by Jeffrey A. Rendall
No retreat, no quarter granted, no mercy. Such is the political – and life — philosophy of President Donald Trump, a citizen politician who’s lived as though everything he’s ever touched is gold plated and blemishless, a magical journey through earthly existence without fault.
Realistic people – Trump’s enemies and friends alike – realize otherwise. There’s only been one perfect human being to walk the planet and the real estate developer/celebrity from New York City ain’t him. Jesus and Trump have little in common (turn the other cheek?) though Trump swears he’s a religious and observant person. As Trump’s skeptics repeatedly pointed out during the 2016 GOP primaries, the man has plenty of imperfections, both currently and in the past.
But when it comes to self-examination and reflection, Trump always awards himself the highest marks.
Avery Anapol reported at The Hill, President Trump on Sunday gave himself an ‘A plus’ on his presidency, but questioned whether he could get an even higher rating. “Look, I hate to do it, but I will do it, I would give myself an A plus, he told Fox News’s Chris Wallace. Is that enough? Can I go higher than that?”
“Wallace had asked Trump to rank yourself in the pantheon of great presidents? There’s Lincoln and Washington, there’s FDR and Reagan, do you make the top 10?”
“’I think I’m doing a great job. We have the best economy we’ve ever had, Trump said, adding when Wallace asked again, We’re doing really well. We would have been at war with North Korea if, let’s say, that administration continued forward.”
Never one to mince words, Trump naturally places himself at the top of every list, the paramount leader in the toughest of political times. No doubt Wallace posed the “rate yourself” question already knowing the answer he’d receive, so it’s a non-issue that Trump views himself so highly. What did Wallace expect to hear, Trump downgrading his performance to a C-minus?
In my 8th grade English class I had the teacher ask me what mark I felt I deserved – and I awarded myself an A too. The humble person in me wouldn’t allow for a “plus” though.
Two weeks out from the federal midterm elections political observers still are trying to figure what to make of them. Democrats made a stink down in Georgia and Florida but the election night tallies (in favor of Republicans) held up. Georgia Democrat gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams refused to utter the “concede” word but she finally acknowledged she couldn’t win over the weekend.
In Florida, Democrat Andrew Gillum did the same, and to his credit Gillum wasn’t nearly as unapologetic and defiant (and childish?) as Abrams. But it doesn’t matter – a loss is a loss. The same goes for Democrat Senator Bill Nelson – the electoral grim reaper came for him too.
Americans are yet to see how Trump would handle a real political loss, but one assumes he’d spin it like a victory. Trump lost a number of state primaries (to Ted Cruz) in 2016 and his reactions varied, ranging from gracious to vicious – but we’ll need to wait to see whether the conservative populist reform-agent president congratulates a Democrat in two years.
Sane people hope not, for Trump certainly deserves high marks for his presidency to date, at least from a policy perspective. Paul Bedard of the Washington Examiner reported a month ago on 289 Trump accomplishments thus far and you’ll earn your own A+ if you have the interest and stamina to pore through all of them. Even Trump’s most ardent Republican critics concede the president has been a pleasant surprise from a governing standpoint; they just wish he’d temper his tendency to lash out on social media and at press conferences.
Whether Trump can or will alter his personal chic is a challenge for the future but there will always be someone nitpicking over something. As would be expected, there are a few Republican Trump naysayers silently plotting to knock him off from within the party. Outgoing Sen. Jeff Flake apparently isn’t planning his own coup. Michael Burke reported at The Hill, Retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said Sunday that he doesn’t think he will run for president in 2020, but added that he believes somebody from the GOP needs to challenge President Trump.
Flake, a frequent Trump critic, said on CNN’s ‘State of the Union’ that somebody needs to run to remind Republicans what it means to be conservative, what being a conservative really means and what it means to be decent.
“I think the future of the party is with people with an optimistic vision moving ahead. I don’t think that will be me. I think there are better candidates out there. But somebody needs to run,” he added.
Flake is correct about one thing at least – any serious challenge to Trump would require someone better than him to make it. If party primaries were divided into “lanes” on a freeway, Trump pretty much occupies the entire road except for the discredited swampy establishment one.
In early 2016 conservatives fought hard for Ted Cruz but to no avail. Trump captured the imaginations of practically every type of Republican – except establishmentarians – and eventually wore down the Texas senator. A small slice of conservatives went for Sen. Marco “Robot-o” Rubio, but in the end, it was Trump vs. Cruz (with Ohio Gov. John Kasich tagging along for additional self-promotion and to provide the GOP ruling elites someone to waste their ballots on as a protest vote).
The ruling class saw folks from “outside” the GOP taking over the party. How dare the voters decide who should run for president?! Couldn’t they see how Trump would be a disaster? Why were they handing the election to Hillary Clinton?
“Jeb!” Bush never got off the ground and for months the establishment media figured Trump would fade and things would naturally fall in line for a blue blood Republicans like it’d always done previously. But Trump and Cruz dominated all of the important grassroots “lanes” on the highway, namely fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, national security conservatives and perhaps the newest “leg” on the conservative stool, liberty-minded Tea Partiers.
Content-free establishment types couldn’t keep up. Conservatives tired of the go-along-to-get-along ruling elites trading the Republican agenda for prolonged power. Ever since Ronald Reagan left in 1989 conservatives were promised his legacy and pro-American emphasis would never be compromised. But it was. George H.W. Bush presided over the falling of the Berlin Wall and then squandered the political windfall by raising taxes and acting entitled.
