Friday, July 28, 2017

The Trump-anchor paradox

The more that congressional Republicans believe that Trump is dragging them down and threatening their majorities in 2020 and perhaps even 2018, the greater their incentive to stick with him if they want to get any legislation through in the next decade. This effect is exacerbated by demographic trends and a remarkably unpopular agenda. They had hoped to minimize the negative impact of the latter by slipping a misrepresented version past an unengaged electorate. Unfortunately for the GOP, that particular ship has sailed.

Now, their last and perhaps only hope of achieving long cherished goals such as dismantling the Great Society and possibly even the New Deal depend on getting legislation through under the current configuration. When Trump threatens that configuration, he only makes himself more essential. I doubt very much that he thought this through and made a deliberate decision, but the end result is much the same.

There are, of course, limits to how far this can go. This administration has already managed unprecedented levels of scandal and incompetence six months in. While there is no telling where they will be another year from now, it is probably safe to say that the chances of things getting better are far less than the chances of them getting much, much worse. We have already seen the mechanisms that have kept the conservative movement viable for decades starting to break down. If things start to spiral in a really ugly way, the leaders of the GOP and of the movement will need to worry less about their agenda, and more about their jobs their institutions and possibly even the continued existence of their party.

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