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In the end the GOP, not the Democrats, will determine Trump’s future

August 13th, 2017

The American left seems unable to come to terms with Trump and doesn’t know how to deal with him. It’s his own side he should be worried about says Keiran Pedley

Donald Trump’s presidency may barely be 6 months old but it certainly feels like the die is being cast. The Russian investigation, healthcare fights and threat of war with North Korea are setting the tone for his first term as midterm elections loom next year.

America’s dark side rears its head

This weekend the world has looked on aghast at events in Virginia. At the time of writing a state of emergency has been declared as ‘alt-right protestors’ (e.g. neo Nazi thugs) march on Charlottesville to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate war hero Robert E Lee. Watching the violence on television is a sobering reminder of America’s past and how race continues to define politics there in a way – for all our faults – it simply doesn’t here.

Don’t press the button!

Meanwhile, in Korea tensions have risen in a way that feels different to before. North Korea now appears to have the ability to fire viable nuclear weapons. Experts continue to question their ability to fire them accurately but that will be little consolation to the people of Guam, the small US territory in the pacific that appears to be the sights of North Korean leader Kim Jung un.

Liberals react badly

As the pace of events picks up, America’s left has reacted with horror. It’s understandable. The far right appears to be quite literally on the march and Trump’s threats to meet North Korean aggression with ‘fire and fury’ make the prospect of a cataclysmic war in Asia seem frighteningly real.

With Republicans in control of Congress all Democrats can do is look on helplessly. That lack of Congressional control, plus a challenging electoral map next year, means Democrats need to get their message to the American people right as they look to turn the tide.

I’m concerned that they won’t. Many liberal commentators in the U.S. will have you believe that Trump is genuinely about the start a nuclear war (he isn’t) and that the morons in Charlottesville somehow represent the average Trump voter (they don’t).If they aren’t careful, their tendency to react hysterically to everything Trump says and does will end up being the political equivalent of the boy who cried wolf. Voters will stop listening and may start to believe Trump when he tells them that ‘they are all out to get me’. Bluntly, American liberals risk handing Trump an ability to fight back against them that he doesn’t deserve.

Look behind you Donald

With American liberals floundering for a message that resonates, plus a weak Democratic bench in 2020, my hunch is that Trump’s biggest problem may end up being his own side. His relationship with Senate leader Mitch McConnell has soured and a very interesting poll last week put Ohio Governor John Kasich 12 points ahead of Trump among Republicans in a hypothetical primary matchup in New Hampshire.

I’ve long been of the view that Trump will not get impeached but that he might face a challenge from his own side in 2020 that causes him not to run again. If Trump can’t get healthcare through and he allows North Korea to become an untouchable nuclear power then his opponents in the GOP (who will be horrified) will smell blood. This is before we consider the ramifications of the ongoing Russia investigation for the medium and long term political environment in Washington.
Watch South Carolina Senator and Trump critic Lindsey Graham, close friend of John McCain, who I see as a potential ‘stalking horse’ candidate in Iowa for 2020. He won’t be president but he could be the guy the performs well and persuades others to enter the race. It may well be that the 2020 Presidential Election doesn’t involve Donald Trump at all. A Democrat may end up in the White House in 2020 but I suspect the Kasich’s and Pence’s of this world are eyeing up the Oval Office too.

Keiran Pedley tweets about politics and public opinion at @keiranpedley