President Trump made two big political decisions over past half-week, and both are already proving disasters.

The first decision was to cut himself loose from the Republican leadership in Congress. Trump blasted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell with a sequence of tweets fixing blame on McConnell—and thereby absolving himself—for the failure of Obamacare repeal.

The second decision was to issue a statement condemning “many sides” for the confrontation in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend—and adhering to that policy of pandering to white nationalism even after the ramming death of a counter-protester and the injury of many more.

Trump had wanted to stand apart from Republicans in Congress—and they have now obliged him. Former campaign rivals Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio; Senator Cory Gardner, who heads the Senate Republican campaign organization; President Pro Tempore of the Senate Orrin Hatch—all issued statements implicitly criticizing Trump’s for its even-handedness between perpetrators and targets.

It’s always hazardous to overthink the strategy behind Trump’s words or actions. Oftentimes the president simply reacts with impulsive emotionalism to events. Yet there are plausible reasons for him to distance himself from the Senate Republicans now. A president normally needs Congress to enact his agenda. This president, however, does not have much of a legislative agenda. Instead, he has submitted to the policy agenda of Congress—and that agenda is, if possible, even less popular than he is. Trump will be far better off going to the nation in 2020 not having removed Medicaid coverage from millions of red state voters, not having shoved through a huge upper-income tax cut financed by stringent domestic budget cuts, than he would be running on that record.

What Trump needs most for 2020 is an excuse, and a plausible enemy. Complaints about “Democratic obstruction” and “partisan Russia witch hunts” sound absurd when Republicans control both houses of Congress. Lose even one chamber, however, and suddenly those talking points acquire some plausibility, at least in the ears of Trump-inclined voters. And even if blaming Congress does not reflect a deliberate strategic calculation—with this president, it’s difficult to conclude that anything does—it could be regarded as working to his advantage. The Trump base is much more clearly defined by its cultural resentments than by any policy program: sacrificing the program to enflame the resentments may well appear to the embattled Trump White House as the least bad survival option.

Until Charlottesville.

Trump supporters often invoke the …read more

Source:: The Atlantic – Best of

Time for Republicans to Leap From the Boat

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