James Hohmann writes in the Washington Post:
“– Trump tried carrots, offering pizza parties and invitations to the White House bowling alley. Since that hasn’t worked, he’s using the stick. Niccolo Machiavelli wrote that one should try to be loved and feared. “But, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, it is much safer to be feared than loved,” the Italian diplomat explained in “The Prince.”
This approach makes much less sense in America circa 2017 than it did in the Italy of 1532.
In practice, throughout the history of our republic, this has almost never been an effective way to govern. Franklin Roosevelt, vastly more popular than the current occupant of the Oval Office, went all-in during the 1938 midterms against Southern Democrats who weren’t consistently voting for New Deal programs. The ensuing debacle, in which all but one primary challenger FDR supported lost, is a cautionary tale that Trump may want to consider before he follows through on his threats to knock off members of the House Freedom Caucus if they don’t quickly fall in line.
The defiance we saw from several members of the Freedom Caucus yesterday, including Sanford, strongly suggests that Trump’s gambit will fail. Rather than cower, principled movement conservatives wore the attacks as badges of honor. They saw the threats as testaments to their courage. And they pledged to never back down. The fact that Sanford went to the Charleston paper to say Trump had threatened him reflects the degree to which these guys are not scared.
“I have zero worries about it,” Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) told the Heritage Foundation-backed Daily Signal. “Trump’s tweets reaffirm that the Freedom Caucus is having a major impact on public policy in Congress — that the Freedom Caucus is not a force to be ignored. … If you want me to vote for a piece of legislation, either persuade me it is good for America or change it so that it is good for America.”
Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.), one of Trump’s earliest endorsers, said the Freedom Caucus won’t change no matter what the president does. “We’re elected as Republicans to put forth good conservative policy, and I’m on board as soon as we start doing that,” he told Roll Call. “In my district, we’re very conservative, so if he gets me out office, he’s going to get someone more conservative than me.”
“If somebody can get to the right of me in the primary, God bless him,” added Freedom Caucus member Trent Franks (R-Ariz.).”
Vladimir Lenin (an earlier generation Russian strongman) could have told President Trump that while Bakuninists (like the Freedom Caucus) can be useful in taking power, when you go to consolidate and exercise the power of government, well, not so much.
Lenin had a straightforward solution. He simply had Trotsky and the Red Army exterminate the Bakuninists, along with others who opposed his one-man rule. (Yes, long before he became the grandfatherly figure of the Frida Kahlo movies and stories, LT was a cold-blooded mass-murderer who had the misfortune to lose a power struggle to an even greater and more ruthless mass murderer, Joe Stalin) The survivors scattered and went into exile. Presto, problem solved.
But, our system doesn’t work like that, at least not at present. Most members of the Freedom Caucus were in office before Trump came along, and they fully expect to be there after he’s gone. And, giving in to the demands of the Freedom Caucus eventually would force some of the small number of less conservative Republicans (true moderates no longer exist in the GOP) to pal up with the Dems to block the most disastrous parts of the Freedom Caucus agenda.
Running for the Presidency is harder than being on reality TV. And, governing is much more difficult than running. So far, the message doesn’t seem to have gotten to DT. Will it?