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To say that President Donald Trump marches to his own drummer is to cut off debate before it even begins. You may or may not like the way he’s gone about things—but either way, you’re pretty much forced to agree that his has been a unique approach.
But just suppose that one of his aides were to email you this week to say: “The president is seeking some thoughtful outside-the-box thinking. If you had the ability and power to change just one thing about his administration, what would it be?”
Fantasy? Perhaps. But I was intrigued. So I emailed several dozen folks, randomly drawn from my laptop’s address book, and asked that very question. And for each suggestion, I also asked: “Is this issue so important that, without such a change, you might well vote for Trump’s opponent next November? Or might you say that other benefits of Trump’s leadership will probably prompt you to vote for him with or without that change?”
“Trump has a big ego, and he fights like a junkyard dog. But he fights to win.”
I was impressed by the number and the immediacy of the responses. Here are some samples.
“I would prefer that the administration be more outspokenly sympathetic to the plight of illegal immigrants, particularly to women and children. Other than that, I have no problems with the administration as such. I do have problems with Trump personally: his childish tweets, arrogance, and self-centeredness. But his appointments have been spectacular, so I’ll vote for him again.”
“Mr. Trump doesn’t seem to possess either personal humility or national humility. He spent the State of the Union address basically bragging. At one point he gave some credit to Congress, but not much. He seems to see everything through a lens of money—the love of money.”
“I would direct him to act like a gentleman at all times, which would mean, among other things, that he would eschew boasting, treat all other people respectfully, and not demean them.”
“Trump has a big ego, and he fights like a junkyard dog. But he fights to win, and he could not care less what the rest of Washington thinks. I say more power to him, because I don’t see anyone else out there with the confidence and the backbone to shake the status quo like he has.”
“I would immediately find the resources—money and manpower—to prepare for the next immigration crisis at the Mexican border. I only saw chaos in the handling of the crisis, which was shameful. PR needs to show order and compassion in words and pictures. I am sure we can get ahead of the game, and avoid another disaster at the border.”
“Trump’s overall character. That includes his demeaning lawmakers, world leaders, reporters, and various minorities in his speeches, tweets, and live events. His character has made a mockery of the office, and made it into what I think he really wanted—a reality show. … I can take the partisan nature of our democracy. But I really feel his presidency has only contributed to its falling to new lows.”
“That he himself were capable of demonstrating integrity and honesty—and a commitment to heal partisan divides. (I did not vote for Trump last time. But I also did not vote for his opponent. This time, I may well vote for his opponent. It would be the first time I have voted for a Democrat in a presidential election.)”
Note well! There’s nothing scientific or statistically valid about this relatively tiny sample of the folks in my address book. But I’ve been around long enough to suggest that little pictures like these, taken cautiously, are better predictors of what lies down the road than you might first think. There are lots of nuances.
Only two of these seven respondents said they were still open to voting for Trump’s opponent. Check out that ratio over the next nine months! But while you’re doing those calculations, consider also how a nation’s loss of a consensus on important issues can be felt even in our personal address books.