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More than any U.S. politician’s platform, Trump’s agenda on the economy resembles those of populist leaders abroad. In particular, the policies he has proposed are very similar to those of Dilma Rousseff, the former president of Brazil who was ousted from office in August.

As Trump has planned to do, Rousseff enforced restrictions on imports. She promised new spending on infrastructure and granted generous subsidies to corporations with the goal of stimulating the economy, especially manufacturing.

“It’s a very similar program,” said Riordan Roett, a political scientist at Johns Hopkins University and an expert on Latin America.

While there are a number of important differences between the Brazilian and U.S. economies, Rousseff’s policies arguably offer a cautionary example for newly empowered Republicans in Washington. The Brazilian economy is in a severe and persistent recession. Gross domestic product contracted 3.8 percent last year, according to the International Monetary Fund, which projects a decline of 3.3 percent this year.

Inflation accelerated to an annual pace of 10.6 percent earlier this year, according to the Central Bank of Brazil, and while prices are not increasing as fast as they were, the unemployment rate has climbed to 11.8 percent as of last quarter.

Inflation has been minimal for a decade or so, but a big uptick in it would be pretty threatening to the Republicans’ current oldster-centric coalition.

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I think this Chris Cillizza piece is pretty astute generally, but I do think something needs to be said about this:

The idea of the media as the intermediary between Trump and the public — reporting on and analyzing his proposals, contextualizing his statements, fact-checking him (and the Democratic politicians opposing him) — is totally lost on him.  The media is to be judged solely on whether or not they, collectively, are being nice to the president.

Being “nice” to a president or simply writing down what he says is not the news media’s job. Most politicians know this — even if they would prefer that journalists be less adversarial and more willing to just sort of take their word for it. Trump is outside of that normal understanding of how presidents and the people tasked with reporting on them need to interact and understand one another.

Not sure why he’d think he could speak through the press to the public without any intermediary. Oh, right, because for most of the campaign they let him do just that. It’s a classic case of operant conditioning, as exemplified with the experiments with Pavlov’s dogs. He’s been conditioned to expect the unfiltered treatment and is confused and angered when he doesn’t get it.

[Updated to be less confusing.]

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Mark Schmitt has a piece for Democrats on Trump that is worth reading in full. Here are some key points:

At other moments, though, Democrats realise that Trump has no fixed ideology or purpose other than bluffing his way through his biggest and most daring fraud ever. He did say “infrastructure”; he did say he would fix “inner cities” (places where “you get shot walking to the store”); he and his daughter Ivanka mentioned paid family leave. Perhaps these are opportunities. Maybe he’s as easily nudged in the direction of such progressive policy goals as he is towards the adamantine conservatism and racism reflected in his first three high-level nominations.

But those first moves on Trump’s part send two important messages to Democrats, which will also affect mainstream Republicans and conservatives. First, he doesn’t intend to or doesn’t know how to expand the coalition that supports him. Trump is aware only of his hardcore base, the people who came to his rallies and chanted “lock her up” when he mentioned his opponent.

Second, he’s unlikely to be a popular president in his first months in office, which is unprecedented. On election day, Trump’s favourable rating was comparable to Richard Nixon’s in May 1974. Nixon resigned in August 1974. Will Trump’s 2017 public support move up from Nixonian levels? It might, with the aura of the presidency, or it might not, in the absence of the distrusted Hillary Clinton as a foil. Democrats have to be prepared for it to move in either direction, but down is a safer bet.

It can’t be stated enough just how little Trump is prepared for the presidency, and how characterologically and behaviorally unsuited he is for it. It’s possible he’d be great at it but it’s not the most likely outcome. I also think that Schmitt’s point that he doesn’t know how to expand his coalition is apt. In spite of Trump’s inevitable (but not historically all that impressive) “dead cat bounce” after the election, I’m not really sure he can.

