A glance at the biggest challenges -- and how to surmount them.
Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
President Trump’s first year ended with the biggest tax reform since 1986, the most consequential of a list of achievements that have made a good start at rolling back Barack Obama’s runaway expansion of the Leviathan state. At the same time, the hysterical “resistance” of the Dems and progressives, abetted by Republican NeverTrumpers, continues its bizarre attacks on the president, feeding off his blunt twitter commentary and obsessing over his brash style rather than focusing on his notable actions.
As year two of the improbable Trump presidency begins, this conflict remains central to our political drama. But what does it portend for Trump’s program and the critical midterm elections?
Lost in the anti-Trump media frenzy has been, according to the White House, 81 significant rollbacks of the progressive assault on the Constitutional order. The most important was the appointment of originalist Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. That win, along with 12 Appeals Court appointments of similarly minded judges, will shape our government for decades, and survive any future swing back to the Dems. Tax reform will also likely survive, since the left almost never repeals tax cuts to the middle class. Cutting the regulations that metastasized under Obama has saved $8 billion so far, and encouraged the economy’s “animal spirits,” leading to three quarters of more than 3% growth in GDP, 1.7 million new jobs, a stock market up 28%, unemployment at its lowest since December 2000, and economic confidence at a 17-year high.
Throw in opening up more than a million acres to oil exploration and drilling, hastening Obamacare’s demise by eliminating the individual mandate, discarding the economically toxic Paris Climate Accords, reining in the job-killing EPA, getting serious about border enforcement, deporting thousands of illegal aliens, paring back our suicidal open-door immigration policies, and challenging political correctness almost daily, and Trump’s record on the domestic front points to a good start on growing the economy and getting the dead hand of big government out of the country’s business.
On foreign policy, Trump has begun to repair the damage to our international prestige wrought by Obama’s subjection of our country to the one-world, naïve internationalism favored by progressives, who want to diminish America’s global clout and reduce the U.S. to a “partner,” as Obama said in Cairo, “mindful of his own imperfections.” He increased sanctions on Iran and refused to recertify Obama’s disastrous agreement with the nuke-hungry mullahs; bombed a Syrian airfield and destroyed a fifth of Assad’s jet fighters; took the gloves off our military and ended ISIS’s “caliphate”; rolled back Obama’s cringing concessions to Cuba; put Russia on notice by recommitting to the Magnitsky Act and increasing sanctions on regime oligarchs; began work on strengthening military readiness and antimissile defence; gave a rousing defense of Western Civilization in Poland; visited world capitals to project America’s renewed confidence and willingness to defend its security and interests; unleashed U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley to scold and scorn the anti-American pygmy states infesting that “cockpit in the Tower of Babel,” to borrow Churchill’s phrase; and announced that the U.S recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and promised to move our embassy from Tel Aviv to Israel’s capital. Under Trump, America seems to be getting its international mojo back.
Year one, then, has been a success, given how much damage Obama and the progressives had done to the country in eight years. But we are still in the beginning of the end, not the end of the beginning. A midterm election is looming that could swing one or both houses of Congress to the Dems, bringing Trump’s reform project to a screeching halt, given that changes by Executive Orders can be undone by a new president. And the president himself may be subjected to impeachment.
Moreover, next year Trump will still be facing Category 5 headwinds. The “resistance” of the left will continue, as evident in its hysterical hyperbole and lies over the tax reform bill, and their stream of Breaking! Fake News! followed by sullenly muttered corrections. For sure, some of the starch has been taken out of the left by the sexual assault scandals roiling leftist media, entertainment, and politicians. But Republicans have been hit with the same scourge, most notably Roy Moore, who lost a deep-red Senate seat in Alabama over allegations of statutory rape. And Trump’s approval ratings remain dismal, though it’s hard to discriminate between approval of him, and approval of his policies. No matter what happens, Dems will still be desperate, angry, and bitter over Trump’s victory, though their addiction to beclowning themselves with their lunatic antics is a daily reminder of what most voters don’t like about them.
