Thursday, February 16, 2017


David Frum is dismayed because his fellow conservatives in Congress remain loyal to the president, so he tries to sweet-talk them into dumping Trump:
Here’s something to consider. Trump has never shown much enthusiasm for the congressional agenda of reforming Obamacare and reducing taxes. He has developed no plans, and his White House staff is not structured in a way likely to produce such plans anytime soon.

Without presidential leadership—and with the visible and traditional disagreements between House members who mostly hold safe seats, and senators vulnerable to state-wide electorates—it’s hard to see how anything gets done in the next session. Congressional Republicans are now at risk of wasting this rare chance, risking an all-Republican government accomplishing nothing beside Trump’s self-aggrandizement and corrosion of constitutional government. That will suit Donald Trump fine. It can hardly suit Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell.

Suppose Mike Pence were president now. Tax-reform legislation would be hitting the floor of the House. A competent White House staff, headed by people with intact reputations for honesty, would be hammering out the compromises necessary to repeal healthcare reform. A functional National Security Council would be generating options for responding to Russia’s cheating on arms-control treaties and aggression in Ukraine. Democrats and liberals would be assailing congressional Republicans on immigration and abortion—not espionage and treason. Instead, their hopes, their interests, their constituencies, and possibly their careers are all at risk, subordinated to the personal imperatives of a president who does not share their principles and does not care about their party.
But here's the problem: There's no reason to believe that congressional Republicans really care all that much about repealing Obamacare, restricting abortion, or the rest of the right-wing agenda. Sure, they always have cared about these things. But what they really care about is getting reelected forever. In the past, that was accomplished by doing whatever Fox News, the Koch brothers, the religious right, and the NRA told you to do. Now the important thing is doing whatever Trump wants.

It's true that President Pence would assemble a team of professionals who'd efficiently set to work dismantling Obamacare, the Great Society, the New Deal, and the Progressive Era -- or at least they'd be a lot more goal-oriented about all that. They'd work seamlessly with Republicans in Congress. There'd be no distractions. Everyone would be rowing in the same direction.

But GOP voters still believe that Trump is the strongest possible leader, a financial mastermind, and a preternaturally gifted dealmaker. Plus, he clearly hates darker-skinned people much more than Pence does.

And they also think he cares about the Fox/Koch GOP agenda as much as they do. (He does -- he just gets so distracted when someone insults him, or says he didn't win a landslide, or when Vladimir Putin does that thing he does when he smiles and the corners of his eyes crinkle.)

So Frum's plea is going to fall on deaf ears. Republicans in Congress aren't going to quit Trump, because their voters won't.

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