Resistance to Trump Is Making Strange Bedfellows

“Moderate” Republicans are not reining in the president. Democrats need to ally with the purists on the right.

Republican senator Mike Lee of Utah attends the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, March 3, 2016
Republican senator Mike Lee of Utah attends the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, March 3, 2016 (Gage Skidmore)

Democrats in the United States are heaping praise on Republican senator Susan Collins for taking a stand against her party’s health reforms.

The praise is deserved. Collins, a centrist Republican from Maine, refused to support a plan that would have taken health care away from millions of low-income Americans while making it cheaper for the wealthy.

But it’s too bad the left doesn’t extend the same gratitude to conservative purists who joined her.

None of the other supposedly moderate Republicans in the Senate supported Collins in her fight against the rushed effort to replace Obamacare. They all caved to right-wing pressure.

Mike Lee of Utah, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Jerry Moran of Kansas and Rand Paul of Kentucky held firm.

Trump style of politics

These four senators want a very different health-care system. Unlike Collins and the Democrats, they felt their party’s effort didn’t go far enough in dismantling Barack Obama’s legacy.

Yet the two sides were able to make common cause against the way in which Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan were attempting to overhaul one-sixth of the American economy.

The Republican leaders in Congress allowed no amendments, no hearings, no (formal) input from the industry — none of the usual procedures that slow down legislation and help ensure the outcome is broadly acceptable to as many Americans as possible.

They adopted the Donald Trump style of politics: demand absolute loyalty without giving any in return, browbeat lawmakers into submission and, when all else fails, threaten them with self-destruction.

McConnell’s latest ploy is to force Republicans to make good on their promise to repeal Obamacare without simultaneously voting for a replacement.

This is madness. The lives of tens of millions of Americans and the future of the entire health insurance industry would be thrown into doubt because McConnell cannot get his ducks in a row.

Radicalized

Like their Freedom Caucus counterparts in the House, Lee, Johnson, Moran and Paul have been a thorn in the Senate leader’s side for years. Refusing to compromise and characterizing any deviation from conservative orthodoxy as a betrayal, ultras like them have radicalized the Republican Party.

Despite opposing Trump in the primaries, their take-no-prisoners mentality helped him prevail in the general election.

A Democrat and an independent before he became a Republican, Trump has few fixed principles. Yet 90 percent of Republicans voted for him in November — because the far right had convinced them Hillary Clinton was worse.

Now Clinton’s party needs to team up with these fanatics in order to rein Trump in.

Strange bedfellows

After Trump was sworn in, I argued that principled conservatives ought to pull together with the left:

The question now is not bigger or smaller government or more or less regulation. The priority is defending the rule of law from those who would use the state as an instrument of their personal will and preventing a descent into kleptocracy.

Democrats similarly need to be willing to work with any Republican who comes out against Trump.

Say what you will about the likes of Lee, Johnson, Moran and Paul; they are constitutionalists and, unlike their “moderate” colleagues, not afraid to stand up to their party when it has been entranced by an authoritarian.

Neither side is used to thinking of the other as an ally. Unusual times makes for strange bedfellows.