RealClearPolicy Newsletters: Original Articles

Winning, Governing, Dealmaking

Winning, Governing, Dealmaking
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Dear Reader —

The GOP surged past expectations last November, not only winning the presidential election with an unlikely frontrunner but also gaining a historic majority in Congress and retaining power at state and local levels. But, for all that, the party has not unified. 

Divisions that are at root philosophical — libertarianism vs. populism vs. constitutional conservatism — are still clearly reflected in the political landscape. Moderate conservatives and old party loyalists still populate the House and Senate along with a powerful block of Tea Party hardliners. But the new administration is animated by an altogether different political philosophy: a populist nationalism, some of whose most intelligent apologists have gone so far as to all but abandon the mantle of conservatism. 

The problem is no longer merely philosophical. Since the populist insurgents now control the White House, criticism of the Old Guard must give way to effective governance and compromise within a fractured party (to say nothing of working with the other party). According to Jonathan Rauch, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and contributing editor at The Atlantic, this will be all the more difficult now that the much-maligned Establishment has been incapacitated. 

Bucking the populist narrative, Rauch argues that the current tumult stems from a hollowing out of the political institutions — and, in particular, of our two political parties — that once helped build coalitions, keep politicians loyal and accountable, and strong-arm bills through a baroque legislative process with many competing interests. By weakening these mediating mechanisms through a series of well-intentioned reforms, we have allowed disagreement, divisiveness, and populist insurgencies — which, under normal circumstances, might offer welcome injections of fresh ideas and strategies — to destabilize our political system. But, according to Rauch, organization and coalition building are the true stuff of politics.

To be sure, the GOP is currently united around certain efforts, such as lowering taxes, deregulation, and repealing the Affordable Care Act. However, this is so much “low-hanging fruit,” according to Rauch. The true test will be whether Republicans can work together on issues about which there is far less agreement, such as trade or replacing Obamacare.

Enter the American Health Care Act. As the leading spokesman for this repeal-and-replace effort, Speaker Ryan has found himself at the unhappy center of these rival factions. Conservatives excoriate what they describe as a new entitlements program, liberals what they see as an attempt to deny coverage to low-income Americans. The administration, meanwhile, has thrown its weight behind the bill. The president’s reputation as a dealmaker who can fix Washington may depend on the outcome.

These are some of the many issues taken up at RealClearPolicy over the past two weeks. Below you will find just a few highlights.

— M. Anthony Mills, editor | RealClearPolicy


Is the Trump-Era GOP Coalition Collapsing? The Brookings Institution’s Philip A. Wallach considers the likelihood of a “serious partisan realignment” and the “end of the long era” of two-party dominance in federal politics.

Populism Is Riding on Borrowed Time. For Market Watch, Ruy Teixeira argues today's populist movement will have no more staying power than the agrarian populism of the late 19th century. 

The Administrative State Is Huge & Only Getting Bigger. In The Washington Post, Robert J. Samuelson argues that despite conservatism criticism, the administrative state isn’t going anywhere. 

Will the Koch Brothers Save Obamacare? In The American Prospect, Eliza Newlin Carney looks at the “scrambled and unpredictable” allegiances created by Obamacare repeal-and-replace efforts.

The First 100 Days with Mark Meadows & Jonathan Rauch. In the seventh episode of RealClearPolitics’ podcast The First 100 Days, congressional correspondent James Arkin interviews with Rep. Mark Meadows, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus. Then, RealClearPolicy editor M. Anthony Mills talks with Jonathan Rauch of the Brookings Institution about the fate of American political institutions.

D.C. in Chaos. In The American Conservative, Robert VerBruggen considers why Republicans are struggling to unify despite their control of both the White House and Congress. 

Conservatism: What Is It Good for? For American Greatness, Tom Hagen contends that “movement conservatism” has failed as a “means” and should be replaced by a new political movement.

Regulatory Reform: Build on What Works. In our own pages, Jerry Ellig & Rosemarie Fike outline a three-part plan for regulatory reform.

The First Branch Steps Up. Also in our pages, Andy Smarick argues that a new bill invalidating Obama-era regulations on school accountability is a hopeful sign in the ongoing battle between executive and congressional power.

The GOP’s Forced March on Health Care Begins. In RealClearHealth, James C. Capretta evaluates pros and cons of both the American Health Care Act and the fast-track strategy Republicans are pushing for.

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