It’s no mystery why Trump is alienating “fellow” Republicans. (Hint: they’re not really “fellows.”)

August 24th, 2017 at 8:07 am

Trigger warning: I’m stepping outside my econozone for some political commentary (don’t worry; I’ll make it quick). Sorry to do so, but I find this surprisingly naïve. At this late date, a lot of well-placed people still seem to miss President Trump’s sole motivation. I’m talking about these complaints from today’s papers that the President is mistaken alienating his own party by attacking Republicans, i.e., the folks he’ll need to move his agenda.

From WaPo:

“It’s entirely counterproductive for the president to be picking fights with Republican senators who he will need for important agenda items that they both agree on,” said Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.). “Does he think that Democratic senators will be more cooperative than John McCain and Jeff Flake and Susan Collins? It doesn’t seem to make any sense.”

From the NYT, re his caustic speech in AZ:

“[After railing on the media]…this time he gave equal billing to his fellow Republicans in Congress — the people he will surely need if he hopes to deliver on infrastructure or anything else of value to the working-class Americans who elected him.”

Trump cares not about his party. It’s not even really his party. He doesn’t care about his “agenda.” He doesn’t have an agenda, other than to elevate himself and his brand. Any action he takes must be understood from the perspective, “does this make me look good or bad? And if it’s “bad” then who can I blame?”

He doesn’t really care about (or understand) health care, foreign policy, jobs, the stock market, or even taxes beyond wanting to help himself and his kids (ergo, he wants to eliminate the estate tax and the AMT), except to the extent that he can tap any of these issues/policies to elevate himself.

Surely, no one who’s paying even a whit of attention can believe he cares about the actual living conditions of “the working class Americans who elected him.” His concern for them extends only to how he can get and keep them behind him.

Once you understand this, and I grant you, it’s not a deep insight, actions that “don’t seem to make any sense” make perfect sense. All the lies, the split personality stuff, the complete flipping of positions one day to the next. He’s always and everywhere just doing the only thing he’s good at, and he’s very good at it: generating conflict. Attacking others, deflecting blame, playing one group off of another. And it’s all purely in the service of making him look strong and everybody else, including those supposedly on his team, look weak.

OK, rant over. Back to the spreadsheets.

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7 comments in reply to "It’s no mystery why Trump is alienating “fellow” Republicans. (Hint: they’re not really “fellows.”)"

  1. Serene says:

    RE: “His concern for them extends only to how he can get and keep them behind him.”

    You’ve just pointed out what has been wrong with our current political system, which is based upon polling and strategic positioning (private vs. public positions). The press seems more comfortable with it when it happens behind closed doors with a group rather than off the cuff by a single individual.

    Undermining the integrity of motivations (illegal in the Senate) is no longer effective when everyone is playing the same game in different ways. How about if somebody tries to do and talk about the right things, not because they poll well or help build partisan coalitions, but rather because we know they are the ethical, just and fair things to do? What a concept!

    Regarding modern politicians: Partisans who live in glass houses…


  2. Evan G Grantham-Brown says:

    Very true.

    However, Trump *is* making a mistake by attacking Republicans. It’s not because he needs them to advance his nonexistent agenda; it’s because he needs them to stay in office, and (possibly) out of prison. One day Robert Mueller is going to drop the hammer, and all indications are that it will be a very large, heavy hammer.

    Trump’s single defense is the requirement of a two-thirds Senate vote to remove him from office. To get to 67 Senators, you need a substantial number of Republicans. Even if Democrats were to win every single midterm Senate race, they would not come close to 67 seats. As long as Trump can hold the loyalty of Senate Republicans, he’s okay.

    But if he loses them–he’s gone.


  3. Yastreblyansky says:

    My only question is, when he’s screaming at McConnell and McCain and Flake and Murkowski and Collins, does he have any idea who’s the jury in an impeachment trial?


  4. Yastreblyansky says:

    Sorry, I see Evan has said the same thing.


    • Jared Bernstein says:

      It’s an insight worth repeating. Let’s just say our president has a high discount rate for future occurrences. He’s quite Zen in this regard, living in the moment…(JK!)


  5. Nick Batzdorf says:

    Totally agree, but there’s far too much separation being made between Txxxx and the Republican party. He *is* the Republican party, through and through. Southern strategy, welfare queens, on through birtherism… the only difference is that they’ve now switched from dog whistles to foghorns.

    It doesn’t matter that not all Republicans are the same person. They all voted for Betsy DeVos, for example, and they’re all complicit in enabling the current tragedy. Just allowing Mitch McConnell to install Gorsuch is beyond the pale.

    In other words, I’m totally unimpressed by people like Jeff Flake. Way too little, way too late.


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