Trump’s Next Move: Infrastructure

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I’ve changed my mind on priority.

Instead of going to tax reform next, President Trump should work on that big-league infrastructure bill. Now. Fast.

President Trump needs a big win because power is in perception. He also needs to put Democrats in a bind. Plus, he needs to prove he can pass big legislation without all GOP factions on board.

The solution is infrastructure.

During the campaign, Trump spoke of a massive building project to rejuvenate our roads, modernize our airports, and more. Trump’s dream sounds more like a traditional Democrat plan than a Republican idea. (Unless you count Eisenhower and Reagan as Republicans.) Shifting to infrastructure now could more than overcome Trump’s defeat on health care.

Infrastructure Can Pass

Trump’s best known for building his way to billionaire status. That makes Trump seem like an expert on the subject. No one considered Trump an expert on government health care. And no one can deny that he’s an expert on building big, huge, beautiful things and running them great.

Byron York, one of my favorite columnists, makes a great point today in a column called “14 Lessons from the GOP Obamacare Debacle“:

Had Trump and the House GOP tackled, say, an infrastructure bill first, the story from Capitol Hill would have been a president and Congress giving things to the American people — surely a more popular legislative start to an already controversial presidency.

Even though infrastructure will have enemies in the GOP, Congressmen and Senators from Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania know that jobs matter. Democrat governors are openly salivating for the projects. So are a lot of Republican state legislatures, though less publicly.

Infrastructure projects promise both immediate, short-term jobs and longer term boosts to productivity and growth. Even some Freedom Caucus members from the rust belt will feel obliged to get on board this train.

But that’s not the best part.

Democrats Will Cross Over for Infrastructure

Trump’s relationships with labor unions are already high for a Republican president. Now, he needs to deliver something to that small but well-funded and activist constituency. He needs to deliver jobs.

Democrats know they can’t fight Trump on a bill that puts a lot of union members to work. Infrastructure will attract enough Democrat votes to neutralize the Freedom Caucus, which will probably oppose the legislation.

And that last point is perhaps the most important.

Courting Democrats Builds Leverage With Republicans

President Trump and Reince Priebus both said they are more willing to work with Democrats now than before the health care debacle. That’s smart negotiating. It’s leverage.

If you remember back to 2015, a lot of Republicans were complaining that many of Trump’s ideas sounded more like a Democrat. That means Trump would be completely consistent with himself if he sought more support from the other party.

Plus, in 2020, Trump won’t be judged by how happy he made 40 members of the Freedom Caucus. He’ll be judged by whether or not he made America great again in the eyes of voters. That’s just the way it is.

And the GOP’s majorities in Congress are so slim that Trump really needs some Democrats down the road. He could have used a dozen in the House on Friday. He will definitely some in the Senate for just about everything.

Again, hat tip to Byron York for reminding us:

Find more votes. Unless there is exceptional unity on an issue, the GOP doesn’t have enough votes to ignore Democrats and pass big legislation entirely on its own. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid (barely) passed Obamacare with 253 Democrats in the House and 60 in the Senate. Paul Ryan has 237 Republicans and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has 52. The GOP has virtually no room for error.

If every major bill relies on every Republican faction, Trump will accomplish nothing and Democrats will take the House in 2018. Believe me, Democrats will take the House in 2018 if Trump and the Republicans don’t get big things done. (I’m not alone on this. Ted Cruz agrees with me.)

As we saw last week, even after Mark Meadows and David Brat reach an agreement with House leadership and the White House, Meadows and Brat might not deliver the Freedom Caucus. There’s a chance that group will oppose all major legislation, including tax reform if it’s not to their liking. So Trump needs to attract some Democrats now, and infrastructure is the low-hanging fruit.

And timing is important on getting those Democrat cross-overs.

Commitment and Consistency

The sooner some Democrats hold their noses and vote for a Trump initiative, the more Trump can rely on those Democrats in the future. You know this because of the persuasion principle called “commitment and consistency.” The longer Democrats vote “no” on everything the president proposes, the harder it will be for them to get behind the president later.

Researchers find in numerous studies that getting people to take an easy, painless step now makes it more likely that they’ll take a harder, more painful step in the future. That’s because the brain is wired to display consistency with past commitments.

With the right messaging, those Democrats who support the bill will make a statement of commitment to jobs, growth, and making America great again. When it comes time to vote on tax reform, Trump just needs to wrap that legislation in the same commitment language.

A strong move on infrastructure would make a lot of people happy. Happy people see more positives than unhappy people. That makes it easier for people find positives in future, tougher legislation like tax reform.

If Trump makes a strong move on infrastructure in the next two weeks, his larger vision will pick up steam after the summer recess. And the warring factions in the GOP will have to consider this: are their interests better off if they negotiate with Trump or if the Democrats negotiate with Trimp?

Voters will judge Republicans on what they get done between now and the 2018 elections. So far, they’re putting up goose eggs. A big win on infrastructure will make a lot of people happy and forge new alliances that can make America great again.

How to Neuter a Crossing Guard

Reading Time: 5 minutes

This is for my conservative friends who are celebrating the healthcare bill’s demise. You’ll want to read it all.

Let’s begin with a little story about a crossing guard.

Imagine you are standing at a dangerous intersection now. Cars whizzing by nonstop in all 4 directions. You feel powerless and frustrated. There are no structural safeguards, no physical barriers, to keep us from getting hit. There is a crossing guard, though.

This crossing guard can get us safely through the intersection if the drivers respect his authority and power. Only if they stop when he raises his hand. That’s all he’s got.

Those drivers take cues from each other. When they see other drivers stop, they stop, too. But when they see one driver run through the crossing guard’s stop sign, they all feel more emboldened to do the same.

