Rise of the Accidental Dictator
WARNING: Do not read this while drinking. It will make you sad and drink more. A lot more.
In part 1, I warned that the likelihood for a Threatening Presidency is still Medium but on its way to High
- Attempt: High
- Competence: Medium
- No Check: High
The good news is that these past days does not indicate he has gained competence. The true potential dictator would have waited, coordinated a better message, and had someone to take Comey's place. He also never would have admitted to the real reason during an interview, and if he had tried to interfere before the firing, would have done so in less suggestive ways.
But, he didn't. That what keeps his Competence at Medium, and these past days a little entertaining.
However, he hasn't (yet) shown an increased incompetence. Hard to believe, but if we look overall, he is learning some (like don’t let Bannon write an executive order), but the bigger progress is with his staff. More accurately, the incompetent personnel is being replaced. But, if he can continue to demand and get personal loyalty, eventually enough competence will surround him to be dangerous. Then again, he could be plagued by constant turnover and only to get mediocre replacements. (I certainly would not want to work for him after this week.)
But the main reason I’m keeping him at medium is that if he can keep his Delusional above 35%, he does not have to be that competent to hurt us. An important distinction is that the Competence Rank is not a judgment of overall competence. It is whether he can follow through with his attempt. He is far from competent enough to execute a coup or autocratic agenda. What he is competent enough to, however, is become what I call the Accidental Dictator. The firing of Comey is a perfect example. Just by disregarding our political norms he has potentially harmed our ability to hold future presidents accountable. One can easily see a scenario where external events combined with his autocratic response bring back atrocities of the past (“red scare”, Operation Wetback, Internment Camps, Jim Crow law, etc).
To be an Accidental Dictator, you don’t need to be that competent.
Where overall competency makes a difference for the Accidental Dictator is when it directly harms his followers and supporters. We can see this when he leaked classified data to the Russians. That created more negative reaction than firing Comey did. It could be just the “last straw”, but compared to firing Comey, the leak was legal and not malevolent. However, the Comey firing was a threat to democracy with no tangible harm (for us). The leak to Russia was a plain-out threat that someone could die over.
Part of what makes a Delusional so delusional is that politics does not "feel real”. It feels like cheering or booing at a football game, or better yet the WWF. But, when a President’s actions harm national security or the economy that is real and can pierce the delusion. Again, this is why a Disaster Presidency can’t be a Threatening Presidency. At the time of writing this, President Trump’s aggregate approval rating, on FiveThirtyEight and RealClearPoltics, are at their worse since he became president. However, they are still higher than President Clinton’s was around this time. If they hit below 35%, then even Delusionals are leaving him. Also, a recent drop in the stock market is being attributed to Trump’s incompetence, which takes money away from the financial supporters of republicans. These are the kind of trends that spur politicians to action.
But don’t relax just yet. Once President Trump’s incompetence becomes tangible (low polls, etc.), he improves or at least stops making it worse. Given time, republicans seem quite happy to forget his last misadventure. Unfortunately, one-third of the country is willing to risk harm to the rest of us as long as they remain untouched. That makes me sad. If you're sad as well, again I warned you. I need a drink.
Just as I was writing the last line, former FBI Director Robert Mueller was appointed Special Counsel by Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein. With only minutes after the announcement, no one can say what will happen next. (Not that will it stop us from trying.) This is a good outcome, if for no other reason than it's a return to the president being accountable to the law.
But considering what I just wrote, I'd like to engage in a little self-promotional conspiracy theory. The Special Counsel does offer one potential benefit to republicans. The Special Counsel will probably say little until all facts are known, which could be years from now. Note that this was done on the day the stock market had a big loss, and when congressmen became legitimately worried of new damning evidence (the Comey memos). Not to mention, the President is about to leave the country.
Here's what to watch for. Are republican congressmen happy or angry about this? Again, this is all self-promotional conspiracy theory.