March 3, 2024

Devolution of America




Today’s Events in Historical Perspective

America’s Longest-Running Column, Founded 1932

Devolution of America

By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift

WASHINGTON – Before the election, conventional wisdom had the GOP coming apart, had the Tea Party at war with traditional Republicans, and had fiscal hawks battling social conservatives.

After the election, it was the Democratic Party coming apart, losing an election to a reality TV star and losing touch with blue-collar white voters, once the core of Democratic support.

Both parties face challenges, but the analysis needs tweaking. It’s not the parties coming apart as much as it is the basic underpinnings of government being questioned and tested.

Once Donald Trump is sworn in later this month, Washington will be fully in the hands of the Republican Party. In theory, at least, that should bring an end to the gridlock that plagued Democrats for much of President Obama’s time in office.

Republicans have the numbers in the House and Senate to muster majorities for pretty much whatever they want. If Democrats put up too many roadblocks, GOP leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) could employ what lawmakers call the nuclear option, and declare the filibuster dead for legislation and Supreme Court nominees.

Democratic leader Harry Reid employed the nuclear option for executive appointments and judges, except for the Supreme Court, which helped Obama get some judges through, and will help Trump get some of his more controversial Cabinet nominees confirmed with 50 votes (the Republican vice president breaks ties) instead of 60.

And with the GOP Congress eager to make good on its pledge to repeal and replace Obamacare, you would think McConnell might move to strike the 60-vote threshold so Republicans could act quickly and have legislation ready for Trump to sign on his first day in office.

Instead, McConnell in a terse and tight-lipped statement stated the partisan-ignored obvious: no majorities last forever on either side of the aisle, and that Republicans want to work with Democrats to achieve bipartisan compromises on replacing Obamacare and other issues.

But Democrats are not eager to work with Republicans on dismantling Obamacare unless the GOP can come up with a satisfactory replacement. In six years of battling Obamacare, Republicans have not been able to agree on such a replacement, and it’s unlikely they will find one that keeps the parts of Obamacare people like, and that keeps costs down.

Republican talk is not matched by its weak leadership. Speaker Paul Ryan (Wisc.) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) only learned of a revolt within the GOP caucus when it happened behind closed doors on Monday evening. A group of lawmakers advanced a proposal to eliminate an independent bipartisan office that oversees ethics violations by lawmakers.

Ryan and McCarthy opposed the measure, but when they couldn’t squelch it and members were poised to vote on it the next day, the two leaders caved. McCarthy was all over television Tuesday morning defending the elimination of the office as making the process more efficient and transparent, which was a real stretch.

Then Trump weighed in with a tweet, observing that Congress should have better things to do on its first day. In about the time you can say. “Drain the swamp,” Ryan and McCarthy reversed course, and Republicans joined with Democrats to vote down the proposed change.

Trump’s election has blown up the two-party system. Many lawmakers are not sure of what they stand for, except winning, and we’re just beginning to understand the consequences.

This is a leadership vacuum, and vacuums get filled.

In California, where Hillary Clinton beat Trump by millions of votes, former Attorney General Eric Holder has signed on to represent the state in what local officials expect will be many confrontations with the federal government over climate change, immigration and marijuana legalization.

Going it alone, state by state, lawmaker by lawmaker, is what happens when there is weak leadership in Washington, and when the two parties are seeking to re-define themselves in the age of Trump. This is not secession; this is the pendulum of federalism. This is devolution.


          Find Douglas Cohn’s new books, “World War 4: Nine Scenarios” (endorsed by seven flag officers) and “The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency” at:

Twitter:  @douglas_cohn

© 2016 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.


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