The Tea Party is, once again, flexing its muscles. Little noticed in the 2016 election results was the changing ratio between Tea Partiers and the Republican caucus as a whole in the House of Representatives. Republicans lost seats, but not many of these losers were Tea Partiers. This meant the relative strength of the Tea Party increased, overall. The real power dynamic, though, is that when the Tea Partiers hang together, they've got a big enough bloc to halt any Republican-only legislation cold. Which is what they've just accomplished, on the Ryancare bill. Paul Ryan was forced to concede that there will be no vote today, which means he will be robbed of symbolically voting on Obamacare's replacement on the day Obama signed it into existence, seven years ago.
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What are the chances that the Ryancare bill will pass Congress? We are now two days from its first test, and the answer is as unclear as ever. Whatever happens is going to take the measure of the relative political strength of Paul Ryan, Donald Trump, and the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party. If the Tea Partiers win this struggle, it could doom any chances for actual governance from the Republican Congress for the next few years. If the Tea Partiers lose, there may be a frenzy of primary challenges for sitting Republicans in Congress in 2018. Either way, the next two days could be definitive.
Donald Trump will doubtlessly go down in history as many things, but what we're all coming to grips with right now (a bare two months into his presidency) is that Trump will also surely be remembered as the first "Conspiracy-Theorist-In-Chief" in American history. Trump, in fact, personifies the old adage: "I've made up my mind -- don't confuse me with the facts!" This was on full display today, as the heads of the F.B.I. and the N.S.A. testified before a House committee that there is simply no evidence whatsoever that can in any way, shape, or form validate the wild claim Trump made two weeks ago -- that Barack Obama had personally wiretapped Trump Tower during the campaign. This adds to a long list of people (who all have the highest security clearance and full access to such things), all of whom have now said the same thing: no evidence exists whatsoever to back up Trump's bizarre accusation. None. Nada. Zip. Zilch.
That title is not a weak attempt to make a pun on the genetics company "23andMe." It is not a throwback to "23-skidoo." And it's definitely not an attempt to sound like a quarterback calling signals at the line (besides, it's the wrong season for football metaphors). Instead, it represents the three biggest hurdles that Republicans now face in their efforts to dismantle Obamacare.
It's never a dull moment in Donald Trump's White House, and this weekend was certainly no exception. Trump began the weekend early Saturday morning by tweeting out what seemed to be a conspiracy theory. This did precisely what it was intended to do, which was to divert attention from the growing questions about Russian influence in both the Trump campaign and in his administration. Trump was reportedly furious during a Friday meeting that Jeff Sessions had recused himself from the investigation, because to Trump any backing down from any previously-held position is a sign of weakness and not to be tolerated. As dawn broke on Saturday, Trump decided to distract the media by tossing another Twitter hand grenade into the political conversation, and as a result Sessions quickly dropped from the news.
This was supposed to be a good week for Donald Trump. He was going to give a big speech, and he was all set to roll out the 2.0 version of his Muslim ban. As usual in the Trump administration, though, things didn't quite work out as planned.
As is frequently said in Washington, it's not the crime but the coverup that gets you. It's looking like that theory is going to be tested sooner than anyone might have expected, in the Donald Trump administration. No matter what happens now, they may have already done permanent damage to themselves in the eyes of the American public. The underlying theme of Trump being no more than a stooge for Russia's Vladimir Putin seems to be growing by the day, at this point. Which means that everything they do to fight this image is going to have the flavor of "Methinks they doth protest too much" about it. At this point, they can't avoid it.
The Democratic National Committee met this weekend and elected as its new chairman Tom Perez, who narrowly beat out Keith Ellison on the second round of voting. It was the most contentious race for party chair seen in decades, so the first challenge Perez is going to face is whether he can quickly achieve any sort of party unity before the big push for the midterm elections gets underway. He's got his work cut out for him, but the bigger question is whether he'll be an effective party leader for the Democrats, and whether he can reverse the slide in the party's relative strength both nationwide and at the state and local level.
That question is becoming more and more acute for the rest of the world, in reference to President Donald Trump versus the rest of the Trump administration. If you were the foreign minister from a country in Europe, for example, would you believe what Trump says about American policy towards Europe and Russia, or would you believe his minions, such as the Vice President Mike Pence or Secretary of State Rex Tillerson? This dilemma could become a sort of low-level ongoing crisis, since Trump's comments are so far removed from what others in his administration are saying. Who are you going to believe? The boss, or the underling who is making much more sense? That's a pretty risky geopolitical gamble to make, no matter which side you choose to believe.
There are two things currently happening in the world of Democratic and progressive politics, which are happening independently of each other, for the most part. This weekend, the Democratic National Committee will meet to elect a new chair. Meanwhile, out in the hinterlands, the progressive wave of energy and resistance to Donald Trump and his agenda shows no signs of abating. But I would extend a word of caution to whomever becomes the next D.N.C. chair: Don't attempt to corral or co-opt the burgeoning Indivisible movement -- instead, just do your damnedest to fulfill their expectations.