Rich Lowry is wondering
about Trump's relationship to ordinary Republicanism. After all Trump ran as a populist, trying to take a position outside the usual right-left divide. He was anti-immigrant but for Social Security and Medicare, for fossil fuel but also for a generous healthcare plan. On the subject of healthcare, though, he let himself be captured by Ryan, and it looks like he may become a mouthpiece for ordinary Republicanism on taxes as well. Why?
A President Trump acting more in keeping with his free-floating reflex to take care of people, as expressed in speeches and interviews, would have pushed the health bill to the left. But Trump so far hasn’t followed the logic of his own politics in dealing with Congress.
His path not taken in January would have been to give an eye-openingly unifying Inaugural Address with less carnage and more kumbaya. Immediately invite Chuck Schumer to the White House and tell him, “Chuck, you’re not leaving this building until we agree on an infrastructure package.” Take the resulting big-spending proposal and dare the GOP leadership to defy him. Pass it with a bipartisan coalition. And invite as many Democratic public works-supporting mayors as possible to the White House signing ceremony.
Then, having staked his flag firmly in the center, he could have tried to mix-and-match his way to congressional coalitions for a heterodox agenda.
The real obstacle to anything like this happening is that Trump has no clue how to put his populist instincts into action, which leaves him dependent on mainstream Republicans to shape the legislative agenda. He just doesn't have the knowledge or the attention span to really shape the government. And I agree with Lowry that we may end up seeing the whole Trump phenomenon as a road not taken:
The range of possible outcomes of the Trump presidency is still wide. Unexpectedly, one of them is that his most die-hard populist supporters will eventually be able to say that Trumpism, like socialism, hasn’t failed, it’s just never been tried.
"On the subject of healthcare, though, he let himself be captured by Ryan, and it looks like he may become a mouthpiece for ordinary Republicanism on taxes as well. Why?"
Maybe because we have a Congress, and he is inherently reliant on their cooperation, and therefor must abide by their wishes, or at least by the wishes of the party with the current majority? Our system doesn't work in a manner that allows top-down dictatorial command.
Or maybe because the man is a crook and a liar, and would happily make any and all campaign promises he thought would help get him elected, with no intention of ever actually keeping them, instead merely making a show of attempting to do so and then saying other people are at fault for his hollow and empty promises not being fulfilled?
And as for making deals with Democrats, have you forgotten how viciously and disgustingly his campaign attacked the Left at every single turn? Not only is it hard to go back and cross bridges which you've burned and repair trust you've gleefully broken by proving yourself to be an enemy, but a huge portion of his voter base that were motivated by his hatred and vitriol would feel keenly betrayed by his suddenly cooperating with the people he spent months and months demonizing.
And how could any agreement be reached on the topic of funding infrastructure when looming overhead would be issues like the absurd border wall? If you give the Democrats free reign to create an infrastructure package that doesn't fund the wall, you give the Republicans every excuse they need to refuse to play ball with their Congressional majority. "Trump promised you a wall, and now he's backing down and giving in to the dirty liberals! Well, we won't sign off on any infrastructure bill that betrays the promises he made to the American people!"
And on the flipside, if he tries to force the wall into the bill, suddenly the Democrats aren't on board, and will fight tooth and nail against it, meaning he loses all leverage and goes straight back to being at the whims of the GOP's agenda.
"And as for making deals with Democrats, have you forgotten how viciously and disgustingly his campaign attacked the Left at every single turn? Not only is it hard to go back and cross bridges which you've burned and repair trust you've gleefully broken by proving yourself to be an enemy, but a huge portion of his voter base that were motivated by his hatred and vitriol would feel keenly betrayed by his suddenly cooperating with the people he spent months and months demonizing."
-You are imagining things that never happened. Both parties' attacks focused largely on the top of the ticket. Trump attacking Democrats in general was very rare.
While Clinton was the focus of his attacks during the campaign (and Obama before that-- have you forgotten the whole birther nonsense?) Trump has had plenty to say about Democrats since then. A few samples:
Called Schumer and Pelosi the "losers" after Trump-RyanCare failed abysmally
Trump on Democratic objections to Sessions: "“This whole narrative is a way of saving face for Democrats losing an election that everyone thought they were supposed to win.”"
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