March 30, 2017

Is Trump Playing With Fire?

He takes to Twitter to go after the conservative Freedom Caucus.

As Ronald Reagan once said, “There you go again.” On Thursday morning, Donald Trump took to his favorite medium, Twitter, to sound off on the recent Republican failure to repeal and replace ObamaCare. Just as we warned before it failed, he blamed conservatives: “The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don’t get on the team, & fast. We must fight them, & Dems, in 2018!”

He’s actually right about the first part. As Mark Alexander wrote Wednesday, “If our Republican conference conservatives pursue an ‘all or none’ strategy, they should just give the keys to the Democrats now.” In other words, letting the perfect be the enemy of the good is going to hamper the GOP majority’s ability to enact its agenda. It would be suicidal for Republicans to underestimate the importance of unity within their caucus; the Democrats and their Leftmedia allies are in lockstep, and they’ll spin any sign of GOP infighting to their advantage.

There’s some indication that Freedom Caucus members get this. “We are not an independent group,” said Rep. Joe Barton. “We are part of the Republican conference. We have an obligation to govern.”

But this is a two-way street. When the president effectively declares war on his own party, that’s a yuge problem. Of course, Trump’s core supporters wanted him to wage war on Republicans at least as much as, if not more than, on Democrats. But his enemy was allegedly the same establishment opposed by … the House Freedom Caucus, which is composed of the GOP’s most conservative legislators. “The two themes Trump ran on is the forgotten man and draining the swamp,” said Rep. Dave Brat. “The Freedom Caucus is all of that.” Nevertheless, with his typical huff and bluster, Trump is clearly playing to his own constituency by attacking his right flank.

That’s not leadership. It’s showmanship.

Trump can’t afford to fight both conservatives and Democrats. There are 32 members of the House Freedom Caucus. House Republicans currently have a 34-seat advantage. Yet between his various threats and his exasperated declaration to Freedom Caucus members that they should “forget the little s—t” in the health care bill, it seems as if Trump is trying to drive a permanent wedge between himself and these true conservatives. If that happens, it will be all that much harder for his presidency to succeed at anything but dominating the 24/7 news cycle.


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