NOTE: This is a follow up to a post I wrote two weeks into the Trump administration. At the time, the confusion and panic caused by the Muslim ban and the haphazard communication and leaks were clear signs of a White House in disarray. It was impossible to tell who was really running the show.
Some of the same issues plaguing the administration then are still happening now, and in other ways things have calmed down a bit. Unfortunately much of the calming is because the so-called “adults in the room” are marginalized or gone altogether. With junk economists and white supremacists holding sway over policy and strategies, I wanted to revisit the question of how much control does Donald Trump have over the White House and Republican leaders.
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Well, we’re close enough to the midterms early voting has actually started in a few states (Minnesota, New Jersey and Vermont). In the original version of this post I asked if Donald Trump’s White House had a plan or clear message and process to get things done, and the answer was a resounding No. How are they doing today?
I’d argue the organization of the White House has gotten better, but only because they started off as such a disaster there was nowhere to go but up. To be clear, I’m not arguing success for this administration is a good thing. But from the standpoint of trying to reach their goals, they’ve gone from literally holding meetings in the dark to something resembling a coherent (if vile) MO.
Coherent message and priorities
In early 2017, we had no idea what the Trump administration’s goals truly were. There were still reasonable reasons to hope it’d be more moderate and ‘conventionally Republican’ than the campaign trail rhetoric. Obviously that hasn’t been the case. Trump’s main priorities are immigration and isolationism, and these are the only two areas he seems to have authentic core beliefs.
His ideas are awful of course, and today the Republican party celebrates an America where locking children in cages and flashing white supremacist signs are just another day. There’s a simple overarching theme to Trump’s views. Letting in black and brown people makes our country less American, and any treaty, agreement or pact where we aren’t screwing someone over is a bad deal. After all, ‘We’re America, bitch’.
Donald Trump is the type of guy who would rather take $20 from your wallet then keep a sustainable system where he gets $100 and you get $50. Screwing you over is more important than creating a stable deal that works, or even maximizing his own gains.
Power centers and decision-making
Trump still makes decisions in the most asinine and irresponsible ways you can imagine. He has access to the most sophisticated intelligence reports in the world but gets his ideas from Fox News. He announces policies on Twitter as if they’re done and ready to go before conferring with Congressional leaders, Cabinet members or his own lawyers. He doesn’t care about the effect of his actions as long as they’ll be counted as a ‘win’ by his supporters.
So yes, he’s still an awful person and president. The effects of this are to announce immoral policies, but be so unprofessional half of it either never happens or is almost unrecognizable by the time it’s gone through the wringer. But the White House and Republican leadership in general is on the same page more often than not at this point, and there are real-world consequences to their actions. Which – from their perspective – is the goal.
There are working directives and strategies for this administration, and a relatively consistent process to make them a reality. Mitch McConnell, Mike Pence and Stephen Miller craft the policy, Paul Ryan gets it through the House and Trump and Fox News ram the talking points down American’s throats. It’s worked more often then we’d like to admit.
Will the midterms change anything?
This is why the midterm elections are so important. Right now, Republicans in Congress and the conservative media believe it’s in their best interest to back Trump as much as possible. A #bluewave may change that narrative. Special elections are important, but by definition are isolated races with unique variables. This November is all about Trump in a big way, and most of the Republican message is ‘I’m with Trump.’ So naturally the results will have a great effect on the mindset of prominent Republicans going forward.
If Republicans hold the Senate and the House, they will be all in on Trump for at least the next two years. It will be the end of Obamacare, the wall will be funded, oil regulations will deteriorate down to ‘paint the ocean black if you want’, net neutrality will be dead for at least a decade and our foreign policy will further alienate other democracies and align with the Russias of the world.
If that sounds alarmist to you, please keep in mind we’re currently keeping children in cages for the non-criminal action of seeking asylum and have made three year olds represent themselves in court. We’re denying passports and entry to U.S. citizens with birth certificates because they’re brown. And we have an entire generation of American kids being told by leaders and the news that sexual assault is just something boys do.
Even a small Democratic victory in November –the Senate stays the same and we just barely take the House – can be written off as a normal result that doesn’t change GOP behavior much. Let’s say Democrats win Arizona and Tennessee but lose North Dakota and Florida in the Senate, and in the House win 27 seats and lose one. In that situation, Democrats have a small majority in the House but can only lose three votes. That small margin keeps impeachment off the table, and also makes strengthening of Obamacare problematic and immigration reform very difficult.
To deal a real blow to Trump’s grip on the GOP, it’ll take a blue tsunami. 40-50 net seats in the House and retaking the Senate. If that happens, the Cory Gardner’s and David Perdue’s of the world will have to rethink their strategy to keep their jobs in 2020, and the loss of confidence among Republican voters and donors may wonder if they’re backing the wrong horse.
The reality is Trump hasn’t done anything to improve his supporters’ lives, but as long as they can boast about shoving victory it in those elitist libtard faces they don’t care. If we give them an ass kicking for the ages, their tone may change quickly.
After November, Trump will still be able to have a massive impact on the world – he is the President after all – but a Democratic congress will protect Americans’ safety net, make our immigration policies humane and hold Russia accountable for their attacks. It’s a start.