It’s time for Donald Trump to take a leaf from Boris Johnson, for the master to take tuition from his pupil. Instead of trying to placate his critics, Trump should prorogue the American Congress. The approval rating of Congress is somewhere in the teens, even lower than Trump’s, so most Americans would likely greet such a move with a yawn, while Trump’s base would cheer it on.
The upsides seem pretty clear. With a second term looking rather iffy, Trump would be able to push through his agenda decisively over the next fifteen months. He might even be able to move ahead with nuking a hurricane to test the efficacy of his theory about the virtues of trying to blow them up.
If Trump fails to move, Congress will become increasingly emboldened. House Democrats are in hot pursuit of his tax records; the revelation that Deutsche Bank may possess copies of his tax records has prompted speculation that Congress could receive them sooner rather than later. Then there is Trump’s manoeuvring in foreign policy. He is apparently mulling a cutoff of some $250 million in military aid to Ukraine, a move that would be greeted with consternation in both the House and Senate. Once again Trump would be bashed for trying to cosy up to Putin. Better to cut off such insalubrious talk at the pass rather than to allow fresh charges of appeasement and worse to be hurled at him from the floor of the Senate.
Like Johnson, Trump would be accused of stifling debate, degrading democracy and a multitude of other sins. But no need there. He’s already accused of doing that. Like a stock that has plummeted in value before the official losses have been announced, Trump’s democratic deficit is already baked into his tepid approval ratings. It’s not as though anyone harbours illusions about his actual impulses. The canaille will always be with Trump even as liberal patricians view him with disdain.
Unlike Johnson, Trump doesn’t have a bogeyman like the European Union at hand. But he can always concoct a crisis with Mexico, Iran or China, then announce a national emergency. Presumably Attorney General William P. Barr already has a draft for one sitting in his desk drawer. If the military baulks at surrounding the Capitol, Trump can promise pardons for any illegal actions and point out that Barr does hold the title ‘General.’ If these plans were to leak and Trump needed to retreat in the face of public anger, he has an easy escape hatch. He can say he was just joking. It’s a luxury, by contrast, that Boris does not enjoy.