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The Rushmore Report: Why Republicans Can’t Govern

You might think that securing the White House, Senate, House of Representatives, and a majority of seats on the Supreme Court would enable a party to practically dictate laws and policy. But so far, unified government hasn’t worked out too well for Republicans. The GOP controls it all – but has no major legislative accomplishments to show for it. So let’s tackle the obvious question. Why can’t Republicans govern?

The U.S. system is designed to slow down and complicate attempts at change, so parties in charge must learn to navigate their way. What makes this so hard? There are several things that a majority party needs in order to convert political victories into legislative ones, and the GOP doesn’t have them.

1. A prioritized agenda

This one seems obvious but can be deceptively difficult. Research shows that agenda control is a key source of power for the majority party in Congress. For a party to effectively implement an agenda, it has to agree on a) what that agenda is, and b) how that agenda should be prioritized. The first part isn’t a given; Republicans largely support lower taxes, for instance, but – as the recent healthcare debate showed – they are less unified on health care policy. Even when there is agreement on the issues, parties must also decide on which ones to focus. The President is short on details to his policies, and there is much diversity within the Republican Party. A prioritized agenda has yet to emerge.

2. Public support

Whatever agenda emerges, it helps a lot if it has public support. Public opinion doesn’t always direct policy, of course. But members of Congress tend to be motivated by an interest in reelection, and don’t want to be caught on the wrong side of a national debate.

The GOP is finding this out the hard way. Some of the few core positions that have been staked out by Republicans in Congress – such as bills to repeal the Affordable Care Act – have proven very unpopular. Trump also ran into this problem with the Russian sanctions bill: he opposed it, but widespread public support translated into veto-proof majorities in Congress.

In simple terms, President Trump won the Electoral College, but not the popular vote. Until he turns his low poll numbers around, it will be hard to garner much unified support behind his agenda.

3. A way to address internal divisions

Even with a governing agenda and public support, there will be disagreements over specifics, clashes between factions and disputes over resource allocation. Institutions can help resolve these disputes – especially organizational rules in Congress that create incentives for compromise.

An opposition party has the luxury of a unifying objective – pointing out the shortcomings of the majority. As the musical Hamilton tells us, “Governing is harder.”

About the Author

Julia Azari is an associate professor of political science at Marquette University. Her research interests include the American presidency, political parties, and political rhetoric. She is the author of Delivering the People’s Message: The Changing Politics of the Presidential Mandate. 

The Rushmore Report: Look Who the President Invited to Dinner

The President of the United States can pretty much pick anyone he wants to invite over to dinner. There aren’t a lot of us who would not be willing to rearrange our schedule to dine at the White House. Sure, there are some who stay away to make a political point. (If you are reading, Mr. President, I’m not one of them. I’m available for the next 3.3 years, maybe more.) So while most of us would come to dinner at the White House, we are still waiting for that elusive invitation. Except for five interesting citizens. Guess who’s coming to dinner at the White House these days? These five names may surprise you.

Tuesday night, Mr. Trump hosted a bipartisan group of senators for dinner. Yes, you read that correctly – “bipartisan.” The agenda was to discuss tax reform, but that’s not important. Well, it is important, but it’s really not that important. It was three specific senators on the RSVP list that make the dinner important, not the topic, nor the menu.

Then, Trump surprised the next day. Last night, he hosted two more politicians for dinner. Again, it was not the topic nor menu that mattered, but the names of his dinner guests.

Are you ready for the names? There were the five men and women who came to dinner the last two nights. And notice what they all have in common – a “D” after their name.

  1. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)
  2. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)
  3. Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN)
  4. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
  5. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)

Manchin, Heitkamp, and Donnelly were the only three Democratic senators who did not sign a letter to Trump that rejected any cooperation with him on a tax plan that included a cut for the top one percent. Schumer and Pelosi, as leaders of the minority, represent any chance of bipartisan – there’s that word again – cooperation with the White House.

Donnelly said, “I had another good conversation with President Trump about my proposal to address the outsourcing of American jobs.”

Heitkamp said, “Any chance to talk with the president about issues important to North Dakota is an opportunity I welcome. Tonight, we had a good conversation.”

This sudden foray into bipartisanship follows Trump’s agreement with Schumer and Pelosi from last week that secured a raise of the federal debt ceiling and funding of the government for the next three months, along with funding for Hurricane Harvey relief.

