Skip to main content
main-content

Über dieses Buch

The presidency of Donald J. Trump is rather ordinary. Trump himself may be the most unusual, unorthodox and unconventional president the US has ever had. Yet, even with his extraordinary personality and approach to the job, his presidency is proving quite ordinary in its accomplishments and outcomes, both at home and abroad. Like most modern US presidents, the number and scope of Trump’s achievements are rather meager. Despite dramatic claims to a revolution in US politics, Trump simply has not achieved very much. Trump’s few policy achievements are also mostly mainstream Republican ones rather than the radical, anti-establishment, swamp-draining changes promised on the campaign trail. The populist insurgent who ran against Washington has followed a policy agenda largely in tune with conservative Republican traditions. The Ordinary Presidency of Donald J. Trump provides a detailed explanation for the discrepancy between Trump’s extraordinary approach and the relative mediocrity of his achievements. Ironically, it is precisely Trump’s extraordinariness as president that has helped render his presidency ordinary.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. Introduction: The Ordinary Presidency of the Extraordinary Donald J. Trump

Abstract
Donald J. Trump is an extraordinary president but his presidency is ordinary. The president, in the character traits that he brings to the office and in the way that he approaches and executes this most difficult of jobs, is unquestionably extraordinary. But in terms of achievements, policy and promises kept, Trump’s presidency is far from extraordinary. Indeed, it is rather ordinary. Most notably, Trump policy outputs have been meager, but meager is the norm for US presidents. Trump, like most of those in the White House before him, is constrained by the separation of powers and checks and balances. But Trump is also constrained by himself. He is simply not very good at being president. The White House is in chaos, his communications strategy disjointed and misguided, and his legislative strategy muddled and ineffective. His approach to the job—his methodology of being president—constantly undermines his own efforts and the efforts of those around him to achieve policy “wins”, as Trump likes to call them. Trump’s presidency is also ordinary in the sense that the few policy achievements that he can genuinely lay claim to are largely mainstream Republican ones. The anti-establishment, disruptive populist of the campaign trail has turned into a rather ordinary Republican in office.
Jon Herbert, Trevor McCrisken, Andrew Wroe

Chapter 2. A Trump Revolution?

Abstract
Trump’s 2016 campaign invited a series of different readings. The outsider candidate emphasized that he was not beholden to other players, including his own party’s leadership. His nationalist campaign promised a radical new agenda, focused on trade, law and order, economic rebuilding and immigration. Classic conservative policy positions and long-established bipartisan positions and values would be challenged. Trump the disruptor seemed likely to bring a different style of presidency. Would the disruptor also bring new techniques of governance as he had new techniques of campaigning? Given Trump’s populist claim to a new base as a source of legitimacy, his ongoing relationship with his voters would surely be an important part of his attempts to lead. Trump, and his base, might prosecute class war against the establishment elite. A peasant march on Washington, complete with pitchforks, was a commonly deployed allusion. The insurgent Trump and his revolution might even undermine key democratic institutions in an empowering of the presidency. Observers read the Trump phenomenon in very different ways, but they were agreed on one thing. Trump’s would not be an ordinary presidency. The purpose of this chapter is to establish the case that the rest of the book will argue against. In many ways, what is presented here is the “conventional wisdom” about the Trump presidency. And the conventional wisdom is that it is unconventional. Subsequent chapters tackle the conventional wisdom head-on, presenting contrary evidence and arguments to make the case that Trump’s presidency should be viewed as ordinary.
Jon Herbert, Trevor McCrisken, Andrew Wroe

