With President Barack Obama we had a relentlessly ideological national leader. His every move was calculated to advance the progressive agenda.
President Donald Trump, on the other hand, measures his success much differently. He’s not terribly ideological. Rather, he’s focused on getting things done.
I’m not exactly breaking new ground with that observation, but it’s remarkable to see how Trump’s priorities have manifested themselves in policy debates.
The fight over health care reform among the majority Republicans, with Democrats largely relegated to the sidelines, is ideological. Various factions of Republicans are caught up on the nuts and bolts of the plan which has emerged in the House, and the advance of the overall legislation seemed at risk of getting bogged down.
Until Trump issued an ultimatum yesterday: Pass a bill Friday (today) or live with Obamacare, he told Congress.
Some Republicans may actually want to take him up on that offer. Letting President Obama’s signature piece of legislation die on its own would probably be good politics, as Congressman Kevin Cramer told me in an interview this week, though he contends that wouldn’t be very responsible.
But setting the health care debate aside, what Trump is doing is exactly what Americans wanted him to do.
He’s moving the ball down the field.
That’s why he’s moved quickly to clear the gridlock around energy infrastructure. Pushing forward projects like the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines ends years of obstruction from the Obama administration. Trump’s flurry of executive orders during his first 100 days in office have fomented no small amount of chaos and confusion in political circles, but they’re also proving him to be a man of action.
Exactly what he promised he would be on the campaign trail.
I’m not sure that this approach will ultimately deliver good policy, but it does seem to be what a lot of Americans want.
Trump’s actions in Washington are being treated by most mainstream journalists and political observers as something crazy. Something wildly different. But if we zoom out a bit, one might argue that the previous sixteen years of increasingly bitter gridlock under Presidents Obama and George W. Bush is what was crazy.
We’ve gotten to a point where Congress doesn’t even pass budgets any more. “The very term party leaders has become an anachronism,” wrote Jonathan Rauch for The Atlantic last year in an article about how American politics went insane.
If we stipulate that Washington D.C. has become an asylum full of lunatics, what are we to make of their perception of Trump?
The political and media establishment may think Trump is a crazy person, but when he orders Congress to get their work done he looks like the adult in the room.