Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Donald Trump and the stress testing of the American system of government 6

Posted in social networking and business by Timothy Platt on March 12, 2017

This is my 11th installment to a now-ongoing series of postings in which I seek to address politics in the United States as it has become, starting with the nominations process leading up to the 2016 presidential elections (see Social Networking and Business 2, posting 244 and loosely following.)

I focused in Part 9 of this series on the issues and challenges of arriving at anything like a consistently agreed to and widely understood diagnosis of possible mental impairment or incapacitation on the part of Donald Trump as the currently serving president of the United States. And I went on from there in Part 10 to consider those issues, not from the level of an individual diagnosis, but from that of societal perception of what that means, and even as to its potential legitimacy. And I discussed that more societal-level set of issues from the perspective of five distinctive, specific socio-politically supportive perspectives, each with its own population of adherents and each represented by a distinct consensus defining frame, to use the sociological term for this type of shared group understanding, and a distinct information filtering and containing epistemic bubble that would sustain it. (See Part 10 of this series for a more detailed discussion of frames and framing per se and of the five frames themselves that I discuss in this series: the five consensus of understanding and belief systems that I outlined and discussed there, as I refer to them here by their there-given numerical names but without repeating or recapitulating that installment here for their fuller details.)

I simply note here for purposes of orientation that:

Frames 1-3 as identified and discussed in Part 10 are all oriented towards the left politically, and primarily include and involve people who would see themselves as being more liberal and progressive – and as having seen real societal benefit arising from the policies and the actions taken by the Obama administration and by the Democratic Party – and I add by those few Republicans in office who have been willing to work with them and more collaboratively so, where that has actually happened. These frames also capture support from a significant number of people who would be more inclined to identify themselves as being political independents too, but many of them as an overall group tend to start out taking a dim view at best towards anyone who would in any way identify themselves as being conservative per se, and on any issue and with any elected Republican included there. In short-form Frames 1, 3 and 2 respectively can be viewed as representing consensus conceptualizations that would posit that Donald Trump is mentally incapacitated, legally incapacitated, or critically dysfunctionally incompetent and in that order. While serving as equivalence frame variations on a larger overarching single frame (to use the terms of Part 10) it is quite possible to agree with two or even all three of these perspectives at once, even if an individual might see one or another of them as holding overriding significance for themselves in their reasoning and judgment.
Frame 4 represents a primarily alt-right counterpart to that, and is primarily represented by supporters and I add true believers in the current Trump administration. These are mostly people who have seen themselves as being left out of any positive benefits that might have resulted from free trade and from a global opening up, and from Democratic Party and Obama administration decisions and actions. And they tend to see their Frame 1-3 counterparts and those groups’ members in starkly negative terms – with those sentiments flowing both ways. And Frame 5 adherents tend to see political collaboration and compromise in any of this as fundamentally wrong and even in explicitly moral terms.
• And Frame 5 is more caught in the middle from having to balance conflicting politically mandated needs and obligations, and personal opinions and judgments. I identify this frame as including in its ranks, among others, Republican Party elected officials who might personally see Donald Trump and his administration as problematical but who nevertheless feel obliged to support their political party, which he at least nominally now leads. I add here that there are still a significant number of elected Republicans and certainly in the US Congress who are still ardent proponents of, and members of the Frame 4 vision and its underlying information filtering epistemic bubble. But Frame 5 is still alive and well as I write this too, and certainly given the still unfolding chaos coming from Donald Trump himself and from his administration as a whole.

And with that briefly stated orienting outline as to whom the players are in this discussion, at least at a demographic level, I proceed with this posting and its narrative itself. And I begin that by repeating my to-address notes from Part 10 of this series:

• At least briefly discuss some of the complexities of – and the disruptive and potentially disruptive emphasis-frame face to the left/progressive side to this here-stated national divide as has developed in the United States,
• Break open and more fully examine the here-presented seeming monolith of Part 10’s Frame 4 and the alt-right and their supporters.
• And address in more detail the challenges that Frame 5 adherents face as they attempt to square the circle of remaining loyal to their Republican Party while retaining support from increasingly rancorously divided home district voting constituencies that they need approval from if they are to remain in elected office.

