Justice vs. Carmichael

Jim Justice’s row with Mitch Carmichael shows the perils of party switching and ideological purity. Justice is a pragmatist while the GOP leader is a rigid Tea Partyier. Both are trying to persuade Donald Trump to weigh in to support their position. It would be a struggle with national implications.

In this fight, it would appear Justice has an edge. The governor has boasted that Trump and he are “bound at the hip.” Carmichael represents the GOP prior to 2016, with its bitterness and its Ayn Randist philosophy. He represents the Ted Cruz wing of the party with its weird mixture of libertarian economics and far right social agenda. Trump never seemed to ideologically embrace this agenda.

Justice, whose agenda is based on a business progressive model, backed the teachers during the strike and opposes charter schools. This puts him directly on a collision course with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. For Justice, DeVos is too rigid, for Carmichael, the governor is not conservative enough. For not prejudging issues, Justice is being denounced as an opportunist by some in he GOP. Many were saying that about Trump in 2016.

For Trump this “base” politics is not adequate going into 2020. With the extremist in the GOP, only 100% purity will suffice. They pretended to be pro-growth. The Republicans were more motivated by a desire to saddle the USA with a narrow agenda. In West Virginia, Carmichael tolerates Justice’s pro-growth position only so he can impose an agenda that is both rigid and intolerant, not to mention anti-worker.

For Trump what is happening to Justice could easily happen to him. Regarded as a Trojan horse by the ideologists, any deviations from their narrow visions will illicit the same response given Justice in Charleston. Suddenly the president will be labeled a narcissist. As with foreign policy, the GOP will try to rein the president in and attach their doleful positions onto his administration. The attack on Justice is a dress rehearsal for an assault on Trump.

For Trump, he is at a position Franklin Roosevelt was in 1935 and Richard Nixon found himself stuck with in 1971. Roosevelt boldly launched a second new deal which included proUnion positions and Social Security. Nixon opened detente with China, abandoned the remains of the Gold Standard and imposed wage and price controls. To add insult to injury, he proclaimed himself as pro-growth arguing “we are all Keynesians now.” The Ayn-Rand squad and the National Review denounced him but the people embraced his flexibility. Roosevelt disposed of the old-Democratic Party and began to construct the new.

Justice particularly deserves credit for abandoning foolish consistency. Trump still remains a prisoner of his GOP partners. But that does not mean he will continue to be under their sway. The West Virginia episode may hold clues to where national politics are heading. For Trump to chart an independent course, he might take a leaf from Justice’s playbook. To continue to embrace Tea Party Republicans is to champion a negative and gray force. Perhaps he might put his hand at redirecting the hapless and joyless GOP.