At some point, if you’re the Eagles or the Rolling Stones (or LCD Soundsystem) you just shut up and play the hits—you give the people what they want. Trump has been very open about the fact that he plays to his crowd, mentioning the wall he’s going to build between the United States and Mexico whenever energy starts to dim. And, while Trump has a new tune—he saved 700 jobs in Indiana, though 1,300 will still be shipped to Mexico—the first stop of Trump’s “victory tour” was very much a greatest hits show.
The crowd chanted “lock her up,” even though Trump has distanced himself from that pledge. He hit all his campaign themes, even the promises he’s said he might not fulfill. He talked about repealing Obamacare, stopping immigration from Muslim countries, ripping up trade deals, and—maybe richest of all, given the very Goldman Sachs-y makeup of his cabinet—“draining the swamp.”
Trump’s plan to continue doing these rallies gets at one of the biggest liabilities of his presidency: his need for constant affirmation. Trump has suggested in interviews that he understands that the realities of government mean that many of his more outrageous promises will not be fulfilled. But Trump will nevertheless go out to his base and insist that they will be—that he is the only person who can fulfill them, and that he is the only honest man in Washington.
The Carrier deal is a good example. Trump is insisting that it proves that he’s keeping his word to “punish” companies that try to move out of the country and to keep jobs here. That’s not really what happened—the executives at Carrier will benefit handsomely from the deal and over a thousand people will still lose their jobs—but it suggests a path forward for Trump. He’ll make compromises, ones that often contradict his campaign promises, and then sell them as being total wins for him and his base. Judging by the response to Carrier, it could work.
That said, Trump did try one new song on Thursday. It didn’t take.