Politics & Policy

Washington Republicans Have Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself

House Speaker Ryan and Senate Majority Leader McConnell at the White House in February. (Reuters photo: Jonathan Ernst)
GOP officials never will win the love of Democrats or the media — so they should stop trying.

Be unafraid. Be very unafraid.

This is the message that Washington Republicans need to internalize — pronto.

From Capitol Hill to the White House, the GOP seems perpetually in fear. When Republicans see their shadows, they leap like terrified Cheshire cats into the chandeliers. They need the courage, rather than the cowardice, of their convictions.

First, Republicans should remember that they have not been this strong since 1928. Beyond Congress, the White House, and a de facto center-Right majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, the Grand Old Party controls 33 governorships, 32 state legislatures, and 25 states under total GOP management. Democrats boast 17 governors, twelve state legislatures (the remaining six are split between the parties), and only five states that they completely dominate. Under President Obama’s far-left rule, Democrats lost 958 statehouse seats. Add governorships, House and Senate seats, and the Oval Office, and Obamaism cost Democrats 1,042 elective posts. This spring’s sweep of all four special elections to the U.S. House ground gravel into Democrats’ wounds.

These staggering and consistent victories demonstrate that voters repeatedly have rejected the Left-liberalism of the intrusive administrative state, as epitomized by Obama, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer. Notwithstanding Obama’s 2008 election as the charismatic candidate of “Hope and Change” over the crotchety John McCain, and Obama’s 2012 reelection over the largely themeless Mitt Romney, the American people — up and down the ballot — keep spurning the Left’s wares.

Second, if Republicans showed strength, got their acts together, and governed, they could keep the House and even pick up Senate seats at the 2018 midterm elections. Since Republicans are defending just eight Senate positions versus 25 for the Democrats, a net gain of just eight (atop today’s 52 GOP senators) would secure a filibuster-proof majority. Coupled with a GOP president eager to sign legislation, the potential for paradigm-shifting limited-government/free-market reform is incalculable.

But despite these advantages, and a once-in-a-generation opportunity to secure even greater influence just 17 months from now, Republicans look as jumpy as marooned teenagers walking through a haunted house.

What, exactly, do they fear? That the voters will punish them for doing what the voters elected them to do?

Obamacare repeal and replacement squeaked through the GOP House with just two votes to spare. At this writing, Republican senators are struggling to agree on even a manicure of Obamacare’s tentacles. In fact, six GOP senators who previously voted for repeal voted against it on Wednesday: Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander, West Virginia’s Shelley Moore Capito, Nevada’s Dean Heller, Arizona’s John McCain, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, and Ohio’s Rob Portman. Early Friday morning, Collins, McCain, and Murkowski starved the so-called skinny-repeal plan of the votes it needed to pass, thus throwing fresh doubts on the entire effort to rescue Americans from the death grip of Obama’s signature disaster.

McCain heroically returned to Washington after being diagnosed with brain cancer in order to support a motion to proceed on Obamacare. After his key vote allowed debate on various repeal formulae, McCain on Friday cast the deciding vote to prevent the replacement process from advancing to a House-Senate conference committee. Maddening? Frustrating? Yes and yes.

Meanwhile, on taxes, un-supply-side noises lately have emerged from the White House.

“The truth is the people I care most about are the middle-income people in this country who have gotten screwed,” President Donald J. Trump told the Wall Street Journal. “And if there’s upward revision, it’s going to be on high-income people.”

Trump’s comments echo those of his chief strategist, Steve Bannon. A source told Fox News in early July that Bannon wants “the top tax bracket to have a 4 in front of it.” An income-tax rate of at least 40 percent would hike taxes above today’s 39.6 percent top levy.

Why this whiff of class-war rhetoric? Three cheers for middle-class tax cuts, but why stop there? Americans who pay most of the taxes need relief, too. Boosting taxes on “high-income people” or “the top tax bracket” will earn Trump and Bannon precisely zero goodwill among liberals who hate the wealthy almost as much as they hate Trump and Bannon.

If the GOP thinks that backpedaling on Obamacare, taxes, and ethics probes will mollify Democrats, they are tragically mistaken.

The idea is to drain the swamp, not replenish it with fresh billions from overtaxed job creators and investors whose capital, if left unmolested, would fund products, companies, and careers.

Also, the GOP Congress aggressively has probed “Russiagate” while showing shocking timidity about pursuing Hillary Clinton’s $145 million, pro-Russian, uranium-for-bribes swap; Bill Clinton’s $500,000 speaking fees from Kremlin-tied banks; and the Democratic National Committee’s election-related opposition-research joint venture with Ukrainian officials.

If the GOP thinks that backpedaling on Obamacare, taxes, and ethics probes will mollify Democrats, they are tragically mistaken. The Left’s “Resistance” will hammer them, no matter what.

In the first six months of their respective terms, for instance, Obama saw 206 of his 385 nominees confirmed by the Senate (53.5 percent), while only 55 of Trump’s 257 nominees were approved (21.4 percent). Democrats slowed 34 of Trump’s appointees via filibuster in his first six months, versus just eight for Obama. A Senate Republican Policy Committee study concluded on Tuesday: “At the current rate, it will take 11 years to confirm all of the president’s nominees to fill jobs in the executive branch.”

Simply put: Trump-hating Democrats never will give him or the GOP any breaks. If Trump sang Mr. Rogers’s theme, “It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood,” they would denounce it as “a dog-whistle defense of anti-minority redlining practices.” Republicans from Congress to the Justice Department may think they will earn fair treatment from Democrats by politely overlooking the Clintons’ Uranium One deal, the adventures of the Clinton Foundation, and other skullduggery. Nonsense! No olive branch is large enough to stop the Democrats from screaming “Russia, Russia, Russia!” until Lenin leaps from his tomb and dances through Red Square.

If “growing in Washington” is supposed to buy peace with the Washington Post, CNN, and America’s failing “paper of record,” good luck! If Republicans gave ice-cream cones to orphans, these news outlets would test them for poison. Republicans should stop quivering at their desks and doing things that they think will make them look nice and win the love of Democrats and the liberal media. They never will enjoy either.

So, Republicans might as well stop dragging their feet and caving in, and start sending President Trump more — much more — legislation to sign. They simply should keep their promises on Obamacare, taxes, immigration, border security, and shrinking the size and scope of the federal government. If love is what Republicans seek, they can earn it by restoring freedom and prosperity to the people who got them elected, not knuckling under to the Left, who only offer permanent, holistic hostility.


On Health Care, a Media Failure, and a Republican One

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— Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor at National Review Online.

Deroy Murdock — Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online.

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