Many Democrats take solace in the fact that Donald Trump lost the popular vote and has a relatively low approval rating as his inauguration nears.
They expect the Trump phenomenon to be short-lived, with voters returning to their senses and Democrats winning back control of national politics.
They point out Pres. Obama’s high approval ratings as he ends his presidency and argue that Trump doesn’t have a broad mandate. They believe that liberal Democratic policies remain popular and the pendulum will soon swing back in favor of the Democrats.
In other words, they’re whistling past the graveyard.
In reality, Trump is part of a much broader GOP political surge. Whether he is responsible for it or is a beneficiary of it is open to debate. Personally, I believe Trump has been swept along with the Republican/conservative tide, although he has added a great deal of flamboyance to it.
Had Trump avoided personal insults and some of his more outrageous behavior that alienated a lot of mainstream Republicans and independents, he probably would have won bigger, likely winning the popular vote.
Voters were absolutely ready for a disruptor, a change agent, someone who would shake up Washington, spurn political correctness and take a contrarian approach.
Imagine how strong Trump could have been had he not offended women and attacked a whole lot of people unnecessarily. He wouldn’t have needed to tone down his brash style, just not be a jerk.
Trump may or may not be a good president. No one knows. His unorthodox style might prove to be just what the country needs in this remarkable time in history. Or he might perform so poorly that even his most fervent followers will abandon him.
Whatever happens with Trump, the Republicans are still looking strong.
Political scientist Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, notes that since Obama was elected in 2008, Democrats have suffered a net loss of more than 1,000 seats in the U.S. House and Senate, state legislatures and governorships. Obama’s presidency has been a disaster for his party at other levels, Sabato said. The Democratic Party is in its worst overall governing position since the 1920s.
Most of that success has nothing to do with Trump.
In 2018, if the Republicans perform well, Democrats could easily lose more Senate seats, possibly giving Republicans a filibuster-proof Senate majority.
So, the state of politics today isn’t all about Trump. Obama’s personal popularity allowed him to win two presidential races, but down the ballot, Republicans have been winning big, capturing a remarkable number of state legislative seats and governorships. Republicans have been clobbering Democrats in U.S. House mid-term elections.
Certainly, the Republican domination could be fragile. Voters tired of dysfunction and gridlock in Washington need to see problems being solved. They need to see conservatism in action that improves people’s lives and provides hope and optimism. They need to see a growing economy with more job opportunities.
Republicans must show they can govern in a topsy-turvy, unpredictable, perhaps ungovernable, political world. In 2017, all the balls are in the air and old political assumptions are no longer viable. I’m an old guy, and it seems almost everything I know, and most of my instincts, are obsolete. Science, technology and new communications capabilities are remaking the world.
So, Republicans kick off the new year in great shape at all levels of government. But there is no formula, no reliable road map, for success in the transformed world of politics. It will be fascinating to see how they do.