Saturday, May 15, 2021

Trumpism Without Trump?

Republicans are calculating that Trump will sweep them into office in 2022.  Suppose Trump is dead by then?  What happens next?

The movie, The Death of Stalin, is a dark comedy about the power struggle that occurred after the tyrant Joseph Stalin died unexpectedly.  It is fictionalized, of course, and takes liberties with the facts and the timeline.  The Russian government denounced it as historically inaccurate - illustrating neatly that Russians have no real sense of humor.  But what do you expect from a country that names a vaccine after the only real accomplishment of the Soviet Union?  Well, at least the satellite worked.  Myself, I'm sticking with good old capitalist Pfizer.

Once Stalin was dead, so was Stalinism.  Reformers in the party halted the executions and "lists" that the paranoid Stalin used to continually purge the party and the country of perceived traitors.  The gulags were emptied out - to some extent.  It marked a major change for the direction of the Communist Party and for the Soviet Union.

Given that Donald Trump is morbidly obese, refuses to exercise (it claims it is unhealthy and saps energy - I beg to differ) and lives on a diet of junk food and diet cola, how long can this fucker live?  I mean, even with the best of medical care, his heart has to give out, eventually, no matter how many stents they installed at Bethesda Naval Hospital.  The dude is 74, for chrissakes.  He could keel over at any time.

If that happens, then what does the Republican Party do?  They have exchanged their traditional conservative values for a cult of personality.  When that personality is gone, who takes his place?  Do we revert to a North Korean system and Donald Jr. or Eric takes command?  Neither seems to have the charisma of their Father, nor the following.

What is interesting to me is that the Representative who replaced Lynne Cheney as the #3 leader of the GOP in the House, is not really all that conservative.  Stefanik represents the "North Country" of New York, an area where poverty is not just of the pocketbook, but of the spirit as well.   But oddly enough, she received lukewarm reviews and "scores" from conservative groups - one going to so far as to score her lower than "Squad" member Ilhan Omar, who is Muslim, for Chrissake (no pun intended).   But the key thing is, Stefanik went from Trump skeptic to blind follower, overnight, when the "big lie" of the last election became the only plank of the GOP platform.

In other words, your views on gun control, abortion, small government, lower taxes, less deficit spending - or whatever - are totally secondary to your fealty to one man.  The GOP is now the party of Trump.  What happens when there is no more Trump?  Will they conveniently forget the whole chapter and move on, or seize upon some other personality to beatify?

It is a serious question, as the party seems to have no real rudder or philosophy anymore.  The GOP is little more than a culture of grievance these days - complaining about the election, or low-flush toilets or LED lightbulbs or transgender bathrooms.   It is an interesting strategy, but one that could backfire. As I noted before, some argue that the whole Brexit thing was driven by fast cultural change, which unsettled many in the more rural areas of Britain.  The world is changing, technology is changing, and it seems the old ways are lost.  It is an easy platform to run on - to slow down or halt change, or even "turn back the clock" which is what the GOP has stood for in modern times - going back to the "Good Old  Days."

It is ironic that this wasn't always so.  The Republican Party was, at one time, the party of radical change - wanting to abolish slavery.  And the reaction to this change was felt most strongly not by slave owners, but by people who had more in common with slaves than their owners.  The sharecroppers and white-trash of the South fought for a cause that was not theirs, and it is mystifying, until you realize what they were fighting against was societal change, not a particular cause.

If change goes on for long enough, it becomes the new status quo.  And once people are used to low-flush toilets and LED bulbs, ranting against them will seem pointless.   I still hear from some rednecks about how the "good old days" of carburetors and points ignition were better - but that complaint is getting quieter and quieter these days.  As I noted before, my old 1948 Willys Jeep had been converted to V-8 power with an early 1970's junkyard 350 Chevy.  The Good Ole Boys who hopped up the car used a Delco solid-state transistorized pointless ignition distributor from a 1980's Chevy.  They weren't so dumb as to think that points - which require annual adjustment or replacement - were a better deal.  And today, well, I am seeing that the companies that used to make aftermarket carburetors for hot rods are now making aftermarket plug-and-play fuel injection systems instead, because they work better, are easier to use, make more power, get better mileage, and don't require constant adjustment and fussing.

In other words, people got used to the new technology and realized there were advantages to it.   I noted before that many jobs in America were lost, not due to "Automation" or "AI" or "outsourcing" or "immigrants" but just due to better technology.  Back in the day, you might hire painters to paint the outside of your house every five years or so - or do it yourself.  Today, Vinyl siding can last decades.  What happened to all those house painters?  What about the people working in the housepaint factory?

Or the local garage?  It is now a convenience store, because cars no longer require tuneups and blowouts and broken fan belts are rarities instead of common occurrences.  A modern car can go 150,000 miles without much more than oil changes - not even spark plug changes!  Every town, at one time, had several local garages to fix cars - today there are far fewer.   Back in my parents' day, there were even more - your car would need a "valve job" by 30,000 miles or so.   Advances in technology have made our lives far more maintenance-free.

I am digressing a bit, but this is the driving factor behind this discontent in the heartland, and Trump seized upon it.  He railed against toilets and light bulbs and the pundits and newspaper reporters from the big city were mystified by it and laughed at it.  Meanwhile, the folks from the heartland nodded their heads and said, "Yea, he gets it!"

