President Trump recently unveiled a $1.4 trillion infrastructure plan and a $4 trillion budget proposal that includes initiatives such as defunding PBS and cutting fresh produce from the food-stamp program. But none of those are his biggest priority for 2018.
What is? Twitter. Specifically, “finding cultural flashpoints” like kneeling at NFL games, reports Axios. The president “is going to be looking for opportunities to stir up the base, more than focusing on any particular legislation or issue,” a source close to the White House tells the site.
Trump has pinpointed this as a winning political strategy in the past. Members of the GOP have observed that whenever the president incites a culture war on Twitter, it tends to be a win, deflecting from a more troublesome issue or allowing him to seem generally in control. “We’ve seen Trump do this time and again,” observed Tim Wood in Forbes last fall. “Demonize an opponent and no matter what the facts are or how the story advances, he builds his own narrative that creates his target as the villain and himself as a fearless leader.”
So political observers expect much more of the same as the 2018 midterm elections approach and Republicans brace for what polling indicates could be an electoral wipeout. “His administration is cranking away on these Potemkin legislative efforts,” says Matt Bennett, co-founder of the Democratic group Third Way. “But what he’s really interested in is storylines revolving around him — driving the conversation with whatever crosses his mind at that moment, and then comes out of his mouth or his fingers.”
“Trump will be more Trump this year,” writes Axios. “With the departure of centrist aides and the gravitational pull of midterms in November and his reelection race in 2020, Trump’s nationalist campaign instincts are likely to get even more sway than they did last year.”
For those keeping count, the New York Times maintains a running list of “People, Places and Things Donald Trump Has Insulted on Twitter.” As of now, the total is 425.