Monday's HOT MIC
I read that Politico piece ("Without Priebus, Trump Is a Man Without a Party") just moments after you did, and wanted to throw in my two cents.
For readers just catching up, the relevant extract is this:
In his place is John Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general and respected disciplinarian whose mandate is to succeed where Priebus failed: imposing order and organization on a chaotic White House. Kelly, however, is not a political figure; he did not support (or oppose) Trump’s campaign, and is not known to hold strong political or ideological inclinations. Looking around Trump’s inner circle, there is communications director Anthony Scaramucci, a political novice who in the past donated to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton; chief strategist Steve Bannon, who used Breitbart to try and burn the Republican Party to the ground; National Economic Council director Gary Cohn, a lifelong Democrat; director of strategic communication Hope Hicks, who has zero history with GOP politics; and Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, a pair of self-professed Manhattan progressives. Of Trump’s closest advisers, only Mike Pence has any association with the Republican Party.
Now imagine my luck that just minutes before reading how New York progressives had coopted the top of the GOP, I'd stumbled across an almost week-old MSNBC piece on former GOP House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
Brace yourself before reading:
Asked if he feels partly responsible for their current predicament, Cantor is unequivocal. “Oh,” he says, “100 percent.”
He goes further: “To give the impression that if Republicans were in control of the House and Senate, that we could do that when Obama was still in office….” His voice trails off and he shakes his head. “I never believed it.”
He says he wasn’t the only one aware of the charade: “We sort of all got what was going on, that there was this disconnect in terms of communication, because no one wanted to take the time out in the general public to even think about ‘Wait a minute – that can’t happen.’ ” But, he adds, “if you’ve got that anger working for you, you’re gonna let it be.”
So here's the situation as I see it.
The GOP was propelled back into the majority by voters angry about ObamaCare, the Stimulus, and all of Obama's many other political predations on America's body politic. Anger turned to frustration with the GOP itself, resulting in the nomination and election of Donald Trump.
While this is not a surprise to longtime Trump watchers, the last few weeks have made it plain that Trump isn't much interested in certain crucial conservative causes. But this Cantor story reveals what we'd long feared: That neither is the GOP itself.
ASIDE: I left the GOP before it was cool, after George W. shoved Medicare Part D through Congress. I suppose in hindsight that that was the moment when it should have been obvious that the GOP would never repeal ObamaCare -- years before ObamaCare was even a thing.
So, Paula, forget for a moment your legitimate worry that "a divided GOP is a permanent minority party." And instead maybe we need to wonder where conservatives (or small-l libertarians like myself) go from here.
This just in: despite GOP ineptitude, Real Americans still really, really, really hate Democrats:
Democrats deserve credit in uniting their party to block GOP attempts at rolling back Obamacare. They managed to outline a vague list of economic priorities in hopes of convincing voters they’re not just obsessed with President Trump. But even after six months of shambolic Republican governance, Democrats are still viewed as an unacceptable alternative to many persuadable voters in middle America.
Those were the sobering findings of a Democratic survey commissioned by the party-backed House Majority PAC, which Politico and McClatchyfirst reported. The poll surveyed working-class white voters in pivotal districts that Democrats are targeting in the midterms. Despite the Trump turmoil in Washington, Republicans held a 10-point lead on the generic ballot (43-33 percent) among these blue-collar voters. Democrats hold a whopping 61 percent disapproval rating among these voters, with only 32 percent approving. Even Trump’s job-approval rating is a respectable 52 percent with the demographic in these swing districts.
Democrats maintain that with robust economic messaging, they can move those numbers in their favor. But the results show how difficult that task will be. By a stunning 35-point margin, blue-collar white voters believe that Republicans will be better at improving the economy and creating jobs than Democrats. Under Trump, the economy has been growing—even in the disadvantaged parts of the country. Between promising job creation and Trump’s own paeans to blue-collar work, it’s hard to see the GOP numbers changing significantly.
Who says there's no good news?
Roger, I'm not arguing that ideology necessarily wins elections. What I am saying is that it gets people to the polls and keeps them motivated. It's what got me involved in the Republican Party in the first place. The idea that my involvement could help move the needle on the ideological issues I care most about led me to donate my time, talents, and treasure to the party and various candidates. If rolling back the administrative state is your big issue (or number two or three), you're probably very happy with Trump and may even work to keep him in power. On the other hand, if reducing regulations doesn't even make your top ten list, there's not much to keep you in the fold at this point. We all have a hierarchy of political needs that causes us to act with regards to candidates and elections. For some, it's that elusive "inspiration" and vision thing. Others have more specific policy-oriented needs. If a party signals that it no longer cares about what the ideological voters care about, their eyes will begin to wander.
