Last night on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, I saw a typically somnolent Sen. Richard Blumenthal attempt to stop the Trumpist political tide by invoking Richard Nixon ad nauseam. This is...attack? It's like being assaulted by wet bread. If it's the best that Democrats have, they're in big trouble.
That Trump supposedly ordered the firing of Robert Mueller, special counsel for the Department of Justice to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump, and any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation," may prove to be more interesting than it is significant. Evidence of intent to obstruct justice? Perhaps, but that decision will be reached in part in the court of public opinion, like it or not. In the end, Trump did not fire Mueller. To most of the American people, including many independents, that fact will far outweigh the fact that Trump tried to have Mueller fired. Again: like it or not.
Trump is welcomed at Davos, rescheduled to visit London, credited with the Koreas having re-engaged and even having marched unified in the Winter Olympics, basking in a long-sought GOP-style tax reform, and relatively secure in a 40% approval rating despite (for independents)—and because of (for his base)—his self-aggrandizement, impulsiveness, nastiness, mendacity so shockingly brazen and frequent that it suggests knavery is an essence of his character, de facto nepotism, and assaults on the softest vital elements of any Western liberal democracy: its democratic norms and institutions not explicitly delineated in a constitution. Examples of those norms are Enlightenment-born concepts of standards of evidence and the supremacy of law. He is running rings around a feckless Democratic Party that last weekend let Trump position them as caring more about illegal immigrants than about keeping the government functioning and Social Security checks being cut. (While those Democrats try to argue that the President can't or shouldn't govern, they shut down government. This weakened Democrats' position markedly.)
Democrats are getting desperate and floundering. I continue to predict that there will be no blue tsunami in November. I think there is a 50/50 chance that the Democrats capture of the House of Representatives, and that if they do so it will be by eight or fewer seats. Of course, much could change in the political landscape by November 2018, but one thing I think will not change: the passion of Trump's base.
All things being equal, President Trump will be a two-term president, too. Of course he may self-destruct or overreach, but it's unlikely given that so much of what he's done already was supposedly self-destructive or overreaching—until it was proved by his political survival that it wasn't.
He does, in fact, have fairly good instincts in some key regards, including how to appeal to voters in our social media, celebrity-driven age of economic insecurity and short attention spans. He's expert at prodding Democrats into acting like their opponents' caricatures of Democrats and keeping them off balance, unfocused, and defensively reactive. His 40% approval rating can easily become 50%+ with a continued strong stock market and an enduring perception that the economy is improving, the reduction in many American's taxes (for now), and a lengthening string of political successes (Americans like winners)—of which he's had several, the least-appreciated of which is the appointment of a record number of conservative judges.
All things being equal, Donald J. Trump will likely go down in history as, in a word: important, which is really to say revolutionary and significant—for good or ill. Andrew Jackson and FDR are also recorded as being such and only after breathless, agonizing cries from their opponents in their lifetime. Reevaluations have diminished the stature of the former more than the latter. (There's hope for us still, I suppose, if we value ethnic cleansing against indigenous people less than we do creating Social Security and vanquishing Nazis.)
Of course, all things will not remain equal. But if most things do—such as Trump's base's strength and his opponents' relative weakness—he'll endure. Yes, something seismic might occur. Mueller might actually find evidence of Trump's direct collusion with foreign anti-American actors, for instance. That seems about as likely as finding Jimmy Hoffa alive and well and living in Denmark. Or perhaps the Democrats will acquire the right message and messengers so that they offer something other than old ideas and tired political styles voiced by coastal eggheads who seem to forget that only one-third of U.S. adults have a college degree. That seems about as likely as a hit musical about Chester A. Arthur. But maybe that's not so far fetched. Ol' Chet reflects something of the spirit of our age, being, after all, the President who moved rightward to rip open Native American land to settlers by executive order and signed the anti-immigration Chinese Exclusion Act. Look for Elegant Arthur: The Musical—coming to Broadway soon!
Image from The Washington Post online: President Trump, center, listens during a dinner with European business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos. SAP CEO Bill McDermott, left, CEO of Seimens Joe Kaeser, second from right, and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen. (Evan Vucci/AP)