A June 2nd editorial in Harrisonburg’s Daily News-Record (DNR) sought to explain why so many Republican voters are turning to Donald Trump. One reason, the editorial stated, was that Republicans in Congress had “caved again” to President Obama. Here’s how I responded in a column published in that newspaper yesterday.
This image — of Republicans in Congress having repeatedly “caved” to the President – is altogether detached from reality.
It has been well-established that the Republicans in Congress decided even before President Obama was inaugurated to make his failure their top priority. Accordingly, on issue after issue, congressional Republicans have voted nearly unanimously against whatever the President has proposed.
(The just-deceased former Republican Senator from Ohio George Voinovich described the Republicans’ marching orders: “If he [Pres. Obama] was for it, we had to be against it.”)
The record is clear: far from a pattern of Republican submission to the President’s agenda, the across-the-board Republican obstructionism has, since 2010, given us the least productive Congresses in modern American history.
No progress on immigration reform, despite its passing the Senate with a two-thirds majority. No legislative response to the increasingly urgent challenge of climate change—even as the transition to clean energy makes more and more economic sense. No passage of common-sense laws to reduce gun violence—even measures favored by a majority of the membership of the NRA.
No, the Republicans haven’t caved. They’ve stuck with the decision they made back in 2009 in a vain effort to make Obama a one-term president.
They’ve blocked his appointment of judges—creating twice the number of vacancies as there were under George W. Bush when the Democrats were the Senate majority. And now, of course, the Republicans have done what no Senate in American history has ever done: refuse categorically to allow the sitting president to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court.
There’s been a problem with the Republicans in Congress, all right, but it has hardly been their caving to the president.
The anger of Republican voters toward the Republican establishment should not be for the Republicans having caved, but for crippling the people’s government just to gain partisan advantage. These Republicans should be angry because, at a time when many of their supporters see their economic prospects dimming, and when life expectancy among some groups is declining, their Republican leaders have continued to try to channel still more wealth to the wealthiest people in the nation, whose share of our riches has more than doubled over the past generation while a large proportion of average Americans has lost ground.
And they should be angry, too, for these Republican leaders having conned their base into believing that they could accomplish things they simply lacked the power to accomplish. The Republican establishment, for example, led their supporters to believe that congressional Republicans would get rid of Obamacare.
That was a con: the Republicans knew full well there was not a chance in the world that they could succeed at that. Not when they faced a certain veto from the President, and they lacked a majority big enough to override.
The American tradition has been to accept when the matter is settled and move on, but these congressional Republicans – to keep that con going – instead engaged in futile gestures like repealing the measure 50-some times, and even the destructive gesture of shutting down the government.
It is understandable that many Republican voters are angry. But having bought their leaders’ con, the voters referred to in the DNR editorial are angry for the wrong reasons. And now, tragically, they are trading one con job for another.
In the mistaken belief — reinforced now by that DNR editorial — that the problem has been Republican weakness , rather than deception and manipulation, these Republican voters are turning to a leader whom Marco Rubio and Mitt Romney have told us is a “con man.” They are turning to a man who, the fact-checkers report, is the most consistent liar we’ve seen on the political stage.
They are turning, that is, to Donald Trump, whose promise to “make America great again” may be the most dangerous con job in American history.