National Review’s Kevin Williamson, assessing the Trump administration’s record, riffs on Orwell to ask “Where’s the Omelet?” The Democrats, otoh, see the End Times, and therein lies a tale.
In August, I assessed Trump’s record more positively than Williamson does, if not as positively as NR’s Rich Lowry does. And things really haven’t changed all that much since August. By year’s end, we may have that tax reform bill, almost more out of a sense of Congress having to accomplish something. Although there are good things in the bills, the effort is less popular than Obamacare was, and gets only 76% of support from Republicans.
And the idea that Trump has to win something was behind the theory that he should cut deals with the Dems, which doesn’t seem to be in the cards, except for possibly something on the so-called “Dreamers” that runs contrary to Trump’s core brand. Indeed, Trump’s general incoherence on policy means the GOP is largely bound together by loathing Democrats, which probably limits his ability cut deals, even if “making deals” was a big part of Trump’s image.
Trump’s supporters will blame the failures to move big-ticket items on the GOP Congress, and so will I. But I’ll also blame Trump, and they won’t.
The people most eager to declare the GOP has become the Party of Trump also seem to believe he has not responsibility to move an agenda, whether it’s his or House Speaker Paul Ryan’s. The result is a party that is barely capable of moving even the most conventional of Republican bills, let alone legislation to reform immigration policy (something in the general ballpark of the RAISE Act). And for all the pro-Trump crowing about regulatory rollback and returning certain policy decisions to Congress, there’s no effort to structurally move in the direction of controlling the administrative state (something in the ballpark of the REINS Act).
The Democrats do not live in this world of relatively modest GOP achievements. House Minority Ldr. Nancy Pelosi refers to the fairly typical GOP tax effort as “Armageddon… the end of the world.” It is “the worst bill in the history of the United States Congress.” Comments like these serve as a nice holiday tree-topper to a year of Democrats turning the hysteria all the way to eleven at every point of political disagreement.
It would be far easier for me to mock this sort of apocalyptic rhetoric were it not also the stock in trade of Trump’s GOP. The Democrats are so bad, we are told, that Alabamans must vote for a GOP nominee credibly accused of molesting a 14-year-old. And that claim is merely the latest stop on the rhetorical track of “The Flight 93 Election,” which essentially posited the 2016 vote was between Trump and The Death of America.
And yet, as I noted regarding the GOP’s healthcare reform effort, the Trump administration and the GOP Congress are not governing as though they are wrestling with jihadists to save our lives. They are trying to govern from Ryan’s “blueprint,” more or less. Meanwhile, the Democrats howl, but make no discernible policy movement that might attract Independents and Republicans disaffected by Trump.
The Democrats and the Trump GOP bestride the political stage wearing sandwich boards proclaiming The End is Nigh. Neither of them really acts as though it it is. Tough to figure out why the electorate is disillusioned and everyone’s poll numbers are in the gutter.
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