by Jeffery Rendall
Donald Trump isn’t known to brag…but then again, yes, he is.
America’s supremely confident commander in chief is quite fond of touting his own accomplishments and most of the time doesn’t appear to notice setbacks. Trump’s perpetually forward-facing orientation represents a refreshing new outlook for a Washington DC swamp infested with creatures (people) who obsess over negatives and failures.
Assuming Trump does occasionally acknowledge something bad happening in his orbit, he wasn’t about to do it the other day when speaking on his first 500 days in office. Mallory Shelbourne reported in The Hill, “President Trump on Monday touted his first 500 days in the White House, saying ‘many believe’ he has achieved more than any of his predecessors in that same time frame…
“Trump pointed to the GOP tax cuts, ‘lower crime,’ passing the ‘right to try’ bill, his confirmed judicial appointments and his immigration policy as accomplishments.
“’Massive Tax & Regulation Cuts, Military & Vets, Lower Crime & Illegal Immigration, Stronger Borders, Judgeships, Best Economy & Jobs EVER, and much more,’ he added.”
Trump’s list of achievements shows quite a lot of brevity, uncharacteristic for him. The media invariably nitpicked the list to discover exceptions to Trump’s claims – but we’re used to that kind of treatment by now. Ever since Trump’s inauguration day (when he claimed his crowds exceeded those of Obama’s in 2009) the longtime business mogul and reality TV star has been tossing out observations like t-shirt souvenirs at a baseball game. Some of these reflections have been strictly accurate…and others have been a bit stretched.
But Trump’s gist is always the same regardless of the topic; he sees himself as occupying a special place in history. “Destiny” might not completely describe his role but the president clearly believes he’s the right man at the right time to Make America Great Again. Historians will pore over Trump’s boast of having had the best 500 days in office of any White House occupant ever and the statistics they use will either prove or disprove their assertions.
But there’s little doubt things are changing across the fruited plain in 2018. Unemployment is down below 4 percent (3.8%), a rate that hasn’t been seen since the turn of the century (and before that the 1960’s). The Republican tax cuts passed late last year are starting to take effect and employers are expanding their payrolls. Out west Trump’s border wall is under construction (at least the preliminary section near San Diego) and there’s a renewed emphasis on immigration enforcement everywhere else.
There’s peace abroad and it still looks like Trump will meet NORK dictator Kim Jong-un next week in Singapore to discuss the eventual defusing of the nuclear situation on the Korean Peninsula.
Of course not everything has worked out for the best – Trump himself highlighted his party’s inability to pass an Obamacare repeal and replace bill last year – but there’s a tremendous feeling of optimism in everything Trump does. It’s quite a contrast to the media-advanced popular conception of the man, one of an out-of-control egomaniac who can’t lay off the twitter button.
Trump’s approval ratings continue to tick upward as well. As of yesterday, the Real Clear Politics average showed him at 44.6 percent (with 52.8 percent disapproving). The congressional generic ballot is holding steady at D +3.2, much lower than it was several months ago when experts couldn’t stop blabbering about a “blue wave” on the horizon. In normal times neither figure would be cause for celebration for Republicans – but these are unusual days indeed. When Trump’s “silent” supporters are factored in (those who won’t reveal their true views to pollsters) the president’s approval numbers could easily be over 50 percent now.
Does this mean things are looking up for GOP congressional candidates too? Probably, but there are signs Republicans are still planning to run away from Trump – at least partially. Paul Bedard reported in the Washington Examiner, “While models linking low White House job ratings to huge House and Senate losses have been proven accurate as recently as former President Barack Obama’s first midterm election, some pollsters and analysts consider Trump’s presidency a special case requiring a different way of predicting elections.
“First, they note that despite having a 60 percent unfavorable rating on Election Day 2016, Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton, a result that still has many GOP pollsters scratching their heads.
“Second, with the economy improving and the 2017 tax cut settling in, many voters have something other than Trump’s approval ratings to focus on that is helpful to the GOP, which controls the House and Senate.”
In other words, in their campaigns Republican congressional candidates are primed to talk about all of Trump’s accomplishments in his first 500 days – just like he’s doing – without appearing to be too close to the man himself. Kind of like, “Republicans cut taxes, slashed regulations, repealed Obamacare’s individual mandate and created tons and tons of new jobs…and we’ve done it all despite all the tweets!”
Statistically speaking things are about as good as they’ve been in a long, long time with the government. Congress still spends way too much of our hard-earned cash and future generations are on the hook for all the current largesse but there’s a discernible confidence among the people that government is finally being run in an efficient manner even if it is being directed by a man who frequently airs his distaste and distrust for certain elements (and people) in his administration.
