How to Right the Ship

By | 2017-06-02T18:30:05+00:00 August 3, 2017|
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Ever since Donald Trump declared his candidacy for the presidency, the media assault on him, his family, and his supporters has been blistering and relentless. As a result, millions of Americans—and billions of people around the world—have developed a warped, even demoniacal, impression of the sitting president of the United States.

Nevertheless, given this media pummeling, Trump’s approval ratings, especially among Republicans, have held up remarkably well. Lately, though, there have been signs that even the president’s core supporters are wavering, and his poll numbers are dipping. We must analyze and address this alarming development in a clear-eyed way, and we must do what we can to rebuild public confidence in Trump, the Republican Party, and conservatives.

First, though: why the downward trend? President Trump and Republicans have weathered a number of setbacks recently. The media twisted a story about Donald Trump, Jr. seeking information on Democratic collusion with Russia into confirmation of Trump’s collusion with Russia—no small feat, given the utter absurdity of the underlying logic.

Republican efforts in the Senate to repeal and replace Obamacare have hit a wall of opposition from recalcitrant members of their own party—elected officials who promised their constituents a fix was on the way, but who are unwilling to vote for anything but a perfect bill. As a result, it is unclear whether Republicans in Congress will keep years of consistent promises to abolish Obamacare and replace it with something better. In addition, Trump’s chief of staff and chief spokesman resigned under pressure, and his new communications director was let go after just 10 days. The apparent instability in the administration, combined with rumors of further dissension within the ranks, have fed a narrative of “chaos” at the highest levels of our government.

It’s true, some of Trump’s own actions have reinforced the media’s negative characterizations. Trump’s tweets are sometimes juvenile and it’s odd to see a president attacking his critics personally. More importantly, Trump has not shown the necessary discipline in articulating his positions on major issues, like the repeal and replacement of Obamacare. He has vacillated on what the Republicans’ best course is: repeal and replace, repeal then replace, or sit back and watch Obamacare collapse under its own weight. He has also alternately complimented and cajoled his fellow Republicans, who in turn have offered him less than full support. Trump openly criticized his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions. Some senators, meanwhile, such as Jeff Flake of Arizona, have lambasted the president. Others have refused to vote for Obamacare-related bills that the Republican leadership and Trump have endorsed. Perhaps most distressingly, Republicans have joined with Democrats in pursuing the farcical investigation of alleged “Trump-Russia” ties. In the process, the Republican Party has become more disunited and dysfunctional than it has been in a long time—which is quite a feat.

How to fix these problems? The first step may well be one that President Trump has already taken: the appointment of General John Kelly, his Homeland Security secretary, to replace Reince Priebus as White House chief of staff. Kelly is greatly respected on both sides of the aisle, and he may be just the man to bring greater discipline and focus to the West Wing. The next task will be to hire a communications director who can plug the press leaks that have fed the false media narratives about the president. Anthony Scaramucci had his charms, and seemed intent on rooting out leakers, but his presence became too much of a distraction and he had to go. It’s crucial for an experienced, competent, and less combative communications director to craft the administration’s message and do a better job of harnessing Trump’s own brand of eloquence to deliver it. The president is at his best when he speaks directly to the people.

Above all, the Republican message should be coordinated at all levels, and members of the administration, members of Congress, and party officials need to be on the same page. That’s a big ask. Fact is, the Trump phenomenon has exposed fissures among the Republican and conservative coalition hitherto concealed. Where grassroots Republicans have been keen to fight back against the media and Democratic Party’s attacks on the president, most professional Republicans have flinched and buckled. By showing weakness, they ensure that the attacks against them will intensify, and their agenda will be derailed. By standing together, unapologetically, in defense of their principles, Republicans and conservatives can not only achieve their goals but also maintain the support and confidence of Americans.

The best recipe for a turnaround in fortunes for Trump and Republicans, in the end, is success, which begets more success. Republicans need to repeal Obamacare, as promised. They need to overhaul the immigration system and the tax code, as promised. They need to lighten the regulatory burden and unleash economic growth, as promised. These are all reforms that unite Republicans and conservatives and, more importantly, appeal to large swathes of Americans. If the Democrats want to vote no, so be it, but Republicans have it in their power to deliver wins on these issues to the country, and to themselves. That would be a good start to changing the political dynamics that, for the moment, have turned against Trump and his supporters.