Chapter 3. Trump’s Electoral Politics

Abstract
Trump’s primary and presidential election victories were by any measure extraordinary and unexpected. But despite much talk of a populist uprising, his vote in the general election was fairly ordinary. Contrary to speculation and some preliminary empirical analyses, the examination presented here shows that the pattern of his support, particularly among white working-class voters, is consistent with trends observed over the last 40 years. And places most exposed to the process of deindustrialization did not swing heavily to Trump. Moreover, the Latino vote for Trump did not collapse; he may even have won a larger share of the Latino vote than Mitt Romney four years previously. And there have been no discernable shifts in which political party individual voters identify with. Their allegiances seem very stable. Finally, while Trump certainly enjoys high approval ratings among self-identified Republican supporters, deeper analysis shows that most do not share his ideological and policy positions on the key issues. In sum, the evidence in this chapter weighs heavily in favor of the Trump-is-ordinary argument.
Jon Herbert, Trevor McCrisken, Andrew Wroe

Chapter 4. Trump the Ordinary Republican

Abstract
As a purported outsider, disruptor, nationalist, populist and insurgent, Trump promised dramatic change. This chapter demonstrates that he has not been successful. When Trump has tried to be bold, to implement his nationalist agenda, to be disruptive and populist and to challenge elite interests, he has largely failed. It is certainly not the case that Trump’s presidency is inconsequential or has not generated any policy triumphs, but the successes are few in number and limited in scope. Moreover, the limited successes that Trump has enjoyed look very much like mainstream Republican ones. The 2017 tax bill and his two appointments to the Supreme Court are classics of the type. The idea that Trump is “draining the swamp” is fanciful. His language may at times invoke the anti-establishment discourse of his primary and general election campaigns, but underneath the populist bluster is a fairly standard Republican president. Some congressional Republicans may call out Trump on his more divisive and culturally inflammatory remarks, but they have rallied their votes behind him where there is policy agreement. Where there is not and where Trump has thus tried to circumvent Congress with his executive powers, he has found that other political actors and institutions have resisted his reform efforts. Trump’s presidency may generate lots of fire and fury but in terms of policy outputs it is fairly ordinary.
Jon Herbert, Trevor McCrisken, Andrew Wroe

Chapter 5. Trump, the Media and the Public

Abstract
While the previous two chapters provided evidence for the proposition that Trump’s presidency is ordinary, this and the next two chapters turn to explaining why it is ordinary. Chapter 5 focuses on the president’s flawed communications and base strategies. Trump cultivates the idea that the American public love him and that he has an extraordinary appeal among voters. He concentrates enormous time and effort on communication, deploying techniques he learnt in business and television to command media attention and bring across core messages of personal leadership and his ongoing conflict with the establishment. Nearly all of Trump’s communication efforts are concentrated on keeping his electoral base on side in the belief that he can utilize their support to leverage policy wins in Washington. Trump has certainly been successful in winning media attention, but much of the coverage has been profoundly negative. He has had notable success in maintaining the enthusiasm of his core supporters, but the outcomes for his presidency have been less than impressive. The problem is that his base constitutes a minority of American voters. In shoring up his base, Trump has driven away moderates and been unable to extend a hand to Democrats. He has been unable to construct a broad-based coalition in support of his radical agenda. In going public with a divisive base-focused communications strategy, Trump has sabotaged his attempts to pass his own agenda through Congress.
Jon Herbert, Trevor McCrisken, Andrew Wroe

Chapter 6. Trump in the White House

Abstract
Rather than operating as leader of the executive branch, Trump has personalized his presidency to serve his strategy of communicating with the base. This modus operandi centralizes power with Trump personally as his tweets and public statements intervene in all processes of governance as and when he wants. The office of the presidency is a phenomenally useful institution designed to support the president, but by refusing to see himself as part of that institution, Trump has failed to commit the time and effort to making sure that its processes run effectively. Those processes include policy planning, liaising with interest groups and Congress, running an effective communications strategy—the means to get things done in Washington. With careful management, the president can use the office of the presidency to maximize his impact on other players. Trump has been offered the levers of power, but he ignores them. Instead, he tweets a flow of poorly considered statements from the Oval Office, damages his capacity to lead as he shifts the agenda, and actively sabotages his White House’s efforts. His failure to oversee the appointments process, another vital managerial task that his personalized approach has compromised, has installed a substantial traditional Republican resistance within the White House, creating a chaotic fight over the very nature of the Trump presidency on his own doorstep. His unusual conduct as president means that he is less able to lead Washington.
Jon Herbert, Trevor McCrisken, Andrew Wroe

