Exhausted observers of “Trumplandia” can be forgiven for measuring time in dog years – or perhaps better stated, “Trump years”. Following President Trump’s controversial response to the odious events in Charlottesville, capping a highly chaotic opening seven months in office, an update on the state of his presidency is in order. So today, I would like to review and update the case I made for a two-term Trump presidency in a January 31 op-ed to the Portland Press Herald; further explain Trump’s elected “mandate”; and highlight the fallout from Trump’s response to Charlottesville.
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On January 31, I made the case that President Trump was likely to be a two-term president due to the strength of his support base, highly stimulative economic policy agenda, and the low expectations bar set by “Never Trump” moral hysteria. I cited Twitter, China and the business cycle as key risks to the thesis.
After what many observers would conclude to be the worst opening seven months in US presidential history, Trump’s Gallup approval rating sits around 36 percent, proving the strength of his support base. The EPA is deregulating the American economy at one of the fastest clips in agency history, increasing growth potential. And Never Trump moral hysteria grows louder by the day, setting the expectations bar at an embarrassingly low level (i.e. CNN blackmailing a Reddit user for editing a video to show Trump clotheslining a CNN logo).
Setting the longer-term business cycle risk aside for today…Trump himself has managed China with surprising deftness; but his Twitter account, and the chaos that it represents, is proving to be a far greater risk than originally anticipated. Implicit to my January 31 conclusion that inappropriate use of Twitter could “trump” an otherwise robust policy track record, was the assumption Trump would not let his love of chaotic disruption detract from policy implementation; but the disbandment of two business councils in the wake of Charlottesville, for example, calls this assumption into question. As such, implementation of tax reform and infrastructure legislation, so critical to garnering “Independent” votes in 2020, is firmly at risk. (Though this risk is somewhat offset by the utterly incompetent GOP’s desperation to pass face-saving legislation, following its epic failure to pass healthcare reform.)
Lastly, developments in the Trump/Russia collusion saga since January 31 must be considered. The Don Jr. email chain that unequivocally demonstrated intent to collude with the Russian government, while perhaps not a smoking gun, places the Trump campaign in the proverbial gun shop. With a high-powered, Bob Mueller-led special counsel investigating the matter, the risk of impeachment is not immaterial.
So based on the weight of the currently available evidence, I downgrade the chance of a two-term Trump presidency to, at best, fifty percent.
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I want to further explain President Trump’s elected “mandate”, as it is a helpful framework thru which to observe and interpret his chaotic behavior and seemingly erratic policies. He was elected to do three things: Blow up the elitist, global political establishment; put America first; and grow and protect American jobs. It is that simple.
Trump’s three-part mandate is best represented, in its entirety, by his deconstruction and destruction of the Obama-constructed Paris Climate Accord. Former President Obama stood on the world stage, with members of the global political establishment, celebrating an agreement that committed the US to aggressively reducing its carbon footprint thru 2030 at the direct expense of US coal mining jobs. Meanwhile, the world’s largest carbon emitter, China, committed to only begin reducing its footprint by 2030. So in the eyes of a US coal miner, Obama stood alongside elitist members of the global political establishment to put America’s economic interests behind China’s, at the expense of his job and thus his family’s well-being.
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Lastly, I want to highlight the fallout from President Trump’s response to Charlottesville, as it exhibits well his explosive relationship with the mainstream media.
At his August 15 press conference in Trump Tower, Trump said:
“And you had people. And I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally. But you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists…Now, in the other group also, you had some fine people, but you also had troublemakers…”
Could Trump have handled such a highly sensitive event with far more decorum? Clearly. But did his response warrant The Economist and The New Yorker placing him on their latest covers alongside a KKK hood? Absolutely not.
Trump and the mainstream media bear equal responsibility for such an unnecessary, nationwide escalation.