Republican voters who held their noses and voted for Donald Trump out of loyalty to the party may be having second thoughts now that he has begun forsaking the Grand Old Party and cutting deals with Democrats for the sake of expedience.
For starters, President Trump, rather than follow the hard line of GOP conservatives who would shut down the government over the issue, worked out quick passage of a bill extending the debt limit with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. He then struck a tentative bargain with the same two Democrats that would keep hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought here as children from being summarily deported.
All this, of course, has left Republican congressional leaders with their noses more than a little out of joint and has led to predictions from some analysts that we are seeing the beginning of the dissolution of the two-party system, with Trump running in 2020 as an independent. While it is a bit early for such extreme predictions, there is little doubt the old Republican mantra of not fraternizing with the enemy has been shredded around the edges.
But that’s what happens when far too many put their political party above common sense. Loyalists of the Republican establishment (if there is such a thing now), who obviously wanted the party’s stamp back on the White House door, couldn’t wait to put someone in the Oval Office totally unqualified and unfit for the position - a huckster who wrote a book titled “The Art of the Deal.” What were they expecting?
They haven’t been the only ones burned. All those who bought into the campaign snake oil about immigration walls and better health care and the silliness of climate control are now scratching their heads too.
As a comedian once said, who trusts a financial adviser who pronounces his name “Made-off”?
Now that the administrators of the majority Republican Party have been unable to shove through the hallowed halls of Congress even a smidgen of Trump’s over-the-top agenda in the time he promised during the campaign, he is looking elsewhere for solace. Why not “Chuck and Nancy,” as he calls the minority leaders? Deals are art, after all, especially in politics.
But what’s left is disdain all around. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, already smarting from Trump’s disparagements over their inability to overturn Obamacare, have taken his supper parlay with the opposition as a real kick in the keister. One wonders just how badly they want to keep their jobs. Perhaps they should consult former Speaker John Boehner, whose frustrations with the tea party crowd led him to quit Congress altogether. He was last seen walking through the halls of the Capitol whistling “Free at Last.” Trump’s rabid base, meanwhile, is at least partially mystified, if not totally let down, over his befriending Schumer and Pelosi.
And perhaps the person hurting most of all is Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who earlier in the administration refused to step down, even when Trump almost begged him to. The Alabamian is staunchly anti-illegal immigration, wanting to line up the so-called Dreamers and cram them onto planes back to wherever they came from. One can only imagine how he’s feeling now.
None of this would seem to bode well for the GOP in next year’s midterm elections. But stay closely tuned. This is an administration already notorious for it fickleness both in policy and promises, likes and dislikes. Waking each morning to Trump’s atomic tweets is a harrowing experience for those with a dog in the fight. It’s like wondering if the baby has somehow gotten hold of the hammer.
Dan Thomasson is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service and a former vice president of Scripps Howard Newspapers.