The Republican civil war is spreading (?)
Below is the opening salvo of an article by Leftist writer, Paul Waldman. Its very first sentence is dubious. The Trump administration has seen an upwards leap in all sorts of economic statistics, from job numbers to the stock exchange. Unemployment claims for instance, have just fallen to the lowest level in 43 years, despite hurricanes. And nearly a million new jobs were created in September. Trump is keeping his core promise spectacularly well. "Things" are in fact going extraordinarily well for the GOP.
Broadly, the article is just the latest of the almost daily declarations from the Left saying that the Trump administration has just doomed itself to extinction. Never has any death been more prematurely announced.
But it is of course true that Trump has upended American conservatism by injecting national pride as one of the desired policy outcomes. Cries of "racism" from the Left had bullied the GOP into completely abandoning all mention of national pride -- thus taking away one of their most important rallying cries. And in a patriotic nation like the USA, losing that rallying cry was epic. The Left did extraordinarily well to take that weapon out of the hands of American conservatives for so long
So Trump has indeed been a disrupting force in the GOP -- a long overdue disruption. But the Leftist control of America's political discourse does seem to have seeped into the bones of some GOP figures. They are genuinely uncomfortable with Trump's loud declarations of America's national interests. They were comfortable with their old go-nowhere talking points and have not warmed to more red-blooded ones. And there is no doubt that Trump's personal style grates on them as well. Trump has redefined what it means to be "Presidential", rather to the amusement of many who support his policies.
So Waldman is tapping into a genuine ferment in the GOP. But it is just assertion that the ferment is escalating. The GOP establishment was not comfortable with Trump from the word "Go". But many Trump opponents have gradually come over to his side. And the recent outbreak of amity between Trump and Rand Paul over healthcare regulations is surely epic.
So, as I see it, unity is spreading among the congressional GOP, not civil war. Adjusting to Trump is still far from complete but it has come a long way. It probably needs good results in the next mid-terms to cement the Trump transition.
Parties don't descend into vicious civil wars when things are going well for them. So the fact that it's happening now to the GOP tells you a lot about what Republicans are facing, even though they control the White House, Congress, and a majority of state houses and governorships. They are beginning to tear themselves apart over the question of who is to blame for their current difficulties, with one side saying it's the fault of a feckless establishment that is insufficiently loyal to President Trump, and the other side saying — mostly sotto voce, but occasionally out loud — that the responsibility lies with Trump himself.
If the president was right in his repeated insistence that his administration has been a smashing success, there wouldn't be anything to fight about. But in truth, things could hardly be worse: No major legislation has been passed, the effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act was a spectacular failure, Trump's approval ratings are abysmal and a majority of Americans say he's not fit to be president, one Republican officeholder after another is choosing not to run for re-election, polls show Democrats headed for a dramatic win in 2018, and even the one goal Republicans were all supposed to agree on — a big tax cut for the wealthy and corporations — looks like it might be in trouble.
All of which leads to dissension from within, as White House staff rush to tell reporters that the president is an infantile rage-monster whom they have to trick into not burning down the world. When Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) expressed his concerns about Trump's erratic behavior, none of his colleagues came out to contradict him and say that in fact Trump is a wise and careful leader who is performing his duties successfully, no doubt because Corker was only saying publicly what the rest of them say privately.
But to some on the right, this all smacks of a slow-motion coup by quisling Republicans who lack the courage to stand behind Trump and testify to his greatness. Which is one of the reasons that this week, the hardline conservative group FreedomWorks wrote a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell demanding that he and his leadership team resign for their failure to produce a sufficient quantity of conservative legislation. While the signatories were a little on the has-been side (few are dying to hear what Brent Bozell and Ken Cuccinelli have to say these days), it was evidence of a disgruntlement in conservative circles.