Barring a scandal, the likes of which we’ve never seen in American politics, President Trump seems, to us, to be gliding to an easy victory in the Presidential election now only a year-and-a-half away.
Three reasons: First, we are in the midst of the strongest populist and nationalist movements in the United States in our lifetime. Populist because the elected and administrative ruling class in America has seemed detached from the people they were elected or appointed to serve, and millions are still angry. Trump, many see, as challenging the old order–fighting their fight.
Second, nationalism is alive and well in America. Millions of Americans who proudly wear their MAGA hats seem willing to embrace the Administration’s policies, not because of what these policies may do, but, instead, no matter what they may do. And, perhaps, most significant, from an historical perspective, the Democrats who have lined up thus far to oppose President Trump are, instead, campaigning as though they are in a Machiavellian conspiracy to re-elect him.
The reader may recall that the Italian diplomat, Niccolò Machiavelli, knew a thing or two about politics. He wrote that if a politician can’t be both feared and loved, that it was better to be feared. Machiavelli knew that few people really knew the depth of a politician, so they were always ready to embrace what he or she appeared to be—in President Trump’s case, appearing to be the hard-knuckled champion of the common man. And, finally, Machiavelli taught that the best way to judge the wisdom of a ruler was to study the men (or women) around him.
We won’t dwell on the likes of Michael Cohen or Paul Manafort, Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka, or others, many of whom were dedicated antagonists to the very agencies they were appointed to administer, or Ben Carson, a good man who seems to know nothing about the agency he runs, or Mike Pence, the man who would be President were misguided Democrats ever to succeed in impeaching (and convicting) President Trump.
But President Trump’s real secret weapon is that the campaigns being waged against him also run against the grain of public opinion. That doesn’t mean they are wrong. It just means they aren’t going to be effective. A good example is the controversy over the census question about citizenship. The President lost this one in the judicial courts but has scored a huge victory in the courts of public opinion. Polls show that sixty percent of Americans, including “a majority of voters from all demographics” and a plurality of Democrats (49%), agreed with President Trump. One survey conducted in conjunction with The Economist found that 53 percent of Americans wanted the question asked versus just 32 percent who didn’t.
When Democratic presidential candidates or other prominent Democrats call for decriminalizing illegal border crossings, or providing free healthcare for all, including undocumented immigrants, or removing existing border barriers, or not erecting new ones, or eliminating ICE, they enhance the President’s re-election prospects by embracing issues that are simply the opposite of voter sentiment today.
Then we had the spectacle of Kamala Harris taking poor Joe Biden to task for his years-ago position against federally mandated busing. What was she thinking? What portion of the American electorate does Kamala Harris think wants to revisit the era of school busing today.
The Democrats should also think twice about running around the country promising to repeal the Trump tax cuts. Most Americans who pay taxes, pay less in taxes now because of the Trump tax cuts. Yes, the very wealthy pay much less, but nearly all American taxpayers now keep more of what they earn. So, while the Democrats promise to do away with the Trump tax cuts while simultaneously promising free college, free health care (even for undocumented immigrants), and even free college, not to mention college debt retirement, millions of Americans are going to be very wary of these Democrats offering a grab bag of giveaways at their expense. And make no mistake about it, Trump will itemize what these “political perks” are going to cost the taxpayers who recently got some semblance of a tax break. Promising to tax only the “very wealthy” will wear very thin. Voters will recognize that, as Margaret Thatcher used to say, “sooner or later, we’ll run out of other people’s money to give away.”
President Trump must go to bed at night after watching the circular firing squad that has become the emerging Democratic primary passion play and drift into peaceful slumber.