Trump walks into enemy camp in bid to get things done
Americans are seeing a new Donald Trump, at least for now. The President has emerged from his summer break with a bipartisan approach to congressional dealmaking which has seen him embrace the Democrats he once scorned.
While this new strategy risks alienating his own supporter base, it is a calculated embrace of pragmatism aimed at securing the legislative victories that have eluded Trump in his first eight months.
“Some of the greatest legislation ever passed, it was done on a bipartisan manner. And so that is why we are going to give it a shot,” Trump said as he hosted a White House dinner where he sat between the two most senior Democrats in congress, minority leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.
A day earlier Trump held a bipartisan dinner for senators, which included talk of infrastructure policy, a stalled reform promise that Trump needs to cajole through congress.
This week he has said things that Democrats have applauded. His tax plan, he promised, “is not a plan for the rich”. He has also all but reversed his initial position to end protection for the so-called Dreamers, the 800,000 children of illegal immigrants living in the US.
It is hard to imagine Trump speaking or acting like this in his first six months. Democrats, he tweeted repeatedly, were nothing more than obstructionists and blockers.
But Trump is nothing if not a flexible dealmaker.
He appears to have accepted for now that the Republican Party is hopelessly divided between its conservative wing, headed by the intractable House Freedom Caucus, and its mainstream wing. It was these divisions, rather than the predicted opposition of the Democrats, that doomed the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, dubbed Obamacare.
With Trump now needing to gain congressional approval for his big-ticket tax reforms as well as infrastructure and immigration reform, he appears to have decided for now that he needs to play both sides of the aisle. By dealing with the Democrats, Trump also keeps the Republicans unsteady on their feet. It lets them know that if they continue to obstruct the White House’s agenda, then the President reserves the right to look to their opponents to negotiate legislation.
This new approach is a risky one for Trump. It has already triggered a backlash from his conservative base and if pushed too far it could genuinely hurt him. If so, this outbreak of bipartisanship at the White House will be a short-lived flirtation.
But Trump seems to have decided for now that the art of the deal involves more than one side of politics.