The Theory of Political Capital

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Analysts like Morning Joe and others always point out that Trump is using up his political capital by making his moves and that he needs to reach out to the left in order to govern and rebuild it. This shows a fundamental misunderstanding in our political class about what exactly political capital is and how it is spent.

Political capital is the technical term for your currency in governing. It is used to get people to support things that they would normally oppose. Political capital is not only something you get during an election to be spent during your tenure, it is a fluid thing. When you do things that a person or group does not like you lose political capital and when you do things that a person or group likes then you gain political capital.


What has Trump done so far? He has rolled back regulations, nominated a justice the right loves, tried to impose harsher entry procedures, cracked down on illegals, and placed a cabinet the right mostly likes. If anything Trump even has more political capital with his voters than when he started. There is a portion of his voters who held their noses and voted for him for the supreme court pick and they are behind him now more than ever. After all they know they can count on him for future picks. Has Trump annoyed the left? Yes he has but he never had any political capital with them anyway. You can’t lose what you don’t have. In fact he may have gained more with the TPP pullout.


Contrast this with Obama. His first major legislation was Obamacare. The right was never going to like it no matter what so he was going to lose some political capital with them. The left should have liked it since that is what they voted him on. Except they didn’t. In an effort to compromise the provisions the left liked such as single payer were removed from the bill. By handling it this way Obama lost political capital with both the right and the left. At the end of the day he will go down as the president who decimated the democratic party. While Trump by sticking to his promises will have built up the GOP in the midterms.


The main talking point of the left is that in order to succeed Trump must compromise with them. Nothing could be further from the truth. The left has no power. They are not needed to pass anything in congress and the court will soon be conservative. Compromising with the left will only lead to the alienation of Trump’s base which would be suicidal and would get you nothing. The people filing cases to stop your orders will not stop just because you compromise with others.

The left uses a moral argument as well. Trump is President of the whole country therefore he has to do what we want even if we lost. At the end of the day there is no merit in compromising with people who think you are literally Hitler. You may as well get your agenda done and win them over with success as any compromise will not do it. If you’re agenda was going to fail then it would have failed anyway without them.

It would be nice if the country was unified but it does not have to be. There are two competing visions for the country and at certain points they cannot be reconciled nor should they have to be. Everyone seems to forget that on the top of most historians list of great presidents is Abraham Lincoln. Instead of compromising with half the country he went to war with them. If he compromised with the democrats of his time African Americans would still be slaves.


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