By Michael Rowan
The presidential debate was like a World Series ball game where drunk hecklers for the losing side toss beer cans and mustard at nearby fans of the winners while screaming “The game is rigged.” Trump’s strategy followed the script of his campaign in 2015: heckle, disrupt, interrupt, mock and lie until the minds of Biden, the moderator and the worldwide audience implode.
It was the worst 90 minutes for democracy since its invention centuries ago. My daughter in Sonoma, California, poised to evacuate her home in the face of one more threatening fire, which has become an annual event for her since 2017, texted me: “I lasted 3 minutes. My tolerance for crap is very low these days…”
A national poll found 69% “annoyed”, 31% “entertained”, 19% “pessimistic”, and only 17% “informed” from the debate.
This is Trump’s playbook.
He’s a system disruptor. He’s against the “rigged” election system and feels he should continue to rule indefinitely. He’s against the historic “immigrant dream” of America and longs for the Confederate days of white supremacy. He’s against science and admires gut hunches like mainlining bleach to fight Covid19. He’s against Obamacare and has no replacement for 80 million Americans who desperately need it. He’s against masks and distancing to prevent the virus from spreading and claims 207,000 dead Americans since March gives him an A+ mark.
What he’s for is “law and order” by which he means do what I say or I’ll send soldiers into your town and throw dissenters in jail like Xi does in China or Putin does in Russia or Kim does in North Korea. They are real leaders that shine bright for Trump because they do what they want and that’s what Trump desperately demands, like a 5-year old in a tantrum.
The U.S. Constitution was written precisely to limit the powers of the president. The American Revolution was waged to rid America of imperial rule and install democracy. If Trump read the Declaration of Independence where it lists the abuses of the colonists by King George, did he identify with the writers of that document or the king?
But the obsession with Trump will not serve America to get back on the right track. The surfer is not the wave. The surfer can distract us from realizing the power of the wave. Trump’s voting base has been consistently at 45% for over four years. Trump can win or lose but that 45% against the American system is not going away.
The real challenge to America is to rebuild trust in its institutions among that 45%. This was the point of my book, How to Prevent Trump from Doing to America What Chavez Did to Venezuela
. In Venezuela, Chavez and then Maduro defenestrated Venezuela’s democratic, economic and independent institutions. The country lays in tatters today. The same could happen to the USA if it doesn’t make a massive effort at reunification.
To reunify is not Trump’s mission. He wants to rule a polarized America for his fans while ridding America of those who oppose him – blacks, feminists, Muslims, immigrants, cosmopolitan elites, scientists and so on. Likewise, Chavez did not have the mission of unifying Venezuela but ruling it without opposition, and he succeeded, but without institutions, the country collapsed. America’s institutions can collapse as well. You can see signs of crumbling every day.
So, what happens next? My LAHT article of September outlined three scenarios resulting from this election:
- A Chance at reconciliation (1% probability) - Biden wins by a lot, 10% or so
- Virtual Civil War (50% probability) - Biden wins by very little in a contested fraud-charged election
- Collapse (49% probability) - Trump wins by whatever means and takes revenge on the American system.
As a result of the first presidential debate, my estimate is that the scenario probabilities are slightly changed.
- Reconciliation (3% probability)
- Civil War (55% probability)
- Collapse (42% probability)
In an article at the end of October I will estimate the probabilities of these scenarios for the last time, including some detail of what is likely to happen to Americans under each scenario. Michael Rowan is an author and political consultant who has advised presidential candidates throughout Latin America, including Governor Manuel Rosales in Venezuela, President Jaime Paz Zamora of Bolivia and President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica. In the U.S., he has advised winning candidates in 26 states. He has been an award winning columnist for El Universal, The Daily Journal -- predecessor to LAHT -- and the Latin American Herald Tribune since the 1990s. He is the author, with Douglas Schoen, of The Threat Closer to Home - Hugo Chavez and the War Against America and the just released How to Prevent Trump from Doing to America What Chavez Did to Venezuela, published by Amazon Books.