Amber Rudd’s Departure, Lying for the Liar-in Chief, Centrist Yearnings

April 30, 2018 Leave a comment

Rudd Leaves But Backs Remain

The resignation of Amber Rudd shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, even if the timing, late on a Sunday evening, was somewhat unexpected. She had come under sustained pressure for her handling of the ‘Windrush Affair’(whereby descendants of the Afro-Caribbean 1948 generation were treated as non-citizens) which left her open to the charge of not being up to her brief. The Home Office has been the graveyard of many an ambitious politician, and little seems to have changed (the office of state being split into two has not stopped the dysfunction on the operations side of things) since John Reid labeled the department as unfit for purpose. But there are other implications with her firing too.

There is, with all the Brexit insanity, and a consuming of nearly all substantial government time, a balance in Theresa May’s cabinet between Remainers and Brexiteers. Rudd is one of the former and was a strong advocate for a remain vote in the 2016 referendum. While her replacement, Sajid Javid, also campaigned to stay in the European Union, she was someone prepared to be vocal in her opposition to some of Boris Johnson’s wilder forays. She is, despite the policies she had to stand over, a liberal by inclination.

There’s the hope that Rudd will have the freedom on the backbenches to speak up even more now that she has lost ministerial responsibility. She’s certainly a voice that needs to be heard on Europe. Yet, she has to carry the can for a government department that seems to have targeted British citizens for the colour of their skin. Sajiid Javid has a full in-tray today. His main aim should be to change the tone of the department. It is doubtful if he has the backing, though, to make Britain truly a more tolerant place for those seeking to live there.

Lying for the Liar-in-Chief

The latest Trump flare-up was for once something he didn’t do himself. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House Spokeswoman who has barely gone a day telling the truth, was supposedly personally belittled by comedienne Michelle Wolf at the White House Correspondents Dinner. Andrea Mitchell, Maggie Haberman and other grandees of the inside-baseball club that pass for fearless, incorruptible reporters, took umbrage at what they claimed were remarks made about Sanders’ appearance. If you play the tape, you’ll see that the remarks were at worst ambiguous, and can just as easily be applied to Sanders’ behavior as Trump’s serial liar in chief.

And here in lies the rub. There are some excellent journalists who were at that dinner, and weren’t, who rightly pointed out that if you’re offended by some remarks about Sanders, where were you for the last two years as Trump’s bullying and racism went lower and lower? It’s possible to personalize this even more; some of those correspondents are paid many multiples of most of their colleagues. What do they offer? Access. And how do they keep that access? By pretending that Sanders is just a normal press officer doing her job.

They need to wake up. America is still in big trouble. Only Robert Mueller and the November elections stand between the fight back of democratic norms, and the consolidation of authoritarian power in the three branches of American government. Sarah Sanders is fair game for any criticism. She is an apologist and propagandist for the bully-in-chief. Trump’s modus operandi is to punch low and hard. Sure, you can aim high. But if you aim high all the time, he will steam roll you, just as he did with most of the US press who were unable to challenge his lies. He played them for suckers, and won.

Centrist Musings

The recent Observer story about plans to start up a centre party based around remain, retro third-wayism, and liberal social policies, highlighted just how much there may be a yearning for an alternative, but that the practicalities of setting up such a party may be insurmountable. While many centrists look across the English channel and admire and wish to emulate Macron’s example, such is the inertia in the Westminster political system, that such an outcome may be a long way away. There is a vehicle for disillusioned remainers out there, and that is the Liberal Democrats. But they may not have the traction to make an electoral breakthrough.

There are moderate Tory voters who are turned off by the hard Brexit rhetoric coming from the leavextremists. Most of the Labour parliamentary Labour party is still soft-left and opposed to Corbynism. Nearly 50% of the country voted to stay in the EU. Sadly, for those who dream of a big-bang change, the legacy of the last centrist start up, the SDP, is not a good one. England is more polarised now than for any time since the 1970s. There is no easy way out of this. Centrists fear things will get worse before they get better.

