Ostrom: Will Trump haters and ‘The Swamp’ prevail in 2018?

October 18, 2017 GMT

The GOP leadership was embarrassed by the September primary victory of former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore over Sen. Luther Strange, the “Establishment” favorite. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell poured $9 million into the Alabama race to no avail. GOP campaign guru Karl Rove’s super PAC also backed Strange.

Sarah Palin, Dr. Ben Carson and former White House advisor Sebastian Gorka actively supported Moore.

President Trump supported Sen. Strange because of his “loyalty,” but conceded shortly before the election that he “probably made a mistake.” A White House source claimed Trump’s secretive son-in-law, Jared Kushner, persuaded the president to support Strange because former White House advisor and media executive Steve Bannon supported Moore. Bannon and wealthy supporters are reportedly funding candidates to challenge Republican obstructionists who Bannon says, “have total contempt” for Trump supporters.

Moore, a religious conservative, lost his seat on the bench because he refused to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the courthouse rotunda, and he advised state officials to refuse gay marriage requests. Like Dr. Martin Luther King, Moore’s religious beliefs motivated him to oppose what he concluded were “unjust laws.”

Religious beliefs influence lawmakers. In a recent Senate confirmation hearing, Democratic Sens. Diane Feinstein, Al Franken, and Dick Durbin challenged the religious views of 7th Circuit U.S. District Court nominee Amy Comey Barrett, a Notre Dame law professor. The Roman Catholic professor’s alleged “dogmatic” beliefs were criticized as “troubling” if she were placed on the bench. Never mind that the Constitution prohibits a “religious test for office.” It is unlikely that those questions would be said of Jewish or Muslim nominees.

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan is being buffeted by the grass-roots populist rebellion against the Republican “Establishment.” Ryan publicly complained that passed House legislation gets bogged down in the Senate, where McConnell has a public approval rating of 18 percent.

McConnell unsuccessfully advised President Trump to stop referring to “Establishment Republicans” as “The Swamp.” McConnell has criticized Trump’s public statements, and has failed to pass the president’s legislative agenda. Why? Some analysts say it is because the GOP leadership is still angry that Trump won the presidential election, instead of one of their more malleable colleagues. The GOP is tied to special interest groups and donors more than they are to Trump, and they want him to fail.

Ryan and McConnell could face the opposition of disgruntled Republicans and partisan Democrats in coming elections.

Republican Sen. Bob Corker, who has announced he won’t seek re-election, pulled a corker and criticized Trump’s “adult daycare White House,” and the president’s statements about North Korea. The Tennessee Republican had the arrogance to ask for Trump’s endorsement in his re-election campaign. Trump said, “No!”

We shall see what the costs of continued legislative failure on the border wall, immigration, health care, and tax reform are when voters go to the polls in 2018. Trump and immigration and customs officers have increased arrests and targeted “sanctuary cities.” Trump has offered leniency to illegal “Dreamers” who crossed the Mexican border as children in return for an expanded wall and tougher immigration enforcement. Will Democratic leaders accept that “comprehensive” reform?”

Trump’s business acumen, deregulation, and outreach to “coal country” have contributed to lower unemployment, 3 percent economic growth, and a booming stock market. Trump’s conservative judicial appointments and looming court decisions are moving forward. In foreign policy, the President persuaded the People’s Republic of China to apply economic pressure on North Korea. China has cut petroleum supplies and supported banking and trade sanctions against the rogue regime.

It remains to be seen whether Trump haters, obstructionists, and the federal “Swamp” prevail, or if his loyal base gives him the clout to save the GOP majority in 2018.