The Editors of the Washington Examiner wrote, “The economy is seeing the sort of improved prosperity that had been absent for so long, that many people assumed sluggish and depressing advances were the new normal. Republicans, neither the majority in Congress nor the president, actually create jobs. That’s the natural task of the private sector. But both deserve credit for creating the right circumstances for businesses to flourish. Washington has at last gotten out of the way, at least to some extent.
“That doesn’t mean their job is done…”
Republican candidates should give credit where it’s due – to the man behind the White House desk. But they also can present a convincing case that the economy is humming and people are working (and therefore have money to spend on things). All good things. What are the Democrats offering if they take over the House next January? More pessimism, the pathetic Mueller “Russian collusion” investigation and the possibility of impeachment.
There’s another aspect of the Trump presidency that’s worth touting this fall – primarily by senate candidates. The other day the Supreme Court (bolstered by Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch) struck a major blow for religious freedom and right of conscience. The case involved only one Christian baker; but the ramifications will be felt from coast-to-coast.
Melissa Quinn reported in the Washington Examiner, “The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday in favor of a Colorado baker who objected to making a cake for a gay couple’s wedding due to his religious opposition to gay marriage.
“The justices ruled 7-2 against the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, reversing a ruling from the Colorado Court of Appeals in one of the court’s most high-profile cases of the term. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.
“The court’s decision focused narrowly on the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s actions toward baker Jack Phillips, saying the commission was hostile to his faith and failed to act neutrally toward his religion. Kennedy acknowledged the courts may rule differently in future cases that fall into the intersection of gay rights and religious freedom.”
It (the Court) could very well rule differently next time, especially if Kennedy sticks around for another term and the liberals experience a predictable change of heart. It should be noted the decision ended up 7-2 – and Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor were the dissenters – which means reliably liberal Justices Breyer and Kagan joined with the conservative bloc (Justices Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, Roberts and Kennedy) this time – to find in favor of Phillips.
Suffice it to say there is now Supreme Court precedent for religious businesspeople to practice their values with a reduced threat to their livelihoods. In none of the cases did any Christian business owner outright refuse to serve homosexuals because of their orientation – it was only when the state compelled them to work a wedding that conflicted with their beliefs that there was a problem.
It’s not like a homosexual pair marched into a bank one day and was refused the opportunity to open an account. A cake baker is an artist – and no artist should ever be forced to provide “art” against their will or religion. What is this, China?
The political ramifications of the Colorado decision could be huge because it provides a shining example of the benefits derived from having more Republicans to confirm conservative judicial nominees who share the president’s passion for adhering to the Constitution. Liberals can cry discrimination! all they want – but there’s none to be found here. The same-sex couple in this case could still have a “wedding” cake – they’d just have to buy it from any number of other willing business owners who’d love to sell another expensive cake.
The Supreme Court’s recent decisions in this and other cases might have another effect – pushing Congress to return to its job of making laws. On too many occasions executive agencies (like the Colorado Commission in the cake baker’s dispute) have taken on legislative functions.
The Pacific Legal Foundation’s Mark Miller wrote at The Hill, “[O]ur Founding Fathers delegated the lawmaking authority to Congress, and then made legislators responsible to the people by allowing the people to vote them in or out of office every two years, according to how Congress abused or properly used its lawmaking power.
“Congress insulates itself from this accountability by shirking its lawmaking responsibility and handing it off to bureaucrats. The Supreme Court should use the Gundy case to put a stop to this purposeful avoidance of accountability.
“To be clear: if Gundy wins his case, his conviction for not registering under SORNA would be reversed, but Congress would then most likely amend the law to require registration for old crimes. That puts the lawmaking onus back on Congress where it belongs.”
The facts of the “Gundy” case are immaterial here. In his piece Miller talks about the need for Congress to be clear in writing statutes so as to remove ambiguity for executive bureaucrats to act on their own interpretations of laws. Should the Supreme Court go ahead and revoke its longstanding approval of the administrative status quo, Congress will then be required to do its job under the Constitution and make laws.
Perhaps at that point people will begin feeling the massive weight of the federal government. Since administrative decisions take place at virtually all levels of government these days, there’s no possible way such a Court ruling would escape the public’s notice.
For years Americans have sidestepped the difficult questions regarding the size and scope of government. Lack of education, apathy and the growth of the executive’s power have all contributed to the vast problems we’re experiencing today when Washington-based administrators ignorantly make decisions adversely affecting people thousands of miles away.
This is not what the Founding Fathers envisioned. Heck, serving in Congress was never even intended to be a full-time job; James Madison thought all bills should be no longer than a page.
Donald Trump has every right to be proud of his achievements over his first 500 days and Republican candidates should have plenty of good ways to sway voters this fall. Americans want a less intrusive government that functions properly and spends wisely. Will we ever get it?