Will you love me in November as you did in Mayday! Mayday! In a special election last Tuesday in Arizona’s Eighth Congressional District, the Republican won but fell short of Mr. Trump’s 2016 twenty-point margin by 15 points — enough to spell “You’ve got trouble.”
Now what? That’s the question Donald Trump should be asking as the mid-term elections approach. Mr. Trump’s a cagey fellow, and he certainly read America better than any of the other Republicans did in 2016. And better than Hillary Clinton, too.
But if a week is a long time in politics, the 2016 election — and Mr. Trump’s remarkable victory — takes us back to the Pleistocene epoch, back even before Al Gore was having global warming nightmares.
Now the ice age is back, at least in the Senate where Mr. Trump’s nominees get the glacial treatment from the Democrats. At the current pace (two to three confirmations a week instead of 10 or more), it will take nine years to fill the vacancies the president needs to fill in order to make sure his people are making the key managerial and policy decisions.
But there are other problems. One is the budget process. After the last fiasco — Congress sent a 2,232-page, $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill to the president — the president said, “I will never sign another bill like this again.” Really? Those are brave words. But what’s he going to do to see that he doesn’t have to sign such a bill again?
The Senate quite regularly works for only a few days a week — about three, actually, which affords them a four-day weekend. Not bad. But not good for the rest of the country that wants their government to work.
The gossip in Washington is that there is absolutely no chance Mr. Trump can avoid having to sign another humongous spending bill — the “The Bad Government Spending Act of 2018,” or perhaps “The Second Bad Government Spending Act of 2018.” Congress will send it to the president; it will provide for, among other things, pay for the military; and Congress will dare the president not to sign it. What’s he supposed to do, especially if it’s right before the election? Not sign it? Stop paying the military? Shut down the government? Puh-lese.
Whatever he’s going to do, he has to do now. He has to make Congress work, and especially the Senate. For purely partisan reasons, he should make the Senate work at least five days a week: That would keep vulnerable Democratic senators from going home to campaign for reelection.
But why not six days a week? Lots of Americans work six day a week. Why shouldn’t congressmen? The country’s debt is now gigantic — it’s better to describe it adjectively than numerically because the number is so high it has become abstract. Any business or family facing a comparable debt would work seven days week.
Why not Congress?
Why doesn’t President Trump plan a surprise visit to Capitol Hill on a Friday afternoon (or even a Thursday afternoon), with the appropriate film crews tagging along for fun. He could be seen going into the offices of senators and representatives and asking to see them and — stone the crows! — they’re not there. Five or 10 of those clips played on the evening news might send a message, to the politicians (maybe), but certainly to the voters: Tell your representative or senator to get back to work, darn it.
Then the president should go on television and tell the American people how badly the system is working — he can replay the clips of the empty offices. He should ask the people to call their congressmen and tell them: No August recess unless you do your job and unless you can list five (ten?) actions that you’ll take before skipping town.
That’s just basic good governance. But there’s a partisan kicker, if the Republicans will kick. It’s Republicans, after all, who control Congress now, and if they want that to continue, they need to do something dramatic. The tax bill they passed, thought initially to be a magic carpet to re-election, has turned out, as even the Republican leadership now has realized, to be a low-end, already-frayed product. See last Tuesday special election in Arizona.
Mr. Trump should tell the congressmen that he won’t be campaigning for people who don’t get with the program, his program, which includes immigration reform, the wall, defunding sanctuary cities, infrastructure, and defunding Planned Parenthood. He could even dip into his own fortune and mail out a hundred thousand “Make Congress Work Again” hats.
Otherwise, he, and we, may get to experience a new political Pleistocene epoch.
• Daniel Oliver is chairman of the board of the Education and Research Institute and a director of Citizens for the Republic.