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Horowitz: Donald, Chuck, and Nancy

Tuesday, September 12, 2017


Rob Horowitz

President Trump’s decision to reach across the aisle and cut a deal with his new best friends, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) last week was one of the few politically shrewd moves he has made since assuming the Presidency 7 months ago.

The deal itself was fairly modest: an agreement to support legislation that combined politically popular $15 billion of disaster aid in the wake of Hurricane Harvey with a 3-month increase in the debt ceiling.  Most political observers agree that the Democrats got the better of the arrangement, increasing their leverage to extract some policy wins in December when their votes will be required once again to gain adoption of a debt limit increase.  And in typical Trump fashion, he did it impulsively without giving either the Republican Congressional leaders or his own staff and cabinet members a heads-up.

But, it was a needed short-term win for President Trump as the deal went on to pass with large majorities in both the Senate and the House— breaking a logjam of stalled initiatives.

It also points the way to more consequential legislative success, if it signals a real change in what so far can only be characterized as a failed strategy.   President Trump can win Democratic votes for an infrastructure program, tax reform and what would be a popular fix to Obamacare, if he is willing to compromise, move closer to the middle of the electorate and stop catering to the far right on all issues.

This populist—as opposed to traditionally conservative economic agenda—is actually more in line with the expectations he raised for working class voters that he would be the President for the "forgotten man.”  It would give Trump an opportunity to increase his dismal approval ratings and shore up part of his increasingly wobbly base. He might lose a few conservative voters, but there is far more political upside than downside.

Additionally, showing a willingness to work with Chuck and Nancy from time-to-time will boost his diminishing influence with Republican Congressional leaders.   He will by definition be less reliant on them and can use his increased flexibility to create more leverage.

This change in strategy would require President Trump to become more conversant with the details of legislation and issues and for the White House to dramatically upgrade their policy process—so they can produce their own initiatives and react intelligently to the legislative ideas of others.

Given what we have witnessed in the first 7 months, that is a tall order. For the good of the nation, however, I hope President Trump and his re-tooled White House staff demonstrate that they are up to it.  Otherwise, this burst of bi-partisanship will be short-lived, and we will be back to what has been a truly awful status quo.


Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island


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