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Notebook Politics

Art of the solo deal

Trump speaks to (from left) Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, and Nancy Pelosi during a Sept. 6 meeting in the Oval Office of the White House (Evan Vucci/AP)


Art of the solo deal

President Trump’s willingness to bargain exclusively with Democrats should worry evangelicals

President Donald Trump’s early September debt-ceiling deal with Democratic congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer shocked Washington Republicans. How, they asked, could a Republican president deal with the Democratic minority on such an important issue without any notice, consultation, or agreement with the congressional leaders of his own party? That they ask this question shows how they still, two years after Donald Trump entered the ring, do not understand either the nature of the man or the nature of his political coalition.

Republican leaders are shocked because normal politicians, even presidents, consider themselves in some way accountable to the voters and factions of the party they lead. Normal politicians rise by accommodating party members’ opinions and demands. The implicit deal: We, the party members, will reward your ambition if you reward our desires.

Trump’s critics, though, note how often he has rejected the idea that he is accountable to anyone. They say he rebelled against his parents, who retaliated by sending him to military school, and rebelled against bourgeois norms by ostentatiously flaunting his wealth, courting glamorous models, and seeing his marriage vows as inconvenient truths.

They also point out that he declared bankruptcy multiple times and ran the Trump Organization as a privately held company with no shareholders to whom he was accountable. The idea that he would shuck a lifetime’s course of behavior once he became president was an illusion based on the hopes of men and women who could not understand how they had lost control of their party.

Many of Trump’s voters are amenable to cross-partisan deals, as indeed they ought to be: They are not Republicans. Trump won based on about 6 million people who had voted twice for Obama (and, if they are old enough, for virtually every other Democratic presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan) but supported him precisely because he wasn’t a typical Republican. Polls show these voters want a president who can bring both parties together and cut bipartisan deals.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Schumer speaks with Trump in the Oval Office (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Republican base voters don’t want that sort of leader, but they were not strong enough to stop Trump, much less dominate in a general election coalition. Losers don’t write the rules. Republican congressional leaders now know they cannot constrain Trump’s field of maneuver simply by invoking partisan loyalty. That means they will have to bid for his favor to get their way, just as every senior employee of the Trump Organization has had to bid for his favor for decades. That strengthens Trump’s hand across the board, so long as Democrats can persuade their base that dealing with what they consider the devil means they get fiddles of gold without selling their souls.

This should greatly concern evangelicals who have thought they had a deal with Trump. Now that he has shown he is willing to deal with the Democrats, might Democrats use their influence to affect who the next nominee to the Supreme Court might be? They might say: Give us a nominee who won’t overturn Roe or Obergefell, and we will give you [fill in what Trump wants most at that time].

Advisers to presidents often end up flattering those they hope to influence. Christians and others will be discussing how far they are willing to go.


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  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Fri, 09/15/2017 04:13 am

    Another anti-Trump piece by World Magazine where they fail to accurately report the news! Is Trump all of a sudden showing his devilish tendencies? Or is World showing their self righteous, pompous and arrogant tendencies? Yes, this is strong language, but somebody needs to say it! Do you even read the news? It would seem to me that people who tout they have a Christian World view about politics would have something informative to say. We have a majority in both the House and Senate yet important legislation is not being passed such as immigration reform, building the wall, repeal of Obamacare, economic reform, handling the DACA issue, cutting taxes and so much more, yet Republicans cannot get their act together to do anything!  Trump is understandably upset with congress and the Republicans so he is talking to the Democrats to see what deal he can craft. Maybe he cannot get anything, but then again maybe he can. What does it hurt to try?  If nothing else maybe he will shake up the Republicans just enough so they deliver on some of his agenda. 

  •  SleeperSRT10's picture
    Posted: Fri, 09/15/2017 10:25 am

    Very well said, Cyborg3!!!  I could not agree more!  I am sure those in Texas and Florida that are benefiting from the hurricane relief funds appreciate the deal as well...

  •  Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Fri, 09/15/2017 12:20 pm

    Reaching across the aisle is a normal part of effective leadership.  But a moral compass is, too.  The problem is not that Pres. Trump is now dealing with Democrats; the problem is that he does not have a moral compass.

  •  Deb O's picture
    Deb O
    Posted: Fri, 09/15/2017 12:26 pm

    And that is the primary issue with this president, as we stated beforehand when he was the candidate.  But the majority of conservative Christians wanted Trump despite his moral shortcomings, because "we're not voting for Pastor in Chief..."  So who cares about the substance of his dealings ... it's the "art" of the deal, remember?

  • CJ
    Posted: Fri, 09/15/2017 09:30 am

    This article states that "Republican base voters don’t want that sort of leader," the sort who can "bring both parties together and cut bipartisan deals." On what does the writer base this assumption? Who does the writer consider to be "the Republican base"? 

    I think it's a strong possibility that Trump was elected because he was viewed with suspicion by both major parties and therefore was rightly or wrongly considered someone who may actually be able to move the solidly rusted gears of Federal government. In other words, "bring both parties together and cut bipartisan deals."

