When I wrote a couple of months ago that both major political parties were in need of reorganization, I got some funny looks — particularly from Republicans.
They were quick to point out that the GOP had just won the presidency and majorities in both houses of Congress. What possessed me to say such a foolish thing about a very successful political party, they wondered?
Well, well. Look at Washington now. House Republicans are fighting like cats and dogs over health care. Call it Obamacare, Ryancare, Trumpcase, take your pick. The House members now are a perfect case study of a party divided.
Yes, they may be able to cobble something together that will appease the most conservative House members, and then squeak by with a bare majority in the House on a new health care law of some kind.
No matter what they pass, however, it will be “dead on arrival” at the Senate. Take the words straight from Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas: “We need to get health care right. We don’t need to get it right,” he said. Sen Lindsey Graham called the effort “mortally wounded.”
And if the Republicans can’t find a bill they can agree on, the party is digging a hole, and it had better stop digging. Killing Obamacare was the single issue on which virtually every Republican ran over the past seven years. That promise was what every voter heard, over and over.
Unlike promising to abolish something, though, finding something that is an acceptable replacement takes agreement. That’s the hard fact the Republicans now face.
More moderate Republicans have heard from the Congressional Budget Office that 24 million Americans who now have insurance won’t have insurance in ten years. They are hearing that many of those people live in the towns and villages of middle America, where Donald Trump won the electoral votes that got him to the White House.
Those kinds of numbers alarm senators who have to run for reelection next year. They are damned if they do and damned if they don’t —kill and replace Obamacare, that is.
You hear that not much else — tax reform, for example — is likely to get done if the Republicans founder on the health care issue. Winning their races would be out of reach for some of them.
Not that the Democrats are covering themselves with glory. They have vowed to fight anything and everything. Having heard the protesters in the streets, they have stopped governing and begun obstructing.
It’s hard to understand why they are determined to give Neil Gorsuch such a difficult confirmation process before he becomes a Supreme Court Justice. If they think President Trump is going to nominate a judge more to their liking, they are smoking something.
Political parties, it has been said, hang together or they hang separately. Both political parties are hopelessly divided at the moment. Finding a unifying theme is impossible.
Yes, the Democrats are voting as a bloc, just like the Republicans did when they were in the minority. That wouldn’t last a minute if the Democrats had to come up with strong programs — not as long as Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are on one side and moderates on the other.
Here’s what to watch for next: What will the Republican leadership do when a House committee has to report next week they can find no evidence that Trump was wiretapped by President Obama?
Some fur will fly. Trump’s most ardent defenders will say there was surveillance, investigation be damned. But others, like Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, already say that Trump will have to retract his claim. That isn’t how a unified party looks.
Few politicians get Republican blood boiling the way Minority Leader Chuck Schumer does. It had to sting this week when the Democratic leader marveled, “We are on the offense, they’re on the defense.”
That got it half right. The Republicans are in a defensive stance. But the Democrats are out of power. Give them power again and they will split just like the GOP has.
Party realignment won’t come easy. Too many self-seeking politicians in both parties have discovered new ways of making grand pronouncements instead of making good law. Nor will the realignment make itself felt immediately.
But it will happen — or there will be several parties instead of just two.
Reg Murphy is a former
publisher of the San Francisco Examiner and the Baltimore Sun.
To contact the him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.