Yet since his ascension to the White House, conventional wisdom has developed an odd tendency to describe his inability to make major legislative changes as an indication that his presidency is failing. It’s certainly true that Paul Ryan’s speakership of the House is failing, arguable that Mitch McConnell’s tenure as majority leader of the Senate is failing, and indisputably true that the Koch brothers’ drive to infuse hardcore libertarian ideological zeal into the GOP is failing.
But Trump isn’t failing. He and his family appear to be making money hand over fist. It’s a spectacle the likes of which we’ve never seen in the United States, and while it may end in disaster for the Trumps someday, for now it shows no real sign of failure.
I actually think McConnell isn’t failing; he got the Supreme Court justice he wanted, and I think he’d rather stay in power than repeal the ACA. Ryan is certainly a joke in many respects, although my guess is that he will still get the one thing he wants most (upper-class tax cuts.)
Will the grift last for 8 years?
Donald Trump is currently a moderately unpopular president, and it’s entirely typical for the president’s party to lose ground in the midterms. Under the circumstances, it wouldn’t be all that surprising if Democrats swept to a narrow majority in the US House of Representatives in 2018, which would put them in a position to launch the kind of oversight and investigations that could bring the Trump clan to heel.
Then again, the basic outline of the 2018 Senate map is so favorable to Republicans that for Democrats to net as much as one seat would be a remarkable achievement. And district boundaries in the House are so favorable to the GOP that Democrats could win the national House popular vote by a bit over 5 percent and the GOP would retain their majority.
After that, who knows. Most presidents are reelected. Congressional Republicans have made it clear that there will be no investigations into any potential scandals as long as they run the show. Perhaps there will be a recession in 2020 or Trump will get us embroiled in a war that causes a large number of American casualties. But one hopes he won’t.
It is certainly possible for Trump to get re-elected, but I’m not sure I’d put much weight on the “most presidents are reelected” metric. Most presidents were actually more popular than their opponents on Election Day and aren’t unpopular from Day 1 — historical patterns are going to be of limited value when dealing with something that is in many ways unprecedented. But I do agree that he’s more likely to lose if Dems take over the House in 2018 — it’s hard to overstate the importance of the midterms both substantively and politically.