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Sep 10 2017

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Trump’s Pivot

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Trump’s New BFFs…?

Yes, it’s true. I have to admit it.

I had a fat, Cheshire cat grin on my face when news of the Trump-Chuck-Nancy deal hit a shocked Washington, on Wednesday.

At the height of my #nevertrump activism, I regularly pointed out, with volumes of evidence, that Trump was neither conservative nor Republican, and that sooner or later he would return to his liberal roots. Trump supporters regularly retorted that I simply didn’t understand Trump or the Base, that I was actually a fake Republican (RINO), or worse, a member of the dreaded “Establishment.”

Now, seven months into his term, President Trump has cut a deal that Hillary Clinton would easily have embraced, undercutting the GOP leadership in Congress and scrambling this autumn’s legislative agenda. And Trump cut the deal with the Democrat Establishment.

The only thing missing was a white flag.

But more enjoyable than the shocked view of the deal, has been the defense from Trump’s most ardent supporters.

If Trump didn’t cut this deal, then there would be no aid for Texas and it would be a political nightmare.”

Now, I find this line of reasoning, specifically from Sean Hannity, to be particularly interesting, as it was Hannity and others that stoked the base into fury that forced futile legislative exercises in 2011-13 that threatened default on the debt ceiling and closed down the government more than once.  At the time (as you will see from my posts) I pleaded that there was no way to win and that the legislative follies were little more than a political Pickett’s charge, with a certain conclusion that would tarnish Republicans.  Back then, I was told that we had to draw the line somewhere and fight – even if fighting meant losing.

Ah, how things have changed. Even with control of Congress and the presidency, Trump supporters were counseling surrender.  There was a better deal to be had, and they know it.

My personal crowing on this issue aside, I don’t object to bipartisan agreements at all. Indeed, that is the only way to get anything done in DC, unless you have a House majority and more than 60 seats in the Senate. It was President Reagan who said that he’d rather take 70% and cut a deal than insist on 100% and get nothing.

Realizing that Trump has no unified political philosophy, but rather a fixed set of opinions on various issues, I laid out a plan, back in November, where Trump could form coalitions, depending on the issues, that would create the foundation for bi-partisan deal-making.

The deals are there to be made, and they are obvious.

Immigration: Permanent status for DACA recipients in return for border wall funding.  Resident Alien status for illegals who could prove they were in the country from a certain date with no criminal record, in return for tougher immigration controls and a cap on overall immigration.

Taxes & Infrastructure: The GOP wants to revamp the tax code, lower tax rates for individuals and corporations, clean out distorting deductions. Democrats want a massive infrastructure initiative, which both Trump and a majority of Americans support. US companies have over $2.1 trillion in overseas banks to avoid the current, confiscatory US corporate tax. Create a special tax rate for repatriation of that capital, and use the proceeds to fund infrastructure. The economy is made more competitive, everyone gets tax relief, the “evil” corporations pay up and our deteriorating infrastructure gets a makeover.

These are only three issues, but action on them would have a massive, positive impact on the economy and candidly on the image of Washington as a center of problem solving. The Bases will hate these deals, but the broad middle of America would support them because they are so eminently practical. The political benefit is that it would put enormous pressure on Trump state Democrats to vote with the president and get the deals done, or, in failure, threaten their re-election, which would get the GOP closer to 60 votes in the Senate. That in turn, could create the conditions for a true conservative path for the country in the last two years before the 2020 re-elect.

It’s a win-win.

So the concept of bipartisanship isn’t bad; it’s the fact that the first agreement Trump struck with the Democrats wasn’t a deal,  but a sell out.

Republicans were united in a proposal that would fully fund Harvey relief for an extension of the debt limit beyond the 2018 elections. This would have taken care of Texas and give the GOP breathing room to focus on Trump’s agenda and get points on the board before the midterms.

Senator Schumer and Minority Leader Pelosi had a different plan.  A 90-day extension of the debt limit and government funding (to December 8th) and full funding for Harvey relief. A more horrible deal is hard to fathom.

First, it forces the GOP to vote to increase the debt limit at least twice before 2018. That is Castor Oil to the GOP base, which compromises House Republicans, who want to support the president, but who risk their seats with this particular vote..

Second, with Harvey relief out-of-the-way, it gives Schumer-Pelosi significant leverage to extract concessions from Trump/Republicans in December (right before Christmas) since the GOP does not have the votes to increase the debt ceiling on its own. Democrats are already drawing up a laundry list, including a permanent legislative fix for DACA (without border wall funding) and massive subsidies for failing O-care health exchanges (without reforms).  Expect that Democrats will also press for a six-month extension of the debt ceiling so that this issue can play on, over and over again.

If President Trump plays along with this, not only will he be enabling the Democrat agenda, he will in all likelihood catalyze a Democrat House and Senate as a furious GOP base refuses to turn out for a failed Congress, ironically aided by a Republican POTUS. Trump will not have been a change agent, but a Trojan Horse.

Shocked Republicans in Congress should absorb the lesson. They control the majority, though at times it is easy to forget that. Having failed to deliver for Trump on a party-line strategy, Trump is looking elsewhere for wins, and fratricidal conservatives have only themselves to blame for that. To save a conservative agenda, they will have to find a path with a president who has now show himself as impulsive with his support.

In the end, it comes back to Trump.

There is a potentially historic opportunity to cut responsible, center-right deals on the nation’s most problematic issues.  Or the President can simply play out a grudge against Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell.

The choice has enormous consequence.

 

 

 

 

 

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