Politics is one of those sports where the team playing defense doesn’t get to score many points. Democrats are working hard to keep President Trump on defense, using an even more aggressive version of the same playbook they run against every Republican president. They think the collapse of Speaker Paul Ryan’s Obamacare repeal legislation last week gave them a new first down. Here are seven signs the Trump agenda has regained a great deal of momentum in just one day.
Jeff Sessions’ crackdown on sanctuary cities: On Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions strongly criticized “sanctuary cities” which refuse to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and said billions in federal funding could be jeopardized by continued refusal to comply with the law.
Sessions said sanctuary cities are “making our nation less safe by putting dangerous criminals back on the streets,” and cited overwhelming support from the American people for turning illegal alien criminals over to ICE. He noted that many of the aliens shielded by sanctuary cities are guilty of extremely serious offenses, including rape and murder.
This was unquestionably an aggressive move. The inevitable pushback from sanctuary apologists was panicked and defensive. They apparently thought the Trump administration had been intimidated out of pursuing such issues, especially after the president’s executive order for a temporary visa suspension was sabotaged by activist judges. The Democratic playbook says Republicans withdraw from the field after the first sign of injury, and never run a play twice if it doesn’t pick up significant political yardage on the first attempt.
Chicago and L.A. mayors defend sanctuary policies: The best sign that you’re on offense is when the opposing team scrambles into defensive formation. Sanctuary cities provide an excellent political opportunity for the Trump administration, since as Sessions noted, they have 80-percent-plus support from the American people on the issue.
Also, it’s great fun to watch Democrats, who used to believe states’ rights and the Tenth Amendment were dog-whistle phrases used by unpatriotic racists, argue that Democrat mayors should be allowed to ignore federal laws they don’t like, while still receiving billions of dollars from taxpayers in other parts of the country.
Thus we have Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, who presides over one of the bloodiest urban hellscapes in the nation, claiming that he has some kind of constitutional right to federal taxpayer dollars, even as he defies American voters by protecting illegal alien criminals from deportation. Republicans will benefit enormously from Rahm Emanuel becoming the face of Democrat city governance.
Emanuel’s office attempted to link the sanctuary city crackdown to Trump’s executive order on immigration, as did Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti. “My office will continue to ensure local governments have the tools they need to legally protect their immigrant communities – and we won’t stop fighting to beat back President Trump’s un-American immigration policies,” Garcetti declared. This reinforces the point made above about Democrats expecting the Trump administration to retreat from immigration after the legal challenges to his executive order.
To be sure, immigration is a complicated issue. There are parts of the debate where public opinion becomes much more divided. At the moment, Trump is fighting on precisely the ground that made so many Americans disgusted with a corrupt establishment and its refusal to execute simple duties to the citizens of the United States. He’s playing from strength, and should ignore the Left’s attempts to convince him otherwise.
One reason the Left fights so hard on this absurd ground is that it fears conceding any point about the corrupt folly of our poorly-enforced immigration laws, or that illegal immigrants are indeed breaking the law. In other words, they’re playing red-zone defense, because they know there are big points to be scored against them.
Environmental executive orders: Reining in madcap environmentalism and bureaucratic bloat is another issue where the Trump administration enjoys tremendous popular support. The president’s forthcoming executive order to roll back Obama-era climate change orders and promote energy independence will likely be another play made from a position of great strength. (It is important to note that at the time of this writing, the exact contents of Trump’s order were not know.)
The Trump administration seems interested in pointing out how shoddy, self-serving, and doctored the data behind these climate change initiatives has been. For example, it’s a killer point that the EPA knew its own expensive regulations would have no measurable effect on global temperatures. That kind of anecdote has a long shelf life. The administration can run a play like that over and over again, picking up a few yards every time.
“Draining the swamp” involves hammering home the truth that Washington itself is a special interest, endlessly lobbying itself for more money and power. The EPA is among the worst examples of “regulatory capture,” where the line between a federal agency and its lobbyists becomes blurred. Taxpayers will rally behind Trump every time he hits the flabbiest, most economy-stifling sections of the federal bureaucracy.