Well, it took a while, but PolitiFact scored JK Rowling's tweets about Trump a "Pants on Fire":
She's now deleted the tweet.
I'm not entirely against ideology, Paula. I'll play the game if I have to. Maybe I'd put it the way EM Forster did about democracy, to which he gave two cheers in his famous book of essays. Two Cheers for Ideology. Sure, it's great, but it only takes you so far. Conditions change. Also, what appears to be one way on the surface is very often the opposite beneath. One of my favorite quotes form William Morris (not the agent, the English designer) goes like this: "Men fight and lose the battle, and thing they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, and when it comes out not to be what they meant, other men have to fight for what they meant under another name."
Nice, no? On another matter, I was happy to see Scaramouche go. Anyone on the right who would trust The New Yorker (?!) is either a nitwit or an illiterate.
Jesus had this to say when he walked the earth:
He also told them this parable: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.
Which brings to mind this gem from the wayback machine:
Somewhere, heads are exploding.
Here in Colorado, colleges have long been forbidden from banning CCW holders from carrying on campus, and we haven't had any problems -- not a one.
Continuing the discussion amongst Steve, Roger, Rick, and myself ... Rick, I think you've made some very important points. Winning elections has always been about building coalitions — uniting disparate factions under the banner of one party or another. Reagan was the master of this. Everyone believed he would go to his grave fighting for the issues they cared about. If protecting the unborn was your issue, Reagan was your guy. If you wanted to defeat the Soviets, so did Reagan. Probably more than you did. If you cared about the economy, again, Reagan was the man to fix it. Part of his appeal was his ability to speak the language of all the disparate factions fluently. He didn't wake up one morning and pop a Rosetta Stone "conservative" CD into his computer. He spent years studying the movement and its principals and honed his speeches over a period of many years to the point that he was a convincing advocate for any and every conservative cause. That allowed him to secure a solid base, which led to his ability to govern effectively. But there was also another side to Reagan. He was popular amongst non-ideological Republicans and also many Democrats because he was inspirational and communicated a vision that made sense to Americans sitting at home watching on TV. Trump excels at the visionary/inspirational part but is deficient in the coalition building and governing skills that the job requires. To Roger's point downplaying the importance of ideology, while that's certainly true for a lot of people, the opposite is also true for many who have supported the GOP over the years. Ideologues are the highly motivated voters who GOTV and do the hard grassroots work of campaigns. Lose those voters and you're left with little more than raw populism. That'll get you one (two at best) elections. After that, what remains is what the Democrats are dealing with now. Once the star fades away, the party splits into factions.
Steve, I saw that story about the now-fired Anthony Scaramucci's cameo in Hollywood, and lemme say I don't believe it, at least the way they framed it. He didn't pay to be in the movie -- the various guilds have strict rules about this sort of thing -- he paid to have his corporate logo in the movie. Pure product placement.
It seems to me that we're dancing around the real issue. Is there one Republican Party bound by immutable principles, united by a common vision of governance, and animated by a shared historical understanding of the party's past?
Well, now that you put it that way...
Actually, all of that could be true and has been in the past. What's needed is a dominant personality -- a Taft, an Ike, a Goldwater, a Reagan -- who, by sheer force of will, pulls the various factions of Republicanism together and has them marching in the same direction.
The previous eight years were a mirage. What united the party was opposition to a Democratic president. Obviously, that's not enough. And the Ryan-McConnell idea of "leadership" has been an exercise in trying not to offend anyone who isn't a conservative. The rickety coalition of moderates and career conservatives they've constructed is, quite simply, unable to govern and has failed in offering a coherent vision of what the people of the United States need.
The people are crying out for leadership. They want the vision thing. They want to be inspired.
And not just the activists. In fact, those individual politicians who inspire activists scare the hell out of many of the rest of us.
For the record, the Democrats are in worse shape than Republicans. But again, opposition to a Republican president is masking the true dire straits of their party. Democratic leaders are old, tired social democrats whose ideas have been rejected time and time again. The danger is that Trump will make Republicanism so odorous and toxic that whatever radical candidate the Democrats nominate in 2020 will win -- Trumpism in reverse.
Would that really be the end of the republic? As Roger mentioned, Trump's singular achievement in office has been the rollback of dozens of regulations -- so far. He's not going to eliminate the regulatory state, nor should he. The point is, much of President Obama's legacy was not built on legislation, but on executive orders and regulations. Both have been curtailed, rolled back, or eliminated under Trump, proving that America is a lot more resilient than her cynics give her credit for.