President Donald Trump's supporters will largely stay with him even if he works with Democrats, and moderate Republicans get political cover from the extreme right by saying they are merely supporting the president. The only ones not happy are the extremists, who have proven they are incapable of governing anyway.
President Donald Trump’s newfound coziness with the Democratic Party has some in that camp cautiously optimistic and some on the Republican side tearing their hair out, but as a political strategy it is an absolutely brilliant way to bolster GOP chances to retain, or even gain seats in next year’s midterm elections.
Now, Trump is nothing if not unpredictable, so this could all blow up rather quickly. But, if he continues on this path, Trump not only offers cover for some middle of the road Republicans, but he also boosts approval for a party that, so far anyway, has been unable to accomplish anything of meaning even though it controls the House, Senate and Oval Office.
That failure, as has been well established, is due mainly to the hard-right extremists who, while few in number, are more vocal and obstinate than their fellow Republicans. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., and his band of renegades in the Freedom Caucus have been a thorn in the party’s side for years. During President Barack Obama’s term, many mainstream Republicans found value in siding with the caucus and its “burn the place down” mentality on virtually every issue. But as we have seen this year, while the caucus is great at issuing ultimatums and protesting policies they oppose, they have zero ability to come to the table and work out compromises, even with members of their own party. Their agenda consists entirely of things they are against; nothing that they are for.
The mainstream Republicans are in a bind because they have sided with the extremists in the past as a way to posture to their base that they opposed Obama, but they know that governing requires compromise, and after the debacle that was the GOP attempt at repealing and replacing Obamacare, they see nothing but similar standoffs down the road.
Trouble is, they can’t break with the extremists without fear that they will be challenged in primaries by people who lean more to the right than they do, so they are stuck between a rock and hard place – not wanting to support extremist policies, but too afraid to side with Democrats because of the acidic partisanship gripping the nation.
Trump supporters have said they will stand by him no matter what he does. Their main concern is having their tax dollars go toward building a wall that pretty much everyone – even the Republicans in states that will get the wall – say will be ineffective and a waste of money. Apparently a multi-billion dollar symbolic gesture is all these folks need to sleep at night.
So when Trump made a deal with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to raise the debt limit and fund the government until December, there was some grumbling among Trump’s most fervent supporters, but most blamed House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Aside from those two leaders, however, every other wavering Republican in the House and Senate had cover to vote for the debt ceiling increase and budget extension. “Sure,” they said. “We don’t want to increase the debt limit without reducing spending, but it is what the President wants and we are supporting him.”
Trump and the Republicans get a “win” by not shutting down government, things move forward and the rank and file is protected from challengers on the right.
Last week it was the debt ceiling and budget. This week it was Trump working with Democrats to keep Dreamers – children brought to the country illegally by their parents – here (something, by the way, that a majority of Americans, including Republicans, think is the right thing to do). Next week, who knows what the issue will be?
And so what if Meadows and his ungovernable band of misfits gets miffed? Trump’s supporters will largely stay with him. And if the new norm becomes the Republican majority working with Democrats to accomplish things, as opposed to trying to appease a small band of malcontents in their own party who refuse to negotiate on anything, well, so be it. At the end of the day, the GOP is going to get the credit for moving forward, voters are going to be happier and all the worries today about a huge GOP loss in the midterms may just fade a bit if people see Congress actually doing its job.
The cooperation could all end with one presidential tweet tomorrow, of course. But if Trump and the GOP are trying this out as a new strategy for moving forward, it is brilliant, and they likely will see considerable success in the months ahead.
Jim Lee is editor for GateHouse Media Delaware. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.