by Larry Huss
I initially wrote this column prior to the results of the Indiana primary race. While had predicted a substantial win for Donald Trump, I did not anticipate the sudden collapse and suspension of the campaign by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). I have written previously about the flawed candidacy of Mr. Cruz and this past week the former Speaker of the House, John Boehner (R-OH) put an exclamation point on those flaws by declaring that Mr. Cruz was “Lucifer in the flesh” and the most “miserable son of bitch” with whom he had ever dealt.
In the end, Mr. Cruz proved to be a great orator and an even better organizer. Many of his wins came in states that did not rely on the popular vote in a primary – caucus states and states where the Republican leadership controlled the nominating process. In most instances where the popular vote was used, Mr. Cruz lost – the voters too found Mr. Cruz to a “miserable son of bitch.”
Mr. Cruz has had an unrelenting habit of casting aspersions on the character and motives of all with whom he disagrees. He has relied on the parsing of phrases and guilt by association to demean and denigrate his colleagues. These character traits earned him his repudiation amongst his colleagues and with the voters too.
But Mr. Cruz’s traits are largely irrelevant now. The more important question is how one man – not a well funded, well organized and experienced political team – just one man, beat the entire national Republican establishment? How could a group – the national Republican establishment – actually be so impotent? Well, in fact, the evidence was always there. They were so internally focused on gaining and retaining power for themselves that they failed to use that power to solve the problems vexing the general population.
Despite the fact that there are more Republican governors, more statewide Republican office holders, and more Republican legislatures than in any recent time. All of this local resurgence is because voters are tired of big government, public employee unions and failing schools – they are tired of big talk by Democrats that more money is the solution to every problem, usually without any accountability. It is at the local level where things are getting done and thus the resurgence.
But it is at the national level where the real power lies. And the acquisition and retention of power on a national level means maintaining the status quo rather than advancing solutions. Let me put in language that even those forced to endure a teachers union lead education in the Portland public schools can understand. Identifying a problem is relatively simple. Even formulating a solution is often not that difficult. But proposing and defending that solution is like walking a minefield. Washington is so littered with special interest groups that any and every proposal is likely to ignite dissension from some group that is being adversely effected or left out from the benefit. So it is much easier to find fault with other’s proposals than it is to come up with and defend your own proposal. In fact, you only have to find fault with a portion of a proposal which is significantly easier than formulating and defending a whole proposal. The Congressional Republicans have become masters of criticism – assured of the validity of their objections, and secure in the knowledge that they do not have to defend an alternative.
The eight-year slog through the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is a prime example. Obamacare was such a mess from its inception that it required President Barack Obama to withhold critical financial information from the public and the Congress. That information included the actual costs – significantly higher than what Mr. Obama was telling the nation – and the operational effects – including the number of people that would be displaced with regard to their current insurance plan and their current physicians. And even withholding critical information – or just lying about it – wasn’t enough. Mr. Obama with his allies in the Democrat leadership, including Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) regularly secured the votes of other Democrats though the generous and repeated taxpayer funded grants to constituent groups that bolster Democrat campaigns and recirculate portions of that money back into campaigns.
Its implementation was irreparably flawed with missed deadlines, special exemptions and costly enrollment plans that failed to work on a timely basis, if at all (Oregon’s $300M CoverOregon plan that failed to enroll a single person). And now it has become apparent to even its most ardent but ignorant supporters that Obamacare is about to collapse financially without a significant overhaul.
For over seven years the national Republican Party has called for the repeal of Obamacare. And yet, until this year, the Republicans have failed to place a repeal of it on Mr. Obama’s desk. Every single Republican presidential candidate in 2012 and 2016 has called for the repeal and replacement of Obamacare and yet, to date, the Republican Party has failed to coalesce around a viable replacement. It is a prime example of the ease of criticizing someone else’s solution and the fear of attracting criticism of your own alternative. By not offering an alternative, Congressional Republicans have not had to defend their own plan. They can safely ride the wave of resentment caused by the inept and heavy hand of Obamacare without incurring any criticism of an alternative. The status quo is preserved. The potential loss of power is minimized by not attracting criticism of an alternative proposal. The Congressional Republicans and the national leadership of the Republican Party believe they have preserved their power without exercising any of it.
It is the same game when dealing with Benghazi, with the IRS scandal, with the gun running scandal known as Fast and Furious, with the invasion of the Ukraine, with the red line in Syria, with the collapse of Iraq, with the rise of ISIS, and on and on and on. The criticism by Republicans of all of these has turned out to be hot air and endless and pointless hearings – I say pointless because the way they are conducted ensures that nothing gets done.
Repeatedly the Republican members of Congress have justifiably criticized Mr. Obama and the Democrats but without actually doing anything to change the conduct. Ultimately, it is the power of the purse – the unique advantage of Congress – that can control all of these either before or after the fact. And yet, the Republican Congress has failed at every turn to exercise the power with authority. Even when the Republican placed the repeal of Obamacare on Mr. Obama’s desk with the sure knowledge that he would veto it, they did not have a back up plan to force its repeal by isolating the program from the remaining budget process and defunding it. The President cannot veto something that never arrives at his desk. If the Congress singularly refuses to fund a program, the program dies.
These failures coupled with the failure to understand the anger of voters over those failures are what has brought us to the Republican presidential nomination process. It is these failures that gave rise to the “outsider” – remember at one time the top three Republican presidential candidates according to national polls were the three candidates who had never held public office – Mr. Trump, Carly Fiorina, and Dr. Ben Carson. And yet the national Republican leadership failed to take this into account.
Smug in their nests of power, they assumed that they would control the ultimate outcome of the primary process given that thirteen of the sixteen candidate were part of the club – that included Mr. Cruz even though he was widely despised because he had demonstrated that he was dependent on the largesse of the core Republican contributors and thus manageable. They harrumphed that Mr. Trump was simply a summer fling and when the real campaigning began Mr. Trump would fade into the background. They bragged that as other candidates dropped out Mr. Trump’s numbers would never increase and eventually the party would coalesce around a member of the club. So poor was their judgment and so late was their realization of failure that by the time they were ready to act, all that was left for them was to cling to was the terribly flawed Mr. Cruz. And by that time, the voters had pretty well got the measure of Mr. Cruz and they too found him to be a “miserable son of a bitch.”
I noted in previous columns that Mr. Trump was not my choice but I will surely support him over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) and if he is elected I will gleefully watch as Mr. Trump cleans house in the Republican hierarchy and replaces the status quo caucus with a can do caucus. And for those who will lose the power and position they so craved but refused to use to solve the nations problems – tough. Enjoy your passage into obscurity.