I begin with the first of these points and with the odd-man out, Frame 2 perspective and how it is being squeezed by increasing polarization as that is taking place throughout the country.

From a more unifying perspective, few who would see themselves as agreeing with any of Frames 1-3 would find it difficult to accept that a Donald Trump, with his ongoing track record of discord, deception and more, might be mentally challenged, completely enmeshed in constitutionally challenging conflicts of interest and other illegalities, and thoroughly incompetent and even all at once. But at the same time, many who would accept and live within this one basic frame, see time as being of the essence here and would insist that a Frame 1 or a Frame 3 perspective and resolution must prevail, for the good of the nation. Frame 2, in this context becomes a capitulation with, and an undue acceptance of the fundamentally unacceptable – that Trump might simply receive a free pass of some sort for continuing on in office through at least one full four year term and in spite of all of the evidence mounting before us all and in spite of the risk and damage that that demonstrates.

I have written of Frame 2 as one of resignation, and I cite the challenges that I have been raising in this series and certainly from its Part 6 on, as a source of examples as to how that sense of resignation could arise.

• Consider Frame 1 and its implicit demands for action and the challenges that actually pursing Frame 1 goals face, given the difficulties that would arise in reaching a consensus that members of Congress could turn to in reaching a decision, and even when seeking professionally based guidance from among what are sure to be competing mental health professionals as to Trump’s actual mental health status (see Part 9 in particular for this.)
• And with either Frame 1 or Frame 3 in mind, consider the legal, constitutionally based processes and procedures that would have to be invoked and carried out – and the challenges that they entail as briefly discussed here in Part 8.

These bullet points only touch upon two areas of a larger and more complex mine field that any attempt to actually remove Donald Trump from office would face – baring his suffering a complete and undeniable mental health breakdown and in full undeniable public view, or his being absolutely undeniably caught in overt criminal activity and directly so, to continue with those two specific areas of concern and of possible action.

Frame 2 adherents take a longer, four year to resolution perspective – and not necessarily because they would like to see Trump remain in office and actively so for four full years – but because they see no other viable, realistic alternative and certainly given the manner in which this 45th US president has fought against disclosures, and given the way that a Republican led Congress has refused to challenge him and on essentially anything – at least as of this writing. This, I would argue reflects deeper currents of at least potential disagreement in the left and among Frame 1-3 adherents – but as I have been noting, it is also an indication of how Frame 2 will with time, evaporate from the polarization that Donald Trump keeps encouraging and even compelling and throughout the nation.

This brings me to my second to-address bullet point as listed above and the question of how monolithic Frame 4 and its community of adherents actually are. At this point in time, breaks in the monolith are noticeably forming, and they are becoming fundamentally more pressingly important than they were and certainly in the timeframe leading up to the election, or in the first to-Frame 4 adherents early, still heady post-election days. And those lines of disagreement and of potential disagreement are probably more interesting right now too for their holding greater short-term impact and on both Frame 4 community members and on the nation as a whole.

I begin addressing that complex of issues by noting how important it is to be careful of what you wish for because you might get it. Trump and his Republican Party won in 2016. Donald Trump’s campaign promises and a great many long-held ultra-conservative Republican demands that they have used to fire up their political bases, will now have to be lived up to or tossed aside as having merely been campaign rhetoric, now that they have won. The Republicans are in power now and in both the Executive and Legislative branches, and with that meaning their gaining even greater power and control in the Judicial branch of government as well. And the prospect of a president Trump submitting, and a Republican Senate confirming a very right of center next Supreme Court justice to replace Antonin Scalia just represents a more publically visible side to that apparent victory, where lower court Appellate and related judgeships and their appointments by Trump and a Republican Congress will have even greater overall impact, even if they face less public visibility and scrutiny. A vast proportion of the cases that those judges rule upon never in any way reach the Supreme Court and collectively they carry tremendous impact and for the nation as a whole.

