In the wake of the collapse of his first major legislative push on health care, President Trump and his aides have suddenly begun talking about reaching out to skeptical Democrats to breathe new life into his flagging administration.But there's little evidence that any outreach by the administration has occurred -- and many Democrats warn it may already be too late.The abrupt talk of bipartisanship comes after two months in which Trump alienated Democrats with personal attacks and polarizing policies, both of which have made the road to cooperation more politically risky for the minority party.
After Donald Trump won the presidency, he found himself in a seemingly enviable position: he would not only lead the executive branch, he also had a Republican Congress to do his bidding. The president decided that Democrats, when they weren't being ignored, could be freely mocked without fear of consequence.After years in which Beltway pundits implored President Obama to be as bipartisan as humanly possible, the word effectively disappeared from the Beltway lexicon. Trump would be a proud and unapologetic partisan in the White House, leading an era of Republican dominance.At least, that was the idea. The Washington Post reports that the president is suddenly realizing that his assumptions and instincts may have been wrong.
A Bloomberg Politics piece added today, "It doesn't help that Democrats have been dismayed by Trump's highly partisan first two months in office, and his repeated attacks on his predecessor Barack Obama's legacy. Add in Trump's dismal 36 percent approval rating in the latest Gallup poll and Democrats have little additional incentive to collaborate."Consider this from a Democratic perspective.An outlandish Republican president, who lost the popular vote and won in part thanks to illegal intervention from a foreign adversary, rose to political prominence by pushing a racist conspiracy theory about his Democratic predecessor.After the election, he mocked Democrats, chose cabinet nominees he knew Democrats would hate, made no effort to reach out to Democrats on any issue, continued a crusade against his Democratic predecessor and defeated Democratic opponent, pushed a radical policy agenda that no Democrat could support, and has offered Democrats nothing in the way of possible concessions in order to reach a consensus on key issues.And it's against this backdrop that Trump is reportedly hoping Democrats will help get his flailing presidency on track.I can almost hear the laughter from Chuck Schumer's and Nancy Pelosi's offices.An Axios report noted over the weekend, "Some Trump friends think he has made a huge mistake since the inauguration by antagonizing Dems rather than courting them. Because of his tweets and rants, they're less likely to give him the benefit of the doubt than they were Jan. 20, and any ambitious Dem who tried to work with him would get fiercer blowback from the base."Yep, and that's largely why it's too late.If the president were riding high with a 60% approval rating, it might be a different story, because Dems might fear a public backlash. (That'd be wrong -- see Mitch McConnell's 2009 strategy -- but it'd at least give Democrats pause.) Trump, however, is the most unpopular new president since the dawn of modern American polling, creating an incentive for Dems to throw him an anvil, not a life-preserver.Based on ample evidence and experience, Democrats don't see Trump as someone they can trust, tolerate, or fear. Whatever political capital he may have once had is gone. If the White House has high hopes for reaching across the aisle now, officials in the West Wing probably ought to start lowering their expectations.