How Trump Can Rally Three GOP Factions for a Historic First Year
A governing majority of three distinct factions and agendas can deliver on some great things this year.
Even those repulsed by the recent campaign will focus on Congress and the new President as “gridlock” gives way to — what? The political-science notion of “unified control by one Party” doesn’t begin to explain it.
If the U.S. had a parliamentary system, President Donald Trump’s coalition in Congress would consist of three distinct parties: (1) Economic Nationalists fed up with porous borders and sweeping trade pacts; (2) Conservatives and Christians who favor limited government, military strength, and religious freedom; and (3) Corporate-oriented Republicans ready to compromise on social issues and immigration.
Since all three wear a Republican label, we’ll call them factions. To win legislatively, the Trump Administration will need very strong support from at least two of those three — and no serious resistance from the one whose priorities are being diluted, delayed or denied.
Start with where all three factions are in-sync. Big changes in health insurance. Conservative judicial nominees and support for the police. Energy independence via more fracking and new pipelines. And major business tax relief including repatriation of profits from Fortune 500 subsidiaries. If Trump and the GOP-led Congress concentrated on these four zones, 2017 would be a historic year and the economy would rally.
Beyond that, critical differences take hold. Let’s move beyond “favor versus oppose.” The more enlightening question is: Which faction is excited about delivering on what issues and themes?
- What drove the Trump Army? Evict the violent illegals, induce a lot of others to depart, and keep out undocumented saboteurs; along with “Buy American and Hire Americans,” all the better with hefty infrastructure spending. Top Republican legislators are not keen on any of that.
- Conservatives remain solid: Reduce or contain spending on everything while also replenishing a hollowed-out military. Restore local control of K-12 governance while promoting school choice and religious freedoms. On tax changes, remember that families and small businesses have claims at least as strong as those of Silicon Valley, Boeing, and agribusinesses seeking cheap labor.
- And the Establishment Republicans? For this faction, “excitement” is the wrong term. They measure success by moderating whatever can’t be avoided. Not just the lifestyle and moral issues, but pushing China on trade and currency issues, new spending commitments, and restricting the global autonomy of large U.S. companies. Especially in the Senate, key conservative as well as Trumpian priorities have senior Republican legislators jittery.
Social Decay — and How to Smoke Out the Federal Enablers
Readers of The Stream might also wonder: What about the underlying deterioration not addressed by the measures being talked about?
Since the Crash of 2008, 14 million Americans have left the labor force. That’s mostly aging Boomers, according to Mr. Obama’s Labor Department. Others know that the costs of a job — for the hirers as well as the hirees — are up against government transfer payments, quotas, mandates, and very liberal “disability” rules.
With traditional marriage under assault, America is turning into a tribal society, where millions of kids are everyone’s responsibility even as they have no respected source of authority to turn to. Meanwhile heroin-smuggling, addiction to pain-deadening medications, and the so-called recreational use of marijuana are at levels not seen in 40 to 50 years.
It’s true: Permissive policies and relativistic attitudes are sapping America’s vitals in ways that more pipelines and lower corporate taxes can’t touch.
But there’s one strategy that, using minimal resources, can thwart one of the most insidious threats to family cohesion and social resilience.
Where does “politics meet culture” in ways that inflame moral as well as economic ills? It’s the Administrative State — law made by lawyers and bureaucrats never elected and relieved to be hidden. These folks are animated by secular materialism and sustained by social polarization.
Describing belligerents in battle, Carl von Clausewitz wrote that “a certain center of gravity develops, the hub of all power and movement, on which everything depends. That is the point against which all our energies should be directed.” Well, not “all” — 2017 is too top-heavy for that — but enough.
Where does “politics meet culture” in ways that inflame moral as well as economic ills? It’s the Administrative State — law made by lawyers and bureaucrats never elected and relieved to be hidden. These folks are animated by secular materialism and sustained by social polarization. All of us got to sample their daily thinking in the Wikileaks e-mail mound.
Congress won’t eliminate the Energy or Education Departments. But tough GOP legislators can partner with the Trump White House and its Departmental heads to identify and defund economic and moral nihilism in federal departments and agencies.
To block the pollution of children’s minds? Identify the parts of the Dept. of Education that manipulate local content and block objective and effective teacher evaluations. Defund them.
To bolster family autonomy, rights and responsibilities? Haul up the lawyer-bureaucrats from HHS and the Justice Department; make them explain each and every regulation or locally-targeted lawsuit; and then defund the enforcement strategy and the offices from which it sprang.
Though energy is not a family issue as such, the same “search and defund” method will work for Secretary Rick Perry and his hardier congressional allies.
A governing majority of three distinct factions and agendas can deliver on some great things this year. But they’ll need to be evocative and compelling in their public case-making — and highly explicit behind closed doors. “Who does what when? Who’ll need to wait until 2018? And how do we not play games that could blow it up for all of us? After all, we’ve just seen what the other side can do with power. …”
Oh yes, the Democrats! Why did we say so little about them? Mainly because no one expects them to govern. They won’t be able to issue executive orders or set the House and Senate schedule.
Yet the Democratic Party, much better than their GOP rivals, understands Clausewitz’s point about “the hub of all power and movement.” They have a knack for applying force in ways that preserves ground — or blows up the train tracks — regardless of what public opinion favors. They’ll also be trying to make their own deals — with the new Republican President. The Republicans in Congress should remember that.
Former congressional aides Frank Gregorsky and Donald J. Morrissey are two of the seven authors behind Elephants in the Room — a History of the House Republican Future (Exacting Times Books, 2016, 250 pages).