executive Office of the President, leaving The Donald to write his own orders. And of course there is always the impeachment power. But again, an election that brings us Trump would be likely to disable those safeguards as well.

“With a stroke of the pen”

  1. Withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on global warming.
  2. Abrogate the nuclear deal with Iran, setting the stage for either war with Iran or Iranian development of a nuclear weapon. (Or both.)
  3. Deny hostile, or even objective, journalists and media outlets access to information by refusing them admittance to press conferences, instructing appointed and public-affairs officials to refuse all interviews, and subjecting even routine data requests to FOIA delays. That will have three effects: disabling the effective capacity of the independent media to exercise oversight; giving professional and business advantages to complaisant reporters and their outlets; and creating incentives for reporters and outlets alike to stay in the Administration’s good graces.
  4. Institute criminal investigation and prosecution of political opponents. The Attorney General, the FBI Director, and the 94 United States Attorneys all serve at the pleasure of the President. (The 10-year term of the FBI Director is a maximum, not a minimum, and Bill Clinton fired Director William Sessions in 1993.) Now imagine FBI Director Chris Christie, reporting to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Those positions, and the U.S. Attorney slots, are all Senate-confirmable, but even if the Senate were to resist the President could appoint all of them on an acting basis.
  5. Use tax enforcement and the award or denial of tax-exempt status to punish enemies and rewards friends. The Director of the IRS is also a Presidential appointee. Civil-service protections would make it harder to replace IRS career staff with political loyalists, but the GWB Administration made substantial progress in filling the Justice Department with Republican apparatchiki, and the same could be done at the IRS.
  6. Attack “liberal-leaning” universities and not-for-profit research enterprises by either interfering with the grant process directly or by using financial or compliance audits to disqualify them.
  7. End enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. This is entirely at the discretion of USDoJ, and no doubt Assistant Attorney General Kris Kobach will have other priorities.
  8. Cease Department of Justice investigations into police misconduct.
  9. Mount a massive deportation process. Direct the Department of Homeland Security to target and remove persons who registered under DACA and DAPA.
  10. Investigate the “loyalty” of Muslims in the civil service and the military.
  11. Substantially reduce enforcement of anti-discrimination law, including revoking executive orders that require nondiscrimination by federal contractors.
  12. Block all entry of refugees.
  13. Wreck the Affordable Care Act in practical terms by reversing the administrative decisions that make it feasible, and destroy it legally by conceding its unconstitutionality the next  time it is challenged in court.
  14. Loosen regulation and virtually eliminate enforcement of all environmental laws, workplace health and safety laws, and consumer protections. Early targets would be the Obama Administration’s aggressive attack on air pollution from coal-fired power plants and the newly-instituted fiduciary-standards rule for pension advisers.
  15. Reinstitute torture by replacing the Army Field Manual with Bush-era interrogation “standards.” I do not believe that most, or even many, senior officers would abide by such orders. But the President is, indeed, Commander-in-Chief, and only custom keeps him from firing those who disobey unlawful orders. (When President Lincoln was told that Confederate forces had captured forty mules and two major-generals, he replied, “Too bad about the mules. Major-generals I can make.” Ranks of O-4 [major or lieutenant commander] and above require Senate confirmation, but junior officers are created by Presidential fiat, and brevet promotions are unlimited.)
  16. Encourage Russian aggression in Europe by renouncing our NATO obligations. Start by recognizing Russian sovereignty over the Crimea.
  17. Withdraw the U.S. from other treaties and international organizations: WTO, NAFTA, the U.N., the Paris Treaty on international climate change.
  18. Encourage Japan and South Korea to develop nuclear weapons by raising questions about the validity of our security commitments.
  19. Unofficially encourage or sponsor the growth of armed far-right “militia” groups, and discourage enforcement of federal laws against them (e.g., vigilante border enforcement groups, takeovers of federal lands by “sovereign citizen” organizations).

By legislative action or with the advice and consent of the Senate, or the help of state governments

  1. Appoint at least one and perhaps three Supreme Court justices on the Alito model, locking in a right-wing majority for a generation.
  2. Reduce tax rates for the rich.
  3. Block grant food stamps and/or Medicaid.
  4. Appoint anti-worker and anti-union members to the National Labor Relations Board.
  5. End federal support for the full range of women’s health services, including ending the federal partnership with Planned Parenthood.
  6. Increase domestic production of coal and oil while ending public investment in renewable energy.
  7. Repeal of Dodd-Frank, Sarbanes-Oxley, consumer financial protection laws.
  8. Disenfranchise Democrats with a combination of voter-suppression tactics (shorter voting hours, fewer voting machines leading to longer waits, hard-to-meet “voter ID” rules) and gerrymandering. In the extreme, use electronic vote counting to simply miscount the votes.

