From ObamaCare to tax reform, Trump grew in 2017

From ObamaCare to tax reform, Trump grew in 2017
This month's passage of tax reform happened, in part, because President TrumpDonald John TrumpPapadopoulos on AG's new powers: 'Trump is now on the offense' Pelosi uses Trump to her advantage Mike Pence delivers West Point commencement address MORE grew. That growth is both a cause and effect of tax reform. What's notable is that its passage enables Trump to grow even further in the days ahead.
It provides him with a political and economic boost, giving him the big accomplishment he had heretofore lacked. Undoubtedly, it is a major coup for him. It makes him the first president to sign comprehensive tax reform since Ronald Reagan in 1986. The time lapse, his predecessor, and the sweeping scope of this tax reform put him in a very special presidential place — to friend and foe alike.
For conservatives, it accomplishes something they have long sought without success. For establishment Republicans, it offers potential detente and evidence their party can again govern — together — rather than just simply win elections. For nonpartisan moderates, it signals Washington’s gridlock can at least be navigated, and government can function.
Economically, tax reform bolsters economic growth that already moved the previous two quarters at a three percent or higher rate. A strong economy will also reinforce Trump’s political gains as voters directly connect him to it.
Amidst these positive effects which are likely to cause Trump to grow politically in strength (at least in the short run), it is easy to overlook how much Trump’s own evolution precipitated them. To understand this, simply compare his performance here to his performance during the nearly year-long ObamaCare debate.
Trump’s ObamaCare effort was one of fits and starts, where he swung unpredictably and significantly on procedure, policy, and politics.
Procedurally, he insisted Congress repeal and replace ObamaCare simultaneously. This greatly increased the difficulty for Congress, which had wanted to set a deadline for ObamaCare’s future repeal and use the intervening time to craft an alternative. When the effort foundered in the Senate — and after House Republicans had already struggled to pass a repeal-and-replace bill — he swung back, calling for immediate repeal and later replacement. However by then, a strategy once viable no longer was.
On policy, he continually added requirements — not touching entitlements, covering everyone, reducing premium and government costs, and maintaining preexisting condition coverage — all adding more contention and difficulty to the effort.
Politically, he undercut congressional allies and bolstered enemies. His forays into procedure and policy continually pulled the rug from under those trying to advance his agenda, and boosted his opponents trying to derail it. He even wasted time trying to co-opt those who were never going to join him, all the while distancing those already with him — his August attacks on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump orders more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions What if 2020 election is disputed? Immigration bills move forward amid political upheaval MORE being a prime example.
Having been undisciplined and inconsistent, Trump arrived at September’s end with ObamaCare still standing and Republicans appearing unable to govern — even on what they had promised to do since ObamaCare’s creation. With just three months left in his first year, Trump stood confronting tax reform and on the verge of having failed twice on his two highest priorities.
However in less than three months, Trump was completely changed in his pursuit of tax reform. Largely disciplined and on-message, he did not take the bait in attacks or let setbacks define him or the effort. He worked hard at selling the bill. He was a positive force, not only the team captain but a team player.
Procedurally, he let his congressional allies do what was needed to advance legislation, which at different stages of the process was sometimes contradictory.
On policy, he avoided absolutes. Yes, he identified goals. He wanted a 15 percent corporate rate, but when this went to 20 percent, and finally finished at 21 percent, he never lost sight of the goal: passing tax reform.
Politically, he made overtures to Democrats, but never at the cost of his allies. Nor did he offer specifics to attract them but which could have undone the overall effort. In the end, Democrats were left fuming they were left out, but tax reform passed — and with Republican votes to spare.
Between ObamaCare and tax reform, there was a qualitative difference in Trump’s performance as president. He went from being a negative cause, and ultimately being simply effected by events, to being a positive cause and positively shaping events. This is what executives are supposed to do, especially chief executives. However many thought this beyond Trump, a president without governing experience.
Of course, this may not continue. Constancy has not been Trump's strong suit. However, tax reform offers evidence that he is growing in office. If this is true, Trump will not have just qualitatively changed himself, but potentially his entire presidency.
J.T. Young served under President George W. Bush as the director of communications in the Office of Management and Budget and as deputy assistant secretary in legislative affairs for tax and budget at the Treasury Department. He served as a congressional staffer from 1987-2000.