Opinion poll after opinion poll shows that a Democratic wave is building. If the November midterm elections were held today, Republican control of the House and the Senate would be in jeopardy.
Make no mistake about it, conservatives should not underestimate what a complete and total disaster it would be to lose one or both houses of Congress. Not only would President Trump’s conservative agenda come to a screeching halt; we could look forward to two years of non-stop partisan witch hunts by Democrats thoroughly committed to destroying President Trump.
All is not lost. Ten months is an eternity in politics. The truth is, however, that there is only one person who can turn back this impending blue wave – President Trump himself.
We have been in this predicament before. Months before the 2016 election, the polls showed Donald Trump would lose and that the Republican Senate majority might go down in flames with him.
President Trump proved the pollsters and the pundits wrong last time and he can do it again.
The president didn’t defy the odds and capture the White House (and save the Senate) by following the failed establishment playbook – and he won’t save Republican majorities in Congress by following the establishment playbook this year either.
To save Republican majorities in both chambers, President Trump must rally the coalition that swept him into office. To do so he must refocus on the issues that motivated his working-class base – and he can start with his State of the Union address Tuesday night.
First, and most importantly, the president must deliver on immigration. If you asked Trump voters to name just one of his campaign promises they would say “build a wall.”
There are hard-core immigration hawks who want the moon and who won’t be satisfied with anything less than everything. The good news is that President Trump doesn’t have to deliver on every immigration issue but he absolutely must deliver on a wall.
The president needs to make it clear that there will be no deal to allow the roughly 700,000 illegal immigrants brought here as children – and are now protected from deportation under DACA – to stay in the U.S if it doesn’t include funding for the wall. Period.
Secondly, the president must focus now on infrastructure. President Trump’s tax reform package was a tremendous victory for conservatives and for American workers, and its long-lasting positive impacts on the economy cannot be understated. However, if the president really wants to deliver on his promise to Make America Great Again then he absolutely must prioritize an infrastructure plan to rebuild American roads, bridges, railways and airports.
Investing in America’s infrastructure is an investment in the working-class voters who are the backbone of the Trump base.
Infrastructure isn’t just some campaign pledge. President Trump knows infrastructure. He has made a career out of building things and it is something he is passionate about.
For far too long, the battle over infrastructure has been between Democrats who propose spending mountains of federal dollars and Republicans who simply oppose the effort. There is another way forward, which President Trump should embrace – free-market approaches that will rebuild our crumbling infrastructure without bankrupting us.
Take, for instance, airport infrastructure. Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., has a proposal in the House that would remove the federally imposed cap on the passenger facility charge (PFC), thereby allowing airports to raise the revenue necessary to meet more than $100 billion in infrastructure needs and creating tens of thousands of new jobs.
Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine, has a proposal in the Senate that would simply modernize, rather than eliminate the federally mandated cap on the PFC. Either of these proposals would allow airports to become more financially self-sufficient, enabling them to meet their own infrastructure needs without costing taxpayers a single penny.
Third, President Trump should remind voters that he has broken from the disastrous Bush-Obama foreign policy approach. The president should remind Americans that his foreign policy isn’t about “isolationism” and it doesn’t represent an abdication of America’s responsibility. At the same time, it does end the failed foreign policy adventurism of his predecessors.
Finally, almost as important as laying out what he will do, President Trump should lay out what he won’t do – namely, he and his administration will not be just another tool for establishment elites to achieve their policy goals.
The very people who opposed President Trump in the general election, who refused to vote for him, and who ridiculed him and his voters are now pushing him to do the bidding of the establishment on issues like dismantling our public lands.
During the campaign, President Trump was the lone Republican willing to stand up for our public lands and he should resist the efforts by his one-time opponents to slide back on that commitment. Recent polling in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin shows that Trump voters in those critical states that were so key to his election overwhelmingly oppose such an effort.
There will be pundits and other Washington insiders who will tell you that the key to retaining Republican control of the House and Senate in November is to run away from President Trump. They are flat out wrong. The ash heap of political history is full of candidates and campaigns who tried unsuccessfully to run away from their president in midterm elections.
The key to retaining Republican control is to reassemble the coalition that prevailed in the last election. President Trump can and should begin that process Tuesday in his State of the Union address.