You may think President-Elect Trump is going to be scarily powerful, but Ezra Klein assures us that that's not the case:
... he is entering an office that is weaker than many realize. For all the same reasons Barack Obama could not bring about the change he had made people believe in, Trump cannot wrench America to his vision of greatness. He is constrained by the House and the Senate, by the Supreme Court, by the executive agencies, and -- in ways less formal but no less powerful -- by his own staff and party.
Yay! He's constrained! ... But wait, aren't all those constraining forces dominated by fellow Republicans?
There would be more comfort in this if there were more opposition inside these institutions. But Republicans control everything -- the House, the Senate, and, after an appointment, the Supreme Court. If Trump is to be checked, it will be because his own party checks him.
In other words, he's not going to be constrained at all.
But wait, there's hope, Klein assures us:
Already, the Trump campaign has leaked that they will fill their administration with the most supportive staff they can find, not the best. But the number of jobs they appear to have candidates for is slim. They will need many more bodies to fill both the White House and the executive agencies. This is a place where the Republican Party could potentially play a role in surrounding Trump with calmer, wiser advisers who could provide him better information and curb his worst impulses.
So ... what? Trump's fascist impulses will be constrained because someone from outside his inner circle might recommend a few undersecretaries of something-or-other? And the people we have to hope will be the cooler heads are ever-more-radical "mainstream" Republicans?
The Republican Congress will use Trump to pass the agenda it has already crafted -- Paul Ryan’s bargain has always been that he will endorse a man he clearly believes to be dangerous so long as that man appears likely to sign his budget. Trump is a dealmaker, and he’ll presumably hold up his end of the deal.
Trump's not going to sign those bills because he's a dealmaker. He's going to sign them because he has no interest in policy details, and letting someone else sweat those details frees up time for tweeting and plotting personal vengeance.
The question is whether Congress will attempt to check Trump elsewhere -- on surveillance, on wartime powers, on trade.
Trade? I don't know. Surveillance and war powers? Oh, please. Republicans are very consistent on these: If the president is from the GOP, anything goes. So there'll be no check in those areas.
House and Senate Republicans know that Trump’s success is their success, that his strength is their strength. The same goes for his staff, and his appointees. The question is whether they can structure a version of success for him that keeps the country safe, and whether they will be willing, if the worst comes to pass, to cross their president for their country.
Well, that last part is easy: Republicans always place party over country. They'll never cross a fellow Republican for the national good. They've had a year-plus to do that, and the vast majority of them refused.
If there is hope, it is here: The incentives of governance are different from the incentives of opposition. The Republican majority will have to face the voters in 2018, and then again in 2020. If they have taken health insurance from tens of millions of people without replacement, if they have ripped open families and communities with indiscriminate deportation, if they have embroiled us in disastrous wars or confrontations, if they have sent the economy into tailspin, those elections will not be pleasant.
Perhaps this is a weight Trump will feel in a way he has not over the course of the campaign, and he will change his behavior accordingly. But even if he doesn’t, Republicans have a majority, and it will be one they hope to keep. To keep it, they will need to govern well, or at least convince the electorate they have governed well. And to govern well, they will need to keep Trump’s worst tendencies in check. Now we see how strong the American system really is.
This is nonsense. Republicans never need to govern well in order to have success at the polls. They don't even need to persuade voters that they've governed well. They just need to blame all the evils in the country on the Democrats -- on the long-gone Obama administration and on Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer (Schumer is going to become the GOP's top office-holding Antichrist soon). They don't need to demonstrate governing "success" -- in fact, government failure works perfectly for them, because Democrats are perceived as the party of government, even when they have no power.
People will lose health care? Republicans are going to blame the consequence of their repeal of Obamacare on Obamacare, and their voters will accept the explanation. Families torn apart? That will be happening to Those People. So no problem.
Klein was looking for some hope here. Whether he realizes it or not, he didn't find any.
Crossposted at No More Mister Nice Blog