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Where does Trump find these people:

The renewed effort saw Mr Trump working 18 hours a day “as if it’s 15 minutes” and increasing the number of rallies to shore up support, his former aide revealed.

“[After that] he  went from four campaign states a day to five or seven or eight,” Mr Lewandowski said.

“In those last last eleven days Mr  Trump was exceptionally disciplined. He used a teleprompter, and he did less media.. The team used social media like no campaign in history.”

“And then, Donald Trump won the election campaign by the largest majority since Ronald Reagan in 1984.” [emphasis mine]

Just a reminder, the 1984 results:

Ronald Wilson Reagan (Incumbent) Republican California 54,455,472 58.77%
Walter Frederick Mondale Democratic Minnesota 37,577,352 40.56%

And this year’s:

Donald Trump Republican New York 61,496,079[4] 46.72%
Hillary Clinton Democratic New York 62,830,751[4] 47.73%

I guess math isn’t his strong suit, if he thinks -1.5 million is larger than +17 million. Just a reminder that Trump’s retinue is basically nothing but cranks, fabulists and has-beens, the refuse of the GOP professional class that chose him because nobody else would have them (and the better people wanted–and largely still want–nothing to do with him). Now he’s going to put these people in government. Which is not so great on the one hand, but their presence reduces the already-small chance that a Trump presidency will be anything other than a gigantic failed experiment. People inclined to delusional grandiosity aren’t so good at offering reality-based advice, and as Dubya proved, creating your own reality only takes a person so far.

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The reason why elected Republicans won’t denounce Steve Bannon is because they’re afraid of what he could do if they did and he left. The reason they’re not going beyond sounds-like support like “he ran a good campaign!” is because they’re also terrified of what happens if they defend him and he stays, namely that they’ll be directly stained with antisemitism.

A permanent, indirect, yellow stain is evidently the tolerable middle course.

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One quick point about the Priebus/Bannon hiring that I’m not seeing out there enough. A lot of media have covered these as complementary hirings, ways of shouting out to different parts of Trump’s base. That’s incorrect. They’re contradictory. Priebus is a party hack who’s spent much of his career fundraising and running central party organizations, but he is someone who has spent a decent amount of time in professional politics. Bannon is a provocateur who wants to burn everything down. The overall impression here is one of incoherence: on the one hand, you have the ultimate team player, and on the other, the ultimate iconoclast. They’re going to have precisely opposite points of view and strategies and will constantly clash and fight over influence to a guy who for all intents and purposes just fell off a turnip truck. There’s a notion out there about the utility of a team of rivals (I believe there’s a book on the subject), the idea being that a group of top-tier advisers constantly at each others’ throats, things work better. Journalists applied this a lot to Barack Obama’s appointment of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, but while they had competed against one another, they largely shared the same worldview and strategy.

This is by design. If you’ve ever seen The Apprentice (and I watched one season back in my college days), you’ll know that every episode ends with an argument among members of the losing team that Trump goads along, in which everybody is strongly encouraged to point fingers at each other. I have no idea if this is how Trump runs his actual companies. But the guy is pathologically addicted to drama–he’s often (correctly) identified as a narcissist but he’s a born histrionic as well (if you’ve got one personality disorder, it’s common to have another one too). Quite possible these are just guys he likes, but I also suspect he knows the potential for conflict and is actively trying to play it up. It’s what he does: while most managers try to play down personality conflicts and foster team spirit, Trump’s MO is ginning up conflict, friendly fire, and drama. It’s fundamentally who it is. And it’s a clear signal from this pair.


The reason Trump’s aides don’t know how he’ll govern is because Trump doesn’t know how he’ll govern. All he really knows how to do is television, so he’ll probably try to make the presidency as much about television as it can be. I dropped a joke the other day about him keeping the rallies going as president, and what do you know, now he’s saying he wants to. He may well do a reality show from the White House. No patient grind of accomplishing major objectives because the only one he has is making everyone pay attention to him. Well, that he may be successful at.

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