With his presidency off to a rough start, Donald Trump must remember the first rule of political warfare: There is no such thing as lukewarm hell. That is doubly true in an incorrigibly balkanized and polarized country like modern America. Once Trump has inexorably incurred all of the liabilities of being who he is (or the perception of who he is), he as may as well embrace all of its advantages in a passionate, consistent, and defensible way that will enable him to go on offense as it relates to the issues Americans care about.
Trump must understand that it doesn’t matter how many liberal fiscal and social policies to which he acquiesces or how many moderates he keeps in his administration. The die is cast. The media, the elites, and the American Left will leave nothing on the table to destroy him just by virtue of some of his security-related policies and who he is perceived as representing. The question is whether he will remain in a muddled and paralyzed state of being, whereby he can’t enact any good policies that galvanize the conservative base and the great middle of the country, thereby allowing the Left to remain the only intensely mobilized force on the political scene? Or will he go on offense and fulfill his mandate?
To that end, I’d advise the administration to take the following steps:
Most presidents rack up significant accomplishments during the first few months of their administration, but the chaos of his personnel, in conjunction with a rudderless GOP Congress, has left Trump with nothing to show but the political blowback from his perceived views. He should immediately dispatch Vice President Mike Pence to meet with House and Senate GOP leaders and get them on board with a 10-point plan. The sitting president always sets the agenda for the party, yet Republicans in the House have been floundering on small-ball issues. The Senate tends to be worse but they’ve been tied up with Democrats obstructing Trump’s Cabinet. From free market health care reforms, term limits, ethics and lobbying reforms, and a relentless security and sovereignty agenda, it’s time for Republicans to take their own destiny in their hands. Trump must get everyone in line with the agenda and make it clear where he is headed so that conservatives can prepare for battle.
Trump always did the best during the election when he focused on a serious policy message and not on Twitter-based personal disputes. He should give a series of policy speeches on immigration, national security, judicial reform, the cost of Obamacare killing jobs and consumers, crony capitalism, etc. This will excite and galvanize his base and demonstrate to the languishing working class voters that he means business.
Trump should give a follow-up speech to the one he gave on the campaign trail in which he laid out his national security priorities. What would he do in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan? What about Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, and the Muslim Brotherhood? Who are our strategic allies and who are our enemies? Tie it into immigration policy and make it clear that he will be consistent in his approach to protecting America, which is the number one responsibility of a president.
If Trump waits any longer to drain the bureaucracies, it will become a bigger scandal if he does so at a later date. Once he has united his team and Congress behind a set of priorities, it will be time to fire anyone not on board. An administration must speak with one voice — whether Democrat or Republican — and then it’s for the people to decide if they like what they are enacting. But for Trump to continue with the fifth column in his administration, he will not survive on a single issue.
A few weeks ago I compiled a list of 20 items related to immigration and homeland security. Have Congress pass each one of these, including those incorporated into his executive order on refugee resettlement, one by one. That way the courts will now have to mess with both branches of government.
Trump has now gotten a taste of what the world will look like absent judicial reform. The courts will encumber every deportation in endless litigation and will violate every aspect of our sovereignty. Trump must demand Congress work with him to take immigration and other political issues away from the lower courts (at a minimum). He should start by demanding the House pass Rep. Andy Biggs,’ R-Ariz. (F, 0%) legislation to divide the Ninth Circuit into smaller circuits.
No matter what is in the upcoming April budget bill, Democrats will oppose it with all their energy. Republicans have always said they can’t engage in budget brinkmanship against a Democrat president because the president — with his bully pulpit — always wins in a standoff. Well, now Republicans have the presidency and both houses of Congress. Trump should push to codify his immigration agenda in the budget bill, as well as freezing all new enrollments in Obamacare. This would also include defunding DACA. Moreover, he should defund some of the Left’s social liberal agenda items. In other words, with no Obamacare repeal or structural reforms to the welfare programs, there is no way to balance the budget this early on in the administration anyway. Trump may as well secure policy victories in the budget. Let Democrats take the chance of shutting down the government with just a minority presence in the Senate.
Liberals have stoked up their base against Trump with full intensity, irrespective of how many bones Trump throws to the cultural Marxists. Refusing to sign the religious liberty executive order and retaining Obama’s sexual identity ambassador (WTH?) is not going to placate the cultural Marxists. As I’ve noted before, Trump needs to unite his base behind an agenda of life and religious liberty. He should call on Congress to nullify the DC government’s pro-death bill. He should immediately sign the religious liberty executive order and call out the Left for their duplicity on this issue — demanding “religious freedom” rights for intolerant Islamists to immigrate here but denying American citizens the right to practice their religion without violations against their life, liberty, and property.
Were Congress to actually work with Trump on conservative issues, such as immigration, free market health care, religious liberty, and judicial reform, then they would have more clout to rein in Trump on some of the more problematic elements of his administration. But if nothing changes, we will continue to languish from the lowest common denominator of both the administration and the GOP Congress — Trump’s dysfunction and the GOP establishment’s timidity. It’s time to go on offense and unite under a conservative agenda. Nobody ever scores points on defense.
Editor's note: The headline of this piece has been updated to correct a grammatical error.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.
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