Trump's Rump

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Birdjaguar, Jan 30, 2021.

  1. Farm Boy

    Farm Boy The long wait

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    There is always a reason. Whether we are evil, stupid, or whatever enough to cry or not.

    But yes, predictably, by that time we were solving mass human bondage with mass human slaughter, and the right to be charged with a crime while detailed by the government was in suspension. Fitting, in its way.

    If you do not feel some urge to sniffle with a stiff upper lip at this point, welp. There you are.
     
  2. Traitorfish

    Traitorfish The Tighnahulish Kid

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    What you're describing there is a loop-hole: that the Constitution reserves the explicit power to declare war to Congress, but provides for the President to wield such sweeping power over the US military as to make that little more than a technicality. The president doesn't need to appropriate this power because he can quite straightforwardly work around it.

    No such loophole exists in this case: the constitution both empowers and compels Congress to appoint a caretaker president, and presents limitations on who is eligible for appointment. There is no loophole by which the sitting president may extent his term to sit alongside the constitutionally-mandated caretaker president. Unlike Popes, there really can only be one US president at any given time. (Not that the idea of Trump setting up his own Avignon antipresidency in Mar-a-lago isn't entertaining, mind you.)

    If you can think of some mechanism by which could appropriate this power without explicitly violating the constitution, I'm all ears, but this seems to be one of the areas in which the distinction between legislative and executive power is actually fairly clear.

    My point is that, while the Republican is undoubtedly engaged in war against American democracy, this is a war of attrition fought through the legislature, not a war of manoeuvre to capture supreme executive power. Their tools are gerrymandering, voter suppression and abuse of procedure, by which they seek to achieve a permanent legislative majority that prevents the president from doing anything whatsoever without their consent, and which consequently forces him to carry out their preferred policies if he hopes to achieve even a fraction of his own. Making a sudden grab towards dictatorship is not only contrary to the spirit and practice of this campaign, it would spoil most of their hard-won gains: what good is a gerrymandered senate if some dickhead in gold epaulettes decides that he's just going to rule by decree? Why did Mitch McConnell kiss all those hands and shake all those babies if some oaf is just going to declare himself Emperor and be done with the whole legislative apparatus?

    The ideal Republican outcome is not that a member of their party, least of all one as loosely affiliated as Donald Trump, appoints himself to the office of El Jefe Supremo: this would, in fact, be an enormous ball-ache for everybody concerned. The ideal outcome is the presidency being reduced to a mere premiership, serving at the whim of the Congressional leadership and the gerrymandered majority they command. Far from a president-for-life, they want a president who can be disposed of in three months if circumstances dictate. These people are not ideologues seeking to create a Fourth Rome, they are craven politicos grasping after their own personal power and enrichment, and that of their benefactors; they don't want autocracy, they wanted managed democracy.

    The focus on the phantasmic "Reichstag moment" of Donald Trump, I therefore contend, is not about plausible threats to American democracy, it is about justifying the liberal and progressive fixation on the unique historical malevolence of Donald Trump, even as his actual power lies in ruins. It's a story that allows us to believe that his administration represented incipient tyranny even as the closing days of his presidency revealed it a badly-managed circus held together by opportunity and inertia. And from a political standpoint, that's understandable, because shared revulsion for Trump is the only thing holding the Democratic electoral coalition together at this point. It's certainly not their policies, or any sort of enthusiasm for the crumbling mummy they've propped up behind the Resolute desk. But I am not a DNC operative, and nobody here is a DNC operative, so we are under no obligation to maintain narratives which obscure reality in favour of partisan interests.
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2021
  3. El_Machinae

    El_Machinae Colour vision since 2018 Retired Moderator

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    Not completely, because they can still impeach. Sure, it makes extrication from the war hard, but it immediately takes away that president's power to conduct the war
     
  4. RobAnybody

    RobAnybody Emperor

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    I think when it comes to the general subject of "could Trump have invoked some weird power to overthrow the government" I have two takeaways:

    1) He literally did everything he could, including, but not limited to: pressuring other countries, lying constantly, inciting an insurrection, & influencing the DoJ. So, win for the system? In that he ultimately failed? But...
    2) I worry about what a competent wannabe autocrat could do given our system. I don't think #1 closes the door on what's possible, which is scary. He exposed a lotta weaknesses by showing how important "decorum" & "unwritten rules" really are.
     
  5. Farm Boy

    Farm Boy The long wait

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    Trump pulled in a record breaking amount of support. How competent do you want? How stiff must the institutions must be? In rigidity comes brittleness, ideology, and harm.
     
