The post-party presidency is coming

You’d have to think that some part of President Trump was relieved to be in Texas this week — to finally be confronting crisis rather than creating it, to be demonstrating some unity rather than driving people further apart.

Of course, Trump being Trump, he somehow managed to speak at a briefing in the middle of a major disaster zone without once mentioning the victims of the hurricane, which he had already admitted to exploiting for its TV ratings.

“What a crowd!” Trump exclaimed upon leaving his event at a firehouse, where 1,000 Texans had gathered for what he seemed to think was an impromptu rally. “What a turnout!”

Back in Washington, though, there were no tributes — only a growing sense, now openly discussed in both parties, that Trump’s hold on the office is proving increasingly tenuous. Rebuked by congressional leaders for his tolerance of white nationalists and for a controversial pardon, abandoned publicly by some members of his own Cabinet, Trump is fast becoming the Tom Hanks of presidents, stranded on his own little political island, futilely throwing coconuts at the wall.

His approval rating, now stuck at around 35 percent in a series of polls, opens the door wide not just to a tumultuous midterm election season, but also to a long and unpredictable presidential campaign after that.

By this time next year, unless something major changes, every third Democrat in Washington will be lining up to form an exploratory committee. But the more interesting maneuvering may be in the Republican Party, where I’m betting we’ll see more than one serious primary challenger step forward. (I’m looking at you, Marco Rubio.)

And then there’s the unlikely, emerging partnership between two idiosyncratic and popular governors named John — Kasich, the Republican from Ohio, and Hickenlooper, his lesser-known Democratic colleague from Colorado — who have begun acting very much like a possible bipartisan ticket in recent weeks, holding a series of events around health care. They’re set to preview their reform plan in interviews today.

Whether or not John Squared holds any real promise as a presidential campaign tandem (and we’ll get to that in a moment), the whole thing raises a larger question that I find highly relevant in the post-Trump moment.

Is America ready for an independent presidency? And should our two fossilized parties be a lot more worried about it than they are?

Well, all right, that’s two questions. But they get to the…

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