In our last post 2017 The Year the World Ends we offered some observations and advice to Democrats looking forward.to 2020. The Republicans barring death or impeachment, will put forth Donald J. Trump for re-election. The real question is what Donald J. Trump that would be. At present Republicans have great hopes for the Trump Presidency. Many echo former George W. Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen’s jubilation at Trump’s inauguration. Writing in his 1/19 Washington Post Column, he lists a number of reasons for conservatives to celebrate. First of course is that he isn’t Hillary Clinton. He’ll appoint a Scalia clone to the Supreme Court restoring a conservative majority. The cabinet will be “perhaps the most conservative Cabinet of any president in modern history.” He’ll”break the mold of governance in Washington.” Regulatory, education and tax reform will be accomplished. Our full energy potential will be realized. National defense will be greatly strengthened. Even poverty would be addressed. Sounds as if he expects a Trump presidency would be much the same as a Kasich, Rubio or even a Jeb Bush presidency. Those Republicans agreeing with Thiessen probably see a united party riding a wave of conservative prosperity behind their “conservative” incumbent.
Can this Republican dream come true? Will Trump follow the guidance of conservative congressional leaders to their promised land? Even Thiessen mentions possible perils in a Trump presidency. “If he goes big in the wrong direction (isolationism, protectionism), the result could be disastrous.” One of the first actions of our new president was to withdraw from the Transpacific Trade Agreement.(TPP) An unmistakable move towards isolationism and against free trade. The problem is Trump has made his election pitch of protectionism, anti-immigration and isolationism to his followers and they expect him to stay the course. His political power stems from entirely from them. With them in his corner he deluge any obstinate Republican legislator with nasty emails & tweets. Buck him and face a primary opponent. Can he ever be seen as breaking faith with his followers? Most of talk radio in the end supported his candidacy. Many talkers didn’t fall in line initially, but their abhorrence of Hilary Clinton and the Supreme Court in the balance lead to almost uniform Trump support. Most of these have two to three hours of airtime to fill daily. Online right leaning sites need conflict to attract eyeballs. With Hilary gone the Democrats in the backseat and the open court seat soon filled, these opinion leaders and others will be looking for new dragons to slay. Trump can’t afford to appear to be one of them.
This sets up a clash between Trump and the congressional leaders. Do the conservative leaders tame Trump so he obediently signs on to their program or does he use his followers to bully congress into submission? A test of strength appears on the horizon. Trump’s pro-Russian orientation is no secret. He has mentioned possible removable of sanctions on Russia in return their joining with the US to fight ISIS. Why this would be in our interest isn’t at all apparent. Sunni Muslims worldwide have just witnessed Russian Planes in the service of their Shia allies slaughtering Sunni men, woman and children in Aleppo. Of the estimated 1.6 billion Muslims, 80-90% are Sunnis. Even if only 1% more join the radicals because of this butchery, it represents a huge increase in potential terrorists. How did we forget that ISIS and Al Qaeda gained support in reaction Iraq’s Shia government’s anti Sunni actions. Maybe a Trump sit down with General Petraus on how to the Sunni-Shia animosity works. Just how being seen in league with the Russians and by extension the Shia, improves our security is beyond any logic. More likely it would illuminate the target on our back. Further, removing the sanctions would infuriate among others, Senators McCain, Graham & Rubio. In fact they’re in the forefront of a Bill to increase the Sanctions . The likely outcome of Trump lifting present sanctions, would be even stiffer ones passing congress and ending up on his desk for signature or veto. If he signs, besides looking weak, his rapprochement with Putin would be dead. If he vetoes, it likely would be overridden. Democrats feel Putin cost them the Presidency and needs to be punished. He could make a personal appeal to his fellow Republicans to avoid his humiliation, but if he has any relationship with the leadership, it’s bad one. It’s unlikely Mitch McConnell would buck McCain, Graham & Rubio over Russia. Nor can he threaten this trio with primary fights. None of them are up for re-election before he is. Trashing these three worked in the past, but what goes around comes around. Trump humiliated with a big override won’t draw a tear from this group. More likely smiles.
Playing Democrats against Republicans might give Trump some leverage, but at the cost of party loyalty. If he plays footsie with Democrats with a huge infrastructure and/or family leave program and he may find a lack of enthusiasm for funding a “huge” wall or his trade policies. If history is any teacher, frustrated and feeling dissed, Trump will likely strike back against those opposing him in the party where he can. A large number of primary fights approaching 2018 could rupture the party in ways that would never be healed by 2020.
There you have it. On one hand the possibility of conservative reforms on taxes, regulations, healthcare, education at home and restored leadership abroad. Maybe even outreach to minorities with immigration reform, attention to inner cities and recognition women make up more than half the electorate, broadening their base. The party unified ready to campaign on its accomplishments. On the other hand, an acrimonious party split maybe even leading to a challenge to Trump for the nomination could be the actual scenario.. Rather than outreach implosion. Knowing what you know about Donald J. Trump,how would you bet on what Republicans will we see in 2020?