Tuesday, May 07, 2019


The Atlantic's Peter Nicholas is baffled by President Trump's approach to governance:
Trump Is Governing by Grievance

... If Trump is to notch any meaningful legislative victories before the 2020 election—and he’s now promising a gargantuan infrastructure package—he’ll need to compartmentalize: to summon the mental discipline essential to passing history-making legislation. The chances of that happening look dim, however, because Trump can’t compartmentalize. Since his swearing-in, he’s proved unable to wall off the irritants and frustrations that cloud any president’s day and focus on a governing agenda. Indeed, the distractions seem to captivate him most; they’ve become his governing agenda....

In recent days, Trump has been preoccupied by random ephemera even as he’s embarked on a new infrastructure deal, announced last week after a meeting with Democratic lawmakers. He has been complaining about how his supporters are being treated by social-media companies. He’s called attention to the disputed result of this year’s Kentucky Derby, CNN ratings, his own poll numbers, and Nick Bosa, an NFL first-round draft pick who turns out to be a MAGA fan. What any of that has to do with bridges, airports, and highways isn’t immediately apparent.

But what most stands to derail a potential legislative breakthrough is his dyspepsia over Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report and Democratic inquiries into his private business dealings and conduct in office. Trump won’t leave the Russia business alone....

Nor is it clear that Trump can set aside his differences with Democrats and work toward goals that are in their mutual interest. He is furious with Democratic lawmakers for digging into his record, targeting his tax returns, threatening him with impeachment, and summoning his top aides to testify....
Nicholas really doesn't get it. Sure, Trump would like a win on this -- but not if he has to give up (or even temporarily abandon) his precious grievances. Trump is like a lot of Fox-obsessed seventysomething white men -- grievances are what he lives for. Grievances are his caffeine and his Viagra.

(I mean that only figuratively, but you never know.)

Nicholas thinks Trump's better judgment -- I can't believe I just typed those three words in succession -- might help him overcome this tendency to fixate on grievances:
Yet there’s one other distinctive Trumpian trait that could work in his favor and help salvage some sort of infrastructure deal: his instinct for self-preservation. After all, he wants to win reelection. He wants to validate his narrow victory in 2016 by showing it was no fluke. If an infrastructure package is part of the formula for victory, if it burnishes a four-year record that makes swing voters take a fresh look at him, Trump might accept a truce with Democrats.
But Trump doesn't care about swing voters. He cares about the base, and the base cares about grievances, and grievances only.
Infrastructure, then, poses a kind of character test for the 45th president. Which is more important to him: indulging his anger and sense of victimhood, or signing his name to what would be a legacy-making accomplishment?
Do you even have to ask?

Trump's regular indulgence of his anger and sense of victimhood is the reason his base loves him. It's why base voters feel he's just like them, despite the wealth gap -- they live for grievance, too.

Trump does whatever he thinks will bring him adulation, as long as it doesn't require much effort. Legislating, which might lead to some quiet admiration from swing voters, is hard. Tweeting about stuff that pisses him off, which makes his base rapturous and worshipful, is ridiculously easy. The choice is obvious.

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