In his first seven months, President Trump has not been able to push any of the major legislation on his agenda through Congress – including healthcare and infrastructure – and it is not going to be any easier this fall, which is likely to be really bad news for Republicans in the 2018 midterm elections.
That was the harsh message Michael Steele, former head of the Republican National Committee, delivered today on CNBC.
“Time is running out for the Trump administration to enact its agenda,” CNBC reported that Steele said on Squawk Box, “and disagreements on key issues between the White House, the Senate, and the House will make things even harder.”
“The tension is already there on some big-ticket items like tax reform and health care that the Senate is of one mind, the House is of another and the White House is on a completely different page,” said Steele.
Trump’s big hope is to pass a signature tax reform bill that will excite his base enough to help Republicans across the country who face re-election challenges, but first Congress must approve a bill to address the debt ceiling, which reaches its legal limit in October.
“You’ve got Republicans who came into Congress with the idea they are not going to vote for any increase in the debt at all,” explains Steele. “And the president who wants a clean spending bill on the table. Those members want to cut. So you’ve already got that problem on one big issue even before you get to tax reform.”
Trump likes to blame Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and others in Congress for failing to approve his big-ticket items but he has not grasped the need for the president to get personally involved in lobbying Congress and the American people to succeed.
“This is a problem that will require a lot of negotiation,” adds Steele, who is also the former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland. “The White House doesn’t seem to be in the mood for negotiation. They just want to get it done. “
“That isn’t how the process gets done,” adds Steele. “You know that and I know that. But the expectation is we came here to drain the swamp, not to do it the way you’ve always gotten it done.”
“So McConnell is in a pickle because he doesn’t want to have this subject on the table going into next year’s election,” concludes Steele, “particularly when you’ve got senators on the ballot.”
Complicating things, warns Steele, is that Steve Bannon, who was not happy about the way he was “pressured” out of the White House, is now planning to use his new role at Breitbart News to “go after” anyone who compromises the agenda that Trump ran on and which won him the election.
Bannon, says Steele, “now plans to use the media and all of its weapons to go after those in the deep state like McConnell and others who made the president’s agenda – in their view – a compromised agenda.”
“This fall is not going to be pretty for Republicans,” Steele predicts.
Steele, who lost his bid for a second term as head of the RNC in 2011 to Reince Priebus is currently a consultant and columnist, and as an African American would seem to be an ideal hire for the Trump administration at a time the president is being labeled a racist.
However, even with all the recent high-profile departures, Steel said he would “have a very hard time” going into the administration that has not been clear on issues of race.
“I want the president to be successful,” says Steele, “but the president has to show me that something that is very basic and fundamental to the core of who we are as Americans, that he stands with that.”
So, Steele would not be willing to join an administration that is already failing, and by his own account, faces an even more difficult task this fall and possibly an impossible task in next years election.
The heart of what Steele says is that Trump and his team are not willing to state clear goals that all Americans share, do the negotiating, develop the relationships, accept the tradeoffs, make the compromises, and work with others to get the job done.
For that reason, there seems to be little hope for Trump and the Republicans; which creates a huge opportunity for the Democrats who must now seize the moment
The Democrats need to put forward leaders who will make clear what the American values are, and then live up to the highest expectations of a population hungry for someone they can trust and happily let lead them to a brighter future.
It is clear from Steele’s remarks and the past half year, that is not going to be Trump.