Trump's First Victims: Paul Ryan And Movement Conservatives

01/24/2017 07:18 am ET Updated Jan 24, 2017
Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

In the middle of the tirades, flecked with lies and insults, its hard to listen for the important nuggets of information and opportunity. It’s hard to find areas of commonality. It’s hard to listen and even harder to keep silent.

But there’s so much at stake that listen we must. We can do two things at once. Opposition to the lies and insults and threats is required. So is protecting the health of the nation, and its economy.

That means understanding what Trump actually wants to do, not just what he says.

Take health care. The Ryan’s Rabid Right wants a clean repeal of Obamacare and to hell with the impacts on twenty million Americans. Trump says no, repeal and replace. That could be a way of saying we’re going to amend Obamacare but keep everyone insured. Depending on what he amends that’s an acceptable even a desirable outcome.

Take infrastructure. The Ryan’s Rabid Right wants no part of a new government expenditure program. If Trump puts together dollars and projects that build roads, bridges and subways what’s the objection?

Take trade deals. Ryan’s Rabid Right are trade globalists. Even as NAFTA unrolled, and companies fired American union employees making forty dollars an hour and hired foreign workers making ten, they stuck with it. Unions were the loudest opposition. They wanted to protect higher earning workers from globalized sweat shops. Trump says he wants to end corporate export of jobs. Depending on how he does it, what’s the problem?

We need to be clear-eyed about the dangers and the opportunities. Trump may let the good things drift away in a fog of incompetence and anger. But what say the left if he protects those who benefit from Obamacare, employs thousands in new construction and stops the shift to low-wage foreign factories?

The left opposition is energized as we saw across the nation. But there’s now real concern coming from the right. Trump is not a movement, small-government conservative. He’s an anti-globalization nationalist. He’s not inclined to strip benefits from folks who voted for him. He’s capable of smacking those who oppose him on the left or the right. One can conjure up events which make Trump’s first political victims Paul Ryan and the “Freedom Caucus.” What do they do when Trump insists that no one lose health coverage, or builds new roads in rural America?

Even if events roll out this way, there will be plenty of awful things to oppose and grass roots action is the foundation of playing defense against them. The needs of historically marginalized groups, environmental protections, world peace and civil and human rights will be battlegrounds. But, in the midst of the lies and tirades, listen for the surprising kernels of opportunity. Paul Ryan has as much to worry about as Chuck Schumer. Maybe more.

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