The Party of Reaction and Inaction

House Speaker Paul Ryan shaking hands with President Trump prior to his address to a joint session of Congress on February 28, 2017.

By Micah Rate

Over the last eight years, the Republican Party voiced its disapproval of former President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party’s progressive policies. Republicans in Congress claimed that if given the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, they would be able to halt Leftist policies that were said to be disastrous for the nation. If the voters were to give Republicans control of the White House as well, the Right claimed, there would be nothing to hold them back from putting forward Conservative legislation and getting the nation back on track.

For the first time since 2006, Republicans now control the entire legislature and the White House. But, it is fair to say that the beginning of Donald J. Trump’s presidency has been anything but smooth. There has been the failed attempt at repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act along with the slow action in replacing holdovers from President Obama’s administration. President Trump has faced the constant problem of breaking news stories from the mainstream media concerning new political scandals that may or may not exist. The President’s unremitting tweeting has also been a problem as he lacks the self-control to stay off of social media. Twitter has become such an issue for the President that his aides reportedly had an intervention with him.

Disregarding the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court, what is another significant accomplishment for the current administration? President Trump has signed several executive orders that cut government regulations, but the effects of those executive orders are not going to be felt by Americans immediately. The President has also signed off on an executive order allowing for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, but that is still facing pushback from opponents. Though Republicans have the majority in both houses and have a Republican president to turn their legislation into law, they are still playing defense and struggling to enact conservative policies in their entirety.

According to recent reports, the Trump administration may face another loss in regards to President Trump’s budget proposal, and Congress may or may not accomplish tax reform this year. In February, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) stated that President Trump’s budget would be “dead on arrival.” Senator John McCain (R-AZ) recently reiterated the same sentiment. Once again, whether it be President Trump or Congress, the policies of the Republican Party are struggling to be adopted. For the sake of the voters’ sanity, the Republicans need to work together.

Instead of being a party to action as it promised, the Republican Party has become a party of reaction and inaction. With complete control of Congress, legislation should be making its way to the President’s desk at a quicker pace. There is no reason for gridlock. However, due to the various factions in the party, gridlock persists. Rather than making headlines for creating and passing legislation, Republicans are making headlines for their incompetence, the discord amongst themselves, and for being forced to defend the President from damaging media reports whether they are true or not.

The Republican Party needs a leader. It would be ideal if President Trump would help enact his agenda rather than take a step forward only to take two steps back. If the media is set out to undermine his presidency, President Trump does not do himself any favors by fueling the fire. President Trump has the unfortunate habit of contradicting the political agenda that his White House staff tries to lay out for the American people. Often there are reports that the President’s unpredictable behavior leaves the White House staff exasperated and frustrated as it is impossible to reign in the compulsive Commander-in-Chief. Millions of voters, those who voted for him and even those who did not, want to see the President succeed in adopting his policies and see Congress pass what they promised to the American people. But their agenda will never come to fruition if the President continues to be his own worst enemy.

Conservative political commentators and other talking heads often wonder why the Republicans cannot work together as the Democrats do when they have the opportunity to enact their agenda; this is a fair question, and it comes down to the different political views of each party. The Democrats may be in disarray as they do not have a clear party leader, but they are a party that knows which way they want to move ideologically. Moving farther left is the goal of the current Democratic leadership. Whether they like it or not, moderate Democrats keep their distance but are not vocal enough to stop far-left activism and policies from advancing. In contrast, Republicans have both an ideological and leadership crisis. There is a war between traditional conservatism and far-right populism, and one of these two ways of thought must prevail for the Republican Party to succeed over the next four years.

In 2014, House Speaker Paul Ryan, who was a congressman at the time, published a book titled “The Way Forward.” Speaker Ryan’s book “argues that the Republican Party is and must remain a conservative party, emphasizing conservatism in a way that demonstrates how it can modernize and appeal to both our deepest concerns and highest ideals.” Three years later, one must ask if the Republican Party is still a conservative party. When Republicans cannot reach a consensus on what a conservative party looks like, it follows that a conservative agenda will be impossible to enact. For the American people to see any change at all, Republicans need to figure out what kind of party they want to be. My hope is that Republican legislators decide to side with conservatism.