When candidate Donald Trump came down the escalator of Trump Tower to launch his political career, the symbolism was clear. Draped in gold and the home of his Apprentice board room, Trump Tower represented the pinnacle of business success and Donald Trump as the creator of it.
Indeed, the President’s business acumen was a selling point on the campaign trail. Both he and his surrogates frequented media airwaves to talk about how it’s time to run the country like a business instead of a bureaucracy. The Trump campaign was keen on discussing the President’s business past from a deal-making standpoint. They were certain that Trump would be an accomplished President because he would be able to negotiate with other parties and countries to find mutually agreeable solutions to longstanding problems.
This column is being written the week the USMCA went into effect and perhaps appropriately so. From an international perspective, where America’s status as a superpower gives it great leverage, the President has indeed been able to alter, renegotiate, and/or uproot international “deals.” He pulled out of the lousy Paris Climate Accord and the disastrous Iran Deal. He replaced NAFTA with his “biggest trade achievement,” the aforementioned USMCA. He has implemented historic trade deals with China and Japan.
Though he has the international advantage of being the leader of America, to call President Trump’s rhetoric on negotiating as having been completely for naught would be incorrect. However, the Problem the President seems to be facing is that he doesn’t know when to negotiate and when to lead. Domestically, the President has tried over his 3-year administration to extend olive branches, but unsurprisingly, there has been nobody on the other end to receive it.
When Justice Kennedy retired, the President attempted to nominate an equally moderate and supposedly infallible replacement in Justice Kavanaugh. Prior to Kavanaugh’s nomination, I made the following observation:
Not sure why @realDonaldTrump would pick a moderate #SCOTUSnominee. @TheDemocrats are going to give him hell anyway, so he might as well pick a true constitutionalist, and go down in #SCOTUS history as a conservative legend.— Elliot Fuchs (@Elliot_Fuchs) July 5, 2018
This tweet was nearly prophetic. Indeed, the Democrats gave President Trump (and Brett Kavanaugh’s innocent family) hell, despite the fact that he was the most milquetoast and qualified judicial nominee perhaps in existence. I made the above observation not because I can see the future. Rather, I knew that the Democrats were going to be up in arms about whomever the nominee was because it is their Modus Operandi.
On so many issues the President has tried to negotiate or compromise on, the Democrats have met him with resistance. This should hardly be surprising, given that “resist” was literally their 2018 midterm campaign slogan.
President Trump passed a criminal justice reform package, but it was not enough to avoid being called a racist. When forced to choose between Steve Bannon or Jared Kushner, the President chose the liberal-minded Kushner, but Kushner is still demonized by the left. In what truly appeared to be a show of good faith, the President offered to extend President Obama’s DACA executive order in exchange for border wall funding, and Nancy Pelosi scoffed.
As is well known, the most coveted of speech space for anyone trying to perpetuate an agenda is the State of the Union. Departments throughout the federal government are constantly trying to squeeze keynote issue into the State of the Union to bring attention to issues near to their heart. How did the sitting President spend time during his address in 2019? He used it to call for great bipartisanship on like-minded issues like prescription drug pricing and infrastructure. What did Nancy Pelosi do just one year later during the State of the Union? She ripped up the speech on live television.
The Democrats' unwillingness to engage isn’t restricted to times when the GOP holds powers. When the Left held the Presidency, they did not employ good faith, either. President Obama made famous his statement about phones and a pen, referring to his usage of executive orders as a method to circumvent congress. The “nuclear option,” a methodology to proceed nominations with an insufficient number of votes, was made famous by media talking heads when McConnell used it to move forward with Justice Neil Gorsuch’s nomination but was actually created by Democrat Senator Harry Reid. Now, it is being reported that the Democrats are considering to use the nuclear option once again to get rid of the filibuster contingent upon Joe Biden winning the presidency. These are not well-meaning people.
Whether they hold the power in the executive and in the legislative branches or whether they are on the outside looking in, the Democrats have never shown a willingness to compromise or negotiate. When in charge they are happy to dictate rather than socialize. When they aren’t, they are happy to resist instead of compromise. If Democrats push their agenda and stall that of others, it’s time for the President to put down his olive branch and pick up his legislative machine gun. Especially during these uncertain times, American’s need decisive and principled leadership.
Between the blatant partisanship of the media and the ruthless dishonesty of the Democrats, President Trump simply will not be credited for moderate policies or proposals. He will not make Democrat voters, most of whom hypnotized into a confirmation bias of Trump’s demented traits, switch sides. His attempts at moderation have not been well met by those they were designed for. In the process, he has missed opportunities to appeal to his base. Domestically, the negotiation tactic has failed.
Sadly, term one with the present governing philosophy has passed. If the President wants a term two he can only do it by speaking, legislating, and nominating on behalf of the base that won him the presidency in the first place. The GOP did not get excited about McCain and Romney; two nominees thought to have been consensus candidates.
The president has used the term no more Mr. Nice Guy on twitter. His best chance to win re-election is to say that Mr. Nice Guy is in fact no more and that if granted another term, he will stop considering the insatiable whims of the Democrats. The President’s best move forward is to do what his critics have long argued he is incapable of doing. He must admit he was wrong. He was wrong to think that on the other side of the aisle he’d find reasonable well-meaning people. He was wrong to assume that Democrats valued 'country over power.' He must promise the country that if re-elected he will govern and lead on principle, not on negotiation. If he does win and follows through, perhaps he will go down as that conservative legend, after all.
Elliot Fuchs is a political consultant, commentator, and writer. Follow him on twitter @Elliot_Fuchs.