How Powerful is Donald Trump?

That sounds like sort of a silly question to ask about the leader of the free world who is accompanied at all times by the codes necessary to launch a nuclear attack. But does this really answer the question: how powerful is Donald Trump? Could he be less powerful than we might think?

Let’s take our question to a person you might not know. Unless you work for a startup or went to business school, you might not have heard of Everett Rogers. His 1962 study led to the bell curve shown above. Maybe he can provide some guidance?

Rogers tried to explain how, why and at what rate new ideas spread. It is called diffusion, which, for him, is the process by which an innovation is communicated over time among the participants in a social system – how a new idea takes hold in a group.

The new idea for today (maybe not so new in some circles) is that it just might be okay to ignore Donald Trump, to scorn him, even to resist him outright because there might be nothing he can do about it. Depending on how quickly this idea is adopted by members of a few small groups, President Trump might really have very little power at all.

In this case, there are two separate social systems: the political left and the political right. They are separate markets in which this idea could take hold.

Rogers suggests that people adopt new ideas at different rates based on a variety of factors appropriate to the circumstances. Let’s imagine that the key question in the case of Donald Trump is “what is the risk to me of opposing (or even deposing) him?”

For the political left, there is no risk whatever to opposing the President. Even the slowest adapting laggards have long since moved past that decision. For them, the problem is that there is little they can do to get him out of the White House though they have been quite successful in derailing his objectives.

The political right is of greater interest because there is more they can do about it. Think distinguished Republican Senators telling President Nixon he had to resign in 1974.

Though Republicans have more influence over the President than Democrats, they also have the most risk of being accused of disloyalty to their team and potentially punished for it. Each influential Republican, who might in one way or another contribute to ousting the President, is somewhere on the Rogers bell curve. Where depends upon whatever factors are important to him or her, but self-interest is surely high on the list. A Quixotic failed solo effort is far from the best career enhancement strategy hence it makes sense for every influential Republican to wonder where he or she thinks the others are on the Rogers bell curve.

A majority of the Cabinet (13 of 24) could put Vice President Pence in the Oval Office. Being the first to suggest the idea has more career risk than being the last. Thereafter two-thirds of each branch of Congress would decide.

The Senate has 48 Democrats who are probably pretty safe bets to impeach, but does it have 19 Republicans to achieve the two-thirds requirement? Of the 52 Republicans, how many are innovators, early adopters and early majority when it comes to ousting a duly elected president of their own party? Based on the Rogers percentages, all of the innovators and early adopters among the 52 Republican Senators gets to eight, leaving the safety seeking vote counter to wonder if 11 more of the next 17 fastest moving Republican Senators will join them.

The House is similar. There are 192 Democrats. The outcome depends on 98 of 240 Republicans joining them. Like the Senate a high percentage of the “early majority” Congressmen would have to be on board.

What would it take to make that number of Cabinet members; Senators and Congressmen feel safe in making a decision to oust the President to say nothing of the unelected Republican political insiders?

More CEO resignations from presidential advisory councils? More generals and admirals contradicting the President? Worse poll numbers? More late night TV monologues? More world leaders expressing outrage? More adverse media coverage (probably not, in fact that might move opinion in the other direction)? Staff resignations? A tweet? A press conference tantrum?

It might not take much.

In one case, a few unscripted words were enough. “Have you no sense of decency? At long last have you left no sense of decency?” They were spoken by Joseph Nye Welch, a partner at the Boston law firm Hale and Dorr, and they ended the career of Senator Joseph McCarthy in 1954.

It is perhaps ironic that a former partner in the successor to Nye’s firm – WilmerHale – is a significant figure in today’s drama.

His name is Robert S. Mueller III.

 

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Haven Pell

At the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” Without hesitation, Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

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12 comments

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  • If Mueller can get enough dirt on Trump, he could be impeached. Clinton was impeached,
    but remained in office. He was not convicted.

    Starr could not find enough dirt on the Clintons vis-a-vis Whitewater. So, he kept digging,
    and came up with Monica Lewinski.

    I doubt Mueller can get Trump on sex, even if the Donald consorted with hookers prior to office. So what. The Russian business? Who knows. Manafort might be dirty, but Trump? I doubt it, unless I’m wrong, and Manafort rats him out.

