Over the course of the 2016 election, there was a lot of talk about the Washington establishment – Republicans and Democrats alike – and whether they really had the best interests of the American people at heart. That debate has certainly not been resolved to anyone’s satisfaction, but one thing is certainly true: Self-interested politicians were not the only problem. The other problem, and it was a big one on the Republican side of the aisle, was that after eight years of playing defense against the Obama agenda, our representatives had simply forgotten how to WIN.
However, they may be learning. The learning curve is steep and time is short, but if anyone thought today’s Republican Party was beyond tutoring – destined to spend the next four years in the corner with a dunce cap its head – Thursday’s big healthcare victory hinted at another possibility. It looks like Paul Ryan, the Freedom Caucus, and the rest of the Republican Congress are finally starting to realize how to make a deal.
And they appear to be learning from the man himself, President Donald Trump.
One of Trump’s biggest selling points last year was that he was the man who could make the impossible possible. Not only did he recognize the real problems in Washington better than almost anyone else (with Sen. Ted Cruz being a notable exception), he brought with him a lifetime’s worth of skills that he promised to use for the betterment of the United States. The art of the deal, as he called it in his bestselling 1980s autobiography.
No doubt, things started off a little shaky. In February, Republicans botched the repeal of Obamacare so thoroughly that many voters began to wonder if they really wanted this burden in the first place. A random group of 220 conservative voters could have found their way to “yes” on Obamacare repeal; why was it suddenly so hard for these elected officials? Elected officials who had, nearly to a person, campaigned on the promise to do exactly what they were suddenly UNWILLING to do!
But Trump showed these lost sheep a way home. He worked the phones, he wined and dined, and he used his inimitable salesmanship to bring the various factions of the party together. There’s probably not a single Republican in Congress who wouldn’t change the American Health Care Act in some way. And yet enough of them managed to compromise so that we could, as a country, begin moving past the disaster that has been Obamacare. That’s called learning. That’s called dealmaking. That’s called winning.