John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


The Party of Trump Magically Becomes the Governing Party

Posted on February 12, 2018

Don’t look now, but the Party of Trump is starting to look suspiciously like the Governing Party.

Elections have consequences and one of the biggest and most surprising results of the elevation of Donald J. Trump to the White House has been the evolution of the GOP from a collection of Tea Party resistors to mature stewards of the national economy.

OK, that second part might be a stretch, but the fact is the Republican Party finds itself cutting deals and passing legislation that it would have condemned as heresy not that long ago.

This transformation has come about for a variety of reasons.

First, Barack Obama has left the stage. The conservative base, for whatever reason, simply did not like that man and did not allow Republican leaders to do business with him. Those who tried, like House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) or House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), were either defeated in primaries or unceremoniously showed the door by their increasingly radical caucus.

But Obama is no longer the face of the Democratic Party and with his departure has come a reset within the GOP.

Second, members of the Tea Party class have either started to figure out how to do their jobs or decided to move on to do something else with their lives. It’s been just over seven years since Republicans took over the House in the 2010 and in that time, they have learned a few things. First, they learned that shutting down the government is a stupid strategy. Second, they learned that many of their constituents not only like some help from the federal government, they desperately need it. And third, they learned that deficits don’t really matter to their voters.

Another reason: Donald Trump is more popular than they are among the GOP base, and Trump is not nearly as conservative as they pretended to be. The president wants deals, not an ideological debate. He is not a doctrinaire paleo-conservative or a libertarian or a neo-con. He is a businessman, and he wants the government to function at a basic level because that makes him look better.

He is not a movement conservative by any stretch of the imagination, but he is beloved by many of those who fancy themselves as such because he is so hated by the ideological left. The base loves that he is passionately politically incorrect and they give him wide berth to cut deals that would have sank other Republican leaders.

He signed what naysayers call a budget-busting budget because he knew that he has conservative support behind him. Sure, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) might have held things up for while with his parliamentary antics, but the majority of the majority sided with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) precisely because they had President Trump on their side.

Republicans proved they had the potential to become the governing party when they passed the most sweeping tax-reform legislation in a generation. They did it without the help of the minority party, which made the victory all the sweeter.

The Democrats further hurt themselves in taking a page out of the losing Tea Party playbook by shutting down the government for a weekend in pursuit of a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals deal. That narrative would not have been possible, however, had House Republicans proved incapable of passing a continuing resolution on their own before the Senate considered it. Had House Republicans failed in passing the CR, it would have been another example of Republican incompetence. Instead, it was rightly branded the Schumer shutdown. That was another sign that the GOP was starting to understand the governing game.

The biggest test for the GOP comes with immigration. This has been the bugaboo of both parties for close to a quarter-century. The system is broken and needs to be fixed. The American people don’t want open borders but neither do they want to kick 11 million out of the country and disrupt the economy in the process. A deal is out there, somewhere.

Should Republican leaders come up with an orderly process to reach an honorable compromise and finally come up with a reform bill that upsets the wings but satisfies the middle while garnering the president’s signature, the transformation will be complete. The GOP under Trump will prove to all that it has become a party capable of solving big problems and taking care of business. It will prove that is has become the governing party.

(Also in The Hill)

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