Pretty soon, the crossing guard is just another poor slob standing on the side of the road with the rest of us. And none of us can get where we want to go.

In a moment, I’ll talk about the healthcare bill. But, first, I want to talk about breathing.

You Think Like You Breathe

Notice your breath for a moment. Are you breathing fast and shallow or slow and deep? Breathing is so important. Breathing affects our hormones and hormones affect our thinking. We can change our thinking by changing our breathing, and we can change breathing by changing our thinking.

Slow deep breaths cause the body to produce less cortisol. Fast, shallow breathing produces more cortisol. Cortisol causes weight gain, hardening of the arteries, and defensive thinking. The part of the brain where memories and strategy rest, the hippocampus, shuts down when cortisol levels rise. We react to the immediate stimuli without using our most valuable and effective knowledge. We become like animals snared in a trap.

That cortisol hormone does a good job of keeping us alive when we’re in extreme danger. But it does a huge disservice when we’re not under physical attack. In real danger, we don’t want to think deep thoughts. We want to hide, overpower our attacker, or run away.

Now that you’re aware of your breathing, you realize you’re not in physical danger. A tweet can’t really endanger you personally, can it?

The big enemy we all oppose here is big government. And we all know the bill Ryan crafted in the dark did little in that regard. So there was good reason to oppose that bill.

But there is also something larger at play here, and if you breathe slow and deep, you might feel better about a lot of things today.

Actions Have Consequences We Sometimes Don’t Consider

Remember how you felt on November 9? And remember how you felt on January 20. Remember seeing all those violent protesters in Washington and other places? Which team were you on then? Maybe you didn’t say anything, but you were probably on Trump’s team. You were probably a little proud and amazed that he did it. Despite all the doubts and all the MSM 98% certainty that Hillary Clinton would choose Antonin Scalia’s replacement, you were happy to be on the winning team.

You might find yourself breathing even deeper now just thinking about that winning day. We tend to take a deep breath when we win.

That inauguration day was less than 70 days ago, so the memory is still fresh in your mind. Then, you probably expected all kinds of great things. With a Republican House, a Republican Senate, and a Republican President, we could do a lot to realize our dreams of smaller government and a growing economy. Who doesn’t want to make America great again?

And then some Congress people reverted to their old ways. Bills written by lobbyists. But that’s not the worst thing that could happen.

Now imagine this: imagine if Neil Gorsuch gets rejected by the Senate. Imagine one or two squishy Republican Senators like Susan Collins deciding Trump doesn’t have the political power anymore to hold her vote. Imagine if Mitch McConnell decides, after that healthcare vote, that it’s too risky to use the nuclear option on Gorsuch. There’s no going back from that option, really. The next Democrat president will have it, too, just as Trump’s cabinet benefits from the Democrats’ nuclear option.

Many people are saying the health care bill’s failure has greatly reduced Trump’s power. He might already be a lame duck, along with this Congress.

If you’re breathing faster and shallower now, just pay attention to your breathing. You will start to breathe slower and deeper in a moment. And that’s important because you don’t want a lot of cortisol clogging your arteries and shutting down your hippocampus.

Consequences We Might Own

Blocking the healthcare bill was a high stakes gamble. It took a lot of courage to fight against a president in his first 100 days. I can’t remember a newly inaugurated president getting hit so hard so early in his administration. Reagan suffered a few setbacks, but nothing like this.

It’s very likely now that Obamacare will live forever. At least as long as you and I are alive. It’s also possible that there will be no tax reform. Do you think 8 Democrats are so afraid of the White House that they’ll break with their party to vote for cloture on a tax reform package now?  How do you see that happening?

It’s also possible that Gorsuch will be rejected, either because some squishy Republicans bail or because McConnell loses the nerve to change the filibuster rule. That means those Obama and Clinton judges in the appellate courts will decide the law until Trump finds a Supreme Court candidate so “moderate” that 8 Democrats will support them.  How do you think such a justice would rule on abortion, on gun control, and on immigration?

And if this Congress and this Republican president do nothing major between now and 2018, how do you expect voters to keep this Congress in power? Trump won because he recognized that many people think America is in bad shape and going in the wrong direction. They expected Trump and Congress to change the direction of the country. If nothing gets done, won’t they try something new? Remember, most voters are not like you and me. Most voters don’t care about our principles. And in-fighting among Republicans only makes them care less about those principles. To the average American voter, we all sound strange and abstract. To the average voter, we care more about academic theories than we do about their lives. You can probably remember hearing this from people yourself if you think about it.

How’s your breath going? Just take a deep breath and feel your stomach swell out. You’ll want access to your memories soon.

Our Crossing Guard and Our Accountability

Now, remember that crossing guard? The Freedom Caucus and some conservative think tanks drove the first car through the stop sign. If the other drivers—McConnell, Collins, Schumer—see there’s no consequence to ignoring the crossing guard, we’ll all fail to get where we’re going.

Maybe we don’t like the way the crossing guard distributes the stopping and going. Maybe we don’t like the hand signals he uses. But, until Friday, he was at least trying to get a few of us to the other side. He was trying to get some of us a little closer to our destinations safely.

Maybe that crossing guard will get some of his power back. Because principles without power are just platitudes. I hope so. I know of all the great things the Heritage Foundation and the Freedom Caucus have done. But neither Heritage nor the Freedom Caucus can stop that traffic without a strong, respected crossing guard.

You, like me, believe in accountability. And you, like me, recognize that accountability begins with ourselves. When we choose a direction, we must accept the consequences of our choice. Conservatives may have laid the foundation for Democrats retaking Congress in 2018. If that happens, the Freedom Caucus, Heritage, and Club for Growth own at least 40 percent of the blame.

I now return you to your natural breathing.