For Donald Trump, the president-elect, there will be no honeymoon.
Instead, there appears to be an ongoing strategy by the media to aid the Democrats in driving a wedge between the Republican Party and Trump.
The plot is hardly the stuff of James Bond. It’s more like Mr. Magoo conspiring to cross a road. The media and the Democrats have been transparent in their desire to stop Trump. The attack plan is glaringly obvious.
But striking at Trump’s own base is a fairly new tactic.
The media, and even the Democrats, did not expend much of their effort attempting to peel away Republican die-hards from Trump during the election, content to sow suspicion among a few nervous and moderate Republicans after the Access Hollywood video. Now the strategy appears to be more midterm-oriented: work with Trump, but only in ways to drive him apart from the Republican-controlled Congress.
They have. They must also exaggerate. And they have already started.
Pledges and Appointments
A prime tactic the media and Democrats will use — indeed, have already started to use — is suggesting Trump has gone back on his campaign pledges. The big target is showing Trump is weak on his own immigration plans.
It is likely to be the big show for the next year.
Trump’s plans on immigration caught fire and propelled him through the GOP primaries, and then into Rust Belt victories not seen for a Republican since 1988. People feel illegal immigration has burdened the welfare system, soaked up American jobs, and changed the culture.
So if Trump deviates from his own orthodoxy, he will be pummeled. Already, “60 Minutes” poked at him on immigration, and got him to admit there won’t be a “wall” along every part along the Rio Grande — a series of fences will suffice.
While Trump may think he is being reasonable, this is all going to be used against him later. The media (and the Democrats, and, indeed, many Chamber of Commerce-type Republicans) want to see Trump humiliated on the “wall.”
Trump also told Lesley Stahl of “60 Minutes” that he will start deportations with the 2 to 3 million criminal illegal aliens. To the media, this sounds like a chance to claim Trump is hedging.
Immigration is key as Democrats and the media believe Trump’s pledges on immigration are the equivalent of President George H.W. Bush’s “no new taxes” pledge in 1988. If Trump breaks these promises, the media and Democrats expect him to also be a first-term president — just like Bush.
Of course, the media and Democrats’ favorite tactics — charges of racism — are also being used.
Trump’s appointment of Stephen Bannon, the former CEO of Breitbart News, is the type of thing that triggers his enemies. It doesn’t matter that Breitbart is in fact not a racist news site. It only matters that it offends the elites with its politically incorrect and full-throttled attacks on the Left.
Bannon has thus been labelled a “white nationalist” and an anti-Semite, despite the fact Andrew Breitbart was Jewish, and that a number of Breitbart officials are Jewish.
“The same media that found nothing noteworthy eight years ago in Obama aide Van Jones being a 9/11 truther or Obama aide Anita Dunn calling murderous Mao Zedong ‘one of my favorite philosophers’ is obsessing over what Steve Bannon said or merely allowed at Breitbart sites,” said Tim Graham of the Media Research Center, a conservative media watchdog.
Here, reminding people of Obama’s leeway in staff choice — indeed, on the initial agenda — is something for Trump surrogates to push.
“At this time eight years ago, Chris Matthews announced on MSNBC, ‘I want to do everything I can to make this thing work, this new presidency work,’” said Graham. “Now, the media sees its job as a campaign to dismantle the Trump presidency before it starts, harp on his approval rating as they try to crush it, and divide the Republicans into a civil war. Forget that it’s the Democrats who need a post-election ‘autopsy’ to focus on its sorry state.”
The GOP Coalition
One strategy already being pushed by the New Republic is to attack Medicare, since Republicans such as House Speaker Paul Ryan want entitlement reform.
Trump likely does not want to push for it now. He won in large part by promising to deliver on what the government promised to retirees. Wedging the GOP apart on Medicare isn’t a bad idea for liberals.
So the media is looking relentlessly for any fractures in the GOP coalition. According to the New Republic, Ryan has hinted — read: optimistically interpreting — that the repeal and replacement of Obamacare will be tied to privatizing part of Medicare.
Writes the New Republic’s Jeet Heer: “It should also offer Democrats hope in a bleak political era: Privatizing Medicare would be a hugely unpopular move that could tear Trump’s political coalition apart.”
Trump is not likely to let that happen. And Ryan is not going to pick a nasty, elongated fight over Medicare that would stretch into the crucial 2018 midterm elections. It’s just not going to happen — at least not in the long term.
Trump should buckle in, because they won’t stop.
“Democratic media do nothing but seek to achieve Democratic objectives,” said Graham.