The other day Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania explained why Republicans are having such trouble with health care. Speaking at a town hall during the July 4 recess, Toomey said, “I didn’t expect Donald Trump to win. I think most of my colleagues didn’t. So we didn’t expect to be in this situation.”
No kidding. I too can report that, from June 16, 2015, to November 8, 2016, the feeling among the elected officials, party functionaries, consultants, strategists, and journalists in our nation’s capital was that Donald J. Trump stood no chance of becoming president of the United States. And because the political elite held this view with such self-assurance, with all the egotism and snobbery and moral puffery and snarkiness that distinguishes itself as a class, it did not spend more than a second, if that, thinking through the possible consequences of a Trump victory.
Among those consequences: The expectation that Republicans might actually try to keep the promises they’ve made to voters over the last eight years.
Paul Ryan’s well-intentioned but superfluous “Better Way” agenda notwithstanding, Republicans and D.C. conservatives were far too taken with the spectacle of the campaign, and with brooding over the ramifications of their coming defeat, than in building coalitions for policies that both Congress and the party’s eventual nominee might support. How to bridge the divide between conservatives and the nation-state populists driving the Trump movement was a subject that rarely came up before Election Day.