GOP donor Dan Eberhart is upset. The Republican agenda isn’t getting through Washington, even though the party controls all three branches of government. Eberhart told MSNBC anchor Ari Melber on 10 October that he was “extremely frustrated” with the way the right wing agenda he paid for is incapable of moving forward because of the behaviour of his party.
But Eberhart and his fellow GOP donors should be happy. After all, the government is doing exactly what donors have told the Republican Party to do for decades.
Republicans gained control the presidency and the Congress in the 2016 election. That control has resulted in one major win: the appointment of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, who filled the seat vacated by Antonin Scalia’s death in 2016 and held open until President Donald Trump’s inauguration by Kentucky Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. With that seat, the GOP attained complete control of all three branches of the state by early April.
Yet despite this full spectrum political domination of the federal government, the party has thus far proven incapable of moving the major set pieces of the conservative agenda into law. Repeal of the Obama-era Affordable Care Act appears dead in the water. Tax reform, a crown jewel in any GOP majority government and a central facet of the party’s ideology, is in limbo. And frustration is mounting in right wing circles.
“You have to follow through,” Eberhart complained to Vanity Fair. “I’m sick and tired of nothing happening,” Thomas Wachtell, another big time GOP donor, told POLITICO. And White Ayres, a Republican pollster, told USA Today that “it seems to be very difficult to develop a majority coalition for much of anything so far.” Unfortunately Eberhart, Wachtell, Ayres, and the rest of the GOP establishment, the very same principles that have guided the modern Republican Party since the Reagan era have created a monster that can’t do anything — not even what they want it to.
For decades, as the party moved ever rightward, Republican Party donors have funnelled their cash to fringe candidates. The extremist policies put forward by the most radical elements of the GOP base were encouraged and a generation of activist politicians with only the most pure right wing ideology were promoted — all this was done by the donor class.
But decades of feeding this monster, as Eberhart and his comrades are discovering, has resulted in a party overrun by a group of ideologues who have little interest in the actual work of governing and instead care only about absolute victory at any cost. Different factions of the GOP can hold any legislation hostage whenever they want, be it the Tea Party on one hand or what is known today as the moderate wing on the other.
The federal government is almost at a standstill due to an inability to pass legislation on anything. That this inertia is a direct by-product of modern Republican ideology brings to mind Grover Norquist’s famous line from 2001: “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”
This is of course what the right wing’s endgame has always been: a state that’s only function is to protect the interests of business. All else is the job of the private sector, where the people work for wages that are decided by the wealthy — and with no social services the latter grow in power. They’re incapable of governing. That’s because they never were supposed to in the first place.
The ideological rot is no better at the top. Trump has been incapable of moving any sort of agenda forward during his first nine months in office. Opportunities for sweeping changes to the big ticket items that led the President’s so-called “America first” platform – tax reform, health care, deregulation – have mostly withered on the vine.
Part of this is a series of unforeseen complications that have confronted the President during his first term. Nine consecutive Atlantic tropical storms threatened the US. The President’s bellicose rhetoric has escalated tensions with North Korea and Iran. It’s hard to pursue an agenda of national renewal in the face of such large problems.
Of course, much of the problem lies with Trump himself. That was clearly shown over the last few weeks when the President inexplicably picked a fight with NFL players protesting police brutality by kneeling during the National Anthem. The culture skirmish has reached the point where team owners have taken the players’ side against the president – and those owners are by and large donors too.
When the reactionary government bought by the rich and powerful is expected to act in even the most basic of capacities to further the interests of the true GOP base, it fails. The party is made up of a number of competing philosophies that have extreme differences based on minutiae and those divisions can cause intra party gridlock.
The Republican federal government that the party’s donor class bought can’t get anything done. And the monied interests that gave us this GOP have only themselves to blame.