Republicans don’t quite know what to think of this. Some have criticized the bipartisan effort. Others, such as popular blogger Ben Shapiro, have redefined the president. Shapiro says, “Trump is our first independent president; he is not a Republican.”

So what are we to make of this new outreach to the other side of the aisle? I mean, we haven’t seen this kind of effort to work with the other side since way back in the days of President George W. Bush. Ah, remember the days when a different Clinton of a different era worked with the Speaker of the House from a different political party to balance the federal budget? And remember when President Reagan worked with a Democrat named Tip O’Neil, who was also House Speaker from the opposing party?

Those were the days, my friend. At the time, I thought they’d never end. But end they did. We have become accustomed to presidents passing laws with zero outreach to the other party. Both sides have been doing it.

So now, here comes that genteel man of all things reasonable and calm – President Donald J. Trump – to still the waters, unify the nation, and build bridges rather than walls.

What does this mean, exactly? Will the president be content to simply stick his toes into the pool of bipartisanship, or will he dive in all the way? And if he does dive in, will he even know how to swim in such unfamiliar waters? Where he now sees cute dolphins, he will find sharks. Where he now sees the inviting calm of still waters, he will find storms ahead. And the boat in which he seeks refuge may well have a leak.

But I say it’s worth the effort. What we’ve been doing for the past nine years hasn’t worked. Whether the president’s efforts turn out to be more than a couple of nice dinners is still to be seen. I gave up predicting his next move several moves back. But this could be the dawn of something new.

For now, we’ll just have to wait . . . and pray.

The Rushmore Report: Jesse Jackson – ‘Trump Not Going to Heaven’

Imagine that a white conservative religious leader had said that President Obama wasn’t going to heaven. Imagine that, say, Franklin Graham or Jerry Falwell, Jr. said Obama “would not qualify to get into Jesus’ kingdom.” Well, that’s exactly what Rev. Jesse Jackson just said about President Trump. That deafening silence you hear is the response of the mainstream media.

The civil rights activist said this week that the Electoral College “must come down,” and then warned that President Trump may have trouble making it into heaven because of his views on immigrants.

Jackson said that Trump demands people “speak English, be qualified and have a job skill,” The Daily Wire reported.

“Jesus would not qualify to come into Trump’s country, and Trump wouldn’t qualify to get into Jesus’ kingdom,” Jackson said, going on to quote the Book of Matthew’s passage about helping the underprivileged.

Jackson also called for reminders of the Confederacy to be removed from public view, adding that “the statues must come down.”

It’s not clear why these so incredibly offensive statues never registered a complaint from Rev. Jackson over the past 60 years of his public life.

We live in amazing times. A leading religious leader can say the sitting president of the United States isn’t going to heaven, and no one says a thing. Had a conservative, evangelical leader said the same thing about President Obama, they would be criticized from within their own ranks, not to mention the outrage we would hear from every late night comedian and pundit on every television network.

But it is okay for a black liberal religious leader to do this. And no hate speech is off limits, so long as Mr. Trump (or his family) is the target.

The most prominent civil rights leader and black religious leader of the past 50 years just said, essentially, the president of the United States is not going to heaven. And it’s not even reported by the mainstream media.

This is not the American I grew up in.

The Rushmore Report: Obama’s Surprising Letter to President Trump

In a letter left on Inauguration Day for President Trump that was both congratulatory and cautionary, Barack Obama urged the incoming president to guard democratic institutions and traditions, and to “sustain the international order.” “This is a unique office, without a clear blueprint for success, so I don’t know that any advice from me will be particularly helpful,” Mr. Obama wrote in the letter.

Obama continued, “Still, let me offer a few reflections from the past eight years.”

The letter was written in longhand on White House stationery and left in the top drawer of the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office. The letter highlighted the concerns of a departing president who acknowledged the enormous responsibility of the job domestically and on the world stage.

Mr. Obama wrote Mr. Trump, a billionaire who had family wealth and made fortunes in real estate, that “we’ve both been blessed in different ways, with great good fortune,” adding, “Not everyone is so lucky.”

It is important to “build more ladders of success for every child and family that’s willing to work hard,” he wrote. He emphasized that “our wealth and safety” depend on maintaining “the international order that’s expanded steadily since the end of the Cold War.”

He also made a case for preserving “instruments of democracy” regardless of what the “push and pull of daily politics” may bring.

It is a tradition for presidents who are leaving office to write letters to their successors offering advice and well wishes.

