This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to write and admit: Trump is winning. In the brief space of a week, he won a court fight to shove Mick Mulvaney to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Mulvaney wasted no time in unhinging a spate of consumer protection rulings, regulations, and personnel hires made during the Obama years.
His SCOTUS pick, Neil Gorsuch, eagerly cast a vote to impose the Muslim travel ban. His EPA head, Scott Pruitt, delivered a couple million acres of public monument land in the West to oil, gas, and coal industry developers. Trump busily continues to pack the federal judiciary with a parade of ultra-conservative, strict, constructionist Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia clones.
He switched gears and backed alleged pedophile Alabama judge Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race, who almost certainly will win. The Republican National Committee, which had practically declared Moore a pariah, quickly jumped in and said it would back him. He got another sweet perk when Senate Democrats turned with a vengeance on Minnesota Senator Al Franken and virtually ordered him out of office. His subsequent resignation got rid of a pesky thorn for Trump. Franken had a big voice, lots of name recognition and popularity, and was not afraid to take shots at Trump.
He pooh-poohed the guilty plea of his former National Security Advisor Mike T. Flynn as no big deal while shouting “no collusion, no collusion” and got away with it.
He got his tax heist for the rich and corporations through the Senate, and as an extra bonus, brought his long-held dream of dumping the Affordable Care Act closer to reality when the Senate tacked on a provision to the bill wiping out the individual mandate. When the markets took another tick up he crowed even louder that he was the man who brought the good times rolling to America. As always, he did all this with the sheepish connivance of much of the mainstream media, which is always off to the races in giving round-the-clock coverage to his self-serving, vapid tweets as if they were the word from the Mount.
Trump’s biggest win, though, has come on three fronts. One is the GOP. It can rail and curse at him publicly and privately, but it needs Trump. He is more than the titular head of the GOP. He is the point man for GOP policy and issues and, in a perverse way, the spur to get action on them.
The second front he’s winning on is the continuing love fest that his devout base has with him. While polls show that his overall approval ratings consistently wallow under forty percent, buried in the polling fine print is the numbers that mean the most to him and the GOP. That’s Republican voters. The overwhelming majority of whom back him. Even though his approval rating has dropped among white males without a college degree and Christian evangelicals, polls show that he still gets majority approval from them. These are the voters that the GOP will need Trump to rev up in the key swing districts in 2018. They’ll look to him to do just that. This is the voter loyalty that buys a lot of support from the GOP establishment even as they flail him or shake their head in disgust at his antics.
The third winning front for Trump is his perennial ace in the hole: the media. He remains a ratings cash cow for the networks and makes stunning copy for the print media. He knew that from day one of his presidential bid and he knows it even more now. He will continue to suck the media air out of everything that the Democrats do and try to do. Take his phony war with the NFL owners over the national anthem protest by a handful of Black players. A couple of tweets from him knocking the owners for alleging caving into the players was more than enough to distract from his bumbling, inept, and dangerous handling of the North Korea nuclear threat, and his clueless saber rattle of Iran over the nuclear curtailment pact with the U.S.
This has been his patent ploy, distract and deflect. The public and networks take the bait every time. Other than in the New York Times and other liberal print publications, there is no real sobering, in-depth discussion of the dangerous and destructive consequences of his administration’s policies. But those publications are anathema to Trump devotees in the heartland and the south anyway. So the withering criticism of Trump in these publications is tantamount to a wolf howling in the wind.
During the campaign, Trump loved to shout to his adoring throngs that, with him in the Oval Office, they’d win so much they’d get tired of winning. The giveaways to the rich, the gutting of Obamacare and the coming whittling away of Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security is hardly winning for many of his backers. They benefit from these programs and won’t get a dime’s more relief in their tax bill. But for Trump so far this has been a win-win, and a sad one to admit.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His latest book, The Trump Challenge to Black America (Middle Passage Press), will be released in August. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.