So the Republican Party and their presidential leader can no longer simply talk extremism as they did, for example in their seemingly endless pro forma legislative proposals to end Obama Care – when Obama was president and they knew that none of their posturing on that could go anywhere except as marketing to their base. Now they have spend years demanding the immediate end of the Affordable Care Act – Obama Care as they like to call it. And now there is very little standing in their way to prevent their doing so – except perhaps the fact that if they simply defund and repeal this law, up to twenty million Americans will lose their health insurance and with a great many from their own base included in that.

The Republican Party has built itself up as a source of decisive action that is determined to repeal most if not all of the Obama legacy, and with repeal of the Affordable Care Act itself long identified as one of their primary goals in achieving that. But they do not have anything that could be widely agreed to, to replace it with. And I have to add that while many of their base have long-term hated Obama Care – the Democratic Party healthcare system, they have come to rely on and positively appreciate the Affordable Care Act for how it has meant their not being denied coverage for preexisting conditions, and for a host of other very specific reasons as well. Right now in the perhaps brighter light of a post-2016 election reality, an increasing number of Americans, and even in the reddest of the Republican red states have found themselves facing what was until now the unthinkable: they support and want to keep the Affordable Care Act or at least large portions of it – and even if they still dislike its to-them Obama taint, from its having been pushed into law through his actions.

I have to add a point of at least apparent digression to this narrative here, to place what I write about the here-and-now issues of repealing Obama Care into a wider, at least recent-historical perspective. In many respects, Obama Care was modeled after a single state model that was enacted in Massachusetts by a then Republican governor, Mitt Romney. But when Romney unsuccessfully ran for the presidency in 2012, he repudiated all of that as a requirement for his proving his ideological priorities and purity to the right and far right of his party in order to gain a Republican Party nomination. The healthcare legislation that he helped push through and that I refer to here was in fact often colloquially referred to as Romneycare, and I offer this side note for the irony that it contains. Obama and his team started from a Republican Party branded Romneycare model, as an attempt to begin their work with greater at least-initial bipartisan support! If Romney had won in 2012 and had pushed through a nationally reaching version of that legislation – Obama care in principle and perhaps even in significant detail too, but with a Republican name on it, no one on the right politically in Congress or in most of the country would have objected and certainly not in the visceral manner that they did to the Obama label. That is an important background element to understanding this still very current news story, that president Trump and his Republican controlled Congress and the American public as a whole now face, their alt-right elements included.

The alt-right and Donald Trump’s Frame 4 base actively, ardently seek to stay pure to their creed and to their faith – and both of those overtly religiously oriented words apply here; remember how Frame 4 supporters tend to view any challenges to their Frame and its expectations in largely moral terms. But at the same time, an increasing number of Frame 4 members are coming to see real challenges arising from that as purity of principle collide with their own and their families specific needs, and those of their communities too and on an actual day-to-day and longer term basis, and on very specific fronts where the Republican Party can no longer hide behind a lack of opportunity to take definitive action. There are divides and potential divides in the Frame 4 ranks and they will grow. And ultimately this might lead to some or even many members of this overall group reaching a tipping point in their thinking where they begin to at least begin to doubt and question their president Trump too, and certainly if they come to see him as taking specific action that directly acts against themselves and their own best interests. Obama Care, by whatever name looks to be the current strongest contender for taking center stage there, but at least conceivably, new crises and challenges might even push that aside in the news. We can now count on continued and new sources of disruption coming out of Washington – and that is what makes this series continue to be relevant here.

And this brings me to the Frame 5 conundrum and to its adherents, and particularly for those of that community who serve in the United States Congress. There is a saying to the effect that those who seek to gain in the shorter term at the price of relinquishing on their longer-term principles, often end up losing on both. That dual loss is at least a possibility that these elected officials face, as they seek out short term here-and-now safety in office from going along with the current Republican Party tide, and by simply going along with any and everything that their party’s president says and does.

