Thursday, June 29, 2017


You know how it usually goes: Republicans are extreme and relentlessly partisan, Democrats make regular outreach efforts, but when Democrats decide to stand up and fight for their own ideas, they're accused of excessive partisanship.

This is a boilerplate mainstream-media narrative. An alternative narrative is that both sides are to blame for partisanship, but Democrats are somehow worse.

However, because Donald Trump is so terrible at his job, it's now permissible to argue that excessive partisanship is the fault onf Republicans. At least that's what's happening in this New York Times story by Jennifer Steinhauer. Start with the headline:
Senate Democrats Sought to Work With Trump. Then He Began Governing.
No, you're not hallucinating. Democrats are getting credit for outreach. And Republicans are portrayed as the partisan party.
Shortly after President Trump won the White House, a cluster of Senate Democrats began the search for common cause with the unlikely new president, scouring the populist policy agenda that dominated his campaign.

For their part, Republicans believed that Mr. Trump’s win in nine states where Democratic senators are up for re-election next year would scare those lawmakers into acceptance of a Republican agenda, perhaps even voting to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.

Neither has come to pass.

Rather than taking advantage of his honeymoon phase to pick an issue on which Democrats from conservative states might be amenable — fixing the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, cutting taxes or stiffening immigration laws — Mr. Trump raced toward the most partisan corner of the room, pushing to repeal the health care law with no input from Democrats, in a manner that has proved deeply unpopular.
We're told that "Mr. Trump has rarely bothered to ask" for Democratic help. There are plaintive quotes about willingness to work in a bipartisan way from Claire McCaskill (“I am a moderate from a state Trump won. You’d think they would have called me sometime”), Joe Manchin, and Chuck Schumer. What Trump and congressional Republicans are doing is portrayed as a break with tradition:
[Max] Baucus, who served in leadership roles on the Senate Finance Committee, met with his Republican counterpart, Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, “every Tuesday at 5:30 for 12 years, even if it was just to talk about our kids,” Mr. Baucus said, and that helped pave the way for bipartisan legislation.

The most successful bills have historically come out of committees, because successful committee votes provide evidence of a policy’s ability to pass the full Senate, and pressure members of both parties to participate.
I know, I know -- in many ways, this is a standard-issue mainstream media call for a rejection of progressivism in favor of "respectable" moderate conservatism. But for once the Democrats aren't being portrayed as the angry radicals.

Although we're told that Mitch McConnell "has mostly iced out Democrats in this Congress," most of the blame falls on Trump:
"Early in new administrations, members look to work together where they can,” said Scott Mulhauser, who served in senior roles for several Democrats and committees in the Senate over the past decade. “There was a postelection moment where this president might have reached toward the center, delivered on priorities like infrastructure that cut across party lines and reconfigured the electoral math. Instead, he made little effort to collaborate, lurched rightward to his base while taunting the center and the left, and is now feeling the consequences. You reap the discord you sow.”
That tells me that this is seen as an anomalous state of affairs, one that's all the fault of the angry man in the White House. Remove him from the picture and the MSM will go back to blaming either "Washington" across the board or Democrats in particular for D.C. dysfunction.

GOP tax, budget, and health-care proposals would have been just as extreme under President Scott Walker or President Jeb Bush -- but their administrations would have managed the narrative much more skillfully, and Democrats would have received much more of the blame for any turbulence. It's Trump's fault that Republicans look like the bad guys for once in the mainstream press, but I'll take it.

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