The Washington Swamp won the latest round in its ongoing battle with President Trump, and it won so convincingly it’s enough to raise the question – what’s the point of holding elections if the winners act like losers, and the losers act like winners?
Despite the president’s anger at Democrats “spiking the football,” and his determination to have his administration’s spinners provide what can only be properly described as “alternative facts” in a misguided attempt to deny the obvious, the fact remains – he got rolled.
He got rolled so badly that Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerSchumer mourns death of 'amazing' father Feehery: The honest contrarian Biden administration to release oil from strategic reserve: reports MORE and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi bragged about it openly.
And why shouldn’t they brag? From minority positions, they: Prevented President Trump from getting any money to begin construction of the border wall he campaigned on; prevented him from being able to cut off federal funding for so-called “sanctuary cities;” halved his supplemental defense spending request, and put conditions on it; refused to terminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood; refused his proposed significant cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, and blocked his proposed staff cuts there; increased funding for the National Institutes of Health; refused to defund the National Endowment for the Arts or the Legal Services Corporation, among others; and actually increased domestic discretionary spending, rather than cut it or even hold the line.
No matter how hard the administration may try to spin this as a victory for Trump, it’s not. It’s not what Trump voters wanted or expected when they sent him to Washington.
They sent him to Washington to break things – in particular, the standard Washington model of doing business. But this spending bill shows no breakage at all.
What may be worse for the president is that it appears that it wasn’t only Schumer’s and Pelosi’s fingerprints on the weapon. From the way Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFive reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season Five victories Democrats can be thankful for Bipartisan success in the Senate signals room for more compromise MORE and House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanNo time for the timid: The dual threats of progressives and Trump Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Cheney takes shot at Trump: 'I like Republican presidents who win re-election' MORE described the bill, it’s clear they had a hand in it, too. Republican congressional leaders worked hand-in-glove with Democratic congressional leaders to stick it to the president.
I wish I could say I was surprised. But in order to be surprised, I’d have to have been ignoring the last eight years of action on Capitol Hill. Sadly for me, I haven’t been ignoring the last eight years. Instead, I’ve watched with increasing frustration as House and Senate GOP leaders have regularly been taken to the cleaners in high-stakes negotiations with Democrats.
That frustration has led to a worry, based on what I’ve been hearing from the grassroots: What’s the point of elections themselves, they ask, if winning them doesn’t translate into policy?
This is a fundamental question. In our social compact, the unstated but understood agreement is that winning and losing have consequences. Winners set policy, and losers get ready for the next election. Of course, losers don’t necessarily wait for the next election to start opposing the winners. We get that. But winners are supposed to determine policy.
So when losers act like winners, it’s more than a bit off-putting, but we can deal with it.
But when winners act like losers, or worse, when winners allow losers to act like winners, that is a serious violation of the understanding on which democracy is based. It breaks the compact. It calls into question the value of holding elections.
If elections are no longer the means used to determine the policy choices that will have the consent of the governed, what’s the point of elections? And what else shall we use to determine the policy preferences of the governed?
I’m not asking this question at the grad school seminar level. I’m asking this question at the rubber-meets-the-road level. There are literally tens of thousands of grassroots activists, and likely millions, if not tens of millions, of Trump voters who are looking at Washington this week and wondering, “What’s the point of all that work we did last year to elect Trump, if GOP congressional leaders are going to work with Democrats against him as he tries to enact the legislative agenda we support?”
The president’s team insists that they’re gearing up for a fight on the fiscal year 2018 spending bills. And so do congressional GOP leaders. We’ll see.
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