Imagine that the president, in announcing his candidacy two years ago, had thrown his hat into the ring for the Democratic nomination. It’s not entirely impossible that he could have done so.

For over two decades, most of the president’s campaign contributions went to Democratic candidates, both locally and nationally. He changed party affiliations over that period five times – ping-ponging between both parties and engaging in a brief fling with the Independence party in addition to electing to choose no party when registering to vote four years before declaring his candidacy.

In previous years, the president supported many issues near and dear to the hearts of Democrats: a woman’s right to choose; belief in universal healthcare; funding for Planned Parenthood; a ban on assault weapons and longer waiting periods to purchase firearms; a “huuuuge” one-time 14.25 percent tax on the wealthy. He advocated legalizing not only marijuana, but all controlled substances, believing government efforts to thwart trafficking were ineffective and costly.

As many conservative Republicans stated during the campaign, a person can change their mind. True, but it’s unclear whether the president’s is, to steal some of Barack Obama’s thunder, change we can believe in.

Perhaps the president made a calculated decision to enter the presidential race as a Republican after concluding, along with most Americans, that Hillary Clinton would be the presumptive candidate for the opposing party and his ability to knock her from that mantle would prove fruitless.

As erratic as he may be, the president is an unconventional strategic thinker. Not always right, not willing to admit his mistakes nor grave errors in judgment, often a dangerous gambler, but a strategist nonetheless. The president recognized something that his opponent, until recently, did not. Democrats were increasingly overlooking the large number of working-class people that had previously been their base. Trump smelled opportunity and took advantage of it.

During the campaign, many journalists and pundits pointed out that the president and Bernie Sanders shared a certain degree of populist appeal. They both spoke to the needs and desires of a broad working middle class who felt that their elected officials had long forsaken them. Sanders, a former “Social Democrat,” was not a mainstream member of the traditional Democratic party. The president was disruptive and opportunistic, recognizing the nation was divided and wagering he could manipulate the electorate to suit his needs, unclear as they may be.

Unpredictable is increasingly becoming the president’s middle name. No surprise. It was clear from the start. Still, last week’s surprise “deal” over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, or DACA, and the president’s border wall took Washington and the rest of the country by surprise.

Clearly, the president felt compelled to reclaim his self-proclaimed eminence as the ultimate dealmaker, even if it meant enlisting Congressional Democrat leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi to do so. Ultimately, the president’s actions aren’t based on party affiliation or ideologies, be they Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal. The president speaks to and for a party of one: the Party of Trump.

The president has always done what is best for himself in business and, now, in politics. He does not like losers. He likes “killers” and “winners,” criteria often attributed to himself and other extremely wealthy individuals. The president will discard anyone who proves unsuccessful in their attempts to fulfill promises and pledges. Which is why he has effectively “fired” House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and embraced their Democratic counterparts.

The president will do what it takes to look good even if it means alienating the party leaders who believed they could regulate him and the base that supported him. He wants to win “bigly” or “big league” or however he pronounces it next. If it means working with members of the opposite party, so be it. In some respects, this too is a strategic move. Realpolitik has long been practiced in the Swamp. It truly is the only way to get things accomplished. Maybe reaching across the aisle isn’t such a bad thing. So, must the president think. Last week at least; perhaps not today; perhaps tomorrow or with his next tweet.

If Republicans in Washington hope to move forward with their legislative agenda, if they truly desire to retain control of the White House in 2020, they may consider falling to their knees and pray that the president yet again switches party affiliation and, next time, run as a Democrat. It may very well assure them of winning both the electoral and popular votes by a landslide.

© Blair Bess 2017

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