President Trump could’ve turned Washington, D.C., on its head. The conventional wisdom about the grand bargain between Trump and the Republican establishment is that they will tolerate his antics and flagrant corruption in exchange for his signing their agenda into law. But Trump could’ve struck an entirely different bargain than the one he’s wedded to now — the one that has him and his congressional allies both mired in approval ratings that are astonishingly low given economic conditions.
Truth be told, this Bizarro Trump bargain would’ve looked something like the departed Stephen Bannon’s vision of a Trumpian New Deal that mingled a tougher line on global trade with new spending on infrastructure and higher income taxes on the wealthy, underwritten by the angst of older whites and social conservatives. Economic populism plus cultural traditionalism. Bannon’s bluster about a new nationalist governing majority for the next 50 years aside, one must admit it’s not impossible to imagine Trump, having made the Rust Belt voters who delivered him the presidency his highest priority, striking bipartisan deals that, say, lowered the corporate tax rate but left Obama-era income brackets alone. Or new infrastructure spending offset by tax-code simplification and base-broadening.