A story is told of Benjamin Franklin. As he left the Constitutional Convention – which did its work in secret – for the last time, a woman stopped him to ask, “Well, Dr. Franklin? What have you given us? A monarchy, or a republic?” Franklin answered, “A republic, madam: if you can keep it.”

This is not a game. Institutions do not maintain themselves.  Not all damage is reversible. I do not believe that Trump will be elected, and I do not believe that, if he were elected, that would be the last relatively free and fair election for President. But it’s not impossible.  Let’s not do the experiment.

I consider this list provisional. Please suggest additions, subtractions, and edits in comments. Do not take that as an invitation to debate. Comments of the form”but howsabout Hillary?” will be relentlessly zapped.


Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

64 thoughts on “How much damage could Donald Trump really do, after all?”

  1. You haven't discussed what he could use his pardoning powers for.

    Imagine him using American drone operators as mercenaries, selling their services to other countries (I'm of course thinking Putin here).

    I think it was Christie who recently promised to have all of Obama's appointees fired.

  2. Not "Jefferson Davis Sessions," but "Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III" (said using the appropriate accent).

  3. Of the items that are clear abuses no matter your policy preferences, well, Obama's already doing many of them.

    For the rest, damage, benefit, kind of depends on your policy preferences, doesn't it? A good deal of your damage consists of Trump actually seeing to it that laws you don't like are faithfully executed. Or that laws you do like are subject to massive discretionary non-enforcement.

    And, isn't that something you approve of Obama doing?

    So, to a large extent you're defining "damage", not as something extraordinary, but just as, "The winning side in the election gets it's policy preferences, and I didn't win!"

    And, honestly, that wasn't cast iron gall including siccing the IRS on his enemies in the list. More like cast Osmium.

    For my part, the attractive part of Trump being President is that he'll lack allies in Congress and the media. So the media will actually be interested in covering any abuses he commits, and Congress might push back when he does something genuinely wrong.

    Why, he could potentially be impeached and convicted! Congress might start reclaiming it's powers from the bureaucracy!

    It could lead to a renaissance of legislative supremacy.

    1. So Speaker Ryan, who could not stand up to a politically powerless Candidate Trump, would stand up to a powerful President Trump? Or do I misread you?

      1. No, you don't misread me. As a candidate, Trump hasn't done anything you can really denounce as criminal. He differs from Ryan on policy, but won the primary, and that's pretty decisive in politics. As an actual President, he'd be doing actual policy, and if he did something that actually was an abuse, Ryan might have some basis for opposing him. It would, however, have to be something Republicans would recognize as abusive, not just something that outrages Democrats.

        My problem with the list above is that a good deal of it is stuff that's already being done by the current President without complaint from Mark, only with a different partisan valence. Look, if you're ok with your guy only enforcing the laws you like, and blowing off enforcement of the laws you don't like, you just don't have standing to denounce the other side's guy doing the same as an abuse.

        Once you've decided picking and choosing is acceptable, the choice of which laws get enforced is just a bog standard political policy matter, not abuse.

        1. Even if we grant your argument, you have ignored the audience for Mark's post.

          It is not aimed at voters in general, nor does it try to convert loyal Trumpistas. It is aimed at those on the left who consider Clinton too impure ideologically, and hence plan to vote for the idiot Stein or sit out altogether. The bulk of these people are quite likely to agree with Mark that the actions listed would be terrible.

          Edited to correct typos.

          1. Mark's post goes where it will, not where he intends. I am apparently not the audience, but I am here, checking my Bush-era liberal links to see if I can make sense out of what they're saying about this election. In doing so, I'm finding a new viewpoint that I'd missed: complete caving to any abuse by Obama that would have been criticized from Bush.

            And it's having an effect on me. What I've found is a party and partisans that are totally disconnected from the reality of a major part of the population that the Democrats once considered their personal mission, and it's disheartening. Republicans have moved right, Democrats are now over the line, into Reagan-style conservatism, and no one is speaking to or for the poor and those in the labor movements. I'm not talking about what's said in speeches; I'm talking about actions. As one critic of Hillary said, it's telling that she needs to go back decades to working for children as an example of what she considers herself to be.

