Trump needs some help
Don’t get mad, get even.
Either President Donald Trump has never heard that advice or he believes he can do both, to judge by his angry tweets and habit of thumbing his nose at the political establishment.
But whether the swamp can be drained from the outside is a question. In fact, it is so deep and wide that it probably is impossible for it to be dried out during one president’s term.
Trump has vowed to do the job, adding that he and he alone is capable of it.
It appears the president is relying on two potent weapons: First is the power of his personality. Trump has a record of getting what he wants.
Second is the depth of anger at government held by tens of millions of Americans who like what they see in Trump. Nearly 63 million people voted for him last fall. That’s roughly one-fifth of the nation’s population.
Nearly 66 million voted for Hillary Clinton, of course, but that’s irrelevant in Trump’s mind. Many of them voted for Clinton because they were and are scared of Trump. His base, on the other hand, is motivated by anger and frustration — often more powerful than fear. He’s counting on it.
That was then and this is now, of course. Some of Trump’s ballots were less votes of confidence than people choosing whom they judged was the lesser of two evils.
Now, after six months of his presidency, how many of his voters have decided they may have made a mistake? Is Trump himself overly optimistic about the size and power of his base?
Real Clear Politics regularly looks at public opinion polls — eight to 12 big, reputable ones — and averages their results. Just before the election last fall, Trump’s average favorable rating was 38.6 percent.
It was 40.4 percent at the end of July. And his unfavorables stood at 58.3 percent just before the election — but have fallen to 54.2 percent.
In other words, fewer people are afraid of him and more are cheering him on. That’s political power, and Trump knows it.
But is it enough?
Maybe. Maybe not.
We’ll probably not know with certainty until next November, after the midterm congressional elections. Every member of the House of Representatives and one-third of Senate seats will be on the ballot.
Among factors weighing on voters’ minds will be whether their lawmakers supported or opposed Trump and in what degrees they did so.
Democrats, by and large, have been cohesive in opposing the president. How many of them get voted out of office in middle-of-the-road districts — places whether voters are neither firmly conservative nor staunchly liberal — will be interesting. So will votes for seats now controlled by Republicans, both in November and next spring in the primaries. How many GOP lawmakers will be kicked out, possibly by challengers from within their party, because their support for Trump was lukewarm?
Most important, will results next fall convince Trump that he’s right in believing his base can force Congress to do his will?
Back to the denizens of the swamp: They are many, they are powerful and they are entrenched. Big business, labor unions, bureaucrats with no interest in losing their own power or their funding, liberal politicians and sometimes, even the courts are arrayed against Trump and, for that matter, reformers in Congress.
Executive orders, though more potent than ever because of precedents set by former President Barack Obama, have their limits. For one thing, they can be nullified by the courts and overturned in some situations by Congress. So, to have a chance of draining the swamp, Trump needs help from Congress. Lawmakers, after all, make the laws he is sworn to uphold. They also control the government’s purse strings.
Whether Trump can gain full support from Republicans and, perhaps, a few Democrats in Congress by force — pressure from his base — or needs to resort to persuasion is the question.
The jury remains out.
Mike Myer is the executive editor at the Wheeling Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register. Myer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.