And with that noted I add that when I stated in Part 10, that all five of the frames discussed represent important, significant demographics in the United States, I definitely had this group in mind while doing so. The Democratic Party and its elected congressional members tend to fall within the Frame 1, 2 and 3 communities. A significant number of Republican Party members of Congress follow and actively support a Frame 4 vision of America and of the Trump administration. This definitely includes members of Congress who would see themselves as members of the Tea Party and similar self-professed ultra-right factions of their Republican Party. And neither of those two larger contentious and competing factions in government is large enough in numbers or strong enough in votes in Congress to be able to in any real way dictate what motions would be acted upon there, or how these motions would be voted upon if they were followed through on and voted upon at all, and on anything. And that definitely holds true when it comes to consideration of any proposed motions that might arise regarding the United States Constitution’s 25th Amendment and its Section 4, and passing judgment on Donald Trump’s mental stability. And as will be examined in more detail later in this series, it also definitely holds true when considering any possible legal motion of impeachment and removal from office of president Trump for the commission of “high crimes and misdemeanors” as specified in the US Constitution.

• Ultimately, it is going to be the Congressional members of this Frame 5 group, and particularly members of it who come from swing states with large numbers of conflicted constituents, who will hold the deciding voices and votes here and for any path forward towards resolving the challenges that we now face, as coming from president Trump.

And this brings me squarely and directly back to the challenges that I have been raising throughout this series from its Part 6 on: the challenge of actually taking a stand and following through on a specific course of action here, when anything attempted or done will have to take place absent any real precedent – and certainly where a sitting president might be accused of being mentally incapacitated and unfit for office due to that. And this brings me back to a basic challenge that I have already raised and that I repeat here in greater detail, for its immediate relevancy:

• If members of Congress, and particularly those who would play a swing vote, deciding vote role in resolving these issues are challenged by a lack of consistency or consensus from the mental health experts who they would turn to for guidance, re 25th Amendment, Section 4 considerations,
• And if their constitutionally mandated procedural options for proceeding on any of this are rendered less certain and a lot more ambiguous from a lack of any real precedent here to fall back upon, and for either 25th Amendment, Section 4 considerations or for impeachment and trial considerations where mental health would of necessity also be an issue,
• And if they themselves are facing conflicting but at the same time forcefully demanding feedback and outreach from their constituents: from the people who would keep them in office or vote them out, and also from elected and powerful members of their own party and particularly from their colleagues in Congress who they would need ongoing support from,
• And they start out more inclined to find easier ways out and certainly in anything like a here-and-now timeframe – as fundamentally defines Frame 5 and its members, then how will they proceed?

As stated in those bullet points, that sounds like a long list of potentially excluding contingencies that would have to be simultaneously met, reducing the likelihood of any of this coming to a head for Frame 5 members. But we have to assume that all of these seeming contingencies do in fact actively apply and all at once and with significant and I add still growing impact from each and every one of them. And that presumption can only expect to become more and more compelling true as the Trump administration proceeds, and from one ill-considered word and one poorly considered and executed action to the next and then the next and next and seemingly every single day.

And this brings me to the issues of impeachment and to the Frame 3 contingency, and the possibilities of removal from office of a sitting United States president or vice president. I have made passing reference to this particular scenario on multiple occasions over the course of writing this series, and at least from its Part 6 on. I am going to more fully examine and discuss this set of issues in my next series installment here, noting in anticipation of that, that the power and authority to impeach and to try on impeachment charges are enumerated powers as laid out in the United States Constitution, in its Article 2, Section 4. The text of that Section of the US Constitution is a good starting point for thinking through and addressing the issues that I will be raising next and I will discuss it in some detail.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Social Networking and Business 2, and also see that directory’s Page 1.

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