Politics is Not Governing: Storytelling in Trump’s America

ryan

Politics is not governing. A simple and fairly obvious statement. One which has been made ad nauseam in the days following the catastrophic failure of the American Health Care Act. A statement which is increasingly apparent to the Republican Party.

Factions, making outlandish statements for the sole purpose of media attention, and obstructionist actions are fine when you are the opposition party.  These actions made the Republican Party extremely successful under President Obama.

The Republican Party is not the opposition party. They are the majority party. They govern a unified government.

Well, “govern”.

This inability to effectively govern has highlighted an important issue for the Trump administration and the GOP. Seemingly lost in the stories about the failure of the American Health Care Act and how that legislation came to its demise is attention to the stories themselves.

The problem is not simply the articles about the GOP’s failure to pass President Trump’s first piece of major legislation. The problem is not journalists writing that Republicans have no idea how to govern and that as a consequence Paul Ryan needs to resign.

Taken in the moment these are articles about a single failure. A single failure is easily forgotten given it is followed by success. Or had been proceeded by success. A single failure can be the anomaly. When failure becomes, or is, the narrative, however, that is when a single failure is the beacon of a much larger problem.

President Trump and the Republican Party have a big problem.

Being the minority party means obstructionism and attention-seeking via whatever means necessary. Campaigning is rhetoric, promises and exploitative bushwhacking. In a word, politics. In two words, not governing.

In fact, this is essentially the opposite of governing. Consider Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and subsequent victory.

Make ridiculous statements which are readily proved demonstrably false. Draw attention to yourself by whatever means necessary. Establish strength when in public. Find your specific audience and speak to that audience at every opportunity in order to invigorate those supporters and strengthen their opinion of you.

This strategy won Donald Trump the election. But he did so without the popular vote. Without winning over new votersWithout winning over his own party.

A popular loss. A narrow Electoral College victory. Bipartisan apprehension regarding his legislative agenda. This strategy did not win Donald Trump a political mandate.

And the news following November 9th has not been any better.

Failed nomineesPotential ties to foreign governmentsProven ties to foreign governments. Alienating foreign leadersBipartisan condemnation of the President. Historically low approval ratings. A monumental defeat on President Trump’s first piece of major legislation. Doubt regarding the ability of the President to pass his next piece of major legislation. Or really any major legislation.

This succession of stories weaves a tale about President Trump and about the Republican Party. It’s a narrative. It’s a narrative of failure.

Not a single failure. Not successive failures. Simply failure.

When the narrative is failure, the narrative supposes future failure. And when future failure is supposed there is no hope for governing. Because governing requires support. Support requires the prospect of success. The prospect of success is nullified by the expectation of failure.

To illustrate this point a bit here is selection of recent media regarding the Trump administration, and the Republican Party. Apropos to President Trump, the selection is composed of tweets.

In summary, conservative news outlets/commentators/politicians criticizing the Republican Party generally, Paul Ryan specifically, and the legislation promoted by President Trump and GOP leadership. And also the President calling out his own party.

It’s a narrative. Politics instead of governing. Politics over governing.

Politics is not governing.

Follow @armchairmidrash on Twitter to get notifications of the latest posts and to continue the conversation.

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