Capitol Hill’s newest flashpoint is the surprise budget deal President Trump struck with Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-California.
Extending the amount of time until Congress must handle the debt ceiling until beyond December, the deal simultaneously funds hurricane relief and moves around money in the government to ensure functionality up to the year’s end.
The Democrats, ecstatic about their apparent victory over Republican partisans, clearly played their political hand prematurely. Schumer, the Senate minority leader, and Pelosi, the House minority leader, embody not only the modern Democratic Party’s ineptitude but also its striking misunderstanding of politics.
The deal increases antagonism between the House’s Freedom Caucus and the White House, as the Freedom Caucus claims to think President Trump has done little to advance an arch-conservative agenda.
Unwilling House Republicans could slow Trump’s hope for tax reform, but those prospects seem dead upon arrival. Republicans openly want to lower the estate and corporate gains tax.
The sheer unpopularity of these policies, and Trump’s own claims on Wednesday that he will not lower taxes on the rich, likely makes tax reform a greater political hurdle than repealing the Affordable Care Act.
Someone unfazed by Trump’s budget deal is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky. In a recent interview, McConnell explained that Democrats sacrificed their greatest bargaining chip with the deal.
Without being able to hold the debt limit over Republican’s heads, the Democrats have barely any leverage once spending negotiations start. To McConnell, the Democrats “spiked the ball in the end zone a little too early.”
It even seems McConnell got the final word if one looks at the actual legislation passed last week.
Against Schumer’s wishes, McConnell wrote the legislation to include “extraordinary measures” in the government’s ability to free up cash to pay off debt and increase federal borrowing power.
“One of the advantages of being the majority leader is you control the paper,” McConnell said. “The minority leader and his team were trying to get us not to write it that way, but I did write it that way, and that is the way it passed.”
McConnell’s quote encapsulates the difference in political understanding between Democrats and Republicans. The Republican Party understands that politics is power and dominance; it involves believing in something, having ideas and implementing your policies with ruthlessness onto your opponents.
Republicans pursue and adhere to power politics and consequentially control the Oval Office, Congress, 34 governorships and 32 state legislatures.
Democrats, conversely, believe politics is about compromise and adhering to the rules of institutions.
Consider the fight over health care in the early years of Barack Obama’s presidency. Obama believed if he offered a more conservative health care plan, he could bring Republicans on board.
In his diluted view, Republicans would favor logic and ultimately fold because they were given policy they should have reasonably favored. What happened is that they recognized that gifting legacy-defining legislation to their opponent would hurt them politically.
If Democrats ever want to hold power again, they must shed this illusion that the other side will come around. They must also stand for something and offer policy.
A politics by what-you-are-not is no politics at all. The Democrats cannot simply be the party of not-Republicans.
A major push for single-payer healthcare is a huge start in unifying the party, but good ole' Schumer and Pelosi, continuing their march of centrism, refused to support it.