One way or another, though, this too shall pass. If nothing else, we can simply wait for Democrats to squander their advantages and self-destruct, as they so often do. No condition is permanent, especially in politics. Trump, and Republicans, will surely rise again.

About the Author:

Nicholas L. Waddy

Nicholas L. Waddy, an associate professor of history at SUNY Alfred, blogs at www.waddyisright.com.

  • bruceheiden

    The polls’ dip below 40% probably reflects the president’s ragging on Sessions, which the essay hardly mentions.

    • Trump’s numbers will come right back up IF he can submit to General Kelly’s discipline of his staff. Trump seeks constant reinforcement from his people and with Kelly keeping most of them away from him and focused on their respective areas he’s not going to be getting that.

      We picked the only man who could have tackled the job we wanted done, but he needs to up his game fast.

      • ek ErilaR

        Being on the defensive always causes moral problems with the troops.

  • Bruce1369

    Wrong. His supporters know what’s going on.

  • ADM64

    There are a lot of Republicans – conservative or not – who seem to prefer losing with this president than to winning with him. They also seem to be content to lose without this president provided they do so in a manner that lets them remain the well-paid harmless court opposition to the Establishment, and generally participate within it.

  • Beauceron

    I am wavering.

    I can take the endless circus, I can take the press and their unrelenting negativity, I can take the special prosecutor investigation.

    What I can’t take is the gross managerial incompetence. I though staff management would be one of Trump’s strengths given his business experience. But he has turned out to be a horrible manager. Why is McMaster being allowed to create what is turning out to be an Obama staff redoubt at NSC? He’s purging all Trump loyalists and promoting the Obama holdovers? Why has Trump allowed that? It’s disastrous and stupid. Why has Trump allowed so many Obama holdovers to say in their jobs in other departments all while the government is leaking like a sieve? It’s like shooting yourself in the foot. And the constant haranguing of Sessions and Bannon, two people for whom I have broad respect, is terrible management.

    Trump knew, or should have known, that he was going to war when he arrived at the WH. He should have prepared and showed up with a cadre of loyal soldiers and prepared for battle. Instead he acts like he was going to be treated with the adulation Obama received.

    • Peter63

      Unfortunately this is true.

      Candidate Trump was all along hated by the Political Class, the Mainstream Media (both largely owned by Big Money, Wall St, the Chamber of Commerce), the Bureaucracy (owned by the Political Class), Academe. It was from June 2015 Trump contra mundum.

      Two miracles were required for him to succeed with any significant part of his campaign themes/policy positions.

      [1] He should win the election against massive propaganda from the MSM, the forces of the Democratic Party machine – far better organized and financed than his own campaign – and in spite of unfriendly sniper-fire from what only nominally was his own side, the Republicans (Paul Ryan etc coming out against him almost up to polling day).

      This miracle occurred, so important, salient, urgent and long-overdue were his messages; and so wily and effective were Kellyanne Conway and others in the team which supported him. (They stole marches on Mrs Clinton and Co in the swing states that the Dems took for granted.)

      [2] He should have in place and long before November 9, 2016, a fully detailed plan of campaign for dealing with what could only be a ratcheting-up of the opposition to his agenda from the afore-mentioned foes. (a) A clear-out of all Obama holdovers, (b) being on the offensive from Day 1 (Jan. 21, 2017) against all senior Democrats who had been corrupting and unlawfully using government departments agencies 2009-2017, with Hillary Clinton herself by no means a protected species in this regard, (c) a 935-point plan for wrongfooting the Opposition (= all the above-named enemies) day and night so that they never recovered their balance but simply got continually dislodged, like mountaineers forced to descend from one ledge to another down an abyss.

