Bop Bag Politics

Our president is basically a human bop bag. If he gets knocked down he pretends it is due to his magnanimity as a leader (an emotion he does not possess) and then he just pops back up. This bop bag toy works as a symbol for a lot of politicians; but it may just be the quintessential symbol for Donald Trump, not just as a politician but also as a businessman.

Ending the shutdown is a victory for many Americans who spoke up about the everyday repercussions of working without pay; a victory over a president’s empty words about one-sided loyalty. Nancy Pelosi probably never intended to gloat. She used the power of her office, which she understands completely, and the power of the Constitution, to help put an end to the shutdown. The only extraordinary thing about it is the skill with which she wields the gavel. Gloating does not have good outcomes given Trump’s pathologies. He hates losing and will stubbornly hold his ground.

It is entirely possible that Trump only decided to end the shutdown for three weeks so he could give his State of the Union address in the House chambers amidst the pomp and spectacle of regular order in these times that are anything but regular.

However Trump could have decided to do the authoritarian thing and force his way into the House chambers and he didn’t. Perhaps he realized how quickly opposition might escalate if he used that play from the authoritarian playbook at this particular moment, if he sidelined a Congress that now shows some promise of offering the checks and balances that signal a healthy democracy/republic. Don’t be too comforted; this play is still available for future use.

In the Rose Garden he made a formal announcement of a temporary (3 week end) to the government shutdown but he did not back down at all from his insistence on the necessity for a wall on our southern border.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/prisoner-of-his-own-impulse-inside-trumps-cave-to-end-shutdown-without-wall/2019/01/25/e4a4789a-20d5-11e9-8b59-0a28f2191131_story.html

“Trump’s quest for at least some portion of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border is not over, however. Friday’s agreement only temporarily reopens the government, providing a three-week period for Congress to negotiate a longer-term spending agreement. The president said he would continue advocating for his signature campaign promise and threatened to again shut down the government or declare a national emergency to use his unilateral powers to build the wall if Congress does not appropriate funding for it by Feb. 15.

‘Let me be very clear: We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier,” Trump said Friday. He also tweeted in the evening that his decision “was in no way a concession.’”

He does seem, however, to be willing to accept pieces of wall as opposed to sea to sea wall. He also seems willing to accept a steel barrier rather than a monumental medieval concrete wall that can be seen from space. (Although perhaps with his push to get to Mars while he is still President, he will have to leave some kind of monument that will be visible from space.)

So the bop bag we call Donald Trump is now back in the upright position. What will happen next? Will it be some money for barriers and will Nancy Pelosi and her Dem peeps accept a bit of defeat gracefully? Will it be the declaration of a National Emergency, which promises to damage our constitutional democracy “bigly”? Will it be another shutdown after Trump gets to deliver his SOTU address?

What can the president possibly say in his SOTU address that anyone but loyal Republicans will want to listen to? We have not yet reached the point where Americans can be forced to watch the address. Someone will tell us what he said after the fact. If you are a person who sees through this man you will probably have to tune out the SOTU address to save your TV from mayhem. Perhaps you could order a bop bag to take your frustrations out on. Remember also that a bop bag can be put down permanently; all you have to do is take the hot air out of it.

Photo Credit: Amazon.com

National Emergency or Armageddon?

National Emergency or Armageddon?

Can “we the people” declare a national emergency as our President is threatening to do? Only if we put our bodies out in the streets and/or in the halls of government. Only if our elected representatives use their bully pulpits to turn the tables on the President. We can see our own president as either a National Emergency or Armageddon for our democracy/republic.

Other leaders have found the loopholes in our documents that allow them to use political trickery, “creativity”, semantic license, to expand their powers. Isn’t that the whole point of the trending movie, Vice, which shows how Dick Cheney smiled his oily smile and annexed power; mostly new frontiers of power for a Republican president (Bush) and, incidentally, the Republican Party?

Donald Trump, in the name of whatever he means by “winning”, is finding ways to invest even more power in the office of the Presidency. The powers Trump uses are real, because each time pundits tell us that he can do what he is doing without facing legal repercussions, but they also tell us that he is pushing the envelope in ways that will change presidential power, possibly forever. Previous leaders have used a presidential power to declare a National Emergency sparingly, as in we have had few instances where our leaders actually have used the power to call a National Emergency at all.

In the past this power was used to order the internment of Japanese Americans in WW II (along with the seizure of their property), an instance we are not proud of. Obama called a National Emergency for a flu epidemic, perhaps, in retrospect, an overreaction, but not a power grab. In fact, neither of these instances involved a power grab.

However, now we have a President who has already emptied our agencies of thousands of federal employees by simply not replacing people who leave. In this way he has made government smaller, with little attention paid. He uses up cabinet members like tissues in a bottomless box. If they are not toadies, they cannot stay. It is never good when a leader surrounds him/herself with only “yes” men/women. He is stuffing the courts with young conservative pseudo-judges who will serve for a lifetime. It is never good when a leader stuffs the courts as an offensive play, although it is sometimes necessary when playing defense, as we have seen. We often see this very strategy when a country is becoming more authoritarian.

Trump sidelined Congress by using the party apparatus to insure a Congress that only did his bidding. As soon as we the people placed one house of Congress in the hands of our representatives in order to oppose his policies he shut down the government on the bogus issue of funding the wall. He had had a document on this desk to fund the wall and avoid the shutdown; he refused to sign it, even though he had already signaled that he would. Again he sidelined a house of Congress, this time a house that opposes him, by setting an agenda that distracts mightily from the agenda the Democrats want to pursue.

This shutdown is a “twofer” – bringing the contentious issue of the wall front and center, and hooking into Democratic (and national) compassion for furloughed public employees who might lose everything. It might even be a “three-fer”, because of the chaos of uncollected garbage, closed and unsupervised National Parks, failing national security systems at our points of entry, and since there are no judges available to adjudicate asylum matters at our southern border that perhaps foments more chaos there (hence making a wall seem more necessary).

Furloughing 800,000 federal employees further empties out the government. Now all we have in Washington is Trump, his swampy cabinet, and his supine Senate proving to the upstart Dems who actually still has the power (white men). And of course, we still have Trump, who is playing “king of the mountain” in his usual mobster fashion.

This could be seen as an excellent move in what already seems like a slow-walk authoritarian coup. Trump is not just holding federal workers hostage, he is using dubious policy as a wall to hold back the Dems in the House of Representatives (now full of minorities and women). He may be a crazy old coot, but he is our crazy old coot, and he sometimes seems to be crazy like a fox. This could be less National Emergency and more Armageddon folks. Why do we appear to have so few options?

Photo Credit: From a Google image search – NYT