And the Band Played On

Since the American political “stew,” which has been at a steady simmer for a long time, appears to be about to come to a full, raging boil again, I figured I should take a look at the Democrats’ chances for impeaching Donald Trump. I used my “Enemy at the Gates” vulnerability spread with my favorite sociopolitical deck, Brian Williams’ PoMo Tarot, for the main reading (with reversals) and the Thoth Tarot for the topic and quintessence cards. I picked the top row to represent Trump and the bottom row for his Democratic adversaries. In this deck, I assign Wands to Guns for their fierce, aggressive nature (even though Williams thought of them as Air), and Bottles stand in for Cups. Money in the court cards and Bills in the minors serve as Pentacles. There are no major or minor Air cards (portrayed as “TVs” in the minors) in this reading at all, suggesting that “cooler heads” are nowhere to be seen and there is little room for constructive debate at this point.

Trump Impeachment.JPG
All images © U.S. Games Systems, Inc, Stamford, CT and Harper Collins Publishers, New York, NY

I chose the Thoth Hanged Man for the “Opportunity” card (aka “Significator”) since the Democrats’ aim is to “hang Trump out to dry.” Before examining each of the opposing pairs, I did an overview of each line of cards. In Trump’s case, the reversed minor cards show that his persistent bungling of routine matters of state (or at least the popular perception of same)  places him in a difficult position. The Democrats, with Nancy Pelosi (Money Woman) in the vanguard, dithered over their fortunes for a while (Wheel of Fortune reversed) but seem to have come together (8 of Bottles) and gone into “gunslinger” mode (Gun Boy).

The first pair of cards shows the “Strengths” of each antagonist. Trump has the 5 of Guns reversed here, suggesting his tendency to “shoot himself in the foot” (although the image looks like he’s shoving the barrel down his own throat). There is no real strength in this card unless the reversal means there is more going on behind the scenes than meets the eye. The Democtrats’ standard-bearer, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, clearly stands out as their main advantage, and the figure in Money Woman appears poised and unflappable. The Democrats get a “+1” in the scoring here.

The second pair indicates “Weaknesses.” Trump’s 4 of Guns reversed (which appears to be based on Eugene Delacroix’s painting Liberty Leading the People) seems to show him leading his followers down a perilous path. The Democrats have the Wheel of Fortune reversed, sending mixed signals about their ability to take advantage of this apparent turning point in history. Still, the Wheel is a “trump” card and comes across as more vigorous than the impotent 4 of Guns reversed. Score another “+1” for the opposition.

The third pair reflects the “edge” that each opponent holds. Neither card is very compelling here, but Trump’s 4 of Bottles reversed depicts him as being peculiarly nonchalant while the people in the Democrat’s 8 of Bottles appear to be united in plotting his undoing. The Democrats get another “+1” due to their solidarity of purpose.

The fourth pair reveals the power wielded by each party’s allies. The placid 2 of Bottles makes Trump’s camp seem rather hapless in the face of the Democrat’s remorseless Gun Boy. I’m reminded of a cowboy shooting bottles off a fence post; “set ’em up and knock ’em down.” This scenario delivers another “+1” for the Democrats.

Before I get into examining the three “quintessence” cards, just a word about numerological reduction. Standard practice is to use what is called “theosophical reduction” to diminish sums higher than 21 and thus bring them within the range of the twenty-two trump cards, 0-to-21. This is done by adding the digits of the original sum together as many times as necessary to accomplish that objective. The final number is then used to identify the trump card for the “quint” position. Experimentation by European cartomancers has shown that, when working with trumps-only spreads like the 5-card “tirage en croix,” the distribution of possible quint cards is skewed such that some trumps can be selected an inordinate number of times while others are never chosen. My own experiments with spreads of seven cards and larger show that this bias is substantially reduced with more cards, and including the court and minor cards in the mix further minimizes the risk.

However, there are other ways to perform reduction. One is to “cast out nines,” removing blocks of nine from the original sum until one arrives at a number lower than 22; this has the advantage of enabling a result of zero (the Fool), which can’t be reached through theosophical reduction. A third way is to simply subtract 22 or its multiples from the total to achieve the same end, a much quicker way to get there. Casting out nines eventually produces the same value as theosophical reduction but allows one to stop at a higher-numbered trump before getting there, which can have interpretive significance. Reducing by 22 also permits reaching zero. Note that each method can yield a different result, so we must settle on the one we’re most comfortable with and stick with it.

Finally, when I do the quintessence I include the unnumbered court cards in the calculation as 11, 12, 13 and 14, even though some writers insist it shouldn’t be done, because I believe every card on the table should play a part in the verdict. I also subtract the value of reversed cards instead of adding it to allow both getting to zero and generating a reversed “quint” card, something I find useful. The quintessence is essentially a symbolic rather than literal exercise, so this degree of flexibility seems justified.

Because I have two sets of four cards to deal with in this spread and may run afoul of the skewed distribution, I decided to perform the “quint” calculations for this reading all three ways and pick the one that made the most sense within the context of the subject. Trump’s “sub-quint,” a summation of his four-card line, was straightforward: [-5] + [-4] + [-4] + [2] = [-11], Strength (Lust) reversed. His power could be fading in the face of legal challenges to the legitimacy of his actions brought by the Democratic opposition. The Democrats’ case is much more interesting: their raw total was [13] + [-10] + [8] [+11] = 22. If I use theosophical reduction I get four, the Emperor; if I cast out nines I arrive at thirteen, Death; if I subtract 22, I wind up with zero, the Fool, and if I renumber the Fool to become 22 as some people do, I also receive that card as sub-quint without any further reduction. Since the Emperor stands for the “Rule of Law,” and that seems to be the main thrust of the Democrats’ impeachment initiative, I decided to stick with theosophical reduction; I don’t see either Death or the Fool as indicative of the Democrats’ present position. The bottom line is that the Democrats get another “+1” since the Emperor is more supportive of their four-card progression than Lust reversed is of Trump’s line.

But the “grand quintessence” (arrived at by summing and reducing the two sub-quints) tells a slightly different story. The sum was [-11] + [4] = [-7], the Chariot reversed. Since the question asked was whether the Democrats would succeed in their drive toward impeachment, the Chariot reversed implies that “the wheels will fall off” the effort at some point along the road. Trump still has the power of the Presidency on his side, and that may be enough to derail the effort to bring him down, at least until he leaves office. The grand quint does not so much favor Trump as it does throw a wrench in the Democrats’ well-oiled gears; I have to give “+2” to Trump on that basis.

Still, the final score comes out “+5” for the Democrats at the tactical level and “+2” for Trump in the “big picture,” so they are far from dead-in-the-water at this juncture. It will take a major redirection as shown by the Chariot reversed to send them off-course. The Thoth “Strength” card was retitled “Lust,” and its reversal in this spread makes me think it is showing Trump’s vulnerability to the ferocious “blood-lust” of his enemies.

As a postscript, it’s really too bad that Donald Trump is such a polarizing figure. If he had simply pursued the more reasonable aspects of his economic and social agenda while holding the arch-conservatives at bay, picked competent, consensus-building associates for his team and trusted them to do their jobs, and then kept his flapping yap shut and his meddling nose out of the minutiae, he might have gone down in the annals of history as more than just “the guy who kept Hilary Clinton out of the Oval Office.” It seems to me he’s trying to be too much of a free-wheeling, seat-of-the-pants manager and not enough of a savvy strategist. I’m not a liberal by any stretch of the imagination (more a small-government Libertarian at heart), but I think I can see the writing on the wall here.


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