I noticed as I’ve have made my way through life that every situation which I have every encountered has had both advantages and disadvantages if I but looked for them. That means that even the best situations have had some negative aspects, which of course, I usually readily ignored. On the other hand I have also found in the past that at least some small good can come out even some of the worse situations.
So I have come to believe there proverbial silver linings in even the darkest of clouds if we dare to look for them. For instance, I can think of several people who for one reason or another had leave good jobs that they would have normally never considered leaving only to eventually find much better positions with considerably more pay. My wife and I are among that number. However, in other situations one has to be content with far less dramatic silver linings.
Call me the ultimate optimist, but I can already see some of the advantages of having Donald Trump in the White House and the Republicans controlling both houses of Congress. Now wait, before you quit reading, let me explain. I am certainly not claiming it wouldn’t be far better if Donald Trump had never existed, but as long as we are going to have to put up his deplorable presence desecrating our White House, we might as well recognize the few small advantages which come with that desecration. Unless he is impeached, we are stuck with the most deplorable President in history for the next three and half years. So here I am going to concentrate positive things, though they may be few and far between, that may flow from having Republican majorities in both houses of Congress and Republican deplorable in the Oval office. I firmly believe they are sowing the seeds of the their own destruction
However, first we have to remember that if Hillary Clinton instead Donald Trump had won last November, the country would be in far better shape, but the situation would still have been far less than ideal. Surely Hillary would not have used executive orders to attempt to undo much of what President Obama had accomplished. The US would still be a full participant in the Paris Climate Accords and her veto pen would be ready to strike down any repeal and replace health care bill that the Republicans in Congress might have managed to cobble together. The budget proposal she would have sent to Congress would not have attempted to cut the social safety net into tatters in order to benefit the rich and large corporations and a liberal leaning judge would have been nominated to be the new Supreme Court Justice.
On the other hand Hillary’s first term would have been no walk in the park. With the Republicans in control of Congress, or at a minimum the in control of the House, meaningful change which can only brought about by legislation would have been out of the question. Fixing the Affordable Health Care program’s problems would have been impossible. Republicans who were willing to hold up President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court bench for a year certainly would have had no problems with holding up Hillary’s nominee(s) indefinitely. All of the other programs Hillary might have proposed would also have gathered dust. In addition, Republicans in the House of Representatives would still be wasting millions of taxpayer dollars carrying on endless investigations of the Benghazi affair and any other excuse for an issue they could conger up.
In the past Republicans in Congress appear to have relished the role of opposition to a Democratic President. Their strategy of blocking any and all progress which could have been made on important national problems may have earned Congress record low approval ratings, but it did not appear to hurt them very badly in the voting booth. When the 2018 elections roll around Republicans will have been in control of the House of Representatives for eight years and the Senate for four.
However, until now with a Democrat in the White House they never had to take on the task of actually governing. For instance, the Republicans in the House of Representatives may have voted to repeal Obamacare (without a replacement) over fifty times, but never have had to deal with the consequences of those votes. So they remained popular with their core supporters without having to face ire of everyone who would have actually been negatively affected by their actions.
Once Trump moved into the White House all of that changed. Now many more people are paying very close attention to all measures under consideration by the House and the Senate because any bill passed by both chambers of Congress is very likely to be signed into law and will affect millions of people. Under the glare of that attention, one thing has become evident to everyone involved – the current crop of Republicans in Congress isn’t very good at actually governing.
Deep divisions have been exposed in the Republican Congressional ranks. House Tea Republicans in their Freedom Caucus are not ideologically aligned with their traditional financial conservative colleagues or with the more moderate House Republicans who represent purple districts. In addition House Republican members taken as a whole are decidedly more conservative than many Senate Republicans. These divisions have been in full display as Congressional Republicans in both chambers have struggled mightily to identify compromises on replacement health care bills with which most of their members can agree.
