Last night the bear danced. Trump gave a speech sticking to a teleprompter and without bragging about the imaginary scale of his victory--or attacking the free press as un-American. Republicans were pleased. Democrats were (somewhat) scornful. Trump is without a doubt graded on a curve--however whichever way you count it, he did well last night--for his supporters.
What about people who aren't convinced?
The Myth of the Persuadable Trump VoterThere has been a lot of electronic-ink spilled over the idea that there are people who voted (a) against Hillary or (b) for Trump--albeit seriously holding their nose--or (c) for Trump and now regret it due to something he plainly said he was going to do (repeal Obamacare) and is now following through on. These Trump-voters, it is said could be won back to Democrats if they are treated with kid-gloves and as allies.
The Omnivore is here to tell you that it doesn't work like that. Sorry.
Trump-voters who voted holding their noses are kidding themselves: If they voted on the court? There'll be another SCOTUS judge up next time. If they voted because they hate Hillary? Well, they'll decide they hate whoever the Democrats run just as much in 2020. Trust The Omnivore: Trump is an identity. You don't get persuaded out of your identity.
On the other hand, partisan blindness is also a thing.
What about Persuadable #NeverTrumpers? Do they exist? Presumably so, right? People who thought Trump was horrible but could be convinced they were wrong about him? Certainly some people, like Erick Erickson, have "come around" to Trump while issuing soft Never-Trump denials while championing his infuriation of the Left (which is more important to them than they'd likely admit).
Certainly Republicans feel that Obama went 8 years without ever reaching out in compromise (don't bring up the name Merrick Garland--it's triggering).
But it's a good question: Is there anything Trump could do that would bring over people who believe him to be an intemperate, shallow, Russian puppet? Could he reach across the aisle?
The answer is maybe. Trump is such an outlier that #NeverTrump is less of an identity than Trump is. It's entirely possible to hold a geo-political view of the world where, within common margins who the president is doesn't make that much difference (this is the intellectual view The Omnivore holds--emotional connections are, of course, quite different).
In this position, it is possible, perhaps even logical, to believe that Trump is sufficiently outside of normal parameters that he is abnormally damaging to the Republic. As such, it's possible for him to prove he's "not that bad."
Is this fantasy? Let's look: What Could Trump Do To Convince The Omnivore That He's Okay.
WCTD?Here are some discrete steps that Trump could take to convince The Omnivore that he is at worst a slightly more excitable and definitely less conventional Chief Executive.
- Release His Tax Returns. This is pretty standard politics. If Trump released his taxes and there was nothing more than standard rich-person tax avoidance, The Omnivore would be highly pleased. If he paid zero taxes last year? The Omnivore would be highly pleased. Offshore tax shelters? Pleased. Russia holdings . . . problem.
- Put His Stuff In a Real Blind Trust. Right now Trump has conflicts of interest that are massive and unusual. They extend to other country's banks (China) and the use of his properties for diplomatic activities. While this goes on, The Omnivore sees him as profiteering off the Presidency in a way that the Clinton Foundation didn't even approximate. Trump needs to clear that up.
- Independent Investigation In To Russia. There is enough smoke that for the party of Benghazi to refuse an investigation looks immensely partisan and damning. The Omnivore will settle for one investigation--independently run--if it turns up nothing? He's clean.
- Pass Immigration Reform. Trump head-faked that he's open to it. The Omnivore isn't fooled. He wanted good coverage for his SOTU--he knows media manipulation. His word, thus far, means less than nothing. However, Only Nixon Could Go To China. Trump could pass immigration reform. If he passed the Gang of Ocho's plan? The Omnivore would see that as serious bi-partisan-style American leadership. He should also keep supporting the Dreamers--they are definitionally innocents in the immigration wars.
- Stop Lying. It is clear that Trump-supporters are okay with him saying things that are trivially seen to be false so long as he either changes it later to some kind of defensible statement or it upsets liberals. This works for his base. It doesn't work for The Omnivore. If he'd stop it, that would help--a lot. A 90-day period with no major lies would work.
- Denounce His White Supremacist Followers--Clearly, Forcefully, and Continually. It is obvious that White Power people love the president. This isn't in contention. He needs to hate them back. Right now he is their president--in a bad way. He needs to show them he's their president in a good way. This looks like (a) denouncing them without being asked (b) doing in a way that loses their vote. He shouldn't want those votes. No American should. He should say and do things that loses it. He should tell them not to vote for him. He should call them deplorable. He should say, at least, he and Hillary agree on that. This should happen on a regular basis, at each and every national media story of a hate-crime, for at least a 90-day period.
- Recognize Russia as an Adversary. Russia may very well invade Baltic states covered under the NATO Section 5 umbrella. If that happens, it is likely that American-led NATO forces would have to either (a) concede them, breaking the NATO backbone, (b) launch a risky counter-attack with high casualties (WWIII) or (c) go to nuclear posturing (which would be WW-Last). Right now Trump is inviting this. It looks either incredibly naive or incredibly suspicious. He needs to stop. This would look like issuing a red-line statement on the Baltics, increasing NATO forces there, and denouncing Russian aggression in Ukraine and Crimea.
- Commit To Obamacare Recipients. He needs to make specific, meaningful commitments to ACA users. For example: The ACA's rule on pre-existing conditions will be kept. Current insurance rates and insurance benefits will be held steady or improved/reduced in price, etc. A real plan would help a lot here.
He could also stop Tweeting embarrassing things--it's not gonna happen--but an Omnivore can dream, can't he?
What Would Trump-Voters Think Of This?
The Omnivore's guess is that they would adopt a paradoxical position: that most of the above doesn't matter, really (i.e. that whether he releases his tax-returns or not isn't a big deal). The paradoxical part is that Trump won't do it (surprise The Omnivore!). He's said he would--he said he'd release his taxes--remember that? Why not just carry through? Especially if there's nothing there?
Because he'd be attacked in the press? C'mon, isn't that happening anyway? Of course it is.
So this poses the question: Why won't he? The Omnivore's answer--because for each point in the above it would damage the Trump-doctrine: Maximize liberal-outrage to please a base which doesn't care about or deeply understand policy ("Who knew health care was so complicated!") but does understand upsetting people on the other side of the ideological divide.