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December 18th, 2018

Insight

Republicans Still Don't Get It

Laura Hollis

By Laura Hollis

Published March 29,2018

Republicans Still Don't Get It

Well before Donald Trump threw his hat into the ring for the 2016 election, many of us had been warning Republicans that the conservative electorate was fed up with their weakness on key issues, constant capitulation to the left, and timidity in the face of the relentless onslaught by a deeply deceptive and hopelessly partisan media.

After President Obama and the Democrats in Congress rammed the Affordable Care Act through Congress in 2009 without a single Republican vote, the tea party took form. The 2010 midterm elections were a "shellacking" for Democrats (in Obama's words); Republicans obtained control of the House of Representatives, picking up 63 seats there, as well as six seats in the Senate.

Voters expected courageous lawmaking from the GOP. Instead, they got excuses. Then-Speaker of the House John Boehner complained that Republicans only controlled "half of one-third of the government."

The people heard him loud and clear. In the 2014 midterm elections, the GOP retained control of the House and took the Senate. But there were surprises for Republicans — most notably Virginia representative Eric Cantor's primary defeat at the hands of tea party favorite Dave Brat, who Cantor outspent 20 times over.

Voters were to be disappointed yet again by Republican weakness. After a battle over the funding of abortion giant Planned Parenthood — on which the GOP predictably caved — John Boehner resigned and passed the gavel to Wisconsin representative Paul Ryan.

By now, it should have been abundantly clear to the GOP that "business as usual" was not going to cut it with conservative voters.

It wasn't.

Consummate outsider Donald Trump knocked his Republican opponents over like bowling pins during the 2016 primaries, and then stunned the left and Republicans alike when he won the presidency.

Republicans still don't get it. Voters flocked to Donald Trump because he flipped the media the bird, stood up to bullies on the left and promised to advance the causes that average Americans cared about. Far from learning the lessons of the Trump phenomenon, the GOP distances themselves from Trump with their political tails tucked between their legs. While aversion to Trump's style is understandable, Republicans should be able to see that what voters really want is not bravado but bravery. Establishment Republicans don't have it, and it shows.

The Pravda press have started their propaganda drumbeat about the drubbing the GOP will get in the upcoming November elections, and how it will all be a backlash against Trump. The mind-numbingly dense Republicans are falling for it again, dutifully repeating the left's talking points: "It's going to be a 'blue wave' in November"; "Republicans might well lose the House and the Senate"; "It's over."

I used to think that Republicans just didn't have the gumption to fight back against the press. Now I think that they actually want to lose.

Some never-Trumpers loathe him so much that they join right in the political attacks, regardless of the impact on the midterm elections. It could be that Republicans are eager to hand Congress to Democrats who can then do the dirty work of impeaching Trump. In fact, that would be consistent with the Congressional GOP's attitude overall; they seem uncomfortable in positions where they might actually have to do something.

After all, they've had control of the House and Senate since 2014. They have had a (nominally) Republican president for over a year. What have they done? Sealed the border? Nope. Defunded Planned Parenthood? Nope. Repealed Obamacare? Nope. They did manage to get a tax cut passed — and even that looked tenuous for a while.

The latest debacle is the omnibus spending bill that Congress passed last week and President Trump signed on Friday. The $1.3 trillion dollar spending bill funds the government and seriously beefs up the military. But it also prohibits the defunding of sanctuary cities and construction of a border wall, not to mention giving abortion powerhouse Planned Parenthood another cool $500 million of taxpayer dollars. Way to betray your constituents, guys.

And then there was the size of it — 2,232 pages — and the way it was passed; lawmakers had less than 17 hours to read the massive bill before being asked to vote on it — a violation of the 3-day rule that Republicans themselves had enacted, and a page right out of former Speaker Nancy Pelosi's handbook. (Pelosi infamously said of the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act's passage, "We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what's in it.") In fact, Pelosi described the omnibus bill as "a tremendous victory for the American people." Her Senate comrade from New York, Chuck Schumer, agreed, saying, "It's a funny thing. In a certain sense, we're able to accomplish more in the minority than we were when we had the presidency or even were in the majority."

What an embarrassment. When Democrats control Congress, Democratic policies win the day. When Republicans control Congress, Democratic policies win the day.

Republicans continue to tell themselves the "centrist" myth that they will win friends (and elections) if they just compromise with Democrats. Nothing could be further from the truth. Liberals and progressives may be secretly grateful for the GOP's capitulation, but they'll publicly denounce Republicans as much as ever. And now the GOP's own voters will despise them, too.

If Republicans lose either house of Congress in November, it will be not only because Democratic voters are motivated enough to vote, but because Republican voters are disgusted enough not to.

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Laura Hirschfeld Hollis is on the faculty at the University of Notre Dame, where she teaches courses in business law and entrepreneurship. She has received numerous awards for her teaching, research, community service and contributions to entrepreneurship education.

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