Possible Paths for Democrats

The writer I respect, Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine, argues that collaborating with Trump will hurt Democrats politically. As I mentioned in my previous post I tend to disagree with that assessment and I gave my reasons. After reading his article and thinking over his arguments, I still think the cautious approach of picking our battles as opposed to a blanket obstruction is a correct one.

The GOP now controls all three branches of government, but the GOP grip on power is a fragile one. There will be three major forces at play that may start tearing GOP apart as soon as Trump assumes power: Trump and his loyal team; his base with their expectations; and Paul Ryan with his fiscal agenda. These three forces are innately antagonistic. Trump values loyalty above expertise and he revels in the adoration of his base. These two camps will be together for a while, as it takes time, years perhaps, before they can really get disappointed and abandon him.

But then there’s Paul Ryan. Well, Paul Ryan and Steve Bannon – Trump’s new chief strategist – don’t quite get along, to put it mildly. While at Breitbart Bannon’s goal was explicitly to “destroy Paul Ryan’s political career.” Alt-right, and their chief mastermind Bannon are not necessarily fiscally conservative. Bannon has no love for Ayn Rand. They are white nationalists, yes, but that doesn’t automatically translate into supporting tight fiscal agenda so beloved by modern-day GOP. It’s the same story with white nationalist uprisings in Europe: they’re not railing up against taxes per se but rather against immigrants. Paul Ryan’s support of Trump, reluctant before the elections and now fully vested, hinges on Trumps signing off on his tax cuts bills and nothing else (as Ryan doesn’t care for the white rural nationalists and their grievances, but rather for the donor class and their concerns).

When Trump can’t deliver to his base what he has promised, having an obstructionist Chuck Schumer could come in quite handy in order to shift the blame. Why give them such an easy escape in a form of Schumer (A New York Jew! Global conspiracy!) when there’s another ready target available – Paul Ryan. Trump’s base (and his loyal team) doesn’t hold any special love for Ryan and Congress in general.

If Trump’s policies turn out to be a standard run-of-the mill GOP agenda: tax cuts for the rich, destruction of the safety net and regulations, then Schumer should exploit the gap between Trump’s base and Paul Ryan, who would be the public face of this agenda. Here, voices like Bernie and Elizabeth Warren would be indispensable. They can really get the message out to the Rust belt areas to tell them that they’ve been had. And what will Bannon and his alt-right attack dogs choose to do in this situation? Attack Schumer or attack Paul Ryan? Remember, Bannon has a major beef with Ryan.

But if Trump’s agenda will follow up on his campaign promises, which are essentially anti-Ryan and anti-standard GOP (preserve Medicare and SS, tariffs and protectionism), then the assumption can be made that he’s, indeed, not a Republican and he doesn’t care for a standard Republican platform and won’t care if a Congress deeply wedded to these ideas suffers defeat at the polls. Schumer can and should work together with this kind of Trump. This way there’s a good chance the alt-right will stay quiet. Schumer is working with Trump for the little guy and not the elites, you see.

Just throwing some thoughts out there.

2 thoughts on “Possible Paths for Democrats

  1. I think you are overestimating the depth of the split between Ryan and Trump – Ryan’s priorities lie in cutting taxes, and Trump who had his own tax cuts plan will happily give him that. And when it comes to the spending cuts, they’ll agree on cutting foreign aid (except Israel’s), Planned Parenthood, arts, science, and could well leave Social Security and Medicare alone, because when the Republicans run the country, “deficits don’t matter”. They can just proclaim that lowering the taxes will grow our economy so much that all debt will disappear all by itself.
    Finally, I’m not really clear how Democrats could exploit such division – it’s not like they would support Trump against Ryan or Ryan against Trump. They can propose their own way, but being a minority, they’re not going to get it done.

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