The Next Four Years.

November 11, 2016



Back in March I wrote that Hillary Clinton had a huge messaging problem. Turned out it was worse than I thought. I also wrote that the Republicans would let the Trump dog and pony show play out as long as they could and would suffer any embarrassment as long as it got them the White House. That also proved to be true, although I got the name wrong of who the Republican president would be.


Guess what? The news is only going to get worse.


You might ask how is this possible?


Have you seen the people Trump is putting in his cabinet? Myron Ebell, a man who has made his career being an activist climate change denier, for Secretary of the EPA? Ben Carson, a doctor who believes that religion takes priority over science, for Secretary of Education? Sarah Palin for Secretary of Interior? I donít even need to go into what a FUBAR that is. Oh, that clown car is going to get much, much worse based on the names that are being floated about. But thatís not even the worst part.


The worst is that Donald Trump will not be president by 2019; Mike Pence will.


And if that doesnít freak you out, then you probably donít know who Mike Pence is.


Two parts:

The first part Ė what will happen to Trump?

He will no doubt be impeached. Look, Donald Trump is a personality, not a businessman. He plays one on TV but honestly what kind of businessman can lose a billion dollars running a casino? He avoids paying taxes but thatĎs because he hired effective accountants and tax attorneys. You donít honestly think Donald Trump stays at home in April with a pencil and an adding machine filing out his own taxes by hand do you? I canít imagine him using TurboTax either. So basically he hires people to do his business thinking for him. Heís just the face of the franchise, which is essentially all he does these days: sell his name for people to slap on their buildings. He doesnít really even build anything anymore because heís been sued so often for breach of contract. That kind of devil-may-care attitude wonít play well in a job that demands lots of focus and remembering lots of details and lots of diplomacy. It was pretty clear from the campaign that he does not have the temperament or the patience or the discipline to be an effective president. Can you imagine him sitting through the morning security briefing with all the details with foreign names? Itís just not in his DNA. Heís also so thin-skinned and so eager to show what a big-shot he is that he will undoubtedly tweet something Ė either a state secret or something offensive directed at a foreign dignitary Ė that will warrant removal from office. Heís also got the little problem of a fraud case before the courts that the presiding judge has advised him to settle.


But even if he does survive his legal troubles, heís also going to have to get along with a Republican Congress that already has plans to privatize Social Security and Medicare and gut the mandates from the ACA in order to allow insurance companies to refuse anyone they please. Trump has actually said that there are some parts of Obamacare that he likes. That wonít play well with the ultra-reactive, arch conservatives who want to white-out Obama from the history books. He promised to implement term limits on Congress but that is going to run into some virulent opposition from the people he seeks to limit, especially since they are the ones who have to vote on it. Trump won because he promised the disenfranchised something to make their lives a little easier, but if all he does is cuts taxes on corporations expecting them to bring jobs home from overseas (they wonít), re-write the tax code to favor only those making $150,000 or more (which will be the result of his current tax plan), and then pillages the middle and lower classesí remaining retirement and returns them to the mercy of the insurance company bean-counters, there really are going to be mobs with pitchforks storming the gates. But if he doesnít toe the party line and goes off message Ė as heís done so often - the Republican Congress will not have to struggle to find a reason to impeach him. Trump is basically in a pickle: take orders from Congressional leaders, or go with his whim and get impeached. If he does the latter, the only way he stays in office is to mobilize the people who voted for him to put massive pressure on Congress. Given this Congressí imperviousness to public opinion Ė they have one of the lowest approval ratings of any Congress in modern history - that likely wonít matter. Trump is basically gone if he behaves like Trump.


Trumpís impeachment will put Mike Pence into the presidencyÖ the second part.

