Trump has, by his standards, had a pretty quiet month, which basically means that he repealed DACA and reiterated that “both sides” were to blame in Charlottesville, but tweeted slightly less. That he has also made two deals with Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi has led some pundits to argue that we are seeing a new “independent” Trump—that he is beginning to pivot away from his divisive and often racist appeals to his base toward something ... different.
Contrary to this conventional wisdom, Trump’s bipartisan dealmaking has only made appeals to his base more likely, not less. By throwing his support behind raising the debt ceiling and allowing the Dreamers to stay in the States, Trump is on shaky ground with the white supremacist crowd. Trump may love the plaudits he’s getting for his bipartisan deals, but he’s not about to throw away that alliance. So, if Trump taketh from his base on some issues, he giveth chum in others.
You saw the beginnings of this strategy last weekend, when Donald “Two Corinthians” Trump was pictured praying with his cabinet—a clear overture to the religious right. And on Friday morning, he was back on his culture wars beat, unleashing a series of tweets about political correctness and ISIS while presumably watching cable television. A few choice tweets:
Once again, Trump preempted local police—this time in London—and called an attack “terrorism” before an official announcement was made. He once again hammered the courts, claiming that his unconstitutional travel ban was being blocked because it wasn’t “politically correct.” He called on the United States to get “nasty” with ISIS. And he claimed that ESPN is losing viewers because it’s too politically correct, which isn’t true—cord-cutting, not Jemele Hill, has cost it subscribers.
Trump will make deals with Democrats from time to time, but only if political realities require him to. But when he does, he’ll also throw red meat to his base as a kind of consolation prize.