The Corner

Politics & Policy

Things to Watch?

Trump by intent has ignited the Left. But diverse criteria will determine to what degree it can do him damage:

1) Will his reforms kick-start the economy? If Trump reaches even 3 percent real GDP growth over a year — Obama was the first president since Herbert Hoover not to achieve that modest goal — much of the fury will die down.

2) Does the news cycle play into Trump’s notion of pulling the country back from the extreme to the center, or repudiate his efforts? So far, daily events, such as violence at the Louvre, the hysteria over the Gorsuch nomination, the latest Iranian missile launch, the Berkeley rioting, the second-look examination of Australia’s quite restrictionist immigration policy in comparison with the U.S., the latest celebrity outburst, etc. seem to amplify Trump’s message of a need for long overdue corrections.

3) Are Trump’s appointees and Republican congressional leaders on board? So far, they are. And they are, in more judicious fashion, articulating needed change in a good-cop manner to Trump’s bad cop.

If these trends were to continue, Trump’s popularity in a majority of polls probably would top 50 percent and he would be more likely to win over some centrist Democratic senators on issues than lose moderate Republicans.

The problems looming for Trump seem twofold: a) Won’t kick-starting the economy and rebuilding defenses continue or balloon unsustainable deficits, at least in the short term (and with the federal government already $20 trillion in aggregate debt), which are always harder for Republicans to justify? And b) The restoration of lost deterrence is always tricky and dangerous, and sometimes requires some show of force with unpredictable results.

The model is 1983–84, when Reagan avoided a war, but restored U.S. credibility while growing the economy at 7 percent plus. Soon all the prior media hysteria over James Watt, Ray Donovan, Al Haig, Don Regan, etc. faded away, and allowed him to later weather Iran-Contra.

Victor Davis Hanson — NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won.

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