I Was Wrong (And Right) About Trump

President Trump has accomplished more for conservatives than I dared to hope, but his legacy is in danger.

In the wake of a historic tax reform bill and almost all the
way through President Trump’s first year in office, I have a confession to make. I was wrong about Donald Trump.

Prior to the election, I had three major objections to Donald
Trump. I felt that he was unqualified to be president, I doubted his conservative ideology and I had questions about his character and temperament. On the point of his political ideology at least, events have so proven my fears unfounded and I have to admit that the Trump Administration has accomplished more for conservatives than I expected. In addition to tax reform, Trump’s only significant legislative win thus far, his judicial appointments and deregulation represent important gains that should be applauded by conservatives like me.

In spite of the limited successes of the Trump Administration, I still cannot offer my unlimited support to President Trump. Even though his administration has governed far more conservatively than I dared hope, my other objections to a Trump presidency remain.

With respect to Trump’s qualifications the lead to government,
he has confirmed my fears. After 11 months as president, Trump has shown himself to be the same man that he was on the campaign trail. Trump’s successes seem to have more to do with his cabinet appointees than with Trump’s skill at governance. With respect to tax reform, the success seems to have come despite Trump rather than because of him. While Republican congressional leaders worked to write and gather support for the bill, Trump was tweeting about NFL players.

While Trump’s lack of legislative experience did not derail
the tax reform bill, the president’s distracting behavior may have contributed to the bill’s unpopularity. Like the Democrats in 2010, Republicans have expended their political capital on a bill that most voters don’t want. Astoundingly, the Republican tax cuts are even less popular that some past tax increases. If President Trump had used his bully pulpit and Twitter account to educated the public about the positive effects of lowering the corporate tax rate, the chief goal of the bill, and how individual taxes will go down for most taxpayers as well, the GOP might have found more support for the legislation.

The grunt work of passing tax reform was carried out by Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who get little credit for their efforts. Realizing this, President Trump was
uncharacteristically gracious to McConnell in a tweet congratulating him on the passage of the tax reform bill.

Sadly, events have also confirmed my fears about Trump’s
character and temperament. The president’s behavior has caused several notable setbacks for the Republican Party over the past few months. Mr. Trump’s war of words with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, while popular with conservatives,
has brought the United States to the brink of a second Korean War. President Trump originally had the right instincts in Alabama when he said that Republican candidate Roy Moore should withdraw. Moore stayed in and Mr. Trump eventually reversed course and endorsed Moore, shortly before Moore suffered an embarrassing defeat. Moore’s behavior and Trump’s endorsement damaged the Republican brand.

If 2017 has shown anything, it is that the Trump Administration has a surprising amount of potential. Possibly because President
Trump is an outsider with few preconceived notions of acceptable policy positions there are opportunities for significant changes, such as the recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, during his presidency.

The downside is that Trump’s erratic behavior and low
approval ratings continue to dog the GOP. Polling shows that Democrats have an enormous lead in the generic
congressional ballot leading into 2018. If Republicans and President Trump cannot win voters over to their agenda, then future “winning” will be impossible and previous gains will be endangered.

I don’t view Donald Trump as a conservative savior or as the
only man who could have turned the country around. Any of the other Republican candidates would have arguably done a better job and accomplished more, such as passing the health care reform bill. Nevertheless, Donald Trump is the president that we have. Looking at his record objectively, Trump is undoubtedly
“better than Hillary,” which is a low bar in itself.

If Trump wants to be great, he must change and rise to the
occasion. He must put down his phone and show himself to be the dealmaker that he claimed to be during the campaign. Trump must tone down the rhetoric and reach beyond his base to moderate voters. Trump’s presidency depends on winning
the support of people who did not vote for him in 2016. He cannot assume that will cruise to re-election with another popular vote loss and victory in the Electoral College. The tax reform bill may help, but it won’t be enough to stave off an electoral landslide by itself.

The stakes are high. If the Democrats win control of Congress next year, prospects for advancing the Republican agenda will be nil. Worse, President Trump’s entire legacy would be at risk. A Democrat Congress might be able to start rolling back the accomplishments of 2017 and impeachment would be a real possibility.

The best way for Trump to defend his legacy and continue to
advance his agenda is make peace with Democrats. Tax reform was passed with a simple-majority, but other bills will require Democrat votes for cloture. The already small Republican majority will be smaller yet when Doug Jones (D-Ala.) joins
the Senate.

Trump may realize this. In a tweet that sounds as if it could have been written by Democrat, Trump said, “At some point, and for the good of the country, I predict we will start working with the Democrats in a Bipartisan fashion. Infrastructure would be a perfect place to start. After having foolishly spent $7 trillion in the Middle East, it is time to start rebuilding our country!”

If Trump can successfully pivot to the center, he may be able to appeal to moderate voters and save his presidency.

The 2018 election will be the grading of Trump. It will depend on what people remember and how they prioritize the importance of events. Trump is not a dictator, he tried to force congress to do their job. He pulled back on very few punches but was pragmatic enough to see the establishment is still in charge. Cabinet appointments were based on experience by education and their background in life. No other president has been shown so much opposition from the beginning. Part of the problems were caused by the Democrats being sore losers. After more then a year of investigation, what charges have stuck? none. We could already be at war with North Korea, who backed down to North Korea allowing the present situation? How much of the hype against Trump is just the media? How many Americans who don't live politics still respect the flag, the anthem and history of the country?