Investigating Clinton ties to Russia: Of course, Trump’s critics will accuse him of trying to change the subject by asking congressional investigators to look into connections between the Clinton machine and Russia. Whatever the ultimate outcome may be, it is unquestionably an example of the Trump team running an offensive play when it’s supposed to be permanently on defense.
In years past, critics who called Republicans the “Stupid Party” often complained about how easily they were put on defense, swiftly accepting media narratives that required them to spend their days responding to allegations without pushing back. For better or worse, going back to the earliest moments of his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump has refused to assume a permanent defensive crouch, on nearly any issue. Many of the confident pundit predictions that his campaign was doomed, at various critical junctures, were born from the conventional wisdom that Trump would pay a heavy price for refusing to become defensive and apologetic. The conventional wisdom proved to be incorrect.
This particular play is still in progress, so it’s hard to say where the ball will end up. It doesn’t hurt to spotlight how Democrat opinion of Russia turned on a dime after the 2016 election. Also, the curious notion that Hillary Clinton is absolved of all offenses under some mythical “old news” clause of political law because she lost the election should be shredded, especially since we would currently be hearing loud demands to absolve her of all offenses if she had won the election.
Ford factory expansion in America: Bill Clinton’s famous campaign slogan, “It’s the Economy, Stupid,” comes to mind when news like Ford Motor Company’s announcement of three new plants in Michigan breaks. The next two elections will be very heavily influenced by how well the economy is doing. Good economic news will give Trump and congressional Republicans political capital to spend on other issues. Naturally they will become more energetic about pursuing their agenda with a strong financial wind at their backs.
It will be very difficult for Democrats to downplay good news from the automotive industry, given how much they made of President Obama “saving the industry.” A constant drumbeat of job creation stories from various industries has driven consumer confidence to a 16-year-high, according to a new report.
Much of Trump’s agenda – including immigration, regulatory reform, and tax reform – is linked to his often-stated vision of a stronger American economy producing more jobs. Every part of that agenda becomes more difficult for Democrats to oppose if the economy is, in fact, stronger and producing more jobs.
One-page Obamacare repeal: The Trump Agenda may even be playing stronger offense than the Trump White House at the moment. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) has filed a one-line bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act in its entirety.
Brooks said one of the purposes behind his bill is to “burn away the fog” and “show American voters who really wants to repeal Obamacare, and who merely acted that way during election time.” We’ll have to see how many of his colleagues run downfield to catch that particular pass.
The simplicity of Brooks’ bill was a slap in the face to Speaker Paul Ryan’s convoluted, ineffective, wildly unpopular, and politically tone deaf Ryancare bill that would have hurt Trump’s base more than anyone.
It was quite noticeable that at no point during the brief tussle over the House bill were Democrats put on defense over the failures of Obamacare. Instead, Republicans were left stammering dubious excuses for why they didn’t bring back the last repeal bill they passed while President Obama was still in the White House, producing the cloud of fog Brooks wants to burn away with his simple bill.
Chuck Schumer’s public meltdown: If Obamacare repeal was a debacle that left much of the GOP looking defensive, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s embarrassing tirade against a Trump supporter at a Manhattan restaurant on Sunday is a sign that Democrats’ grip on the ball is none too tight. Schumer certainly didn’t act like he was brimming with confidence after an ostensibly catastrophic week for congressional Republicans and the White House.
Democrats are banking heavily on their “Resistance” mythology of a stolen election and illegitimate Trump presidency. (They did the same thing after Bush won in 2000, but now we have social media and an even more voracious news cycle to amplify their histrionics.) The problem with such a strategy is that it runs the risk of alienating people who aren’t super-partisans. Those people are also growing annoyed by the hyper-politicization of everything in American life. Political eruptions in a restaurant are the sort of thing that makes them groan.
Hyper-partisanship is a long pass down the field that runs a high risk of interception. It’s too easy for the other team to pick off that pass by getting things done and generating positive press. Average voters don’t follow the minutiae of Washington scandal wars the way pundits do. It’s an article of conventional political wisdom that Republicans went too far criticizing presidents Clinton and Obama at various junctures, alienating some persuadable middle voters. The same thing can happen with Trump, no matter how hard Democrats try to paint him as a uniquely divisive and objectionable president. Presidents have a great deal of power to go back on offense after setbacks, as we’re seeing right now.