Cooper: Trump underestimated in 2018, too?

Cooper: Trump underestimated in 2018, too?

December 31st, 2017 by Clint Cooper in Opinion Free Press

Is the national media misreading the popularity of President Donald Trump again?

Photo by Carolyn Kaster

As the 2016 presidential primary elections unfurled and businessman Donald Trump increasingly took a lead in the Republican Party delegate count, many conservatives felt their stomachs would eventually stop roiling because the New York real estate mogul was bound to drop the blustery facade and act presidential-ish.

Count us among those who felt he would change if he maintained the lead in the delegate count, then if he won enough votes to clinch the nomination, then if he were the candidate standing before the Republican National Convention, then certainly in a national campaign.

We're still waiting.

In the meantime, Trump won a sound Electoral College victory, became president and now has governed for almost a year.

As 2017 rolls into 2018 at midnight, he's not going to change who he is. As president, that has been his greatest strength and his greatest detriment.

It has, for one, allowed him to be underestimated. National political punditry was certain he couldn't be elected, remained sure he couldn't accomplish anything and believes his personal unpopularity will secure tremendous losses for his party in the 2018 mid-terms.

As the hours trickle out of this year, he can boast of the passage of a tax bill that lowers rates on most Americans, of the rollback of a number of onerous regulations, of severely slowed illegal immigration (without building a border wall), of gutting the highly unpopular Affordable Care Act by cutting out the mandate that everyone had to purchase health insurance, by unleashing the military to help secure the downfall of the Islamic State in Iraq, by opening a small area in the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve for oil drilling, and, among other things, by appointing a strict constructionist Supreme Court justice and other conservative federal judges.

Even some ever-leftward-sliding Democrats have acknowledged some of the changes.

Sure, the recovery from the 2007 recession was slowly improving and the Islamic State was gradually withering under Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama, but Trump's presence unleashed both a more vibrant economy and a larger assistance role for the military. Ironically, Obama could have done both but chose otherwise.

Now, the president, who no one is mistaking for the chief strategist or ideas genius behind the accomplishments, wants to do more in 2018. Welfare reform, a large infrastructure bill and a new health care plan all have been mentioned. If even one of those is checked off by the end of next year, he'll deserve at least some of the credit.

Trump, after all, is somewhat like Ronald Reagan in not needing to have his hands on every aspect of every piece of legislation. Reagan had a vision — and much broader knowledge than he has been given credit for, as recent scholarship has revealed — and was happy to let Congress and his appointees carry it out. Trump, who delineated in broad strokes his plans to the American people on the campaign trail, evidently subscribes to that theory.

And many people who supported him evidently like what they have seen. Although the president has had a complete lack of cooperation from Democrats and more media criticism than any modern president, the Republican Party has outraised the Democratic Party by nearly $40 million this year (and does not have its opponent's $2.6 million debt). Indeed, the expected $100 million-plus total is the party highest in an off-year election cycle.

Democrats, despite nearly a year of Trump, have nothing to offer other than resistance. They believe, 11 months before the 2018 election, that resistance, vague talk of impeachment and reminding voters of Trump's previous behavior with women (brought up in 2016) will be a winning strategy.

We're not so sure. The party completely misread voters in 2016, lost a handful of congressional elections the party predicted it would win earlier this year, won several elections in states where it should have been expected to win and won a special election in a red state against a deeply flawed candidate. We believe Democrats don't comprehend and will continue not to understand the president's dogged support, despite the flaws and miscues that have tripped him up.

Between now and November, we believe we're likely to see more high profile accusations by women of unwanted sexual behavior from men (and, perhaps, some that will be debunked to take momentum from the movement), sabre-rattling by North Korea (but no U.S. action in light of the Winter Olympics in South Korea in February), more national demand for education choice by those who suffer most from its lack, and more support of police (in contrast to the end of the Obama era when police were portrayed as practically the enemy of the people).

Statewide, Tennessee will vote for a new governor and a new U.S. senator. Betting money should be on Republicans in both races, but national events could change things.

Locally, we hope — as we always do — that state legislators and county officials will have opponents in their re-election runs. Nothing focuses office-holders more than having to defend what they've done (or not done) and how they voted.

We may be wearing New Year's Eve rose-colored glasses, but we hope when we can look back a year on this date, we will have seen a 2018 filled with peace, prosperity and happiness for all Chattanoogans, Tennesseans and Americans.

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