Donald Trump's speech to congress last night was about as expected. The reaction was not what I'd expected though. Nevertheless, come to think of it, the reaction is not at all surprising. In fact it's informative, or more aptly, confirmational that while perceptions are not changing, tactics definitely are.
Let's start with CNN, and their relatively positive response. It's possible that CNN has been licking their wounds from the banishment from the White House press conferences, and felt obligated to ratchet down the constant negative spin. Maybe they've realized that it's costing them viewership, or credibility, or both. I don't think that's their motivation, but take a look at the result, regardless of the reason:
(CNN) President Donald Trump's first address to Congress received largely positive reviews from viewers, with 57% who tuned in saying they had a very positive reaction to the speech, according to a new CNN/ORC poll of speech-watchers.Nearly 7-in-10 who watched said the President's proposed policies would move the country in the right direction and almost two-thirds said the president has the right priorities for the country. Overall, about 7-in-10 said the speech made them feel more optimistic about the direction of the country.
There's no negative spin there. The negative spin would have been not to share the poll results, because that's pretty good for president Trump. And then there was this from their semi-permanent panelist and socialist darling Van Jones:
Clearly CNN is cutting back on the vitriolic attacks and admitting, yes, Trump is president. He's a president to be disagreed with on issues, but still president. They are not alone though. And that's why I don't think this is about access rights, or ratings. It's about a different tack on the liberal agenda. Maybe the smart Democrats are finally being heard.
The Washington Post, in addition to highlighting the van Jones piece above in an opinion piece, also had this story about liberal actress Jennifer Garner as an unlikely Trump ally:
Jennifer Garner has not given up on Donald Trump’s Washington.The 44-year-old actress spent the weekend lobbying the town’s pillars of power to support early education for poor rural children. She spent Friday on Capitol Hill meeting dozens of top staff members. On Saturday, she delivered the keynote address before the annual National Governors Association winter meeting here. A potential sit-down with Ivanka Trump, who is advocating for more funding for child care, fell apart because of scheduling conflicts, but Garner remained optimistic about a face-to-face discussion soon.
Voters seem to agree, regardless of how they feel about Trump's priorities. A new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll shows that 56 percent of 2,000 registered voters polled Feb. 24 through Feb. 26 say that Trump is staying true to his 2016 campaign message, and 66 percent say Trump has accomplished what was expected of him — or more. Overall, half of voters approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 45 percent disapprove.
There's more but three pillars of liberal punditry all saying Trump was presidential last night, he hit the right notes (politically) etc., is enough to make the point. Democrat elites have started saying the impeachment talk has to stop. They get it apparently; they have only been hurting themselves with the never ending drumbeat of hate. That's too bad for conservatives, because it was definitely working in our favor. That said, it doesn't mean that liberals will be able to fight on policy. They haven't tried that approach for decades, so I'd expect some rust. Furthermore, who is to say they can sustain a logic-based counter-argument long enough not to fall back into angry Social Justice Warrior space? The new approach is both refreshing and annoying at the same time, but it isn't likely to be significantly more or less effective than the riot-in-the-streets approach. What matters now is results, and the results are going to be driven, or not driven by president Trump. In other words, the Republicans have the ball; they're on offense. Democrats seem to finally understand that they are on defense and do not get act, only react. If president Trump is successful, how they oppose him won't matter. But if he fails to deliver, how they oppose does matter. That's where the policy driven opposition over the impeachment type arguments will matter.
Interestingly at the other end of the spectrum, libertarian John Zeigler believes Trump has killed conservatism.
...we would not have massive increases in government spending and power instituted under a ‘Republican’ president, thus ending, for all time, any chance that we ever return to Reagan-like principles of smaller government before we inevitably suffer a financial implosion under the weight of massive debt.For the first time since taking office, Trump was, for him, remarkably disciplined and, yes, really rather ‘presidential.’ Ironically, that was mostly because he stuck strictly to the very same teleprompter which he has roundly mocked Barack Obama for relying on too much.While he is no Obama when it comes to his mastery of reading skills, he benefits from such incredibly low expectations that him simply not having a Ron Burgundy-like Anchorman meltdown makes him seem like Brian Williams in his prime. There were no moments of extreme egotism (at least by his standards), no attacks on the media or even Hillary, and no overtly apparent bald-faced lies. He didn’t even say anything nice about his BFF Vladimir Putin.He hit on all the major points that got him elected (even while shifting his positions on some of them) and laid out a populist agenda, which had to sound real good to a lot of ‘regular’ people who haven’t already completely written him off.
Maybe the left has, pardon the phrase Moved On, but it appears many of those who are/were/identify with the Never Trump crowd on the right, still might not have managed to do so. That's a pity. Donald Trump may have recognized before many on the right, that conservatism of the Reagan era is not possible in this era of demographics and coalitions of overlapping interests. Reagan era conservatism is not forever gone. The road back to it however, is more than a single step. President Trump's delivery on jobs will make further steps back possible. The path back to real conservatism in America might not be the straight line conservatives would hope for, but it is a path. And considering how far along the progressive socialist path America has travelled since the 1980's, any path back should be welcome. It's a bad sign that more elites on the left seem to get that Trump's populism presents an opportunity than those elites on the right seem to realize. They may better recognize Trump as transitory to something else. That's the real danger to the future of conservatism, not that Trump wants to spend a trillion on infrastructure and won't get it, or will only get a portion of it.