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Outsiders vs. Insiders: No need to panic, Donald Trump isn’t diving in with the swamp monsters

Are Mitch (McConnell) and Donald (Trump) pals once again?

One might assume so if observing them from afar the other day as the president (Trump) and majority leader (McConnell) stood side-by-side on a temperate fall afternoon in the White House rose garden briefing the media on the relevant topics of recent times.

Trump McConnellAs has become his custom Trump was effusive in his compliments for McConnell, a pattern the president often repeats when talking about people situated in his personal proximity. Heck, Trump even said sweet things about Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer last month after he’d dined with the Democrats at the White House. Trump saves his most barbed criticisms for his Twitter account. When folks are positioned right next to him, he’s a gentleman.

For his part McConnell returned the favor, clearly not wanting to appear as though he believed Trump was at fault for the snail-like pace in Congress. No one would have bought that argument anyway, except for maybe the reporters in attendance who would grab ahold of anything to make Trump look bad.

All in all, it seems détente prevails in Republican-land...or does it? Sarah Westwood of the Washington Examiner reported, “McConnell came to the White House at the president's invitation. Vice President Mike Pence, chief of staff John Kelly and White House legislative director Marc Short had pressed for a public detente between Trump and McConnell, a Republican close to the White House told the Washington Examiner

“[Trump’s] private meeting and public press conference with McConnell this week could alleviate fears within the party that the president could be looking to appease his base at the expense of GOP leaders, who he has blamed for delays in passing healthcare reform and tax cuts. But some Republican strategists predicted the truce will be temporary for two sides that have long harbored skepticism about the other.”

No doubt the establishment must feel relaxed now that Trump reached out and told ‘em to come on over for a little friendly chat and a sunny-toned press event. But Trump still has good reason to be skeptical of the party’s legislative leadership. They’ve enjoyed majorities for most of the past 22 years yet have produced relatively little (at least in the last decade), even when there’s been a Republican president waiting down Pennsylvania Avenue to sign their bills.

Most of the major “accomplishments” of this year have come from executive actions instituted and executed by Trump himself. With the possible exception of confirming Justice Neil Gorsuch and managing to roll back some of the Obama era’s more damaging regulations, the Republican Congress has relatively few publicly visible skins to nail to the wall.

That’s not good for Trump but it’s much worse for McConnell – and Paul Ryan too. They’re running out of promises to make to the donors who keep the boilers lit within the hallowed walls of party headquarters and the majority leaders’ offices. All the press conferences in the world aren’t going to pacify Republican and conservative voters if the party elites can’t produce. Needless to say, Trump isn’t going to stand for it either.

Westwood’s article details how Trump and McConnell appear united in their calls to limit primary challenges to establishment incumbent senators, presenting Steve Bannon as a potential agenda spoiler rather than a politically savvy outsider savior who understands electoral forces a lot better than a GOP ruling class that is only good at showing up to talk a good game during election years yet is terrible at actually turning promises into tangible legislation.

It’s clear that Bannon is on the minds of everyone these days – especially McConnell’s. David M. Drucker of the Washington Examiner reported, “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday told President Trump that Steve Bannon's midterm insurgency was detrimental to tax reform and other key elements of the administration's agenda.

“The Kentucky Republican communicated his warning during a private lunch with the president at the White House, sources tell the Washington Examiner.

“McConnell emphasized that Bannon, Trump's former chief strategist, was undermining the president's agenda with plans to recruit and finance primary challenges against Republicans who are some of his most reliable supporters in the Senate. McConnell might have made some headway.”

“Headway” in this realm means Trump indicated during the press event that he might encourage Bannon to call off the dogs on a few of the “nice senators.” Trump didn’t specify which ones but it’s also evident McConnell was there to beg for the political lives of some of his best chums in the upper chamber knowing full well that if the president got behind Bannon’s drive to extinguish the establishment that his days as senate Republican leader were numbered.

So Mitch pulled out the “Bannon is hurting us” card and drew sympathy from Trump. Common sense says Trump’s patience will last only so long as McConnell is able to get his senate herd to pass key items on the agenda. Otherwise all those campaign rallies with promises of “Make America Great Again” won’t materialize into something voters will see.

And that’s not good.