      Mr Trump, I think, made two wrong assumptions: (1) if he was elected President of the USA, most people in the country would accept the electoral verdict and allow him to govern. That is probably true, but ‘most people’ does not include the interests aforementioned: the Political Class, the MSM, their Owners and Donors &c. (2) Governing would be less searingly painful if he could find some mode of accommodation with the Republican Party Establishment in Congress and the RNC and therefore it was worth trying to co-opt them to support him in at least parts of his agenda. This is why he has appointed dreadful establishmentarians to some – mercifully not all – key posts. Yet the hope behind that strategy was in fact completely forlorn, a lost cause from the start. The Swamp was never going to co-operate with any attempt to drain it nor any attempt to dislodge its permanent Donor-friendly policies. Therefore trying to work with the Republican Establishment has simply wasted 6 months of precious time.

      I think I, and many of us, would have made the same two mistakes.

      President Trump has got to start getting ultra-tough and uncompromising if he is to achieve anything at all. So have the electorate. Either they primary nearly all Republican members currently in the Congress out of it (Ann Coulter thinks that only 6 of them are any good as patriots who care about what actually becomes of their country) or the USA turns into Mexico with a strong infusion of Islamic terrorism on a daily basis.

      • Adobe_Walls

        Pretty good analysis, particularly the part about Trump needing to understand the nature of the forces arrayed against him. When one attempts to drain a swamp a lot of swamp creatures are going to have to die. In this swamp the denizens can fight back.

    • John Milton

      There is no “counter elite” from which to recruit such people. He’d need to go big and hire “Joe the Plumber.” And guess what: because of Senate “advise and consent” he could not get any of them approved.

      • Peter63

        Off the top of my head, quite a few names occur. E.g. from the transition hours (November 9 2016) onwards he could have appointed Laura Ingraham his press spokesperson, Kris Kobach director of Homeland Security, Jim Rickards and David Stockton as his economic advisers (and No-One from deadly Goldman Sachs)….
        I suspect the trouble is, he thought to try and work with the Establishment rather than having all-out-war with them from Day One. Yet the total lack of co-operation they have given him – after 7 months all the RNC and Congressional Republicans have done (as a body) is to have him investigated; really nothing else at all – means he is no better situated now than if he had made all-out-war with the Establishment from November 9. And they have managed to wrongfoot him with the Mueller investigation (which all-in clever military strategy on his team’s part, prepared from way back, would have avoided)…..

        • Trump needed to read ‘The Prince’ rather than ‘The Art of the Deal’ when he won the election. January 21 he needed to go with the maximum brutality allowed by law, indicting and prosecuting the key criminals still in and around the government, except for Obama himself who could have been terminally discredited by turning some of the others and releasing their testimony.

          He would then have had not only respect from the Deep State and the Congressional slimeballs, but great appreciation from We the People, most of whom have had to play by the rules for our entire lives.

          Instead he sought deals and got stabbed in the back repeatedly.

          I hope he has learned his lesson, but it’s very late in the game. The Mueller travesty is likely the worst of what has come from Trump having offered a handshake rather that a (figurative) one in the chest and one in the head.

          • RIP_UN_1945_2017

            Well said !

          • ek ErilaR

            Really, Trump had to try to find out if he could enlist the support of either the bureaucracy in the federal agencies, the House or the Senate. As things turned out he could not.

            Both Theodoric the Great and Cromwell had the same problem. Theodoric handled it successfully, Cromwell did not.

            So far, I think Trump is making the best of a bad hand and he will always be better than Hilly.

            A huge part of the problem is that the vast majority of those in the federal bureaucracy and in Congress agree with Hilly; Trump and those who elected him really are despicable.

            The same sort of thing, using the same tactics, has been going on between Poland, Hungry and the EU for at least the last five years.

          • D4x

            Michael Anton, aka Publius Decius Mus, knows “The Prince” better than anyone. He has been invisible to the media and public since he emerged as Ben Rhodes successor as Deputy Assistant to the President for Strategic Communications on the United States National Security Council.
            Rhodes reported directly to O44, per this org chart:
            https://www.americanactionforum.org/research/reforming-national-security-council/

            Where does Anton really report? Who better to be Trump’s eyes and ears than Anton?
            One reason I see strategy where others see ‘chaos’.

            I do believe Trump was not prepared for the unprecedented obstruction, especially on confirmations.

