THE MEMO: Trump bets on action

by Placerville Newswire / Jan 27, 2017 / comments

(Source: Niall Stanage) 

Donald Trump is betting on action.

With his administration just a week old, the president is moving forward with his plan to build a southern border wall and threatening to choke off federal funding for so-called “sanctuary cities.” 

He is expediting two controversial pipelines. He is beginning to unravel the Affordable Care Act. And he is reportedly considering a raft of measures to slow immigration from several Muslim-majority nations.

His critics are horrified. His loyalists are fired up. But the same reality underpins both reactions: Yes, Trump really is going to do the things he said he would.
 
“He came to the White House with over 300 electoral votes, with a clear objective of changing Washington,” Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s first campaign manager, told The Hill. The voters who propelled the new president to power are “sick and tired of a broken system,” Lewandowski added.

Through that prism, Trump’s cascade of actions sends an overarching message: He will get things done. Whether one likes or dislikes his deeds, the 45th president will distinguish himself from the conventional politicians whom he has often derided as ineffectual blowhards.

Polls suggest there is fertile ground for such an appeal.

In seven major polls conducted this month, public approval of Congress ranged from very bad (24 percent) to dismal (12 percent). A Gallup poll found 72 percent of adults to be dissatisfied with the direction of the nation.

Exit polls from November’s presidential election showed a clear plurality of voters ranking the ability to "bring change” far ahead of any other candidate quality as the trait that mattered most. Eighty-two percent of those voters backed Trump over his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

In that context, actions make some degree of political sense for their own sake, however controversial they may be.

“Fulfilling his commitments he made to the voters is very, very important,” said Ed Rollins, the chief strategist of the Trump-backing Great America PAC. “Presidents normally make a list of them, but they don’t do them in their first or second week.”

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough noted on Thursday’s “Morning Joe” that, already, “it seems like they are going down that checklist” of Trump’s campaign promises.

It is entirely possible, of course, that Team Trump is miscalculating. His actions could prove so incendiary as to spark more and more popular resistance. Around three million people came onto the nation’s streets last weekend to march against him. His approval ratings are the lowest of any new president.

And the trouble is not confined to the domestic front. Also on Thursday, Mexico’s president Enrique Peno Nieto canceled a planned trip to Washington, in protest at Trump’s insistence that the wall will be built.

Then there is Trump’s combative style to consider.

“He is sending big signals to the people who voted for him — and they did feel left out,” said Democratic strategist Joe Trippi. “But he is not doing anything to include anyone else.”

As an example of what he sees as Trump’s counter-productive tone, Trippi pointed to the president’s squabble with Democratic congressman and civil rights icon, Rep. John Lewis (Ga.). 

“There are some fights you don’t need to make. He makes them all,” Trippi said of Trump. “When everything is a fight, you are constantly pushing away people you really do need and want.”

But Trump’s election victory, coming against the predictions of just about every pollster and pundit, is cause to rethink some fundamental political concepts. 

In a nation that was already so politically polarized before he came to power, does Trump’s divisiveness really hurt him? Or does it in fact energize his base while damaging him only with people who would never vote for him anyways?

“This is a president who is not going to be overly popular in the short term,” said Rollins. “He’ll probably be stuck around 40 or 45 [percent approval] for a while unless something dramatic happens. But the key thing is, can he hold that base?”

Even experts in polarization aren’t sure that a base-only strategy is the best way forward, however.

“There is a sense, especially on the left, that nothing sticks to Trump — that he can say or do anything and nothing bad happens,” said Marc Hetherington, the co-author of “Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics” and a political science professor at Vanderbilt University.

“That’s not true. His approval ratings are in the 30s, and that must mean that there are many Republicans who are concerned about this.”

Be that as it may, there is zero evidence that Trump is backing down.

In his inaugural address, Trump said, “We will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action, constantly complaining but never doing anything about it. The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action.”

Love it or hate it, that’s a promise he’s clearly bent on keeping.

 

The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage, primarily focused on Donald Trump’s presidency.