August 9, 2017


Trump Is Losing His Battle With the Republican Party : The president's major achievements all dovetail with longstanding GOP priorities, while nearly all of his distinctive policy proposals have stalled or failed. (DAVID A. GRAHAM  AUG 8, 2017, The Atlantic)

Why has Trump failed to push his own pet causes through, even as conservative Republican policies prosper? Wasn't this the Trump who had bent the GOP to his will and overcome the fearsome party establishment? One culprit is Trump's lack of discipline and short attention span, and his manifest lack of interest in the details and mechanics of policymaking. But some of his failures are rooted in the very same party takeover. Because he captured the GOP by blitzkrieg, having little experience in politics, he arrived in Washington not only without his own experience to draw on but also without the benefit of the exterior structures--think-tanks, lobbying concerns, outside-spending groups--upon which most presidents can rely. Though most Oval Office occupants have more experience than Trump, they also don't usually need to do all the work of pushing policies through Congress.

Building that support structure requires time, capturing existing institutions, or both. The closest Trump had to that was the Heritage Foundation, a venerable conservative think tank that had taken a turn away from providing intellectual heft for the GOP to becoming, under the leadership of former Senator Jim DeMint, a gadfly that pushed Tea Party concepts on the party and punished any renegades. Heritage embraced Trump early on.

But the awkward fit was clear. In response to Trump's call for a $1 trillion infrastructure package, Heritage produced a plan that downplayed direct federal projects, relying heavily instead on tax credits and public-private partnerships to have private-sector companies do the work, rather than the government. What little detail Trump has offered on his infrastructure plan since the election seems close to the Heritage blueprint, but that means it's a long way from what he seemed to be promising on the trail, and in any case it's going nowhere. Meanwhile, Heritage's board pushed DeMint out and the think tank seems to be reinventing itself.

So it's not just Trump's infrastructure plan that has failed to materialize; it's also the metaphorical infrastructure Trump requires to advance his agenda. The president promised during the campaign that "I alone can fix it," and despite his struggles so far, he shows no signs of wavering from the insistence on going it alone.

It isn't hard to see a line between these struggles and a New York Times report over the weekend about the shadow 2020 contest arising between Republicans who are quietly preparing presidential runs if Trump decides, or is forced, not to run for reelection in three years--or perhaps even if he does. One of those potential candidates is Vice President Pence, whom the Times noted has taken a variety of preparatory steps, even while maintaining his allegiance to Trump. (Indeed, Pence fiercely denied the report, despite the steps he has taken.) A few months ago, it looked like Trump had successfully conducted a hostile takeover of the Republican Party. Two-hundred days into his presidency, things look a little different. Having stymied his distinctive policy innovations and successfully implemented their own, why wouldn't GOP mandarins finish the job off and shove Trump aside in favor of a Republican who can do all the same things--and without the chaos and embarrassment that Trump lugs along with him?

He nominates whichever judges we tell him to and he gets to star in a reality show where he pretends to be president : it's a pretty good deal.

Posted by at August 9, 2017 6:39 AM