After initially blaming Democrats for the failure of House Republicans to get his healthcare bill approved, President Trump took to Twitter Sunday morning to blast conservatives, specifically those in the House Freedom Caucus.
Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club For Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & Ocare!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 26, 2017
This comes on the heels of a report stating that White House strategist Steve Bannon attempted to intimidate HFC members on the measure, telling them “Guys, look. This is not a discussion. This is not a debate. You have no choice but to vote for this bill.” HFC members – at least most of them – showed more testicular fortitude than Bannon’s boss and refused to be bullied.
The truth is that this whole AHCA fiasco confirms conservative voters’ fears about Trump specifically and the Republican Party in general.
For two decades now, conservatives have been asked by the Republican Party to hold their noses and vote to help the only party that represented their interests – only to see those interests cast aside once the election was over.
Throughout the early Obama years, Republicans declined to fight for anything of substance, telling supporters they needed to take back at least part of the Congress.
Later Republicans complained that supporters shouldn’t expect them to have much success in pushing a conservative agenda when they didn’t control the full Congress.
During the later Obama years, Republicans in full control of both houses of Congress refused to show any spine at all, telling supporters they needed the White House in order to be effective.
All during the 2016 primary season, conservatives were told to get in line behind moderate candidates who fell one by one to the Trump machine, until that machine had built up too much momentum to be stopped by a true conservative candidate.
During the general election season, conservatives were told they had no choice but jump on the Trump train in order to defeat Hillary Clinton and stave off a lifelong liberal Supreme Court. Trump’s media minions – many of whom were considered principled conservatives before they took to carrying water for him – screamed at skeptics that principle voters would cost him the election, and that afterward there’d be hell to pay.
At every one of those steps since its passage, Republicans berated Obamacare as a huge disaster. They promised to bring it down but failed to even mount a serious official objection.
They promised again, and did nothing.
Then they promised again, and again they did nothing.
All through 2016, they promised again – and their recently-crowned champion promised again – many times. He told us Obamacare was a disaster. Going to bring down the nation. Has to be replaced, and replaced quickly.
He told us he’d call a special session of Congress immediately after the election for the sole purpose of repealing Obamacare.
He told us he’d replace Obamacare and allow interstate insurance purchases, expand health savings accounts, reduce premiums, and return power to the states.
He told us “on day one of the Trump Administration, we will ask Congress to immediately deliver a full repeal of Obamacare.”
[Oh, and please, Mr. President, tell us all how using that link is fake news, that you never said that even though it was on your website linked in that story, which has since been taken down. My response will be the same as yours – I’m just quoting what other news outlets have said.]
And so now that this terrible excuse for a bill has been withdrawn due to lack of support (from both conservative AND moderate Republicans, by the way), Trump has decided to throw conservatives under the bus.
So, Mr. President, with all the respect due your office, as you attempt to shove conservatives into taking the blame, please take the following to heart and for once think before you react. Here goes:
True conservatives do not betray their principles. They can’t, because principles are what drive them. Principles define their philosophy, which in turn gives them purpose and direction. For a true conservative, to betray principle is to betray one’s self.
True conservatives cannot be bought. Tacking the defunding of Planned Parenthood on to the AHCA might have seemed like a good idea to your advisers (are you listening, Steve?) but shiny trinkets and gimmicks are not likely to fool seasoned veterans of the conservative movement.
True conservatives fall into three categories: those who voted for you but would have preferred another option, those who voted 3rd party or write-in but went on to support you after the election, and those who went with a 3rd option and still do not support you. As in, people like Evan McMullin, who seems to have gone from inspiring third option to grudge-bearing resistance fighter.
By attacking conservative lawmakers for standing on principle, you only provide more fuel for people like McMullin and strengthen their resistance. And what’s worse, you spit in the face of those conservative voters who despite choosing a third option in November, did the honorable thing and got behind you and your agenda after the results came in.
You’ve done a great thing in nominating Neal Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. You’ve made some great progress in initiating cuts to budgets, personnel, and burdensome regulations in various departments. But the missteps in the rollouts of AHCA and immigration reform have been amateurish, and this latest attack reeks of the schoolyard bully trying to convince his principal that the chess club president threw the first punch. Those of us who got behind you in November and have defended you since then won’t stay long if that kind of thing continues.
And finally, to Paul Ryan and the rest of the Republican Weak-Knee Caucus: You’ve taken conservative voters for granted long enough that it almost cost you the election, against the weakest opponent you’ve faced since Mike Dukakis – maybe even weaker than Dukakis, if that’s possible. If you think you can continue to get by with that, you’re wrong. If what you’re doing now is the future of the Republican Party, then conservatism has no home there.
And God help you when that home base finally decides it’s had enough.