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Russian Nerve Attack, Danger of Bolton, Brexit Tick-Tock

March 30, 2018 Leave a comment

Putin outside the Pale

The welcome news that Yulia Skripal has recovered consciousness does not negate the seriousness or effect of the attack on her father. The international response to this outrage has been good on the diplomatic front, but lacks real teeth when it comes to tackling the washing of Russian dirty money in the international markets. There is a recognition that Putin has, once again, gone too far, and that he must pay some sort of price for his flagrant flouting of international norms. The man is himself a rogue agent on the world stage, has been given chance after chance in organizations like the G8 and G20, and does not play by any rules of basic decency or constitutionality. He has brought this on himself. Putin still has many defenders in the West who choose to ignore his appalling human rights abuses and the fact that he is a dictator in all but name. Instead, western fellow travelers back him to the hilt because he is an enemy of the liberal international order, and this has become the new bogeyman for both the hard right and the hard left. If we really want to hurt the Putin regime and help the Russian people, supporters of democratic freedoms may have to accept a riskier world as a result. We don’t know for sure what his reaction will be if we go after his ill gotten gains, but we know there may be other incidents like the nerve agent attack. The Kremlin has sought to bully their way in global affairs, be it in Georgia, Ukraine, or Syria. Putin only understands a tough approach and sees the West’s divisions as a sign of its inherent weakness. Now we have an opportunity to try and disprove his cynicism and to stand up for what we believe in.

The Eve of Destruction?

The chances of an accidental or deliberate nuclear conflagration have risen since Trump has announced the appointment of John Bolton to replace HR McMaster as an imminent replacement for HR McMaster. McMaster was considered one of the ‘adults in the room’ in the rogue administration and a steadying influence on Trumpian insanity and ignorance. His replacement is more than the opposite. He is an American foreign power nationalist, holding inflammatory views about intervention in both North Korea and Iran. The hard work that the Obama team did to win the Iran deal will probably be for naught now if Bolton has his way. He may then urge the waging of war on two fronts, with consequences that are impossible to predict to any degree of clarity. His is the counsel of an intemperate, unqualified, and calculating individual. Trump may well, and hopefully will, have his presidency end in impeachment and disgrace, but that is by no means a given. He may well set the wheels in motion that lead to catastrophic consequences for the Korean peninsula or in the Middle East. Bolton will speak comfort and warm words to power when what the not strategically-minded president will lap up as a confirmation of Trump’s own brilliance. The chaotic last fourteen months has confirmed most observer’s worst fears. This is someone who only has his own and his family’s interests at heart. He does not have the capacity for empathy to understand or appreciate nuance. In Bolton, Trump has a soul-mate. A bull in a china shop, arrogant and ignorant. We’re so used to the clown show that we lose sight sometimes of the real dangers, the things we should be scared of. John Bolton is not in post yet. It will be a dangerous time for us all when he is.

May Madness in Going Broke for Brexit

Only a year to go before the United Kingdom is out of the European Union. What’s even stranger is the thought that less than three years ago, it looked as though Ed Miliband was on course to become Prime Minister, and history would have been so different. The May minority government can stop this madness but refuses to do so. It looks like a Eurosceptic Labour party leader may well vote with her anyway when the negotiated settlement comes before parliament. Corbyn’s recent sacking of front bencher Owen Smith over calls for a second referendum shows his natural inclinations. Brexit will happen, and it will go down as one of the biggest strategic errors made in modern times by a major economic power. But as long as the leavers have their blue passports and the other cultural ephemera, they’ll be happy. They’ll be poorer, most of them anyway, and will still blame Europe or ‘foreigners’ for most of their woes, yet they’ll claim they’ve taken back control. Labour needs to stop taking a step forward, step backwards, and represent the real needs of working people, who will be worse off for leaving the EU. The clock is ticking.

