A little bell went off in my head last summer, the kind that tells me to remember a thing because it might be important later. Actually there were three of them, and the way my brain works they all got lumped together in some cobweb infested corner of my cortex.
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and newly-installed House Speaker Paul Ryan endorse Donald Trump after being “just not ready” to do so only a month earlier
- Donald Trump reluctantly nominates Mike Pence, despite multiple reports that Mr. Trump was up until midnight on the phone trying to get out of it.
- Even in the wake of continued outrageous statements by their nominee, and even in the wake of the “P**sy Tapes,” their endorsement remained steadfast.
The first was odd because both leaders had been rather vocal in their denouncements of Mr. Trump during the early portions of the primaries when they, like nearly all of us, though that Trump had no chance of turning this vanity exercise into a winning campaign. The second seemed unsurprising because, well, Trump. The third, though, seemed almost as outrageous as the revelations on the tape themselves. I thought, “Why would they not simply take this manna from Heaven as an easy out and watch him go down in flames, thus saving their party?” While I obviously disagree with nearly everything Ryan and McConnell stand for, I recognize savvy politicians when I see them, so I assumed they were playing an angle I could not yet see.
As the remaining drops and curves of the hellish rollercoaster that was Election 2016 wound down, like most blissfully unaware prognosticators I was exercising cautious optimism. I was no tremendous fan of Secretary Clinton’s, but she was clearly more qualified for the job and her positions on issues were much closer to my own. Polls and pols everywhere thought she’d win. I went to my local victory party expecting just that: Victory for my side.
In one small way, it was. I won my own race. Though being unopposed in the general I liked my chances going in. Sadly though, as has happened to me several times this year, something good happening in my life was immediately crushed by something bad. After taking a day or two curled up in a ball and whimpering like an abandoned puppy (OK, a heavy-handed metaphor, but still), I logged my initial reactions.
A few days later, those three little bells started tinkling again behind whatever wall I had bricked up in that corner, and a hypothesis began to form. It remains just that because it cannot be tested until after the inauguration, but I began to think of it as “The Ryan Gambit.” Turns out I’m quite the Tom Clancy fan, for a pacifist progressive. Here’s how it works:
Ryan offers Trump his support, along with that of McConnell, and the Republican establishment writ large. In exchange, they get to hand pick his VP. Trump, ever the dealmaker, agrees. They choose Mike Pence, a rock-ribbed right-wing Midwestern conservative like themselves, from a deep red state where it won’t cost them anything if he wins and leaves his post. Trump hates the choice, which explains the reports in “bell” number two. When all the horrible lies continue from then on, the establishment cabal has no need to back out, because Pence is now their failsafe. Trump had already provided ample fodder to construct tales of high crimes and misdemeanors, and would go on to add multiple conflicts of interest and violations of the nobility clause in Article I. If thing didn’t go the way Ryan and McConnell wanted, they’d simply impeach and remove him, and the guy they wanted all along would step in (no slouch am I at my Machiavelli, nor are they).
And in the past several days, contrary to “draining the swamp,” as Trump had promised, it is being stocked with more establishment right wing alligators to help solidify a conservative establishment for a generation.
Mr. Trump, I predict (since we’re all so good at predicting about Trump), will not last through his first year in office. But that’s OK for him, he never really wanted the job in the first place. And all of this also explains why he has done nothing to create a blind trust or sever ties from his TV productions. He expects to be back there fairly soon. Maybe he’ll claim “health and family reasons,” but if not, there’s always the Ryan Gambit.