Two Months

A lot has changed since Election Day.
January 6, 2019
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Two months ago, on the morning of Tuesday, November 6, 2018, Republicans easily controlled the House of Representatives and held two-thirds of all governors’ mansions. The Dow Jones average stood at 25,461. The Trump administration had retired four-star generals James Mattis as secretary of defense and John Kelly as chief-of-staff. Former senator Jeff Sessions was the attorney general, and the president had been relatively disciplined (if demagogic) on the campaign trail.

Today, two months later, Nancy Pelosi is speaker of the House, and more Americans have a Democratic governor than a Republican one. The Dow Jones average has fallen about 10 percent. The Trump administration features a chief-of-staff who was a backbench congressman, a secretary of defense with no military or foreign policy experience, and an acting attorney general who hasn’t been (and could not be) confirmed by the Senate. The president is in an obvious state of meltdown just as the guardrails have disappeared.

Furthermore, the most prominent incoming Republican senator has gone out of his way to say that the president hasn’t risen to the occasion of the presidency and may well lack the character ever to do so.

And a large part of the federal government is shutdown in a way that has damaged the president’s credibility among Republicans on the Hill and that is unlikely to end well for him.

The president’s job approval rating, if one uses the RealClearPolitics average, has slid from a net -9.7 to a net -11.5—not a big move, perhaps. But not an encouraging trend for him or his supporters.

That was the past two months. In the next couple of months, the markets are unlikely to stabilize and the economy may begin to slow down. The government shutdown is unlikely to end well for the president and his wall is unlikely to be built. There will likely be more hemorrhaging of talent from an administration that was lacking a surplus to begin with. The world is unlikely to become safer. And we are likely to hear more, perhaps quite a bit more, from the special counsel.

And there will the two months after that, and then the months after that, and on and on through 2019. Politics is dynamic. Reversals of trend are of course possible—but it is easier for wheels to come off a car than to be put back on, especially while Donald Trump is doing the driving.

The Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary are only 13 months away.

William Kristol

William Kristol is editor-at-large of The Bulwark.