Sound Off! Trump's Style Overshadowing Productivity By Luke Perry
Often overlooked in the scrutiny of President Trump is the progress he has made on one significant goal of Republicans: dismantling President Obama’s legacy.
Trump is responsible for a “historic reversal of government rules in record time,” erasing previously established rules regarding the environment, labor, financial protections, internet privacy, abortion, education and gun rights. Trump also initiated more sweeping changes, like beginning to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, modifying America’s strategy in the war in Afghanistan, banning transgender people from the military and restoring policies that sell surplus military weapons to the police.
Russell Riley, presidential historian at The University of Virginia, “cannot find another instance in recent American history where a new administration was so wholly committed to reversing the accomplishments of its predecessor.” This has generated debate about how much of the Obama legacy endures and the extent to which Trump has effectively enacted a proactive legislative agenda of his own.
Regardless, Trump has delivered for Republicans in this regard, who widely opposed President Obama’s policies. This helps explain why they continue to support him in sizeable numbers, much to the surprise of Democrats, the news media, and even several Republicans, all of whom have been extraordinarily criticized by the President and dissatisfied with his conduct.
Trump seems to perceive being hyperbolic and negative as politically advantageous. The 2016 campaign provides some support for this perspective, though campaigning and governance are very different.
Some have argued that such behavior distracts the news media and the public from the president’s “true” shortcomings. It may, but it also exposes another shortcoming: messaging. Trump has received extraordinary scrutiny in part because of his conduct, irrespective of policy, including personal drama within his administration and his propensity to be dishonest.
Trump “being Trump” is not only ethically and professionally questionable, but creates a situation where theatrics overshadows productivity. The irony is that Trump desperately wants recognition for his accomplishments, yet he is the biggest obstacle standing in the way, not the media, Democrats, or fellow Republicans.
It’s undeniable that Trump has not passed a major piece of legislation and Republicans failed to repeal Obamacare even though they alone were in a position to do so.
Still, Republicans at large still crave a new direction after eight years of the Obama presidency, and if Trump would just slightly modify his message and leadership style, the more productive elements of his administration would be clearer to them and the American public at large.
This wouldn’t necessarily overturn his historic unpopularity, but it wouldn’t hurt.
Luke Perry (@PolSciLukePerry) is Chair and Professor of Government at Utica College. His column Sound Off! critiques various aspects of presidential politics.