Saturday, December 29, 2018

Trump's Fixation on Pleasing His Base May Torpedo 2020 Chances

As a former Republican I have been complaining for years that the GOP seemingly has no long term plan for survival as it increasingly focuses on the hatreds and bigotries of a shrinking base of aging, religiously extreme, low education whites. Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenf├╝hrer, is taking this losing approach no new levels as he ignores the House results in the 2018 midterm elections, his toxicity among Millennials and the increasing revulsion with which he is viewed by the college educated and suburbanites.  And that doesn't even consider the Midwest voters who are now facing a collapse in the soybean market or workers losing their jobs due to steel and aluminum tariffs and might not give Trump his 70,000 vote margin spread over three rust belt states that gave him his Electoral College win (the failure of the Electors to do their duty as envisioned by the Founding Fathers and reject Trump is a topic for another post).   A piece in the Washington Post looks at Trump's hopefully failing focus.  Here are highlights:

President Trump’s headstrong refusal to reopen the federal government without new border wall funding has set him on a risky and defiant path for 2019, relying on brazen brinkmanship to shore up his base support and protect him ahead of a challenging year for his administration.
The latest overtures in the wake of the midterm elections, which brought about sweeping Democratic gains and the end of GOP control of Congress, stand in stark contrast to the historical behavior of modern presidents, who have moved at least briefly toward the political center after being humbled at the ballot box.
But Trump — counseled by a cadre of hard-line lawmakers and sensitive to criticism from his allies in the conservative media — has instead focused on reassuring his most ardent supporters of his commitment to the signature border pledge that electrified his followers during his 2016 presidential run even though it is opposed by a majority of voters.
Trump’s fervent appeals to his supporters — not just on the wall but in his sharpening criticism of Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome H. Powell, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and Democrats — leave him both emboldened and hamstrung heading into the new year, according to top Republicans and Democrats. While he is galvanizing his base amid political and economic uncertainty, he is also making it difficult to work with Democrats or recast his own presidency.
Republican critics, such as veteran strategist Mike Murphy, say Trump is threatening the GOP by “learning nothing from November and playing to the third of the country that he already has.”
“He’s trapped,” Murphy said. “He’s playing poker holding two threes and suddenly putting all of his chips in. It’s pure emotion, the mark of a panicking amateur.”
Democrats see a president unready for the siege coming in the new year from empowered House Democrats and developments in the special counsel probe of Russia’s role in the 2016 election — and flailing as the financial markets endure a roller-coaster of highs and lows.
Democrats have also pointed to another recent online poll by Morning Consult showing a six-point decrease in Trump’s approval rating since mid-November as evidence that their position remains strong even as the effects of the shutdown become more severe. . . . . “Talking only to your base while alienating the rest of the entire country is not a recipe for success.”
Pelosi, in a recent interview with USA Today, mocked Trump’s ultimatum as the battle cry of a weakened executive searching for a legislative fig leaf: “Now he’s down to, I think, a beaded curtain or something, I’m not sure where he is.”
Some Republican pollsters have also been watching the president’s tactics with concern, noting that there is little evidence he has grown his electoral coalition after the 2016 election, when he won the White House despite losing the popular vote.
“The problem is that the base is nowhere close to a majority of the nation,” GOP pollster Whit Ayres said. “In a government of the people, for the people and by the people, it sure helps to have a majority of the people behind what you are trying to do.”
As Trump has rallied [while at al-Asad Air Base in Iraq], House Democrats say they believe their leverage has only increased. They have repeatedly highlighted Trump’s claim this month that he would be “proud to shut down the government for border security,” which was made in a televised meeting with congressional leaders where Trump expressed dismay with Democrats by acting as an avatar for his base voters.
One longtime Trump adviser, who requested anonymity to speak candidly, said Trump has been “spooked” not by the midterms but by a brewing rebellion on the right earlier this month when he was considering accepting a deal from Democrats to fund the government through early February.
“He’s spooked by what the world would be like for him if the base wasn’t there” for whatever comes from the Mueller probe or House investigations, the Trump adviser said, adding that the volatility of Wall Street has increased Trump’s private frustrations to include not just Democrats and the media but the Federal Reserve.
Trump’s current border stance has polled poorly. A Quinnipiac University poll in mid-December found that 62 percent of the country, including 65 percent of self-identified independents and one in three Republicans, oppose shutting down the government over wall funding. The same poll found that Americans oppose building a wall on the Mexican border by a margin of 54 to 43 percent.
Trump’s 2016 victory was dependent on winning over white voters in the Midwest who did not attend college by using populist and nativist pitches, and some officials and allies continue to believe he can repeat the same success.
In a 2018 study of the nation’s changing demographics, Brookings Institution political scientist Ruy Teixeira concluded with his colleagues that increasing margins and maintaining turnout among this group provided Republicans the greatest opportunity to continue to win the White House. . . . “It’s the way to finesse the structure of the electoral college,” Teixeira said. “White non-college, in the center of the country.”


If Trump ends up causing a recession in the middle of the country, all bets will be off.  And that assumes he doesn't get indicted or impeached. 

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