Maybe I’m just too stubborn for my own good, but even after 2016 I am still pretty much a by-the-book political guy. Donald Trump’s campaign was anything but by-the-book! Therefore I’m looking for what will be his political demise. I think I may have hit on it. Let’s explore.
Washington is a power city and in addition to personal wealthy Donald Trump’s only other obsession is recognition of his power. They both satisfy his unjustifiably large ego. Trump has proven himself to be a bully and a sexual predator; both power trips.
Most people mistakenly think Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is the most powerful person in Washington. While he certainly does have significant power in my mind the real power guy in Congress is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Ryan is arithmetically challenged and can’t even control his House Republican Caucus. Someday more than just progressives will understand that “Emperor Ryan” is “naked”. By comparison Ryan is a much nicer guy than McConnell and the person the press would rather interview. (Remember President Obama’s remark: “Why don’t YOU get a drink with Mitch McConnell.”
McConnell is an old master of the money in politics game and has many Republican Senators beholden to his financial support for their seats. Furthermore, they know if they cross McConnell he won’t hesitate to see that money goes to a primary opponent. That is the kind of power Lyndon Johnson held over Senate Democrats decades ago which led to the title of one of Robert Caro’s books, Master of the Senate.
McConnell was not born independently wealthy however he has become a proficient fundraiser. One of the reasons for his fundraising prowess is that he is very good at consolidating “marketable power”. He made it a “family affair” under George W. Bush and has already replicated that trick under Trump. Bush only had one Secretary of Labor during his entire eight year time in office. Her name was Elaine Chao, a/k/a Mrs. Mitch McConnell. Trump has already announced her as his nominee for Secretary of Transportation. Mitch has said he will vote for her confirmation and that in his mind there is no conflict of interest. Can you really see any of the 51 other GOP Senators defying him on his wife’s nomination? I can’t! Under Bush what McConnell “sold” to financiers is the: If I can’t get legislation through Elaine will simply not enforce the regulation you dislike scenario. In the case of Transportation (remember Trump wants to do a big infrastructure package) it is the: Elaine can make sure your bid is the winning bid scenario. It’s not that big a deal to fix a bid when you have that kind of inside juice.
If this sounds more like an organized criminal enterprise than a government that is what I have been preaching for weeks. You have Don McConnell whose turf has been DC for years and Don Trump moving into it. As long as both of them can get their “beaks wet” on a deal this partnership will fly. McConnell cares about policy to a degree while Trump could care less so a philosophical disagreement is unlikely. Neither is of high moral character so I see no opportunity for conflict there either. Where I see the potential for problems is in a deal that benefits Trump but hurts McConnell’s money guys and that is bound to happen at some point.
Unlike the Mafia, McConnell and Trump can’t cut up the turf. Organized crime operates largely on each Don having a certain city or section of a very large city and respecting the boundaries. When the showdown comes one Don will emerge victorious. If I were a betting man my money would be on McConnell!
Whether you like him or not you have to admit McConnell is a political genius; Trump is a political novice. The deep pocketed GOP donors of decades have a relationship with McConnell who has delivered time and time again. Trump was never “one of the boys” in that crowd. On the occasions that Trump’s political donations dovetailed with theirs it was not of comradely or common cause; it was simply because Trump felt it was in his self-interest.
Legislation has to get through the Senate to get to Trump’s desk. McConnell controls not only the Senate agenda; he controls its majority bloc. Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida all have reasons to personally hate Trump. To a large degree McConnell can control Paul and Rubio; Cruz is just nuts. Even without Cruz that still gives him 51 votes to sink anything he wants to in the unlikely event he lets it get to the floor in the first place. Republican Senators have reasons to be loyal to McConnell; few if any have any loyalty to Trump.
McConnell is more knowledgeable, much smarter and playing on his home turf. He has a tremendous advantage over Trump in a clash of the titans. The Democrats can’t take Trump down but a Mitch McConnell led Republican Senate can. DC is simply too small for two Dons.
Please Note: If things go according to plan I will be back to my version of “live blogging” (writing the day before publishing) tomorrow. Thanks for bearing with me and my schedule!
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