Wednesday, September 27, 2017

It’s War: Trump vs. Republican Establishment

Donald Trump has declared war on the Republican Senate establishment. It started with a testy exchange between Trump and Senator Mitch McConnell after the defeat of the health care bill. Trump ramped it up with a series of tweets implying that McConnell was a failed leader and that Senate Republicans were negligent for not staying in D.C. and passing one of the Republican-led bills.

Trump has taken on a number of individual Republican senators who have criticized him during various August controversies. He added fuel to the fire at the recent Arizona rally with attacks on Senators McCain and Flake, including encouraging a primary against Senator Flake. Trump hasn’t spared Republicans in the House. Recent tweets have criticized the House leadership on the debt ceiling. He has called for a shutdown of government if his wall along the Mexican border isn’t funded in the upcoming budget bill.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, President Donald Trump and
Speaker Paul Ryan (Happier days), Mar. 1, 2017 | ABC News
The result of the war between the executive branch and Republicans in Congress will damage the Republican brand and cause a schism between Trump supporters and the Republican establishment, including more traditional Republican voters. Although it will be hard for Republicans to lose the Senate due to the number of vulnerable Democrats up in 2018, the Republican House and its 24-seat majority is up for grabs.

Although President Trump wins a head-to-head contest in the polls with Senator McConnell and Congress – mainly because Congress rates so poorly among the public – it’s a self-defeating victory because it likely undermines any chance for tax reform or infrastructure legislation this year, or even in this session. Trump, no doubt, considers his attacks a warning to Republicans that he will retaliate against any criticism. And, given that he’s most concerned about his brand and already beginning his 2020 campaign, separating from Congress and the health care loss may offer some personal protection. But it damages the Republican Party and highlights the failure of party control and his leadership to relieve gridlock.

Trump appears to be running on his own and against Congress. Will Republicans in Congress now begin to go their own way? This is new political territory. It’s a guess how it changes the 2018 election.

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