            Anyway, I'm thinking that something needs to change, and that a normal voting outcome isn't going to do that. If Trump throws this country into a Constitutional crisis, that might be the second best thing since the Revolution. It certainly appears to be the only thing that has any possibility of leading us out of the mess we're in where rich people have bought the government and all it does is for them, and them only, with a few bones tossed in other directions.

            Does anyone here really believe Hillary when she said she'd work to get the money out of politics? If so, you have a serious problem identifying reality.

    2. Just out of curiosity… which federal laws do you see as being neglected as to enforcement? Please exclude stuff like HRC emails, I am bored to death with that. The b.s. political stuff. (F.e., you can't ding Obama on immigration, he's deported all kinds of nonviolent people.) What areas do you think need more enforcement? I think it is good for us all to be reminded that prosecutorial discretion is something to re-evaluate from time to time, even though we cannot do without it.

      1. Basically,all the mass exemptions from immigration law,delays in implementing various politically unfortunate aspects of the ACA.

        Reclassifying turn backs at the border as 'deportations' to pad the numbers doesn't change the underlying reality. So, yeah, I can ding him on that.

        1. Unless Congress appropriates more money, the enforcement of immigration law remain roughly the same as it is now. It may be applied more stupidly, targeting all undocumented immigrants equally rather than focusing on those who are actually a danger, but I guess you're okay with suboptimal public policy.

          1. We really should not feed a troll. It is what he wants. Ryan will go along with anything that enables him to enact his Randian economic plan for the United States as laid out his budget proposals for the last 8 years. Frankly, a President governing as a ruthless authoritarian will probably be necessary to put such a program into effect and hold power. Further, punching at liberals, hippies, environmentalists, and minority groups will be music to Talk Radio and Cable News ears and ratings. McConnell will go along with anything that expands his power base in the Senate and crush Democrats. The only big fight these guys may have with Trump is about trade policy.

        2. Okay, thanks. Nothing too unexpected. I just like to know what's on people's minds…

  4. Although Trump is nominally an isolationist, there are also plenty of ways that he could get us (more) involved in small-to-medium shooting wars, depending on how many senior officers he could find to follow his lead. Airstrikes to "protect" our border, anyone? And even if you think some of those wars might not be bad ideas in theory, they would be carried out by the kind of people Trump would appoint.

    Along with 2, he could also set in motion a change of the rules of engagement for his protective detail to allow far broader powers of arrest, detention and weapons use around presidential movements. (Such a change would likely eventually be rolled back by the courts, unless there was sufficient turnover at the top, but that would take quite a while.)

  5. You're missing the boat here.

    Trump has a huge ego, lashes out, and knows nothing about anything.

    If he gets his hand on some force he can use internally on a whim (US attorneys? Drone strkes? Spy agencies or FBI?) he will use it on his political opponents. Maybe we'd get lucky and he'd be too ignorant or lazy to summon the force, but do you want to count on that?

    Are you saying you can't envision members of Congress arrested for vague offenses or maybe some shady stuff the NSA dredged up?

    The man has "abuse of power" written on his forehead.

    1. The man has "I use tanning pills" written on his forehead, perhaps. (My dermatologist would say that was a smarter choice than a tanning booth, for somebody with Trump's complexion.) And nobody runs for President without a huge ego.

      But the idea that he knows nothing about anything? That's the sort of nonsense you spout, when you can't admit somebody you dislike could have any virtues at all.

      1. Or when you read things by people Trump has paid to follow him around for a long time and record his every thought, namely the ghostwriter for The Art of the Deal. Have you seen that New Yorker article?

        I agree with you that it sounds like nonsense. This is a truly exceptional circumstance.

        The ball's back in your court. I challenge you to produce one of his many many interviews in which he demonstrates deep knowledge about a subject.

        1. I would assert that he has a deep knowledge of the construction industry, at the very least. We could generalize into a long list of skills that any person running a successful business empire needs, some of which are quite relevant to being a chief executive.

          He gained the nomination over the still warm bodies of 16 opponents, most of them experienced politicians. This demonstrates either an extensive understanding of politics, or incredible talent.

          Now, that doesn't directly translate into being qualified to be President, any more than being a community organizer with a knack for getting sealed records released makes you a fit for that job. But it ain't "nothing about anything".