  6. FriendlyFire

    FriendlyFire Codex WMDicanious

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    Obstruct <---- we are here now

     
  7. stinkubus

    stinkubus Emperor

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    There's no need to resort to impeachment. Congress could simply decline to provide funding.

    The Speaker of the House could unilaterally end the empire by refusing to allow appropriations a vote.
     
  8. El_Machinae

    El_Machinae Colour vision since 2018 Retired Moderator

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    Declining funding would definitely complicate everything much more than impeachment would, if the problem was the President abusing military authority. You'd need to fund the withdrawal and it's too easy to reallocate those funds to pushing forwards, necessitating more funds. Impeachment just removes the main source of the problem.

    We've seen multiple times now that defunding the venture wasn't politically viable.
     
  9. Lexicus

    Lexicus Deity

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    No, this is just not true, and not what I wrote. The US President has sweeping power over the US military, in theory, but Congress can simply decline to appropriate funding for whatever military operations the President wants to engage in. The President cannot "work around" this power. Similarly, the President cannot "work around" the Congressional power of impeachment (though it seems the courts are allowing the President to work around the Congressional powers of investigation and oversight through endless litigation).

    But neither of those powers means anything if Congress is unwilling or unable to exercise them. The impeachment power basically short-circuited as soon as Washington left office: in other words, almost immediately. The Constitution's framers themselves said that the system would only work if Congress jealously guarded its own prerogatives as a body, and that the whole system would collapse if, say, a substantial faction in Congress emerged that had partisan loyalties to the President. I repeat: this happened within the lifetimes of the framers.

    Now, one could of course bring up Nixon as a counterexample but we don't actually know what would have happened if he'd refused to go, and in any case the Republicans saw what happened to Nixon and set about building a media and political infrastructure that would ensure it would never happen again (and this effort was in turn so successful that Republicans wouldn't convict Trump even after he sent a mob to kill them).

    Yes and no. I don't think McConnell wants to see the President reduced to the errand-boy of Congress: but it is true that autocratic rule in the US is completely unnecessary as far as maintaining the regime of capital accumulation. McConnell & co are opportunists, though, and had Trump succeeded in usurping the Constitution I think they'd certainly have gone along with it.
     
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  10. Traitorfish

    Traitorfish The Tighnahulish Kid

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    I know that is not what you said. It is not what I said you said.

    We were concerned, in this analogy, solely with the formal power to declare war. The constitution of the United States reserves the power to issue formal declarations of war to Congress, but allows to the president the effective power to bring the country into what we would generally recognise as a state of war with such a formal declaration, in effect creating a loophole where the president can subvert the spirit of the constitution without violating its letter. He can "work around this power" in the sense that he can carry out actions which any contemporary observer would understand as "going to war", without having to satisfy the constitution's archaic eighteenth century assumptions about what "going to war" means. Congress may have other powers which can hinder the president in exploiting this loophole, but that is not the point; the point is that the president can exploit the loophole because the loophole exists.

    My contention is that no such loophole exists regarding the presidential succession: that the specific power to appoint an interim presidency is reserved both in form and in practice to the Congress; that no constitutional mechanism exists by the which president could appropriate this power for himself, by which he could violate the spirit of the constitution without also violating its letter; that to achieve such an appropriation, the president would already have carried out a successful coup, and the appropriation would be nothing more than a ceremonial nicety. If you believe that any such loophole exists, by all means, describe it, but I have not yet seen any indication that such a loophole exists.
     
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  11. Lexicus

    Lexicus Deity

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    The only "effective coup" the President needs to carry out is to have a Supreme Court majority of his partisans, and a large enough Congressional minority of his partisans to stymie any effective action to counter him.
     
  12. Traitorfish

    Traitorfish The Tighnahulish Kid

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    How would a majority of the Supreme Court allow the president to directly appropriate powers which are explicitly reserved to Congress? What is the mechanism?
     
  13. Lexicus

    Lexicus Deity

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    Congress impeaches the President for plainly illegal acts that go against the text of the Constitution, but cannot secure a conviction because there are more than 33 Senators of the President's Party. Congress then sues the President in an attempt to get an injunction to stop the President from acting in a clearly illegal manner. The Supreme Court throws out the lawsuit.
     
  14. Traitorfish

    Traitorfish The Tighnahulish Kid

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    The issue here is that it is not simply "illegal" for the president to a appoint himself to the role of acting president; the issue that there is no mechanism for him to do so. He could just declare himself the acting president, but so what? He could declare himself king, that would not turn the United States into a monarchy. It doesn't matter if the Supreme Court refused to act against him: there is no mechanism compelling any federal officer to cooperate with such a nonsensical declaration. Trump could make such a declaration now, if he wished, and it would be every bit as forceful as one made on 19th January.