Chapter 7. Trump and Congress

Abstract
Trump did not manage to convince the 115th Congress to adopt his radical agenda. He has not taken over the party or won the influence to impose his reforms. To some degree, this reflects personal failings: Trump’s skills have not proved very effective in influencing legislators. More, though, his failings have been strategic. He began his term with an extraordinary delegation of power to Congress at the expense of his radical agenda by choosing conventional Republican priorities: healthcare and tax reform. Additionally, Trump’s core approach of appealing to his base with a divisive communications strategy has translated poorly from campaigning to governing. His base strategy may have won him substantial support within his own party, but Trump has not won mass support for his radical policy positions or his presidency. He has not even sold all of his own party on his radical vision. Instead, Trump’s combative and divisive style and his contentious values and policy positions have actively alienated moderates, both among the public and in Congress. That failure has cost Trump dearly as his governing strategy has failed to deliver him influence in Washington. He can call on much of his party’s support but in a finely balanced Congress where Republicans held only marginal majorities that was not enough to pass radical reforms.
Jon Herbert, Trevor McCrisken, Andrew Wroe

Chapter 8. Trump’s Ordinary Foreign Policy

Abstract
Despite Trump’s promises to put America First and disrupt international alliances and his penchant for insulting foreign leaders, especially allies, the president has adopted the mainstream Republican foreign policy strategy of seeking “peace through strength” and largely pursued the same policies and priorities as previous administrations, albeit with a very different style and attitude than his immediate predecessor. While he has been more than willing to berate publicly his NATO allies for their apparently insufficient burden sharing, he is far from the first US president to do so and he shows no serious signs of withdrawing from the common defense alliance which continues to play a significant role in defense and security planning. Even his seemingly most extreme and extraordinary projection of power and rhetorical saber rattling with North Korea has operated within the bounds of a common Republican approach of upping the ante in order to negotiate from a perceived position of strength. The ideas behind Trump’s foreign policy approach are very orthodox in their view of how states interact on the international stage and most of his achievements in foreign affairs have been very modest, which is a scorecard in keeping with the track record of many post-World War II presidencies that have found it very difficult to deliver big wins and have suffered several major setbacks in their adventures overseas. Despite all the bluster and the over-confident claims of success, Trump’s foreign policy has been fairly ordinary.
Jon Herbert, Trevor McCrisken, Andrew Wroe

Chapter 9. Conclusion: Extraordinary President, Ordinary Presidency

Abstract
The preceding chapters lay out an innovative but straightforward argument: While Trump is an extraordinary president, his presidency is quite ordinary. The distinction between president and presidency is extremely important and one that is too often overlooked in assessments of any US administration. Since US politics is widely characterized as a presidential system, the person of the president is all too often conflated with the success or otherwise of his presidency. But distinguishing between them facilitates a more nuanced assessment of the presidency that any individual president leads.
President Trump’s presidency is ordinary in two main ways. First, the number and scope of his achievements are rather meager, and this is quite normal for American presidents facing the constraints of separated institutions sharing powers. Second, the few accomplishments that Trump can lay claim to are largely mainstream Republican ones. The alleged tribune of the working class has morphed into a classic Republican plutocrat, with the richest cabinet in history, cutting the taxes of the wealthy and the healthcare and social provisions of the poor, and striking free-trade deals that mirror those they replaced. If Trump had delivered on his promises to protect the economically precarious and insecure, it would have been a truly extraordinary accomplishment for a Republican president. But there is a huge chasm between Trump’s words and actions, his promises made and promises delivered. He is a faint-hearted revolutionary, talking the talk but not walking the walk.
Jon Herbert, Trevor McCrisken, Andrew Wroe

Backmatter

Weitere Informationen

Premium Partner

    Bildnachweise