  6. Or how about mass arrests of Hispanics leading to demonstrations leading to a harsh crackdown leading to riots leading to martial law?

    That "race war' scenario is exactly what his followers on Twitter are looking forward to.

    And I don't mean just some random loons – Scott Adams (of "Dilbert") called the Hispanic demonstrations and the violence in San Jose a "turning point" for the Trump campaign.

    Trump symbiotically thrives on the adulation of people who are stone-cold KKK-level racists. Think what happens when "He is their Voice" and the office of the President is the power behind that voice.

    1. "Or how about mass arrests of Hispanics leading to demonstrations leading to a harsh crackdown leading to riots leading to martial law? "

      Got your causality scrambled there.

      It goes like this: Mass arrests of illegal immigrants who are legally supposed to be arrested, leading to demonstrations, which turn violent, (Very predictable given La Raza violence at Trump rallies.) leading to a harsh crackdown. And almost certainly not getting bad enough to reach martial law, because La Raza doesn't represent the majority of Hispanics.

      1. You know, this reminds me that I am *so* looking forward to Arpaio going to jail, once it is on record that he deliberately profiled Latinos. It is illegal for an LEO to deliberately violate the rights of people just for looking like they might be undocumented. So once that is all nailed down in federal court, I expect to see him have to report. I don't care if it is Club Fed though, I just need to see him get punished for it.

  7. There are lots of people who see Black Lives Matter as an existential threat. What happens when the President is their man?

    What happens when a thin-skinned authoritarian in the Oval Office gets his daily briefings from Alex Jones?

  8. Most of the people who see Black Lives Matter as an existential threat are police who are being targeted for assassination by BLM members. What happens when the President is their man?

    BLM gets treated as a terrorist organization, likely. What do you expect an organization that's going around doing what they do to get treated like?

    1. Isn't this the sort of aggressive missing-the-point thread-jacking that, for a time, you'd stopped doing in these parts?

    2. Please compare and contrast two recent videos: the statement of the Dallas Chief of Police the day after the shootings of his friends and colleagues versus the part of Trump’s acceptance speech where he talks about the same shootings.

      Which man showed true leadership and maturity of the kind our country needs right now? I have my opinion but yours may differ.

  9. No, assassination of police officers is NOT being performed by the organization called Black Lives Matter!

    If some psychotic anti-abortion guy firebombs a clinic and claims the act for Fetal Lives Matter, are we supposed to shut down that anti-abortion organization and send its leaders to jail?!?

    That's feeding on and creating pure propaganda, Brett! Fear mongering. But very illustrative of a Trump supporter.

    1. If psychotic anti-abortion guys were firebombing abortion clinics over and over, and were members of a particular anti-abortion organization, you bet that organization would be investigated as a possible terrorist organization.

      Black Live Matter local leader advocating violence.

      Seriously, you've got to be able to recognize when an allied movement really is crossing the line.

      1. Uh huh. That actually made zero sense, Brett baby boy. You should run back to your Trump-daddy and read more tweets.

        Your faction has made a movement, and this movement is called Trump, and it is a live walking talking turd that wants to rule the United States.

        I don't care what you think or say, since your faction has no regard for facts or – reality – really.

        I'm talking to liberals and progressives. This man – this lump of orange fecal matter – wants to rule – in his image – of hate and fear. It's not about passing this or that legislation. It is about our survival as a free country – as a pluralistic democracy.

  10. President Trump will render the NLRB useless by appointing ant-union board members who refuse to take up cases, reverse recent victories for workers, and ignore the NLRA by ruling in favor of the boss.

  11. Black citizens have more to lose if That Man becomes President than white citizens. There were some black grandmotherly delegates at the DNC who said of their nominee “No one is perfect.” They understand that their grandsons are going to be safer if the country chooses Hillary than if it chooses The Donald. If he becomes President, he will not be likely to target Jill Stein’s grandsons but he will be likely to target theirs. That is what White Privilege looks like.

  12. Is it possible that Trump is trying to lose this election? His recent conduct suggests to me that he is. I am forced to the conclusion that he is not doing all this to win the White House. I think he is doing this to impress Jodie Foster.

  13. I'm a bit puzzled as to why people are arguing with Brett, and indeed as to why Brett is arguing back. The OP is pretty clearly not about people who approve of Trump's policies and are eager to see them implemented; it's about people (presumably Sanders supporters) who don't want to see those policies implemented and are undervaluing their votes on the assumption that Trump can't implement those policies even if he gets in. The point, as I read it, is "here are the things Trump can do if he's elected; these are things you presumably don't want done (since you're for Sanders). Therefore, vote accordingly."

