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Outsiders vs. Insiders: Cracks in base support will widen quickly if Trump ignores his promises

Out-of-touch; detached; ruling class; arrogant; elitist; establishment; fish bowl mentality; living inside a bubble…all of these terms (and more) have been employed to describe the special breed of Americans known as Washington politicians.

They’re almost like a unique species, the kind of two-faced human being that can look constituents in the eye before an election and swear they’re for something and then get on the floor of Congress (surrounded by their Donald Trumpbuddies) and do the exact opposite. We’ve talked a lot about this phenomenon recently, most notably during the Republicans’ spectacular failure to repeal Obamacare over the past few months.

Now our representatives and senators are on “recess,” a pleasant sounding word. Some call it a “district work period” or gulp, a “vacation.”

Does the elite political class really deserve a holiday?

The respective bases of the Democrat and Republican parties might disagree on this subject. But one thing’s for sure – the GOP faithful has got to be feeling pretty restless having lost a passionate advocate when Steve Bannon left the White House last week.

Niall Stanage wrote at The Hill, “Loyalists of President Trump fear he is at risk of relinquishing the unique appeal that got him elected, even as moderate figures in the GOP celebrate the departure of the polarizing strategist Steve Bannon and hope for a more orthodox White House…

“There are Republicans who … argue that a more conventional approach from the White House is essential if the president is to recover from his current low ebb.

“The situation in which Trump finds himself is bleak: beset by historically low approval ratings and enduring a fractious relationship with his party colleagues on Capitol Hill.”

Trump’s situation may not be ideal, but is it bleak? Synonyms for bleak are drab, miserable, forlorn, disheartened, hopeless and sorrowful. If these describe Trump then he’s certainly putting on a convincing act to demonstrate otherwise. Conservatives diverge on the merits of the policies Trump articulated during his Afghanistan speech on Monday night but the address itself hardly gave the appearance of man who’s lost all hope.

When you think about it, “bleak” describes the mood of Democrats in the final hours of November 8 last year. Bleak is the chances that principled conservatives will relinquish their core beliefs in order to accept the mushy mind-controlling disease of political correctness. Bleak is the condition of those who thought Obama’s promise of “hope and change” would permanently sway the American electorate.

Bleak doesn’t describe the prospects of conservatives for success if Trump would simply return to those promises and agenda items he talked about so fervently during his campaign last year. Losing Bannon’s consistent conservative counsel worries many of us because we fear the president will change his mind on a lot of things, urged to do so by the “moderate” leanings of the West Wing Democrats.

The base’s disposition isn’t “bleak,” but they might be a tad upset, primarily because Bannon is no longer there to fight for them. Ned Ryun wrote at The Hill, “Look no further than the multiple whiteboards in Bannon’s office in the West Wing detailing out everything that the agenda meant and what the campaign promises meant in regards to actual policy. There were check marks next to the promises kept, but there were quite a few items with no check marks — and that is where the concern centers moving forward. With Bannon out of the White House, it’s an open question: Who will inherit the whiteboards?

“If personnel is policy, staffers and advisers serve as reinforcement for decision-making, either good or bad, and there are a lot of voices in Trump’s ear that are not for the winning campaign agenda, the America First agenda. Not everybody in the boat is rowing in the same direction. With greater influence, those voices, the neo-cons, the establishment types and the liberal elite set have their own distinct agendas, many of which are not simpatico with the base or a populist agenda and, dare I say, of some even a Republican agenda.”

That goes without saying. In his op-ed Ryun pleads for Trump to “dance with the one that brung ya,” meaning his base. It’s sound advice.

But it only makes sense to think that Trump still remembers all of those things he said to the adoring audiences during his campaign. If he wants the crowds to keep coming he has to honor his word to them. In his inaugural address, Trump said “I will never let you down.” Let’s hope he means it.

I haven’t seen this notion presented anywhere in the commenting class, but is it possible Trump let Bannon go simply to diffuse the political time-bomb but still intends to follow Bannon’s counsel in his day-to-day operations? It just takes a lot of phone calls, correct? The president can consult with anyone he likes on political matters and it wouldn’t exactly be headline news if he continues to speak with Bannon on a regular basis.

While the press loves to hoot and holler over the apparent turmoil among the White House staff, Trump has remained remarkably consistent in the things he says he believes in. Part of it is Trump’s talent (some may say it’s a flaw) for never admitting he was wrong on anything or saying he’s sorry. Unlike the Republican establishment leadership who can’t go ten steps without bending over and apologizing to someone, Trump rides the waves of controversy knowing the media and the Democrats will eventually move on from whatever they’re whining about at any particular moment.

Why is that? Because Trump recognizes people who don’t really believe in anything (i.e. liberals) just get bored after a few days on a topic. If you reason there’s a finite amount of hot air to keep a balloon airborne then there’s really only so many times Democrats and the media can say “Trump is a racist” or “Trump loves Vladimir Putin” and have it stick.

If you don’t believe it, look at how much coverage the Russia controversy is receiving of late. And there’s also ample evidence that the people don’t care about the Russia issue either. It’s all media generated fluff, like a huge box full of packing with no gift inside.

Trump’s base supporters don’t pay any mind to the media’s hysterics over Charlottesville or Russia but they do care about seeing their agenda through. That’s where the loss of Bannon could really make a difference in people’s perceptions because if there are more policy reversals -- like Trump’s speech on Afghanistan (where he said the effort was going to be stepped up rather than ended) -- they’re going to start questioning his commitment to those campaign promises.

Longtime Trump backer Patrick J. Buchanan painted a dreary picture of Trump’s “new” Afghanistan policy. Buchanan wrote the other day, “America voted for Trump’s promise to improve ties with Russia, to make Europe shoulder more of the cost of its defense, to annihilate ISIS and extricate us from Mideast wars, to stay out of future wars.

“America voted for economic nationalism and an end to the mammoth trade deficits with the NAFTA nations, EU, Japan and China. America voted to halt the invasion across our Southern border and to reduce legal immigration to ease the downward pressure on American wages and the competition for working-class jobs…

“Can the new custodians of Trump’s populist-nationalist and America First agenda, the generals and the Goldman Sachs alumni association, be entrusted to carry it out?”

It’s a serious question, one that the folks now in charge at the White House had better take to heart. Congressional Republicans certainly deserve a huge chunk of blame for their inability to give Trump a “major” legislative accomplishment in the first 200-plus days of his presidency, but when it comes to foreign policy initiatives or personnel moves, the buck stops at the top.

Conservatives and Republicans are tired of being sold on an agenda every two, four or six years and then having their “vacationing” Washington representatives return to them empty-handed. It’s been argued Republicans are much better at being the opposition party, but even there they’ve failed miserably (continuing to fund Obamacare, funding Obama’s immigration programs, maintaining funding for Planned Parenthood, etc.).

We’re already seeing signs that the restless base is beginning to wake up to the importance of the primaries, such as what’s taking place in Arizona with Trump critic Senator Jeff Flake. One can only speculate what’s going to happen next year and the years after if Trump morphs into a “conventional” establishment president and the base feels the sting of betrayal – again.

It’s safe to say Donald Trump has thus far exhibited a remarkable ability to assess the mood of the voters and act on it. But Trump cannot take it for granted that his supporters will back everything he does. The base may be solid for now, but conservatives still expect him to keep his word.

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