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Labour EU gambit & NRA on the run

February 27, 2018 Leave a comment

Labour Soft Brexit puts it up to Tories

The Brexit pendulum has moved markedly in the ‘soft’ direction following Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to favour a customs union. While there are many in Labour who would rather they go further and plump for the single market, it is progress for the majority of MPs and party members who have sought a softening of the leave blow. Half a loaf is sometimes better than no loaf at all.

The Brexit debate in Britain has been marked by enormous indecision and lack of leadership from Theresa May. Her policy seems to have shifted from supporting a customs union, to being against one. It’s as though Boris Johnson’s much derided statement about being pro-cake and pro-eating of cake has now become the fanciful negotiating line. The Brexiteers in cabinet have achieved no trade deals of note, or promises of same. They have been exposed as the charlatans their critics were expecting.

For Labour, Credit has to go to Kier Starmer in particular for holding the line. A relatively new parliamentarian, who is decidedly on the moderate wing, he has managed to temper Corbyn’s natural euro-scepticism, and directed policy in a more reasonable direction. There’s a political advantage to this too. As long as the hard right of the Tory party keep maintaining the not a foot, not an inch, approach to Brexit, the more Labour will seem like a credible alternative. A Labour government is committed to leaving the European Union. But, there’s still the possibility that this will only take place if a referendum on the negotiation outcomes is held. It’s not ideal, but it may be the most that remainers can expect.

The Irish government, for one, will welcome this policy shift, and will, and who would have written this less than two years ago, be rooting for a Corbyn administration. The contempt of the Little England Conservatives for the East-West relationship has been shocking to behold. It’s not really a surprise that they think this way, but it is of huge concern that they hold such sway over Downing Street. They now want to renege on the Good Friday Agreement which would hold them to a minimum of being a member of a customs union arrangement. There are Tories secretly supportive the  Michael Heseltine point of view; unfortunately, they are all too silent, and, among the activists, all too few.

The EU institutions and most member states are weary of the Brexit issue. They want to sideline, to cauterize it, such as was done during the Greek budgetary crisis. The risks of giving the British too good a deal are obvious; what is the point in membership if those outside the club are better off out than in? Those who voted leave may not immediately rue the day, but there will be a substantial cost to their folly. Remainers will hope to get back into the EU sooner rather than later. This is in all our interests.

Parkland Students Take On NRA while Trump Blusters

Another school shooting, and another grotesquely inappropriate reaction from the current US president. The shootings in Florida by a Trump supporter (his social media shows him wearing that totemic MAGA hat) have confirmed how the sociopathic septuagenarian has neither the empathy nor the capacity to deal with the problem of guns in America.

The killings in Parkland led Trump to push for the arming of teachers. No other civilized country has anything like the insane firearm laws that pertain in the US. So bought and sold by the NRA are GOP legislators, that any real measures to stop future school massacres will be hard to pass. But the students in Florida are fighting back. For the first time in decades, the gun lobby is on the defensive. Consumer boycotts are working, and if the 2018 mid-term elections aren’t hacked, then there will be a reckoning.

Trump prides himself on his self-perceived insight into the zeitgeist. He’s in for a rough landing if he believes culture wars will save him from the scope of Robert Mueller’s inquiry. The recent indictment of Russians engaged in disrupting the 2016 campaign shows that the scandal is real, and that, whatever the final outcome, that it is already as big as Watergate. There is no way he gets out of this unscathed. He is a marked man; whether he resigns, or is impeached, the odds are against him running again in 2020. He can count himself lucky if he avoids imprisonment.

While Trump is blustering, Mueller is working away, not leaking. He is focused on the job of going to where the evidence leads. All indications are that it’s inexorably heading to the Oval Office. The apologists for 45 will have to eat a lot of crow in the coming months. This is the year when the Republic strikes back.

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Trump Attacks on the Press, Corbyn’s Purge

January 25, 2018 Leave a comment

Trump’s Dangerous Game

The recent arrest of a right wing extremist for planning a massacre of CNN journalists in their corporate headquarters should be a massive wake up call to any still complacent about Trump’s war on the press. He has attacked the fourth estate in virulent terms for much of the last two years.