    Shot in the dark here, but I'm pretty sure Brett isn't a BernieBro. As for the fact that Obama has done some of the things Mark listed, well yes; these are things presidents can do, and presidents do some of them.

    I agree with EdWhitney, though. There's something awfully strange about Trump's behavior. If he were a performance artist (think the late great Andy Kaufman), he'd do things much the same way, I think. (I now want to see someone do an age progression of Andy Kaufman.)

    1. My motive for arguing back is pretty obvious. Whenever Democrats complain about something a Republican is doing, (Particularly when the outrage ramps up!) there's generally a strong subtext of, "And we don't do that!" I try to stomp on that idea, it's frequently nonsense, sometimes even projection. (Like the abusing the IRS thing.)

      Aside from that, Mark is mixing categories here. There's stuff the present administration is doing, there's stuff that's the ordinary give and take of politics, and there are real abuses that go beyond the normal parameters of politics, and Mark is just running them together as "damage".

      It's like treating driving the car to Burger King instead of McDonalds, and driving it off a cliff, and driving it through a crowd, as all examples of the same sort of thing. If you're a McDonald's fan, of course you'll disfavor all three, but that doesn't make them alike.

      1. It's like treating driving the car to Burger King instead of McDonalds, and driving it off a cliff, and driving it through a crowd, as all examples of the same sort of thing.

        I'm glad you recognize this fallacy. Too bad you don't see it in many of your own comments.

      2. Thank you. I appreciate the careful reply. I hope it's clear I didn't mean to suggest that the argument shouldn't happen–I was truly puzzled as to why it went in the direction it did.

  14. Speaking for myself only… as much as there is sometimes a bit of bluffery and haymaking, which I am guilty of too! and sometimes, it's fun!, Brett does see the world differently in a way I find valuable, as I do not know many Republicans in person. So that's why I read his comments and sometimes respond to them. He knows this is mostly aimed at Berniacs…

    And I am guilty sometimes too. Is it fair of me to brush Brett, even by implication, with Arpaio-ness? No. I am just poking him a little bit. I do not believe that he would behave that way if he were a sheriff.

    1. Brett has a long, long internet history at blogs from Obsidian Wings (where he was banned for his racism) to Crooked Timber (where he was banned for his racism) to others. Trust me when I saw that accusing Brett of "Arpaio-ness" would be praising him with faint damns.

  15. This post makes a great point regarding the importance of norms in a civilized society. Of course there are plenty of laws that enforce good behavior, but much of that behavior is actually maintained by social norms which punish those who stray to far out of what is perceived to be morally appropriate. Countries are great democracies not merely by the institution of well-written laws and their enforcement, but as well by the norms that lubricate compromise, dialogue, respect, patience with fellow citizenry.

    Of course, we can argue about the merit of any individual norm. But what is dangerous about Trump is that most of the norms he violates are have such a long history of broad support – kindness, humility, patience, honesty, directness, non-bigotry. When these values are given up on, and the norms they enforce break down, so does "civility", one of the cornerstones of civilization. One man's election might not be enough to cause a breakdown in civilization, but it has happened before, and it could certainly do much to weaken it.

  16. Last night I was sputtering at Hillary during her speech trying to get her to say this line:

    What if North Korea doesn't realize when he is being sarcastic? (Pause)
    They have no sense of humor, but they do have nukes!

    She didn't hear me I guess.

  17. I must start by saying that calling me "an overgrown child" is not likely to persuade me to support your point of view. This is not about ideological purity but the need for someone who has the capacity to be the President. Mrs. Clinton took $250,000 for several speeches to employees of Goldman Sachs, then won't reveal what she said. When she says that she will reduce the power of Wall Street, I can't take her seriously. She says that she will get a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision, but she won't succeed. It requires much more than her agreement for a constitutional amendment and it's not going to happen, period. We are the reality-based community. As it stands now, the reality is that a majority of the American people don't like her, don't trust her, and don't believe what she says. I don't see this changing before inauguration day. If Mrs. Clinton is elected, she won't have the necessary support to prevent her from being hounded, criticized, investigated, and forced to defend herself day after day. She will accomplish nothing, she may well move things backwards. This may be unfair, but it is reality.