Now that Senate Republicans leaders have revealed their “secret” health care bill they have already failed in their blatant attempt to ram it through quickly with at least 50 out of 52 Republican Senate votes. Both conservative and moderate Senators stand in opposition for entirely different reasons. If Mitch McConnell and friends ever manage to cobble together a compromise bill that will pass in the Senate, you can bet that it will be structured in a manner that many conservative House Republicans will not want to accept.
Frankly, if they value their political careers, I firmly believe it would be far better for Congressional Republicans to fail to pass any of their health care replacement bills. A CNBC poll (taken before the Congressional Budget Office released its report stating that 22 million people will lose their insurance if the Senate bill is signed into law), showed that the legislation had only a 17% approval rating among voters. A USA Today poll showed only 12% support the Senate bill while 53% of those polled believe that Congress should leave Obamacare alone or work to fix it. Other polls show similar results. Even the Fox News poll gives the Senate bill only a 27% overall approval rating with only 51% of Republicans in favor.
When the low approval ratings for the Republican’s Senate bill are added to dismal approval ratings the version which has passed in the House, you can see why the Republican Party will be in trouble going forward if some version of the two ultimately squeaks pass both houses of Congress and is signed into law by Trump. If they think that the voting public dislikes their health care bills now, wait until the devastation of their final product becomess a grim reality.
This only one glaring example of many which will ultimately illustrate to anyone paying attention that Congressional Republicans were much better at saying “no” than they are when they are in charge. In addition, the conservative ideology to which many Republicans in Congress pay allegiance is longer proving to be very popular in the general public when it is actually put into practice. Republicans are in a damned if they do and damned if they don’t dilemma.
If they don’t implement their very conservative agenda their most zealous supporters will be none to happy with them and they will inevitably face primary challenges in their next election bids. On the other hand, plunging ahead and passing a draconian health care bill and other measures such a Trump’s budget proposal and his tax plan which favors the rich over ordinary Americans are also very problematic. Those actions would risk further provoking an already stoked up Democratic base and turning off independents. Both results will make their general election bids more problematic except in the reddest of states and congressional districts.
And we haven’t yet talked about the affect of the big fat elephant in the room, Donald Trump. If you are a member of Congress and a member of your party occupies the Oval Office, it goes without saying you want the President to be popular. When you run for reelection you want his status with the voters to uplift you, not drag you down. Right now Trump job approval numbers have to worry Republicans in Congress, especially those in purple states and districts. Of the twelve most recent past Presidents, six months into their first term nine had job approval number higher than 60% and five topped the 70% mark. Only Bill Clinton numbers dipped below 50% six months in and he went on complete his second term with a 66% approval rating.
Trump’s job approval numbers on the other hand averaged 45% the day after he was elected and have be declining slowly ever since. The weighted average of a large number of recent polls on Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight website has Trump job approval pegged at 39.9%, the lowest marks recorded at this point of a president’s first term since such polling began during the Truman era in 1946. Contrast that with the 60% job approval rating President Obama had this point in his first term.
An unpopular President must feel like millstone around the necks of Congressional Republicans, but their problems with Trump don’t end there. Thus far they have been unable to help him achieve any of his biggest campaign promises making them appear ineffective in the eyes of their core supporters. Trump’s non-stop antics are a big distraction from their work. They must be sick and tired being asked whether they agree with Trump’s latest outrageous tweet. A number of them appear to be growing more cautious about throwing their full support behind their President as more revelations about his attempts to hinder the Russian investigations make headlines almost every day. Congressional Republicans are beginning to understand that if they stand too close to Trump, if he goes down he might well take them down with him.
So in the final analysis for the time being it is far better for the Republican Party to be in control the White House and both chambers of Congress. However, when you are in charge you are expected act like you deserve to be in charge. Thus far both Trump and the Republicans in Congress have been dismal failures in actually governing the country and every American knows it, even if their most rabid supporters are loath to admit their failings. That does not bode well for their chances of remaining in charge for the foreseeable future. This is the silver lining I have found in the very ominous Republican cloud which now covers or nation. Republicans are planning the seeds of their own destruction.