The press in the US is far from perfect. The New York Times ran with the ludicrously over-hyped Clinton email story, putting it equal to, or above in importance, to Trump’s collusion with Russia. But responsible journalists, and much of the oft maligned main stream media, have tried to hold power to account, to react as quickly as possible to a daily torrent of lies from the White House, and to try to make sense of a president that is a stranger to the truth. Reporters who try to do their job are under siege, and things could get worse before they get better.

As the Mueller investigation leads towards what many see as its’ eventual denouement, namely the collection and presentation of a vast amount of evidence against 45 and his team of hucksters, the attacks on the credibility of the press will increase. The official spokeswoman degrades here office every time she opens her mouth. In a country with tens of millions of guns, she raises the threat level of journalists closing in on her boss. But she is just her master’s voice. Behind it all, terrified of a lifetime of lying finally being unravelled, sits the illegitimate president.

He likes countries where the press does the bidding of the powerful. He prefers leaders who neuter their critics. By allowing conspiracy theory websites and Breitbart into the briefing room, he is actively promoting the alternative facts one of his court jesters was so rightly derided for advocating. He is what he is, and will never change. Republicans on the Hill, however, should, and do, know better. Theirs is the failure of leadership, of any form of moral courage, in their failure to speak out. The noble exceptions do not gainsay the rule.

The worry is that Trump has so stoked up the hornets’ nest of NRA and white supremacy in the USA, that even his departure, and/or impeachment, which while not inevitable, is likely, will fail to stop attacks on the press move up the scale, from verbal, to fatal. America is better than this. Unfortunately, a large part of it isn’t.

Let the Moderates be Left (Alone)

The hard left of the Labour party is in the ascendant. The party’s national executive committee is being taken over by former Militant Tendency sympathisers. The battle the soft left thought had been fought and won in the 1980s is on again.

The party has always been a broad church. From the Russell Square Fabians, to the Durham Miners, there’s been a span of class, culture, wealth, and education within the movement. Kinnock did the heavy lifting against the Trots, and laid the way for the liberal democracy of the Blair years. The achievements of Blair and Brown were significant, and worthy. But Iraq was fatal to the New Labour legacy. Many activists genuinely wanted greater party democracy and some were even prepared to give Jeremy Corbyn, that unlikeliest of leaders, a chance. The results of the 2017 election will have left those activists satisfied with the way thing are going.

But at what price? There’s already talk of a ‘hit-list’ of Labour moderates. The hard left is openly calling for their de-selection. The critics of the leader are in real political danger. Some have resigned, some are focusing on Brexit as a way of channelling their energy away from internecine fighting. They are up against it. The hard left know how to take power at local level and hold on to it. When targeting a local branch, life just becomes to unpleasant for on the ground members and moderate representatives. Many will just leave.

The Corbynistas may prefer to be a party of the streets than one of parliament. But that is not where the history of Labour lies. The coalition that the party was founded on included trade unions, liberals, intellectuals, Christian socialists, and radicals. Parliament was where the great strides of the Atlee government were made, where Wilson encouraged the white heat of technology, where Blair gave more money in real terms to the NHS than ever before. The parliamentarians who drove these changes weren’t doctrinaire Marxists or supporters of the radical-chic. They were mainly centre left MPs who saw change as being mostly democratic rather than revolutionary,

The last two years has been ludicrously unstable in western democracies. While the cobbled together Tory administration seems to stagger from one crisis to the next, who would say for definite that Jeremy Corbyn will one day be Prime Minister? But even if he does become PM, the ends of achieving that do not justify the means of purging the moderates.


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The Year of Resistance

December 28, 2017 Leave a comment

If 2016 was a shock to the Enlightenment virtues of reason, evidence-based opinion, and human rights, then the last twelve months have been a further test of those values, and to what extent the advance of the darkness has been abated.