    For my own part, I am with the majority. I don't trust her, I don't believe she is honest. Two things stand out to me. One is her private server for E-mails. E-mails she sent in her capacity as Secretary of State are Government property – she wouldn't allow them to be archived, then she deleted them. To me, this is at least someone who is paranoid. Second was her statement in the 2008 campaign that she had to run and dodge sniper fire when she landed in Sarajevo in 1996. This was a terribly ridiculous statement and one easily disproved. I'm not sure what the psychology behind this action would be called, but I believe it is a form of compulsive lying that people engage in because they can't bear the disapproval of others. I don't like her psychological makeup. I can't vote for her.

    I agree with all the possibilities presented of a President Trump, and they do frighten me. However, realistically, I don't think he would get very far. There is already a small force in the Republican Party that hates him. They would be quite willing to join with the Democrats to impeach him after a little while. And this group will only grow as Mr. Trump alienates more and more of his supporters – they won't agree with him all the time, and he will turn to insults.every time they do. Moreover, I am just one person, my vote or non-vote isn't going to decide who our President will be. If a majority of this democracy want a President Trump, who I am to try to stand in their way? An advantage of a President Trump is that he will bring the reality of conservatism and totalitarianism into graphic relief. Even after all the damage from the George W. Bush administration, people still can't understand the reality of economics and foreign policy – they still believe that tax cuts are always great and we should always be able to easily enforce our will on other countries. Sometimes, people need to live the reality of what they're voting for, it's the only way to get them to understand that it's not what they really want. I agree it's all a pretty risky strategy, and it will be pretty bad at first, but it does lead to the possibility that we would be better off in 2025 than we would otherwise be with Mrs. Clinton.

    I have toyed with the idea of voting for the Democratic Party ticket, then if it wins, helping the Republicans hound Mrs. Clinton from office and elevating Tim Kaine to the presidency. While I don't agree with that much of what Mr. Kaine says, I do believe he has the emotional and intellectual capacity to be president, and he'd certainly be a lot better than Mike Pence.

    The Democratic Party had a chance to stick this presidential election in their back pockets, given how roundly Mr. Trump is hated. If the party found Mr. Sanders too liberal, they had two other good possibilities in Martin O'Malley and Lincoln Chafee. I could easily support either man. Instead, the party reverted back to its long past and nominated Hillary Clinton, in spite of all the negativity associated with her. If she fails to beat as lousy a candidate as Donald Trump, it will show a profoundly awful level of judgment, and deserving of being a minority.

    1. Nach Trump, uns.

      How well does that typically turn out?

      I'd also observe that your last paragraph is logically, if not grammatically, an example of the passive voice fallacy. You say, "If she fails to beat as lousy a candidate as Donald Trump, it will show a profoundly awful level of judgment, and deserving of being a minority," without acknowledging your own agency in that set of events. You have a vote, but this paragraph is saying that these things just happen.

    2. There is already a small force in the Republican Party that hates him. They would be quite willing to join with the Democrats to impeach him after a little while.

      That's going to be a lot harder than you think.

      And suppose it happens.

      Are you then happy to have President Pence in the White House? By your thinking he would be worse than Trump, at least domestically, since he sees to be a popular fellow in the GOP, and will therefore be better able to implement an extreme agenda.

      Yes. I too wonder what Clinton was thinking sometimes. And certainly big sums floating around political candidates is troubling. But on the latter let's not single out Clinton, please. Her take from Goldman is peanuts in the larger scheme of things.

  18. Summary is – when a guy who has come to the Republican nomination by overthrowing civil norms and decency, what kind of restraint do you expected civil norms and decency to have on him once he is President?

  19. Mark,

    While we're on the subject, I'm really kind of curious about the object of this post. I can't imagine why anyone commencing a serious effort to persuade Bernie's supporters would begin by calling them "overgrown children" and making sneering reference to "moral purity". If this wasn't a flaunting of your own moral purity, perhaps it might be better not to insult your prospective recruits in future efforts.

  20. [=== FA: The Fall of America ===]

    — Prologue —
    For the last couple of decades, it had been a hard time to be a f–ing a-hole white guy in America. The “PC Police” and “Social Justice Warriors” called you out and tried to make you ashamed to be a f-ing a-hole (FA) The God-given right of a FA to spout racist and misogynist nonsense in public and sort-of-rape women was shut down. In short, the FA’s had to dissimulate and hide themselves, and this was painful and humiliating.

