It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Ramesh Ponnuru is feeling a little bitter that his advice was not taken prior to the midterm elections and that now the Republican Party finds itself in a pickle with nothing to show in Congress and an electorate that seems hellbent on nominating a reality-show star.
You probably won’t be surprised to learn that Ponnuru rejects the claim that the Republicans’ only two options were “trying to prove they could govern with Obama or engaging in an endless series of showdowns with him.” They had a third option, which was was to listen to the Reformicons.
A third alternative would have been to advance a governing agenda of their own, ideally during the midterm campaign, on issues such health care, taxes and higher education. That strategy wouldn’t have resulted in the enactment of a lot of Republican bills, since Democrats could still have filibustered them. But Republicans would have been standing for something more attractive than they are today — not a high bar — and making Senate Democrats pay some price for obstruction.
And maybe the party’s own voters wouldn’t be quite so heartily sick of them.
On that last point, that the rise of Donald Trump is best explained by the party base’s disenchantment with the party establishment, it’s a theme I began hitting on as soon as Trump began to really catch on. It’s nice to see it gaining currency. Yesterday, it was Joshua Green and today it is Ponnuru:
Republicans are in a funk on the eve of the first presidential-primary debate. The party’s popularity has dipped, largely because Republican voters are souring on it. Their lack of confidence in their party surely has something to do with Donald Trump’s rise in the polls. Bitterness between conservative groups and the Senate Republican leadership is at a peak, with the former saying the latter are too devoted to keeping corporate welfare programs like the Export-Import Bank alive and insufficiently committed to defunding Planned Parenthood.
It took a while for it to sink in, but people are beginning to realize that the Republicans did this to themselves by poisoning the minds of their supporters with hyped threats, easy (yet unrealizable) solutions, and a bunch of false promises. At some points, they haven’t been able to deliver even when they go so far as to shut down the government and cause a downgrade in our nation’s credit rating. At other points, they haven’t even tried. And then there’s the really damaging stuff:
Conservatives and swing voters who are paying attention have seen the Republican Congress act on business priorities: advancing a highway bill and getting a Trade Promotion Authority signed by the president. They have also seen them fret for months about the possibility that the Supreme Court would force them to do something about Obamacare, something Republican voters actually want, and then breathe sighs of relief that it didn’t.
They didn’t really advance a highway bill, unless you consider another short-term extension an advancement of some kind. But they did at least fund our transportation system unlike virtually any other area of our government. And I don’t think their ability to advance some business priorities is really all that damaging to them since this is what they’re primarily known for in any case. But letting on that they’re relieved that the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare?
That’s a learning moment for the folks who actually noticed. And that’s why they’re looking for a candidate who will call the Washington Republicans on their duplicity and double-dealing. I mean, how many times has the Republican leadership in Congress held votes to repeal Obamacare?
And it was ALL bullshit?
A person might have some scales fall from their eyes on a thing like that.
Which is basically why Ponnuru is saying that the GOP deserves Trump. They’ve earned him.
Tonight, they get their first real taste of the consequences of their actions.
[Cross-posted at Progress Pond]