Problem is, after a few years, the LED light bulb has become pretty much standard.  We learn to adopt to new technologies - often after making costly mistakes.   I realize now why galvanized decking screws are no longer available.  It means changing how we do things, but we learn quickly to adapt.   When leaded gasoline went away, many lamented that - and the cars that burned unleaded ran like crap.  That was 1975, today cars run better than ever before and crank out horsepower not even dreamed of back in the day.  700 Horsepower?  Back in the 1960's?  Unheard of, outside of a drag strip.  Today, it is on the showroom floor.

So, the culture of grievance could backfire, when these grievances die down.  Trump railing against light bulbs wouldn't work today - people understand how LEDs work and have figured out this "Kelvin" rating thing and the prices have come down. Thus, the GOP has to continually search for new grievances.

I digress a bit here, but mentioning degrees Kelvin reminds me of the metrification foulup back in the late 1970's.   America tried, halfheartedly, to go on the metric system, by putting up dual signage, which served only to confuse people and escalate costs.  One thing Ronald Reagan ran on was abolishing metrification, arguing that it was unnecessary and an undue burden on industry.  Of course, since then, most of American industry has gone metric, in order to compete on a global basis.  But Reagan, like Trump, sensed that Americans were wary of change, and conservative Americans in particular (hence the term, conservative).  Railing against metrification resonated with a certain demographic, and made Jimmy Carter look like some meddling schoolmarm.

But getting back to new grievances, it seems that "election fraud" and "The Big Lie" are the two main ones these days.  These lies resonate with the hard-core Trump supporters, but like I noted before, the people with "Trump" signs on their lawns on our little island, quickly removed them on January 6th.  No one wanted to be affiliated with that.

"The Big Lie" of course, is shared by both parties.  Democrats are crying right now that election "reform" laws are going to cost them the next election - which might be a convenient excuse for them to use, when their far-left policies cost them the next election.  It wasn't our policies, we were cheated out of a legitimate win!  Where have I heard that before?  Oh, right, from the Lord of Mar-A-Lago.

I noted before that the Left seems to spend more time on trying to get people to vote without an ID than in finding IDs for people.  In one celebrated case, a 70-year-old woman sued the State of Michigan, claiming the "Voter ID" law was unconstitutional and it disenfranchised her.   She had no driver's license, apparently, or any other form of ID.   It struck me as odd that the Left wanted to change the entire voting system to accommodate this woman (and the small number of people like her) rather than trying to help her obtain a proper ID.  I mean, in this society, you need it to get by.

And sadly, the Democrats will spend countless millions, if not billions, on attack ads in the coming months, rather than spending money on a get-out-the-vote drive.   If the GOP is making it harder to vote, it only means we have to work harder to get people to vote.  What does it say about your candidate or your platform if people are unwilling to early-vote, or stand in line, or register, or obtain an ID, or even properly fill out an absentee ballot?  The cries of "election fraud" will be heard again, in 2022, but this time from the other side.

But of course, we've heard this before from the Left - Since Bush v. Gore.   Sure, you can argue it was a "stolen election" but then again, if the Democrats had spend more time on their ground game and less on attack ads - and if Ralph Nader hadn't been a spoiler - Gore might have won.  Demanding a "partial recount" (which the GOP is doing, at this very moment, in Arizona) was a bad idea as well.   You have to win elections by a wide enough margin to make it stick - and often this means appealing to the widest voter demographic possible.  The far-Right and far-Left fail to realize this, and take each win as a validation of their radical agendas, when in fact they are often an endorsement of the center.

But getting back to topic, what will happen to the GOP if Trump keels over dead of a heart attack or stroke?  Will the Trump faithful get out the vote (particularly in primaries) without their fearless leader?  Will more traditional conservatives continue to rally behind this "new" GOP that seems hell-bent on throwing some of its most august members under the bus?  They came for Lynne Cheney, how long before they come for Mitch McConnell?

Of course, that is the real question for Republicans - if Trump is still around in 2022 or 2024, will they still be able to win elections?  Or will the core base of conservatives - you know, people who have money - rally behind a leader who has shown no compunction in meddling in their businesses and trying to shame them into supporting him?  It has to be a real love-hate relationship between corporate America and Trump.  Ask the folks at Carrier, GM, or Ford how they felt about Trump telling them what products to make and where.

But eventually, Trump will leave the picture.  No one lives forever.  Even if they give Trump the same organ-harvested Falun Gong heart from China they gave Dick Cheney, he will eventually shuffle off this mortal coil - we all do, you know.  And the type of people who relish the cult of personality are usually reluctant to anoint a successor - or if they do, often turn on them.  Mao Zedong didn't want to go quietly into the night, but rather went out with a bang - that nearly destroyed the country he tried to save.

Sadly, that is the real danger of Trump.  January 6th was just an inkling of the damage he could have done - and could still do - to our country.  If he doesn't get his way, he is more than willing to destroy himself and everyone around him.  Just ask anyone who has ever had a business dealing with him, signed a contract with him, or loaned him money.  No one walks away unscathed after dealing with "The Donald" - and oddly enough, he never seems to realize any advantage from these deals, either.

But once again, I digress....