Jerry Kremer

For the president, a make-or-break year


It’s been just five months since Election Day, but if you’re a Democrat, it has been an eternity. If you’re a Republican and a Trump supporter, you probably haven’t changed your mind or have any desire to take your vote back yet. The question is, how should unrelenting Republicans and disappointed Democrats co-exist in the coming months?

Many of my Democratic friends are in an I-told-you-so mood, anxious to let anyone within earshot hear about President Trump’s constant missteps. My Republican friends say it’s too early to pass judgment on the president, as they still have high expectations, hoping he’ll deliver on his many campaign promises.

The best way for these two warring groups to get along is to call a cease-fire and try to better understand why some hard-core Democrats voted for Trump and some equally hard-core Republicans either stayed home or voted for Hillary Clinton. No matter who voted for whom, however, it’s fair to say that the country is facing some major challenges. The unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in 10 years, the stock market is booming, and lots of people are happy with their jobs. So any claims by Trump that the nation is in trouble are just plain false.

We have a lot of headaches these days that are products of the times. Every day, it seems, more machines are replacing people, and before long there will be a new generation of robots doing the work of humans. Every nerd who’s busy trying to invent a cell phone app will, if successful, also succeed in eliminating more jobs. Many of the workers who have been swept away by technology had a good reason to vote for Trump, as the Democrats didn’t make a good case for Hillary when it came to saving jobs.

I remind many of my Republican friends that Trump is neither a Republican nor a Democrat. If you look closely at his campaign platform, it was a rehashing of many of the speeches of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Sanders and Warren were preaching against trade agreements and the state of health care in America long before Trump started his campaign. Sanders was attracting large crowds in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin way before any other candidate.

So, assuming we can get the two sides to call a temporary truce between now and the end of the year, the fate of the Trump presidency could be decided well before 2018. As loudly as Trump is claiming that Russia had nothing to do with his victory, the Senate and the Justice Department will be the bodies that make the findings of guilt or innocence. If a handful of people associated with Trump are charged with federal crimes, it will leave a stain on the office of the president. If the investigations uncover nothing, then Trump will be able to take a victory lap.

There’s no doubt that the Senate’s confirmation of new Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch will be a short-term victory for the White House. Even shooting a few dozen missiles into Syria will give the president a bump in the polls. But missiles fire in both directions, so Trump should sleep with one eye open.

While we’re keeping our eye on the big picture, Trump is taking many steps to undo actions taken by President Obama. But many of the executive orders Trump has signed, and plans to sign, will deal a body blow to the red-state voters who helped elect him. If they lose health coverage, housing subsidies and other benefits, they’ll get the chance to show their displeasure next year, in the midterm election.

Americans want results. The much-promised repeal and replacement of Obamacare isn’t going to happen this year, as long as House factions keep fighting over congressional proposals. And will the country see major tax reform this year? Revising those laws would require bipartisan support, and that’s not likely to happen. (Don’t forget that Congress is planning to do away with a bunch of our beloved tax breaks, including mortgage interest and real estate deductions.) And it won’t be easy to pass legislation to fix our bridges, roads and mass transit systems.

Eight months from now, as the year wraps up, we’ll have a good idea who the winners and losers are. Sit tight.

Jerry Kremer was a state assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Comments about this column?