Ross Douthat, speaking evidently from the irredentist #NeverTrump Right, points out that merely winning one election is no guarantee of the creation of a durable political movement. Policy success matters, and the American Health Care Act, intended to repeal and replace Obamacare, so far, does not seem to represent any such thing.
After the 1976 election, the Democratic Party seemed to enjoy a commanding position in American politics, with Jimmy Carter ensconced in the White House, a Senate supermajority and an advantage of nearly 150 seats in the House of Representatives. Yet over the next four years the Democrats achieved little of consequence, Carter passed into history as a failure, and Ronald Reagan ushered in a lasting rightward realignment.
I have compared Donald Trump to Carter before, but with the release of the House Republican â€œreplacementâ€ (I use that term loosely) for Obamacare, itâ€™s worth returning to the analogy. It rests, in part, on the work of the political scientist Stephen Skowronek, who argues that certain presidencies are â€œdisjunctiveâ€ â€” straddling a political order passing into history and another one struggling to be born. And â€œdisjunctiveâ€ generally means ineffective, because the parties such presidents are leading are likewise trapped between past and future and unable to unify and act.
Carter is Skowronekâ€™s prime disjunctive example, and a variety of writers, including Corey Robin and Dylan Matthews on the left and Reihan Salam on the right, have recently argued that Trump fits the role as well.
Just as Carter sensed that the New Deal-Great Society coalition was no longer viable and campaigned against certain liberal orthodoxies in â€™76, so in 2016 Trump offered a vision of the G.O.P. as a nationalist â€œworkers partyâ€ in which certain Reaganite pieties would no longer set the terms of conservative debate.
But just as Carterâ€™s mix of proto-New Democrat centrism and old-school liberalism never translated into a workable congressional agenda, Trumpâ€™s bridge to a new conservatism will crumble if his party canâ€™t agree on policies that fit his vision.
The health care debate makes this danger particularly clear.
Read the whole thing.