Approaching Memorial Day, the air in Washington, D.C. is generally filled with three things: pollen, cherry blossom remains, and hot
air (both God-made and man-made). Today, on the Republican side of the aisle, it’s full of something else: the unmistakable stench of surrender.
As Republican careerists continue to cower in various corners of Congress, K Street, and the political consultant/donor world, a whispering campaign is afoot. Fewer than six months into the new Administration, the talk on the Republican side is not about impending victories, but impeachment.
No more talk of truly repealing Obamacare. Few signs of life for tax reform. No hint of a border wall. In fact, there’s no indication of any Republican agenda at all; nor any results affirming the voters’ decision less than 200 days ago to entrust the GOP with power.
Just whispers of impeachment…by Republicans…against a duly elected Republican president…in hushed tones. In America, that’s how coups arise — not with guns or armed insurrections — but with leaks and gossip and whispering campaigns.
What’s a Republican voter to think?
Those in the most immediate danger of Republican dysfunction are not named Trump, nor do they work or live in Washington, D.C. They’re the Republican candidates running in the three upcoming special elections for Congress in Montana (May 25), Georgia and South Carolina (both on June 20). In the next month, these candidates will be held accountable by real live voters in traditionally Republican districts for the GOP mess in Washington. They’ll be the unenviable ones responding to the question: “How exactly did my vote in 2016 matter?” And the even tougher follow-up: “Why should I give it up again?”
Look at it from the voters’ perspective. In 2016, they shocked the world by choosing a candidate whose bold agenda has not seen since Ronald Reagan. They reinforced that decision by allowing Republicans to retain Congressional majorities after the GOP promised to provide support for this agenda. Today, after delivering a clear mandate for change, they see it all jeopardized by Republican infighting, white flag waving and whispers of impeachment.
Now, Trump finds himself fighting deeply entrenched political enemies with a Republican team that lacks resilience, passion for the fight, and loyalty to him or his bold agenda.
Those enemies lie in wait everywhere; consider his chief adversary: the administrative or “deep” state. In promising to “drain the swamp” and “deconstruct the administrative state,” Trump tried to draw first blood against the status quo in Washington. The status quo, made up of long-time career bureaucrats and Obama Administration holdovers, struck back — Sally Yates at the Justice Department being the most highly publicized. Mother Jones recently explored the depth of resistance against Trump within the bowels of federal agencies. Today, that resistance appears to have spread throughout the bureaucracy, reaching even our intelligence and law enforcement agencies, like the FBI. It has culminated in the appointment of a special prosecutor to which Republicans have largely and quietly acquiesced.
The administration is not without blame for these results. It should have immediately identified Obama holdovers and other trouble spots in each agency and relieved those people of their duties in one felt swoop. It should have replaced them with Trump loyalists who could begin the process of extracting the highly politicized resistance from the ranks of the civil service. An early, bold assault against the administrative state would have generated negative publicity, but also would have disrupted the leaking and lying resistance. It’s tough to topple a presidency when you’re about to lose your own job.
What’s most disconcerting is that, when combatting the deep state and the mainstream media, the President is too often forced to fight these fights alone. Instead of being able to count on a bold, unapologetic team on Capitol Hill to help him fight back, he has faced a chorus of silence, broken only by the whispers in hushed tones — against him.
As foolish and dangerous as their policy solutions are, Democrats are leagues ahead of Republicans when it comes to politics. They play it as a blood sport, while we treat it like golf or sailing. For example, not once did the Obama Administration succumb to a special prosecutor — in spite of rampant abuses at the IRS, Justice Department, Veterans Administration, and the White House, to name a few.
It’s time for the GOP to fight back.
President Trump is doing his best to change the narrative with his maiden voyage overseas and the impending release of a bold, unapologetic budget proposal. But he needs his team rallying around him, not forming a circular firing squad.
If not, Republican voters will use their vote to take out their frustrations again. And when they do, it won’t be Donald Trump’s name on the ballot in 2017 or 2018. Whispering Republicans would be wise to heed the words of Ben Franklin: “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”