Opposing everything may offer purity, but it has its limits.
This is something Republicans learned during the Obama years.
Opposing Mr. Obama in the 2010 and 2014 midterms, especially on the issue of Obamacare, paid short-term political dividends for the GOP in state and local races.
But that strategy banged its head up against a ceiling in 2012, when Mr. Obama sought and won re-election.
The strategy of only single-minded opposition to Mr. Obama especially failed in early 2017, when Republicans became the dog that caught the car on health care. Shocked that Mr. Trump actually won, congressional Republicans failed to forge a consensus on health care policy. The result was six months of precious time wasted on health care wheel-spinning in Mr. Trump’s first year in office.
Opposition can define you. In the right election, it can help you win. But it cannot help you govern.
Now the shoe is on the other foot — Democrats have been ferociously opposing Mr. Trump from the first minute he took office, with a campaign of resistance fiercer than anything Mr. Obama or Mr. Bush ever faced.
Cabinet appointments faced unprecedented confirmation delays. Democrats needlessly shut the government down over the issue of illegal immigration. Democrats refuse to provide votes for any legislation, save for a couple of bipartisan spending deals. They even oppose things they once supported, simply because Mr. Trump announces he supports them.
The blanket opposition is the price the liberal base demands all Democrats pay. So far, Democrats are paying the price — happily.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, once inadvertently allowed that Mr. Trump “could become a great president,” and the left’s response was unhinged. Activists like Michael Moore and Tom Steyer are promising to recruit primary challengers to Democrats who do not uniformly oppose Mr. Trump.
But in an election year, what happens in Congress has consequences for all incumbents. Refusing to support popular things hurts you just as much at the polls as supporting unpopular things does.
By now, Democrats must be having second thoughts about unanimously opposing Mr. Trump’s historic tax cuts, given the impressive results already. Only two weeks after they took effect, over 4 million American workers have received a bonus or a raise. Hundreds of billions of dollars in new investment have been announced. In the past two quarters, economic growth reached 3 percent.
JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon recently predicted 4 percent growth for the U.S. economy this year. The Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank recent projected 5.4 percent economic growth for the first quarter of 2018. The economy continues to strengthen, and as it does, average Americans will reward Republicans politically.
Democrats will have to explain why they opposed a tax cut from which millions of Americans are benefiting. They will also have to explain whether they plan to take the tax cut away if they come into power.
The midterm elections looked painfully difficult for the GOP two months ago, but things are improving. The generic ballot has moved sharply in the GOP’s direction recently, and President Trump’s job approval ratings have ticked up above 40 percent.
The remainder of 2018 will be consumed legislative battles — and opportunities for bipartisan compromise — on issues such as immigration, infrastructure and trade.
Will Democrats meet Republicans in the middle? Will their opposition to Mr. Trump prevent them from taking ‘yes’ for an answer? If so, will voters hold them responsible in November?
Lawmakers have only a few months to achieve anything, before Capitol Hill shuts down this summer as the election season heats up.
Mr. Trump’s first year was necessarily partisan, given the Democratic obstruction and opposition he faced. Even so, that strategy resulted in significant legislative achievements. For 2018 to be a year of accomplishment, the only path available is the bipartisan one.
Republicans have moved toward the middle. Will Democrats? Voters are watching.
Matt Mackowiak is the president of Austin, Texas, and Washington, D.C.-based Potomac Strategy Group, a Republican consultant, a Bush administration and Bush-Cheney re-election campaign veteran and former press secretary to two U.S. senators. His national politics podcast, “Mack on Politics,” may be found on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher and on the web at MackOnPolitics.com.