Let’s be honest. Contrary to media reports, the modern Republican Party is not a monolithic entity. Currently, there are three political parties within the Republican Party vying for influence and power.
The three groups are the rank-and-file Republican establishment, the true conservatives, and the “Tuesday Morning” moderates (aka RINOs, or Republicans-In-Name-Only). Approximately 70% of the congressional Republican caucus is made up of rank-and-file Republicans who lean conservative, 20% being true conservatives, and 10% being moderates. All three of these Republican entities exist in both the US Senate and the House of Representatives.
With a slim 52-48 governing majority in the Senate, the individual or combined influence of both the conservatives and the moderates are enough to disrupt Republican-sponsored legislation moving forward or not, as was proven by three Republican moderate senators (Sens. Collins, Murkowski, and McCain) voting against the final Obamacare repeal vote this week, thus preventing its passage.
Many are asking how this is possible after every single Republican senator campaigned against Obamacare for the last eight years. Why would these senators now betray their constituents after they promised to repeal Obamacare?
At the end of the day, there simply weren’t enough conservatives and conservative-leaning rank-and-file Republicans to get this passed. While they make up the majority of the Republican caucus, only three senators are needed to tank any legislation, assuming the Democrats vote in unison.
Let’s have some more honesty. Moderate Republicans are no better than Democrats. They have no problem with government expansion and power, as long as it suits their ends. But this doesn’t explain the whole story.
Some more honesty. Moderates are easily persuadable to vote with the Democrats in fear of not being invited to the DC “see-and-be-seen” cocktail parties, or losing their prestige stories of “courage” in The Washington Post or The New York Times, which endlessly fan them with praise for their “moderation” or “centrism,” and for bucking their own Republican Party. This constant shower of praise by the Mainstream Media drives the ambitions of these senators, in particular, Sens. Collins and Murkowski.
I know this seems shallow, but what else could their reasons be after railing against Obamacare for eight straight years and voting dozens of times to repeal it?
The majority of American people, who were always against Obamacare, were told by the Republicans in 2010 that if they voted for a Republican-controlled House of Representatives, they could defund Obamacare – and it never happened.
Then Republicans said they needed a Republican-controlled Senate in 2014 to ensure that the repeal bill could be passed by both houses of congress. And they passed the repeal bill many times over the last few years only to be vetoed by President Obama, who was never going to veto his own landmark namesake legislation.
Then the Republicans said we needed a Republican president to sign the repeal bill passed by congress, and the American people obliged by electing Republican President Trump. For the first time in over a decade, the Republicans controlled both houses of congress and the presidency. Throughout the 2016 campaign, President Trump consistently said he’d repeal Obamacare on Day 1 of his administration with the support of the Republican-controlled congress. Congress failed.
But if we’re being fair, President Trump should be partially blamed as you rarely, if ever, saw him give any specific national address to remind the American public why Obamacare was failing, which would have also created momentum for repealing Obamacare in congress.
Knowing where the “weak” votes were, President Trump should have given speeches in Maine, Alaska, and Arizona, applying political pressure to the renegade moderate senators, reminding them to fulfill their campaign promises not just to their constituents, but the American people.
President Trump’s base of supporters could have been rallied to contact their senators and remind them of their promise. Since moderates tend to be moved by mainstream “popular” sentiment or whichever way the wind blows, this could have possibly helped keep at least one of them in line, allowing Vice President Pence to cast a favorable tie-breaker vote.
It should be noted that President Obama gave over 30 national speeches promoting Obamacare, including evening nationally televised addresses to the American people.
The solution for Republicans is to recognize the fact that there are three distinct political parties within the Republican Party vying for influence, power, and control. This is the reason why conservatives cannot get Obamacare repealed – there simply is not enough conservatives to do this.
The only way to resolve this is to primary moderate RINOs in party primaries in 2018 with true principled conservatives to provide enough votes to pass legislation promised by the President and the Republican-controlled congress. This has implications not just for Obamacare, but for tax reform, building the wall, and other Republican priorities.
In all honesty, this will not be easy and will surely cause more internal fighting among Republicans, but it’s necessary if we are to ever fulfill the promises Republicans made to the American people. Otherwise, say hello to Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Schumer in 2019.
Christopher Malagisi is Editor in Chief of the Conservative Book Club and previously was the CPAC Director and Director of External Relations at the American Conservative Union.
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