Since George Washington, presidential elections have permitted voters to chose individuals, based on both character and policies. We select people to carry out policies. Simple, right?
Donald Trump has plenty of personality. On the other hand he has no core policies or values.
As a result, we are immersed in parallel crises. Trump is pushing the Senate to repeal Obamacare, with some success. Trump is pounding his Attorney General, trying to push him into resignation.
In both cases, we have Trump swerving into positions that he had rejected.
His new health care position is the triumph of instant gratification over political self-interest. One of his appeals to voters was a promise to revise Obamacare, to improve it, without stripping millions of Americans of their new coverage. Not now. The rhetoric of repeal, and the demand from the hard right for reduced coverage, are now his policy. If he succeeds, his own electoral base will be hurt and will react. By abandoning the pretense of a policy concern about health care, he momentarily claims victory but has, in fact, endangered himself.
His hounding of Attorney General Sessions similarly endangers him. Indeed, his calibrated failure to stand up and fire him, now appears the act of a weak and vacillating character. Sessions’ resignation and replacement by a compliant supporter, appears as a victory. He suppresses the Russian investigation and energizes iis pursuit of Hillary. In fact, he erodes his support among Republican Senators and and may provoke a new Special Counsel law.
What’s becoming obvious is that Trump’s history of lurching from issue to issue without a guiding and understandable ideology is unsustainable politically. He is survives now by virtue of the unshakable bond that he has created between Donald Trump the personality and about 35 per cent of the electorate. There is little he can do to lose them. Since most are Republican primary voters he thereby retains a political hold over Republicans up for re-election in 2018. But it is nigh on impossible to govern or maintain political strength with only his bedrock supporters.
After six months, some clarity has emerged. His base is secure; his flamboyance will not noticeably hurt him; he needs to recapture only another 10% or 12% of the electorate to succeed; his inability to stand for anything other than his immediate self-interest will continue and erode popular and congressional support; all the trend lines for him are down.
All the talk of popular resistance, and Republican sub-rosa opposition are effectively side shows. What we are watching is self-destruction at an unprecedented level. Who can stop Trump? Maybe nobody. Maybe only Trump himself.