Republicans Need to Hang Together
Posted on January 6, 2017
(This originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal's Think Tank)
The durability of the Constitution has been called into question by the election of Donald Trump: Will a man who is so inexperienced in the world of politics and who has so little obvious knowledge about the details of the complex document treat it with the respect it deserves?
Those concerns are more than a bit overdone. You don’t have to be a constitutional scholar to be president of the United States. You do have to be a leader who leads the nation, who can give the people a vision and inspire action from the legislative branch. While Mr. Trump might want to do things that don’t jibe with tradition or even with the Constitution, government and nongovernment institutions are strong enough to withstand those impulses should they ever arise.
The bigger threat comes with a Republican Party that decides it doesn’t need to stick with its president. Like it or not, Mr. Trump and the Republican-dominated Congress are joined at the hip. The GOP will only succeed if it unites on a common policy agenda. If Mr. Trump fails, congressional Republicans fail. On big-ticket items like replacing Obamacare, fixing our broken immigration system, making America the best place in the world to do business, and restoring dignity and well-paid employment to the working class, failure cannot be an option.
If the Trump agenda gets sidetracked by recrimination, by ideological disagreement, by unbridgeable debates or by a simple unwillingness for members of the team to act as a team, the Republican brand will be forever tarred as the gang that couldn’t shoot straight.
Now, some pundits on the left are urging that so-called “responsible Republicans” resist a president who they view as a threat to America’s future. Some of these pundits are former conservatives. But if these “responsible Republicans” decide to go their own way, they undermine the Republican Party and only make it easier for the left to regain power. This won’t “Make America Great Again.”
Congress doesn’t have to do everything the president asks, nor should it. And when the president does things that he shouldn’t do, the legislators have a duty to call him out on it. But Republicans don’t have the luxury to form a debating society and ponder how many angels dance on the head of a pin. They have a short time frame to deliver results for the American people. They do this best by working with Mr. Trump, not against him.
It was at the signing of the Declaration of Independence that Ben Franklin uttered his fabulous phrase, “Yes, we must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
If Republicans don’t hang together, they will hang individually in the next election.