Bush son George W. equally failed to advance the cause even when blessed with a golden post-9/11 opportunity and record approval ratings. Lest we forget Bush’s GOP actually gained seats in his first midterm election (2002) – there was never a better chance for conservatives to finally realize the hopes they’d carried for decades.
Instead, Republicans gave us big government boondoggles like Medicare Part D and No Child Left Behind and the disastrous “War on Terror” that rages to this day without any end in sight. Bush completely mismanaged his presidency. Was this the “optimistic vision” Flake spoke about above? Did Bush (and people like Flake and fellow ousted Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker) show what it means to be a conservative?
By taking his name out of early contention to be the “inevitable” intra-party Trump opponent Flake isn’t being humble – he’s a coward. If the soon-to-be former Arizona senator is so certain he’s right – and Trump is an anathema to the GOP – why wouldn’t he step forward to show everyone what “real” conservatism looks like? Do “real” conservatives pursue fruitless investigations (like the Mueller probe)? Do most Republicans long for amnesty for illegal aliens, “bipartisan” McCain-like capitulation and interminable deference to Democrats?
Hardly. Conservatives chose Trump precisely because he fights. The fact Trump’s kept his campaign promises only cemented his place atop the Republican Party. Trump’s enemies claim it’s his party now – which is a naked attempt to tie everything to him. But Trump doesn’t get everything he wants, much to the detriment of the American people.
The sad truth is there’s no home for #NeverTrumpers, and they hate it. Like Flake, John Kasich will be out of a job in a few weeks and he’s rumored to be considering taking on the #NeverTrump banner in two years. Bridget Johnson reported at PJ Media, Ohio Gov. John Kasich was on a three-city swing through New Hampshire this week, potentially feeling out a 2020 run for the White House as a Republican, or as an independent.
When CNN asked Kasich during a stop in Manchester, N.H., about how he’s calculating his chances, the governor replied, “I don’t do math calculations. That’s not what I do. I mean, all options are on the table. And the question is, ultimately, can I have a very positive impact on the country, and I’ve got lots of people here who were saying to me just — I was here yesterday and this guy comes to me and says, I don’t care what you do, but wherever you go, I want to be there. I want you to understand that, he said. And that’s a really heartening thing. Terrific.”
It must be a heck of a rush to be a politician, where there’s a fool in every town telling you how much you touch his heart and he’s certain you’ll be the next president. Unfortunately for Kasich there just aren’t enough fools and towns to make his centrist presidential bid dreams come true.
Johnson additionally reported Kasich spoke of a “vast ocean in the middle” that rose up during the midterm elections to reject the political status quo. Really, John? Did this “sea of voters” cast ballots for new Democrat House members while taking on a couple extra Republican senators from red states?
Further, there’s zero evidence a “vast ocean in the middle” even exists. If anything, the opposite is materializing – more people are gravitating towards the polar extremes, establishing entrenched positions behind Chuck & Nancy or Donald and Mitch. Yes, Kasich eeked out a second-place finish in the 2016 New Hampshire GOP primary (about twenty points behind first place finisher Trump) so there’s obviously still residual support for him there.
But how about the rest of the country, John? Kasich won his home state of Ohio but was swamped by Trump, Cruz and Rubio everywhere else. The “vast ocean in the middle” didn’t do much back then so who’s to say they’d feel differently in 2020? Besides, to make a successful independent bid Kasich would require a healthy percentage of Democrats to join his cause. Does he honestly believe loyal Democrats would drop Hillary, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke — and the other wacko Democrat hopefuls — to favor him?
No way. But Kasich’s gearing up to try, nonetheless. Johnson added, “Kasich capped off his New Hampshire trip by launching a new johnkasich.com site, which is structured with elements of a political action committee and elements of a candidate’s website from position statements to donation solicitation.”
Good for him. Kasich again proved he’s the Don Quixote of contemporary American politics. Point him in the direction of a New Hampshire windmill, spur his horse and send him on his way!
This isn’t to say all’s well in Democrat- or Republican-land. Out west in California, for example, the GOP took a beating this year. Some argue the party is completely disappearing out there – and in other places, too. Rick Moran wrote at PJ Media, “Trump was a factor as were changing demographics. But questions for Republicans run a lot deeper than what happened in California. The entire GOP landscape across the country is undergoing a seismic shift. Suburban voters — once a source of tremendous strength for the GOP — are abandoning the party in droves. The same holds true for much of the Midwest, where the term rock-ribbed Republican was born.”
“Looking at the GOP today, we see a party strong in the upper and lower South and mountain West, but becoming increasingly isolated in the Midwest. There are still pockets of Republican strength in rural areas of Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, but those areas are shrinking while Democratic cities, suburbs, and ex-urbs are growing. East of the Alleghenies, it’s a Republican wasteland.”
“Is Trump accelerating the GOP decline? There’s no doubt that Trump’s antics as president have energized his base. They are, if anything, more loyal and enthusiastic today than they were when he was elected. The rest of the country? Not so much.”
Count Moran among the “glass half-empty” Republican sort. Moran makes a number of salient points about the GOP’s decline in The Golden State and other demographically unfriendly places across the U.S., which is certainly concerning to every Constitution-revering conservative.
But we shouldn’t go overboard in forecasting doom for the GOP…at least not yet. History observers note American politics is cyclical and the public likes change for change’s sake. Republicans lost some key (but tight) races here and there but it doesn’t mean they won’t make a comeback in 2020. Patience is in order. The worst thing would be to give up now.
Donald Trump won’t ever stop fighting and he’ll never surrender. It’s not in his DNA to give ground and the Democrats will keep pushing their socialism and extremism to their own detriment. The next two political years will be critical to our future – but aren’t they always?