  21. [=== FA: The Fall of America ===]

    — Today —
    Then in 2015, the Presidential candidate Donald Trump appeared. He was a f-ing a-hole right on TV for the Republican debates, behaved like a FA to just about everybody and anybody Finally, the FA’s were out of the closet – they had found their hero to liberate them! He wasn’t afraid of the blacks and Latinos who were invading and changing this country – wasn’t afraid of the “PC” language police.
    To put it more politely, violating norms and rules was his stock-in-trade, and he made it not only brave but fun to mock and dominate the “decent people” who believed in “civility” and “the rule of law”. The Establishment couldn’t stop him.

  22. [=== FA: The Fall of America ===]

    — Tomorrow —
    Trump was swept into power on the rage and energy and fearful neediness of the FA’s (and the inertia and acquiescence of the Republican Party.) A tremendous immigration crackdown commenced almost at once. Random Latinos could be stopped and detained anywhere – and were, by the millions. The Department of Homeland Security vastly expanded their Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) staff, which was already twice the size of the NYPD.
    Demonstrations erupted in Southwest cities, at first Austin and then Phoenix and other cities and were met with harsh crackdowns from police. Trump supporters jumped into the fight wherever they could, finding the “race war” they longed for. ICE agents would reinforce the police, forming a wedge into the crowds of demonstrators, grabbing random “Hispanic” looking people for detention. The ICE head objected to these tactics and was fired and replaced by an Trump family friend who had no trouble carrying out “the necessary measures” to “get tough on illegals.”
    The detainees and demonstrators fought back. Violence was met with violence. Psychotic misfits on both sides were activated by the climate of fear and hatred, and mass shootings of white people by brown people (and vice versa) soared, helped along by the sale of AR-15-style weapons on every street corner and flea market.. If it wasn’t exactly a race war, it looked like one on TV to many or even most Americans. This climate of anger and panic was not calmed by President Trump – in fact, he fanned the flames, declaring a “national emergency” as a result of “infiltration by hostile illegals” who were “attempting a takeover of our cities”.
    Trump already had at his disposal a national espionage agency, empowered by Congress to spy on Americans – the NSA. He needed a national police or enforcement arm. The Domestic Order Enforcement police corps was quickly added to Homeland Security to help “restore order”, suppress riots, and handle any internal groups that would try to interfere with ICE work. A series of purges from the top down ensured that ICE and DOE would answer to Trump alone – in the name of “efficiency” and “responsiveness”.
    Among these riots and killings, popular movements of black people joined the fray when another wave of mass shootings by psychotic white-militia affiliates targeted them. Trump gleefully responded to the resulting demonstrations and with his encouragement his supporters turned them into riots as well resulting in mass violence and widespread detention of black people, which only brought about more demonstrations and riots.

  23. [=== FA: The Fall of America ===]

    Political opponents attempting to stem the violence did not have much strength in this climate of panic and rage. Those few that did try to move against Trump, were marginalized as “weak on terror” – if that didn’t work they found themselves on Terrorist Watch Lists – or the NSA found evidence that they belonged to black or Hispanic nationalist groups and they were denounced as race traitors – in extreme cases, especially if they had any popular support, they were sent into “hidden detention” by DOE for “their own security.”

    Finally, as the 2020 elections were coming up, all Trump’s opponents fell victim to mob violence or “lone shooters”, or were simply detained or unable to fly or travel. He ran virtually unopposed (except in the primary, by Ben Carson, who urged all undecided voters to vote for his opponent.)

    The mini-nuke in Atlanta was thought by some experts to be the work of Russians, judging by the isotopes used, but the Trump administration’s FBI experts found a black nationalist suspect who had supposedly been dealing with a Chechnyan-Muslim connection. The spasm of horror from the Atlanta ‘event’ brought the era of civil rights (and civic rights) to an end – Trump’s emergency powers became basically unlimited.

    In 2024 elections were found to be “unsafe” and “redundant”. Commander-in-Chief Trump continued leading the fight for order and security in the next six years, succeeded by Vice President Trump Jr. after his death in 2030..

  24. You speak of "institutional constraints". All of our institutions have failed. Those that appear to remain standing would crumble at the slightest touch. Your resident troll ought to be asked whether this is something to celebrate & if so why.

  25. A couple of commenters have written that Mark's calling them "overgrown children" is unlikely to persuade them. But the question is whether the substance of his comments will persuade them. If being called a name prevents them from objectively considering the remarks that follow the epithet, then that doesn't say much for their reasoning ability, does it?

