Saturday, October 06, 2018
Donald Trump may last; he may go away. But the influence of his revolutionary approach to American politics will endure. What he learned and taught about campaigning will be studied and emulated for years to come. Social media matters. In 2016, his free Twitter feed defeated Hillary Clinton's $1.2 billion fundraising juggernaut.
Foot soldiers don't matter. Clinton was everywhere -- every state, most counties. In many states, Trump didn't have a single office.
It's not location, not location, not location. Clinton dropped buckets of cash on events in big expensive cities. Remember her Roosevelt Island launch announcement, the fancy stage using Manhattan as a backdrop? Trump rode the escalator down to his lobby. He held rallies in cheap hardscrabble cities like Dayton, Ohio, and Allentown, Pennsylvania. He understood that his audience wasn't in the room. It was on TV. It doesn't matter where the event is held.
Stump speeches are dead. They originated in the 19th century. In an era of mass communications, you're an idiot if -- like Clinton -- you read the same exact text in Philly as you read in Chicago. CNN covered Trump's rallies more than Clinton's because not because NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker wanted Trump to win. TV networks are in the ratings business; Trump's free-form extemporizing was entertaining because you never knew what he was going to say.
Now, Trump is revolutionizing governance.
The biggest revelation from Trump's first term -- at this writing, I assume he'll be re-elected -- is that bipartisanship is dead. Even with the slimmest majority, a political party can get big things done. You don't need the other party. Not even a single crossover.
The president can be unpopular. Ditto your party. All you need to govern successfully is party discipline. Keep your cabal together and anything is possible.
Trump's approval ratings hover around 38 percent. That's Nixon During Watergate level. Republicans hold a 51-49 majority in the Senate. Conventional wisdom, based as it is on historical precedent, dictates that controversial legislation can only pass such a narrowly divided legislative body if the majority entices some members of the minority to go along. There's a corollary to that assumption: the implicit belief that laws are politically legitimate only if they enjoy the support of a fairly broad spectrum of voters.
In this Trump era, major legislative changes get rammed through Congress along strict party-line votes -- and Democrats suck it up with nary a squawk. Trump's Republicans passed a huge tax cut for corporations and wealthy individuals. Protesters? What protesters? The GOP gutted "Obamacare" and suffered no consequences whatsoever ... not even a stray attack ad.
The same goes for judicial nominations. Time was, a president would withdraw a nominee to the Supreme Court if the minority party wasn't likely to support him or her, as Reagan did with the controversially far-right Robert Bork. Trump rams his picks through the Senate like Mussolini, Democrats be damned.
Rightist extremist Neil Gorsuch was confirmed to the Supreme Court by a slim 54-45. That was a remarkable success, considering that Democrats were still seething over Republicans' refusal to consider Obama high court nominee Merrick Garland (a centrist) for 10 months. We aren't sure what will become of the battle over Brett Kavanaugh, hobbled by multiple allegations of sexual assault and his anguished, furious performance trying to defend himself on national television. If confirmed, it will be by the slimmest of party-line votes.
One can, and perhaps should, deplore the new normal. In the long run, it can't bode well for the future of a country for its citizens to be governed by laws most of them are against, passed by politicians most of them despise and whose constitutionality is assessed by court justices most of them look down upon. But this is reality. Sitting around tweeting your annoyance won't change a thing.
Darwinism isn't survival of the fittest; it's survival of the most adaptable. Crocodilians have stuck around hundreds of million of years in part because they've learned to eat just about anything. The same goes for politics: If Democrats want to win power and score big victories, they'll learn the lessons of "Trumpism or die."
Party discipline is everything. Traitors, Democrats In Name Only, cannot be tolerated.
There is no room in a modern political party for "moderates" or "centrists." Only a strong, strident, unapologetically articulated left vision can counter the energized GOP base and its far-right agenda.
Politics as blood sport? It was always so. Republicans knew it. Thanks to Trump, Democrats can no longer deny their clear options: get real or get left behind.
Ted Rall, the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of "Francis: The People's Pope." He is on Twitter @tedrall. You can support Ted's hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.
COPYRIGHT 2018 CREATORS.COM
See Other Political Commentaries.
See Other Commentaries by Ted Rall.
Views expressed in this column are those of the author, not those of Rasmussen Reports. Comments about this content should be directed to the author or syndicate.
Rasmussen Reports is a media company specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion information.
We conduct public opinion polls on a variety of topics to inform our audience on events in the news and other topics of interest. To ensure editorial control and independence, we pay for the polls ourselves and generate revenue through the sale of subscriptions, sponsorships, and advertising. Nightly polling on politics, business and lifestyle topics provides the content to update the Rasmussen Reports web site many times each day. If it's in the news, it's in our polls. Additionally, the data drives a daily update newsletter and various media outlets across the country.
Some information, including the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll and commentaries are available for free to the general public. Subscriptions are available for $4.95 a month or 34.95 a year that provide subscribers with exclusive access to more than 20 stories per week on upcoming elections, consumer confidence, and issues that affect us all. For those who are really into the numbers, Platinum Members can review demographic crosstabs and a full history of our data.
To learn more about our methodology, click here.