Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi and their Democratic followers laid a careful trap for their Republican tormentors, and then fell in it. The Republican leadership can keep them from climbing out if they’re smart and show a little courage.
Determined not to recognize the results of the 2016 election, as if they were the losers of an election in a third-world backwater, the losers set out to put their candidate on the throne by “any means necessary.” The Democrats established not the usual loyal opposition, but a “resistance.” A resistance does not try to make a government work, but to thwart it by fair means or foul.
The resistance has not stopped the Trump administration dead in its advance, but erected speed bumps to slow everything down. They’re counting on this to persuade voters that they might as well elect Democrats because even if Democrats can’t elect a president they can render an administration powerless, impotent and dead in the swamp.
That’s why the Democrats have not, as loyal oppositions generally do, offered alternatives to Republican initiatives. It hasn’t worked, but the party has stuck to it because it has nothing else to offer but the bitter fruit of the no-no tree.
The Democratic strategy was to prevent passage of the Republican tax-cut legislation. They lost, if only by a single vote in the Senate, but the modern Democrats have become inordinately fond of moral victories, so they applaud themselves, anyway.
“But it didn’t have to be that way,” writes Fred Barnes in the Weekly Standard. “Had Democrats negotiated with Republicans they might have saved the provision they most wanted to preserve, the full deductibility of state and local taxes. It’s a crucial [tax] break in rich, high-tax states like New York, New Jersey and California.”
But the Democratic strategy admits of no compromise, ever, on anything. Mr. Schumer and Miss Pelosi are proud of the fact that no Democrats urged compromise, which if they had they might have saved several tax breaks dear to the hearts (and pockets) of rich donors to Democratic campaigns. The Wall Street Journal suggests that a co-operative Democratic leadership might have traded support for a carbon tax, which Democrats have sought for years, for eliminating the business tax. But compromise cannot be when the strategy calls for give-no-quarter opposition to everything Donald Trump proposes. The only thing this cutting off of many noses accomplishes is a lot of faces without noses, and a lot of bloody noses underfoot.
The Democrats dare not propose anything to help business lest it offend its base, which has no interest in making the economy grow, but wants only to redistribute whatever wealth comes along. An honorable compromise might have prevented the deep cut in the corporate tax rate, from 35 percent to 21 percent. But that’s what the president and his party wanted, so who needs a nose, after all, as long as there’s a working mouth.
The president’s party, which had failed to deliver its much-promised repeal of Obamacare, even achieved the mortal wounding of Obamacare, since the successful tax bill eliminated the requirement that everyone had to buy health insurance or pay a fine. Barack Obama and the Democrats of his day argued that such a requirement was necessary or the Obamacare scheme would wither and die. Many economists said they were probably right. Now the buy-or-else requirement is gone, with Obamacare left to wither without mourning. The tax bill even opens the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, which Democrats had opposed for years and years.
But it’s the cynicism in the debate over DACA, abandoning the so-called Dreamers, the children born to parents who came here illegally, that takes the breath. Everybody, beginning with the president, is sympathetic to the plight of the Dreamers, who were never guilty of breaking the law themselves. No one asks to be born, or determines where. Mr. Trump has demonstrated his willingness on several occasions to find a way to save them. The Democrats, not so much.
“We are ready, willing and able to make a deal on DACA — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — but I don’t think the Democrats want to make a deal,” the president said Sunday night. “The folks from DACA should know the Democrats are the ones who aren’t going to make a deal.”
In fact, even as the U.S. Homeland Security Agency has started accepting applications for extensions, as ordered by the courts pending final adjudication of the legislation. Even that’s not good enough for the Democrats. They insist on a permanent solution now, and if this inconveniences the Dreamers, that’s just too bad.
Elections have consequences, and the Democrats, who did a little dreaming of their own about Hillary Clinton, just can’t understand why they can’t have it their way, anyway.
• Wesley Pruden is editor in chief emeritus of The Times.