I have already predicted that President Donald Trump would get rolled by Democrats on DACA. Therefore, last night’s “news” that Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi had cut a deal with him to get an Obama-era executive order, which Trump campaigned against, transformed into law while giving up basically nothing, was hardly a surprise. However, it was still a significant development and is open to a couple of different interpretations.
For two years, I have tried, in vain, to warn Republicans that a Trump presidency would surely take on the arch of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s disastrous governorship here in California. After big promises, he would run into resistance, get frustrated, and immediately pivot towards Democrats in order to please the press and his immediate family, so that he could claim to be getting something done.
There is no doubt that Trump, who shares a lot of personality traits with Schwarzenegger, is directly following Arnold’s playbook, but he is doing so probably even more quickly and dramatically than even I anticipated. Figuring out his motivation or ultimate plan (assuming he has one) is currently more complicated.
“Occam’s Razor” with Trump almost always suggests that his actions are motivated by whatever he thinks is good for him on that day (or in that hour). Under that theory, Trump, a New York liberal who never really believed in any of his immigration rhetoric, is simply pursuing good headlines and “action,” while sticking it to the GOP leadership which has had the gall (in his mind) to make him look impotent in his first eight months in office.
After all, Trump has dramatically praised both Schumer and Pelosi in the past, so he is really just returning “home” after having conned the GOP base into thinking that he was their knight in shining armor who would have the balls to slay the liberal dragons. Under this scenario, he does the “Full Schwarzenegger,” and Republicans largely become irrelevant, much like a battered wife afraid to leave her abuser.
However, if this is really is Trump’s thinking, there are several possible problems with it. For instance, unlike what happened with Schwarzenegger, Republicans still currently control the legislative bodies. Also, unlike Schwarzenegger, a Hollywood star who was married to a prominent Kennedy media member, Trump is extremely toxic to the Democratic base, meaning it is unlikely that he gains much support from them simply by breaking a few campaign promises.
On the other hand, I have written often about the entire Trump governing “philosophy” being based on feeding his “Cult 45” well enough so that they would never leave him and that, therefore, he would always have leverage over Republicans who need his cult in order to remain in power, or even viable. What Trump is currently doing, now that the architect of this theory, Steve Bannon, is gone, threatens the stability of his entire presidency.
Ann Coulter has been (yet again) threatening to break up with Trump over the abandonment of his “Big Beautiful Wall” charade. Border-hawk congressman Steve King has said, accurately, that Trump is actually keeping Hillary Clinton’s campaign promises. Trump has been forced to do damage control on Twitter and even meekly claimed that his great wall will somehow come later, after he has already given away whatever clout he had in negotiations.
This reminded me of the scene in The Wizard of Oz when the old man behind the curtain is still insisting he is “the great and powerful Oz!” even as he has been revealed to be a total fraud.
The possibility exists that Trump, in exchange for some short-term media love, may have lost some of his base while gaining no real support from liberals who see him as evil. Under this scenario, he then becomes theoretically far more vulnerable to being impeached, and possibly removed from office, should special counsel Robert Mueller find something dramatic and Democrats take back Congress.
There is one rather obvious element here that many seem to be missing. Ann Coulter asked on Twitter today, “At this point, Who DOESN’T want Trump impeached?” Ironically, the answer is Democrats in Congress!
Assuming Trump stays on the Schwarzenegger track, then Democrats may get the best of all worlds. They effectively get Hillary in the White House, but without any of the blame for anything he does wrong. Meanwhile, Trump’s betrayal shatters an already badly divided GOP, leaving their opponents in disarray.
Should Democrats take back Congress in 2018, why in the world would they ever actually do anything to remove Trump from office? That would be like a husband giving up a hot mistress that his wife somehow gave him permission to screw around with.
In case you think I am just speculating here, listen to my recent interview with my good friend, Democratic congressman John Yarmuth. John makes it obvious that, should Trump continue to go in his current direction, the Democratic appetite for his impeachment will quickly dissipate.
While there are many ways that this could play out, I actually think the most likely outcome, probably by accident, is the best for which Trump could hope. His cult stays mostly with him (thus keeping Republicans who would now love to get rid of him from jumping ship) because they don’t want to admit they were duped and the state-run media gives them plenty of ways to rationalize Trump’s duplicity. Meanwhile, he gains the small but vital new constituency of the very Democrats who would actually have the power to do anything to really harm him.
It is all actually quite politically brilliant, though given that it is coming from Trump, it is far more likely to be due to dumb luck, than by any grand design.
John Ziegler hosts a weekly podcast focusing on news media issues and is documentary filmmaker. You can follow him on Twitter at @ZigManFreud or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.