- - Sunday, February 17, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Anyone who turns on cable-TV news or looks over the front pages of most big-city newspapers could, unless they’re wary of what they see and hear, think President Donald Trump’s presidency is in dire peril, if not over.

He’ll either be impeached or be buried beneath a landslide in 2020. Elizabeth Warren, the senator from Massachusetts and presidential wannabe, even says Mr. Trump will probably be behind prison bars soon. In this media telling, the only thing left to be sorted out is which of dozens of Democrats running to replace him should start mentally measuring new draperies for the house at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

On the ground in Middle America where the skies are not cloudy all day, it’s a different story. Gallup, a reliable pollster, puts the president’s job approval rating at 44 percent after the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. “Trump’s overall approval rating, which had slumped to 37 percent amid the shutdown,” Gallup says, “hasn’t been this high since October, after his nominee Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in as a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. His current approval is just one percentage point shy of his personal best, achieved twice in his presidency — in the first week of his term and in June 2018, after his meeting with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un.”

Rasmussen Reports, which measures only likely voters, puts his approval rating among those voters above 50 percent. Mr. Trump was elected with 46 percent of the vote in 2016, suggesting that, in contrast to conventional media wisdom, he has hardly bled support after all the tumult of the past two years and more. The poll numbers suggest a positive place from which to mount a successful re-election campaign.

Gallup cites several things to explain the spring in Mr. Trump’s step — the agreement to conclude the government shutdown, a State of the Union address that only the president’s diehard opponents would deny was anything but stellar and, above all, an economy that continues to amaze. A remarkable 57 percent of Americans rate the economy as excellent or good, the highest since January 2001, Gallup found. “Although Americans’ perceptions of the job market have been positive for the past year, the 69 percent in February who say it is now a good time to find a quality job is the highest it has been (albeit by one point) since Gallup first asked the question in 2001.” The congressional approval rating is far below the president’s, at 21 percent.

The spending bill that Congress presented last week was hardly anything to celebrate. The budget agreement falls far short of the president’s demand for $5.7 billion to build the border wall. Democratic intransigence that prevented even negotiating led to the government shutdown. But the agreement does include much more than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s prior offer of “one dollar” for a border barrier. The legislation appropriates almost $1.4 billion to construct 55 miles of new fencing.

But that’s almost almost a pittance compared to the $8 billion the president hopes to obtain with his declaration of a national emergency, which would enable him to raid appropriated but unspent money from other government agencies. The money freed by the declaration, however, may never get spent. The president’s strategy has enraged Democrats and unsettled conservatives will be tested in the courts.

Democrats have lived in a permanent rage since Mr. Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016, and will no doubt sustain their rage as their party races at warp speed hard to the left. But the American electorate has never liked extremes. More than 70 Democrats in the House and a dozen in the Senate have endorsed the “Green New Deal,” which has been described as “absurdist,” “crackpot” and a “Democratic suicide note.” Economists on the left and right can make no sense of it.

The Democrats’ increasing extremism on everything from the environment to economics, from health care to immigration, makes compromise of any kind difficult if not impossible. Yet politics is based on compromise. If the Republicans enact a semblance of a conservative agenda, they must defeat the radicals at the ballot box. Fortunately for the Republicans, not only is Mr. Trump’s approval rating a useful buoy, but the Democratic anointing of a goofy economic scheme and its promoters like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota can only be helpful to the Republicans. This frightens the grown-ups among the Democrats, and doesn’t sound like terminal trouble for the president.

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