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Waelti: Broken clocks and the Trump presidency
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Those of us considerably to the left - even somewhat to the left - of Rush Limbaugh don't like it. But as the saying goes, "It is what it is."
Those of us considerably to the left - even somewhat to the left - of Rush Limbaugh don't like it. But as the saying goes, "It is what it is." Donald Trump is president. He owns the Republican Party, sort of, anyway. Republicans own both legislative chambers and the Supreme Court.

Unless you value the ability to skirt the edges of the law to accumulate great wealth, there is not much to admire about Trump. His bullying, egocentric personality, self-indulgence and his superior attitude and lack of class make him personally unlikeable.

"Likeability" should not be the main presidential criterion. But he lacks other presidential criteria with his inappropriate temperament and style; and ignorance of history and the role of the Congress, the judiciary and a free press.

And performance? With some exceptions, his appointees are unfit for their respective offices. His anti-environmental and anti-science policies and use of public office as marketing tools are disgraceful.

Democrats seem baffled as to what to do - emulate the Republicans as the "Party of 'No'" as the Republicans did with Obama, or work with Trump on the rare occasion that it's feasible.

This should be a "no-brainer." Health care has become so toxic that there is no possibility of Democrats bailing the Republicans out of the jam they have created for themselves.

But even a broken clock is right twice per day. You never get everything you want in politics. If there are issues on which Trump steps away from Ryan and his establishment Republicans, and align more with Democratic priorities, it would be smart, strategically and tactically, for Democrats to cooperate with Trump to get what they can.

First, some issues on which the Democrats should hold fast. On health care, Democrats will not and should not bail the Republicans out of their jam. After years of beating up the Democrats and voting to repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA), secure in the knowledge it couldn't happen, the failure to even get their initial proposal to the House floor for a vote reveals the insincerity of Ryan's Republicans.

Trump promised to sign the non-existent Republican proposal on his first day. Oops, the Republicans didn't have one even though they had seven years to come up with one. An added problem was that Trump insisted on "repeal and replace," rather than simply "repeal."

Why would voters who would be disproportionately hurt by jerking away the ACA even vote for Trump? It's because Trump promised something better and more affordable. Hence the need to "replace" the ACA - never what the Republicans originally intended since "the free market could handle it."

So House Republicans tinkered around with their failed "plan," and passed it, kicking it over to the Senate. Their "plan," which will go nowhere as is, passes the buck to the states regarding options, mandates, and all the rest of it. All complete with a massive tax cut for the wealthy, lower premium rates for the young and healthy, and higher rates for the old and sick.

Another issue on which the Democrats have every incentive to fight the Republicans is tax "reform" that is generous to the super wealthy. If Trump thought health care was easy, only to find it complex, good luck with tax reform. Any "reform" will involve winners and losers. Lobbyists for interest groups will infest the "swamp" that Trump promised to drain.

Democrats have every incentive to hold fast and resist Republican health insurance plans and tax "reform" disguised as welfare for the rich. But on issues where Trump differs from the Ryan-McConnell Republicans, Democrats would be wise to exploit this opening, regardless of Trump's motives - whether of conscience, or political expedience.

During his campaign, Trump promised to leave Social Security and Medicare intact. These programs surely are crucial for low-income Trump voters, as well as for others.

Ryan's goal of privatizing Medicare would put senior citizens at grave risk. If Trump is serious about keeping Social Security and Medicare intact, Democrats need to hold him to it. This is not only the strategically wise thing to do, but tactically, can be used to exploit differences between Trump and conservative Republicans who constantly attack these popular and successful programs.

An issue on which Democrats could possibly cooperate with Trump is infrastructure expenditures. The condition, however, should be that expenditures not be oriented to for-profit privatization of roads, bridges, water supply and waste treatment projects.

Trump recently observed, in direct opposition to Republican orthodoxy, that he would not be opposed to an increase in gasoline taxes, demonstrating once again that even a broken clock is occasionally right. Trump claims that he got this idea from a "truck driver friend." That's not exactly a careful analysis of pros and cons of alternative policy measures for funding highways. But in politics, you take what you can get.

The Republicans are exuberant that the House passed a health insurance bill that leaves options for pre-existing conditions to the states, and kicks the can over to the Senate. Trump's "achievements" include not signing a health bill, rounding up some immigrants, most of which are contributing to this economy, and attacks on the judiciary and role of a free press - and, as this is written, a ham-handed sacking of the FBI chief.

Republican legislators are getting blasted by constituents during their town halls. Democrats see a chance to win some House seats, and maybe even take over the House in 2018.

But hey, not so fast. Democrats are known for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Besides, gerrymandering has created enough safe Republican seats that it will be an uphill battle under any scenario.

Instead of announcing to the world an impending Democratic takeover, Democrats would be well-advised to spend less energy jacking their jaws, and use that energy to find some good candidates to run in 2018.

Stop talking about it - just do it.

- John Waelti of Monroe, a retired professor of economics, can be reached at His column appears Fridays in The Monroe Times.