The Trump agenda is gradually fading.
With only a few days left when Congress is in session before a new fiscal year starts (Oct. 1), there's not much time remaining to accomplish the agenda that President Trump deems critical to his presidency and the nation's welfare. Instead, he seems focused on trivial matters, such as bashing Arizona's two Republican senators and how to pay for the "wall" along America's southern border. It's frustrating to many Americans.
Higher education, fiscal restraint and tax relief measures seem doomed. Government shutdown, never favorable for Republicans and now the subject of a new Trump threat, seems inevitable. Education experts have proposed bipartisan education spending solutions — an issue that affects both students and parents — but Trump and his administration have been slow to act on them. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma also have affected higher education, as shutting down colleges in Texas and Florida because of heavy rainfall or flooding impacts students and school spending.
Trump campaigned heavily on cutting federal spending. Without a budget agreement and trimming appropriations, Congress, as a necessary partner, cannot produce a budget blueprint that satisfies presidential declarations about increasing defense spending in a dangerous world and cutting domestic overspending.
Tax relief affects all Americans. Unless some relief is enacted, the United States will remain the highest taxing nation in the world regarding import taxes. Congress is a necessary partner in enacting tax relief.
Many Americans have been waiting for the Trump administration to right itself — to enact political accomplishments that formed the basis for the Trump campaign, that both supporters and critics could point to as good for America. While some executive orders have met campaign promises, and have been good for America, in spite of heavy press criticism for "all things Trump," it's not enough. Trump needs congressional victories, hopefully bipartisan, but at least some basic accomplishments that he and his Republican colleagues can tout. So far, they've been few, and Trump has continued to step on his message of accomplishment, to the delight of Democrats and their national press allies.
Many American voters have been awaiting the announcement of tangible accomplishments because they want Trump to succeed, if for no other reason than patriotism — the feeling that Americans love their country and want what's best for it.
Democrats seem determined to bring Trump down, no matter how good his policies. That's a fool's errand, exhibited most clearly by Democratic senators who voted in lockstep against superbly qualified Supreme Court Justice nominee Neal Gorsuch. Some Democrats should have supported him, and fought like crazy to secure a liberal justice in the future, rather than oppose him just because he was a Trump nominee. The Democrats voted together, at the urging of their Senate leader, showing no independence and emphasizing their lack of original thought.
If they are to mount an effective campaign in the 2020 presidential election, they must come up with original ideas, not just to satisfy their traditional constituencies, but to tout policies that will make America better, offering an alternative to what Trump will say in his campaign.
Perhaps they will rely on likely Trump failures — on higher education reform, fiscal restraint (though this has not been a strong Democratic principle), or tax reform for America. It's an old political phrase, but it's also true — you can't defeat someone with no one — so Democrats must produce a winning candidate with a winning message. That's a tall order against an incumbent, even one as currently unpopular as Trump.
So as Trump's agenda fades, and his political style continues to irritate voters of both major political parties, he must produce a narrative that will justify electing Republicans in 2018, and himself in 2020. Being "not Obama and not Clinton" likely isn't enough to engender voter confidence. The longer Trump waits to fill critical government positions, the longer it will take to accomplish his agenda. One highly qualified education expert withdrew his name as Deputy Secretary of Education because of financial disclosure burdens, so that department doesn't have enough executives in place to run more efficiently. The same is true for other important government departments critical to the Trump agenda. The fear is that Trump will not conform his conduct to running the government as efficiently as he could.
Waiting for Trump to change — to stop tweeting, stop stepping on his message, start working cooperatively with Congress — would be a dream come true for many American voters.
But dreaming about such change won't boost a fading agenda — only action will.♦