Millions of Americans sent Donald Trump to Washington, D.C. to “drain the swamp,” break up the gridlock and make great deals for U.S. workers. Yet, as Trump strives to deliver on his key campaign promises, he is also playing the long game and looking ahead to 2018.
Many of President Trump’s early successes came from his signing executive orders to roll back Obama-era policies, versus the result of major legislation passed by Congress. And as establishment Republicans and progressive Democrats publicly claim short-term victories for delaying the president’s agenda, rest assured: those same millions of Americans are carefully taking note.
For their part, the mainstream media is also trying to depict President Trump as a failure for his administration’s inability to get major legislation passed during the first 100 days of his four-year term. This is an ongoing pattern of “fake news” from the press, which knows full well that it is the role of Congress to pass legislation and then send it to the president’s desk to sign.
Trump has made repeated efforts to work with lawmakers on the Hill to get healthcare and tax reform passed, but to no avail. The blame for this failure lies directly at the feet of a dysfunctional Congress, not the president.
In his NYT bestselling book The Art of the Deal, Donald Trump makes clear that he doesn’t like being placed in a situation that requires “pleading with anyone” to make a deal. This diminishes one’s leverage–and leverage is a bargaining tool that Trump loves to use.
But President Trump is now facing different types of situations than the ones he faced as a private businessman.
As a businessman, Trump aimed to have his buildings built and operating by preset artificial deadlines. During the campaign, he often touted his ability to meet those deadlines “on time and under budget.”
But in government, the deadlines are already decided for you. Here’s a simple breakdown of when those deadlines fall: every two years, voters are given an opportunity to elect new congressional representatives or re-elect their current representatives, and every four years, an incumbent president will join the ballot.
Therefore, Trump knows that he has to meet a two-year deadline–which will fall on November 6, 2018–with significant legislative achievements. This could, potentially, place him in a situation where he might have to “plead” with lawmakers on the Hill to get a bill passed–particularly if Congress has already made up its mind to not award him with legislation that would fulfill his campaign promises.
So how does Trump solve this problem?
In his book, Trump writes that “sometimes your best investments are the ones you don’t make.” With Obamacare on its last legs, and insurers pulling out left and right, Trump could decide to sit back and wait for Congress to come to him to repair the healthcare system. Instead, he is pressing forward and trying to persuade Congress to solve the problem before the system collapses.
But as each successive attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare stalls, Trump walks away as the adult in the room who tried to get everyone together to fix the problem, while Congress is left lacking results to sell to the American people and, frankly, appearing incompetent.
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Trump’s style of dealmaking, this is commonly viewed as acquiring leverage.
If he wasn’t already, Trump became a household name during the Republican primaries, which spanned from the summer of 2015 into the summer of 2016. In those primaries, Trump often used what Dilbert creator Scott Adams, coined “linguistic kill shots” against his opponents. For instance, he was easily able to dispatch some of his tougher perceived opponents–such as Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson–by simply labeling them with phrases that played directly to viewers’ preconceptions.
Who is willing to bet that Trump is not prepared to do the same thing to members of Congress who are trying to thwart his agenda for political reasons?
As a private businessman, Trump frequently had to interact with local and state politicians to advance his projects. On one occasion, Trump was seeking to acquire a zoning permit that would allow him to build a taller building than the city would permit. Trump understood that some concessions might have to take place from his side, but also wrote, at the time, that “if the city won’t approve something I think makes sense economically, I’ll just wait for the next administration and try again.”
Congress is stuck. They can either work to advance the agenda that the president ran on and was elected on, or suffer humiliating defeats in next year’s midterm elections. Don’t doubt for a second that President Trump will forget who is enemies were when things really mattered. And expect him to inform his millions of loyal supporters of who those individuals are when the proper time comes.
In short, Trump can afford to wait.