In late March, I sounded the alarm on the disastrously capitulatory rhetoric already emanating from the GOP, as it pertained to the impending April budget battle. The Hill cited numerous examples of the reflexive bed-wetting within the establishmentarian wing of the party. Opening salvos had not even been launched, but the writing already appeared to be on the wall. Here is what I wrote, at the time:
We stand no chance if we pose as Democrats Lite™ and regurgitate vapid policy talking points only one or two increments less Statist than that which the Democrats offer.
With the White House and its establishmentarian allies increasingly committed to going down the path of scorched-earth total warfare against conservatives and kowtowing to Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, the time to act is now…
In the aftermath of the setback that was the Trumpcare dumpster fire, this next month is indispensable in determining whether conservatives will reclaim a position of prominence in Washington, or if Trump will simply write us off for good.
It is now approximately one month later. The continuing resolution currently funding the federal government expires at midnight on Friday, April 28; absent an appropriations package, a new continuing resolution, or some other byzantine funding mechanism that contains elements of both, there will be a government shutdown on April 29. And yet, just as sure as the sky is still blue and Elizabeth Warren still rain dances around the teepee when she isn’t shilling for economically illiterate Keynesianism, all signs now point toward the Grand Old Party preparing for a Grand Old Surrender.
There is no appetite whatsoever among congressional Republicans right now to wage battle over taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood – despite the fact that the organization demonstrably profits off the sale of dismembered baby parts, and despite the reality that the current state-sanctioned prenatal infanticide regime is the moral and legal successor to the antebelleum slavery that the nascent Republican Party was once formed to stand athwart. There is no appetite right now to go to budgetary war over defunding the jihad-funding, kleptocratic Palestinian Authority. There is no appetite to once and for all defund President Obama’s lawless executive amnesties, to stop unvetted refugee resettlement from the Islamic world, or even to pay for Trump’s unambiguously highest profile, most frequently cited campaign promise: the construction of the “big, beautiful” border wall.
There is scarcely any talk of a legislative denuding of Obama’s purely evil Iranian nuclear deal, despite the fact that that monumental abomination is back in the news this week in a way that makes Barack Obama and John Kerry look less like Henry Kissinger and more like the love children of Neville Chamberlain and Ethel Rosenberg:
The overarching tragedy of the GOP’s preemptive budget surrender is that, as Mark Levin and others have long argued, government shutdowns should be feared by Republicans far less than they should be feared by Democrats for the precise reason that government shutdowns usually disproportionately hurt progressivism and redound to conservatism’s long-term interests. By furloughing many government workers and temporarily shutting off many government programs without having planes fall out of the sky or the nation’s electrical grid suddenly compromised, the fundamental case is oftentimes made to casual observers that the federal Leviathan simply need not be this massive and intrusive to be functional. But, alas, as many GIF-obsesed Millennials on the Twittersphere like to say and the great Texan George Strait once sang: “I hate everything.”
There are two main reasons why, despite Republicans controlling both houses of Congress and the White House, the GOP’s budgetary woes in this fight were easier to predict than the result of a Harlem Globetrotters v. Washington Generals game.
First, there is the undeniable reality that, despite the fact that Trump “wrote” The Art of the Deal and purportedly understands the basics of negotiation theory (note to Republicans: you start off not by demanding half a loaf of bread, but by demanding the whole loaf of bread), he is still wildly lacking in principle. Trump simply does not care about most policy positions; if one goes back two to three decades, it is readily apparent that the only public issue that Trump has truly been consistent on – and thus which we might conclude he is actually passionate about – is his bizarrely retrograde, zero-sum, mercantilist approach to trade. On essentially every other political or legal issue known to man, it is reasonable for us to think of Trump as somewhere between naive and willfully blasé. Trump has always been a showman and an entertainer, and his wild personal insecurities mean he is serially concerned with what the media say about him. If this is your modus operandi, then it naturally follows that political confrontation will be anathema. There is never a need to make a stand at the Alamo, after all, if there is never a principle for which you are actually willing to fight.
Second, it happens to be the case that the GOP is an institutionally risk averse party that simply lacks the testicular fortitude to use Congress’s power of the purse to push for its legislative prerogatives. Nor does it matter, moreover, whether Republicans control merely one house of Congress or both houses plus the White House. In 2013, the establishmentarian wing of the GOP mercilessly savaged Sen. Ted Cruz’s Obamacare defund effort due to an ostensible belief that the then-minority party would simply be blamed for any shutdown; now, in 2017, the same establishmentarian wing claims that any shutdown would be blamed on Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and the rest of the now-majority party. Thus we get such shams as John Cornyn, the Senate’s number two Republican, repeatedly telegraphing his indefatigable opposition to even trying to credibly threaten a possible government shutdown. Never mind that the classic game of chicken, which is all a budget brinksmanship actually is, has as its most obvious winning strategy the wearing of a poker face so inscrutable and the making of a threat so credible that it induces the opposing party to swerve at the last second to avoid a head-on collision. Many Republicans have either never understood this basic game theory point, or they simply do not share our own conservative values – perhaps most likely, it is both.
As grim as the budget fight currently looks, the battle is not quite lost just yet. Grassroots activists can, and should, call McConnell’s and Ryan’s offices this week to tell them to stop caving. Specifically, it is not too much to ask them to draw a hard line on (a) no taxpayer funding for an organization that snuffs out hundreds of thousands of unborn lives each year and profits off the sale of unborn children’s body parts, and (b) defunding Obama’s executive amnesties and concomitantly funding a full border wall, which were Trump’s campaign promises über alles and which would likely pay for themselves over the years by disincentivizing illegal crossings ex ante and thus freeing up precious resources for thinly staffed ICE agents in such a way so as to minimize costly “catch and release.” If Republicans will not stand for basic values of human life and national sovereignty when they have full control of both Congress and the White House, then it is truly not clear what on Earth they might possibly be willing to stand for.
With the continuation of inveterate legerdemain on the part of GOP establishmentarianism, the rise of an ideologically unmoored showman in the White House, and the always-present existential threat to the American experiment posed by the regressive Left, conservatives are living through very perilous times. But just as it is not too much to ask that Republicans follow through on seven years’ worth of promises to repeal Obamacare, it is not too much to ask that the party that fully controls both of the political branches of the federal government enact some of its top priorities into budgetary law. Anything less would be an abject failure – which sadly appears to be precisely where we are headed.
Follow Josh on Twitter.