When George W. Bush left the Oval Office, he wrote to Mr. Obama: “There will be trying moments. The critics will rage. Your ‘friends’ will disappoint you. But, you will have an Almighty God to comfort you, a family who loves you, and a country that is pulling for you, including me.”

Mr. Obama advised Mr. Trump to spend time with friends and family, and wrote, “Michelle and I wish you and Melania the very best as you embark on this great adventure, and know that we stand ready to help in any ways which we can.”

Obama wished Mr. Trump “Good luck and Godspeed,” and signed it “BO.”

About the Author

Christina Caron is a correspondent for CNN.

The Rushmore Report: Four Reasons Trump Will Likely Be Reelected in 2020

President Donald J. Trump has historically low approval numbers. He gets bad press – every day. Many in his own party have abandoned him. He has failed to get passage of healthcare or tax reform. The number of officials who have quit his administration or been fired is breathtaking. But Trump will most likely get reelected in 2020. Why? There are at least four reasons Mr. Trump is in good position to win a second term.

1. Great things are happening – we just aren’t hearing about them.

More Americans have work today than at any time in American history. The unemployment rate after six months of Trump’s Administration is lower than it was at any point in President Obama’s entire eight years. ISIS is losing for the first time. Retirement accounts are flush, with the Dow hitting 29 all-time records in six months. A great Supreme Court nominee has been successfully seated. So when 2020 comes around, while the left attacks President Trump, expect a replay of Reagan, 1980 – “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?” For most, the answer will be “Yes.” And that bodes well for the incumbent.

2. The opposition is a train wreck.

At no point in American history have Democrats had less control in Congress and state houses. Only six – yes six – states are under Democratic control (governor, senate, house). And their party is divided between the liberal wing and the more liberal wing. The three Democrats in the highest level of leadership are all over 70. To say this is not a forward-looking party is to understate the obvious. Democrats’ agenda of “Just block Trump” has already grown tiresome, with over three more years to come. You can’t beat someone without someone to beat them. And so far, the Democrats have no one to beat Trump. They can’t even hold onto who they have now, having just seen the West Virginia Governor switch from the Democratic to the Republican Party.

3. Popularity is overrated.

President Trump is unpopular. That is beyond debate. But what is debatable is whether or not it really matters. Case in point – Richard M. Nixon. Nobody every really liked Nixon. They liked Ike, but only tolerated Nixon. He had a demeanor that made used car salesmen look like comedians. He was insecure, abrasive, vulgar, and humorless. Other than that, he was fun to be with. So having seen Nixon up close – for eight years as Vice President and four years as President – what did the American people do? They reelected him in 1972 with a 49-state landslide. Popularity is overrated.

4. The numbers are better than they appear.

Sure, Trump’s approval ratings are in the 30s. Sure, those are historically low numbers. And no, he can’t be reelected with those numbers. But keep a few things in mind. First, a recent poll shows that about 38 percent will vote for Trump no matter what. Second, he won the White House with 48 percent of the vote. So, he doesn’t need to convince 50 percent to vote for him – just ten percent. If he can turn ten percent of the 62 percent that are currently not on his side, he will win. I did the math. That means that of all the people who are currently opposed to Trump, he only needs to convince 17 percent of that group to change – in the next three years. And third, Trump remains more popular than Democratic leaders Schumer and Pelosi, who will appear on more Republican ads than Republicans themselves.

George H. W. Bush had the highest approval rating of any president ever – at 93 percent. That was at the start of the Gulf War. Do you remember what happened a couple of years later? He lost his bid for reelection. In politics, three years is a lifetime. President Trump’s low poll numbers in 2017 matter about as much as a first quarter field goal against the New England Patriots and Tom Brady.

Will Donald Trump win the 2020 election? Maybe not. But at this point, he has a better chance than anybody else.

The Rushmore Report: Herman Cain – Trump’s Critics Can’t Make ‘Racism’ Claim Stick

Critics and the liberal media can’t make a claim of racism stick against President Trump, former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain said last week. Speaking amid the controversy surrounding Trump’s comments about the racially charged violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, Cain said the attempts from the president’s opponents to change the narrative have failed – again.

“They couldn’t make ‘Russia, Russia, Russia’ stick. They couldn’t make ‘refugees, refugees, refugees’ stick. So now the desperate attempt is ‘racism, racism, racism,'” Cain said.

“But here’s what they don’t understand: the American people aren’t stupid. Those people that are supporting Donald Trump because of the results he is getting and he is trying to get are not going to persuade Trump supporters to move over to the dark side. They have not just crossed the line, they’ve gone over the cliff. And the only people that are going over the cliff with them are those people that are just as deceived and deranged as they are. That’s what this is all about,” Cain said. “It’s their desperate attempt to try and get people to follow them off the cliff.”

Those attempts, Cain said, derive from what he called “TDS” – Trump Derangement Syndrome.

“They are never going to get over it,” he said. “They are still stuck in ‘Hillary should have won.’ She should not have won because she was not the best candidate. They’re stuck in Trump Derangement Syndrome.”

Cain added, “It’s sad, it’s unfortunate and it doesn’t help this country. But that’s what they are trying to do, is to destroy and divide this nation with all of this racist rhetoric that they are continuing to put out there.”

Despite the rhetoric surrounding recent events, Cain said, the American people “are not stupid.”

“They see past this,” he stated. “The only ones that are following this racist rhetoric and this racist indication of what they think defines America are the people who are already predisposed to their position. Here’s what they don’t understand: violence does not define America. Violence does not define who we are. They don’t understand that. The liberal media believes that if they say it often enough, over and over and over, that more people are going to fall into their camp but that simply is not happening.”

About the Author

Matt Richardson is a writer for Fox News.

The Rushmore Report: Missouri Dem Senator Calls for Trump Assassination

Missouri State Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal said – in print – that she hopes President Trump is assassinated. Yes, you read that correctly. A Democratic lawmaker has called for the assassination of the President of the United States. Sen. Chappelle-Nadal, for the record, is black. Say it with me – Can you imagine the national outcry if a white Republican had called for the assassination of President Obama?

The senator made her reprehensible comment on Facebook, for the masses to see. Then, after the damage was done, she deleted it. That way, she can act repentant without repenting. You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube, and Ms. Chappelle-Nadal knows that.

Even more amazing, the senator has refused to apologize for what she said.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (a Republican) joined calls last week for the state senator to resign. Anything less, said the Governor, should result in her expulsion from the Senate.

Gov. Greitens wrote, “Senator Chappelle-Nadal said she hopes the President is killed. Republicans and Democrats have called on her to resign. Last night, in an interview, she refused to apologize – twice. If she will not resign, the Senate can vote to remove her. I believe they should.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Lt. Gov. Mike Parson backed the call, saying if she does not resign before an upcoming September session, he will seek her expulsion in his capacity as state Senate president. The Senate can do so with a two-thirds majority vote.

Even top Democrats are calling for Chappelle-Nadal to step down. U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (Dem.), who is running for re-election in 2018, and the chairman of the Missouri Democratic Party are both calling for her to resign.

“I condemn it,” McCaskill told the Post-Dispatch. “It’s outrageous. And she should resign.”

Missouri Party Chair Stephen Webber called Chappelle-Nadal’s comments “indefensible.” He continued, “I think she should resign.”

But Chappelle-Nadal told KMOX Radio she won’t quit. “There is no way in hell that I’m resigning,” she said.

Again, say it with me. Can you imagine the national outcry if a white Republican had called for the assassination of President Obama?

For a mainstream outcry, we must wait . . . and wait . . . and wait. The hypocrisy of the left is still with us.

The Rushmore Report: Four Things You Need to Know About Conflict with North Korea

The rhetoric between leaders of The United States and North Korea escalated this week, when North Korea’s Pyongyang threatened Guam and President Trump threatened with “fire and fury” if the rogue state continued its nuclear tests and verbal threats. Despite United Nations sanctions (including support from China and Russia), North Korea has yet to soften its tone or threats. All military analysts agree we are on the precipice of disaster – unless something happens to avert war. There are four things you need to know about the current conflict.

1. Does North Korea have nuclear weapons?

The simple answer is yes. Worse, the Korean military has figured out how to miniaturize a weapon, meaning they can deliver a bomb to a distant target such as the U.S. mainland. The North has been building and testing missiles for years. They have conducted five nuclear tests, each signifying greater capability than was previously known.

2. What is the rest of the world doing?

The UN Security Council has adopted a resolution that imposes new sanctions. This is the eighth set of sanctions in the last 11 years. To date, sanctions have done nothing to divert the North from their intentions. And North Korea’s economy has somehow continued to expand and prosper despite these sanctions.

