Wasinger: Trump’s Mastery of Culture Wars

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From the perspective of communications and messaging, President Trump’s first year in office has been an almost unqualified triumph, much to the chagrin of his many detractors.

While some of this success has been due to unanticipated developments, much more of it is the result of the president’s shrewd political instincts for engaging in the right battles with the right opponents at just the right moment.

When Trump went after the courts for putting a stay on his executive order imposing restrictions on travel from countries with active terrorist networks, the commentariat declared it a bridge too far and a public relations disaster because it would be perceived as both discriminatory and unconstitutional. Now, both public and courts are siding with his common sense measures to protect American citizens.

When he went after professional football players for disrespecting the American flag and the national anthem, the media pronounced that, once again, Trump was picking unnecessary and ill-considered fights on controversial, racially-tinged issues that would backfire on him. Now, football fans are increasingly turned off as a public sick of posturing and privileged millionaires showing contempt for the country that enabled their success side with the president.

When Trump accused the Obama administration of illegally surveilling his campaign and his associates in order to bring down his presidency with false charges of collusion with the Russians, howls of outrage were heard on both sides of the aisle in establishment Washington. Now, recently released emails show that, if anything, the president had underestimated the degree to which the Obama administration and the conflicted and very biased Deep State agencies cooperated to cover up illegal behavior on the part of Hillary Clinton and pursue phony investigations into Trump campaign activities in a heavy-handed attempt to insure a Clinton victory.

When Trump did what every President since Clinton promised to do, by moving our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem the Deep State reacted with ominous predictions about recriminations to our embassies and personnel spanning the globe and a destabilizing effect on the Middle East peace process; none of which seems to be even remotely true.

The most important part of the story of our economy’s growth this past year has been the massive deregulation that has been undertaken, and is underway, throughout all federal agencies.  Business owners of all sizes have been the beneficiaries and American workers get the benefits.  Again, this has been something initiated unilaterally by Trump and has not had to endure the legislative wranglings that have tied up and maligned large parts of Trump’s agenda – like building the wall, stopping illegal immigration and sending the ‘dreamers’ back to their god-forsaken homes.

Not only that, but the faux-outrage of Hollywood and the media at Trump’s locker room banter in the Access Hollywood tapes (the release of which were, of course, another orchestrated attempt between the media and the Washington establishment of both parties to take him down) looks positively quaint now in the wake of the revelations of abusive and predatory behavior among their own ranks that was not only tolerated — but virtually encouraged — for decades.

On every issue where Trump has led White House messaging (often through his much maligned but highly effective early-morning tweeting), he has controlled the debate and usually trounced his baffled and often clueless opponents as a result of his ability to connect directly with his voters. But where he has allowed himself to be guided by DC’s professional Republican class, with their supposedly indispensable knowledge of how governing and legislating actually work, Trump has met with debacle after debacle for his agenda.

In large part, this is because the agenda of establishment Republicans inside the Beltway is still completely at odds with that of the man that won them the White House by ignoring stale GOP policy priorities and pushing a populist agenda that carried him over the top in Rust Belt states that hadn’t voted for a Republican presidential candidate in a generation. The sad truth is that the people who control this administration’s overall strategy are more representative of the policy priorities of GOP Hill leadership and their all-powerful donor class than they are of the economic populism Trump ran on. Hugely popular Trump agenda items like building the wall, the renewal of our crumbling national infrastructure and tougher trade and immigration measures have, time and again, been shunted aside in favor of failed and unpopular attempts to rehash the debate over repealing Obamacare.

The coming year offers great promise to build the wall, reform immigration to fully realize campaign promises, continue the massive deregulation already begun, and fix our nation’s crumbling infrastructure.

Robert Wasinger served in senior advisory and liaison roles in President Donald Trump‘s campaign and transition team, after extensive experience on Capitol Hill.

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