Political Tipping Points

Published at 08:04 on 29 August 2018

They have two main characteristics:

  1. It is an accurate term. When a tipping point is triggered, change happens fast.
  2. The exact mechanism of the tipping point tends to remain hidden until the tipping happens.

If, when it’s all over, you could go into a time machine and go back a few years, most people would find your news from the future surprising.

Consider the case of the USSR and its empire. In 1980, it seemed as strong and long-lasting as ever. Afghanistan had just been invaded, and the USA and its empire had been forced to accept this (because challenging it would have meant challenging the USSR directly, a big no-no in the nuclear era). Even in 1986, the USSR and its empire had a semi-permanent air to them. Yet by the end of 1989, the Berlin Wall had fallen.

Or consider the case of Suharto in Indonesia. His dictatorship was tolerated because at least the economy reliably grew. Then the banking system collapsed, in no small part due to the regime’s own crony capitalism. When Suharto went cap in hand to the USA, his normal benefactor, he discovered to his dismay that years of patient activism on the East Timor issue had made him mostly toxic to Congress. He got no bailout, Indonesian society quickly turned on him, and he was compelled to resign.

And so it may be with Trump. He’s managed to turn the GOP into a party of his slavish followers. However, much of this following in Congress is coerced; many GOP congressmen secretly dislike Trump. They only play along because he has them cowed.

If, as I fervently hope, the GOP gets severely punished by the voters in November, this may force a recalculation: Republicans in Congress may well see it as being more to their political benefit to distance them from a doomed cause than to ally with it. Such distancing becomes increasingly likely if the Democrats launch investigations of Trump and these investigations uncover dirt.

Suddenly, many of the GOP may well realize that their toast is buttered on the side opposite they thought it was. At that point, the end will come surprisingly (to many) quickly for Trump.

Or it may happen sooner or later than that. I’m merely speculating on one possible mechanism, and as mentioned earlier, the mechanism often remains hidden and unperceived to most.

The one difference is that Trump is unlikely to merely resign. His ego won’t support such an option. He will either have to be removed against his will, or he will end his life because he won’t be able to live with the existential crisis that acknowledging his own fallibility will produce.

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