    At the same time, I must agree with them that it would be better if Mark didn't call them names, precisely because it prevents them from reasoning objectively.

  26. Two thoughts:

    1) A president cannot lower taxes on the rich — that falls to the House. Trump would merely sign the new tax structure into law.

    2) He could also do what Reagan and Bush pere did for 12 years, and fail to pay our UN dues. Which would hinder peacekeeping efforts, position the U.S. as an international rabid dog, subject to world scorn (remember when American students all put maple leafs on their back packs during the 80s if they wanted to hitch hike effectively in Europe?), and gut UNESCO and UNICEF efforts. That's the reason the U.S. only has two World Cultural Heritage sites (Liberty Hall and the Taos Pueblo), when places like Bourbon St. and the Mall in D.C. and Bar Harbor and Newport and Provincetown and Gloucester and Hearst Mansion and Beacon Hill and the Embarcadero, and South Beach, and Greenwich Village, etc., are such obvious candidates. Why should the UN bother encouraging tourism to American destinations, and funds to spruce them up, when we're too goddamn cheap and obnoxious to pay our yearly dues? The Libertarian antipathy toward the UN is as bizarre as their insistence that thermometers and yardsticks no longer work, and that global warming and rising tides are a liberal plot to make lying meteorologists secret fortunes. It just makes no sense, as a basis of political economy for an entire party. You would think functioning world markets and international accords would add to the bottom line, which is how old-fashioned Republicans thought.

  27. What about "abrogate the Paris Accords on climate, and the anti-nuclear agreement with Iran?"

    1. He can certainly abrogate any executive agreements, as they don't actually have the force of law, just being a particular executive agreeing to behave in a certain way.

      And the nuclear agreement (It seems too ironic to refer to it as an "anti" nuclear agreement at this point.) is certainly open to him reversing certain executive certifications of Iran's compliance.

      1. I took it that the point of this exercise was not to debate whether the agreements about climate and Iran were good things, or what the difference was between a treaty and an agreement, but to point out — to leftists who were optimistic that Trump couldn't do much damage — how many things Trump could do (or undo) which they would regard as damaging.

        1. So, all this sturm und drang signifies nothing more than the tautological: If the Democrat loses, somebody who isn't a Democrat might take office?

          Seems rather hyperbolic terms to acknowledge that in. Look, it's a democracy, it's supposed to be accepted as a normal outcome, not existential crisis, that the other side might win the election. That's a legitimate outcome, not a horror.

          1. What it signifies is very, very obvious if you have read the first paragraph of Mark's post: that some on the left — Sanders supporters, essentially — seem not to realize what the consequences would be of this particular non-Democrat taking office. Mark is declaring, explicitly, that he is trying to refute the idea that "Donald Trump’s election wouldn’t be such a bad thing because the diffusion of power in the American political system would prevent him from carrying out the worst of his lunatic schemes" by listing, and asking others to list, some of the bad things — bad from the point of view of a Sanders supporter — which would happen in the case that "the Democrat loses." Because if the Sanders supporter sees this, he or she may as a result cease believing that "Donald Trump's election wouldn't be such a bad thing" and so — instead of staying home, or voting for Jill Stein — may instead vote for and work for the election of the Democrat.

            Which is something that people who want the Democrat to be elected — people like Mark and myself — would see as a good result.

            None of this is at all difficult to grasp.

          2. No, it's perfectly legitimate for Mark to argue, speaking to Bernie supporters, "If you go off in a huff, a Republican might win! Do you understand? A REPUBLICAN!"

            I just find the hyperbolic language, "damage", rather over the top, especially in it's failure to clearly distinguish ordinary political disagreements from constitutional crisis.

            His language seems to reject the legitimacy of somebody other than a Democrat getting elected, by classing it as "damage".

          3. If you think that using the hyperbolic word "damage" to describe what might be done by the opposition is "over the top," and that it constitutes a dangerous attempt to pre-emptively delegitimize the opposition, then I'd say your trigger settings have to be so sensitive it's a miracle you've survived the last few days of political speech, let alone a lifetime of it.

  28. I agree with 90% of what the author wrote–these things SHOULD be done (especially the deporting of Moslem terrorists appointing Alito/Scalia type justices and judges and the straightening out of the IRS's tax exempt division [TE/GE] ) and I'm voting for Trump hoping he'll do them! As to the other 10%, one must take the bitter with the batter.

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