President Trump rose to power on a combination of meanness, incoherence and falsehoods. His strategy depended almost entirely on playing off the unpopularity and weaknesses of others.
Every aspect of his approach has blown up on him since he took office, but as is always the case with Trump, he will not take any personal responsibility for what’s going wrong. He must find a scapegoat. The latest object of his opprobrium would seem to be Stephen K. Bannon, the chief White House strategist.
But dumping Bannon would only underscore the extent to which Trump is a political weather vane, gyrating wildly with the political winds. He’s “populist” one day, conventionally conservative the next and centrist the day after that. His implicit response is: Who cares? Let’s just get through another week.
And then the good people of Kansas’s 4th Congressional District cast ballots in a special election on Tuesday. While Republican Ron Estes won the seat over Democrat James Thompson, Estes’s winning margin of nearly 7 percentage points was anemic compared with Trump’s 27-point win in the district last year. And Republican Mike Pompeo, whose appointment as Trump’s CIA director created the opening, was reelected last year by a margin of 31 percentage points.
This swing will petrify Republicans in Congress who, up to now, have largely stayed in line behind Trump. It’s also likely to give additional spine to Trump’s GOP critics, both on the far right and closer to the center.