Scarborough warns Trump: You can't fight this many battles at once

Via RCP, it’s always fun when Trump’s friends try to advise him through their TV shows, especially when they’re being critical. Er, is there another Friend of Donald in media who uses his or her platform to criticize him? Maybe O’Reilly, very occasionally?

I’m torn between agreeing here and wondering what would have to happen for Trump to conclude “I’m alienating too many people.” What price has he ever paid for counterpunching everyone who’s taken a shot at him? He’s a billionaire who just got elected president. Taking on all comers seems to be working out okay for him. Scarborough’s point is that a politician can’t afford to anger too many different constituencies at once, especially when he’s making high-risk moves on policy. He’s going to need public support, for instance, if/when we end up in a trade war with Germany over the tariffs Trump wants to slap on cars built abroad. Every time he squabbles with a John Lewis or takes some weird shot at U.S. intelligence about Nazi Germany, he risks worrying or pissing off some voter needlessly who might otherwise be in his corner. And it’s not like he’s starting with sky-high approval: Gallup has him at 40/55 today. People are probably suspending their personal misgivings about him for the moment to give him a chance on policy, on the theory — which prevailed on Election Day — that in the end they don’t much care if he’s thin-skinned or corrupt so long as he really does find a way to bring back jobs and make America great again. But because of their misgivings, they may also give him less time to show results than they would a president whom they like better. It’s like any employer/employee relationship. The employee who’s constantly arguing with people is worth keeping so long as he’s bringing in clients, but as soon as business dries up, the knives are out.

Like I say, though: What would have to happen to get Trump to change his behavior and pass on counterattacking the next time someone like Lewis questions his legitimacy? Scarborough imagines his polling falling into the 20s if this keeps up. Would that do it? Because you know what he and his fans are likely to say: “The polls lie,” and even if it’s true that his numbers are momentarily bad, the rebound is right around the corner. There’s no reason to think fading polls would do much to make congressional Republicans tough on him either. Between his popularity among the grassroots right and his willingness to attack his enemies in the media, House and Senate GOPers seem terrified of him. They’re already shrugging off his dubious plan to eliminate his business conflicts of interest so as not to antagonize him. His numbers would need to get awfully bad, perhaps implausibly so, to embolden Ryan and McConnell knowing that the GOP has a favorable map in the midterms and that they’re all but certain to retain their majorities no matter what happens. Besides, the reason congressional Republicans held off on opposing Trump as a candidate isn’t because they feared he’d be hugely popular nationally. They held off because, again, they feared being attacked by him personally and, more importantly, because they knew there are enough diehard Trumpers out there within the GOP to destroy the party’s chances if they boycotted an election en masse over how the party has treated him. That’s why Trump wasn’t deposed at the convention last year. Even if 85 percent of the party’s voters could have been convinced to support a replacement nominee, having that last 15 percent stay home in anger would have guaranteed defeat. They made the calculation that they were better off holding on to those 15 percent by keeping Trump as nominee in the hope that the other 85 percent would tolerate him. And they were right.

It’ll be the same dynamic two years from now. Even if he alienates everyone and his approval is at 27 percent, that 27 percent will represent a giant chunk of the Republican base. If you’re Paul Ryan and you’re weighing whether to oppose Trump on a major policy initiative, like infrastructure, what’s the bigger gamble? That angry Trump fans will stay home if you screw their leader by tanking one of his big projects in the House or that the rest of the party will stay home if you sign off on his plan and hope for the best? Realistically, either Trump’s policies will work out well enough and the party will head into the midterms in decent shape — here’s hoping — or things will go south and the party will stick by him anyway in the tremulous expectation that the map will protect them in 2018. Only if they suffer actual losses that November will he change his M.O. Maybe.

In lieu of an exit question, read this piece at the Daily Wire about why huge tariffs on German cars … might not work out so well.

Jazz Shaw Jun 22, 2021 6:01 PM ET