January 26, 2017


How Donald Trump can succeed without really trying (Matthew Yglesias, Jan 26, 2017, Vox)

He's caught between a congressional Republican majority whose support he needs to survive in office and a mass public that has very little interest in a GOP plan to roll back the welfare state in order to finance enormous tax cuts for millionaires. The frenetic yet seemingly pointless combativeness could be a strategy in its own right -- shiny objects for the base to let him run out the clock and drag the Republican Party toward the center on some key issues.

It is very difficult, mostly with good reason, for alarmed liberals to see Trump this way, but in some respects he was a classic "moderate" nominee of the sort a party might choose after a series of presidential election defeats. Trump ditched longstanding GOP promises to overhaul Social Security and Medicare, downplayed anti-LGBTQ themes, poached the anti-outsourcing theme straight from the Democrats' playbook, and was sharply critical of the messianism of neoconservative foreign policy.

And yet, as president, Trump is captive in a somewhat unique way to very ideologically orthodox forces inside the GOP.

For starters, there is no real "Trump wing" of the congressional Republican Party. His insurgent primary campaign had no down-ballot coattails, and the entire GOP congressional leadership -- plus the supporting apparatus in think tanks and state parties -- remains committed to rolling back the welfare state. Democrats, meanwhile, regard him as a completely illegitimate president -- a racist and a liar who won thanks to malfeasance by the FBI director and the Russian government. And Trump himself is vulnerable -- seemingly hiding something in his tax returns, averse to an independent investigation of Russian activity during the 2016 campaign, and subject to massive and unprecedented financial conflicts of interest.

He gets away with it because congressional Republicans think it's smart to let him get away with it. And they think it's smart because they expect Trump to go along with their agenda -- up to and including appointing a health and human services secretary who favors drastic cuts to Medicare and Medicaid and a budget director who wants to raise the Social Security retirement age.

But Trump knows that actually doing these things isn't popular, and while these issues are at the center of Paul Ryan's emotional and intellectual worldview, they aren't at the center of Trump's. 

The only truly disastrous outcome possible in the election was that Donald would win and get a Democrat Congress to work with.

Posted by at January 26, 2017 8:47 AM