Or is he simply being himself?
So President Donald Trump has kissed and made up with Democratic Senate Leader Charles Schumer and House chief Nancy Pelosi. “Chuck and Nancy would like to see something happen, and so do I,” he said, agreeing to a debt increase and continued spending for two months only, when Republican leaders desperately wanted these delayed until after the critical 2018 election.
President Trump even called Rep. Pelosi the next morning and agreed with her suggestion that he tweet a supportive message to the young immigrants affected by his decision to end the so-called Dreamers program protecting illegals, telling them they will be safe from deportation for months. And he did.
Democrats were elated and Republicans furious.
This was some change for Pelosi who had even previously called for Trump’s official censure by Congress after the President’s post-Charlottesville remarks, saying, “The President’s repulsive defense of white supremacists demands that Congress act to defend our American values. Every day, the President gives us further evidence of why such a censure is necessary.”
Pelosi was by no means alone, supported by her entire House delegation, most Senate Democrats, the media and cultural establishment, the universities, the Never-Trump Republicans and the whole government bureaucracy-contractor-lobbyist triangle, with two-thirds of rank-and-file Democrats that week supporting Trump’s impeachment.
Big business joined in too. They resigned from White House committees in droves. Most traditional businesses were in character simply following the media mob but one forgets how far business has moved to the left.
As recently as 1995, the five largest corporations by market value were Exxon, AT&T, Coca-Cola, General Electric and Merck. Today, only Exxon remains, joined by Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon, the latter now representing 10 percent of all business profits. These new business giants are all outspoken against Trump, funding every leftwing group and program imaginable, even firing employees not mouthing the latest orthodoxies, as liberal James Damore discovered after criticizing Google.
But it is the mainstream media that has been the most intransigently anti-Trump. Right from the election, media have eschewed all objectivity in a crusade against Trump accusing him of collusion with Russia to overthrow democracy; hatred of immigrants, the poor and minorities; and a supporter of Nazism. How could they ever back off from the mob hatred they provoked?
Why would James Hodgkinson not get a list of Republican leaders, go to the ballfield where the GOP baseball team was practicing and shoot 50-100 rounds against the party supporting Nazis? The riot provoked by real Neo-Nazis in Charlottesville resulting in the death of a protester by a person of rightwing beliefs but apparently mentally ill and not a Nazi member still cannot be excused. The media charged Trump with moral equivalence for first saying there were problems from both the instigators and the protestors even though he specifically criticized Nazis and racists. The fact that even The New York Times’ Sheryl Gay Stolberg reported against the headlines that “the hard left seemed as hate-filled as the alt-right” did not seem to matter.
A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll demonstrates the dramatic result. The electorate is divided with just 8 percent of Democrats approving Trump’s performance as president compared to 80 percent of Republicans. Back in the 1950s, 60 percent of Democrats approved of Republican Dwight Eisenhower’s performance. Today, 77 percent of Democrats say they supported the liberal social changes of recent years but only 30 percent of Republicans did.
It is clear Trump’s base is in the Republican Party. So why move leftward toward Pelosi and Schumer? It is no secret that Donald Trump originally registered as a Republican in 1987, switched to the Independence Party in 1999, to Democrats in 2009, Republicans again in 2009, “no party” in 2011, and Republicans again in 2012. In the presidential nomination battle in 2016 he disagreed with many conservative positions, distinguishing himself from the other dozen Republicans. Consistent conservativism this is not.
Still, President Trump’s agenda once in office has been remarkably conservative, with only trade seriously off most conventional positions. Yet, he has criticized Republican Congressional leaders, their lack of success on health reform, and hinted he might increase taxes on the rich.
In fact, Trump’s approval rating is low but Republicans’ are lower, especially those in Congress. Their constituencies are different and his is much larger. As analyst Ben Domenech put it, “A combative, populist non-ideological president not hung up on small government budget principles who infuriates the left and says anti-politically correct things and delivers on judges is, as it turns out, what ‘his own party’ wants. It has long been politically and socially populist and not economically libertarian like those in Congress, donors, activists, and thinkers.”
Domenech thinks this portends a future with Trump embracing both popular Democratic and Republican ideas such as minimum wage increases but welfare work requirements; cutting payroll taxes for the majority but increasing maximum taxes for the wealthy; infrastructure but labor reforms; and universal health care but regulatory relief. Domenech’s solution for the right is “to fuse conservative ideas with what little coherent philosophy of Trumpism there is.”
Even that may be optimistic. With Republican political weakness and the possibility for losing control of one or both houses of Congress, personally and politically every instinct Trump has would be to make a deal with the Democrat Congressional leadership headed by fellow deal-making New Yorker Schumer. If Democrats and their cultural and media allies had been accommodating from the beginning this surely would have been the result. Indeed, the whole Trump program might have been very different.
Today, it is doubtful the Democratic base would allow its leaders make deals with the man former Obama ambassador and dean of the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University Reuben Brigety called “America’s first Nazi-in-chief” in Foreign Policy magazine. Or the man New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd said was buoying up neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan.
Rep. Gerald E. Connolly voiced his worry that Trump’s “base will be jaded about any overt attempts to make him look good or somehow normalize” the debt ceiling cooperation with him.
Actually, GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell claims he outsmarted Schumer by writing the deal to separate the debt ceiling decision from the spending one to give Republicans more political flexibility in 2018.
Even if Chuck and company throw caution to the wind and continue making deals, one presidential attribute might be decisive. While he is often careless with the precise truth, Mr. Trump speaks his truth perhaps more than any recent politician. Any clever politician knows he must shade the truth to survive politically. Political wisdom teaches politicians to “stay on message” but that is precisely what Donald Trump so dislikes about politics.
Trump cannot help himself. He hates political correctness and sees it as his mission to tell the truth (as he understands it anyway, down deep somewhere).
As journalist Holman Jenkins perceptively noted about Trump’s August 15 press conference, under intense pressure from the media and his advisors, “he spontaneously reverted to the truth.” Against them all, he insisted that the violence in Charlottesville came from both sides — which of course it did.
My guess is that President Trump will stay more often to the right side of the road than not, even if it is an enormously bumpy ride.