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Outsiders vs. Insiders: GOP holdouts should join Obamacare repeal play or be cut from the team

On paper it all seems so obvious. Republicans enjoy a 36-seat majority in the House (note: it would be 37 but Jason Chaffetz resigned recently); a 4-seat advantage in the Senate; a theoretical conservative preponderance on the Supreme Court and a party devotee in the White House.

It’s about as close to political nirvana as anyone could ask for in twenty-first century Washington; not even Ronald Reagan enjoyed such friendly patronage during his eight years in the White House.

Cut from teamYet Republicans remain stymied, seemingly powerless to pass something even as straightforward as an Obamacare repeal. The widely-despised federal healthcare monstrosity survives despite the vast majority of the people in power having sworn holy oaths to ditch it at their first convenience.

That opportunity appeared to materialize last November as the Election Night returns showed not only Donald Trump winning the presidency but the GOP surprisingly maintaining its Senate (and House) majority. It wasn’t supposed to be that way – according to the pundits and the polls, Senator Ron Johnson was destined to lose in Wisconsin as was Senator Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania. Marco Rubio also looked vulnerable in Florida after having wavered on his decision to run for re-election.

At the very least Democrats were hoping to pull even numbers in the upper chamber and retain the ability to break ties with a newly elected Vice President Tim Kaine under President Hillary Clinton.

It didn’t work out that way. Conservatives and Republicans rejoiced in the early morning hours of November 9 as it appeared there was nothing in the way of passing at least some of the agenda items they’d been perfecting for years.

So why is it so bleak for the GOP now?

Rich Lowry wrote in National Review, “On the cusp of a historic failure, the party has begun the finger-pointing, and it’s hard to argue with any of it. The establishment is right that Trump is incapable of true legislative leadership. The Trumpists are right that the establishment is ineffectual. Conservatives are right that moderates don’t really want to repeal Obamacare, whatever they’ve said in the past. And pragmatists are right that a few conservatives are beholden to a self-defeating purity…

“At the end of the day, the most important difference between the parties on health care may be that the Democrats had a vision that they were thoroughly committed to and were astonishingly courageous in effecting. No one had more to lose from sticking with the forced march toward passage of Obamacare than Nancy Pelosi, and yet no one was as devoted to the cause. If she becomes speaker again in 2019 after Republicans — disunited, selfish and fearful — have whiffed on repealing her handiwork, it will be the sweetest revenge.”

It’s hard to argue with Lowry’s reasoning; the GOP does seem like a train-wreck in mid-crash sequence. Intra-party divisions that have existed for years are being brought to the surface under the pressure to actually produce something Republicans have to own. The “show vote” mentality that’s permeated the “stupid party” (as Lowry correctly labels them) has by all appearances poisoned the well so putridly that the calm voice of reason can’t move a token few of them to “take one for the team” and go along with the most uncomplicated of legislative proposals.

From the outside looking in it’s very difficult to fathom how the Republicans could bungle this episode so badly. Lowry’s correct – culpability is shared among all of the party’s constituencies and Trump himself, though it’s hard to find a lot of fault with a man who essentially is just inviting the Republicans in Congress to send him something – anything – to call a “team” victory. It doesn’t seem mandatory for Trump to know every last detail of the bill or even to understand the intricacies of healthcare.

Isn’t that what Congress is for?

Under our constitutional system the president executes the laws Congress passes. The traditional role of the legislature is to acquire and employ the expertise on the “little details” that make up complex legislation. The Founding Fathers believed any bill longer than one page was too long for simple comprehension and implementation; if we’d only stuck to their wisdom we’d all be in better shape today.

Instead, Republicans are only gumming up the system and they look awful foolish in the process.

Scott McKay wrote at The American Spectator, “McConnell doesn’t have to announce publicly what the consequences for … betrayal might be, as his job now is to back Murkowski, Portman, and Capito off their public stances and get their votes. If that means a new Bridge to Nowhere connecting Gustavus and Pleasant Island, or a new airport servicing Chillicothe, or an I-77 loop around greater Parkersburg, then maybe that’s a small price to pay to make this happen. Or in the alternative, it’s not necessary for us to know what threats are made — a guaranteed primary opponent, a cutoff of NRSC funds, a negative change in committee assignments, or a new office in what used to be a broom closet in the Dirksen Building — to keep these people on the straight and narrow.

“But the idea McConnell can’t deliver votes for policy that he could deliver for preening simply will not cut the mustard.”

On further reflection the Republicans’ problem stems not only from the refusal of a few selfish and skittish members to help push the party wagon along but also from the nature of government in our times. Too many – at least among the GOP “moderates” – seem to believe government is essential rather than just a necessary evil.

These folks share a similar philosophy with the Democrats – a belief that it’s government’s duty to provide benefits rather than create the conditions whereby citizens can prosper on their own wherewithal, ambitions and motivations.

Meanwhile, the Democrats have devolved into a unified socialist-promoting gaggle of weirdos and wackos commanded by an unbalanced elite (Pelosi and Schumer) whose only aim is to poke fingers in the eyes of Republicans and shower federal money on their favored special interests. They exist to redistribute resources like politically sanctioned money launderers.

If there are any positives to come from the tumultuous first six months of Donald Trump’s presidency (in connection with its GOP congressional majorities) it’s we no longer have to accept the widely touted fallacy that the Republican Party is a conservative, limited government party. It’s not. The GOP is the home of all but an insignificant minority of conservatives but on balance the party remains a collection of ideologically mixed constituencies.

There is a limited government presence (think the Freedom Caucus and Mike Lee and Ted Cruz); there’s a social conservative element that opposes same-sex marriage and abortion but isn’t always against an active governmental role in America; there’s the nebulous populist crowd that is essentially pro-Trump and anti-Democrat; there’s the dominant establishment wing that seems only interested in cheap labor, protecting big business and winning elections; and there’s the borderline-liberal blue blood traditional country club Bush-type Republicans who champion civility above everything else and believe they have a predestined status as leaders of the country.

For his part, #NeverTrump leader Erick Erickson thinks it’s the latter groups that are the problem. Erickson wrote last week at The Resurgent, “Time and time again, the Republican establishment has blocked all those efforts. It is moderate and liberal Republicans who continue to stymie the advance of any and all conservative legislation President Trump supports. They want to grow government, subsidize Obamacare, and reward their own special interests. They have no intention of providing a level playing field where the poor and middle class can compete against the rich. They’ve instead decided on a paternalism that keeps everyone piled on a social safety net with their friends rewarded.

“President Trump’s agenda is being held hostage not by conservatives, but by the establishment Republican leaders who smile to his face and betray him and conservatives behind their backs.”

Erickson concludes his post by suggesting there will be primary fights next year and Trump could very well get involved in them – on the side of the challengers. If that’s the case Trump will be making history again and could help break-up the monopoly the establishment has held on politics for decades.

In the meantime, the establishment “moderates” could come around and support straight repeal of Obamacare. If even Mitch McConnell is for it you know the establishment recognizes this is a life or death scenario for the Republican majorities.

The Washington establishment is on life support either way. One can only speculate the GOP “moderates” will soon understand that their best – and only – option is to play a little team sports, go along with the play that’s called and hope everyone does their job in the execution.

Otherwise, they’ll be relegated to the bench from here on out.

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