A wise man once said that history doesn’t repeat itself, but it definitely rhymes. That seems to be the case these days in politics as both parties stumble along, making the same mistakes as their predecessors.
The Republicans began 2017 with a majority in both houses of Congress. Nevertheless, much like the 2009 Democrats, they were able to accomplish little. Democrats enjoyed a brief Senate supermajority that allowed them to eke out victories on healthcare and financial reform before the Republican wave of 2010, but accomplished little else.
For their part, the fractious GOP coalition could not muster together 51 votes to reform Obamacare, but they did manage to score a win on tax reform. Although opinions were initially unfavorable, the Republican tax overhaul is proving to be more popular than the early Democratic legislation.
Both presidents, Obama and Trump, quickly became unpopular and divisive figures. Rather than being coalition builders, both men practiced identity politics. Obama championed the traditional Democrat constituencies while Donald Trump rides a wave of anti-immigration and protectionist sentiment. Their partisan rhetoric makes it difficult to achieve bipartisan majorities to enable legislative victories.
Both presidents have spending proposals that match their oversized egos. Obama led off with a $787 billion infrastructure stimulus and a new healthcare entitlement. President Trump has proposed an infrastructure bill that costs $1.5 trillion, almost exactly twice as much as Obama’s spending bill, as well as new family leave entitlement.
Both presidents increased the deficit dramatically. President Obama presided over the first trillion-dollar deficits, which were later pared back by the Republican House. President Trump’s budget also calls for deficits in excess of a trillion dollars annually.
Both presidents also favored the use of executive authority to bypass the stalemated Congress. President Obama is known for his Iran deal and his executive creation of the DACA program while President Trump has issued a plethora of Executive Orders on everything from abortion to immigration.
Both presidents were also plagued by scandals. President Obama had the ATF program that allowed the shipment of guns to Mexico, Solyndra, the IRS harassment of conservative groups, his dealings with Iran and the Benghazi cover-up. So far, Trump has the Russia scandal, the firing of James Comey, numerous personnel problems in the White House and his daily Twitter feed.
Obama’s excesses led to the Tea Party waves of 2009 and 2014. There are indications, including a wave of Republican congressional retirements, that 2018 may yield similar good fortune for the Democrats. That depends, however, on whether Democrats can break the mold of another historical lesson from the Obama years.
Throughout the Obama Administration, Republicans believed that Obama was so unpopular that all they had to do was be anti-Obama and anti-Obamacare. That worked to some extent, but it failed to win the White House for Mitt Romney. Democrats may be making the same mistake now.
Democrats assume that if they play to their anti-Trump base, they will be assured of victory in 2018 and 2020. That may not be a good assumption.
Polling for Republicans is improving in the wake of the tax cuts and attacks on Trump seem to be yielding diminishing returns. If Democrats, mirroring the Obama-era Republicans, choose to run as anti-Trump rather than championing a positive agenda, they may be disappointed and disillusioned once again in November.
Disappointment for Democrats would continue the parallels between the Trump Administration and the Obama Administration. After all, Republicans spent eight years in the wilderness as they blamed one another for their defeats. Republican rage grew until they finally reached a point where they would rally behind someone -anyone- who would carry the fight unapologetically to the leftist elites, conservative principles and character be damned!
If the pattern of mirror image rhyming of history continues, the next six years will be a wild ride.
Originally published on The Resurgent