Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Political winds are shifting, a refreshing new breeze is starting to blow

Donald Trump strutted into Washington six months ago promising a revolution and a whole lot of winning. He talked about our government as a fetid swamp that needed draining. Many desperately warned that this was hollow rhetoric, that his administration would be a disaster. These voices included some Republicans. But with bluster and hubris, Mr. Trump commanded a chorus of approval from his enablers, sycophants and the cynical members of Congress who were willing to normalize the grotesquely abnormal for the promise of legislative victories.

Mr. Trump was unfazed with any sense of humility (a word he probably would confuse with humiliate) that his surprising election victory was not extended to the popular vote - which he claimed without any proof (then or since) was the result of fraud. He denigrated his predecessor by all possible criteria. Said the United States wasn't respected on the world stage, that Obamacare was a disaster that would be easily replaceable on Day One, and spoke of governing and deal making as easy and his strengths.

Many Republicans were, at least publicly, willing to go along with the show. With control of both houses of Congress and the White House, this was their chance to "win". But win what? And what if the country, our rule of law, and the norms of our civic life would be lost in the process?

An earthquake has come to Washington. And the aftershocks continue seemingly by the hour. But earthquakes can inflict widespread damage, especially to buildings of shoddy construction. And that seems to extend to the current Republican Party.

What does the GOP really stand for? Why can it not govern? And is it now indelibly the Party of Trump?

I thought these questions might come, but not so soon, not so fierce, and not so openly by many in the GOP. The failure of healthcare, the height of cynical and disingenuous of political strategies, has laid bare deep cracks in the foundation of Republican leadership, cracks that will likely only intensify. Many are talking today about Arizona Senator Jeff Flake's devastating rhetorically take down of his own party in an article in Politico. We are seeing Lisa Murkowski return to Alaska after she cast a decisive vote against repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and be hailed as a hero. We see more and more statements off the record or by columnists with close ties to the GOP that start to give voice to the idea that their party will have to change, and change radically, or risk irrelevance.

To be sure, these are small stirrings for now. But once talk like this has been given voice, a slow drone can quickly become a rumble that shakes the status quo with greater intensity. I have seen political realignments at other points in my life. It often swells up from the bottom. Look particularly to GOP governors and state representatives seeking to tack to the winds of the future. We are a country that depends on a debate of ideas and two parties dedicated to public service and the democratic process.

Political winds are shifting, a new breeze is starting to blow. And it has the potential to be very refreshing.