Donald J. Trump has been known to describe himself as a “common sense politician,” as opposed to a traditional partisan ideologue. He is not wrong. He is now a walking and talking embodiment of the empirical impossibility of introducing common sense to the dysfunctional cesspool of Washington. 100 days in, I’ve seen enough to know I’m witnessing a controlled political experiment that will illustrate our worst fears as traditional republicans in a two-party system. A place where common sense is exceedingly uncommon, where results are as rare as a lunar eclipse and happen under similar lighting conditions.
President Trump is not a contradiction, it just looks that way to those immersed in the beltway scene. I recently spent an hour a few feet from the man as he gave a furious and surgically strategic speech to a capacity crowd in deep blue Harrisburg, PA. Shoulder to shoulder with the masses, I joined the fray in expressing my outrage towards a rogue and irresponsible media. I joined in the somewhat good-natured cat calls towards the congressmen present for the lack of resolute and actionable results. For a few shining moments we all once again embraced the promise, the tantalizing precept that a common sense, deal maker could usher in a new era of American prosperity. Then, with tragic and swift speed, that precept was challenged yet again by the news of another six month budget extension. Ostensibly, it appears an even-handed deal sparing both parties the political suicide of embracing a government shutdown. Deeper, though, we see the hallmarks of classic beltway capitulation…common sense meeting the immovable object.
The president didn’t pick this team. He didn’t draft them or sign them as free agents. He didn’t pick the coaches and he can only make strong suggestions as to the game plan he wants to deploy. His “team” is named Congress, and they’re pretty much the Cleveland Browns in the world of politics. Nonetheless, the president must own this team and find a way to win. Only this metaphor fails to reveal the deep divisions of power that cloud our current political landscape. Trump can’t unilaterally replace Speaker Ryan. It doesn’t work that way (but that doesn’t stop me from internally visualizing the act on a daily basis as a part of my meditation exercises). After all, even if you want to fire a head coach, make sure your GM isn’t his best friend from back home.
So again, common sense meets a wall. The president must now seriously weigh the cost/benefit ratio of upending his executive staff. Results in Washington are habitually and religiously delayed for purposes of self-preservation. No one is happier than Chief-of-Staff Reince Priebus and Speaker Ryan about the budget extension. It practically guarantees them a five month lifeline to string out the Health Care and Tax Reform deals that are always seemingly just out of reach. Eventually, Trump will lose his patience. He’ll take a hard look at the game clock, the upcoming schedule, and he’ll throw the whole thing on its axis. President Trump is not a man comfortable with the idea of letting others controlling his fate. It defies everything he stands for and has built, down to a molecular level of his being. This 100 day experiment has been an impressive display of patience, balanced out by a frenzied and targeted rollback of Obama policies, both foreign and domestic.
My warning to my friends in Congress: the president is running out of executive orders, actions and patience. The GOP establishment continues to fight on their islands, like Japanese soldiers who never got word they lost the war months ago. We, as a party, bet on the long shot and we won. And when you win, you get paid. Congress is trying to keep us at the tables to play longer, a classic tactic of the house. We’re onto you, and we want our big chip cashed. We want our president at the wheel. We want what we voted for: a chance. If we don’t get it, the house will pay out, one way or another. In the case of the House of Representatives, it will be literal. Consider yourselves warned.