With Democrats set to blow up the budget in order to shut down funding for President Trump’s border wall and maintain funding for Planned Parenthood, Republicans including Trump are running for the hills. This means that, as Daniel Horowitz points out at Conservative Review, virtually every top Republican priority outside of the nomination of Justice Neil Gorsuch has stalled utterly, from Obamacare repeal to the repeal of Obama’s executive amnesty, from the dispatching of the Iran deal to the pullout from the Paris climate accords, from tax reform to defunding of Planned Parenthood. Meanwhile, Republicans continue to cave to Democratic budget maneuvers:
This degree of capitulation, with control of all three branches, is impressing even me … and I had low expectations of this president and this party. They have managed to get run over by a parked car. It’s truly breathtaking to contrast the performance of Democrats in the spring of 2009 with what Republicans have done today with all three branches. At this time in 2009, Democrats passed the bailouts, the stimulus, the first round of financial regulations, an equal pay bill, SCHIP expansion, and laid the groundwork for other, bigger proposals, such as cap and trade and Obamacare. Then they got everything they wanted in the March 2009 omnibus bill, and a number of GOP senators voted for it. We, on the other hand, are left with nothing.
So, what’s the problem here? Why did the Trump administration surrender to Democratic budget priorities in order to keep the government funded?
Because the Republican Party is a party of big government. It’s that simple.
President Trump has spent the last several weeks explaining there would be no government shutdown. This follows on years of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell explaining that government shutdowns were political poison for Republicans. And that followed on years of the media explaining that a government shutdown that didn’t hurt Republicans electorally in 2014 or 2016 obviously devastated the Republican Party in some unspecified way.
Today, we’re told that if Trump told the Democrats to get on board or the government would shut down, Trump would pay the political price. But that wasn’t the case when Barack Obama was the president, apparently. When Republicans in the House refused to fund Obamacare in 2013, here’s how Obama responded:
This Republican shut down did not have to happen, but I want every American to understand why it did happen. Republicans in the House of Representatives refused to fund the government unless we defunded or dismantled the Affordable Care Act. They've shut down the government over an ideological crusade to deny affordable health insurance to millions of Americans. In other words, they demanded ransom just for doing their job.
Obama used the bully pulpit to bully. He succeeded; Republicans backed down.
Yet now, we’re told that if President Trump were to use the same tactic – if he were to tell the American people and the press that Democrats have shut down the government in order to prevent the building of a wall that would protect Americans from the risks of unvetted immigration – he’d pay the political price.
That’s sheer nonsense. Democrats would be seen as obstructionists, along with their moderate Republican allies. That’s appropriate. Trump campaigned on certain promises, and he has an obligation to fulfill them.
But he has no intention of fulfilling them – and neither do McConnell or Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Not when they can defer to Democrats and then claim their hands were tied. Why? Because Republicans are afraid of their own supposed philosophy.
Imagine an actual party of small government. Let’s call it the SGP. Imagine that party of small government were threatened by Democrats thusly: “Hey, SGPers. If you don’t give us the spending we want, we’ll shut down the government – and the government will stop operating such that essential services continue to function, but all the others slow down or close.” Would the SGPers resist? Hell no! They’d laugh! They’d say, “Yes, Democrats, go ahead and pull the trigger. We like small government. You know what will happen if you shut down the government? Not much! The American people will see that the zombie apocalypse isn’t being prevented by your big government routine.”
In fact, for a moment in time, that’s what Republicans did in 2013. And they were right. The government shutdown impacted so few people that the Obama administration was relegated to generating nasty headlines by forcibly shutting down open air national monuments. Obama wouldn’t have had to participate in such tomfoolery if the wages of a government shutdown were so dire – he could have just pointed at The Purge taking place on Pennsylvania Ave., and Republicans would have caved. But there was no purge. Nothing markedly bad happened. So Obama had to craft a bad narrative out of whole cloth, then use his media lackeys to promulgate it.
Now Trump is president. He holds all the cards. A government shutdown won’t end the world and Democrats are to blame! Instead, he’s decided to back down. That’s because in his heart, Trump – just like McConnell and Ryan – has no confidence in small government. They believe that government ought to be big, it just ought to be run by them. But here’s the problem: so long as Republicans believe that government ought to be big, it will always be run by Democrats, even when Republicans are in the majority in the House and Senate and occupy the White House – because Democrats will always be able to blackmail Republicans with the threat of shutdown.
This latest fiasco just demonstrates what conservatives have known all along: top Republicans aren’t interested in smaller government overall. But it confirms one additional point: it isn’t just establishment Republicans who are the problem. Anti-establishment big government Republicans are more closely allied with establishment Republicans than with small government conservatives. And that means Democrats win. Again.