Forecasting Donald Trump’s demise

Note: This is the second in a series of blog postings emanating from work originally compiled for a Daily Bullshit entry. That text has now been moved here.

Update, August 21, 2017: When I originally published this entry, on August 19 at 1:10 pm, I failed to cite a source for my claim that Trump had flip-flopped on who was to blame for Charlottesville. Since then, the Los Angeles Times has published an article specifically documenting the flip-flops.[1] I have added the reference to the original.

Following Steve Bannon’s departure from the White House,[2] John Bennett at Roll Call considers Trump’s alienation of conservative factions, especially now what are really paleoconservatives.[3] There are actually two levels to this matter: First, there is the question of how much support Trump actually sacrifices by ditching Bannon. Paleoconservatives, apart from calling attention to themselves with protests such as at Charlottesville,[4] and occasional terrorist incidents, don’t really amount to much—and, truth be told, the less insane among them are well aware of this.

But, second, Donald Trump first blamed both sides, then was frog-marched into blaming the “alt right,” and then reverted to blaming both sides.[5] That’s making a lot of conservatives uncomfortable. And it led to the demise of Trump’s (functionalist conservative) business councils at the White House as corporate executives resigned en masse.[6]

This seems to me to reflect the cost-benefit analysis that many other conservatives are facing: At what point does Trump become so obnoxious that he is at least as large an impediment to the ‘conservative’ (as if it were monolithic) agenda as any president from the Democratic Party? It’s hard to see Trump lasting very long if he, as seems inevitable, alienates too many factions along this very question.

But how many factions? I don’t know. And I’m guessing it depends. The score currently looks something like this: Authoritarian populists, who have plenty of experience with “elite” betrayal, may be having their doubts but are still on board. Capitalist libertarians dislike Trump’s hawkishness with North Korea, Iran, and Syria, but are still hoping for tax reductions and deregulation. Functionalist conservatives are now against Trump. The tardy and ill-fated #NeverTrump movement during the 2016 election was a neoconservative effort but neoconservatives are few in number and most important inside the Beltway. Paleoconservatives never saw Trump as one of their own and will likely blame other players for Steve Bannon’s ouster (Bannon himself blames “West Wing Democrats”[7]). Social conservatives appear to be doing yet another dirty deal, so they might hold on for a while. Traditionalist conservative support is tepid at best, laced with plenty of harsh criticism for Trump’s warmongering.

But that doesn’t mean Republican voters and lawmakers are going to disown Trump.

“There’s the president,” [John] Feehery said. “And then there’s the president’s legislative agenda. And there is a lot of love for his agenda — health care, some kind of tax reform, and even on infrastructure — in the Republican Party.”[8]

The thing is, however, that this agenda, to the extent that it can advance at all, could probably more easily advance without the distractions of a Trump White House. Consider the possibility of a President Mike Pence.

I think there will still be problems which it might not be possible to overcome. Conservatives are not monolithic. But Pence would bring a different mix, substituting what is probably mostly traditionalist conservatism for Trump’s authoritarian populism. And to the extent that he is indeed traditionalist conservative, women have considerable cause for concern: Traditionalist conservatives reject the legality of even divorce and contraception.[9]

  1. [1]Colleen Shalby, “From blaming ‘many sides’ to ‘racism is evil’ and back again, what Trump has said so far on Charlottesville,” Los Angeles Times, August 21, 2017,
  2. [2]Michael C. Bender and Peter Nicholas, “Steve Bannon, Controversial Aide to Trump, Exits White House Staff,” Wall Street Journal, August 18, 2017,
  3. [3]John T. Bennett, “Trump Is Quickly Running Out of GOP Factions to Alienate,” Congressional Quarterly Roll Call, August 18, 2017,
  4. [4]Joe Heim, “Recounting a day of rage, hate, violence and death,” Washington Post, August 14, 2017,
  5. [5]Colleen Shalby, “From blaming ‘many sides’ to ‘racism is evil’ and back again, what Trump has said so far on Charlottesville,” Los Angeles Times, August 21, 2017,
  6. [6]Vanessa Fuhrmans, “CEOs Rethink Alliances With White House,” Wall Street Journal, August 15, 2017,; Emily Glazer, Sarah Krouse, and Elena Cherney, “Trump’s Business Councils Disband After CEOs Defect,” Wall Street Journal, August 16, 2017,
  7. [7]Peter J. Boyer, “Bannon: ‘The Trump Presidency That We Fought For, and Won, Is Over,’” Weekly Standard, August 18, 2017,
  8. [8]John T. Bennett, “Trump Is Quickly Running Out of GOP Factions to Alienate,” Congressional Quarterly Roll Call, August 18, 2017,
  9. [9]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).

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