Some takeaways from another week under He Who Would Be Emperor:
“All politics is local.”
Speaking to local issues rather than echoing the official mantra may be the only way Democrats are going to win back the House. Campaigning in Pennsylvania, which you’ll recall with anguish that Trump won in 2016, probably reflects the kind of messaging it will take to flip the state. Rep. Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania, for example, is nearly morphed into a Trump-style Democrat.
Good news on the environment — and the rule of law. First, the fight to prevent the Keystone XL pipeline from being built continues, as a federal court has ordered a full environmental impact statement on the project. TransCanada, the pipeline builder, and its U.S. and Canadian partners have been dealt a major setback on their revised route through Nebraska. Second, Trump’s effort to weaken the Obama-era Clean Air Act has had another setback. A judge has rejected the EPA’s effort — and the chemical industry’s lobbying — to delay by two years enforcement of the act’s tougher rules on chemical plant safety. (If you’re interested in donating to NGOs that have been stout defenders of the environment in court, may I suggest NRDC (the Natural Resources Defense Council), and Public Citizen. These folks are relentless, and successful.)
Another major piece of good news is that more than 400 newspapers, responding to a call from the Boston Globe, published editorials on the importance of a free press and protection of the First Amendment. The editorials clearly agitated Desperate Donald: He cried “COLLUSION” (would you believe it?) and wrote all sorts of stupid things to defend his belief in “true FREEDOM OF THE PRESS.”
On the other hand, there’s Trump himself: relentlessly racist, and with no fear of a kickback from the Republicans. To them, “it’s just his DNA” and the way he governs, say the few senators willing to comment. Paul Krugman points out how threatening Republican spinelessness is to our democracy, and therefore how crucial is the November elections to stopping what otherwise will be an even deeper assault on our governing institutions. The message: Live with it.
And then it’s the usual Trump tweet spray, complaining about fake news, diverting attention from his worst fears, adding to the pile of lies he has accumulated, deepening the rift with China, pretending all’s OK with North Korea, denouncing the Mueller “witch hunt,” and sending lap dog Rudy Giuliani hither and yon to defend him and continue the pretense that Trump might still be willing to talk with Mueller. And, oh yes, telling us again what a fine fellow Paul Manafort, avatar of corruption, is.
But it’s not just tweeting; it’s the actual damage to the nation. Revoking and threatening to revoke the security clearances of former senior intelligence officials, signaling an effort to punish everyone associated with the Russia investigation (and possibly adding to obstruction of justice charges); announcing another attempt to save the coal industry, by transferring regulatory authority from the federal government to the states, thus guaranteeing a worsening of air pollution; appointing lobbyists and lawyers who worked for the industries they now (de)regulate; transforming the bully pulpit into a pulpit for bullying aimed at silencing critics; planning even more tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals and corporations; carrying on a trade war that will hurt farmers and many other people who voted for him — these are among the many actions that show how Donald Trump has failed to fulfill the oath of office, in which he swore to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
The bottom line: Can Trump and the Republicans continue to get away with outrageous behavior? Max Boot, conservative columnist for the Washington Post, says he/they might in 2020, but some figures are encouraging:
No matter how bad it gets, his approval rating never seems to fall far below 40 percent. (He’s currently at 42 percent approval in the FiveThirtyEight poll of polls.) It is thus easy to say that none of this matters. Easy — and wrong. Previous presidents who were in office during times of robust economic expansion, with low unemployment and a roaring bull market, generally had average approval ratings well over 50 percent. Trump’s egregious misbehavior consistently costs him at least 10 points in the polls.
So, dear friends, we’ll see.
Mel Gurtov, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University.