The recent antics of the Senate Democrats add to the previous anti-Trump actions that seemed rather pointless and might be more than a bit self-destructive. It is of course not just them. As noted in our Jan. 23, “Kool-Aid crisis” in America post, the degree of commitment to their own agenda and philosophy by each side of the U.S. political divide leaves it less than possible to achieve any real synergistic dialog and constructive result. Years have turned into over a decade of substandard leadership in the United States on the back of aggressive and highly divergent views of America’s role…and each side is dead sure it’s right and the other side has nothing to offer.
Just look at the massive failure of Obamacare that the Democrats still cling to, damning the Republicans for any attempt to repeal it. Yet, Barack Obama’s extensive turn to the Left is more than his personal philosophy. It would not have been possible except as a national reaction against the equally poorly planned and executed Bush-Cheney program.
And just like Obama’s misguided reflex to totally abandon the field that the American people were prepared for after over eight years of war, each side had an extensive belief in a philosophy that would cure all ills without any consideration of the probable downside. It’s all about the unabashed belief in one side of the political and cultural divide to the exclusion of any attempt to consider the potential positive aspects of the other perspective: each is “Drinking the Kool-Aid.”
First some genuine ‘good news’
Wednesday morning saw the latest Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) monthly Composite Leading Indicators (our mildly marked-up version.) The OECD is now taking an upbeat view on most of the global economy. We sometimes criticize the OECD for expressing a positive view in their headline assessment when the actual indications are problematic or weak. However, this month’s headline “…growth gaining momentum in several advanced economies” seems a bit too downbeat for the indications.
It reinforces all of the upbeat expectations under the Trump administration’s lower regulation and tax plans. If outside of Italy and India the entire world is in a mutually reinforcing growth cycle, any further stimulation from Trump’s plans should be good for U.S. and global economies and equities.
The Trump agenda
Getting back to Trump’s plans, you may agree or disagree with whether they are going to provide the economic boost that he has promised and his minions assure us will occur. Yet, the very possibility that they can be implemented timely is at least to some degree dependent on his full cabinet being in place. And Senate confirmation of those cabinet officers and department heads is being delayed once again by Senate Democrats.
As we highlighted in last week Wednesday’s www.rohr-blog.com Commentary: Kool-Aid Derails ‘Trump Bump’? post, Democratic Senators had hit upon a plan they thought could significantly delay the Trump administration’s cabinet nominee confirmations. As noted, “While the majority of each relevant committee would certainly vote to clear each nominee for full floor vote after any reasonable testimony, there was a rule that a member of the opposition (Democrat) had to be in attendance to hold a bona fide vote.
“That Democrat did not need to vote for the nominee; they just needed to be in the room.” And even though the Democrats refused to attend the relevant committee meetings, “…the Republicans were going to find a way to get Mr. Trump’s nominees approved, and (last Wednesday morning) they voted through a rule change eliminating the opposition party attendance requirement for a bona fide vote. Ahhh, the joys of majority.”
Further Majority Advantage
In addition to that ability to adjust the committee rules to override the Democrats’ boycott, there is the ultimate weapon in the Senate: the Vice President of the United States is also ‘President’ of the U.S. Senate. As such, he gets to cast the deciding vote anytime there is a 50-50 tie. With two Republicans voting against Education Secretary Nominee Betsy DeVos, there was indeed a 50-50 tie. And Vice President Pence came in to provide the deciding vote in favor of DeVos, making it an historic 51-50 confirmation vote for a cabinet nominee (as this had literally never occurred in the entire history of the United States.)
Really Futile and Stupid Gesture
For those of you who have ever seen the movie Animal House the phrase might sound familiar. We’ll return to that momentarily, but first consider that in order to delay the Trump cabinet confirmations the Senate Democrats have insisted on using every second of the 30 hours of debate allocated to each nominees’ hearing. Even though the Republicans holding a 52-48 Senate majority means that every single one of the Trump nominees will ultimately be confirmed, the Democrats insist on this minor delay.
Rather than any sort of effective legislative and governmental tactic, we revisit why this seems a ‘really futile and stupid gesture.’ The evil college dean in the movie Animal House got the Delta Tau Chi fraternity house closed down and all of its members expelled from school for low grades and serial disciplinary infractions. Frat member “Otter” had the visceral response, “This situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture…” And spiritual leader of demented ‘Delta house’ “Bluto” Blutarsky chimed in, “And we’re just the guys to do it!”
The cabinet confirmation impact of the Democrats tactic is literally a delay of no more than a 1.25 days. And that is not spread out across multiple days… it is literally the real time delay on a rolling basis. In other words, once debate starts it is ‘on the clock’ on a continuous basis until the 30 hours has passed. So we are now treated to the spectacle of the U.S. Senate remaining in session into the wee hours of any given night and even into the next morning to extend the time before an ultimately successful confirmation.
The net effect will be to delay the Trump cabinet picks by maybe as much as two weeks. But think about it; this at the beginning of a four year term where that sort of delay will mean absolutely nothing to the ultimate implementation of Trump policies where they can be reconciled with the Republican Party preferences in the House and Senate. Yet the Democrats seem hell-bent on making some sort of point about their solidarity with the broader anti-Trump forces. And in that they may be drinking…
The Ultimate Kool-Aid
And that Democratic Party tendency to want to relate to the more extreme Left-wing elements (some of whom are fomenting violent protests) of their supporters is very self-defeating in the longer run. Think about the Republican campaign ads into the 2018 by-election. The Committee attendance boycotts will be portrayed by the Republicans as not doing the peoples’ business, and will likely work exceptionally well in those ‘red’ states where Trump was victorious by a sizable margin. (And in spite of the higher populations of the ‘blue’ states, there are in fact quite a few more red states overall. This is a big factor in the U.S. Senate.)
There are ten Democratic Senators at risk in those states in 2018. And in light of the OECD CLI noted above, if there is any real strengthening of the U.S. economy with higher wages, the Democrats will be at risk of looking like ‘refuseniks’ at the beginning of policies that had indeed improved the average Americans lot. While Trump’s policies may only accelerate and extend the current improvement, that’s a deeper view than tends to come to light during U.S. election campaigns.
In fact, we see this Democratic Party as drifting as far Left as the Senator McCarthy party in 1968 and beyond. Along with the failures of the Carter administration (very similar to Barack Obama’s regime), it took Bill Clinton to form the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) to move the party back toward the center in the run-up to his 1992 victory.
Their strong belief in the Liberal principles that they thought were the only way any reasonable person should think is causing them to ignore the strong Middle America sentiment that got Donald Trump elected. That is the political equivalent of being so convinced your side’s Kool-Aid (i.e. intractable position regardless of how indefensible it might be) is a superior brew that you are willing to keep quaffing more and more.
What we are seeing from the Democrats at present looks a lot more like willingness to drink the Ultimate (deadly) Kool-Aid, which seems like the sort of act of faith that will lead to their demise in their current form and positioning (hence the opening graphic.) Yet, there probably need to be a lot of Democratic Party electoral deaths before the futility of their current approach is glaringly apparent enough to foment real change.