    You can be sure of one thing. Maybe two.

    1. Senators and Congressmen will wait for Mueller’s findings before they decide to pile on
    Trump, or not.
    2. Mueller wants to nail Trump. How can I be sure? Because he looks exactly like a bloodhound.

    • Perhaps how R elected officials are thinking? Move in whatever direction provides maximum credit at minimum risk and do it at just the proper time.

  • John McCain has a 12 month window on terra firma and a well earned ‘give a fuck attitude’. He might be the early adopter catalyst. He certain,y hates the Donald with every fiber.

  • Fascinating
    How many of those most likely to benefit immediately and positively might be corralled? The Veep? Could there be a mass event, like mass resignations from the Cabinet, or mass voting by Rs against R policy, enough to tip him out? Or is there no mechanism bar resignation, impeachment, or what we call being sectioned [lunatic]. Here, we would find people to bring a vote of no confidence, but I realise that your President is elected to that office, whereas our Prime Minister is not, he/she is simply the leader of whichever party is in government, so we only have to get the Party to tip him/her out. And we find that the jackals round on their own species quite nicely….

    • The XXV Amendment to our Constitution deals with incapacity to serve. There are various procedures for various circumstances. Much will depend on the investigation by Special Counsel Mueller. If he finds something potentially criminal, that would make it an easier decision for those who would be thinking about their own well being. Rounding on themselves should be less problematic as many Republicans don’t think he even is a Republican.

  • So, if enough of the right people on Capitol Hill went against him, what mechanism would they use tor remove him? ‘Have you no sense of decency’ might not cut much ice with a sociopath like DJT

    • The quote simply turned public opinion against McCarthy. It did not change the man himself but it gave everyone the confidence to know they’d be in a large majority. Always a happy place for timid politicians

      • Public opinion about DJT is already headed down this trajectory? Maybe he ought to be very publicly humiliated more than once, mass walkouts of meetings by an orchestrated group run by the Rs? Get the D’s to stand aside, they are obviously against him , a few rallies [he loves rallies] where the hall is empty, turn the tables on what Clint Eastwood did to the chair? i dunno, but if he goes have you got anyone better, substantially better i mean

  • Here is what I found out about provoking a narcissist. Do you think Steve Bannon might be better at it? He might even know what works on him.

    5 Sure-fire ways to provoke a narcissist
    Narcissists become unhinged when their hot-buttons are pushed. By continually bringing the narcissist back to reality by repeatedly ‘stinging’ him on his sore-places is both a community service and a source of amusement.

    Here we have 5 sure-fire ways of putting a narcissist in his place.

    1. If you are able to contradict him, do so and do it publically and support your contradiction or disagreement with facts. The effect will be the same as a blow to his head with a sledgehammer.

    2. ALL narcissists fear intimacy. Try to draw the narcissist out to comment on intimate matters or highlight his obvious inability establish and maintain intimate relationships. Try something like: “I see you have been married a number of times, I guess you have a problem with women, ever thought of trying a man?” or “You have a weight problem, how are you trying to deal with that?”

    3. When he talks about himself and his achievements always look bored, where possible interject and where appropriate, say in a formal meeting, ask him back to stick to the topic. Try something like: “Why are we hearing about you? The subject under discussion here is …… so can we stick to the point please.”

    4. Always remind him of reality and bring him back down to earth when his sense of grandiosity gets the better of him. Try something like: “Can we please stick to the reality? I am not sure dealing with individual fantasies is advancing this discussion.”

    5. Make comments that directly or indirectly impinge on his self-image, omnipotence, judgement, omniscience, skills, capabilities, professional record, or even omnipresence.

    Good ways to start sentences are:
    “I think you overlooked … made a mistake here … you don’t know … do you now … you were not here yesterday so … you cannot … you should … (perceived by narcissists as a rude imposition, narcissists react very badly to restrictions placed on their freedom to live their fantasy) … I (always remind him that you are a separate, independent entity, narcissists regard others as extensions of their selves, their internalization processes were screwed up and they did not differentiate properly) …” You get the gist of it.

  • Excellent. Here we simply call it ‘winding people up’. I love doing it……. Mr Farage is quite good at it. Mr Rees-Mogg on the other hand is better at the ‘damning by faint praise’ approach. I think you need them all