The president can no longer count on his party’s support. That suggests dangerous times ahead.
I’ve been warning that this would be a dangerous period for President Donald Trump. With the midterms over, and no reason to think that Trump still has some kind of unusual hold on voters, Republicans would suddenly find themselves with far weaker incentives to go along with him.
This is the normal political cycle. What’s different for Trump is that while most presidents use the tools of office to build their influence, Trump’s professional reputation and his popularity among rank-and-file voters — and therefore his personal sway with legislators — remain unusually weak. That makes an unfavorable moment in the electoral cycle especially hazardous.
And just like that, we saw two episodes in the Senate this week demonstrating how little clout Trump now has.
First, on Wednesday, 14 Republicans joined a united Democratic Party to advance a bill overturning the president’s policy in Yemen. That’s extraordinary: Same-party members of Congress, especially those with orthodox positions, are almost always deferential to the president on matters of war and peace. Trump didn’t just lose outliers such as Rand Paul or relative moderates such as Susan Collins. He lost 14 — and there aren’t 14 Republican senators who have iconoclastic views on foreign policy.
Then, on Thursday, a district court nomination had to be yanked from the Senate floor just before the vote because South Carolina Republican Tim Scott decided to oppose it, and because Arizona Republican Jeff Flake is voting against all of Trump’s judicial nominations until a measure to protect special counsel Robert Mueller can get a vote. Flake is also on the judiciary committee, which just had to cancel a hearing on other nominees; without Flake, they didn’t have the votes.