Donald Trump’s first couple of years in office were an overwhelming success by any measure.
The President ignited and oversaw one of the greatest economies in modern history, delivered via his signature tax cuts, the most substantive in three decades. And all this while fending off a soft coup in the form of the Democrats’ collusion conspiracy theory.
But like show business, in politics you’re only as good as your last hit. And thanks to a radically left-leaning mainstream media, Trump’s successes, no matter how substantial, have remarkably short half-lives. The powers-that-be in the press instead prefer to cling to the bad news, ensuring it hovers over Number 45’s legacy like a pitch-black thundercloud on a windless afternoon.
And the bad, or at least not-so-good, news, is starting to pile up. With 2020 fast approaching Trump could use a breeze or two.
The uneasy peace he’s found with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has fractured. Despite promising preliminary negotiations the chubby child-king is once again testing ballistic missiles, and a North Korean cargo ship accused of skirting international sanctions was recently seized by U.S. authorities.
The calming of tensions on the Korean Peninsula since Trump took office has been rightfully lauded by the administration as a major achievement. But failures to secure a deal with the secretive state, and its recent aggressive overtures, are in danger of undoing more than two years of rigorous diplomacy, and, by extension, doing real harm to Trump’s foreign policy record.
In addition, the President’s trade war with China is getting ugly. The tariffs Trump has dangled as leverage to negotiate better trade terms with North Korea’s longtime benefactor have thus far largely affected industries; now, however, they are hitting American consumers in their pocketbooks. From washing machines to computer monitors to tennis shoes, prices across a range of consumer products are predicted to rise as a direct result of Trump’s hard-line trade strategy.
It’s a particularly unwelcome development as the President seemed to have the upper hand just weeks ago, when a deal more favorable to American businesses seemed a sure thing.
Improving trade terms with China was a cornerstone of Trump’s campaign, and should he fail to make good on these promises, and consumers feel pinched by an unpopular trade policy, what seemed like a victory lap could quickly evolve into a quagmire for the President.
Of course, the sky is far from falling.
The Democrats are allowing the far left to skew the party platform well beyond what is tolerable to the American mainstream, and the countless candidates emerging from their 2020 clown car are pitching a slew of laughable policies in their quests to outcrazy one another.
More important, however, is the still-booming economy, which has bolstered public opinion of the President’s job performance. True story: a majority of millennials gave him passing marks in a recent Zogby poll.
But the economy can’t grow forever, and a downturn anytime between now and next November could hurt Trump’s reelection chances.
If that happens, he will need a win. A big one.
Specifically, a win that both rouses his base and makes the Democrats appear foolish enough that a sufficient number stay home on Election Day.
The bipartisan infrastructure plan he hatched with Democrats won’t cut it. The Trump faithful generally don’t care for Keynesian economics, and despite the Democrats’ zeal for Obama’s stimulus there is very little chance of Trump’s winning their vote with by reaching across the aisle; after all, the President received virtually no credit from the left when he pushed prison reform, long a liberal goal, over the finish line.
War with Iran would also fail to fill the void. While conflict can solidify power, Trump’s criticism of costly foreign wars was, like trade reform, was a cornerstone of his campaign. Besides, Americans have very little appetite for yet another intervention in the Middle East.
To truly put Dems on their heels the President will need to return to his roots, namely immigration and criticism of the Deep State. And he knows it.
After all, this is a man who made a name for himself in show business long before his foray into politics, and he is once again campaigning with the grit and gusto of an actor hungry to regain the spotlight.
The wall has resurfaced as a top priority, and Trump is correctly touting its progress. Thus far he has managed to allocate $2.5 billion toward the project, and he claims 400 miles will be built by next year.
But Americans need to see it, and the more miles they see the more likely Trump’s “big, beautiful” wall will deflect Democrats’ chances of winning back the White House.
But should construction lag, he’s ramped up the rhetoric on immigration in general, declaring deportation imminent for those who have entered the country illegally and unveiling a merit-based immigration plan. Either of these would allow him to fulfill his campaign’s number one goal of fixing the current system and, by extension, drive his base to the polls in droves.
Perhaps more importantly, Trump seems (wisely) intent on making the Democrat and Deep State mutineers pay dearly, something his supporters practically demand.
Many on the right have long called for the declassification of the documents behind the FISA warrant related to the Mueller probe, and Trump has promised to do just that.
Even better, the President picked a winner in Attorney General Bill Barr, who has corroborated claims by the President that his campaign was spied on by the FBI and who has now vowed to fully investigate the collusion investigators. Should such an investigation find further proof of a political motive Trump’s full vindication, and therefore reelection, are all but certain.
There are likely other options as well, and there’s still plenty of time. The President is a smart man and he no doubt has a few tricks up his sleeve.
But it’s worth noting that even given Trump’s tremendous first two years, Republicans lost the House. Should the next year-and-a-half prove lackluster as far as the President’s agenda is concerned, the losses could be even greater.
That’s a scary prospect given the current state of the Democratic Party. Let’s all hope the President finds a way to keep winning.