Reportedly, Republican leaders Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan left a debt ceiling meeting with the President and Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi aghast. After, going back and forth about how long to up the budget limit, the Republicans, hoping to get through midterms without this issue were flummoxed when President Trump sided with ask-for-the-moon Democrats and gave them three months. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer received the moon and stars. They were thrilled.
Remind you of anything? How about when John McCain sidled up to Chuck and guffawed with Democrats and nixed the flaccid excuse for Obamacare reform. The “skinny” bill. Even that was too much for Republicans to stomach and so, John McCain, in his typical self-aggrandizing way, made a big show of scuttling the terrible legislation and very publicly handing Trump’s ass to him.
In case President Trump missed the slight, John McCain made his position crystal clear, “Whether we are of the same party, we are not the president’s subordinates. We are his equal!”
The problem I had with McCain’s statements is that we heard nary a negative word from the gracious loser (he gave the best concession speech I have ever heard when he lost to President Obama in 2008, and a better speech than he ever gave on the stump) when it came to President Obama’s executive overreach. Now that the Senator didn’t have a collegial butt-kissing arrangement from Trump, he was peeved. Like the President himself, McCain has never met a camera he doesn’t love, and never shied away from bloviating whatever opinion rattles around his head. Maverick and all that.
Based on President Trump’s response today, I’d say that he’s recognized that two can play that game. So, he left the GOP hanging. He sided with the Democrats. There’s even a chummy picture of President Trump with the Dems just like legislative hero John McCain had with them.
Isn’t spite fun?
All this leads to Donald Trump making nice with the Republicans. Why on earth should he? Why should he bend at all about anything? Why shouldn’t he work with Democrats instead?
The response is that he’s a Republican. That he made campaign promises. That he will lose power if the Republicans lose seats. But is any of that true? He’s not really a Republican. That’s why the establishment types in Congress preferred Trump to Cruz. Cruz actually believes conservative things. Trump believes vague things and could be pushed around, they thought. They thought wrong.
Regarding campaign promises, he’s already kept more than many expected and the rest of the failure is laid at the doorstep of the feckless Republicans. They don’t want to get rid of Obamacare – not really. They most certainly don’t want immigration to be limited – there’s too many in the donor class who don’t want to have to pay higher wages. So the President has pushed these legislative matters in the lap of Congress (where they belong, by the way) and what have they done? Nothing. They’re afraid of people hating them more.
What will President Trump lose if the Republicans lose seats and the Democrats take control of say, the Senate? Probably nothing. Democrats know how to run things and they love ramming bad legislation down the throats of their supposed ideological opposition (Republicans protest, but not that much.) Donald Trump can pull legislation to the center and get some actual “wins.”
No, the “wins” won’t be conservative at all. They’ll probably be downright offensive and awful to the small percentage of us who actually care about conservative-libertarian policy and hunger for a smaller, less-powerful government.
But that’s not American voters and that’s not who runs Congress, for that matter. The Republicans could have, and might still be able to (but I doubt it) craft some significant government slimming legislation. Instead, they lacked courage, skill, and planning. Like everyone else, they counted on Hillary winning and were settling in for their pretend moping and secret elation that they wouldn’t actually have to govern.
Republicans have been flat-footed and dismissive of the Trump phenomenon. Right now, Never Trumpers are opining about how the Trump Humpers will find a way to praise the President’s pivot toward the Democrats. Some true believers may do that. Others are just laughing. Trump is like the boy who notes that the emperor has no clothes. The media is naked. The Republicans are naked. The Democrats are naked.
Democrats who called Trump Hitler are going to have to reconcile deals between the Dems and Hitler. Republicans who begged for power only to show themselves utterly incapable of governing are revealed for the big government lovers they are. Trump is destroying conservatism? How about the Republicans in the House and Senate incapable of even the mildest bite out of the federal leviathan? Do conservatives even exist? Do libertarians? They’re like theoretical voters in the mist. Everyone else wants Me First and More Than My Fair Share. Trump will deliver with the help of Democrats and Republicans along for the ride.
Republicans will finally realize when President Trump starts swinging deals with the Dems that they need him more than he needs them. By then, of course, it’s too late. They’ve missed their chance. John McCain can gloat to himself. Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan can wonder what the hell happened. That’s nothing new. They’re used to having a Democrat in charge.
Because of legislative fumbling, Trump’s only reason to work with Republicans was tribal affinity. But President Trump is not part of the tribe and the Republicans made no secret of letting him know that repeatedly. So Democrats it is.
Can you blame him?
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore