Sunday, October 22, 2017

Searching For Brownies

     No, this won’t be about either sweets or the Girl Scouts. Rather, it pertains to Robert Ehrlich’s recent column about the divide within the GOP:

     It concerns the growing dichotomy between what many observers see as a chaotic White House on the one hand, and a Reaganesque flair for gritty policy calls on the other. Peggy Noonan's most recent Sunday column was devoted to the former as she described how (many) Republican Senators remain at a loss to deal with a free agent president resistant to control – even by senior staff.

     The narrative includes criticisms that have grown familiar during Trump's first year in office. Here, the president is viewed as a shoot-from-the-hip neophyte too undisciplined to govern and quite dangerous in a world populated by despots who wield nuclear weapons.

     Sen. Bob Corker's recent broadsides qualify here. The retiring Republican Senator from Tennessee sees an overmatched executive lacking in "competence" and "stability," albeit surrounded by a competent senior group daily engaged in the task of keeping the leader of the free world from careening off the rails. (Whatever did happen to keeping family disputes within the family?)

     Governor Ehrlich goes on to note that despite all that Establishmentarian disapproval, President Trump has scored several Reaganesque victories:

     In striking contrast are a series of Trump administration policy initiatives that not only define Trump as the anti-Obama, but also as more Reaganesque than a "Never Trumper" could ever have imagined. How else to describe a president willing to buck the status quo, and a powerful establishment press, in pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accords and now refusing to recertify a notoriously deficient nuclear deal with the mullahs in Tehran.

     Not all the gates of the Left, nor the Establishment Right, nor the hangdog commentators of the Main Stream Media have dampened Trump’s determination to do as he’s said he would do: i.e., to put the interests of America and Americans above all other considerations, including the approval of anyone. Yet the attempts to characterize the Trump Administration as somehow deficient continue; the usual phrases concern Trump’s “fitness to govern” and his “chaotic White House.” They seem to be everywhere these days.

     It’s more amusing than anything else, really. What evidence can Trump’s detractors present for their superior wisdom and insight? How do their achievements, aggregated over their entire lives – do they have any? – compare to Trump’s achievements over his first nine months as president? Given the overwhelming imbalance in President Trump’s favor, why should an objective observer listen to their plaints?

     No, those questions are not merely rhetorical.

     A good many of us, without regard for political affiliation, are “organization men:” persons whose first priority is to conform, to “follow the rules,” to be and to be seen as “team players.” Of course, that attitude assumes the existence of a team, and rules for the members of the team that have some inherent validity. Those assumptions have governed the operations of the political elite for decades, especially at the federal level.

     But there cannot be a team without team objectives: goals that the team’s members are expected to place above all personal priorities. Moreover, if any of the members have priorities that clash with the supposed team objectives, the conflict can be resolved either of two ways:

  • The expulsion of the dissident members;
  • The cosmeticization of the supposed team objectives.

     The plaints of such as Senator Corker amount to this: “Trump’s not a team player.” That’s an accurate statement, if viewed in the appropriate light. Senator Corker’s team is the Washington Establishment. President Trump feels no loyalty to that team. Indeed, he exhibits an aversion to it, its priorities, and its ways. The irony arises from the plainly cosmetic nature of Corker’s team’s supposed objectives.

     The members of the Washington Establishment, like members of all establishments, are principally concerned with perpetuating their tenures in power. Their “team objectives” are strictly for show, as we can see from the Republican congressional caucuses’ near to absolute ineffectiveness.

     Donald Trump, the businessman who became president against the opposition of the Establishment and all its media handmaidens, is an existential threat to that Establishment. That’s what powers the ongoing resistance to Trump and the attempts to disparage Trump and his administration.

     Now, none of that is news to any Gentle Reader who’s been attentive to the cut and thrust of national politics. What might be new is the clarity the anti-Trump Establishment’s underlying strategy has attained in recent weeks.

     As it’s objectively impossible to deny Trump’s successes, the Establishment forces are now concentrating on the “chaos” motif. They seek the support of “organization men:” they to whom keeping everything orderly – preserving “the way we’ve always done things around here” – is the paramount consideration.

     But there aren’t many such men who aren’t already Establishmentarians to be found in these United States.

     The concept of the “rugged individualist,” who goes his own way regardless of anyone’s contrary opinion, is deeply embedded in the American psyche. Even those of us for whom the Gray Flannel Suit is our habitual garb like to think of ourselves that way. So appealing to the American electorate by preaching that President Trump “isn’t following the rules” faces a stiff headwind...especially since supporting politicians who “follow the rules” hasn’t done much for us quite a while.

     It’s worth remembering, in light of the above, how very much the Republican Establishment resisted the most successful president of the postwar years: Ronald Reagan. Great effort went into the attempt to deny Reagan the 1980 Republican presidential nomination. When he took office, similar efforts went into surrounding him with Establishment allies. Some of his bolder objectives were thwarted by Republican Congressmen and Senators who found them a threat to “the way we’ve always done things around here,” and therefore to their personal priorities.

     Donald Trump is not Ronald Reagan. For one thing, he believes in the soundness of his ideas; he resists suggestions that they’d be “dangerous” or “inappropriate.” For another, he’s considerably more abrasive than Reagan, more inclined to flip you off if you try to restrain him. Those qualities served him well in the business world. Adversaries that took him lightly didn’t do so for long; there were too many opportunities and too much money at stake.

     More Americans are resonating to Trump’s style than are troubled by it. The remainder are concentrated along the coasts, where the pressure to conform to “the rules” and the penalties for not doing so are considerable. These, as we can see from 2016’s Electoral College results, are already in the Establishment’s camp.

     As for the title of this piece, I derived it from an abbreviated version of the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory used by the Advocates for Self-Government in the years when Marshall Fritz, its founder, was at its helm. He reduced the categories to four:

  • Green: Idea-centered.
  • Red: Action-centered.
  • Blue: Emotion-centered.
  • Brown: Rule-centered.

     Marshall Fritz used this condensed classification scheme to make various points, among the most memorable of which was the importance of gaining the allegiance of the Blue group, which dominates all the communication-intensive trades. for the cause of freedom. But the Brown group, whose dominance of the majority of organizations is a fact of institutional dynamics, is the one most solidly planted on the other side: the Establishment’s side, the “way we’ve always done things around here” side, the anti-Trump side.

     In focusing their denigrations upon Trump’s style and the “chaos” in the White House – funny how that “chaos” hasn’t impeded Trump very much, isn’t it? – they seek the support of those who, like themselves, regard the preservation of the status quo as more important than anything that could be gained by departing from it. And they’re coming up gratifyingly short.

No comments: