After years of criticizing Barack Obama as a supposed do-nothing President, Republicans are now having to defend their commander-in-chief from allegations of inefficacy. As expected, conservative commentators have blasted Democrats for doing everything possible to stymie the passage of legislation, creating an ironic mirror-image of attacks against the GOP during Obama’s terms as the “party of no.” After eight nonstop months of blaming Democrats for the Trump administration’s failure to pass a single major piece of legislation, commentators’ barbs have grown dull.
And, with the resignation of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price, it is now undeniable that the Trump administration’s problem is not fired-up Democrats, but its own dysfunction. Donald Trump has faced an unprecedented wave of resignations as President, to the point where it has become a parody. From his National Security Adviser to his Chief of Staff to his various publicists, Trump can’t seem to keep a full team on the field! Eight months in, and Trump is still hemorrhaging key staff.
But for Price to resign for something akin to corruption, his ham-handed use of chartered and military flights instead of flying commercial, hits Trump where it hurts the most: His promise to “drain the swamp” and rid Washington of the smug elitists who lived luxurious lives on the taxpayer dime. Combined with bad press over his response to the hurricane-wrought devastation in Puerto Rico, Trump’s misbehaving Cabinet makes him look like an elitist robber-baron. A wave of socially-conservative populists swept Donald Trump into the Oval Office, but now they are seeing that he is little different from the Presidential predecessors whom they despised.
By failing to “drain the swamp” and prevent his underlings from pursuing luxury and profit, Trump has little to differentiate himself from his own characterization of his Democratic predecessor…aside from race. Trump apologists argue that his election was due to Middle America being fed up with out-of-touch Washington insiders, rather than racism and sexism. But, if Trump’s crew is composed of the same out-of-touch millionaires who enjoy the jet-set lifestyle, what else is there to explain his appeal aside from bigotry? As 2020 approaches, his supporters will have little publicly-acceptable rationale for wearing Make America Great Again apparel. Trump can’t pass laws, and he certainly hasn’t drained the swamp. What else is there besides his disdain for women, minorities, and immigrants?
The Price resignation highlights the President’s gross inability to govern. He divides rather than unites, and he cannot keep any group of Republicans working toward a common goal. Despite having been blessed with his party controlling both houses of Congress, a rare occurrence, Trump has failed to pass any of the legislation he promised voters. Through his bombastic Twitter feed, he has openly criticized congressional Republicans for failing to support his controversial proposals. This childish behavior, while perhaps invigorating to populist voters who want to see more professional wrestling in politics, almost guarantees even less support from congressional Republicans in the future.
Instead of playing the long game and catching more flies with honey, President Trump has followed his baser instincts and traded respectability for the mean-spirited adulation of his base. They love his tough talk today, but they will be unable to deny his complete incompetence tomorrow. He hasn’t passed any legislation, and he cannot keep his own Cabinet acting right… where, exactly, is the deal-master who has been advertising his prowess since the late ‘80s?
The emperor has no clothes, and it’s only a matter of time until his base starts to see it. Given the razor-slim margins that eked out an Electoral College victory, Trump can’t afford to lose voters in 2020. Although stalwart Trumpers will certainly be unswayed by the former business mogul’s inability to govern, plenty of moderates and independents, especially the “never Hillary” crowd, actually voted for Trump because they believed his status as a disruptor would be a positive thing. Sure, Trump was a jackass, but maybe that was what the bloated federal bureaucracy needed!
But since Trump has done exactly nothing to improve the bloated federal bureaucracy, the “never Hillary” crowd will eagerly switch to any Democrat who’s not Hillary, especially if it’s Bernie.
Devout conservatives may also feel disdain for Trump growing, especially since Tom Price was a key player on health care. The resignation of the Health and Human Service Secretary is yet another nail in the coffin of the drive to repeal Obamacare, which was arguably the GOP’s biggest talking point of 2016. As the President looks for a new HHS nominee, expect Democrats to seize the inevitable confirmation hearings to focus the news cycle on the evils of Trumpcare. U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) will inevitably use the conversation to push single-payer, which is growing increasingly popular among voters. Perhaps from sheer exasperation and exhaustion, Republicans may begin to see the single-payer push as inevitable and begin talking surrender.