In US politics, Trump was as bad as many of us had feared. He is being held in check – just about – by the societal pillars of the press, the judiciary, political opposition, and the resistance of ordinary citizens. The Mueller investigation may either be the saving of American democracy, or the noble last stand of it, but without it, and the threat of ultimate sanction, Trump would be even worse. There’s a cruelty and avarice at the heart of the man; he will do what he can if he can get away with it. He is not a normal politician. Trump worships money; that’s one of the main reasons he in so in thrall to Putin. It’s not just espionage or ties of interests; he admires a man richer than himself, his Godfather. Constitutionalists must hope that the year ahead sees the fall of 45.

The Democrats have been hitting back. Virginia, and Alabama point the way. Good candidates and effective organization show how they can win back power. It should be a good 2018 for them. Critics emphasizing divisions within the party need to focus on only one goal over the medium term; bringing an end to Trump’s dangerous authoritarian rule. The Dems should be extremely limited in their co-operation with the Republicans. The Bernie and the Hillary wings need to accept that neither should run in 2020, and liberals and leftists must work together. A tall order perhaps? Not necessarily. The national campaign could be a blend of Obama centre-leftism and a tilt to the Bernie Democrats. But that does not preclude ‘moderate’ candidates in more conservative districts. You run horses for courses.

It’s been a bad year, overall, for Theresa May. She threw away, what was at one stage, a 20 point opinion poll lead over Labour. Her decision to call a snap election was disastrous and her indulgence of the Brexiters and consequent reliance on the DUP for political survival, has exposed her weakness. But she’s had a good end to 2017. Her progress on Brexit negotiations buys her more time. It looks increasingly like the Tory Right is – for the moment – content to let her run the course for the duration of the ‘divorce’ talks. She is an administrator-politician, and not always successful at that. Yet, with Conservative support stabilising at about the same level as last June, it’s hard to see an immediate advantage to Boris Johnson making a leadership challenge; she is weak, but not weak enough to be imminently vulnerable.

What a year for Jeremy Corbyn. He surprised nearly all the pundits with a remarkable electoral performance. What had seemed like hype and hysteria was proven to be correct; the vast crowds he was getting at rallies, and the rock-star adulation he was receiving from the young, was reflected in a dramatic rise in turn-out from younger voters, who as a demographic, voted Labour overwhelmingly. He proved his critics wrong. There are people around Corbyn who don’t bear up to closer examination; their leader shares many of these beliefs. The party is changing; the pre-2017 heavy-hitters have seen their previous government or front-bench roles performed by their Corbyn loyalist successors with more competence than many had expected. The two major parties are led by leaders who are generally apathetic about Europe. It is the biggest issue in Britain since WWII, yet neither seems to have a clear strategy.

It hasn’t been a great twelve months for the Liberal Democrats. 2017 should have been their year. They were the Remainer party. But Tim Farron was unable to capitalise on this sentiment. They face a challenge in rebuilding in this parliamentary term. British politics is still in tumult.

The battleground for the fight back in 2017 was in France and Germany. In the latter, despite the rise of the hard-right AfB, Angela Merkel returned as Chancellor. While there was an initial wobble during coalition negotiations, there will be a Germany ruled from the centre, and for the foreseeable future, by a politician whom it is fair to say is holding the line for the West. In France, Emmanuel Macron engaged in a no-holds barred debate with Marine Le Pen, won hands down, and was comfortably elected the youngest president of this great nation. The stakes in that election were massive. Austria, Hungary, and the Czech Republic are now cuckoos in the nest of the EU. If France had fallen, then the world would have been a very frightening place.

The year was bad, but we got through it. The optimists would say the push-back has begun; the war has turned. The global situation is too fluid to make predictions. But the year ahead will see more or the same; democracy, and the resilience of the system being tested, and more resistance.


