A few things coming out of the Trump White House recently seems to be causing some concern. The first one is President Trump’s deal with congressional Democrats on the debt limit. To say this has annoyed congressional Republicans would be an understatement. These Republicans think that they are losing some of the leverage they would otherwise use to achieve some of their legislative goals by tying those goals to a longer-term lifting of the debt limit.
But they’re really nervous over a much bigger suggestion, the possibility that this might signal a major pivot in Trump’s loyalties from Republican to Democrat. A lot of the reason for the pivot could be that the congressional Republicans couldn’t deliver the goods to Trump on the Obamacare repeal measure.
Which brings us to the recent Trump shift regarding illegal aliens. He has had meetings in the past few weeks with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, archenemies of the political right to say the least. It must really gall the Republicans to see the Donald cozying up to Chuckie and Nan.
In these meetings it appears that Trump expressed conciliatory words about extending an amnesty for illegal immigrants. The president said he was “fairly close” to a deal with congressional leaders to preserve protections for hundreds of thousands of young immigrants living illegally in America and declared that Republican leaders were “very much on board.” He also said his promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border would “come later.”
In his own Tweet, President Trump said the following: “Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!…” This caused Steve Bannon’s Breitbart news site to label Trump “Amnesty Don.”
If it’s true that Trump is leaning more towards the left, this will begin a new phase in his presidency: one in which he looks to cooperate with congressional Democrats on several issues, instead of on almost none. This major shift by Trump will leave congressional Republicans with a choice of accepting deals they dislike, trying to block the president from making these deals, or being left out of governance altogether as has been the case up to now.
Another sign of President Trump changing course has been the report first from The Wall Street Journal, then from other news outlets that the Trump administration is considering staying in the Paris agreement to fight climate change “under the right conditions,” offering to re-engage in the international deal three months after President Trump said the U.S. would pull if it didn’t find more favorable terms.
A European official confirmed that the Trump administration has softened its opposition to the landmark Paris climate accord and may not completely withdraw after all. Again, if true, this would mark another reversal of one of President Trump’s key campaign promises, one of the most controversial.
After these several surprise decisions, the big question to a lot of Trump supporters these days, is where does President Trump really stand on many of the big issues he campaigned on. In other words is Donald Trump a Republican at heart? Is he in any way a conservative? Is he a populist? Or is he secretly a Democrat? The answer is he is none of those things. Donald Trump is a devout pragmatist.
As a pragmatist he is (and always was) a man guided by practical applications to achieve the results he needs for success. He is the opposite of an ideologue, he is goal oriented and not guided by political or idealistic concerns. This does not come as a shock to me; I pegged Trump a long time ago as this sort of guy. I voted for him not because I thought he shared my conservative values, but because I knew that the alternative (Hillary) would be so much worse.
Many things Donald Trump has done since taking office have been good for conservatives like me, such as the appointment of Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, several of his cabinet appointments, and many of his “getting America working again” initiatives. Quite frankly, I expected Trump to go soft and left leaning on many social issues. I don’t like it, but that’s the way it is.
So the next time you hear someone wondering aloud just what to make out of Donald Trump, is he Democrat or Republican or liberal or conservative? You can tell them Donald Trump is a pragmatic businessman. He makes deals for a living. And he’ll deal with anyone he can to achieve the results he wants.
Greg Crosby is a writer and cartoonist and former executive at the Walt Disney Company.