I spent much of this past week in Washington, talking with friends still in government, former colleagues, high-ranking Democrats, a few Republican pundits and some members of Congress from both sides of the aisle. It was my first visit to our nation’s capital since Donald Trump became president.
1. Washington is more divided, angry, bewildered and fearful than I’ve ever seen it.
2. The angry divisions aren’t just Democrats vs. Republicans. Rancor is also exploding inside the Republican Party.
3. Republicans (and their patrons in big business) no longer believe Trump will give them cover to do what they want to do. They’re becoming afraid Trump is genuinely nuts, and he’ll pull the party down with him.
4. Many Republicans are also angry at Paul Ryan, whose replacement bill for Obamacare is considered by almost everyone on Capitol Hill to be incredibly dumb.
5. I didn’t talk with anyone inside the White House, but several who have had dealings with it called it a cesspool of intrigue and fear. Apparently everyone working there hates and distrusts everyone else.
6. The Washington foreign policy establishment, both Republican and Democrat, is deeply worried about what’s happening to American foreign policy, and the worldwide perception of America being loony and rudderless. They think Trump is legitimizing far-right movements around the world.
7. Long-time civil servants are getting ready to bail. If they’re close to retirement, they’re already halfway out the door. Many in their 30s and 40s are in panic mode.
8. Republican pundits think Steve Bannon is even more unhinged than Trump, seeking to destroy democracy as we’ve known it.
9. Despite all this, no one I talked with thought a Trump impeachment likely, at least not anytime soon—unless there’s a smoking gun showing Trump’s involvement in Russia’s intrusion into the election.
10. Many people asked, bewilderedly, “How did this [Trump] happen?” When I suggest it had a lot to do with the 35-year-long decline of incomes of the bottom 60 percent; the growing sense, ever since the Wall Street bailout, that the game is rigged; and the utter failure of both Republicans and Democrats to reverse these trends—they gave me blank stares.
Robert Reich is the chancellor’s professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, and Time magazine named him one of the 10 most effective Cabinet secretaries of the 20th century. He has written 14 books, including the best-sellers Aftershock, The Work of Nations and Beyond Outrage and, most recently, Saving Capitalism. He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and co-creator of the award-winning documentary Inequality for All.
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