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Momentum, Trump Lies, and Brexit Cries

November 28, 2017 Leave a comment

Labour’s Difficult Momentum

The hard left of the Labour Party looks like tightening its grip following a successful outing for Jeremy Corbyn at the last British general election. Not all members of Momentum are militants but those shouting the loudest are. The section of the party that was assumed to have been killed off by Neil Kinnock and New Labour has risen from the ground, to assume key leadership positions in the opposition party. Momentum is looking for a loyalty pledge and they’re in the process of forcing out candidates, councilors, and parliamentarians who don’t bend the knee to the prophet Jeremy. There are Stalinists and Trotskyites at the top of the party now, and they’ll fight hard to maintain their positions. It’s going to become harder for even the Ed Miliband wing to secure a foothold.

This is a worst case scenario. But the wheels are in motion. It may be that British politics needs a radical response to Brexit; the hung parliament with the two main English parties at implacable polarities means that compromise is unlikely. ‘Centrism’ has become a phrase of disdain. Sometimes, though, consensus is essential. It worked well for Britain post-war and succeeded in much of the 1990s. Labour is going through a very similar process as the Democrats in the US where an uncompromising left would rather lose than concede ground to their internal political opponents; they’re losing sight of who the enemy really is. It may well be time to do the unthinkable; time for the Labour MPs who are serious about governing to join with other progressives in forming a new party. Despite the history of the SDP, there is an essential requirement that the voters feel able to trust in a party that matches their views; they may never get this under Jeremy Corbyn, and they are not getting it from the market fundamentalist Tories England is suffering a crisis of leadership that may take a generation to recover from.

Trump Fake Views To Break News

Trump has been attacking the Press again. This time it was CNN. He knows it plays well with his base. But he also knows that the more he can spread the term ‘fake news’, the more he can move America towards being a society where the Fourth Estate is no longer about holding the powerful to account. Media moguls already threaten the ability of the American media to make the system work. We need only look to Russia under Putin to see how once independent journalism is undermined, a chilling effect takes over. Yes, reporters have not been murdered and military law has not been declared by a Trump regime. But it doesn’t have to happen like that. Instead, Trump and his followers have tried to tie up the time and resources of the media as the Press seek to get to the bottom of the motivation for his latest outrage. At least some broadcasters are starting to be more critical. But there are others who in the interests of balance – balance! – try to explain that a clearly racist or fascistic statement by the President of the USA may have some other raison d’être.  Usually, if he’s been caught lying red-handed, there shouldn’t be any other explanation of his behavior. He is no grand strategist, but someone seeking to divert and distort to self-aggrandize and save his own skin. He is still getting a pass from some who should know better. Mueller is on Trump’s trail and this writer still believes things will end badly for 45. He will do everything he can to muddy the waters and distort democratic norms. He is a menace to global stability.

Little England Expects

The Little Englander mentality is one that gives this writer, with his love of London, and admiration of a great strain of decency in British culture, no joy to write about. Theirs is the outlook of the colonial, be that the romanticism of an explorer, or the cynicism of an imperial chauvinist. They do not believe in a pooled sovereignty or in the notion of a greater Europe. For them, these are notions that question the very nature of what it means to be English (for you won’t find most of the Celtic fringe wanting to leave the EU). No, it is the Tory who is nice to his neighbours, as long as that neighbor is one of them. It is a sense of a misunderstood historical narrative; lied to by their betters, and also by themselves. It is a fiction of an unbroken success of an island nation that not that long ago ruled the world. It’s also is a notion shared by conservatives in other lands that things have gotten worse, they used to be better, and the times themselves used to be a lot simpler. Don’t tell them of complexities or nuance; theirs is an uncomplicated Utopia.

Of course there’s no Utopia. No promised land. The Germans, the French, the Dutch and the Spanish may not be ‘like us’, but there are more things that unite us than divide us. There is an issue with left denying cultural identities just as there is an issue with the political right doing so, But it is the Little Englander who want to deny our shared values, be they cultural, political, or economic. Theirs is – to quote Billy Bragg – a land of hope and glory. A land that from a time that we no longer live in.

