Should Trump Soften His Tone?

I’d like to add something to Paul Waldman’s excellent analysis of the differential in the intensity gap between Republicans and Democratic voters. Waldman notes that for every American who strongly supports the president there are about two Americans who strongly disapprove of him. He also notes that Democratic voters have better motivation generally, because not much would change if the Republicans hold their majorities, but the change would be seismic if the Democrats were to seize control of Congress.

These are good points that help explain why the Democrats are doing so well in special elections and can expect to excel in the midterms. The thing I’d like to add is that a huge part of Trump’s appeal to those who strongly support him is that he makes liberals angry. Whenever Trump finds himself in trouble, his instinct is to go with what worked for him in the primaries and the general election, which is to lash out at his competitors and to say things that outrage coastal elites. The problem is that this is precisely the kind of behavior that has put him in a position where, in at least one current poll, more than fifty percent of the electorate strongly disapproves of his performance in office.

In other words, he’s losing ground at this point with this polarization schtick. He has plenty of time to pivot and take conciliatory actions that will improve his poll numbers, but it’s not clear that he can do so without dampening the enthusiasm of his core supporters. They’ll lose interest if he isn’t insulting and blasting away at the people they don’t like. Overall, it’s probably still the better strategy though because he can’t afford to keep going with a strategy that has over half the people strongly disapproving of his conduct and performance. That’s just going to motivate people to strike back at him in the only way they can, which is by taking away the Republican majorities in Congress. And there are already too many people who feel that way, so making it worse is definitely not the way to go.

The catch is that conciliatory Trump is boring Trump. And boring Trump could find that the floor falls out beneath him. If he’s giving literally no one what they want, then what use is he to anyone?

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.