Donald Trump, who managed to win the Republican nomination by straddling the fence between white nationalists and disenfranchised working class white voters, appears to be loathe to abandon that winning formula. At least that appears to be his thinking given his divisive comments on the recent deadly Charlottesville protests. And for all we know, he’ll be able to pull that trick again in the 2020 Republican presidential primaries, where he’ll be sure to be challenged by several candidates from his own party.
The problem is that Trump didn’t win the U.S. presidency by catering to the alt-right and white neo-Nazis. Rather his election was a repudiation by fatigued voters of the professional political class and their disgust over the lack of economic gains by the bottom 90% during the last twenty years. Trump’s inarticulate bloviating on his reasons for this economic and political malaise, namely illegal immigration, faulty national health care, high corporate taxes, and predatory trading partners, managed to strike a cord in states with the majority of electoral votes.
Unfortunately, six months into Trump’s first term, it is becoming clear that the president will not be able to advance any aspect of his economic agenda. To be fair some of this political blockage is due to the fracturing of the Republican party between the alt-right, conservatives, and moderates, each of whom favor the status quo over that of making compromise votes over issues that might result in losing the next election. And some of the political blockage is due to the Democratic Party, which has no winning agenda of its own, but is content to stand by and hope Trump immolates both himself and their colleagues across the aisle.
Approval polls, which admittedly have not been accurate bellwethers on national elections (Exhibit A: the George W. Bush re-election campaign), have shown Trump to be as unpopular as ever with the general electorate. It seems likely, unless the Democratic Party manages to nominate a candidate even weaker or alt-left-leaning than Hillary Clinton, that Trump is under significant risk of losing his upcoming re-election bid. Given Trump’s short attention span, this may be perfectly fine since his real estate empire will have been running without him for four agonizing years, making him itchy to bring it back under his full control. Any further burnishing of his brand is also unlikely after one volatile term in office, which other than for egotistical reasons, was likely his original incentive for running for the presidency in the first place.
So it looks like Trump is going to be a one-term oddity, rather than a two-term icon. There’s nothing wrong with that–fourteen other former U.S. presidents lost a bid for a second term in office. And that is probably ok with most voters. While the Trump presidency has been a boon for comedians and political radicals, the rest of us would prefer to get back down to business and fix things that need to fixing.