          • Uncle Max

            D4x… I was thinking about Anton the other day. The President has some top-drawer folks in-close that are invisible to the scrub. I part of a lot of this is, chaos can be used as an advantage. And look how Devos and Pruitt have been invisible. I trust they are both busy.

          • D4x

            Do you think McMaster’s firings are more to re-organize the NSC staff back to a manageable span of control? Perhaps I am too optimistic, but I actually believe McMaster is capable of rethinking previous positions, and wonder how much time he spends with Anton. Plus, who else would be deconstructing the legacy media?

    • ek ErilaR

      I think you’ve never worked at the upper levels of the federal bureaucracy.

  • Whiskey Sam

    Asking Republicans to stand for their principles would require many of them to first have principles.

  • John Milton

    Please, please, please, no wonky leftovers from NRO. Let’s talk about what is really going on.

    The two big points are: (i) America doesn’t actually have representative government, it is ruled by a technocratic elite, and (ii) these elites vary in composition from incompetent to criminal.

  • Uncle Max

    Why ANY thoughtful article mentions a poll or approval rating is baffling to me. You just can’t make a case , on THIS President, with poll numbers. He had no path. No poll had him winning. The Democrats USE polls for disinformation and narrative… ( also fundraising). The GOP does too. Trump screwed all of ’em. Think of all the Carl Roves’ who had no ear to whisper to and get money from. Trump used hardly anyone on his campaign. Pissed all the consultants off. Think any of these polling operations … who do polls for money btw… really are trying to be fair? Really? I read one last week and they polled 38% Dems 35% GOP and 14% Indy. Now tell me … really…. 14% Indy…

    • Orson

      Hey. It’s mentioned because it’s a data point. What matter mosts is not the level but the vector. Trump can’t sustain negativism’s long-term growth. Despite what we know, that many folks dodge the Master Class narrative, and thus their support doesn’t show up in these “polls.” It’s too tough to measure with regularity, I suppose. Thus, unmeasured, it goes subject to too much conjecture to be useful in measuring the ongoing popular pulse.

  • Orson

    Despite the repeal demise last weekend, I was determined to join Dr Kelly Ward’s fight in Arizona to defeat the RINO-fake conservative Senator Fluke. Now, this week ends with news that McMaster has ousted cadre of anti-Islamist Patriots like Rich Higgens at the NSC. Obamunism’s Left-Muslim march goes on unimpeded and unreformed there.

    I had a third “strike” in mind – since it’s baseball season – ah, yes! The march of Mueller to destroy Trump and the resuscitation of American Exceptionalism…you get the vector…. Trump failure. I’ve hit the wall. Now, I’m reconsidering my plans.

    The deep state is all, and destroys our Constitutional liberties. I see the expiration date written on the wall. So what if the economy recovers it’s vigor. I can’t last, and the corrupt elites will win anyway…. I feel an Expat mission coming on much, much sooner than I expected only a month or two ago.
    .

  • PeteVino

    The people who elected Trump are no where near to abandoning him, despite the best efforts of the media, Democrats and even some Republicans. These relentless assaults on him are in effect assaults on us for electing him. We are more strongly in favor of him now than ever and are furious at the media for what they are doing.

  • JamesDrouin

    “How to Right the Ship”

    Simple … “drain the swamp”, and toute flvcking suite, and without fear or favor.

  • pixelpusher

    What about his not stop assault on the media, one of the most important institutions in a democracy? He is completely a creation of the media and his ability to play them developed over years in the New York tabloids. He loves to provoke and comes most alive when he can claim victim hood. It is Kabuki theater orchestrated for his base to keep them angry and resentful. The old adage “never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel” is still true today even if the form has changed. One more thing. Why is the talk of regulations always general and never specific about which regulations are being gutted and why they are an impediment? Who benefits when mine owners are allowed to dispose of their waste in streams? How is their business hurt?

  • pixelpusher

    Trumps movement is based on the notion of victimhood. If only we could adulate him as much as he does himself everything would be fine. Its the conspiracies swirling around him that must be thwarting him.

  • pixelpusher

    I have read you are trying find a way to harness Trumpism without Trump. This not a site for real discussion.