Politics is a team sport. It’s a basic truth of republican government — one that was even written into the nation’s founding document. The signers of the Declaration of Independence all agreed to “pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” In short, they would stand together or hang separately, to paraphrase Benjamin Franklin. The stakes were high and they knew they had to rely on each other. Still, every team has its stars and in politics that is the president.
After years in the political wilderness, Republicans have honed their skills as an opposition party to a fine edge, but their electoral success requires that they govern. With control of both houses of Congress and the White House, Republicans need to close the gap between theory and practice quickly.
President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer Sen. Heller to run for Nevada governor Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right MORE acts decisively, reflecting his entrepreneurially background, and expects similar alacrity from Congress. The American people entrusted the GOP with a level of power not seen in nearly a century and they expect results. This is especially true of the party’s most loyal supporters who are tired of excuses from their elected representatives. That sense of frustration, even betrayal, set the stage for the accession to power of Donald Trump.
Remember that Republican voters categorically rejected the party’s dream team during the primary in favor of an outsider who happily overturned many conservative pieties. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Donald Trump ran against the congressional leadership of his own party and won.
He won with an agenda of immigration enforcement, economic nationalism, and a foreign policy focused on national security and commercial advantage rather than moral imperialism. That agenda runs counter to the intellectual orthodoxy of the party but is very popular with base voters and enough Democrats to give Trump victories in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. And those voters want action.
But the constitutional system of checks and balances was purposefully built to slow government action, the better to allow passions to cool and wisdom to prevail. This is a feature not a bug, but it presents Republicans with a predicament: How do they turn Trump’s electoral mandate into legislative success realizing that the party is made up of a coalition of smaller groups with complementary but not identical ideological commitments and political goals?
The key is trust.
A sense of history wouldn’t hurt either. Identify the big things that unite Republicans and pick the low hanging fruit. Build trust and a sense of momentum within the party based on victories won together. Small victories will beget bigger ones. Don’t throw 80 yard Hail Mary passes on first down.
Republicans were unified in their opposition to the Obama agenda and for that they deserve praise. But learning how to govern effectively will take time. Courage without hubris will get them through these early days as they learn to work with each other and to build the internal coalitions necessary to enact the president’s agenda.
The metastasizing of the administrative state into a leviathan that challenges the rights and prerogatives of the sovereign people didn’t happen overnight and it — along with the other issues that propelled Trump to victory — won’t be fixed in the current session of Congress either. The key is to change the trajectory of government, fulfill certain key promises, and reward the trust the American people have put in Republicans.
Congress should focus on kitchen table issues. Anything that promotes wage and job growth for Americans should be considered essential. The president has already led the way with his Executive Orders, his appointments, and his outreach to private sector unions. Now Congress should follow with tax reform, border security, and, yes, repeal of ObamaCare.
The election of Donald Trump represents an opportunity for this country to change course and correct the problems of the past. It is not — and cannot — be a complete solution because the challenges are too big. But if Republicans work together and are able to retain both their boldness and a sense of proportion they can take a big step toward recovering the American ideal of citizenship and self-government — and towards building a lasting governing majority.
The views of by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.