The source of Trump’s power

I think many of us–maybe most of us–have forgotten that Betsy Devos’ purpose is to essentially shut down the Dept of Education. She wasn’t brought in to run the place but to dismantle it; not to support public education but to begin its replacement by private education. And she could be very good at this sort of thing. It would be like putting a hardcore pacifist–Father Philip Berrigan, say–in charge of the Defense Department. The goal would be to reduce the department and its policies to the lowest, least intrusive level possible. You have to understand that. That’s why, to her partisans, all the objections to her lack of expertise were completely irrelevant. Because hopefully there will not be much of a department left to run anyway.

The same thing with the head of the EPA. And HHS. They don’t need to know how to maintain, all they need to do is tear down. This is revolution. It’s not reaction. It’s revolution. We are the counter-revolution. This is as deep and fundamental a struggle as there has been in this country, as profound as the change brought about by the Reagan Revolution and the New Deal. The thing was, both FDR and Reagan swept the electorate and Congress in mighty waves. Trump won with three million fewer votes than the loser, and holds a small lead in Congress. His power now is based almost completely on the terror among establishment Republicans of the hold that Trump has on his base. And that base includes most–perhaps two thirds or more–of the Republican party. That is, when Republicans face their primary voters, they will be looking at almost all hardcore Trump supporters. And if Republicans in the House turn against Trump, it is assumed that they will be swept away in the primary by rabidly pro-Trump voters who throw all their support to a pro-Trump challenger who will be backed to the hilt by a vengeful Donald Trump.

Just about every single Republican member of the House faces this problem. Only a third of the Senate does (only a third of the Senate’s six year terms are up for election every two years), though all but one of the eight GOP Senate seats coming up in 2018 are in states that Trump won strongly (Nevada being the exception.) It is this, and only this, that keeps the entirety of the House GOP and all but a few of the Senate GOP licking Trump’s boots every day, no matter what he says. And it is this, and only this, that is Trump’s source of political power right now. But as long as Trump holds the GOP in congress by the short hairs like this, just about every outrageous cabinet pick and every executive order and every crazy tweet and every idiotic foreign policy stumble will be supported by this Republican Congress. And unless Trump’s base cracks–and there’s nothing saying even blatantly treasonous revelations about he and Putin could shake their frightening devotion–Trump will still maintain this hold on his party. This is why he seems to play to his base only. His devoted followers represent maybe a third of the electorate, but they are eighty or ninety per cent of those who vote in Republican primaries. And that is all Trump needs to carry out his revolution. Successful revolutionaries are rarely popular with everybody. But they know who in power to shoot to get their way. Of course, unlike Steve Bannon’s role model Lenin, Trump can’t actually execute anyone. But he can tweet with deadly accuracy. The first Republican congressman who gets out of line will find that out.

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