How Trump can divide and conquer the Democrats

If President Trump were a disciplined political actor who thought strategically about his party’s electoral future instead of a reactive and impulsive vulgarian whose insecurities and prejudices just so happen to coincide and resonate with the insecurities and prejudices of a large swath of Republican voters, he could do far more than merely use Democratic gains in the House as an opportunity to keep his base whipped into a froth of partisan fury over the next two years.

Instead, he could do something far bolder — namely, make moves to turn our interminable ideological stalemate into a genuine partisan realignment by dividing and conquering the new Democratic majority. He could do this by going back to some of the more unorthodox ideas that animated his presidential campaign and that helped him to turn Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania (briefly) red.

Those ideas animated Trump’s inaugural address, which sought to align the GOP with American workers. They’ve come out over the past year in the Republican administration’s protectionist trade policies and in moves to restrict immigration. But for the entirety of Trump’s first year in office and through much of the second as well, the administration deferred to the priorities of House Speaker Paul Ryan, the most orthodox of Republican politicians. The result was a mixed and muddled message, with a plutocratic agenda (a huge corporate tax cut and an extended and failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act an replace it with … nothing in particular) blended with selective nationalist gestures on policy and a barrage of racist rhetoric and demagoguery.

If that pattern continues, Republicans will go into the 2020 election with their base on board but the party’s electorally decisive 2016 gains in the upper Midwest most likely lost (as they already appeared to be in Tuesday’s vote).

There is another way forward, but it’s not one that Trump appears capable of enacting.

It would require making an overture to the incoming Democratic majority in the House, proposing an agenda to give an added boost to American workers and the infrastructure that serves as the backbone of American industry. A middle-class tax cut, a plan to tweak the ACA to make health care more affordable, and a large infrastructure bill — that could make all the political difference.

These proposals wouldn’t even need to pass for Republicans to benefit and Democrats to squirm. Trump would merely need to defend them, fold them into the White House’s message, and convince voters they were an administration priority. This would go a long way toward demonstrating to Republican and (even more so) independent voters that the GOP’s focus is shifting away from the super-rich and toward the struggles of Americans falling closer to the socio-economic mean.

The move would also sow chaos among Democrats, with the left wing of the party inclined to reject working with the White House at all, but a significant faction of those who won their House seats narrowly in red and purple states inclined to play ball. With the Democratic …read more

Source:: The Week – Politics


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