Trump breaks the bubble
He hasn't been office very long, but one thing is emerging strongly about Donald Trump's presidency: he has no intention of being trapped in the Beltway bubble. That's the signal we get from his Florida rally Sunday – a great bid to shed the cocoon of policymakers, bureaucrats, guards, and bulletproof glass that keeps any president as separate as possible from the voters who elected him. The last two presidents, President Bush and President Obama, often admitted to the reality of their isolation, sometimes ruefully, and both passively accepted it.
Like an untamed horse, Trump doesn't. His sunny, ferocious rally Sunday in Florida brought the old campaign-mode Trump back to the voters, knocking the internal Beltway battles about General Flynn's resignation, CIA palace intrigue, NSC leaks, the Obama shadow government, and the unchecked Deep State off the front page.
Trump told the crowd:
I'm here because I want to be among my friends and among the people. This was a great movement, a movement like has never been seen before in our country or probably anywhere else. This was a truly great movement. And I want to be here with you, and I will always be with you. I promise you that. I want to be in a room filled with hardworking American patriots who love their country, who salute their flag, and who pray for a better future.
While he had plenty of vinegar for the press, and some fun and bombastic humor (he openly worried that a male fan might kiss him), Trump more broadly reiterated the bread-and-butter themes of his agenda that make a difference in the quality of life for voters: safe streets, access to affordable health care, more jobs, fewer regulations, and the prospect of these changes coming soon, like presents at Christmas. It was an impressive shift in narrative, and it reaffirmed Trump's original mission. But it also puts him in touch with a lot of run-of-the-mill people. He recognized and invited one determined Joe Schmoe named Huber (the guy he worried might kiss him) to come join him on stage, calling on him to jump a fence to make it over, and then asked the Secret Service not to tackle him for doing it.
It follows from a lot of similar moves from Trump to stay in touch with ordinary people instead of getting wrapped up in the intricacies of the Beltway establishment.
For starters, he's spending a lot of time in Mar-a-Lago, his estate in Florida, at least three of the last weekends. The Beltway press have wrung their hands in angst about Trump not fitting in with or enjoying the White House, suggesting that the trips are escapes. But while Mar-a-Lago is undoubtedly luxurious, it's also a more likely venue for seeing and meeting ordinary people, for the simple reason that it's a somewhat public establishment in the non-government private sector. Trump is energized by ordinary people and seems to be doing his darnedest to be around them, quite physically. The Washington press corps wailed that Trump and his wife Melania went to a private reception from Mar-a-Largo this weekend...without telling them. Obviously, he wants to be with ordinary people.
Similarly, Politico huffed that Trump's meeting with golf club friends in New Jersey made Trump happy and kvetched that such a happiness is a dreadful security risk in the midst of the presidential transition. Trump invited the people to come along to see other parts of the transition, in an exuberant bid to share with them his own experience. The media couldn't stand that and called it another crisis.
When he's not physically getting away from Washington, he's breaking other Beltway bubbles, such as on Twitter, undercutting the establishment's P.R. personnel who normally speak for the president; its "policy makers"; and, above all, the press, going straight to the people with his tweets. And he seems to have wrested some control over his cell phone, to stay in touch with friends, according to some reports.
It signals a pattern – a very unusual one, given that very rich people tend to love staying in their bubbles and building ever newer and more exclusive ones. Not Trump. If Trump keeps it up, it signals a different style of presidency, one with a fire hose of information from the public reaching the top echelons of government that may well have the technology to respond. Other leaders have tried this, but Trump seems to be looking to succeed in it. In breaking the bubble, he seems to know exactly what he means to do and is doing it.