Sunday, February 12, 2017

A season of surprises

From This week: Huge SAT race gaps, Trump's brilliant start, etc. by Richard V Reeves. Something is happening here but I don't know what it is.

I assumed it was an example of Poe's Law but perhaps not.

Reeves is a very credible researcher at the Brooking's Institution. He and his fellow researchers tend to lean left in terms of wanting government solutions to problems but he does a pretty good job of defining problems and getting to root causes.

He is the last person I would have expected to pen the following assessment.
Trump's Presidency has been, so far, a brilliant political success. Here's why:
1) He promised change, and he promised to do things differently. Nobody can deny that he is delivering; or at least, giving the impression of doing so. It is impossible to keep up with what's going on; which is the point. He is hiring, and firing. His executive order on immigration caused chaos at aiports, heartbreak in thousands of families, and protests on the streets. Again, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that he is doing stuff.

2) He is keeping his base happy. The big risk for a change candidate is that they can't deliver against expectations. Trump is working very hard to govern as he campaigned, and remain authentic. (See last week's letter for more on authenticity). His approval ratings among Democrats and Independents are atrocious. But it is rock-sold among Republicans. One of his most important statements as President: "I am a man of my word. I will do as I say. Something that the American people have been asking for from Washington for a very, very long time".

3) He has four years to tack to the center. Once he has reassured his base, Trump has plenty of time to find ways to reach back out to independents, for example with a huge infrastructure package. But if loses the trust of his base, he'll find it hard to get back. So I think it's smart to double down on the base-friendly elements early, then ease off as the next election approaches.

4) He has chosen good enemies. People who don't follow the policy detail below political life will often judge an action by who it pleases and who it upsets. So far Trump has upset the Mexican President, upscale Professors, white college graduates, the ACLU, the Germans, the UN, immigrants... Anyway, you get the idea. With enemies like these, who needs friends?
All this leaves aside the wisdom, legality and even morality of his actions, of course. That's a different matter. I'm simply saying that, if you take a step back, Trump is so far showing that his instinct for politics has followed him into the White House. I assume, right now, that he will be a two-term President.
I don't materially disagree with Reeves' analysis, it is just coming from an unexpected quarter.

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