  • socialworker
    Posted: Fri, 09/15/2017 10:08 am

    I'll tell you what I'd like Congress to apologize for, John.  For allowing an out of touch, pompous member who obviously hasn't read his own political mailings to come in and make a show of sabotaging our chance of getting out from under Obanacare. That still fries my fritters.

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Fri, 09/15/2017 11:25 am

    You are an agitator John spewing out propaganda. How exactly do you know Trump is compromising his campaign promises? I think you are promoting unfounded hysteria!

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Sun, 09/17/2017 08:06 am

    John,  President Trump has the 2018 budget prepared which is a reasonable expectation! I am sure he will continue to have budgets the following years!

    It would be an unnecessary expense at this point to go back to  this years budget, which Obama should have prepared last year!  Trump probably heard this from the government bureaucrats so let it rest. 

    The DACA issue is complicated because Obama created it by executive order. His goal, I believe, was to bring in immigrants so that Democrats would win more elections by playing to these folks to create another subgroup-voting block for the Democratic Party. They weren't given the right to vote, but considering the way many states don't require voters to have ID, they effectively can vote. Democrats are also waiting for a better political climate, when they are in power, where they can give them the right to vote. Once they are allowed to vote, this could lead to over a million new immigrants to US where the DACA folks petition to have their relatives come to America, where they eventually become US citizens.  I remember Obama's evil grin as he announced the DACA program. 

    The difficulty in destroying the DACA program lies in the fact that these kids did not have a choice in illegally coming to the US.  Many of them have lived and gone to schools in the US most all of their lives. Trump is acting presidential by weighing carefully the implications of his actions and not mindlessly charging forward without considering the justice of the situation. This is evidence to the contrary that Trump has no moral compass! Certainly, he is ending the DACA program but he is weighing carefully his actions and trying to do it in a just and constitutional way. As Obama walked all over the Constitution in establishing the executive order to create the DACA program, so Trump is passing the work over to Congress which is the constitutional way. Should Congress fail to do their job, Trump will act by executive order. 

    The comment about the "Clintons being great people" was made right after the election in November 2016, where Trump was attempting to be magnanimous by healing over the wounds of the past election by bringing back unity to America. There has been a tradition in America to show grace to the past administration by "letting sleeping dogs lie" and moving on after an election. I believe Trump was going to let the Department of Justice rule on the Clinton scandals without him pushing the matter. Certainly, Christians don't think the Clintons are "great people", but when you include the spirit that Trump meant the statement, I would agree with him.  Again, this proves Trump has a moral compass. I should point out that after the way Hillary and other Obama supporters have treated Trump, he has backed off from making these statements- which is completely reasonable! 

    So John, I find your way of twisting the truth to make Trump out to be the worst character to be morally repugnant! The author of this article does the same thing, where you, he and the other "never Trumpers" never give Trump the benefit of the doubt. You have sanctimonious delight in seeing Trump (in your eyes) fail and fall because you want to be proven right in your original moral assessment of Trump!  I find this behavior to be sickening and ungodly for you would rather see our nation fall then to see Trump succeed and win.

    Certainly, I recognize that Trump has his shortcomings, but one must admit that sometimes God will use the simple (if you can call Trump simple) to shame the wise! And in many ways, I find Trump's bombastic humble character, to morally exceed your "morally superior" and self-righteous character!

  • Bob R
    Posted: Fri, 09/15/2017 12:14 pm

    "Republican leaders are shocked because normal politicians, even presidents, consider themselves in some way accountable to the voters and factions of the party they lead."

    This is partially true; he is accountable to the voters who supported his agenda, but when his party leaders consistently seek to undermine that agenda, is it surprising that he may not consider himself accountable to them?

    And as to giving in to the Dem's, why not wait until the dust settles, and you see what he ultimately agrees to?  Why would anyone assume that the description of the "agreement" as described by Chuck and Nancy is in any way trustworth???

  • socialworker
    Posted: Fri, 09/15/2017 01:21 pm

    It does NOT fry my fritters that he gave the responsibility for making and enforcing law about immigration back to Congress.  Now...if he doesn't build a wall or pressure the lawmakers into funding it, I will feel betrayed.

  •  Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Fri, 09/15/2017 08:32 pm

    I don't know about you, but I like my fritters fried...:)

  •  Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Fri, 09/15/2017 09:53 pm

    Some perspective is in order here.

    Neither Pres. Trump, nor the Republicans have betrayed anyone.  Pres. Trump is behaving exactly as he has always behaved, and as predicted by those who opposed his nomination.

    As for Congress:  the Republicans control 52 of 100 seats in the Senate, and 240 of 435 seats, or 55%, in the House.  These are small majorities, especially when one considers that most legislation requires 60 votes in order to be filibuster-proof in the Senate.  The Democrats barely passed Obamacare with 58 seats in the Senate and 253 seats in the House.

    St. Paul advised the Philippians, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."  (Philippians 4:8 ESV2011)

    We are Christ-followers.  We have a higher calling.  I believe that wise people will refrain from accusing Pres. Trump of breaking promises that may have been opening negotiating positions anyway, and from accusing the Republicans of undermining Pres. Trump.  These views poison our thinking about our leaders and each other.