Unintended consequences foul the Trump swamp

What about truly damaging accumulations of unintended consequences that emerge from Trump incompetence, instability and hypocrisy on repeated pledges?


I love it when ‘reasoning’ human beings think they have figured out how to beat something and it comes right back and kicks them in the nuts. God bless the law of unintended consequences.— George Carlin

The law of unintended consequences is the only real law of history.—Niall Ferguson

The law of unintended consequences [states] that an intervention in a complex system tends to create unanticipated and often undesirable outcomes. Akin to Murphy’s law.—Wikipedia

Oh, the unintended consequences of perfidy! — Andrew Levkoff

Chaos reigns, cronies fall, Putin’s shadow looms

To maintain our collective sanity, we must routinely assume the world makes relative sense, that probability still frames life choices, and good outcomes reward good decisions. When effects wildly contradict causes, the results stunt our core Yankee myth specifying that winners write their own life story. Success, if not destiny, means knowing when to go all in, when to hold and when to fold. What red-blooded champion accepts being a fluffy seed in the wind?

Thus, time to ponder this big question: who, if anyone, is running today’s federal chaos government? We’re moving beyond pulling hair out because the so-called president is deviant, defective, even deranged. The “why” in the end defaults to the empirical “what.” Is not mayhem inevitable when President Putz smacks himself in the face with his own pie of simple-minded conspiracies that permanently shred his credibility?

So, where are we now after Trump’s flurry of high-sounding executive orders reinforced with the most reactionary cabinet, notable so far for chronic lying and creepy promises to sabotage government? Ditto, the House’s ACA demolition derby, allegedly caring about public “health care” while abandoning 24 million inevitably sick people. The onslaught of instant opposition, right and left, on Trumpcare confirms that getting elected no longer correlates with knowing how to govern. Failure is one thing, self-generated humiliation is another – thus handing undeserving Democrats an electoral cudgel for next year.

So many unintended consequences so soon confirm all the worst fears about Trumpery hardly ready for prime time – and we’re not out of the first inning. Trump is a walking, hulking, smiling villain, not only flip-flopping like a slimy fish, but weekly betraying his own core, however absurd campaign pitches. The second Muslim Ban looks as flawed as the first to state attorneys general, and what top analyst thinks it will stop terrorism; au contraire, pass or fail, this clunky, prestige-killing ban looks like Trump’s gift to ISIS recruitment.

Contradictions galore

Not only will the Great Southern Wall of Delusion be a shrunken, symbolic minimum (forget the 2000 mile border), Mexico won’t pay a dime, and Congress looks mightily resistant to rush into funding. Other than fat cat tax relief, has Trump (or Ryan’s House) proposed anything to address overwhelming global economic pressures that penalize under-trained Rust Belters? Or substantive retraining programs? Right, the fantasy trillion bucks for infrastructure – a real conservative winner, shamelessly driven by tax credit incentives after which bridge contractors line their pockets for years with local tolls. Another (costly) win for Joe Sixpack.

And then along comes Russia, whose scandalous hacking (with or without Trump collusion) makes it less likely we end major sanctions. Withdrawal would only confirm the quid pro quo assurances sneaky Trump operatives likely promised Putin. Growing national distrust informs the ironic reversal for Russian subterfuge. Consider also the disgraced crony, Mike Flynn, already bought off as a foreign agent (for Turkey).  Signing up after the fact as a foreign agent, he now faces indictment for transgressing the five-year lobbying restriction in his short-lived Trump contract.

Still on the horizon are unintended consequences (and countless lawsuits) when cabinet reactionaries (especially Education, Energy and EPA) begin to mangle their lawful agency missions and operations. Not only does this cabinet ignorantly deny climate change, the greatest unintended consequence in human history, brace for waves of willful blindness and inevitable high (tragic) irony – injury to Trump voters most of all. Sociologists call this “perverse incentives” – when counterproductive “solutions” backfire, producing anomalies that make everything worse.

What links all this increasingly discredited alt right misdirection: outright, downright, forthright lying, led by Trump’s pathological parade and seconded by his cabinet. His farcical slur against Obama the “sick” wiretapper is only the latest guffaw. If the blatant intention was to deflect the potentially treasonous Russian scandal, the results are backfiring, dominating the news so long it looks to further gut his fragile credibility.

So much for trust

This gap between cause and effect dramatizes the worst flaw in a president: so much smoke and mirrors citizens can’t trust anything Trump mouths. The Donald apparently banks on everyone else sharing his gnat-long, shape-shifting attention span. The vicious wiretapping ploy ends up offending Republicans like John McCain, now demanding evidence or withdrawal. That way lies party disunity, adding to the fallout from Trump Team/Russia double-dealing.

Finally, as unintended circumstances (gross failures, mounting scandals, continual chaos) swamp the Trump reign, what sentient president (who hates losing more than anything) goes out of his way to keep spooking the 60% majority? And we have yet to hear about juicy Trump conflicts of interests (with lawsuits pending), the implications from Trump U. scamming, plus mounting evidence that global Trump real estate holdings inevitably invite worldwide crony corruption. Nothing makes a president “so-called” more quickly than awareness his entire train, having just left the station, is veering off the tracks. 

So much for Trump being so presidential (with only “the right words”) we’d all get bored. Ditto, hardly dominating enemies abroad who cheat, lie and manipulate. The sorriest Trump lie remains: he’s emptying the swamp — what, by doubling down on billionaire alligators and predatory larvae eating government agencies from inside? I can’t wait for Trump to “reconcile” a populist, blue-collar workers’ insurgency when his elitist fat cats get cooking. How long before jobless, hopeless, enraged Rust Belters realize the super-corporatist Trump way doesn’t just contradict campaign pledges but torpedoes their interests and needs?

Backlash against betrayals

Apparently, neither the Trump team nor House leadership understands that credibility, planning and follow-through are keys to successful governance. They continue to shoot themselves in various appendages. Enough chaos without achievement encourages what few predicted after this election: putting not just the Senate but the House in play. That makes electoral backlash the great, looming unintended consequence: why shouldn’t Trump voters be mad as hell when promised, better-paying jobs never appear? Instead, they get fewer workplace protections, less government unemployment safety nets and decidedly much worse air and water quality.

Trump reigns as the king of unintended consequences, started when he so crudely intimidated GOP primary foes, then dispatched an experienced but vulnerable opponent still flunking Campaigning 101. Why not imagine the unintended outcome of Trump incompetence, instability and shortfalls: even lower approval numbers that prompt vulnerable party members to rush for the exits. As we learned so painfully this year, political norms, civility and probability no longer apply – anything goes, even a presidential departure before 2020. That prospect increases with seemingly unstoppable unintended Trump consequences, the disorder of Murphy’s Law writ large. Most results could be very bad, but there will be good news, too.  


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For over a decade, Robert S. Becker's independent, rebel-rousing essays on politics and culture analyze overall trends, history, implications, messaging and frameworks. He has been published widely, aside from Nation of Change and RSN, with extensive credits from OpEdNews (as senior editor), Alternet, Salon, Truthdig, Smirking Chimp, Dandelion Salad, Beyond Chron, and the SF Chronicle. Educated at Rutgers College, N.J. (B.A. English) and U.C. Berkeley (Ph.D. English), Becker left university teaching (Northwestern, then U. Chicago) for business, founding SOTA Industries, a top American high end audio company he ran from '80 to '92. From '92-02, he was an anti-gravel mining activist while doing marketing, business and writing consulting. Since then, he seeks out insight, even wit in the shadows, without ideology or righteousness across the current mayhem of American politics.