2017-02-24 / View From Here


Trump and his enemies

If you live in this part of the country, or in California, you will encounter numerous folks holding strong opinions against President Donald Trump. These are people who are fixated on the failures, shortcomings and policy choices of our 45th President. For example, many are convinced that reports of connections between some of Mr. Trump's supporters and Russians will blow up into a scandal of Watergate-like proportions and that Mr. Trump may be impeached and quite possibly will be forced to leave office.

To be sure, Mr. Trump has committed enough unforced errors to provide fodder for opponents who claim that he is untruthful, incompetent or even unhinged. For example, Mr. Trump managed to conflate a Fox News report on crime in Sweden by immigrants with an actual terrorist attack in that country on Friday. More generally, the rollout of the executive order relating to immigration from seven countries was badly botched, as there was much confusion over whether the order applied to green card holders. (Eventually it was determined that the order, which is now being rewritten after legal setbacks, does not apply to persons with green cards.) Mr. Trump also has a penchant for exaggeration on a variety of subjects from urban crime to the extent of illegal voting.

Nevertheless, I believe that the anti-Trump forces are likely overplaying their hand with the constant demonstrations, all-out opposition in the entertainment industry (and a good deal of the media), high level of partisanship in Congress and social ostracism of Trump supporters, something that blogger Stephen Green describes as keeping the opposition “cranked up to 11”.

It is true that Mr. Trump’s approval ratings are lower than those of other recently inaugurated Presidents at this point in the term, but I believe much of this is related to this total opposition blitz, which is unprecedented in recent years. And there are a number of signs favorable to the President.

First, Mr. Trump retains the strong support (around 90 percent) he enjoyed in the 2016 election among Republicans. Indeed, a CNN report this week following up on Republican voters, including ones who had been quite skeptical of Mr. Trump during the primary season, indicated that these voters continued to be very supportive of the President, with only a few quibbles about his style. Yes, this is Mr. Trump’s base, but a path toward a serious crisis for Mr. Trump would likely begin with evidence of loss of support among these core voters.

Second, there is a distinct possibility that overheated rhetoric by opponents of Mr. Trump is losing people who otherwise might be moving away from Mr. Trump. In a piece in The New York Times on Sunday, Sabrina Tavernise describes the effect on moderate conservatives as “chipping away at their middle ground and pushing them closer to Mr. Trump”. And the people being turned off are not all hard core Republicans. As the piece notes, moderates who lean Republican support Mr. Trump by 70 percent to 20 percent, according to a recent Pew poll.

Could Mr. Trump be impeached or completely lose his support? I suppose he could be impeached if some evidence emerged of direct involvement by Mr. Trump in an actual deal to gain support for his candidacy in exchange for concessions to Russia. Otherwise, not by this Republican House, and Democrats only have limited prospects for the 2018 Congressional elections (for example, Mr. Trump carried 230 House districts).

As for losing his support, I suppose he could if the economy suddenly lurched into recession, or if there were a clearly disastrous foreign policy decision. But there is considerable economic optimism right now, with markets at record highs. It is entirely possible that if times remain good people will simply shrug off Mr. Trump’s blustery personality and occasional policy lurches. At some point, anti-Trump zealots are going to have to put out down their placards and recognize that Mr. Trump is not going anytime soon.

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