As the election nears, some voters and pundits continue to be perplexed why Donald J. Trump is on the ballot.
Forget that the country underwent a political process, where the field of 17 was whittled down to Trump. And also forget that while the winnowing process underway, the media added up the numbers of the also-rans and declared triumphantly that Trump was losing, because the aggregated number of “against” votes outweighed the “for” votes. However, sad as it seems, the “for” votes were tabulated for what they were, leaving the “against” voters in the dust. Sorry, #NeverTrump-ers, but that is how math works: The one with the most votes wins (caveat: notwithstanding the special math employed by the electoral college).
The events of the past eight years have paved the way for Trump: the rise and disembowelment of Tea Party movement; the current attitude and actions of the sitting president; and the unwillingness of anyone in the GOP to not only to articulate but robustly support a coherent point of view (that, egads, may be opposition to the Democratic party line).
The Tea Party movement was born, almost accidentally, from the exercised remarks of CNBC commentator Rick Santelli as he reacted to President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA; aka Stimulus or Bailout). Since 1913, taxpayers have come to terms with persistent nature of the tax system, and grudgingly go along with having their tax dollars fund policies and practices they don’t necessarily agree with.
However, the ARRA unabashedly released taxpayer funds (provided by people who tried to make good decisions, but were still struggling) to people and businesses that made genuinely bad decisions (and would no longer be struggling, thanks to the harried taxpayer). This unfair allocation of funds stuck in the craw of a proportion of the voting population. To be fair, the ARRA passed without a single GOP Congressional vote, but it did manage to garner three Senate votes. Nevertheless, the complete disregard for the will of the people mobilized what became the Tea Party movement.
Adding fuel to the fire was the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), which was legislation that was so lousy that it was on life support from the beginning. Since motions involving expenditures have to originate in the house, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi honed in on HR3590, which was a military housing bill that they stripped of content and dumped in the text created by Jonathan Gruber, John McDonough, and Ezekiel Emanuel (none of whom at the time were duly elected members of Congress). On Christmas Eve 2009, the Senate had 60 votes to pass the bill, and it did, without a single GOP yea.
Shortly after, Democrat Edward Kennedy died, which led to the election of Republican Scott Brown. This is important is because Congress was still engaged in a minutia of bill passing, and it was still possible that Scott Brown could cast a crucial vote.
There wasn’t a final version of the bill that both the House and Senate were happy with. The deal was made where the House would pass Reconciliation Act of 2010 that made changes to the original ACA. The Senate passed the Reconciliation Act on March 25, 2010.
But the vote in the Senate made use of the little-used “Reconciliation Rule” (not to be confused with named House bill) that permits budget items to pass with 51 votes rather than 60. Ultimately, it did not make one whit of difference that Scott Brown was elected. Although from the moment he was sworn in to the minute that the Senate voted on the Reconciliation Act, there was something in the air that felt like hope.
With the disappointments of the ARRA and the ACA, the Tea Party was poised to be force in the 2010 elections. Some of the same insider fighting that dogs Trump’s race for the White House was evident in the 2010 mid-term elections. Predictably, Tea Partiers were denounced as “racists” because they did not warmly endorse the policies of President Obama.
As a party, it was a bust. There weren’t great swells of new congressman darkening the halls of the Capitol. There were some, and a few at the state level. They could achieve some things, but because the way the system operates (or to employ a term used by one candidate, is “rigged”) there was no way that an eager first-termer can shake things up without the blessing of the party leaders. Evidently, no blessings were forthcoming.
When the Tea Party wasn’t being suffocated by the GOP establishment, it was being
deliberately swindled by the consultant class. And those efforts were largely successful.
Fast forward to the current moment. President Obama supplied the Iranians with $400 million in currency under mysterious and bewildering circumstances. There is also that little administrative loose end of turning over the oversight of the internet to the UN.
Over the Labor Day weekend, Obama pledged the US to the Agenda 21 goals. It is reassuring that he did not exactly sign a treaty, but only engaged in the pantomime of putting his name on an “executive agreement.” It is an open question if he will engage in similar statesmanship when it comes to the TPP. After all, precedent has been set.
As for the current GOP leadership, do they have a view? Where are the full-throated calls to investigate the Obama administration for the Iran cash-for-hostages deal? Why is there no interest in keeping the internet oversight under US control? Where is the opposition to Obama’s maneuvering with Agenda 21? Doesn’t the Senate have some duty to rubber-stamp treaties?
Where are the cries for health insurance reform? During the primaries it was a surprise to many that Ted Cruz led so many (failed) efforts to repeal the ACA. Where were the hearings? Where were the stories of working families who are shackled not only with five-figure premiums but also five-figure deductibles (sometimes per family member)? How did Cruz lead this fight? Was it a matter of filing a piece paper? Wow, that was effective.
Where was the pushback when Speaker of the House Paul Ryan proved to the nation that he inherited John Boehner’s “kick me” sign when he cheerfully ushered in a new budget deal in October 2015? Who needs enemies when your friends and allies treat you so poorly?
GOP legislators don’t do very much. They can muster “nay” votes when they have to, but they aren’t forging new legislation, they aren’t creating new directions that are going to signal a better future for the American public. In the last eight years, the GOP lost so many opportunities, and allowed the genius of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to outfox and hoodwink them, not once, but over and over again.
Not only for healthcare, but also for other issues—how hard is it to sit down and think through what legislative trickery is available, and to come up with a strategy to check it? Where did they put their “thinking caps”?
The GOP establishment can win primaries, but they can’t lead. They can’t make a stand. They can’t make a decision or have an opinion and stick with it. They don’t fight for what they believe in—in fact, what do they believe in? They are like leaves blowing on the breeze, without an intention or a set direction, and without a sense of unity or purpose.
There is no perfect presidential candidate, and to pretend there is such a thing is folly. Some of the enduring criticism of Trump is that he is a flawed individual. When harping on Trump’s imperfections, the suggestion hangs in midair that, in contrast, Mrs. Clinton’s virtues are legion and worthy.
It is the voters’ duty to elect someone that they will agree with more often than not. And it is the leader’s duty to look after the interests of the citizens—not just the ones who showed up in the polls on a November day, but also the ones who will become citizens, either by birth or by oath, in the coming years.
Trump is that candidate. Trump has a point of view. He has a direction. He can listen. He can modify. He will fight.
That’s why Trump.