Drucker lists Bannon’s top targets as “Sens. John Barrasso of Wyoming; Deb Fischer of Nebraska and Roger Wicker of Mississippi. Barrasso and Wicker vote with Trump 96 percent of the time. Fischer sides with the president 92 percent of the time, according to tracking from FiveThirtyEight.”

Big deal -- their voting records are good. So is practically every Republican senator’s, including Arizona’s Jeff Flake and Nevada’s Dean Heller. But when push comes to shove and it’s time to advocate for a limited government position only certain Republicans – like Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and Rand Paul – are out front talking to the media and staring down the Democrats. The Republican Party needs advocates, not people who settle for preserving the status quo and slowing the decline of the country rather than reversing it.

And if Bannon’s speech at last weekend’s Values Voter Summit was an indication he wouldn’t likely accept pleas to ratchet back his primary challenges in any case. Bannon told the conservative audience at the FRC’s annual meeting that it will take years to expunge the establishment -- but he’s willing to sustain the fight.

Tim Hains at Real Clear Politics provided a short video excerpt of Bannon’s address, where the Breitbart leader said, “This populist-nationalist conservative revolt that is going on, that drove Donald Trump to victory, that will drive 15 candidates to victory in 2018, and I hate to break the news... to the folks at Vanity Fair. President Trump is not only going to finish this term, he is going to win with 400 electoral votes in 2020.

“Why is this a populist revolt? You guys have more common sense, more understanding of what we need to do. More understanding. And the first order of business is to undo all the damage of globalism, right? That allowed Silicon Valley, and Wall Street, and Hollywood, and the imperial capital right here in Washington D.C. and London and Beijing and Davos -- the party of Davos. To undo globalism. The reason we need populism, to get it warmed up, is there are bigger, more crucial decisions coming down the road in the next ten years…”

Does this sound like a man who’s open to capitulating on primary challenges even if Trump asks him to do it?

Bannon is a feared quantity in Washington precisely because he has a defined mission – to rid the capital of the establishment – and the wherewithal to get it done. Bannon isn’t thinking about tomorrow or next week or next month or next year; he’s looking at the long-term goal and understands it may take decades but eventually the people (i.e., populists) will win out and the American government will return to its constitutional roots and freedom will prevail.

Such talk sends shivers down the spines of the elites, people who worry about “populism” as though it were an embolism.

Liberals in particular are fond of populism when they believe it bolsters their mission to permanently trash and degrade traditional institutions. Whenever the subject of same-sex marriage surfaces, for example, Democrats are happy to cite polls supposedly showing a majority of Americans now accepting it and wouldn’t want the Supreme Court majority’s constitution-stretching nationalizing of the issue overturned.

But when it comes to the conservative side of populism liberals are snide and arrogant, claiming the majorities who favor enforcing the immigration laws are bigoted, xenophobic and backwards, desirous of returning America to a time when the country was pasty white and controlled by men in pressed suits.

Senile old coot Bernie Sanders ran last year as a leftwing populist vowing free healthcare and college tuition for all (among other things). That’s not real populism; promising free stuff that can’t possibly be delivered by a constitutional society is just out and out lies, not campaigning.

It doesn’t matter to the left; their version of “populism” includes perpetual dreams of impeaching Trump.

Elizabeth Drew wrote in the Daily Beast, “With Republican members of Congress becoming increasingly anxious about the unpredictable if not reckless president, the question of how Donald Trump could be removed from office has become more prevalent on Capitol Hill.

“The thinking used to be that the 2018 midterm elections might go a long way toward deciding whether the next Congress would take up this question. But with all the president’s recent saber-rattling, combined with his impulsiveness and alarming tendency to ignore his most qualified advisers, the matter is now considered more urgent.”

Considered more urgent by whom? In her article Drew lays out what could be used as grounds for constitutionally removing Trump from office; it’s basically just a laundry list of every complaint Democrats – and #NeverTrumpers – have said about the candidate and now president all along.

Donald Trump has repeatedly demonstrated that he possesses a virtually unmatched political instinct. Trump understands where he’s been and where he’s going and who can help him get there. Invariably he’ll recognize the leaders of the establishment aren’t his friends. The question is when will he make his final move to be rid of them?

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