I thought the days of Nancy Pelosi taunting us over health care were over, but here we are. We may yet end up winning so much that we get bored with all the winning, but we’re sure not there yet. And given the damage the GOP’s failure to repeal ObamaCare would do to the rest of Trump’s agenda, if they can’t come up with a bill soon that’s both better on the merits and able to pass both houses, we may never get there.
To return to a point from this post, if the House bill does end up being killed off by the Freedom Caucus, the ultimate beneficiary might be — ta da — Nancy Pelosi. Assuming, that is, that she wants to seize the opportunity. Should Trump conclude that House conservatives are puritans who’ll never support a bill that gives them less than 100 percent of what they want, his natural move is to reach out to Democrats and try to govern from the middle. That can’t happen on health care because Democrats will accept no compromise that involves eliminating ObamaCare, but it could happen on infrastructure, tax reform, you name it. If Trump pushes populist bills with some goodies stashed away inside for Dems, he’d still have most House Republicans voting with him and could effectively sideline conservatives by replacing them with, say, 40 or so centrist Democratic votes. Given Trump’s own centrist tendencies and Steve Bannon’s enthusiasm for left-ish economic initiatives, it seems like a natural shift for the White House to make. Forget conservatives and start pushing more independent-minded policies. After all, once you peel away the paper-thin Republican veneer, Trump himself is an independent, right?
Pelosi’s problem is that the left has arrived at the conclusion that obstruction in all things is the key to political success. It worked like gangbusters for the GOP from 2010-16 (with an Obama-related blip in 2012) so now it’s time for Democrats to give it a try. Withhold votes in the House and filibuster everything in the Senate and saddle Trump with so many legislative failures that his already weak approval rating slides further. Then, in the midterms, attack him as a failed populist who swept into Washington as a superhero and ended up completely impotent to make change happen. Matt Drudge, one of Trump’s biggest media fans, already sounds disenchanted after just 60 or so days:
The swamp drains you.
— MATT DRUDGE (@DRUDGE) March 23, 2017
If Pelosi agrees to work with Trump, even if “working with him” merely amounts to freeing 40 or so House Democrats to vote with him when they so choose, she risks handing him victories which, even though bipartisan, would likely be credited mainly to Trump himself. (You know how it goes in Washington. Everything lands on the president in the end, for better or worse.) Something like infrastructure would be especially risky given how popular new spending is among all sorts of Americans. If Trump calls her and Schumer into his office and agrees to push a bill with plenty of direct federal investment in projects, as the left prefers, who gets the big political boost once that money begins to flow? Pelosi and Schumer — or Trump, who might well turn around and leverage that bounce into big gains for Republicans in the midterms, even if conservatives end up opposing his infrastructure plan? For that reason, I think Pelosi will keep her distance and Trump will be stuck trying to advance his agenda exclusively with Republican votes, which means the Freedom Caucus will maintain plenty of leverage over the outcomes. That’s good news for conservatives — up until the moment Pelosi has a change of heart and tells Trump she’s ready to play ball, at which point it might be years before conservatives matter again.