MEMBERS ONLY: How The GOP Turned the Tables on Trump

by Ben Cohen

Despite the Left’s insistence that Trump’s presence was enough to destroy the Republican party once and for all, America is now in the grips of a right wing revolution the likes of which put the Bush administration’s attempts to dismantle the state to shame. This wasn’t Trump’s plan incidentally — this has long been the Republican Party’s objective and they are manipulating an idiot for their own dastardly designs. 

If you look at what Trump pledged during his chaotic campaign, he was no free market ideologue and consistently promised to use the federal government to rip up free trade agreements like NAFTA, implement universal health coverage, and create jobs through a giant infrastructure program. Had it not been for Trump’s clever marketing of himself and the total acquiescence of Fox News and other far right media outlets, he would have been considered a socialist. While the GOP were terrified of Trump’s popularity and couldn’t figure out how to manage him, it is now clear that enough of the party heads saw an opportunity to use him for their own means should he get into power. 

Typically, both political parties in the US like and support candidates they think a) can win, and b) can be controlled. Hillary Clinton was regarded as an establishment Democrat who would work with the party and stay on message. Bernie Sanders was not, and the party did not view him favorably. The GOP were desperate to propel Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio to the White House given their solid Republican credentials and clear allegiance to the party. Donald Trump was someone they didn’t agree with and couldn’t control, so they quietly tried to destroy him before he became the nominee. But once he defeated Ted Cruz, the GOP quickly pivoted and attempted to make the best of a bad situation — a plan that, barring the Trumpcare debacle, has worked out quite well for them. 

Trump and his Alt-Right guru Steve Bannon have essentially been sidelined almost as soon as they entered the White House — not by the GOP so much, but by themselves. Trump basically hired people with either no government experience, or no brains leading to the most disastrous start to a presidency in US history. The first two months of Trump’s presidency consisted of him signing executive order after executive order without thinking through any of the consequences, then having very public meltdowns in response to the fallout. The ongoing freak show has served to distract the public from the real power plays that have been going on in Washington — and that is with the Republican controlled congress. Take for example the health care disaster — a debacle that has completely neutered Trump and left him with the worst poll numbers of any president in modern history. As Ezra Klein noted:

Sixty days into his presidency, Trump has lashed himself to a Paul Ryan passion project that’s polling at 56-17 percent against. As political scientist Ryan Enos drolly observed, “in a hyper-partisan political climate, it’s actually an accomplishment to write legislation this unpopular.” Nor is Trump emerging unscathed: Polls show his approval rating falling into the 30s — and that’s before he’s taken away health insurance from a single person.

The AHCA breaks Trump’s promises to his base so fulsomely, so completely, that when told by Tucker Carlson on Fox News “that counties that voted for you, middle-class and working-class counties, would do far less well under the bill,” Trump was reduced to saying, simply: “Oh, I know.”

The bill failed spectacularly due to hardline conservatives who thought it far too generous to women and the poor, and it has ruined Trump’s reputation as a deal maker extraordinaire. While Ryan has taken a political hit, it is something he almost certainly calculated. The bill was terrible and looked to experts as if it was designed to fail. Trump reportedly didn’t have any hand in writing it, and didn’t bother reading it either, so Ryan gambled that he’d put his name to it if he was flattered in the right way. Wrote Klein

Ryan’s stroke of genius, however, has been flattering Trump’s vision of himself as a dealmaker through the process, and amping up Trump’s sense of the personal stake he has in the AHCA’s success.

On Monday, Politico reported that “members of Speaker Paul Ryan’s team, trying to appeal to Trump’s ego and deal-making sensibilities, have begun calling him the ‘closer’ or the ‘ultimate closer.’”

In an interview, Ryan amped up both the flattery and the pressure. “I’ve never seen, since I’ve been in Congress — and this is the fourth president I’ve served with — I’ve never seen a president as deep and involved and engaged on passing the signature legislation as this one,” he said.

The GOP still has plenty of time to dismantle Obamacare, and have made no attempts to disguise their intentions. “We’re closer today to repealing Obamacare than we ever were before” said Ryan this week at a press conference. House Republicans are, as he stated “more resolved than ever to repeal this law.” 

Ryan knows that Trump will take his stinging loss of face out on “the media” and the Democrats, making his life even easier. As Trump goes on the rampage, Ryan and the House Republicans will simply get to work enacting their free market agenda without worrying about any of Trump’s socialistic tendencies. They’ll support him on issues they like (think tax cuts and dismantling environmental legislation), and then tie him up if he goes off script by manipulating his giant ego. They’ll likely put a stop to his ridiculous border wall plans by refusing to fund it (because illegal immigrants provide cheap labor for the corporations Republicans love), and they’ll only support his trillion dollar infrastructure plan if it contains no actual government spending and is entirely made up of enormous tax cuts for the wealthy. 

Far from being the ballsy deal maker who would Make America Great Again and “drain the swamp”, Trump has turned out to be a weak leader with no grip on political reality. He is being played by his own party that is using him to further their own extremist agenda. It is unclear whether Trump understands any of this, but the angrier and crazier he gets, the better it is for Paul Ryan the House Republicans. Because as Matt Drudge of the Drudge Report recently tweeted: “The swamp drains you”.