SOLVING THE PUZZLE that is U.S. President Donald Trump has been nearly impossible.
His March 1 address to Congress was a strong performance on an important political stage. It demonstrated the type of leadership style that many pundits and commentators had hoped Trump would emulate. Perhaps he had finally transformed from the devil incarnate into a political white knight.
Two days later, the president had grown a new set of horns.
He sent out a tweetstorm accusing his predecessor, Barack Obama, of engaging in wiretapping in Trump Tower before last November’s election. The details of this allegation remain sketchy and there’s still no proof. And people were left scratching their heads once more.
Donald Trump’s position as a political chameleon is in lockstep with the largest group of political chameleons in his nation: average voters
Then again, maybe that’s always been part of his master plan.
Trump is the most unconventional politician in recent memory. He’s neither a conservative nor Republican in the modern or traditional senses. In other words, he’s not a political ideologue. Rather, he’s a political chameleon who’s able to shift direction based on the prevailing political winds.
Some people would argue that successful politicians are chameleons by nature. Indeed, many past presidents have walked a fine line along the left-right spectrum to help ensure that centrist policies, rather than firm ideological principles, were a consistent flavour of the day in Washington.
Trump is different. He doesn’t have a real sense of history, won’t follow the traditional playbook and refuses to walk a straight line. Instead, he uses gut instinct as a political compass, the “out of touch” media as a political barometer and the average person’s concern(s) as a political point of view.
This is a political chameleon unlike any other.
For those of us who have long worked in politics, media and communications, the Trump style of leadership borders on sheer madness. But as time goes by, it appears he may have devised a better political strategy than experts are willing to admit.
The politics of left and right mean nothing to Trump. He’s been registered as a Republican, Democrat and independent, and considered running for the U.S. Reform Party leadership in 2000. He refuses to be constrained by ideology and will defend what he perceives as good ideas from all walks of life.
That’s why he champions tax reductions, attacks free trade, supports gay rights, promotes infrastructure projects, wants to create new jobs, improve inner cities, fight radical Islamic terrorism, and reform and repeal Obamacare.
Some policies are right-leaning, others are left-leaning – and most will be transformed, in his mind, to Trump-leaning.
Trump’s strategy drives the political left crazy. It also annoys conservative ideologues and loyal Republicans who follow conventional wisdom when it comes to parties, leaders and elections.
Yet it doesn’t seem to trouble his tens of millions of supporters.
Some observers have suggested this has to do with Trump’s appeal to the so-called “ugly American,” who is motivated by fear, anger, intolerance and hatred.
I believe it’s something entirely different: his position as a political chameleon is in lockstep with the largest group of political chameleons in his nation: average voters.
Unlike past presidents who exhibited dashes of chameleon (Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush), a surprising number of people specifically identify with Trump the chameleon.
They love the fact that this president speaks his mind and isn’t politically correct. They ignore his eccentric behaviour and jaw-dropping comments. They cheer when he criticizes the mainstream media. They enjoy his constant rejection of protocol and telling other world leaders what he thinks about them. They support his curious strategy of creating more U.S. jobs under the anti-free market (and anti-American) guise of economic nationalism.
In other words, Trump is “their” president, warts and all.
This is a critical moment in history. If the Trump presidency is successful, more chameleons will show up and blur the right-left spectrum. Even if turns out to be a failure, there’s no guarantee that ideological thinking will rise from the graveyard of political ideas.
Either way, the missing pieces of the Trump puzzle could remain hidden for quite a while.
Michael Taube served as a former speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper.
© 2017 Distributed by Troy Media