Trump Can’t Win the Blame Game

Like any president, he’ll be judged by his results. So far, he’s failed to deliver much.

.. Mr. McConnell said the president had shown “excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process.”

This is accurate. Mr. Trump frequently says things like “We are moving very quickly” (referring to health care, on Feb. 27), “We are going to have tax reform at some point very soon” (April 12), and that his administration’s infrastructure plan will “take off like a rocket ship” (June 8).

.. Blaming others may be cathartic for Mr. Trump, but it weakens the presidency and inhibits his agenda.
.. So where are the administration’s focused efforts to use the presidential megaphone to explain the GOP agenda and persuade voters? An early-hours tweet may enthuse true believers, but 140 characters won’t sway most Americans and may even repel them.

Where are the speeches explaining the plan to replace ObamaCare and why it would be better? Where are the Oval Office addresses on why tax reform would produce better jobs and bigger paychecks? Where are the choruses echoing the president’s arguments for an infrastructure bill? They are nowhere to be found.

Missing also are the administration’s legislative proposals, such as an actual infrastructure bill. Although the White House website touts a trillion-dollar price tag for Mr. Trump’s program, it devotes just 314 words to outlining its provisions. As a reference point, that is fewer than half the words in this column—not enough for a major piece of legislation.

The Trump-McConnell Spat

If the GOP Congress fails, so does the Trump Presidency.

The damage from the GOP’s health-care debacle has only just begun, and the latest evidence is this week’s public spat between President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The big potential winner here is Democratic leader Chuck Schumer.

.. But Mr. Trump didn’t help the Senate by failing to make a public case for the GOP reforms. Not once did he explain, for example, that paring back ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion for able-bodied adults would protect health care for the truly needy. His failure to master even basic policy details made him useless as a public advocate.

..  a major political risk from the health-care defeat is that Mr. Trump concludes he should start running against the GOP majority.

They might prefer to run in 2020 against Mr. Schumer than with Mr. McConnell.

..  They need each other in particular this autumn to

  • raise the debt ceiling,
  • press deregulation, and
  • pass a budget and
  • tax reform.

Failure on that agenda after the health-care fiasco will open the door to a Democratic House—which means nonstop anti-Trump investigations and perhaps impeachment. The best defense against mutual assured political destruction is legislative success in the fall.

Obamacare Rage in Retrospect

So once again: What was Obamacare rage about?

Much of it was orchestrated by pressure groups like Freedom Works, and it’s a good guess that some of the “ordinary citizens” who appeared at town halls were actually right-wing activists. Still, there was plenty of genuine popular rage, stoked by misinformation and outright lies from the usual suspects: Fox News, talk radio and so on. For example, around 40 percent of the public believed that Obamacare would create “death panels” depriving senior citizens of care.

The question then becomes why so many people believed these lies. The answer, I believe, comes down to a combination of identity politics and affinity fraud.

.. Whenever I see someone castigating liberals for engaging in identity politics, I wonder what such people imagine the right has been doing all these years. For generations, conservatives have conditioned many Americans to believe that safety-net programs are all about taking things away from white people and giving stuff to minorities.

And those who stoked Obamacare rage were believed because they seemed to some Americans like their kind of people — that is, white people defending them against you-know-who.

The Crowdsourced Guide to Fighting Trump’s Agenda

Levin and the other authors that, “despite the despair that many progressives may be feeling right now, there really actually is a model for success.” Unfortunately, it belonged to the Tea Party.

The document analyzes the strategic wisdom of the Tea Party, focussing on its local activism and emphasis on defense rather than offense. “We tried to be really clear in the document that, like it or not, the Tea Party really _did _have significant accomplishments—facing more difficult odds than we face today

.. Jim Manley, a Democratic strategist and a former staffer for Senators Edward Kennedy and Harry Reid, told me that he was impressed that the document “urges people to play defensive baseball.” “I understand the need for a positive agenda, as do they,” he added. “But I think they’re correct in their assessment on copying some of the tactics of the Tea Party and trying to make Republicans feel pain or pay a price for some of the stuff they’re about to vote on.”

.. “We were three of the only people who_ _had Twitter accounts,” Levin explained. “We also didn’t want there to be some kind of mysterious, anonymous document that came out and inspired folks to speculate about its author. To avoid that scenario, we put a handful of names on it.”