For those of us with a long memory, we remember that Harry Truman survived having his party split in three, being compared to his predecessor (FDR the greatest president of the century), low poll numbers, and a country tired of one-party rule for 16 years. Yet, despite the Chicago Tribune’s notorious headline, “Dewey Beats Truman!!” Dewey didn’t. There were many reasons for that, including the overwhelming advantage FDR had built up for the Democratic Party.
However, Truman had one powerful tool. Stop after campaign stop, Truman railed against the “Do-Nothing Congress,” so Truman not only won his unlikely bid for re-election, his party took back both Houses of Congress. Some are now saying that Trump is intentionally undermining Republican chances in 2018, for the same purpose: to put Democrats in control of Congress so he can blame everything on them, and win his own re-election in 2020.
This sounds far-fetched, but it’s coming from Roll Call writer, Walter Shapiro.
Donald Trump, however, is a president who marches to a different brass band. Consider what he has done in just the last week.
Tuesday morning, the president unleashed a bitter Twitter attack on the “globalist Koch Brothers,” excoriating as “overrated” the network of conservative donors who have been the bulwark of congressional GOP funding in the super PAC era.
Trump’s Treasury Department is working on a legally dubious backdoor maneuver that would slash capital gains taxes for the wealthy without going to Congress for legislation. If Treasury goes forward, it would hand the Democrats a potent issue for November.
Over the weekend, Trump played Rumpelstiltskin, stomping his feet and threatening to shut down the government if Congress does not provide ample funding for his cherished border wall. A pre-election shutdown would make voters question GOP competence since the Republicans control all the levers of government.
Trump told Sean Hannity last week that, starting in September, he would stump six days a week for GOP incumbents, whether they wanted him or not. Even though Trump’s approval rating is below 40 percent in many battleground states, the president boasted, “We’re going to bring them over the [finish] line.”
Meanwhile, Midwestern factories are closing and prices for sodas in aluminum cans are rising because of Trump’s determination to launch a trade war in an election year. And, of course, every deranged Trump tweet screaming “NO COLLUSION” reminds voters of the fat Russian finger on the scales during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Are we detecting a pattern here?
Shapiro is not alone. The editorial board of Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal agrees.
As quoted in The Hill:
The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board on Monday slammed President Trump . . . “The latest evidence is Mr. Trump’s threat to shut down the government in September if he doesn’t get money for his border wall.”
The article notes that while talk of shutting down the government could cause Republican losses in November, he’s not even serious about it.
In a news story on Monday night, the Journal reported that Trump has privately agreed, however, to put off the fight over the wall until after the midterm elections.
But it’s not just the scary threat of a shutdown that he doesn’t really plan to do.
The Journal has frequently directed heavy scrutiny at Trump. In June, the board warned that Republicans may suffer in the November midterms due to the president’s tariffs.
“Good luck to Republicans running on the Trump tariffs in November,” the editorial board wrote.
WSJ asked if Trump was again “under the influence” of Steve Bannon, but RollCall says that’s not the point.
But suggesting that the president is still under the sway of Bannon and his ultra-nationalist views is a way of letting Trump himself off the hook. It is akin to 19th-century Russian peasants saying after the Cossacks pillaged their village, “If the tsar only knew.”
But a Democratic House and Senate would allow Trump to blame everything from North Korean nukes to Chinese tariffs on Congress. In Trump’s telling, if a dinner steak at the White House in 2019 were served medium rare instead of well done, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer would somehow be responsible.
Control of Congress would, of course, give the Democrats subpoena power to probe the misdeeds, the self-dealings and smarmy financial arrangements that come with the Trumpian approach to government. But the president and his family would be mostly off-limits.
Barack Obama was criticized for focusing on his own re-election, while letting his Congressional counterparts twist slowly in the wind. Is it possible that Trump is not only ignoring Republican Congresspersons, but is actually sabotaging them?