Conservatives everywhere are yelping with whiplash, aghast at watching Donald Trump cozy up to “Chuck and Nancy,” the president’s sobriquets for liberal Senate minority leader Schumer and liberal’s liberal House minority leader Pelosi. That’s right, it’s not “Foolish Chuck” and “Silly Nancy.”
Just Chuck and Nancy.
Well, some conservatives are aghast, that is. Others have known all along that Donald Trump’s only agenda is Donald Trump, and thus as soon he decided Republicans have not celebrated him enough, he was inevitably going to look for encomiums elsewhere.
And Democrats, or at least party leaders, appear eager to play along. Over the last few days, they have worked closely with the president to craft a legislative strategy on immigration that allows Dreamers (illegals brought to America as youth) to stay and Trump’s much beloved border wall to (probably) go.
Their comments about Trump would be risible if not so ominous for those of us terrified of a nation run by Chucks and Nancys. And the omens are unmistakable. What a difference ten months makes:
Chuck Schumer, November 19, 2016: “He was not my friend.”
Chuck Schumer, September 14, 2017: “He likes us. He likes me, anyway.”
I believe that for the next three years, Americans who hate big government and love freedom (the very definition of conservatism) are screwed. Yes, Neil Gorsuch can’t be removed from the Supreme Court and a lot of good appointments and regulations will be hard to reverse. But once you start praising Nancy Pelosi, you can’t go back. At best we’ll have a moderate, unpredictable president. At worst, well….
This isn’t “Nixon Goes to China,” the classic metaphor for politicians with credibility in one direction on an issue having the most discretion to move in the other. Stalwart anti-communist Richard Nixon was perhaps the only president with broad enough shoulders to open relations with mainland China – by 1972 an urgent step diplomatically and economically.
Nixon could go to China because everyone knew his commitment to democracy and capitalism – and opposition to Maoism and despotism – were deep-seated. Eight months into Trump’s America, even Republican true believers are coming to realize that nothing is deep-seated, or even all that deep, with this president. Democrat priorities may in fact become law starting this fall, because our system gives real power to an executive from one party who works with legislators of both parties. Don’t forget how Ronald Reagan and Democrat Speaker Tip O’Neill, working together, found a way to lower taxes, pass a budget and, yes, transform the immigration system.
So for conservatives, the new political reality is already cause for panic. But for politicos, what happens next will be fascinating.
For at least a year, Democrats have sneered as their antagonists lined up behind a politician everyone knew had serious flaws. As Candidate Trump became Nominee Trump become President-elect Trump became President Trump, GOP eagerness for power and policy success eclipsed their own doubts. Even politicians once allied with “Never Trump” began to say “Never say never.”
The left responded with both scorn and Schadenfreude, its moral purity only intensifying.
What will they do now? We don’t know how far to the center – or the left – Trump will go, but can he go so far that Democrats start praising the guy?
He already has. At a bipartisan meeting to craft a more centrist health care plan, Trump asked whether he could save face with his base by calling it “Repeal and Replace,” and a Democratic lawmaker said “You can call it whatever you want, Mr. President,” eliciting laughter throughout the room. Democratic members of the “Problem Solvers Caucus,” after meeting with Trump Wednesday, exited complimenting his openness and fair-minded policy ambitions.
Pardon me, I think I’m going to be sick.
What if President Trump became an independent or even a Democrat? It’s no longer unthinkable. Say he begins to use liberal buzzwords like “path to citizenship,” “climate-change,” and “social justice.” (You think he can’t?) Could he be re-nominated as a Democrat? Members of the Democrat coalition could, if they wanted to, walk back their previous condemnations with words like “redemption” and “healing.” If they thought whoring themselves to Trump would protect Roe v. Wade and pass single-payer, the temptation would be enormous.
Personally, I think if New Trump sticks around, Democrats will largely prioritize their politics over their principles and embrace a president who embraces them back. Because, at heart, the Trump phenomenon was never a Republican phenomenon. It was an American phenomenon.
How would a millennial Massachusetts minority vote in a November 2020 Donald Trump vs. Ted Cruz match-up? I don’t know.
But I do know this: the next three years are going to be interesting.
David Benkof is a columnist for The Daily Caller. Follow him on Twitter (@DavidBenkof) or Facebook, or E-mail him at [email protected].