'Winning'

05/24/2017 06:43 pm ET Updated May 26, 2017
MARK RALSTON via Getty Images

Does Donald Trump have any deep convictions? Sure he does. They can be summarized in one word: winning. He said as much at the start of the presidential campaign in 2015: “We will have so much winning if I get elected that you may get bored with the winning.’’

Winning what? It doesn’t really matter to Trump as long as he comes out looking like a winner. That’s why he is so obsessed with how people see the 2016 election results. Trump claimed he achieved “the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan.’’ He didn’t. George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama all won with bigger electoral college margins.

What’s the worst name Trump can call someone? It’s what he called the terrorists who attacked innocent people in Britain. “I will call them, from now on, losers,’’ Trump said. “They’re losers. Just remember that.’’

When Trump talks about “winning,’’ conservatives worry about exactly what it is he wants to win. President Trump says he will ask Congress ``to approve legislation that produces a $1 trillion investment in the infrastructure of the United States.’’ To conservatives, it sounds like more big government, though Trump says his infrastructure program would be ``financed through both public and private capital.’’

Trump is highly critical of trade deals like NAFTA, which he intends to renegotiate. Free trade is a longstanding conservative priority.

Conservatives are concerned that President Trump has softened his criticism of Islam and is too deferential to Saudi Arabia. And too eager to push for a rapprochement with Russia. And to pressure Israel to enter peace negotiations with the Palestinians. Trump wants to claim credit for winning the biggest deal in the world: a Middle East peace deal that Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and Barack Obama failed to get.

Now with mounting evidence that Trump may face charges of obstruction of justice, cracks have begun to appear in the President’s wall of support. Rep. Carlos Cubelo (R-Fla.) told the Washington Post, ``If any congressional committee documents and concludes that any federal official is guilty of obstruction of justice, certainly that would rise to the level of impeachment. ... I happen to be saying it publicly. Most Members are saying it privately.’’

Trump’s support may be beginning to decline among Republicans. The Reuters/IPSOS poll shows Trump’s overall disapproval at 55 percent, the highest level since he took office. Among Republicans, disapproval is now at 22 percent, up from 16 percent a week earlier.

Congressional Republicans have been sticking with President Trump for two reasons. One is fear. If they dare to oppose or criticize the President, they run the risk of antagonizing his populist army. That could doom them in next year’s Republican primaries. That fear will diminish, however, if populists lose confidence in Trump.

The second reason is loyalty. President Trump has so far been loyal to the conservative agenda, despite his wavering convictions. Trump’s budget, his deregulatory policies and his nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court are what conservative dreams are made of, even if they are more transactions than convictions. Moreover, conservatives are thrilled that Trump has chosen to target the press as “the enemy of the American people.’’ His enemy is their enemy.

But as the President’s legal and political troubles mount, so will concern about his ability to deliver results. Republican consultant Marc Rotterman told The Washington Post, “When you’re reacting and defending, you’re not moving on your agenda.” Conservative columnist Ross Douthat has labeled President Trump an “establishment sellout.” Douthat wrote in The New York Times, “As a populist, he’s a paper tiger, too lazy to figure out what policies he should champion and too incompetent and self-absorbed to fight for them.”

If Trump’s populist base abandons him, conservatives will gladly shove him aside. Mike Pence, an authentic Tea Party conservative, would be their ideal President.

While Trump is totally devoted to winning, the Democratic resistance is energized by the idea of making Trump a loser. On everything. That’s creating tension with the Democratic establishment. Democratic leaders in Washington are committed to getting things done. As long as Republicans control all the levers of power in Washington, the only way for Democrats to get things done is to collaborate with like-minded Republicans. That’s anathema to the left, which only cares about getting one thing done: stopping Trump.

An impeachment battle would hijack the national agenda. That’s O.K. with liberals as long as it disables Trump. A Trump impeachment fight would be a steel-cage death match between two resistance movements. Trump supporters would rally to resist what they would see as an act of revenge by the establishment. The Democratic resistance would mobilize all its resources to bring Trump down. Both party establishments would be sidelined.

Politics would be all about “winning.” Governing would become irrelevant. That would suit Trump perfectly. As long as he comes out the winner.

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