Just a few short months ago, we seemed on the brink of a new political era. Donald Trump improbably was headed to the White House, while the Democratic Party, at near historic lows in statehouse power and without control of either house of Congress, seemed to be facing a lengthy period in political purgatory.
Today some progressive voices still see a “bleak” future, but it is increasingly the Republican Party, and its shattered conservative core, that is reeling. Bitterly divided among themselves, and led by a petulant president with record-low ratings, the Republicans seem to be headed to a major crash just six months after a surprising victory.
Gone from view now are visions of a renewed Republican Party uniting its traditional base with historically Democratic parts of Middle America. Rather than a realignment in the mode of Richard Nixon or Ronald Reagan, the Trump administration seems to be devolving into a remarkably early interregnum, a pause between alternating progressive eras.
Trump supporters, not Trump, the real losers
Donald Trump’s nationalist agenda started with a natural appeal to much ignored non-cosmopolitan America. Unlike the seemingly diffident and distant Barack Obama, Trump offered a laser-like focus on growing high-wage jobs for the declining middle and working classes. A reform agenda on everything from deregulation and taxes seemed to have the potential to escape the low-growth “new normal” and restore broad-based opportunity across the country.
Due to his obsession with media relations and personal peccadilloes, Trump now has managed to undermine any chance of developing a coherent program to restore dynamism in Middle America. Although some regulatory relief has been imposed, mainly by reversing President Obama’s rule-by-decree, the president has failed to pass a program — for example, new infrastructure spending — that might expand productivity and expand employment opportunities. Instead, he has regressed, in his…