And this is where it gets worse. Much worse. Mike Pence is a Republican insider, and has been since his days on the Agriculture and Judiciary sub-committees back in 2001.Why worry about him? Well, if you are LGBT, while he was governor of Indiana he implemented the most restrictive law in any state regarding their civil rights. He believes in conversion therapy. He thinks homosexuals should not be able to serve in the military. He voted against a law that banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the workplace. He signed bills restricting abortions including one that prohibited the operation even if the baby would be born severely disabled. On health issues he has battled against needle exchange programs, defunded Planned Parenthood despite an HIV outbreak in his state in 2014 (one of the things Planned Parenthood does is offer HIV testing), and passed a bill that mandated that all fetuses that do not come to term, whether due to miscarriage or abortion, must be buried or cremated. Fortunately, the Supreme Court struck down that law as unconstitutional. He doesnít believe in evolution and is firmly committed to the idea that one day intelligent design will win the argument.


Pence cut funding to universities and social services. Economic growth in his state ranked last in the country while he was governor. He signed laws blocking local governments from requiring businesses to offer higher wages or benefits beyond those required by federal law. He repealed a law that required construction companies working on publicly funded projects to pay a prevailing wage. He abolished inheritance taxes, and despite making Indianaís corporate tax rate the second lowest in the country, lost two of the stateís largest private employers, Carrier Corp and UTEC. While a congressman he voted against a passenger and freight rail that would have been paid for by a federal stimulus package, but when he became governor, turned 180 degrees and approved it. So heís fine accepting federal money but refuses to give it out. He also tried to launch a taxpayer-funded newspaper/news service that would basically be a mouthpiece for the state government, kind of like a Midwest Pravda. He wants to return to the gold standard. He stands against almost all immigration. He railed against the tobacco settlement and tobacco regulation, saying that it infringed on privacy. He likened the 2012 Supreme Courtís upholding of the Affordable Care Act to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He is against legalization of marijuana and in fact wants to instate 10-year minimum prison sentences as a penalty for possession.


He is hugely in favor of trade pacts, like NAFTA, CAFTA and the TPP, which is ironic since those are one of the reasons he lost Carrier and UTEC in his state. Nevertheless, he is lock-step with the Republican Congress that wants to outsource tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs and give foreign companies equal legal footing in this country. He is also massively in favor of the Citizenís United decision, stating that it took us ďone step closer to the Founding Fatherís vision of free speech.Ē In case you didnít know, before 1857, corporations in the US were required to have a clear purpose and could not exist beyond their stated purpose. For example, if you started a corporation for the purpose of building ten houses, you had to state that in your articles of incorporation and once those houses were built, your corporation was dissolved. Itís ok if you didnít know that; Mike Pence clearly didnít either.


But perhaps long term what is most disturbing about Mike Penceís tenure in Indiana is his consistent rejection of renewable and clean energy initiatives in favor of the coal industry. He has fought against carbon taxes and even threatened to defy federal law if the EPAís Clean Power Plan were put into place. He voted against the regulation of greenhouse gases and energy efficiency laws but voted for fossil fuel development and subsidies, as well as increased offshore drilling.In short, he thinks we live in the year 1916 rather than 2016. For a world that is probably nearing a tipping point, these next few years might be our last chance to stave off some of the catastrophic effects of global climate change (including ocean acidification, which no one talks about). This is really, really bad news.


Frankly, it is not too hard to imagine that this was the plan all along. If Trump self-destructed before the convention, the RNC could push someone they really wanted to be the candidate. Once the convention happened, a Trump self-destruction would enable Mike Pence to take the reins. Now that Trump won, they can just wait until Trump melts down under the pressure and move their guy into the Oval.


So if you thought it was bad that Trump won the Presidency, or if you voted for him thinking he was going to change things in Washington, well, your next four years have gotten considerably bleaker. It seems sadly ironic that Iím writing this on Veteranís Day. That so many have devoted their lives to defending the principles our founding fathers laid out in order to preserve the inalienable right to life, liberty and happiness because there was a fundamental truth that all people are equal in the eyes of their Creator, and this is how it turns out.