I know what you’re thinking reading that title: U.S. president Donald Trump has whiffed on more than a small handful of issues. But here I’m not talking about things he’s done right or wrong from the perspective of one side or the other. Rather, I’m talking about opportunities he’s had to expand his support or at least normalize his presidency to some degree, and which he’s for whatever reason chosen to ignore, or failed to capitalize on.
From a combination of general American news, voter preferences, and Trump’s own rhetoric, these are three that stand out.
North Korean Negotiations
Now that we’re several months removed from the height of U.S.-North Korea drama under the Trump administration, we can say with a high degree of accuracy that nothing much has happened yet. Trump intentionally escalated tensions via Twitter, then hyped summit with North Korean leader Kim-Jong Un that a majority of national security experts seemed to question, ultimately to no avail. The reason this appears to have been a whiff is that polls show that Republicans are concerned about national security as a voting issue.
Now, there are two reasons this might not be a huge issue for Trump. One is that “national security” among his base likely envelops border security and issues like gang violence, rather than international relations overseas. And another is that a large portion of Trump’s base listens exclusively to Trump himself, meaning even if he touts false progress on North Korea, he’ll be believed. For at least a portion of more moderate Republican voters, however, it will appear as if Trump essentially shined a spotlight on the dangers of a rogue state, and then did little or nothing to mitigate them. This is not a wise way to approach what polling shows to be a major voting issue.
Legal Sports Betting
Casino activity could have been a fairly significant “win” for Trump. Internationally, online and mobile casino gaming is always growing more prevalent, to the point that modern mobile games even allow payments via phone. And domestically, there’s currently a major push toward further gaming in states that allow it, as well as for legal sports betting across the country. Reading the tea leaves, you can begin to get a glimpse of a very near future America that’s far more lax in terms of allowing various casino activities for individuals, not just in casinos but online and via mobile devices.
This is an area in which Trump actually has significant experience, given that his name is stamped across casino resorts in much of the world. Granted, he’s also credited with just about bankrupting Atlantic City through his casino ventures, but given Trump’s propensity for taking credit for anything positive regardless of his own involvement, one would think he’d have championed the legal sports betting movement himself. It may be a development some conservatives oppose, but it’s not exactly a pivot point, and it may have earned Trump a modicum of approval back from some liberals who don’t pay close attention to politics but like the idea of increasing gaming opportunities. It’s a rare area in which Trump perhaps should have taken credit and didn’t.
This has been arguably the biggest whiff of the Trump presidency thus far. Because while the president is an undeniably polarizing figure, the one issue he has consistently talked about that liberals and conservatives alike seem to basically agree needs to be addressed is infrastructure improvement. While it’s fair to question the detail with which Trump approaches this topic, he’s right in his general opinion that U.S. infrastructure is in need of repair and revamping. This is something he may have had a shot at pushing for with some legitimate bipartisan support and approval across voting aisles.
Instead, Trump has declared meaningless “infrastructure weeks” to the point that they’ve become a joke. It’s unclear if he does this when he believes he’s in need of a positive headline or because he genuinely intends to address infrastructure during these weeks, but it’s been a recurring theme for most of his time in office. At this point, mention of infrastructure from this administration is essentially greeted with a collective snort from the punditry and a relentless wave of mockery on social media. It might once have been greeted with agreement and progress.