Wednesday, December 20, 2017


I generally enjoy Bruce Bartlett's attacks on the Republican Party, of which he was once a member in very good standing, but I disagree with Bartlett -- and with others -- who think President Trump has now outlived his usefulness to the party:
President Trump believes he has just won a great victory in Congress with final passage of huge tax cuts in sight. He should not be so cheerful; it could mark the beginning of the end for him and his party.

The reason is that signing the tax cuts and some judicial appointments were the only things Republicans in Congress ever needed Trump for.

... I think Trump will be encouraged to make an early exit by members of his own party, who see him as an albatross around their re-election hopes and can only do so much to protect Trump if the dam breaks and those closest to him, such as son-in-law Jared Kushner, must choose loyalty to Trump or going to jail.

... the truth will be that for most congressional Republicans, Trump was never much more than a tissue to be used and disposed of. His job was to sign the tax bill, appoint a bunch of federal judges, and not much more. Both goals are now in sight. Therefore, Trump is expendable.
But congressional Republicans didn't need Trump for those goals. Do you think President Pence would have vetoed the tax bill? Do you think he would have nominated a series of RINO judges in the mold of David Souter? If congressional Republicans really believe that their best move is to rid themselves of Trump as soon as he's no longer of use to them, they could have started down that road months ago. They could have ratcheted up their own Trump-Russia investigations instead of slow-walking them and stonewalling.

But Trump is still popular among Republican voters, although he seems to be less popular than he was a couple of months ago. If you're a Republican, it's still politically dicey to cross Trump, unless you do so from the right (as Roy Moore and Steve Bannon did in the Alabama Senate primary).

Will Republicans conclude that Trump is an albatross for them before next November? The tax bill they just passed is massively unpopular, which tells me that they don't care about popularity anymore, either because they all expect to retire soon and transition to sweet jobs provided by the firms that benefited from the bill or because they believe, in defiance of recent electoral results, that the vast majority of them can use huge tranches of donor cash plus gerrymandering and vote suppression to save their jobs. Compared to this bill, Trump is a minor albatross. In their districts, he's still better liked than the tax plan.

That could change, but until it does, they're not going to cross him. But if the 2018 losses are bad enough -- right now CNN has the Democrats with an 18-point generic ballot advantage -- then they might cut Trump loose.

I think they're going to steel themselves for the loss of some seats. If the carnage is greater than they expect, Trump's in trouble. But only after a midterm bloodbath. Not before.

No comments: