March 9, 2017
On January 24, liberal columnist Katrina Vanden Heuvel published an editorial with The Washington Post entitled “Why Trump’s con can’t last forever.” In the article, she champions the argument that President Trump will “discover that he can’t simply order up the change he wants,” as the political establishment will prove an obstacle for his more populist promises.
Heuvel notes that Trump has scorned what he calls “politicians who are all talk and no action, constantly complaining but never doing anything about it.,” House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whom he must work with going forward in order to pass policy goals, embody this paradigm, Vanden Heuvel argues.
Vanden Heuvel’s piece makes valid points about the difficulties which the Trump administration is likely to face, she says little of the potential for an effective liberal and/or Democratic response. Though the Republicans currently hold the White House and majorities in both chambers of Congress, Democrats have the opportunity to reorient themselves in anticipation of midterm congressional elections in 2018 and the presidential and congressional races of 2020 while the Trump presidency proves lackluster relative to its populist promises on the campaign trail.
Vanden Heuvel notes that Republicans will support those parts of Trump’s policy goals which fit with conservative standards, such as deregulation, tax cuts, and repeal of the Affordable Care Act, but will likely challenge his economic protectionism which contradicts free trade and his intentions for large-scale infrastructure spending. Vanden Heuvel notes that Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has stated the government “does not have the resources” to address the country’s infrastructure issues.
Where Trump experiences roadblocks with the establishment wing of the GOP and likely falls short of his lofty promises, Democrats ought to organize around progressive goals. Resistance to Trump’s trade goals will likely result in failure of his promises to return manufacturing jobs to the United States on a large scale. Talk of repealing the Affordable Care Act has already resulted in public outcry and protests. Should conflicts between the White House and the congressional Republican establishment lead to the failure of Trump’s key policy objectives, Democrats can rebuild from their 2016 losses by embracing policies like higher wages and protections for American workers and simplified, more affordable healthcare like the “Medicare for all” plan proposed by the 2016 Sanders campaign.