In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last three months, let me fill you in briefly as to what’s been happening. With the exception of the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, the actions of the Trump Administration have been a mixture of good, bad, and seemingly good but actually bad. My greatest concerns entering this new regime are beginning to come to fruition: Trumpism, whatever it means each day, is beginning to replace the formerly dominant conservatism or libertarianism of the Republican Party. With only the strongest surviving, many of our “principles first” heroes have fallen victim to Trumpism. They will go along with any and everything that Donald Trump says, for fear of losing their positions of good graces with the King. The nationalist, populist, mercantilist, isolationist, and/or borderline Leftist movement that is Trumpism now has control of the House, Senate, and Presidency.
Back in October 2016, I wrote the following:
“My biggest issues with this entire election cycle is not with Trump. We knew who he was going in. My issue is with conservatives who are changing their own fundamental belief systems in order to fit Trump’s mold. From my peers, to Breitbart News, up to Sean Hannity, people are claiming they believe in, and have always believed in, things they were vehemently against before Trump showed up. These are the same people who are perpetuating the delusion that Trump is only losing because of people like me who will not ‘bend the knee.”
The solution during the election was not to lie about Trump being conservative, and it’s even more important that this is not the solution now that he’s President. As I said at the time, if you thought you were faced with a binary choice and Trump was a better option than Hillary, or that you were voting for a Supreme Court Justice, I understand your reasoning. However, it is now unacceptable to just sit back and let the principle of small government die because we don’t want to stand up to Trump. Paul Ryan needs to do his job, and should be able to without fear of the consequences of making his master angry. The time for holding our noses and letting Trump be Trumpy in the name of stopping Hillary Clinton is over. He already won the election, now it’s time to demand that he stick to the promises and “principles” he ran and won upon.
Of course, history proved me wrong about my prediction that he wouldn’t win, and I am still glad that I was wrong in this case. I honestly wish I would be proved wrong about Trump more often. I’ve long held that Trump doesn’t truly believe in anything. As should be obvious from his actions of the last few months, he is greatly concerned with his ego. During the campaign, he would say anything that he believed would get him elected. Now, he is torn between fulfilling his campaign promises and doing popular things. Nothing demonstrates this internal struggle with more clarity than last week’s American Health Care Act debacle.
The entire world has talked about this bill ad nauseam, so I don’t feel the need to go into its specifics. I’ll just say that the single biggest issue is the retention of the “Pre-existing Conditions Mandate.” Insurance Companies are businesses. Businesses are started to make profits. Insurance companies make their profits on the gamble that you won’t need their help. How can an insurance company make money if there is a 100% chance that they will be needed? A basic understanding of economics tells you the answer is skyrocketing premiums. They used to make their money off charging a low monthly premium to all of the young people who probably wouldn’t need anything, and used that money, in conjunction with the higher premiums based on risk-factors, to maintain a profit margin even after helping their clients who need the most assistance. When the government forces insurances companies to take on already very sick people, thereby removing the gamble, the obvious result should be that prices skyrocket, which leads to the young people canceling their plans and gambling on themselves to not get sick, then paying out of pocket for anything that does happen. This leads to even higher premiums because the insurance companies have less people enrolled. Would you expect to be able to buy low-price fire insurance for your house after it has already burned down?
So, why would the “Republicans” keep these provably damning facets of Obamacare in their definitely not Obamacare bill? This is what happens when your party is being led by a leftist: he uses leftist metrics to gauge the success of leftist goals. One of the first sure-fire signs of this bill’s failure was the very clear difference in goals of Trump and Paul Ryan. Trump’s metric was the same as Obama’s: How many people will be covered? Ryan, a staunch conservative until about three months ago, had the goal of lowering premiums and getting government out of the business as much as possible. Those two visions are not compatible, and the result was the half-assed, disastrous pile of horse manure that we called Trumpcare Ryancare RINOCare Obamacare2.0 ObamacareLite Obamacare The American Health Care Act.
So, what happens now? Trump has been very inconsistent on pretty much everything for the past year and a half, especially on his political philosophy. The only idea that remains the same is Trump’s desire to be well-liked. This makes the least sense to me of any of the Trumpian philosophies because the reality is that he has never been well-liked according to polling, and especially isn’t right now (currently, he sits between 36-44% approval rating based on which polls you are quoting). The Right wants to love Trump, even as he spits in the face of their values. The Left will never approve of him, even when he does a lot of what they want. As I’ve said before, he utilizes a language very similar to that of Bernie Sanders, especially when he talks about trade.
Based on the news coverage of the last few days, it appears Trump is giving up on working with those on the right who won’t cooperate, and is planning on shifting his aim to those on the moderate left. This is stupid. There is simply no way that any elected Democrat would be able to return to their constituents, who all hate Trump (he has about an 8% approval rate amongst Democrats), and say that they worked with and yielded to him on anything. The Left is never going to support Trump, this should be obvious by what seems to be an eternal state of hair-on-fire over every single move Trump makes.
What would be the much smarter political move, and one that I hope Paul Ryan, Reince Preibus, and his other cabinet members are encouraging him to do, would be to unite those on the right who really do want him to succeed, so he can actually push through some successful legislation. Even the fiercest #NeverTrump-er is happy when they are proven wrong about Trump. I, for example, was ready to buy a MAGA hat after Gorsuch’s selection. I love what he’s doing as far as scaling back the power of the executive branch, I love his cutting overreaching regulations, I love the slashing of programs, I love his immigration policies (when he actually commits to them/roles them out properly), and I love a majority of his cabinet picks. None of this changes the plethora of big government tendencies that exist in this administration. However, it is important to look at which moves by Trump are popular not only among his base, but by those who didn’t support him in the election.
There is a choice coming for the Trump Administration. They are going to have to choose whether they are going to reach out to Rand Paul and the Freedom Caucus, or if they’re going to try their luck with Chuck Schumer and company. As I’ve said, I think there’s a snowballs chance in hell that any decent number of Democrats give Trump even an inch, but I don’t think that will stop him from trying. He has a bit of a history of doing the wrong thing.
Trump tweeted Thursday morning that he plans on fighting both the Freedom Caucus and the Democrats. This is beyond idiotic for several reasons. Many members of the Caucus were huge Trump supporters in the election. He could have negotiated with them for more than a week and reached a compromise. It is also infuriating and predictable that he attacks those who stand firm on their principle. As we said, he’s pretty much a Leftist, and there’s no tolerance for principle on the Left. From a practical stand-point, this is an idiotic political move. If he won’t play ball with the Freedom Caucus AND the Democrats, he his left with 216 votes in the House, and he needs 218 to get anything accomplished.
If Trump can stay consistent in small-government principles, relying on the promises and ideologies upon which he got elected, he will be able to find a common ground with the dominant federal party. If he continues to let his pride get in the way, refusing to compromise with those farther right than he is, he won’t only cost us the presidency in 2020, but he will destroy the small scrap of hope that we can return to the founding principles of small government and personal responsibility. If we really want to Make America Great Again, we cannot abandon the ideals that made it great in the first place.
Luke Garrison is currently studying Criminal Law and Constitutional Theory at Seattle University Law School, and is a graduate of The Catholic University of America. For Questions, Comments, or Hate Mail, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To hear more from Luke, follow him on Twitter: @_lukegarrison.