Lessons of GOP Failure
Former Reagan staffer Bruce Bartlett takes stock of the failure of Republicans to govern in the New York Daily News.
Politics is supposed to be the art of the possible, whereby politicians negotiate the issues of the day and arrive at compromises. Neither party gets all that they want, but each gets something.
In America, that ideal has been dead for some time. I’m not sure when it died, but it is indisputably dead today. The parties are extremely polarized, bipartisanship is a distant dream, moderates in both parties are alienated from their party’s base and pressing national problems fester.
The conventional wisdom says both sides are to blame. This is a fallacy. Everyone knows that the Republican Party started us down this road when it won control of Congress in 1994. That said, in politics as in physics, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. So Republican extremism has tended to force Democrats to become more extreme in the process.
President Obama often said that he thought that Republican extremism would burn itself out eventually; the fever would break. But first Republicans must be convinced that they had a fair chance to implement their policies, otherwise they will continue to insist that if only we had followed their advice, we would be living in Utopia — with rapid economic growth, a greatly reduced terror threat, minimal illegal immigration, low inflation, low unemployment, two cars in every garage and a chicken in every pot.
These are precisely the kinds of promises Donald Trump routinely made when he ran for President. You remember: We’ll win so much, you’ll get tired of winning.
Well, it’s put up or shut up time. Republicans control both houses of Congress and, arguably, the Supreme Court as well. Despite sometimes talking like an independent, Trump is the most right-wing President in our history — and I say that as someone who worked for Ronald Reagan.
The GOP has been telling us for years that Obama’s veto pen was the only thing standing in the way of a replacement for the Affordable Care Act that would improve access and lower costs; tax reform that will improve fairness and juice growth; an impenetrable wall across the Mexican border, and a proud and consistent foreign policy that will defeat terrorism.
It’s now obvious that these were lies. Republicans have no idea how to accomplish those things, and the media gave them a pass for years by not forcing them to produce detailed plans for how to achieve them. This fact has not yet fully penetrated the public consciousness, but is slowly sinking in even among the Republican base. Many Republicans simply cannot understand why, with complete control of the federal government, all of their leaders’ promises are still unfulfilled.
The reality is that Republicans cannot govern. The party functions best in opposition, with no responsibility for its actions. In their heart of hearts, every Republican in Congress would much rather be investigating Hillary Clinton’s emails, Benghazi and a dozen other “scandals.”
Trump would much rather be on Trump TV blasting away at “Crooked Hillary” and insisting that he had great plans, the best plans ever conceived for fixing the problems of the day. The last thing any Republican wants to be doing is raising the debt limit.
So as painful as it may be, the Trump-led Republican government is something we must endure at least until the next Congress convenes in 2019. I’m not predicting Democrats will get control of the House or Senate, but at least it is within the realm of possibility. Another 14 months like the last eight could give them both at the rate Trump’s and the GOP’s polls are collapsing.
I think in 2018 and 2020, enough Americans may be fed up with the Republican clown show to put adults back in charge. And even many hard-core conservatives may conclude that if they can’t implement their program with Trump and both houses of Congress, then it is hopeless. Best to stock up on supplies for the inevitable collapse than waste their time on a system that makes the achievement of their goals impossible, many may conclude as they walk away from any political involvement at all, including voting.
It would be nice to think that this process could have been avoided, but sometimes only real-world experience will teach people the lessons in life they must learn. Failure is a brutal but effective teacher. Republicans are learning that the hard way.
Cross-posted from The Sensible Center