Many among the commentariat continue to think that he will. I would like to present a qualified counter-prediction. First,
Seven Propositions about How Trump Thinks and Speaks
(1) Trump’s driving force is his craving for adulation.
(2) Trump’s white working class supporters are, for the present and the foreseeable future, the only significant source of Trump adulation.
(3) Therefore Trump will behave in such a way that, in his thinking, is likely to preserve and enhance the adulation of the white working class, and avoid behaviors likely to staunch said source of adulation.
(4) Though severely delusional—and profoundly inclined toward magical thinking—Trump maintains some contact with reality.
(5) Though Trump lies all the time, he does not lie about his mental state. Even when it would benefit him to lie about what he is thinking; he does not do so. Instead, his congenital lying mostly involves imaginary “facts” that, were they true, would reinforce the things he believes.
(6) Trump has repeatedly claimed that the Obamacare replacement will be better for his supporters than the existing system, and he has repeatedly claimed he will preserve Medicare and Social Security. These may be lies, but they are not the kind of lies Trump habitually tells. They relate to his plans–his mental state–about which he does not usually lie. They are not false “facts” that support his rooted convictions.
(7) Hence, a prediction: as and when Ryan and his cohorts come up with concrete legislative plans that would screw over the white working class, Trump will not in fact go along. That is because (a) though delusional and prone to magical thinking, he maintains some contact with reality, (b) screwing over the white working class would be diametrically opposite to the main goal of his life—preserving their adulation of Trump, and (c) because lying about, say, the actual effects of the Ryan health plan is not the sort of thing Trump lies about, and because telling that kind of lie would be contrary to his need for working class adulation.
It’s a Chilly Day in Hell: Rich Lowry Makes Sense
In The Myth of the Passive President, Lowry writes,
The view of Trump as little more than a presidential auto-pen has turned out to be wholly mistaken. First, it underestimated Trump’s ability to establish air, sea and land dominance in the nation’s political conversation to the exclusion of all other Republican voices. Two, it failed to appreciate how necessary presidential leadership is to getting anything done on Capitol Hill.
At this rate, congressional Republicans won’t send the president anything significant to sign, let alone set the agenda. …
[Trump’s] hold on the GOP base is formidable, and his core supporters are nothing if not vociferous. Couple that with his prodigious media megaphone, and Trump could break isolated senators or members of Congress resisting his congressional agenda like a twig.
If, that is, he has such an agenda. No one knows what his infrastructure plan is. Or what he wants on the Obamacare replacement, which will badly divide Republicans (one reason that Republican leaders hoped to sidestep it). Or where he comes down on the contentious issue threatening the ultimate passage of tax reform, the border adjustment tax that House Republicans support but faces stiff opposition in the Senate. …
If Trump turns out simply not to have any interest in legislation, it likely won’t augur a period of strong congressional governance, but of drift and perhaps outright failure.
Capitol Hill is dependent on Trump, not just to sign bills, but to lead. Republican don’t need him merely to be president; they need him to be a good president, which means that in his busy days he must find a little time for Congress.
Though He’s Correct, Lowry Doesn’t Go Far Enough
Not only will Trump continue to eschew coherent legislative leadership of his party, he will also—if I’m right in the analysis presented in the first part of this post—dynamite those parts of the Ryan agenda that would most deeply screw over the white working class.