Trump supporters
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I am not a gloating liberal. Thus, as a social conservative, I write with sincere sadness the following critical analysis of the Trump presidency. Post modern society needs a conservative social agenda to survive. Trump was a great conservative populist. He defined a conservative social agenda that successfully galvanized and gained the allegiance of forty percent of the American public.

But sadly he failed as a political statesman. He failed because he lacked the political skills necessary for translating the vision of his agenda, and allegiance of his followers, into long term legislative and structural change. And he failed as a political statesman because he did not learn how to speak in terms that would make his populist, conservative social agenda more appealing and acceptable to the center of America’s political map.

These failings are sad and ‘tragic’ in the sense that at the end of two years of a Republican congress (2016 -2018), and four years of a Republican presidency, no conservative social change was implemented in a long term, effective manner.

The accomplishments of Trump’s conservative, populistic presidency

But first let us give credit where credit is due. The Trump presidency had definite accomplishments. First he redefined the conservative nature and agenda of the Republican Party. Better than his Republican predecessors, Trump succeeded in addressing more accurately the self identity and social/emotional needs for ‘belief and belonging’ of America’s working class ,and probably the majority of America’s middle class. These segments of the population wanted to hear a leader energetically talk , in positive terms, about America’s history, religious faith and the two parent family. For example, Trump’s Supreme Court nominations reflect, I believe, the basically conservative social values of the majority of America’s working and middle class.

Second his presidency very successfully addressed this segment of America’s population’s more immediate economic needs such as providing jobs, and renegotiated international trade treaties to protect, and bring home, jobs to the American economy.

Third , Trump early recognized that massive, illegal immigration appears to most working class and middle class Americans as a threatening, radical change in Americas social makeup,. Trump respected their desire that social change in America be incremental and cautious, and thus made carefully regulated immigration reform a central theme of his presidency. Through executive presidential actions he tried to combat illegal, border immigration.

Finally, his erratic international policy again reflected the core feelings of his working\middle class, Republican political base. He avoided military intervention, focused on American and not global priorities, left the Paris Accords, refused to pour money into NATO, seriously confronted the destabilizing nature of Irans’s nuclear policy and its sponsorship of international terrorism, and provided innovative solutions to the Middle East-Israel Palestinian stalemate, changing the parameters of the Israel-Arab conflict, putting the PA in its place and moving the Embassy to Jerusalem.

At the end of four years, I think we can say that Trump succeeded in this redefining of the Republican conservative agenda. I think he correctly addressed the self identity, emotional- social needs of the vast majority of America’s working and middle class.

This segment of America’s population has felt abandoned and misunderstood by the Democratic party’ s emphasis on minority rights, gender dissident, upper middle class-academic utopian moralism, globalism , and on an economic restructuring that does not address the working, middle class immediate economic needs.

Trump’s very forceful vision of “Making America Great Again” created a political base of forty percent of the American voters that was his political Rock of Gibraltar. No matter how much ‘mud’ and false accusations that the liberal media and Democratic Party threw at him, his forty per cent base stood up right behind him. Investigation of Russian election meddling, sex scandals, a fabricated impeachment trial, defaming books of family members and former staff aides, disclosures on [lawfully] limited tax payments, and a problematic handling of the corona crisis, all had no negative affect on the allegiance of forty percent of the American voters. This is an amazing political phenomenon.

Eventually Trump was defeated by his political personality and style of leadership and not by the political agenda that he forged. The social-political agenda of a redefined conservative Republican party did much better than its leader in 2020 elections.

Trump failed as a political–legislative statesman

Trump promised us that he would be a “Great deal maker”, but he lacked the political patience and skills to make deals where they would be most effective, in Congress. To pass controversial legislation in Congress one has to listen to experienced advisers, plan long and short term strategy, make compromises between means and ends, and lobby and court the egos of tens of Congressman. Obama sometimes had such skills. He learned from the failure of Clinton’s too encompassing health care proposal, and succeeded in legislating the moderate, but long term, liberal structural change of Obama medical care.

Trump lacked all of these political skills. In 2016 there was an emerging middle ground consensus on immigration reform. He had an all Republican Congress at hand. But he could not bring himself to concentrate on the tortuous task of congressional legislation. This probably was because Trump was the first President to take office never having served in any elected political position. And it showed. Eisenhower ‘at least’ successfully managed an army and a war.

I truly believed that a Republican president with sharpened political legislative skills and experience could have succeeded where Trump failed, and convinced the Republican congress of 2016-2018 to pass a moderate, long term bill regulating immigration.

Trump chose to ‘take the easier way out’ and bypass Congress and create conservative structural change through presidential, executive actions, such as using the Defense budget to build his border wall. However the tragedy is that Biden can now with a stroke of a pen erase in one day all the structural changes that Trump enacted with a stroke of a pen. And thus we may soon be back to where we were before Trump took his oath of office in 2016. I term this a conservative tragedy.

Trump failed to communicate with the American public in a unifying manner

The American public “wants to have its cake and eat it too”. The American public wants its president to both implement in a cautious manner a defined (left or right) social/legislative agenda, AND to also act and speak as unifying spokesman, articulating the positive, overriding principles of America’s constitutional history. Three highly charismatic presidents, Roosevelt, Kennedy and Reagan, highly succeeded in both enacting a specific political agenda, and at the same time giving a broad spectrum of the American public a unifying sense of purpose. Clinton and the two Bushes succeeded less so, but they at least listened to advisors and made an effort.

Trump did not listen to advisors about how to address a broad spectrum of the American public in an uplifting, unifying manner. He never even tried to learn. When he spoke he generally spoke in combative polarizing terms. He was much more concerned with satisfying and solidifying his political base than making an effort to provide a unifying vision and purpose to the rest of the American public. I am sorry to say, but this attitude is, in my book, an almost unforgiveable political sin. Almost every previous president campaigned in an ideological manner, and then moved to the center when assuming office.

The best examples of his lack of effort to address a broad spectrum of the American public are that he never even tried to go through the motions of addressing the anger and frustration that American blacks felt with the deaths of black civilians, even if criminals, by mistaken police behavior. Instead of being a unifying leader, he just continued to address his forty percent political base.

His handling of the covid crisis is another example of failed political, nation leadership. Covid did not have to become a polarized, political issue. Instead of letting professional and scientists do ninety percent of the crisis leadership, with him giving lip service support in the background, Trump single handily made managing covid a polarizing political issue. His handling of the covid crisis was politically amateurish, and the election showed that he shot himself in the foot.

I am 73 and probably old fashioned in my expectations of proper media communication. But I can not accept Trump's relying mainly on Twitter to communicate with the American public, even though that was the only way he could circumvent the leftist media - until Twitter became the same, that is.

In these terms, the Trump presidency is a conservative tragedy.

Trump successfully defined an updated social conservative political agenda. However he failed to legislate it, and to empathetically explain it to the entire American public.

If Trump had been able to combine his charismatic populistic appeal with an ability to legislate and provide a sensed of a unifying vision to a conservative leaning American public America , and even the world, would be in a much better place. As a social conservative I am deeply disappointed and pained by this tragedy.

Dr. Chaim C. Cohen, whose PhD. is from Hebrew U., is a social worker and teacher at the Hebrew Univ. School of Social Work, and Efrata College. He lives in Psagot, Binyamin.