The president seems convinced that he can survive whatever comes his way as long as he keeps his much-celebrated political base with him. But this is not as easy as it sounds for either Trump or his party because his base is fundamentally divided.
Nothing illustrated this more dramatically than the health-care showdown. Trump’s rhetoric about the Affordable Care Act during last year’s campaign should have been a tipoff to the dilemma both he and conservative politicians confront now. On the one hand, he roundly denounced Obamacare, which made right-wing ideologues happy. But he also regularly promised an alternative that would be more, not less, generous in helping Americans of modest means.
Trump is so hungry for “wins” that he is still pushing the Senate to pass any bill to repeal Obamacare. But enacting proposals along the lines of those that failed last week would be the worst possible outcome for Trump because they effectively break the promises he made to nearly 40 percent of his own sympathizers.
Senate Republicans who want to back away from repeal, at least for now, seem more attuned to how disruptive this issue is. But the looming battle over deep tax cuts tilted toward the wealthy will also split the alliance Trump is counting on for survival.
Political leaders trying to hold diverse groups together need to demonstrate finesse and both the appearance and reality of successful governance. Finesse, needless to say, is not a Trump long suit. And every day that brings a new Trump revelation, new questions about Russia or sheer craziness puts increased pressure on a rickety alliance that can only bear so much. When Trump most needs that base of his, it may no longer be there.