That was some chaotic scene in the White House Rose Garden Monday. After lunch with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the president assured combative reporters and the country that the two are getting along just fine, in spite of the Senate's failure to repeal and replace Obamacare and an uncertain future over tax reform, the other Republican signature issue party members promised to get done.
Under McConnell's "leadership," the Senate has failed to pass any major legislation since President Trump took office. It has been known instead for the divisions among its members rather than for the unity voters expected when they gave control of the government to Republicans.
McConnell made a statement which perfectly summarized why so many voters distrust the establishment and are wary of what Republicans will do: "The goal here is to win elections in November (2018). My goal is to keep a Senate majority."
McConnell has it backward. Advancing policies that improve the economy, create conditions under which the private sector thrive, reduce unnecessary regulations (as the president is doing by executive order in some cases), cut spending and reform entitlements ought to be the goals. Do that and Republicans will deserve to win elections. What is the point of winning elections if, having won them, little or nothing is done about changing policies that may promote the interests of some politicians and interest groups, but not the general welfare?
McConnell added: "Our operating approach will be to support our incumbents and in open seats, to seek to help nominate people who can actually win."
This is in stark contrast to the goal of former White House aide and Breitbart head, Steve Bannon, who seeks to nominate and elect people who can make changes and upend the establishment. The notion that these two goals are irreconcilable is wrong. People are fed up with politicians -- especially Republicans -- who promise to do things in order to win an election, like repealing and replacing Obamacare, but after they win vote against doing exactly that with flimsy excuses as to why they reneged on their promises.
This is the reason for the anger and frustration felt by many, especially conservative voters. It isn't about deportment and playing nice with the opposition. That isn't the way most Democrats play the game. Democrats play hardball. Too many Republicans seem to prefer badminton. Democrats know the only reason to gain power is to use it. Republicans too often seem embarrassed by power and appear to care more about what liberal journalists and critics think of them than what the voters who elected them think.
Writing in Politico, National Review editor Rich Lowry succinctly summarizes the condition of today's Republican Party and too many of its members: "This is the state of the GOP in a nutshell. It is a party locked in mortal combat between an establishment that is ineffectual and a populist wing that is ineffectual and inflamed."
Can something be constructed out of the flames and ineffectualness that achieves the twin goals of maintaining a majority and advancing conservative policies? If not, what is the point of having a Republican majority beyond the worthy goal of populating the judiciary with more judges who will properly interpret and not ignore the Constitution?