Donald Trump enjoys being liked. When he gets favorable poll numbers he is quick to cite it. When he gets unfavorable poll numbers he is quick to cite the best numbers in it or, if there aren’t any in it, ignore it completely. That’s politics and to be expected. But polls are one thing, being liked by politicians is another. And that’s where there is a lot of room for trouble.
President Trump this week cut a deal with Congressional Democrats on funding for Hurricane Harvey relief and raising the debt ceiling for 3 months. Yes, you read that right – the Republican president cut a deal with Congressional Democrats. The problem is Democrats don’t control Congress.
The scene was reported this way, “President Donald Trump surprised the leaders of his own party in Congress on Wednesday when he backed a deal pushed by Democrats to attach hurricane relief money to a shorter-term bump in the debt ceiling as well as keeping the government open, cutting off his own Treasury secretary to strike a deal.”
Conservatives wanted a longer deal than 3 months and concessions on spending to address the debt ceiling. They got none of it, nor did they get any say in the deal the president cut with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.
Schumer and Pelosi were happy, which should worry everyone.
On Air Force One later in the day, the president told reporters, “We discussed that also today, and Chuck and Nancy would like to see something happen, and so do I. And I said if we can get something to happen, we're going to sign it and we're going to make a lot of happy people.”
Democrats were happy, Republicans were not.
Why would the president cut a deal with Democrats, a deal in which he got nothing other than the ability to say he got a deal?
A smart strategy would have been to try to peel off a few Democrats, since he’s going to need Republicans to have any chance to pass tax reform. But he didn’t.
The president seems to think agreeing with Democrats is a good way to build up some goodwill that could carry over into other policy areas. Like maybe giving them a victory here would make some of the inclined to help him gain a victory elsewhere. This is never going to happen. Ever.
When not calling him a white supremacist or a Nazi sympathizer, Democrats are dedicated to making sure Donald Trump and Republicans have as few legislative victories as possible in the hope of retaking Congress next year so they can ensure he gets no legislative victories and loses in 2020. They don’t want to be his friend. Moreover, their voters would punish them if they were.
It’s not just the big issues, even on small issues Democrats are not going to give the president an inch.
On his way out the door, President Obama instituted a bunch of new regulation and rule changes that were so important that he waited 8 years to do any of them. As President Trump moves to undo some of them, each will be used as a hammer by Democrats to beat him over the head. Which is why they were done, they were Obama weaponizing the regulatory state against him.
Even innocuous rule changes are an opportunity to attack.
And it’s not just names you know. Backbench Virginia Democrat Bobby Scott is going after the president for moving to reverse a last-minute Obama regulation limiting worker exposure to beryllium in the abrasive blasting industry, which is employed on construction sites and in shipyards to smooth rough surfaces and ship hulls.
Obama slashed what is acceptable exposure to the point it would be impossible to use. Of Trump’s sensible move to reverse it, Congressman Scott said, “The older beryllium rule really endangers the workers. The new beryllium rule, which is a 90 percent reduction in exposure, really helps the worker.”
Putting aside the fact that Obama’s beryllium exposure rule was not justified by science or facts on the ground – there has never been a case of beryllium-related illness in the history of the abrasive blasting industry, as many have pointed out – Rep. Scott’s real goal was to use an Obama regulation to promote a company in his district. Scott made his statement at company in Norfolk that he thinks would benefit from the new regulation, so he basically tossed in a little cronyism with partisanship. Two birds one lie.
What Scott doesn’t care to know is that the beryllium rule is so restrictive that it will hurt all abrasive blasters, whether they use glass like the company he visited, or coal slag, which is more widely used. Because beryllium is naturally occurring, and the Obama rule set the exposure limit so low, the “alternatives” Scott claims are safer would also be impacted. Along with the rest of the abrasive blasting industry, it would hurt the business he was claiming it would help. His crony capitalism is as weak as his partisanship. No, just like moving political operatives to the permanent government employee class, this is just one of many mini-landmines the Obama administration planted for the purpose of attacking his successor in the hope of causing a death by a thousand cuts.
That he would reverse this pointless and costly rule was obvious, especially given Trump’s background in construction, so it was an easy target to whine about. A lame-duck time bomb, seemingly innocuous by itself, but it’s not by itself, nor are any of them truly innocuous. Every reversal of Obama executive orders and midnight regulations is met with similar, local attacks. None major, but each a little cut.
The president needs to realize these people are not his friends - they will never like him. They will curse his name, as will their children. It’s not personal - it’s political. Mention Ronald Reagan to a devoted liberal and be prepared to duck.
Big attacks, small attacks, constant attacks are what he can expect. Even when you give them a victory they will want more; demand more. If Trump doesn’t learn this lesson, if he doesn’t accept that they’ll never like him – some may work with him, if pressured, but never like – he will continue to rack up victories for Democrats and alienate Republicans.
Before Trump was sworn in Schumer made clear the only circumstances under which he’d be willing to work with the new president. “The only way we're going to work with him is if he moves completely in our direction and abandons his Republican colleagues,” Schumer said, “That's not going to happen very often.”