During the 2016 election cycle, especially following the Republican National Convention, there were two active camps in the Republican Party; Pro-Trump and Never Trump. Of course, since no one in their right mind (read media and DC establishment) gave any credibility to the Trump nomination and found no reason to even consider a Trump victory, it was sort of fashionable to be part of the Never Trump camp. And then came November 8 and the day of reckoning not only for Democrats but for Republicans also. Not only did Donald Trump win the presidency but Republicans also won control of the Senate and the House, a full up sweep of national government. Apparently the Republicans were not prepared for success because they have yet to find their “winners” uniform and continue to deck themselves out in “whiner” rags.
During the eight years of the Obama reign, it was easy and comfortable for Republicans to make noise, complain, and push positions that would never see the light of day. When the Republicans took the House, that carried on through innumerable “votes” to rescind Obamacare knowing nothing would come of that action. For all intents and purposes all a Republican House or Senate member had to do was make floor speeches in opposition to Democrat proposals and then get in behind a media microphone to tell the world what a staunch conservative and believer of the faith they were. George Shultz in a famous Charlie Born sequence once told us “Its hard to do anything wrong if you don’t do anything at all”. He was right and apparently a significant number of Republicans were listening.
The recent fiasco regarding the American Health Care Act is perhaps the most immediate indicator of the lack of readiness of the Republican Party leadership in the Congress to put into play the power and support given them by the American voters. While much has been said about the lack of leadership demonstrated by the Speaker and his House leadership team, equal credit for success needs to go the Tuesday Group and the Freedom Caucus. Certain Senators also need to belly up to the responsibility table for their action. AHCA may not have been prepared and offered in the best possible manner but the two named caucuses with about 90 members combined, represent a strong voting block that could have brought sufficient pressure to bear to get things right before bringing embarrassment to the Party and the President. By expressing immediate public opposition to the bill proposal and finding fault with the process over an open microphone, the disgruntled Republicans did the job of the Democrats and set the stage for ultimate defeat. The public pronouncements about the “failures” of the Bill in satisfying all “conservative” requirements opened the door for a continuous flood of calls and emails to House members from the opposition Indivisibles providing the appearance of “grass roots” opposition and apparent support for a no vote on the bill. The Republicans set the stage and the Democrats took the lead role. In essence the Republicans allowed the losers to become the winners. Well Played guys. You make us so proud, NOT!!!!
OK, chalk it up to lessons learned and now ask where do we go from here? Step one is to get the Republican caucus acting as a united body with fewer internal fights over who is more or less conservative. Get the absolute majority on board to a set of priorities and a legislative schedule that will support the satisfaction of the promises made during the campaign (that includes the President’s promises also). Place responsibility and sworn duty over personal desires and eliminate days-off and vacation-days until the agenda is either satisfied or the enabling legislation is set in stone for adoption. To do this will require that separate committees or working groups, with membership from all caucus factions, contributing and agreeing on the end product. Walk all legislation through the caucus, with the committee members doing the individual selling jobs, so that true consensus is reached and the requisite number of votes are assured before the bill goes to the floor. Invite the Democrats to play before the bill leaves committee, but always remember that “elections have consequences” as we reminded by a prominent Democrat. In essence use “regular order” but know the outcome of that process before it is started.
The last bit of advice is perhaps the most important for all Republicans to remember and act upon. Winners are winners only as long as they act like winners and take advantage of the value gained by winning. During the desperate fight over Obamacare, Republicans had the ability to stop the bill dead in its track. One Senator folded to allow cloture and the rest is history. The Democrats are very good at what they do and single minded in their pursuit of their agenda (and in opposition to anything else). Republicans need to be equally united and unwavering in their determination to restore American to its basic principles and limited governance under the Constitution. If we thought that eight years under Obama moved us toward the end of America as we know it, rest Assured that four years of Republican bungling and disorder will complete that journey.