When Republican Representatives from the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus visited the White House to negotiate for a healthcare repeal bill that they could support, they got an unwelcome surprise. Steve “President” Bannon was not only running the show, he seemed to have forgotten that the United States of America is a Democratic Republic.
According to accounts from numerous representatives who spoke on the condition of anonymity, Bannon treated the members as though they were subjects in his dictatorship. “Guys, look. This is not a discussion,” Bannon told them. “This is not a debate. You have no choice but to vote for this bill.”
One member described the experience as being treated like a child, saying, “You know, the last time someone ordered me to do something, I was 18 years old. And it was my daddy. And I didn’t listen to him, either.”
Trump also employed the strong-arming tactics with similar effect. Politico reported that Trump told the Caucus, “Forget about the little shit. Let’s focus on the big picture here.”
That ultimatum followed a so-called joke from Trump that he would “come after” the Freedom Caucus leader, Representative Mark Meadows (R-NC), if he didn’t vote for the bill. One of Meadows’ conservative colleagues anonymously lamented the misstep by the self-proclaimed master of the deal:
“That was the biggest mistake the president could have made. Mark desperately wanted to get to yes, and Trump made it impossible for him. If he flipped after that he would look incredibly weak.”
As transparently terrible as the Obamacare repeal bill was, failure to garner the votes of men and women who had campaigned on it for decades was a task that required an unprecedented leadership meltdown. The question many are asking is: if this was the unquestioned top priority of the party in power, how could they possibly fail to get majority support?
As absurd as it seems, the White House strategy indicates they may have actually forgotten that we are living in a Democracy governed by majority rule. Then again, that misunderstanding seems somewhat fitting for a minority President.
Whatever the reason for the strategy, as a result of it, in the words of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan: “We’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future.”
Chalk that one up to a victory for democracy.
Sheila Norton is a writer with ten years of Capitol Hill experience. Subscribe to the OD Action email to get all the hottest news delivered right to your inbox every day at www.odaction.com