Incompetence alone will not be enough to dethrone Trump

Incompetence alone will not be enough to dethrone Trump
5 min read
08 Aug, 2017
Comment: Only a clear and public failure coupled with a solid alternative can provide a way forward for America. And time is running out, writes Andrew Leber.
The administration's 'adults in the room' risk online bombardment if seen to obstruct Trump [Getty]
Monday was a fairly typical day for the president of the United States on Twitter - yet another shot across the bow at the "failing New York Times" (despite unprecedented growth in digital subscriptions so far this year), a reminder of his "big election win" (Trump was elected by the smallest margin of voters since Rutherford B Hayes in 1876), and touting of his "bigger & stronger base" (though his core supporters only number around 20 percent of voters).

Trump went on to attack Senator Blumenthal of Connecticut after the senator criticised him on CNN, sensationalising a seven-year-old story about Blumenthal exaggerating his military career in public speeches.

The sight of a draft dodger and pathological liar in the White House lecturing a critic on truthfulness and service to country might be a source of shame or irony to some, yet shame and irony are, as ever, dead on arrival at Trump's doorstep.

With this administration, we Americans - and, sadly, much of the world along with us - roll the cosmic dice anew with each waking day. Good fortune keeps us in a state of suspense, with the foibles and failings of Trump and friends quietly shifting the ledger against him, but doing little to spell out a full-scale rout of his supporters.

Only a clear and public failure, one that cannot easily be passed off on a traitorous Congress or obstructionist opposition, stands to demonstrante the administration's incompetence.

Recall that the lofty rhetoric of Bush-era neoconservatives - and their rosy dreams of re-making the Middle East all over again - was only dragged down to earth by the weight of cities reduced to smoking ruins and thousands of bodies of soldiers and civilians in post-invasion Iraq.

Likewise, President Bush's "compassionate conservatism" was truly laid bare by the lacklustre response to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, with years of hollowing out the federal government's responsiveness and Bush's shortcomings as a leader brought into sharp focus by the manmade failure that compounded a major natural disaster.

The obvious downside is that such a shock could come at ruinous cost to the United States.

Consider Michael Lewis' deep dive into Trump's Department of Energy for Vanity Fair, where the quiet dismantling of government machinery far from the public eye threatens the safety of millions through inexpert handling of nuclear weapons, radioactive waste, and the cybersecurity of the country's electrical grid.

Plenty of outsiders and sycophants have been brought in to run federal departments and agencies they either barely understand or are actively seeking to destroy.
Or think of the danger that might be wrought abroad by an unlucky roll of the dice.
The Democratic party still has little concrete to offer voters other than the prospect of being 'not Trump'
Analysts fret over North Korean nuclear tests, and whether Trump's diplomats can be trusted to exhaust all alternatives before triggering what might be the worst conflict since the Second World War.

At the same time, Trump and various officials may clear the path for yet further nuclear developments in Iran by tearing up the Obama-era nuclear agreement, all while doing precious little to counteract the Islamic Republic's expanded influence through conventional arms and proxy warfare across the Middle East. Should they succeed, we may soon roll two nuclear standoff dice each morning instead of just one.

To make matters worse, the administration's "adults in the room" - supposedly keeping US foreign policy in the realm of rationality - risk online bombardment if they are seen to obstruct the president's broader vision.

Read more: Trump is not the problem, America is

Professional hate-monger Mike Cernovich has joined Breitbart and others in attacking National Security Advisor McMaster after he purged the National Security Council of some of the aforementioned sycophants.

The political attacks included the vilest anti-Semitism I've ever seen wielded openly, as Cernovich and others in the right-wing rage machine tweeted out a Ben Garrison cartoon of McMaster and David Petraeus being controlled by George Soros and a decrepit hand labelled simply "Rothschilds".
The Democratic Party itself is probably only half or one-third of the way through its protracted identity politics crisis
Still, barring some public demonstration of why a team of amateurs does not make for the most effective government, people will see what they want to see. Cernovich and company will be dismissed as inconsequential hangers-on even as anti-Semitic attacks and other hate crimes rise dramatically.

Attack ads and liberal commentary alike will probably shift to focus more on proponents of violence and fiery rhetoric on the left, since here at least there is still some hope of shaming, shouting, or shunning opponents into submission.

The Democratic Party itself is probably only half or one-third of the way through its protracted identity politics crisis. The lowest-common-denominator slogan "A Better Deal" inspires few outside of the Democratic National Committee, while the party still has little concrete to offer voters other than the prospect of being "not Trump" - not an automatic win no matter what the level of GOP malfeasance, as recent electoral contests have demonstrated.

Time is running out to develop a better narrative than the doom and gloom Trump and company are content to spout and spin from on high - the counterpoints to the views expressed here are readily available online, and all too willing to craft new justifications for each incremental disaster.

Liberal and progressive victories beyond the local level will come only when candidates can push beyond "Trump has failed you" to credibly claim "Trump and the GOP have failed you - and here's how we'll help you succeed."

Andrew Leber is a PhD student in the department of government at Harvard University.

Follow him on Twitter: @AndrewMLeber


Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.