Until now, I've believed that Donald Trump could hold on to his base even if his presidency continued to be a miserable failure. He'd do it the way he's always done it: by expressing anger at the people his base hates. He wouldn't have to get much done -- he could just point to the occasional hiring decision by a big company, or an ICE raid here and there, and insist he was winning. And the base would believe him. In between real or imaginary victories, he'd just keep pouring on the hate.
But he's flirting with disaster now. I say this not because Obamacare repeal failed (that can be blamed on Paul Ryan), or because the Muslim ban is blocked in the courts (that can be blamed on evil "activist" judges), or because he's mired in the Russia scandal (that can be blamed on the "Deep State" or the "lying" media). He could survive all that with his base support intact. What he can't survive is this:
President Trump effectively declared war Thursday on the House Freedom Caucus, the powerful group of hard-line conservative Republicans who blocked the health-care bill, vowing to “fight them” in the 2018 midterm elections.
In a morning tweet, Trump warned that the Freedom Caucus would “hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don’t get on the team, & fast.” He grouped its members, all of them Republican, with Democrats in calling for their political defeat — an extraordinary incitement of intraparty combat from a sitting president.
Trump can get away with failure. What he can't get away with is picking a fight with True Conservatives, especially in defense of a bill they hated. Very few people are taking Trump's side at the traditionally Trump-friendly Free Republic:
... this is the third time this month Trump has threatened conservatives in the HFC. At first I was willing to concede Donald was playing mind games, 3 D chess, doing a head fake, or call it what you will.
But now? Well, if Trump wants to slide on into bed with the RINO's then he's on his own. I can not support him.
Sounds like DJT lost it ...
The Freedom Caucus is NOT the enemy. Trump needs to figure out that he is on the wrong side of this issue and stop threatening the one group who saved us all....including him....from a big disaster.
... I am a Constitutionalist and trump is ready to burn it. Stand strong Freedom Caucus....
I do like a lot of the EO doing away with Obama policies. He has made other decisions that I like. However, this scolding is tuning me out too. Someone who likes Dems more than conservatives must be whispering in his ear. Karl Rove was about to go on Fox News to say how Freedom Caucus was going to tear apart the R party. I turned the TV off....
Yes, Trump is getting backup from Rove -- and that's going to alienate the base even more:
Republican strategist Karl Rove on Thursday criticized the conservative House Freedom Caucus for recently helping sink GOP healthcare legislation.
“The Freedom Caucus did [President Trump] a grave disservice by killing the process of this bill, moving this bill forward,” Rove said of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) on Fox News’s "America’s Newsroom."
Rove might have been a wingnut hero fifteen years ago, but now True Conservatives regard him as an establishment RINO consultant-class sellout.
And if that isn't enough, Trump appears to backing down on his trade promises:
The Trump administration is signaling to Congress it would seek mostly modest changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement in upcoming negotiations with Mexico and Canada, a deal President Donald Trump called a “disaster” during the campaign.
According to an administration draft proposal being circulated in Congress by the U.S. trade representative’s office, the U.S. would keep some of Nafta’s most controversial provisions, including an arbitration panel that lets investors in the three nations circumvent local courts to resolve civil claims. Critics of these panels say they impinge on national sovereignty....
The U.S. also wouldn’t use the Nafta negotiations to deal with disputes over foreign currency policies or to hit numerical targets for bilateral trade deficits, as some trade hawks have been urging.
True Conservatives now regard trade hawkery as a right-wing litmus test. This is not going to go over well.
Trump can survive as long as base voters stick with him. He's had them up to now -- even in the mostly terrible new Public Policy Polling survey, in which he's at 40%-53% job approval and 41%-53% personal approval, he has the continued backing of nearly 90% of his voters. That number is going to drop fast if he very visibly abandons the current principles of Fox/talk radio/Breitbart conservatism.
One unfortunate consequence of all this: If Trump does slink off into the sunset after one term, wingnuts will tell us that the GOP has to become even more dogmatic and intransigent than it's been for the past couple of decades, because (they'll say) True Conservatism still hasn't been tried.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog