Faith is a marvelous and inspiring thing. but it is just that, it is based on belief, and not facts. And once the first tendril of doubt creeps into one’s faith, the faith itself will never again be as pure as it once was.
Donald Trump himself may have just introduced the first viable tendril of doubt in the minds of his ovine GOP congressional flock. Trump’s flash announcement of steel and aluminum tariffs not only surprised everybody, quite possibly including Trump himself, it also made his caucus doubt their ability to survive one of his decisions.
First of all, nobody “wins” a trade war. Everybody involved loses, just one side loses more than the others. Think of winning a trade war as being a baseball shortstop, where only getting a hit three times for every ten trips to the plate is still good enough for you to make $5 million a year.
The problem with the GOP incumbents is that not only does everybody lose in a trade war, those losses can show up and start being felt quickly, especially in states and districts that rely on manufacturing, or have sensitive economies prone to inflation. There are many GOP incumbents in places like this, and starting a trade war with sufficient time for the effects to be felt at home could be disastrous to them, especially in the current political climate.
Publicly, House Speaker Paul Ryan tried to wimp his way out, announcing simply that he was “concerned” about the “potential unintended consequences” of the tariffs. Privately he came on more like Rambo. He ordered his caucus to just shut up about the tariffs, to not criticize Trump publicly about his decision.Ryan basically gave the order to die on this hill if necessary.
This puts the House GOP members in a box, more like a coffin. Their blind faith in Trump is largely due to their terror at the thought of a Presidential Twitter tantrum if they oppose him. On the other hand, if the tariffs bring layoffs in their home districts, or higher prices, constituents will hold them personally responsible. But their Speaker has forbidden them to defend themselves by speaking out.
So, what do they do? Well, 107 of them have just told Paul Ryan to stick it up his ass. They sent a letter to the White House, expressing their concerns with, or opposition to the new tariff plan. Glorious Bleater himself has forced them into a position where they feel that they have no option other than to resist him, for their own well being. Only two outcomes are possible, neither of which is advantageous for Trump.
In the first scenario, their mutiny brings about Trump support for far right primary challengers in retribution, and they are turfed out. Not good news for them, but likely not good news for Trump either, since those far right zealots will be at increased risk of being defeated in November by sane Democrats.
The “one from column B” option is that they oppose Trump on tariffs, and win. This outcome is actually worse for Trump than Democrats, since his only hammer of subservience over these people is the threat of their political destruction if they resist him. If they defy him and survive, that magic spell is broken, and not only will those incumbents be emboldened to defy him with impunity in the future, it will embolden the rest of the GOP sheeple to defy him at will, since he is powerless to retaliate against them.
But the critical thing to remember is that what eventually happens is irrelevant, the damage has already been done. If he crushes them, then his fear factor is intact, but there will likely be fewer of them left for him to terrorize. If they defy him and win, then the spell is broken. Not only will they continue to defy him at will, but the others will feel emboldened to defy him as well. And either way Paul Ryan is finished, he may as well retire right now. Once almost 50% of his caucus openly defied him by sending that letter, there is no way he can possibly survive an almost certain attempt to strip him of his position.
Trump has just done what no Democrat could, he has forced a direct confrontation with his own caucus, he has introduced that first nagging nibble of doubt that eventually consumes blind faith. The first brave Christopher Columbus’s have set off for the new world, and as long as just one of them makes it, nobody will ever believe the world is flat again.