Many would say that Donald Trump had the odds stacked against him from the start. He not only faced brutal competition from his opponent but also from his own party. Yet, as he now stands as the future President of the United States, Republicans who cried “Never Trump” face a choice—set their differences aside for the sake of the party or waste the rare opportunity created by Republicans’ control of both the legislative and executive branches.
There have been only fourteen instances since 1945 in which a party controlled the House, the Senate and the White House. Democrats have had control 11 times, while Republicans had only three. In each of these instances, the party in power had the ability to push through their agenda with little opposition. This Congress, however, might do something quite different, as the divide within the Republican Party creates questions about its ability to pass legislation.
Undoubtedly, Donald Trump has promised to advance certain policies that are faithful to the Republican platform—repealing Obamacare, preserving the Second Amendment and cutting back regulations. However, his remarks about minorities and women and policies regarding trade have more than a few members of Congress questioning his Republican credentials. Trump’s strict immigration policies also have many concerned about the impact of trade with Mexico. These differences make some in Congress particularly cautious about Trump. Senator Ben Sasse, for example, has recently pledged that he will do “everything in my power to hold the President to his promises.”
As the lines between Trumpism and conservatism blur closer together, it is easy to forget that Congress needs Trump just as much as Trump needs Congress.
But this caution could easily turn into a power struggle between establishment and anti-establishment Republicans. While the establishment may be grateful that Hillary Clinton was not elected, many see Trump’s win as a way to propel their own policies under the guise of party unity.
The establishment walks a fine line between aiding a man with no political experience and attempting to control him to push its own agenda. If Republicans attempt the latter, they forget one thing—the man they may try to turn him into is the very man that Americans voted against. If voters favored the establishment, they would have voted for someone else. Instead, they voted for change. And what began as a “Never Trump” movement before the election could possibly end up being something much worse—a division in the party.
As the lines between Trumpism and conservatism blur closer together, it is easy to forget that Congress needs Trump just as much as Trump needs Congress. In navigating this divide, Trump’s ability to negotiate will be put to the test. The deals he will make will be as much with members of his own party as they will be with Democrats. At the end of the day, party unity is a two-way street and any bumps in the road will be utilized to the other side’s advantage—something neither the President-elect nor Congress wants.