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Lessons learned?

March 27, 2017

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the  all-Republican AHCA came a cropper at the hands of just 15 to 30 Conservative Republicans.

Some are applauding them for stopping a bill that was wildly unpopular across a wide spectrum of the population, while others are noting that much of the opposition was about parts of the bill that previously passed the House without a murmur from this same group.

The larger question is whether the opposition will continue, relative to anything the President favors.

From the time it became clear that Donald Trump was making a serious run for the presidency, most observers noted that the greatest threat to him after his election would come from within the party he sought to and has brought back to power.

The hardline Conservatives are every bit as divisive and ideologically rigid as the Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders factions on the left.

You expect the losing party to oppose you, so their prattling and bawling is no surprise.

Where President Trump  went wrong was in apparently believing that both the so-called Republican super patriots and establishment pillars could put their personal broadaxes down for the good of the country.

Of course if you are an elected President who just performed one of the most astonishing political feats in history, you might be excused for thinking that might buy you at least a little political capital from your own party.

Obviously that was a naive hope, particularly in view of the hyper-partisan political climate of the last few decades, and especially the last eight years.

One of the reasons people voted for the President was because they thought he could break the gridlock in Washington.

It’s no secret that you have the political universe, and then there is the one the rest of us live in. In that world we make compromises every day, so we might be forgiven for thinking that compromise is not a four-letter word.

To his his credit, the President has had more face time with members of Congress from every faction over the past 64 days than President Obama had during the preceding 2920 days. That includes meetings with Schumer and Pelosi, not just Republicans.

What he may not have understood is that none of these people see him as their boss and they have the backing of the Constitution for that viewpoint. He can’t just summarily fire them, and publicly threatening to oppose them in an election still two years away is ineffectual.

While it is tempting to call everyone who opposes President Trump Obama loyalists, in actual fact most of the career lifers at every GS pay grade are not personally loyal to any President.

That’s not to say there are no Obama acolytes or Bush-era holdovers working to overthrow the Trump administration, because there surely are those people too, both inside and outside the government.

Still, the majority of people are primarily loyal to their own survival. Any strong ideological opposition is reserved for a very few, like 30-year Senate veteran John McCain, who was first elected in 1987. His political career has already survived five Presidents, from Reagan through Obama. He probably anticipates outlasting this one too.

In fact, some would say what really came out of this train wreck was an even stronger argument for term limits.

There may be another attempt to end Obamacare, but in the meantime, there are a few little things like tax reform, the border wall, the budget and rebuilding the military to get done too.

There is likely to be strong Freedom Caucus opposition to some of those issues as well, given that many of them are welded to eliminating the national debt in four to eight years.

Some in the GOP opposition have already signaled that the 54 billion dollars the President has set aside this year for military upgrades is far too little.

That may eventually prove to be a mistake. In fact, it appears that even some members of the Freedom Caucus are finding the bull-headed, oppose-at-any-price stance of their fellow representatives too much to stomach.

Hopefully President Trump is as fast a learner as his supporters say he is. This is how the game is played, and the way to win is to learn to use the playbook to your advantage.

Republicans lost something too. They are supposed to be the seasoned old hands, but they came out of the healthcare debacle looking like the rankest rookies at best, and self-serving ideologues at worst.

Obamacare lite, as it was quickly tagged, was a non-starter from the get-go but it did have some features that were politically positive.

One of its best features, again from a political perspective, was that it immediately gave Americans a nearly one trillion dollar income boost, which would have given any subsequent tax cuts a multiplying factor in terms of economic activity, i.e. people spending money.

The AHCA battle also had some obvious political drawbacks. It seems inconceivable that no one thought to ask the Parliamentarian whether the Ryan meme that it had to be crafted the way it was due to Senate rules was really true. That makes GOP moderates look positively sophomoric.

The President may be right in saying that the best way to handle the ACA is to simply let it die a natural and unassisted death.

It is likely that he saw early on that he had been misled about there being a ready-to-go replacement for Obamacare, and this move buys time to come up with something more palatable and useful to the public than the AHCA.

On the other hand, he only has about a year to both revisit the issue and get it passed. After that Congress will be in full campaign mode. It is probably far better to wait until replacing it becomes a necessity, but it may not be politically doable.

Perhaps the most positive thing to come out of the whole debacle is that it forced the Trump administration to come to grips early on with how Washington really works, exposing the people they can count on and the people they can’t.

The lesson to be learned? Sometimes reality sucks.

From → op-ed

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