He’s not stupid. One of the greatest errors in any conflict is to underestimate the opposition. The elites think that because Donald Trump does not share their background, education or views, he must therefore be stupid. That’s why, despite everything, it is still possible that come November 2020 Donald Trump could be renewing his lease on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Trump has many flaws. His fragile ego is married to weapons-grade narcissism. He is easily manipulated by the media. At times it seems he opens his mouth only to change feet. Without doubt the man has many failings, but stupidity is not one of them.
No one makes, loses and remakes several fortunes in New York real-estate development by being stupid. A thrice-married casino owner with wandering hands who is no conservative, neither economic nor social, doesn’t gain and retain the allegiance of the deeply conservative religious Right (after letting them down repeatedly) by being stupid.
Trump knows something his many opponents in the Democratic and Republican parties should know but don’t. He knows something his opponents in the media should know but don’t. Donald Trump knows people and how they work.
Despite his loudly proclaimed promises, and after nearly a year in office, Trump has yet to build The Wall, or even begin work. He hasn’t come through on his promise to ‘drain the swamp’. Washington remains full of establishment place-fillers and American Sir Humphreys. Obamacare is still on the books. He has failed repeatedly to enforce his travel ban. Yet Donald Trump’s approval ratings amongst his core supporters remain solid and could be in a position to grow.
His core constituency dislikes progressives trying to turn the USA into a safe space for those trying to destroy the America they love more than they dislike Trump’s failure to come up with the goods. He is seen as the only one speaking up for the America in which they live.
Incessant OTT attacks by the media only increase the allegiance of his core support. The bias is blatant. If Raqqa had been retaken from ISIS whilst Obama was president it would have been hailed as the greatest military accomplishment since D-Day. Instead it was passed over quickly to get down to the real news of what Trump had tweeted and which establishment Republicans, who were going to lose heavily in the mid-terms anyway, had turned against him.
In Tennessee, small-government, Trump-friendly congresswoman Marsha Blackburn is early favourite to win the Republican nomination to succeed the resigning Bob Corker and would have a clear advantage in the Republican-heavy state.
In Arizona, Jeff Flake, who was in deep trouble in his re-election bid, will also not run again. Arizona’s only declared candidate for Republican nomination is super-Trump fan Kelli Ward. The establishment GOP will no doubt seek a more amenable candidate, but Arizona is moving Democrat and any Republican candidate will have a tough time.
Subject to an unprecedented barrage of media criticism and abuse, Trump’s response is always the same. It doesn’t matter how or why he is attacked, Trump never apologises. After his UN speech, the Columbus Day speech and his Tweets about the NFL, he was attacked by hysterical progressives. Trump didn’t apologise. He doubled down, and his people love it. They are tired of seeing politicians, university administrators and celebrities crumble and give grovelling apologies at the first hint of criticism from deranged social justice warriors.
Disenchantment with Democrats and establishment Republicans helps Trump retain his independent image with his voters. His base vote is personal. The system is not working in their interests and Trump represents the anti-system. They see Trump as a man under attack from an establishment which constantly sneers at him, and this resonates with people who think the same establishment scorns them and takes them for granted.
Trump’s failure to implement his much-touted policies disappoints his base. But the great majority of his core vote is sticking by him. At the moment polls show more American voters blame Congress, Democrats and establishment Republicans alike, than Trump for the slow pace of Washington.
He is also helped by the incompetence of his opposition. They oversell their point and don’t at present have the wit to realise they are alienating voters that they need. Establishment Democrats and their progressive wings are at loggerheads. Until the Democrats learn the lessons of 2016, Trump will always have the advantage.
To have more than sectional appeal, the Democratic Party must recapture the Obama voters who flipped for Trump – the white working-class bloc. If Trump can secure jobs, they will remain firm and his appeal will spread beyond his base.
The bi-coastal urban professional elites who dominate the Democrats scorn them and want nothing to do with them. The feeling is mutual. The social justice warrior, extreme-political correctness, identity politics they and their supporters pursue has turned the liberal movement into a laughing-stock in Middle America.
Pink pussy hats worn by ‘nasty women’ do not resonate well with ordinary working people concerned with jobs and mortgages. At present the Democrats appeal only to the urban-based, overly educated, self-identifying elites and their millennial acolytes, new immigrants and welfare recipients. There exists a cultural disconnect which Democrats show no signs at present of remedying.
To succeed in 2020 Trump needs to keep his base on board. To do that, he cannot continue to rely on the incompetence of his opponents; he too must not underestimate the opposition. They will eventually realise that identity politics and over-the-top reactions to the president are alienating the very people they need for 2020.
They will eventually get over their tantrums and begin reaching out to Middle America and the white working class. When they do that, Trump is going to have to do something to reassure his base. To win in 2020, Trump must produce on immigration and trade. He will have to show that he is not just words but action.