President Trump recently shocked the Republican establishment by making a deal with the Democrats over the debt ceiling. The logic behind the move was, if the GOP refused to govern, Trump would go to the Democrats. Trump hoped to set the table for comprehensive tax reform.
Yet, already the Democrats are balking at Trump’s tax reform plans. The Leftist base cannot countenance their elected leaders reasonably working with Trump or the GOP on real legislation. How could they? The Democrats are convinced that Trump stole the election from Hillary Clinton with Russia’s help.
Working with the Democrats would yield only limited results anyway. The Do-Nothing Republicans, for all their faults, remain preferable to the militant Left that dominates today’s Democratic Party.
During his epic interview with Charlie Rose on “60 Minutes,” former White House adviser Steve Bannon rightly pointed out that Trump is at war with the stilted establishment GOP even more than he is at war with the Democrats. The Republican establishment represents a failed and dying coalition of interests that no longer resonate with the American electorate. Like the titular character in “Weekend at Bernie’s,” the Grand Old Party is propped up by his best buds Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell who, for their own reasons, refuse to acknowledge that the old coot is dead.
But if Republican congressional leaders are propping up a necrotic party, the Democrats are more like King Kong clutching lustily to an idealized vision of identity politics in the one fist as they smash America apart with the other. Since the election, Trump has been able to keep King Kong caged, guarded, and on display. He’s shown us the creature’s habits and its weaknesses. But, as recent events have shown, the president has not yet tamed Kong. And a caged but untamed beast is far deadlier than a corpse—especially if he escapes.
It’s true that President Trump has faced “stiff” resistance from those trying to prop up the lifeless ideas of the establishment. Some of that resistance is born of antipathy toward the president. But, more of it stems from simple incompetence. And while the effects of incompetence are sometimes indistinguishable from those of ill-will, there may be more hope that an incompetent could learn to be effective than that a malicious opponent would have a change of heart.
The Democrats—being the untamed, enraged, and vicious beast in this story—are the real threat. Looking to the Democrats more often than to the Republicans for deals will not work long-term because the Democrats will remain committed to their ideology.
F.H. Buckley has argued that Trumpism represents a third way in American politics, between the Chuck Schumer Democrats and the Paul Ryan Republicans. Buckley is correct. Unfortunately, our political system, predicated as it is on the bipolar Republican versus Democrat dynamic, will not change before the 2018 midterms.
Traditionally, voter turnout in midterms is low and tends to bring out people vested in the status quo. The congressional districts, gerrymandered to favor incumbents or—at least—one party over the other, don’t appear ready for a big shake-up. And while Republicans control most state governments and most state governments are charged with determining congressional redistricting, there is no guarantee that the Republicans in charge are Trump Republicans. In many cases, they likely are not.
In other words, much as Trump Republicans would like it to be otherwise, 2018 will be a contest between the entrenched GOPe and the deranged Leftists of the DNC. The longer President Trump remains in power, the harder it will be for the GOPe to ignore the fact that Trumpism is the way forward. But moderated expectations are necessary for the short term. As Steve Bannon outlined in his recent “60 Minutes” interview, this reform agenda will take years to be realized completely.
For now, Trump needs to deal with the GOP rather than falling for the false promises of Chuck Schumer and the Democrats. The Republicans, as difficult as they are, will rally around their man when their hand is forced. How many times has Paul Ryan disowned Trump, and yet continued working with him? We don’t want to push the Republican establishment too hard in 2018 because it might break. What comes after them, I can assure you, is much more terrifying. Don’t worry, the GOPe will go the way of the Whigs on its own. In fact, it’s already on the way out.
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