Many Republicans I know who signed on for Trump in the primaries, or by the time of the general election, seem to have concluded that Trump’s appeal was so powerful that, post the election, he was in position to simply roll over not merely Democrats but those Republicans who didn’t toe the Trumpian line, as well. People like me were denounced as RINOs or so-called NeverTrumpers and warned that there would be no room left for us in the Trump Republican Party if we didn’t get on board the Trump train or at least shut up.
Fox opinion commentators like the truculent Sean Hannity called for the dumping of Paul Ryan as House Leader with Trump’s win and warned Ryan and any Republicans who thought like him to get out of the way because the Trumpian juggernaut was coming for them next. That is, and always was, absurd.
Trump didn’t even win the popular vote after all and getting things done in Washington isn’t like getting things done in a multi-billion dollar company you happen to own and whose profits depend on your brand name. The federal government consists of three distinct and independently powerful branches of government, each with its own powers and authority — and the country is vast compared to the pittance that is Trump, Inc. President Donald Trump was never going to do what he promised just by bulldozing everyone around him.
The bureaucracy is already in revolt and the administration has plainly made a number of premature missteps that have hardened the lines of defiance against it, barely a month into the presidential term. In doing so, it has increased the alienation Trump’s hard-charging presidential campaign made such hay out of to win the general election only a few months ago, sustaining a series of setbacks which damage its aura of invincibility, encouraging still more attacks upon it.
Getting control of the permanent government when your avowed aim is to “drain the swamp” you identify it with was never going to be easy. And it’s not made any easier by reinforcing the enmity of those already arrayed against you by playing into their narrative and driving those on the fence into their camp.
As I have argued to hardline Trump supporters I know, some of whom have ceased talking with me by now, for Trump to succeed he has to reach out and broaden his base of support, not continue to double down on the harsh rhetoric that won him the election. It’s one thing to campaign ferociously and it’s good to keep your campaign promises once elected. But it’s a terrible idea to forget about the rest of the country, as if the folks you defeated simply don’t matter.
Voters are fickle, elections transitory and politics is cyclical. If you don’t broaden your support and win over many on the sidelines, let alone those you beat in the campaign, you’re only setting up the terms for your own subsequent losses. Trump needs to reach out and become the president of all the people and give up playing to the narrow base of angry haters who catapulted him to the White House if he wants to stay there long enough to do great things.