Criticism only makes Trump more powerful

Executive Chairman
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This article first appeared in the Toronto Star on April 30, 2017.

The problem for many of the president’s critics is that many Americans feel this is actually a war on them. Each attack on Trump is taken as an attack on their own values and beliefs.

Yesterday marked one of the first key milestones of the Donald Trump presidency: his first 100 days. It has been a turbulent introduction that has seen the new president break political orthodoxy and upend conventional wisdom.

And yet, 101 days in, the media and political establishment are no closer to understanding that they are witnessing a fundamental shift in the ground underneath them.

After spending a full year gloating about Trump’s impending humiliation at the election polls, the media and Washington elite were stunned to discover that Americans had shunned their wisdom and opted for Trump.

Their initial shock has now given way to a new resistance, which has seen Congress, the judiciary and the media each attempt, in their own ways, to foil the often ham-fisted and haphazard policy advances of the Trump White House.

Members of the establishment believe their resistance is grounded in a rousing defence of democracy, and that they are fighting out of patriotic duty. They have identified Trump’s moves as borderline authoritarian and say that because he won a smaller percentage of the popular vote than Hillary Clinton, his mandate should be viewed as specious.

It isn’t quite as noble a fight in the eyes of the millions of Americans who voted to install Trump as president. To them it comes across as churlish, reinforcing their belief that elitist America is willing to go to any lengths to maintain a status quo that simply isn’t working for them.

In the immediate aftermath of the election, and in the shadow of Brexit, I wrote that, with the media and political establishment desperately out of touch with voters, a reckoning was needed.

Six months later, it appears that the resistance to such a reckoning has only hardened.

Every political setback Donald Trump has faced has been trumpeted as yet more evidence that he is unfit to govern. Each one has convinced the establishment that, this time, the American people have finally recognized their foolish mistake in electing him president.

His immigration directives have been blocked by the judiciary. His ramshackle, poorly thought out health-care proposals failed to pass Congress. His administration is mocked for its incessant errors and outright lies in the media.

There have been widespread protests, social media storms and wall-to-wall coverage of Trump’s mistakes and failures.

But just what is it that this reaction demonstrates?

It demonstrates the disconnect between the reality for middle Americans and the reality for the American establishment. After all, despite the gnashing of the establishment’s teeth, those Americans who voted for Trump overwhelmingly think he’s doing a good job.

A recent poll found that, were the election held today, Trump would actually have defeated Clinton in the popular vote. The same poll found that of the voters who had voted Trump, only 2 per cent said they regretted voting for him, with 96 per cent saying that their vote for him had been “the right thing to do.”

Those are hardly numbers reflective of an electorate consumed with buyers’ remorse.

And yet, the tone and tenor of the coverage of President Trump has not shifted in any meaningful way. The media continues to loudly question the legitimacy of his presidency, the reasonableness of his policies and the integrity of his character.

It’s a full-on war against the president.

The problem for many of the president’s critics is that many Americans feel this is actually a war on them. Each attack on Trump is taken as an attack on their own values and beliefs.

At their core, these attacks only serve to further drive Trump supporters into his sphere of influence.

By continuing to engage in this activist, anti-Trump narrative, the establishment is only empowering a president it openly despises.

Let there be no mistake: this is a president who is deeply flawed. He is inconsistent, mendacious, self-aggrandizing and flippant. He does not appear to care about policy so much as he cares about the advancement of his own legacy.

This is a president who should be shedding support minute by minute.

But the establishment stance toward him only serves to solidify his standing among his supporters. We knew this six months ago and yet nothing has changed.

Forget Ivanka; the establishment’s daily criticisms of the president may indeed be his best asset.

Jaime Watt is the executive chairman of Navigator Ltd. and a Conservative strategist.

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