×

Lessons from failure

For President Donald Trump, his foray into legislative negotiation was a failure. Failing to heed the most elementary of warnings, “stop,” “look” and particularly “listen,” he suffered a defeat on health care. Moreover, he apparently did not have a clue as where or how to proceed the next time.

Or does he? During the press briefing following the pulling of the bill, Trump lightly hinted that he might make overtures to Democrats. To be sure he blamed them for his defeat but without his usual rancor. He had the look of a man who had just had an epiphany about his so-called “allies.” Having his initial legislative initiative both spearheaded and opposed by Republicans certainly was most instructive. Indeed he expressed surprise that his adopted party would prove so intransigent.

Well, this feeling of disappointment should not be that much of a revelatory experience. Throughout Barack Obama’s terms as president the GOP became the party of no, or in the eloquent remarks of a Kentucky Republican Congressman, “hell, no.” Fueled by a bizarre set of principles and not just a little rural Toryism, the “Freedom Caucus” was suspended in time about 50 years in the past. Simply put, they never did believe in government in the health care sector –including Medicare.

Moderate Republicans worried about their favorite group, health care “entrepreneurs,” insurance companies and rural hospitals. As for the patient, Paul Ryan was willing to throw this group under the bus. Indeed the core GOP was torn between the tight-fisted, the greedy and the just plain mean. No wonder Trump abandoned the effort.

But if he recognizes the defeat and Republican motivations, he might learn something and, better still, profit from the experience. Part of the Affordable Care Act weakness is it was still heavily dependent on the private sector. After all, it was a GOP idea put in place initially by Mitt Romney in Massachusetts. No wonder Trump once endorsed single-payer as better than “Romneycare.” Obama recognized the shortcomings, but thought insuring all Americans was a worthy goal despite inefficiencies. Maybe Trump will surprise Republicans and move toward the Democrats.

Charles Schumer was remarkably quiet during the House debate. Like Trump he made mild clucking sounds to pacify his base but nothing extraordinary. He would be wise to move toward Trump, by sounding him out on single payer. This would appeal to “the Donald’s” penchant for the big play. Schumer would be wise not to balk at Trump.

Certainly Democrats might make Trump see the benefits of working with a reasonably centered bloc of legislators. The kaleidoscope quality of the GOP must frustrate even the best of negotiators. The deal might lay in Trump co-operating with his fellow New Yorker, Schumer.

Trump, to get anything “great” done, has to deal with Democrats. When a president has to repeatedly depend on a vice president to clear the way, he has a problem. Perhaps the other side of the aisle may make his better dreams come true.