Trump is Suddenly Part of the Republican Establishment

After running a campaign almost entirely premised on going to war with the Republican “establishment,” Donald Trump is suddenly siding with them against the more conservative wing of the party, as represented by the House Freedom Caucus. And the crackup I predicted is now in full swing.


President Trump declared war on the conservatives of the House Freedom Caucus on Thursday, suggesting Republicans should “fight them” in the 2018 midterm elections if they do not back his agenda.

“The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don’t get on the team, & fast,” Mr. Trump said Thursday morning on Twitter, escalating a fight that began when the conservatives from the caucus blocked his Affordable Care Act repeal last Friday.

“We must fight them, & Dems, in 2018!” Mr. Trump wrote, apparently making good on suggestions that he would support Republican challengers to lawmakers in his own party who oppose him, a stance advocated by his chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon.

Friday’s loss on health care rekindled a long-running civil war between the party’s establishment, represented by Speaker Paul D. Ryan, who drafted the original bill, and anti-establishment conservatives in the caucus, who thought it preserved too many elements of the Obama-era program.

Bannon, in his typically neanderthal style, wants Trump to keep an enemies list of anyone who opposes him on anything and try to destroy them politically. That’s the kind of thing that appeals to the simpleminded, but tends to have consequences in a political system that requires compromise. And there’s the central irony of all of this. The Tea Party types he’s now criticizing are all about ideological purity — you’re either with us or against us, we’ll never compromise because that means betrayal, and so forth.

Trump, for whom everything is personal and tied up with his ego, and his Gilligan (Bannon) are demanding personal purity, personal fealty to the president, regardless of ideology. Both are being completely inflexible, but on very different grounds. And every moment this continues, the harder it’s going to be for Trump to get anything through the House. That’s the silver lining in this cloud he has created. Jolly good show, I say.

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