Strange Bedfellows: The Case for An Open Marriage Between Trump and the GOP
Yesterday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced that they had struck a deal with Republican President Donald Trump to fund Hurricane Harvey relief in exchange for raising the debt limit and funding the government for three months. The news appeared to come as a surprise to Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Move the Goal Posts. Candidate Trump regularly campaigned that there would be so much winning we won’t be able to stand it. Schumer and Pelosi heartily agree. Despite controlling both chambers of Congress and the White House, Republicans have been unable to pass key items on their legislative agenda like repealing the Affordable Care Act or tax reform. Now, President Trump circumvented the GOP to work a deal with a minority political party. Say what you will about the deal itself, but this is a shot across the bow against Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and frankly the Republican Party.
President Trump recently said that Kim Jong Un only understands one thing. I am beginning to think the only thing Trump understands is trolling. Give credit where credit is due, he is spectacular at it. Trump apologists like Bill Mitchell support Trumps trolling of McConnell and Ryan as a brilliant move to bend them to his will or become irrelevant. Let that sink in.
I became politically aware in the Reagan era. The GOP prided itself on being a party of ideas and principles. I was a kid back then, but I missed the part where the Gipper busted the balls of the GOP leadership to make sure they fell in line with his agenda or be relegated to the dustbin of history.
A Loyal Opposition. If Trump is going to cut deals with Schumer and Pelosi, the Congressional GOP should feel liberated to follow their conscience and act as a loyal opposition. I am not calling for #Resistance. But, rather than bending to the will of the potentate, the Republicans should deliberate, consult with the constituents and follow their own principles. Better yet, they could lead.
Right now, traditional conservatives, classical liberals, libertarians (the ones who know what Aleppo is), conservatarians, and Tea Partiers don’t have an intellectual home. I don’t mean to paint all Trump supporters as unthinking, alt-right, nationalists like the media does. But, Trump is not a conservative in the mold of Ronald Reagan or Dwight Eisenhower. (To me, he seems more Andrew Jackson than Abraham Lincoln). The coalition of people who support a small government, free market, individual liberty, civility and Constitutional federalism, are underrepresented in the Trump era. This coalition is looking for someone to give it a voice.
A 2020 Glimpse. If the Shumer-Pelosi-Trump deal was a message to small-government-conservatives to either get on the Trump train or get run over, two sides can play that game. If one or more conservatives/conservatarians signaled their intention to run for the White House in 2020, this would force Trump to cater to the small government base, or pivot to the middle. Either may be a positive result for the conservative movement.
Currently, Trumps path to reelection looks likely to be a scorched earth campaign against the winner of a crowded field of Democrat candidates. In 2020, Trump may not have Hillary Rodham Clinton to kick around again. (He could only be so lucky). Trump also will not be able to rally the traditionalist conservative base that the Supreme Court swings in the balance unless two more Supreme Court seats become open at the time of the 2020 election. Many conservatives held their nose and voted for Trump to ensure that Scalia was not replaced by a progressive justice. The critical Supreme Court factor will not likely be at play in 2020.
Instead of facing Clinton and her decades of baggage, Trump might face more youthful Kamala Harris or Corey Booker in 2020. Either candidate would likely treat the election as a referendum on race relations under President Trump. If you thought political discourse was bad in 2016, just wait until 2020.
An Open Political Marriage. Politics makes strange bedfellows. If Trump is going to continue his flirtations with Pelosi and Schumer, small government conservatives et al. should play the field as well.
Normally, political parties do not encourage challenges to their sitting President. But, normally Presidents do not choose to make deals with the opposition instead of working with their own party. I think the GOP could benefit from a Republican launching a Presidential bid early.
First, Trump is a street fighter. He may actually benefit from a spirited primary challenge. If Trump bests a strong challenger, he will look more invincible when facing a Democrat challenger.
Second, if a conservative Presidential opponent emerged now, this would push back on Trumps’ efforts to lever Democrat Congressional support against the GOP. Admittedly, this may drive Trump into the arms of the Democrats. Ironically, this may not be the worst thing for Trump’s GOP. Trump would be somewhat inoculated to charges from the next Democrat presidential opponents that he is a dangerous super villain. Collaboration between the White House and Congressional Democrats might also put a damper on impeachment talk and the #Resistance.
Third, giving a voice to small government conservatives, may force Trump to take that core Republican constituency seriously. A stalking horse candidate that represents the small government crowd could be a disciplining ideological force on a very undisciplined President.
Fourth, if Trump continues to pivot toward Congressional Democrats, shouldn’t the GOP ready one or more alternative candidates that actually represents the Republican Party? Conservatives espouse competition and debate, no? We want more options, not lockstep loyalty. So, I say, let’s start the 2020 primaries now.
Photo Credit: Bialasiewicz – 123rf.com
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