    So for the president to make such a declaration with the expectation of the cooperation of the federal government means that he has already achieved the means to rule extra-constitutionally and by decree, that some mechanism has been achieved which would compel federal officers to cooperate with the declaration, that he has already carried out a successful coup and is merely in the process of consolidating it. No explanation has been provided for how this coup would be achieved, it just assumed to have already happened. That is my complaint.
     
  15. Lexicus

    Lexicus Deity

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    I mean, perhaps because it is obvious? You staff the upper echelons of federal law enforcement, the military, and the intelligence agencies with your partisans. The mechanism to stop this from happening is Congressional approval for many of these posts. Trump did not get Congressional approval for many of his appointments so they were "acting" this and "acting" that but they were still in place.

    That Trump really didn't make a sustained effort to do this kind of thing does not mean it is impossible to do.

    But anyway, I agree with you that the reactionary right does not need to do any of this, because liberal democracy is basically already "managed" enough that it is more-or-less incapable of producing outcomes that really threaten capital.

    I even agree with you that libs want to catastrophize Trump specifically, and that the danger was always less from Trump himself than from how his megalomaniacal impulses interacted with the already-existing apparatus for Republican minority rule. I believe I am on record here saying repeatedly that our problems were much bigger than Trump and would not go away when he did.
     
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  16. Traitorfish

    Traitorfish The Tighnahulish Kid

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    But again, what you're highlighting is a loophole: the Constitution requires the president to seek Congressional approval to appoint permanent federal office holders, but does not compel him to actually appoint permanent federal office-holders, thus, he can effectively bypass certain checks on his power. He can violate the spirit of the law without violating the word.

    Where is the loophole that allows the president to extend his term indefinitely? What in the text allows the presidency to violate the spirit of the constitution without also, at the same time, violating the word? I'm sorry to belabour the theme, but where is the mechanism?

    We cannot proceed from "the president has opportunities to disregard separation of powers" to "the president is not bound by the separation of powers". If we do, then we are proposing that the United States is already an autocracy, and that for some reason nobody, including the autocrats, happen to have noticed.

    I think this is back-to-front: they do not seek to establish managed democracy because it is easier than dictatorship, but because it is preferable.

    Dictatorships or strongmen are usually propped up on a handful of specific interests, most usually resource-extraction industries, in which a small clique of capitalists with shared interests can either control or negotiate directly with the strongman. It's a political model suited to simple economies dominated by a single sector. That isn't suitable for American capital, which requires the managing of multiple competing interests. I'm sure that Texas oilmen would be happy to prop up a generalissimo, but you aren't going to convince Wall Street, Big Tech or Big Pharma to just law down and subordinate themselves to oil interests. The current system allows all these different sectional interests access to power, allows the American ruling class too negotiate its way to political consensus, where dictatorship (or even an overly-strong presidency) would force them to compete for the attention and patronage of one individual. It would be a massive pain in the arse.

    The only way you could apply a dictatorship to this economic context if it was effectively ceremonial, if all the decisions-made-in-smokey-rooms continue as before and all that changed was substituting the spectacle of autocracy for the spectacle of democracy, and there really isn't a viable way to achieve that in the context of currently-existing American institutions.
     
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  17. Berzerker

    Berzerker Deity

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    so have any of the insurrectionists been sentenced to death or life in prison yet?
     
  18. EnglishEdward

    EnglishEdward Deity

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    People enjoy fantasies, and the interesting thing about the persistence of this thread
    is that it demonstrates that people enjoy nightmare fantasies.

    Having clearly lost the election, the Donald stood no chance of running a successful coup.

    His only chance of out staying his 4 year term without being re-elected was to use Covid
    to declare a national emergency and postpone the presidential election.

    But he gambled that he would win it and he lost.

    After that his position was hopeless. Even if his supporters successfully storm the capitol,
    the republicans declared for him and he'd nobbled the supreme court, his continued term as
    an extended president would have been seen as so constitutionally outrageous that sooner or
    later the military or the secret service would have disposed of him one way or the other.
     
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  19. Zkribbler

    Zkribbler Deity

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    The cases I've seen have resulted in slaps on the wrist...just a few months or, in one case, time served. :shake:
     
  20. Joij21

    Joij21 Emperor

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    That's what would have happened in reality.

    The only reason this thread exists is because to a lot of people on this forum, including the OP, Trump has basically become a common catharsis to blame all one's problems on without seeing the flaws within themselves. They are mostly American voters who have themselves tolerated all the crappy things the Government has done to allow Trump to rise in the first place.

    Unfortunately Americans never want to blame themselves for collective responsibility, they are too prideful, therefore they need a boogie man to point to without ever solving the real issues that face modern society.
     
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