“Problems start from the top, and they have to get solved from the top, and the President’s the leader, and he’s got to get everybody in a room, and he’s got to lead. And he doesn’t do that, he doesn’t like doing that, that’s not his strength. And that’s why you have this horrible situation going on in Washington. It’s a very, very bad thing and it’s very embarrassing worldwide.”
- Donald Trump
As inconvenient as it is for Donald Trump’s fans to admit, their candidate lost the Popular Vote in the 2016, election. In fact, Hillary Clinton’s 2,864,974 vote win was “the largest popular vote margin of any losing presidential candidate in U.S. history”. Unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud and the disadvantageous statehoods of New York and California do not change the fact that Trump became President even though the majority of Americans voted against him.
As Trump stumbles through his Presidency, his approval ratings have reflected this lack of support and have never risen above the 50% mark. While other presidents have seen their ratings change as the news cycled, Trump’s have shown less variance than any of his modern predecessors. Trump has secured his base and they will stand behind him without fail. However, he has done little to expand this base. Even when he has reached beyond the core beliefs of his fans, his political ineptitude has prevented his administration from capitalizing. For example, a bipartisan victory on criminal justice reform was buried in a week that began with the suggestion by a judge that his former National Security Advisor was a traitor and ended with a partial shutdown of the government.
For the first two years of his presidency, there was little consequence for Trump catering exclusively to his base as he had the protection of his own party in the legislature. This was especially true in the House where Representatives ran interference against investigations instead of performing their Constitutional obligation to put a check on the executive branch. However, the GOP’s loss of 40 seats and control of the chamber will take the training wheels off of the Trump presidency. He will either have to begin governing or watch his political career succumb to gravity.
If a week in which the Defense Secretary resigned in protest, the stock market suffered its worst losses in a decade and the government partially shut down is any indication, Trump will not pass his test. The shutdown is particularly concerning as a bipartisan deal to keep it open was already in place and had been passed unanimously by the Senate. The President then reneged on the deal, apparently under pressure from Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh.
Trump’s justification for throwing our country into a new round of chaos is that his xenophobic base wants a beautiful “Steel Slat Barrier” built, even if Mexico is not paying for it as their candidate originally promised. After secluding himself in rallies where the audience is carefully chosen and immersing himself in the Fox News echo chamber, he seems to have confused the will of his supporters with that of the American people. In reality, “59 percent of Americans oppose building a wall along the U.S. - Mexico border.” Perhaps they realize that fencing has already been built in places where it is practical, technology will do a more effective job than a physical barrier and the staying past the time permitted by a legal entry is more of a problem than illegal border crossings.
For a person who put his name on a book called “The Art of the Deal”, Trump does not seem to understand the weakness of his hand, although that should not be surprising considering he bankrupted several casinos. While the Electoral College may have allowed him to become President with a minority of the votes, the members of Congress had to actually convince a majority of the voters to put them in office. If they want to keep their seats, they need to follow the will of these voters and oppose this wall, especially after Trump has already taken responsibility for the shutdown.