When this year’s midterm Congressional elections in the United States ended in confusion rather than a clear victory for either major party, it became immediately clear that at a level of both political strategy and accompanying rhetoric, Donald Trump was more prepared for the new reality than any other politician in America. During his post-vote press conference which has become infamous for his vocal row with CNN reporter Jim Acosta, Trump importantly praised and took credit for the fact that candidates he specifically endorsed tended to do well while fellow Republican party members who took opposite positions to Trump tended to fair very badly.
At the same time, rather than revel in the fact that the Democrats did not sweep both houses of Congress in a so-called “blue wave” but rather had a single modest victory in the House of Representatives, Trump instead praised veteran Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi while invoking the spirit that Trump “likes a winner” even if the winner is one of his political opponents. His magnanimity towards Pelosi shocked some given Trump’s generally abrasive political style, but as as the case with much of what Trump does, there is a clear method behind what some would term madness.
Trump is well aware that while in order to win as a Republican one needs to unite behind the party’s charismatic and unmissable leader (himself), for the Democrats, the party has no commanding single figure but instead has competing factions that dislike each other almost as much as they collectively dislike Trump. As I wrote prior to the midterms,
“The Democrats continue to be a party where no single post-Clinton/Obama leader has emerged. Rather than rally behind a new leader to take the party forward as the Republicans did with Gingrich in 1994, the Democrats of 2018 have projected internal confusion to the nation at large as Hillary Clinton continues to indicate that she has not effectively resigned her leadership position. At the same time, Senate leader Charles Schumer has become something of an invisible man while the rapidly ageing House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi is trying to simultaneously fight Donald Trump and the young liberal-left leaning Democrats who rally around a still growing Bernie Sanders personality cult. The overall message coming from the Democrats is: ‘We all hate Donald Trump, but we’re also quite busy hating each other”.
While no Republican leader of the party’s Congressional factions has emerged with the kind of weight that Gingrich projected in 1994, this is largely irrelevant as the Republicans have Donald Trump campaigning for them, whether on his 24/7 Twitter account or his frequent campaign rallies that always draw a large audience and gain substantial media coverage”.
Realising that this reality has all but solidified in the aftermath of the vote, Trump recently Tweeted a kind of endorsement for Nancy Pelosi as she looks to fight off rivals from her own party in order to reclaim her position as Speaker of The House of Representatives.
I can get Nancy Pelosi as many votes as she wants in order for her to be Speaker of the House. She deserves this victory, she has earned it – but there are those in her party who are trying to take it away. She will win! @TomReedCongress
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 17, 2018
By Tweeting that Trump’s Republican party could save Pelosi from humiliation at the hands of Democrats loyal to the “Bernie Sanders personality cult” (aka the so-called progressive wing of the Democratic party), Trump is positioning himself as the saviour of so-called centrism and is doing so by offering a kind of olive branch to the same so-called Democratic centrists who for over two years have called Trump a dangerous extremist.
If one were to agree that the extremism of the Trump supporting former KKK leader David Duke is as dangerous as the pseudo-Trotskyism of so called Democratic Socialists including Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Occasio Cortez – one would theoretically be happy that Trump has volunteered to help support the self-described centrist Nancy Pelosi and her wing of the Democratic party. And yet because the so-called centrist Democrats have attacked Trump as viciously as the leftists like Cortez and Sanders, they are now stuck in the humiliating position of having to look for Republican support as a means of fending off the youthful left wing rebellion in their own party that is ironically being led by a 77 year old.
In this sense, by offering a conciliatory gesture to the Democrats, Trump has in fact exposed the party as one that has no clear set of ideas and one that moreover cannot even rely on itself to put up a united front. In this sense, Trump’s Tweet about Pelosi is a harbinger of things to come. As the Democrats continue to implode along lines of those rallying around Clinton and Pelosi on one side and Sanders and Cortez on the other, Trump will be there at every step of the way to exploit the divisions for his own gain…just as he did with his own party that after 2016 was equally divided between those supporting Trump and those supporting John McCain style Republicans.