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Karma Police, Arrest this Man

October 29, 2017 Leave a comment

Crunch time in the Mueller investigation. The first indictment and arrest will be made tomorrow and tensions are running high. What will this all mean? Will the Republic be saved, will there be a furious backlash, will Trump himself be put on trial? There are many possible outcomes, ranging from the worst, to the best case.

There is a growing body of evidence testifying to collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian state, continuing in to the presidency. These are a dangerous few weeks ahead in America. If sometimes the Russian investigation sounds like something from a spy novel, that’s because the US is in unprecedented territory.

The best case scenario has to involve Trump’s departure, sooner rather than later. This may come about with a behind closed doors agreement to force his resignation, and to have Pence, or whoever follows, grant him immunity from prosecution. Or it could see POTUS being arrested and charged with obstruction of justice, or impeached, or imprisoned. Either way, an immediate threat to global safety is removed. Liberals can fight a Pence figure if and when that comes; the immediate goal is to get rid of Trump for stealing the last election.

Then there’s the complete loss. Trump manages to convince enough of the military and law enforcement that only he offers stability, only he can give them what they want. There’s an immediate crackdown on press freedoms, journalists start being killed or ‘disappeared’. He becomes a dictator in all but name, following a Putin-type game plan. The Republicans in Congress have rolled over, Paul Ryan gets favoured by the new regime, and electoral districting gets escalated as voter fraud gets ramped up on a massive scale. This is not beyond the grounds of possibility. Sarah Kendizor is one such commentator who fears an outcome like this.

But the middling outcomes are more likely. On the negative side, Trump sacks Mueller, forces thousands onto the streets to oppose him, but still has an iron grip on the Republican party. Unless they start to oppose him, to act on the fine words of Senator Flake, the US leans increasingly towards authoritarianism. He wouldn’t even have to fire Mueller immediately, but try and manufacture some military crisis as the special investigator closes in on him. This scenario is dependent on a divided opposition, which is in play if the Clinton and Sanders wings of the Democrats aren’t reconciled.

The upside gradualist take is this. Mueller starts with the small fish, flips them, and moves on to POTUS. This will take months, maybe all of 2018 too. But it will inexorably lead to Oval Office. All of Trump’s time, every waking hour, every media appearance, every interview of surrogates, is consumed by the investigation. It Is less satisfying than an instant ‘win’ but results in the same outcome down the line. Trump loses his credibility with the GOP ‘plumpers’ who held their nose and voted for him. He only has his base, and they are a rudderless rabble.

There’s a chance of long-term both-win/both-lose too. The US becomes a country where the alternative to a liberal democratic party becomes an authoritarian, nationalist one. Elections swing from side-to-side. The hard right constantly tries to chip away at civil liberties and the very notion of government itself. The US hobbles along, from periods of crisis, to stability. It becomes impossible to say that there are two parties that stand by democratic values. This may well be the long term future in Hungary, Poland, and other countries in on the Russian board game. It is a deeply divided and unstable polity.

There are good grounds for being on the optimistic side of the fence. The darkness that fell on millions of us last November, has given way to the light that Trump can be defeated. It may take an exhausting toll on the political, civic, and legal system, but for many observers, there is more of sense that he can be resisted. It’s not that the Emperor doesn’t have any clothes, more of a ‘Wizard of Oz’ analogy, where the curtain has been pulled back. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, you can’t bullshit all of the people, all of the time.

There is so much faith being put in Robert Mueller now. The ‘black-box’ nature of his investigation meant that those of us following the progress have become latter day Kremlinologists reading the runes for possible paths he might be taking. There’s a chance that Trump critics will be disappointed or even despondent. But this is- in that over-used but apt – Churchillian phrase, the ‘end of the beginning’. The most cynical and venal US President of recent times is right to be afraid; the marshal is after you, and your mule is looking tired, and ready to drop.

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