Wednesday, January 31, 2018


So I was disappointed in Trump's speech in two ways. First, it was much too long. He spent too much time applauding "heroes", most of whom didn't seem all that heroic to me. Otto Warmbier's parents, for example, deserve our sympathy I suppose, but it's a stretch to think they are "heroes". I found that whole thing corny and not worth the time, but then I acknowledge I'm not a typical listener.

Second, we were all led to believe that it would be a "bipartisan" speech. And my model of Trump (a secret Democrat) predicted he would have done that. But he didn't. While there were a few bones thrown to the Democrats, they were very few, and the speech was mostly aimed toward the Republican side of the house. Indeed, he looked almost exclusively at the Republicans, casting only occasional glances toward the Democrats. It's as if they weren't even there.


One possibility is he intended it to be a bipartisan speech, but then missed the target. That's possible, but somehow I doubt it. This is a guy who understands media better than anybody else on the political planet--I can't imagine he'd get this wrong by such a wide margin.

The other possibility is that he thinks he can beat the Democrats, and rather than compromise he went in for the kill. If you judge by the faces on the Dems, that certainly seemed to be true--they all looked desperately unhappy.

So take DACA. The Dems want to grant citizenship to 600,000 Dreamers. Trump raised them by a factor of three--his proposal will naturalize 1.8 million Dreamers. I certainly support that! I can't imagine that the Dems will seriously be able to oppose it.

But of course it comes with a catch, or actually three catches: build a wall; end chain migration; end the visa lottery.

So here's the asymmetry: for Republicans those three catches are vote movers. Stronger border security is a core issue for the Republican base. And most people--even Republicans--are generally sympathetic to Dreamers. Trump is on the popular side of the issue in all ways, and will grab independent and even Democratic voters.

The Democratic base, on the other hand, cares passionately about naturalizing Dreamers. But Trump has conceded that issue--by a factor of three! The other stuff is down in the weeds--important to politicos, but not the kind of thing that's going to drive Dems to the polls.  Outside of a college campus it really is hard to argue against more border security and a rationalized legal immigration system.

So in 2018 the Dems are running on Dreamers, for which Trump has outbid them, and on opposing some small-scale,  commonsense reforms in immigration. They can't win.

Then there was the shtick about standing for the flag. Super-wealthy, entitled NFL players can't even pay respects to military veterans (according to Trump). It tars the core Democratic base as being unpatriotic and makes them unappealing to a larger number of voters. This is another vote loser for the Dems.

And more. Do the Dems really think they can win elections by going soft of N. Korea or Iran? Are they really going to oppose new infrastructure because Trump wants to shorten the permitting process to under two years? Are they going to campaign to put millions of people out of work for the sake of stupid EPA regulations?

Even the Jerusalem thing helps Trump, not so much with voters, but by putting daylight between the Dems and their important Jewish donors.

It is pretty clear that Trump believes he can win the 2018 midterms. He doesn't think he needs to compromise with the Democrats at all.

So I don't know if that will work out as planned. We'll see what happens in about nine months.

Further Reading:

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