Donald Trump ran a distinctly anti-Washington campaign in which he routinely accused Washington of dysfunction and even corruption. His popular and consistent refrain, “Drain the Swamp,” perfectly encapsulated the distrust and dissatisfaction America had developed toward Washington.
Congressional Democrats have responded by purposefully driving Washington into even deeper dysfunction. The Democratic playbook in Congress has brought new meaning to the term “recalcitrant.” Yes, their obstructionism occasionally rewards them, and their special-interest benefactors are greatly enriched on those occasions, but their refusal to participate in a deliberative give and take more often results in the disappointment of the American people.
At its best, Washington is machine-fueled by politics, elections, and sound bites that sometimes manage to deliver on campaign promises. At its worst, Washington, in all of its dysfunction, completely fails to the deliver the government the American people deserve, succeeding only in delivering handouts to special interests.
Candidate Trump was an effective messenger of this point; he so well captured this sentiment that it rocketed him into the Oval Office.
In his reflection of the current state of Washington in his inaugural address, he said:
For too long, a small group in our nation’s Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered while the jobs left and the factories closed. The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country.
Sadly, this statement foreshadowed the behavior of the Democratic minority in the Congress. In each and every policy debate since President Trump took office, they have refused to participate in a deliberative negotiation, opting instead to wait for Republicans to meet their demands. They’re practicing pure obstructionism, and they’re comfortable with any of the follow three possible results.
One possibility, as was the case during the health care debate, is that Republicans will try and fail to operate unilaterally. Democrats never participated in the debate, insisting that ObamaCare was essentially flawless. When Republicans cited skyrocketing premium costs and dwindling options, Democrats simply suggested that Republicans provide the market with hundreds of billions of dollars in bailout money. Democrats cheered when Republicans, acting alone, failed to rescue the American people from the crushing burden and market distortions that ObamaCare created.
Another potential result is that Republicans will be successful in fully partisan operations as they did when they slashed taxes for American families and businesses. In a victory for the underdog, the GOP managed to unify nearly every single Republican member of Congress to pass sweeping legislation that will ultimately benefit every single American. After refusing to participate in this debate, and withholding every single Democrat vote, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) described the tangible benefits as “crumbs.”
The third, and most disastrous possibility, is that Republicans will pay their ransom to avoid total calamity. Consider the crisis of readiness in the American military. Here we have the greatest fighting force for good the world has ever known struggling to make ends meet, and before Democrats consented to increasing military spending by even one dime, they extracted a massive price.
The budget deal was just about the only debate in which Democrats were willing to participate, and they only did so once Republicans completely agreed to their terms. This protracted negotiation was more hostage-taking than compromise.
In the face of a populist revolt against Washington dysfunction, the choice Democrats are making is baffling. For a year, their petty and childish tactic of slowing down the confirmation process in the Senate has had no tangible positive effect. Democrat obstructionism reached new heights recently when they blocked the president’s offer of amnesty for 1.8 million illegal immigrants that Democrats have championed for more than a decade. Apparently, they’d rather campaign on the plight of dreamers than work with Republicans to address it.
Just because you want to drain the swamp doesn’t mean the swamp won’t fight back.
This piece originally appeared in The Hill on 02/25/18