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House Republicans' frustrations may doom their majority

Michael Barone on

The nightmare scenario facing Republicans like Reichert, Dent and Trott is that they get opposed by Trumpish (or Steve Bannonish) or tea party-type Republicans in their primaries and by well-financed Democrats, who have been lining up to seriously contest the general election.

Plus, the reward for winning is coming back to a House Republican Conference split between leadership loyalists and the House Freedom Caucus and dissed and possibly spurned by Trump. Trump and the House Freedom Caucus types share a corrosive distrust of House Speaker Paul Ryan, but their views on important issues are often wildly divergent.

House Republican rebels insist on purism and are oblivious to the history that legislative majorities, if they stick together, can move policy significantly in their direction.

House Democrats -- for example, Henry Waxman with the expansion of Medicaid -- did this even in the Reagan years, but not by preventing the party's House leadership from amassing majorities for the basic task of governing.

Republican incumbents may be choosing to retire to avoid harsh competition in primaries and in November. But they may also be motivated by something verging on despair over the fact that their party seems likely to fall far short of what it might reasonably have been expected to accomplish with the presidency and majorities in both houses of Congress.

In those circumstances, they seem to be behaving as the Founding Fathers expected and as politicians routinely did until 1898 -- pursuing other endeavors and letting someone else endure the frustrations of trying to govern.

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Michael Barone is a senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and longtime co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.

Copyright 2017 U.S. News and World Report. Distibuted by Creators Syndicate Inc.
 

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