More important, the blue “deep state” ––the federal and state agencies and judgeships crammed with progressive operatives––will continue to subvert the law and upset the Constitution’s balance of powers. The FBI and DOJ have been politicized by a cabal of ideological activists, as Robert Mueller’s fishing expedition disguised as an investigation shows. Perhaps Mueller and his team of Dem trolls will collapse under the weight of their own political corruption, but they will likely need a vigorous push from Congress. And AG Jeff Sessions must continue to arouse himself from his slumbers and bring to account Hillary Clinton, James Comey, Obama for his pass given to Hezbollah drug-dealers, and all their minions and fellow-travelers who have undermined one of the founding principles of representative government––the equality of all before the law, and the accountability of federal agencies and politicians to Congress and the sovereign people.
And let’s not forget the NeverTrump fifth columnists, the angry elites still pouting over their diminished influence. Most of them will never come around. They will only grudgingly admit Trump’s successes, and lace every acknowledgment of them with some snarky aside. They are moral preeners, showing off their self-serving “conservative principles” like a peacock flaunting its tail on a crowded freeway. They still don’t accept that politics is about winning so that the right policies run the country, and our political freedom is protected.
As for foreign policy, tough talk, sanctions, and rousing speeches are all good, but they must be backed up with deeds. Break ground on our embassy in Jerusalem. Cut off all funds to the U.N. Follow up on Haley’s threat to stop all foreign aid to those countries who insult and defy us. Stop subsidizing Palestinian Arab terror, and cut all ties with the Abbas thug regime. Bring back tactical nukes to South Korea, and salt our Pacific allies’ shores with antimissile batteries. The next time Iran provokes us in the Gulf, blow something up. Triple down on the development of our own energy resources, and use oil and natural gas as geopolitical weapons. And don’t listen to the State Department clerks when they start chanting their fossilized institutional wisdom that empty words are more important than mind-concentrating deeds.
Finally, Trump needs to focus less on tweet-spats with his enemies, and more on laying out his achievements. We all enjoy it when he slaps around the pompous, self-important hypocrites like Elizabeth Warren or Kirsten Gillibrand. Most normal people get that manners and decorum are useless against bare-knuckled street-fighters like the Dems. We like someone who fights back and follows Obama’s “Chicago way” –– if they bring a knife, we bring a gun. Especially after a decade of Republican preemptive cringing and tacit endorsement of leftist smears like “racism” and “sexism,” Trump’s crude insults are as fun and gratifying as watching Bruce Willis kill his way up the hierarchy of euro-thugs in Die Hard.
But Trump now needs to use his 60-million strong social media bully pulpit to counter the lies and distortions of the mainstream media. Right now the Media-Democrat Industrial Complex is calling the tax reform bill an economic apocalypse that will murder millions of citizens and feed their flesh to the “1%.” Support for the bill among the people in some polls is weak––anywhere from a third to just under half the voters approve of the bill in various polls, even though according to the Tax Policy Center, 80% of taxpayers will get a cut, variously estimated to be between $1000 and $2000. No doubt February pay-stubs will enlighten a lot of voters, but the president and Congress need to continually make the case all the way up to the November midterm election, while publicizing the improvements in the economy. That’s a better use of tweet-time than responding to the Dems’ slights.
Of course, every administration is hostage to unforeseen events. Yet right now, the biggest challenge to the Republicans is the midterm election. Yes, the Dems and their juvenile “resistance,” not to mention a media and popular culture enslaved to politically correct dogma and arrogant overreach, are making the job of maintaining control of the government a lot easier. But the Donks can’t rely on their enemies’ incompetence and stupidity. They need to sell their achievements, and contrast them with the Dems’ incessant lust for concentrated power and technocratic control over the autonomy and freedom of individuals, families, and civil society. It will take a few more years of success before we reach the end of the beginning.