Saturday, July 21, 2018

Red Tide Out, Blue Wave In

If something can't last forever, it won't. That's an economics/stock market truism; the problem always is, when will it stop lasting? Many a person has gotten the first point right but missed the second point and gone bust. Timing is everything for hitters, comedians and traders, and some people have it and some people don't. The pundits got it wrong for over a year with Trump, so they're hesitant to step up now.  There's a lot of tentativeness around.

So it is with full knowledge of the hazards of prediction, with full knowledge of the stock market saying “Nobody rings a bell at the top,” that I say that I think we've seen the top of Trump, at long last. It might have been when the tax bill finally passed and the Trump Crime Family got their biggest payoff. That might have been the top. We know that he could shoot somebody in broad daylight in the middle of Fifth Avenue and get away with it, but time and the tides wait for no man, and the tide might have finally turned. As we sit here watching TV and our Twitter feeds, just as one sits drink in hand and watches the sea, we might just be seeing an inkling, and who knows if it's simply a short-term pullback before another advance, but I think it's the tide turning, not just a momentary lapse in momentum. 

We'll have to see a few further events. Does Kavanaugh really get roughed up? Does a Putin visit provoke a profound reaction? Does registration of millennials advance significantly? Do other unforeseeable events signal a profound retracement of the Trump takeover of the Republican party and the government? Or, does it just become more visible that there is a cadre of senior officials who are providing a significant defense to Trump from within the government, and people start wanting to align with them? Something will happen sometime and people will say “that was it,” but there was always going to be something that was “it,” because sometime it us just going to be, time's up, Mr. Man.

If I'm right, that we have hit the top, what we'll see now is some gradual erosion, lessening of the shock of Trump tirades and outrages, and some small erosions of support here and there. The conservative columnists are increasing their defections. Polls might not show marked decreases of support, but they will stop showing upticks. And then, if the tide is really running out, the next major event would be a big wave that would come in after the tide went out, and instead of a Red one, it will be a Blue Wave. Then we'll know. The Dems would take the House by a significant margin. Not only would the disadvantaged Dems not lose seats in the Senate, they would gain control, and knock Obnoxious Ted out of the Texas seat. Red Tide out, Blue Wave in – that's when it will become evident that the tide has turned. That's when it will seem that Trump has been an aberration and not a long term trend.

One hopes, of course, that it will happen that way, Red Tide out, Blue Wave in. But like any human event and any stock market, nothing is written in stone. It may be that the top has been reached, but it takes a long time to reverse; gains are not made, but neither are significant losses incurred, and a holding pattern ensues with stagnation. Or it may be that we are in for far more trouble than we now know, and Trump actually makes gains. That could happen, too, although the odds are against it. Or the Dem gains could be very moderate. In the stock market there are “V” bottoms, but not many “V” tops – tops take time to develop, and that might be the way here. Both markets and politics are exercises in mass psychology. Maybe we'll get a quick reversal though, if we think that Trump's ascent has actually been a quick descent of normality – markets take the fast elevator down, but the slow escalator up, so maybe that's what we've been seeing, a real bear market in politics with the Trump Crime Family, so we can hope for a V bottom, a fast recovery. But we'll just have to see.

In any case, whatever happens, one wonders if there will be a reformation of the Democratic Party establishment. If the Dems don't win this election after all the impetus Trump has supplied, there will have to be wholesale change, no question. Even if they do win in a wave, however, it's possible that enough people will see that wholesale change is necessary. It's now perfectly obvious how the Republicans have eaten the Democrats' lunch for many years. There have been the last two disastrous elections, 2014 and 2016. Longer term, while the Kochs and Republicans figured out how to take all the statehouses and local elections throughout the country, how to promote conservative policies at that level (ALEC), and how to get ahold of redistricting, the Democrats did, essentially, nothing. For all Obama's electoral success personally, he did nothing to strengthen the party apparatus. The Democratic seniors have monopolized power for a very long time, and have not fulfilled a key leadership function – to identify, attract, nurture, and promote younger people with ability in order to pass on leadership to them. Instead, for instance, Nancy Pelosi's choices for younger members to promote were, hold your breath, Anthony Weiner and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. I was amazed to read in a recent Dan Walter column (California state politics columnist) that the Democratic leadership put pressure on the now-85 year old Diane Feinstein to run for Senate again so the party could be secure in her winning and would be able to shift funds elsewhere. If DiFi had retired, as she should have, there would have been a contest for younger people to step up – but no, the Dems even with their short bench and pressing need to find national-level leaders, had to push the 85 year old. As depressing as it is amazing.

If the Blue Wave doesn't materialize, with this history, complete reorganization of the Democratic organization will clearly be on the line – fire everyone, get Obama back to chair a reorganization committee, and get to work. To my mind, even if a Blue Wave does materialize, that's what should be done, but the likelihood for doing it would decrease. There is still a lot of work to be done by the Dems. There needs to be a better and more effective way to rise within the party. Obama had to do it very much on his own. Bernie came from the outside as well. There have to be better pathways to the top. The bench needs to be longer and more active. The gerontocracy needs to release power to the younger people.

Intensity and organization can make the Blue Wave come. Trump has certainly done his share to make the opposition intense. The Dems need to make their contribution; there needs to be good turnout, which is driven by intensity and organization. Although I obviously have reservations about the ability of the Democrats, I'm predicting a Blue Wave. I'm hoping for a Blue Wave. One of these days, I might even bet on a Blue Wave. But first, I'll have to see the Red Tide go out a little more, and then see in the distance, a blue swell rising in the ocean beyond. I'll be looking for it. But meanwhile, I'm very hopeful.

Budd Shenkin

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