Trump, McConnell, and Ryan have problems. Their problems are closely related, but not identical. They all stem from the same source, though. The republicans won’t act as a single group, and democrats are very motivated to not act at all. In Trump’s case, this means that he won’t be able to move as quickly and decisively as he wants. In Ryan’s case, it means he is equally beholden to both the biggest extremists and the most center of the road moderates equally at the same time. In McConnell’s case, it means he may have to kill the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees in order to get Scalia’s spot filled. It’s a strategy that will work now, but means that when the republicans eventually become the minority party, they will have no way of negotiating in the ongoing Supreme Court fight. I don’t know what strategies Ryan and McConnell are pursuing, but Trump is giving us an idea of how he wants to proceed.
Trump has made a number of public statements both on Twitter and during press briefings. He has blamed Trumpcare’s failure on everyone but himself, most notably democrats and republican extremists. He has cajoled the republicans to work with the rest of their party, and has mentioned working in a more bipartisan way to get around them. Basically, he’s trying anything possible in order to get something that resembles his agenda passed. Normally, I’m a fan of trying multiple strategies when it isn’t clear how to proceed. In this case, however, trying both may mean neither work.
The obvious strategy is to work closely with the extremists. They’re all in the same party, so there must be some places where they agree and can pass laws. If he does so, he will push democrats further away, putting him in the same situation as Speaker Ryan, putting himself at the whim of the moderates and the extremists with no obvious way forward. He’s an outsider, though. Why not work with democrats and ignore the extremists. Moderate republicans have more in common with democrats than they do with extremists. It is plausible, though unlikely, he may be able to put a coalition together that is linked by a desire to compromise rather than go to the most extreme ends. The problem is that this is very unlikely. The bigger problem is that he seems to be pursuing both strategies at once.
If he pursues democrats, and he fails, he will have slammed the door on working with extremists. They can’t trust a moderate. Never could and never will. Ditto if he pursues extremists and leaves democrats in the cold. His public statements have shown a muddle of both strategies, leading me to believe he is trying both. This may cripple the federal government from getting anything of note done. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. A crippled federal government the best outcome for me, but it’s close.