Inequality of Opportunity: May I Have My Context Back, Please?: Hoisted from 2007

Understanding Washington DC in an Age of Trump

Preview of Untitled 2

If I were you, if I were trying to understand Washington, DC today, I would hold tight to four points:

  1. The United States government is a 1700s Enlightenment Era complicated mechanical device that is easily knocked out of alignment and into paralysis.

  2. Since 1980, the Republican Party has increasingly elected presidents who are not executives to manage the government and policy but rather communicators to reassure a broad range of voters–increasingly and notably those who are traditionally in the Americas called the descamisados–that the Republican Party understands and likes them.

  3. This has worked both very well and very badly for the Republican Party:

    • This has worked both very well for the Republican Party as an institution and for the policies it believes are good for the United States under President Reagan, when the management of government was in the hands of the very impressive George Shultz and James Baker.

    • This worked not so well under President George W. Bush, for the Richard Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld to whom the management of the government was committed, and who had been very impressive as aides to President Ford in the 1970s, had both aged several bridges too far in the intervening quarter century.

  4. Now this process has reached its nadir, with a president who is little but a communicator, in whom the Republican Party has little confidence either in his preferences or in his judgment; with no equivalents to the informal prime ministers of Reagan or Bush; with a strong right wing block in the Republican House of Representatives caucus who fear that the president and their leaders are eager to betray them to advance moderate policies; and with a strong centrist block in the Republican Senate caucus fear that the president and their leaders are eager to betray them to advance right wing policies.

We saw this at the end of July, when the Senate refused to allow its majority leader Mitch McConnell to take the healthcare bill to a conference committee, because it could not trust him to adequately represent their positions in the conference. And we really do not know whether it was close–whether there were only three Republican Senators breaking their ranks–or whether there were 13, 10 of whom were grateful not to have to make their mistrust of their leader public, because their votes were not needed to obtain the result they desired.

Unless the missing trust within the Republican legislative caucuses and between them and the President can be built, very little will happen in the way of legislation, and then the cards will be collected and redealt in November 2018.

Meanwhile, major bills, starting with the debt management bill, will probably pass with many if not a majority of Democratic Party votes.

Meanwhile, it is no longer clear what the legislative path to a tax cut for high earners might be.