3. What has President Trump said about North Korea?

The president has called North Korean President Kim “a smart cookie.” He has said of their nuclear aspirations, “It won’t happen.” And on Tuesday, he threatened “fire and fury such as the world has never seen” if Pyongyang endangered, or even threatened the United States. Yesterday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tamped down the rhetoric a bit. He said, “I think Americans should sleep well at night, have no concerns about this particular rhetoric of the last few days.” But clearly, Mr. Trump stands ready to respond, and has been presented with multiple military plans of action.

4. What happens if war breaks out?

Any U.S.-led military action would be met with an aggressive response from the other side. Korea has threatened to send missiles to Hawaii and even the U.S. mainland. Clearly, South Korea, where thousands of U.S. soldiers are based, would be at great risk. Military analysts estimate that 30,000 civilians would be killed in a non-nuclear strike by North Korea on its southern neighbor. Should nuclear warheads be engaged, the number of lost lives would be counted in the millions. Is the U.S. mainland at risk? While the United States certainly has the capacity to shoot down any incoming missile, such a response has never been tested. Let us pray it never will be.

The Rushmore Report: Republican Senator Hails Election of Trump As ‘Biblical Miracle’

A Republican senator has claimed that it is a “biblical miracle” that Donald Trump became President of the United States, as part of his remarks on the repeal of Obamacare. Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL), who was appointed to fill the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and is currently running to retain that seat, was speaking at a forum hosted by the Montgomery County Republican Committee.

He said, “President Trump is the greatest thing that’s happened to this country. I consider it a biblical miracle that he’s there.”

Strange then called for the repeal of the Obamacare health care law, which he called a “disaster.”

“We’re going to take care of the most vulnerable of our citizens,” the GOP senator said.

Strange is described as a “Constitutional conservative and pro-life Christian” on his Senate website.

Trump remains a controversial figure across America religious and political circles, though he has been backed by some notable megachurch pastors, such as Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Dallas.

Jeffress, who serves on Trump’s evangelical advisory board, pushed back in an interview with The Christian Post against those who criticized his “Celebrate Freedom” concert at Washington’s Kennedy Center earlier in July, which Trump attended.

“No one is worshiping Donald Trump. What we are doing is showing respect for our president and praying God’s blessings on him as he leads our nation,” Jeffress told CP.

“That is the biblical and Christian thing to do,” he said.

About the Author

Stoyan Zaimov is a writer for The Christian Post.

The Rushmore Report: President Trump’s Thin Evangelical Line

We all know that Donald Trump is a blunt, brash New Yorker. He’s a street fighter and he won the presidency that way. Tens of millions of Americans love his tenacity and penchant for brawling. But there’s a line – in the minds of his strong evangelical support. It is a line he must not cross if he hopes to maintain their undying affection. And the president is at risk of crossing this thin evangelical line.

The evangelical attraction to Donald Trump was strong during the GOP primaries and reached even greater heights during the General Election when a record number of evangelicals – 81 percent – voted for him. But he needs to be very careful if he wants to duplicate or even improve on that number next time around. Calling out the media is one thing, but too often Trump makes it personal. That’s another thing. Evangelicals don’t mind President Trump’s unorthodox ways or his fighting spirit. They like it when he socks it to Washington bureaucrats and phony politicians. But a pattern of petty personal insults will put Trump in danger of “evangelical voter apathy” in 2020.

Diehards will stay with him no matter what, but that won’t be enough to win in 2020. He needs those “anti-Hillary evangelicals.” Will they show up and vote for the next Democratic nominee? No. Many of them may just not show up at all. If 81 percent turnout becomes 77 percent evangelical turnout (especially in key swing states), then he’s toast. It’s that simple. He needs evangelicals and he knows it. Any slippage and it’s game, set, match. He can’t afford to go down this road. It’s not worth it for him.

Look, the art of this deal is pretty simple if President Trump wants to seal the deal with evangelicals going forward: he can bash the media, the “deep state,” and disingenuous politicians all day long. He just shouldn’t make it personal. Evangelicals are watching. And honestly, is it worth it? I get it. They insult him multiple times daily and Trump’s instinct is to punch back ten times harder. But sometimes it just gets way too personal and it can cause him more political harm than good.

This seems like a good time for a Bible verse, not just for President Trump, but for all of us. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

About the Author

David Brody is the Chief White House Correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network.