In this bipolar political climate where objectivity is dismissed as pandering to the other side, I find myself needing a prologue before expressing any views on parties or players in the US political landscape.
At the risk of being dismissed as kowtowing to one side or the other, I will share my observations on the interesting dynamic between President Donald J. Trump and his Republican party.
Trump holds the loyalty of his base while Republican ideologues are pandering to him out of fear of political demise. Though, this doesn’t translate very well to votes in this coming midterm elections where Republicans are going to lose their majority as a foregone conclusion.
Historically, the president’s party loses in the first midterm election. What is noticeable here is the discontent within the Republican Party. By taking a step back to observe the political landscape without emotional investment, we will be able to better assess the dynamic between Trump and his Republican party.
As Trump renegotiate the Iran nuclear deal by pulling the US out of the JCPOA, as he negotiates bilateral trade relations with China, and as he finalize the North Korea summit some critical voices from within his own Republican party are becoming louder. The question becomes, what is prompting this dissension in the ranks?
The Trump presidency is unique in more ways than one. True, “Donald” approaches his presidency as a CEO of a company. Suffice it to say, running a business is markedly different from leading a country. One can draw parallels equating Congress to a board of directors, and the American people to shareholders.
But operating within the parameters of such assumptions leads to a frustrated CEO, Board-of-directors, and Shareholders. This is evident in Trump’s inability to deliver on many of the big election promises. Among others, the courts struck down his travel ban multiple times, which was deemed as tantamount to a “Muslim ban.” He was unable to repeal Obama Care.
By taking a step back to observe the political landscape without emotional investment, we will be able to better assess the dynamic between Trump and his Republican partyWalid Jawad
Mexico is not paying for the wall, and full funding has not been forthcoming. The big investment in infrastructure is yet to take shape, nor did he defund Planned Parenthood. All of these and others need two things to succeed: Congressional support, and secondly, for the courts not to rule against them in the event the government is sued.
The track record has been frustrating for a CEO approach, but not as much for an American president. And Trumps has been effective in touting his successes keeping his base energized and engaged.
In this dual approach to successfully bring presidential promises to fruition, the legal dynamic is the concern of government lawyers as they make the case in support of White House decisions, focusing their energy on finding loopholes and supporting precedence to avoid unfavorable court rulings.
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Making this side of the equation similar to that of the corporate world; i.e. operating within a legal framework and regulatory guidelines. As for the legislative approach, both House and Senate should be able to deliver favorable legislation as they are controlled by the Republican Party. still, Congress has been failing Trump.
Statements made by Republican legislators who are serving their last term in office; i.e. those who are free to speak their mind without the threat of political retribution, are particularly revealing. While invested Republicans are calculating the pros and cons of their declared positions, they are losing sight of their ideological principles. Toeing the Republican party line is paramount in this midterm elections. Trump’s base is committed and Trumpism provides the only hope for winning.
Case in point
Both Republican senators Bob Corker and Jeff Flake are not on the November ballots and are free to say what they think without reservations. Corker criticized on Thursday Trump’s move to slap steep tariffs on America’s neighbors and allies; Mexico, Canada, and the European Union, describing the White House decision as “an abuse of authority intended only for national security purposes.”
Indeed the US lost over $500 billion last year in revenue due to trade imbalances. As for Flake, he opposed Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal. His concern was not the bilateral relation with Iran, rather the US standing with its European allies.
The senator said in May “The JCPOA had many flaws but withdrawing now does not serve our national interest. Iran has already realized the benefits of sanctions relief and the release of frozen assets,” Flake continued saying on CNN “If we’re not seen as a reliable partner then we’re going to have a hard time moving ahead.”
In both of these cases, the Senators voiced opposition to Trump, yet they are in agreement with him on the end result. Republicans agree (as well as Democrats) that they would like to fix US trade imbalances to prevent unfair losses.
There is no argument by anyone to the contrary. Similarly, Republicans would like for Iran to end its nuclear enrichment, stop its ballistic missile program, and cease its malign activities in the Middle East.
So if they are in agreement with White House on the “ends,” their opposition can only be understood as a rejection of Trump’s tactics. The conclusion is that as far as Congress is concerned, the end doesn’t justify Trump’s means.
But can the president’s style and behavior have such a negative impact within his own party? Indeed it has. Trump will gradually shift from the “CEO of the US” to the mentality of the President of the United States of American for which he was elected.
Walid Jawad is a former Senior Policy Analyst at U.S. Department of State and a former Washington, DC correspondent. He covered American politics for a number of TV outlets since 1997. Walid holds an undergraduate degree (B.A) in Decision Science and Management Information Systems and a Masters in Conflict Analysis and Resolution. You can follow him @walidaj.