Tuesday, April 25, 2017


The Wall Street Journal's Gerald Seib has written an alternate history of Donald Trump's first hundred days, and it's no different from every other naive attempt to imagine Trump as a genuine middle-of-the-roader:
... let’s imagine a presidency that attempted from the outset to take advantage of the fact that Donald Trump isn’t an ideological conservative or a traditional Republican, but rather a radical centrist who should be able to create unconventional, bipartisan coalitions....

This presidency wouldn’t have started with polarizing issues guaranteed to back both parties further into their corners: aiming to repeal the Democrats’ signature health-care law and imposing a ban on travel from a set of Muslim-majority countries as the first step in fighting terrorism. Rather, it would have opened with two big initiatives in which at least a few Democrats would have been willing—maybe even eager in some cases—to cooperate: rebuilding American infrastructure and changing the nation’s inefficient tax code.

This alternative presidency would have set out from the beginning to build bridges to the 10 Democratic senators up for re-election in 2018 from states Mr. Trump carried, and the 12 House members who represent districts Mr. Trump carried in 2016. In this Trump presidency, the cabinet he chose would have been populated with fewer ideological conservatives and instead would have included some moderate Democrats.
This fantasy Trump bears no resemblance to the Fox-obsessed Republican who actually occupies the Oval Office, but go ahead Gerald, dream big dreams.

Now, if you've read enough centrist punditry, you know that the flip side of "Why can't Democrats and Republicans get along?" is always "Aren't Democrats and Republicans equally at fault, with Democrats probably more at fault?" Needless to say, Seib goes there, citing the new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll -- and then asking whether it's the Democrats who turned Trump into a reluctant ideologue. I'm not joking:
Only one in 10 Americans in the poll sees Mr. Trump as a typical Republican. The vast majority in both parties consider him a different kind of Republican, and they are more likely to say that’s a good thing rather than a bad thing.

This picture raises a couple of pertinent questions. The first is whether it really was possible to move down a nonpartisan path—or whether anti-Trump passions at the base of the Democratic Party would have made it impossible to do so. In other words, did Mr. Trump drive away Democrats, or did Democrats drive him further into the arms of fellow Republicans?

It’s impossible to know for sure, of course, and certainly both forces were at work to some extent.
The one thing that seems clear is that some of Mr. Trump’s more divisive early actions, decisions and priorities made it easier for Democratic activists to create pressure on their representatives to take a never-cooperate position.
(Emphasis added.)

Some of Trump's early actions were divisive? Name me one that wasn't. He picked a climate change denier to head the EPA. He picked a public school hater to run the Department of Education. He picked a bigot as attorney general. He picked an oilman pal of Putin as secretary of state. He picked the former head of Breitbart as his chief strategist. And on and on.

But Trump wasn't a blank slate the morning after Election Day. Long before he announced his presidential candidacy, he conducted a years-long effort to delegitimize the black Democrat who was president. During his campaign he made repulsive statements and gestures toward women, the disabled, blacks, Muslims, and undocumented immigrants. He made no effort to distance himself from racist and anti-Semitic supporters. He encouraged Russian saboteurs to interfere with the election. So it doesn't matter how reluctant Democrats were to work with him. They had every reason to be reluctant. It was all on him to dissipate "anti-Trump passions," assuming he had any interest in doing so. Those "passions" were entirely justified.

I feel as I'm making absurdly obvious points. But I guess they aren't obvious to much of the pundit class.

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