I, like you, was not a Trump fan and was devastated when he tog the GOP nomination, but perhaps now I have to admit that he might be the right man for the time. Granted he is not presidential. He is flawed, but he is a fighter and that is what we need now. I disagree with you on NK. We have laid back for years and allowed them to get nukes. It is time that we confront them. Trump has been a liberal most of his life and still has liberal tendencies, but overall I like what he is doing and this is coming from a Trump hater. He got us out of the climate accord. He reversed many of the regulations imposed on business by BO. He is limiting the power of the EPA. He is standing up to the UN. I give him a lot of credit. His approval ratings will always be low because nearly 100% of the dems will disapprove of him no matter what he does.


You weren't wrong on any of your three objections to Trump. He's still unqualified, he's still not conservative, and his character and temperament still make him unfit for the presidency. That for which you are misguidedly crediting him are simply aspects of his deficient character that have worked in conservatives' favor. His lack of focus and self-discipline that have ruined the image and reputation of conservatism and the GOP have also negated his pursuit of the worst, most left-leaning aspects of his campaign platform ("the wall," quitting Afghanistan, scuttling NATO, trade wars as far as the eye can see, etc.). His lack of ideological compass and roaring ignorance have left room for conservatives who DO know what they're doing - Mitch McConnell and the Federalist Society on judicial appointments, Scott Pruitt at EPA, Betsy DeVos at Education, Ajit Pai at the FCC, Nikki Haley at the U.N. - to do some good things. But none of the good things that have been done are because of, or originated with, or can be credited to, Trump himself. They weren't his ideas, and he didn't lead the way to them. They're not his accomplishments. And who and what Trump is guarantees that those conservative gains will inevitably be rendered temporary and short-lived.


Vote for the conservative in 2018, vote out the RINOs. Vote out those who are tied to Planned Parenthood and the education unions. Add Zinke and and Perry to your good cabinet picks. We need capitalism not cronyism. Congress and politicians are not above the law. We have had too many in congress with no business experience. With the character and temperament of the previous of the previous administration, how many could stay focused? I preferred:Pence, Walker, Perry, and Cruz before Trump. Trump might be a little too blunt, but it is better than all the pussy foots. Trump appeals to many Americans who believe in the flag, anthem, and history but do not follow politics. His character is in the past. How much of it is just guilt by association with Hollywood? Trump did not have a slush fund for sexual scandal. The wall to slowdown illegals, drug dealers and sex traffickers. Part should be technology.. Pence just visited Afghanistan. Trump put the immigration back to congress where it belongs. Conservatives want the transgender protected when you can't separate them from the pervert? McConnell and Ryan have tried to block the Freedom Caucus and the Tea Party.

Trump has exceeded my low expectations, but ultimately his low approval may mean that his gains don't last very long. A Democrat wave next year would end his reforms and possibly roll back what he has already accomplished.

David, I love you as a friend and respect your opinion, but the #NeverTrump mentality is impairing your ability to remain objective and, well, rational. You spend much of the article complaining that Trump isn't conservative enough for you...then you say the only way he can "save" his presidency, which from my perspective seems to be getting more successful by the day, is to abandon the principles on which he campaigned and has tried to govern, in order to become a moderate.

I'm still scratching my head about this one...I know how intelligent you are, so when I read something you've written that doesn't make any sense, I feel compelled to say something. I can't believe anyone would take polls seriously, less than a year after HRC had 90+ percent chance of winning, but still lost the election. I seriously cannot believe that people aren't going to like the tax cuts come January, when net income per paycheck increases. Please, don't buy into the spin.

Trust your instincts.


This neverTump attitude has got to go away if for no other reason than to pull together to win the 2018 midterms. I was a neverer until election night 2016, and then quit the nonsense. It is irrational, as JohnLeonard says. Trump is doing just fine, is qualified as anyone else and has accomplished as much as Bush did in 2000, excepting the 9/11 problems. I think his ratings are low because the pollsters want them to be low. Quit buying leftist nonsense.


Trump isn't a conservative, but he has done some conservative things, largely by leaving his appointees alone. If I was Never Trump, I wouldn't acknowledge the positive things that he has accomplished. I know many people who don't.

Polling was largely correct in 2016. It had Hillary ahead in the national popular vote and that is exactly how the election turned out. It was only in a minority of state polls, most of which were within the margin of error, that the result was unexpected. The unexpected result was due to events (primarily Comey's memo) within the last week of the campaign. Remember that polling is a lagging indicator.

My complaints here were not about Trump's lack of conservatism, although I have many. My complaint here is that Trump's lack of competence and erratic behavior threaten the gains that he has made. Most of what he has accomplished is based on Executive Orders and bureaucratic rulemaking that can be overridden by a hostile Congress or a subsequent president.

Trump's behavior threatens the destroy the whole Republican brand (admittedly not in great shape to begin with) and lead to a Democrat wave election that may result in the nation (and conservatives) being worse off than under Obama. Time will tell.

"Any of the other Republican candidates would have arguably done a better job and accomplished more, such as passing the health care reform bill." Kasich.

"The best way for Trump to defend his legacy and continue to advance his agenda is make peace with Democrats."

Best bit of sarc I've heard all day. Unicorns, flying pigs, and frozen Satan digs are more likely to happen. The only thing more unlikely that Trump making peace with the Dems is the Dems wanting anything to do with doing anything that gives Trump any credibility (from their standpoint). They would rather commit kamakaze than side with Trump.