The image of American President Donald Trump that seems universal is of him with a self-satisfied, smug smirk on his face. But as he careens carelessly around issues about which he studiously refuses to inform himself, he continues to threaten America’s place and standing in the world.
In recent days alone, there is Trump’s bizarre decision to reward North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un with a bilateral meeting whose potential gains for the US are hard to discern. Accounts now emerging from this stunning turn of events point to a president who continues to dive into decisions without much forethought.
At the same time, he is increasingly isolated in a White House that has recently seen an unprecedented exodus of senior, critical staff. Top economic adviser Gary Cohn quit abruptly last week, reportedly over Trump’s impulsive imposition of tariffs on imported steel and aluminium.
Trump also did not handle well the horrific massacre at Parkland school in South Florida. His response has appeared scripted and insincere. His inaction since speaking with representatives of the National Rifle Association has belied his initial, heartening words. And the Republican controlled Congress, despite the usual pious pronouncements in the wake of yet another tragic shooting, has done nothing to reduce the likelihood of a similar future calamity.
Meanwhile, Trump’s tawdry dalliance with a porn actress and slimy attempts to buy her silence afterwards can only have further alienated American women, many of whom have supported him and the GOP agenda in the past.
The Republican party would, therefore, seem to be heading toward a significant electoral defeat in November. But will that happen? Some recent developments have made observers wonder if the Democrats can actually manage to recapture the Senate and House of Representatives. There are several reasons for this.
Trump’s approval ratings have, almost paradoxically, been rising, now to over 40 percent in some polls. Hard as it is for his millions of detractors to acknowledge, Trump has presided over an economy that has seen massive stock market gains so far, rising employment and a tax bill that puts extra money in the pockets of millions of voters.
There is still a profound connection between this isolated president and his core base of support. It also helps Trump that many American voters remain indifferent to their government, even as Republicans in Congress and the White House continue to pursue policies seemingly inimical to the interests of the nation and most of its citizens. An example is health care, where some now estimate that costs for a typical family may rise 90 percent over the next three years in the wake of GOP assaults on the Affordable Care Act. Another is abject federal legislative inaction on gun control, which polls suggest is desired by most American voters.
For the president’s many foes and detractors, two remedies are at hand. The first is the ongoing probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election. Robert Mueller and his investigators seem to be constructing a solid case of obstruction of justice against Trump and his campaign. What Mueller’s findings will be and when they are revealed certainly have the potential to influence the upcoming elections.
Secondly, if November’s congressional elections yield Democratic majorities in both the Senate and House of Representatives, those Democratic legislators will quickly move to impeach Trump. And the November election campaign is now in full swing.
Primary season has begun, with caucusing in California last month, voting last week in Texas and in big states like Illinois coming up. Party unity, both for Democrats and Republicans, is increasingly the subject of political discussion. But with the influence of Steve Bannon and his odious brand of Trumpism apparently waning, the GOP may actually be shoring up its ideological flanks.
It is not clear the Democrats will be able to do so. Already the California party has withheld from 85-year-old Diane Feinstein its endorsement for her re-election campaign. Rifts between the Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton wings of the party are appearing in Illinois and Texas. This comes as the Pennsylvania high court approved a congressional redistricting that should give Democrats hope in that state.
But can they unite against Trump to take advantage?