Time to adjust
For Donald Trump the time to adjust his course has arrived. As long as he remains the captive of the Republican party, he is destined to fail. His alliance of convenience with the GOP has failed to gain him very much in tangible results. They got the tax cut and reduced regulations, Trump received, at best, a begrudging loyalty from Republicans. The time for genuine bipartisanship is nigh and the president must embrace the opportunity.
Indeed, Trump may be thinking of going in that direction. His joint appearance with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer had the look of a fist-open fight rather than a real brawl. Although it was not entirely without discord, it almost looked staged. Neither the Democratic or Republican base favor compromise, so Trump, Pelosi and Schumer seemed to dance around their differences. The hostility seemed less than it appeared.
Particularly on infrastructure issues, Trump and the Democrats share some common positions. Remember it is Republicans and not Trump who are voicing no compromise in Michigan, Wisconsin and North Carolina. The Tea Party, a destructive force if ever there was one, refuses to meet at the middle. Their rigid ideological view of America is an old one, rooted in the past and hopeless for the future. It certainly does have a partisan agenda. For Trump, achievement is limited under the Gadsden flag.
Perhaps Dwight Eisenhower’s greatest achievement was the National Highways Act of 1956. It transformed American and opened up opportunities for different regions of the country. Indeed, Ike saw opportunities for Social Security and its expansion. Because of his work alongside Sam Rayburn and Lyndon Johnson, the country could argue the finer points of politics while getting the job done for the national interest. Trump will never get that with a Republican party addicted to trickle down and never say die individualism.
In return, Democrats would be wise to discard their hard-line foreign policy. Despite Barack Obama’s promising start on this front, the so-called “wise men” dragged out the tired rhetoric of containment. “He came, he saw, he died,” exulted Hillary Clinton after the death of Muammar Gaddafi, thus confirming the return of the hard line. The party would be better to embrace Franklin Roosevelt than Harry Truman.
Trump could play these divisions between Democratic hard-lines and those who have not embraced neo-Bush doctrines. As with Richard Nixon, Trump would be well-advised to revive detente and pursue new initiatives toward Russia, China, Turkey and Iran. Instead, he will be stuck with John Bolton’s gloomy evaluation of world politics. Democrats should encourage Trump in order to counteract the hard line coming from the Republicans. Indeed, Bolton is so confused that he embraces Mohammed Bin Salman, who almost every nation is either openly or discretely trying to avoid.
A lesson that Trump might have learned is the neo-liberal or neo-conservative approach toward foreign policy is roundly disliked. The Weekly Standard is defunct along with the New Republic, both house organs of hard-liners. Democrats should draw the same conclusions and urge Trump to take a more conciliatory approach.
However, if Trump wants to continue his flirtation of convenience with Republicans rather than make any constructive moves toward Democrats then he is doomed. But Pelosi and Schumer should at least make some gestures of compromise. But if his Twitter thumb comes crashing down, then it is hopeless to try to seek common ground.