Saturday, March 04, 2017

If A Bus Driver Acted Like Trump . . .

the passengers would choose from several (not mutually exclusive, nor exhaustive) options:

  • Think it's exciting to have a crazy driver
  • Sit tight, trust in fate, and hope to survive
  • Pray
  • Get off the bus at the very next stop - assuming this was a city bus with lots of stops
  • Call 911 for help
  • Try to disable the bus, say, by turning off the ignition 
  • Get the driver out of the driver's seat
  • Jump out of the emergency exit

But what does a country with democratic traditions do?  The wheels of democracy turn slowly.  We're bound by the rule of law.

We also thought we were bound by tradition, but we now have a president who ignores those traditional restraints that are necessary in a civil society.   Miss Manners can only tell us what is proper, she has no enforcement powers to prevent the child-president from violating any tradition or policy that isn't backed by statute.  And getting the Justice Department or Congress to enforce the statutes is also problematic.

This seems to be the situation we're in.  So many rules of national etiquette are being violated, but the law doesn't deal with that.  And getting enough proof of statutory violations takes time, especially with the president's nominal party in control of Congress.

Norms are enforced by enough people agreeing the driver needs to be taken out of the driver's seat.

But Republicans in Congress are hoping the driver will go by their favorite neighborhoods (where they can, say, repeal ACA or cut corporate taxes) before the bus crashes.

That leaves it up to Democrats to put up as many roadblocks as they can until enough Republicans realize the futility of this Trumpian bargain.

You can play this exercise with other occupations.

  • If your doctor acted like Trump
  • If your high school teacher acted like Trump
  • If your pilot acted like Trump
  • If your boss (of the job you really need) acted like Trump
  • If your priest acted like Trump

It works less well where there is a one to one relationship - like a doctor-patient relationship where the patient could just leave.

 It works better in situations like a teacher, or a supervisor of many people, situations where one risks something if she stands up alone.

Using these analogies may help identify strategies to stop this president before he does something so terrible (where the damage can't be undone) that the timid can no longer stand by and do nothing.

Actually, that kind of damage is already happening, but to marginalized and demonized people that the majority of Americans don't identify with, so they don't feel the damage or the personal threat, yet.

And that is part of the danger - that violating the long-standing traditions becomes the new norm.

Think about how people reacted to his speech to Congress Wednesday.  Because he didn't rant and rave, they thought it was an improvement.  It's like he has been running 20 minute miles, and now he ran a 15 minute mile and people think that's great.  Except that great runners do a mile around 4 minutes. And when you are president, you shouldn't be mediocre.

This also reveals how people pay more attention to tone than to content.  Although he didn't have any outbursts, his speech was full of factual errors and generalities. No details of how he's going to get all those jobs, improve education, or pay for that wall.

I predict that as Republicans realize that the ACA is not going to be repealed until they offer a health care plan just as good or better (in which case Obama's goal is still fulfilled), as they realize that Trump doesn't care about the deficit, or international political and economic stability, they will join the Democrats in stopping this bus driver.  Let's hope this happens before there's a spectacular crash.

This Andrew Sullivan piece echoes these ideas about the reaction to Trump's speech, but he puts it in the context of how abused spouses feel when their abuser is nice to them.


  1. If the Democratic Party acted like Trump they would have won.

    What needs to be done is less game playing and dressing up like vaginas running around Washington. The Democratic Party needs to go back to a broad 50 state strategy that John Dean used. You do not cede anything to your opponents. The Democrats have for too long figured as long as they have the Black, Hispanic and for most part the woman’s vote they had it made as well as concentrating on a few big states with large electoral votes (Clinton did not even go into Wisconsin), and no doubt sometime in the future those demographics will be on their side. (Remember ‘The Emerging Democratic Majority by Judis) I think he called it ‘The Demographic Doomsday Clock ‘. The Democrats also are content the win the presidency and pay little attention to anything else at the grassroots level. Occupy Wall Street came and went, the Tea Party came and in a few years had enough people elected to shut down the government. What’s sad is that the Democratic Party had an incredible grassroots organization when Obama won his first term and it just went away. The Democrats win the White House and lose the country. Bill Clinton said every four year the Democrats fall in love, the Republican’s fall in line.

    Second, I am going to use the W word. White. The Democrats are going to have to figure out how to reach white working-class, non-college voters. “Since then white, traditional-values, working-class, predominantly male voters have been severed from their party so they could build an urban- and cosmopolitan-centered coalition of minorities, elites and women.” And not just the white working class voter, just working class voters. (Yes I am an old white guy who voted Democratic since McGovern). As I watched the Democratic convention, the first night I saw them celebrating people who illegally entered the country (my wife is a naturalized citizen so not sympathy from me. You want frustration, deal with the USCIS for a couple of years). Look at the map of the counties that Trump won. The Democrats need to field a candidate that is going to able to win back working class Americans. It needs to get done before the 2020 elections because that census will be the base for redistricting. Remember what Joe Hill said ‘don’t mourn organize’

    1. I don't disagree with most of what you write. I'm guessing that when you say "if the Democrats acted like Trump" you don't mean lied, pandered, insulted, etc. But rather paid attention to the real needs of disaffected white workers.
      I do think that pink caps were less problematic than many Trump supporters' T shirt slogans, and getting lots of people together is energizing and helps organizing. Finally, the massive amounts of disinformation (Benghazi and email hearings) and fake news from Russian trollers and Comey also played a role. And I'd argue that simply being a strong, competent women candidate lost her more than the margin of victory. Gerrymandering also played a big role in the House elections. But certainly, better organization and more listening would help.


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