'The waves of chaos': Columnist predicts Trump's presidency will become more disordered — and Republicans won't stop him

When a president’s party suffers major midterms losses—Bill Clinton in 1994, Barack Obama in 2010, George W. Bush in 2006, Ronald Reagan in 1982—the response is often one of introspection and trying to find ways to work with the loyal opposition. But President Donald J. Trump has been a major exception as he has repeatedly lashed out at Democrats since the 2018 midterms. And in a new piece for The Atlantic, Senior Editor Ronald Brownstein asserts that Americans can expect Trump’s presidency to be equally or more chaotic in 2019—a year that will find him rallying his hardcore base while having to contend with a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives.


Trump, according to Brownstein, isn’t going to calm down in 2019. After two years in office, Brownstein writes, the president “sees strategic value in violating presidential norms”—and Trump’s post-midterms actions demonstrate that “the overall trajectory of Trump’s presidency points toward more, not less, disorder.”

The 2018 midterms, Brownstein notes, saw Democrats enjoy a net gain of 40 seats in the House despite the fact that “unemployment was below 4% and two-thirds of voters described the economy as either excellent or good.” And he adds that “both independents and college-educated white voters, two groups that expressed widespread doubt about Trump’s temperament from the outset, broke solidly for Democrats last month after narrowly tilting toward him in 2016.”

But Brownstein stresses that “rather than taking that shift as a sign to reconsider his course, Trump has doubled down on disorder since Election Day.” And he cites many examples of chaos in the late 2018 lame duck session, from Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria to “repeated Twitter attacks on Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell” to the president partially shutting down the federal government in the hope that Congress will fund his proposed U.S./Mexico border wall.

Late 2018, Brownstein observes, has seen “swelling levels of confrontation and instability” in Trump’s presidency—and Americans can expect that to continue in 2019 as Trump employs his rally-the-base strategy.

“The more establishment voices condemn his behavior,” Brownstein asserts, “the more he signals to his base that he’s fighting for them by any means necessary.” And Brownstein notes that “even amid the current maelstrom, very few” Republicans in Congress “have publicly broken with Trump over the shutdown or his attacks on the Fed.”

Brownstein concludes his piece by predicting that most Republicans in Congress will continue to stick by Trump in 2019—chaos and all.

“So long as congressional Republicans refuse to publicly demand change, the waves of chaos emanating from the Oval Office are likely to only grow higher,” Brownstein emphasizes. “Through their deferential silence, Republicans are betting they can withstand those waves better in 2020 than they did in 2018.”

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