The draft border deal never had a prayer because Republican voters favor construction of The Wall by more than 90 percent. To try and push a bill that does not deliver the pronounced policy priority of the party base was doomed.
That position was widely known and broadcast before former President Donald Trump weighed in against the bill. Trump may have delivered the coup de grâce, but a bill without 900 miles of The Wall never had a chance —as the attempts at comprehensive border legislation never had a chance in 2013 and 2007. What a party’s base holds dear has to be respected. Period.
Which brings us to the national security package that will continue on through the Congress, shorn of the border provisions, beginning in the Senate where it is likely to pass and be sent forward to the House, where it’s fate is less certain —though it should pass with a large bipartisan majority.
The Supplemental is expected to include a generous amount of military aid for Ukraine Pew Research reports that 48% of Republicans believe that too much aid is going to Ukraine. 33% of Republicans respond "not enough" or "just right" on the question of whether enough aid is being sent from us to Kyiv, and 18% respond with the honest and always refreshing "don’t know."
The GOP is very much in favor of aid to Israel and Taiwan and enjoys very strong majorities on beefing up national security spending generally. So what’s a viable political party to do? When a significant minority of the party on one issue disagrees with the historic GOP position?
For parties to function, they must keep most of their members, activists and donors happy most of the time. To consistently ignore or, worse, reject party majorities is to court, if not defection, then at least indifference.
Short answer: Vote for the package. The issue of aid to Ukraine drives a handful of Republicans voters and a few elected Republicans crazy for a variety of reasons, but those reasons are not persuasive to the historic "Party of Reagan," and the number of opponents deeply opposed to the Ukraine aid is not large enough to drive the Party away from its historic roots and enduring majority.6346436002112
For parties to function, they must keep most of their members, activists and donors happy most of the time. To consistently ignore or, worse, reject party majorities is to court, if not defection, then at least indifference. It seems certain that a majority of the party would support the supplemental.
Party leaders on national security, like Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, Sen. John Cornyn, Sen. Tom Cotton and Sen. John Thune, have all made the case for sending aid to Ukraine to assure that Putin does not win the war in the spring, summer and fall of 2024. They are far more persuasive than opponents, whose arguments are difficult to summarize but are sincerely held. These opponents are not agents of the Putin regime as the way-too-crazy left wing and their legacy media mouthpieces like to assert. They are, rather, in the long tradition of Republican isolationism which waxes and wanes but is never more than a small if not insignificant percentage of the party.
National security is the GOP’s issue, especially after President Biden’s catastrophic exit from Afghanistan, his failure to deter Putin from a second Ukraine invasion (the first having occurred under President Obama), the president’s failure to deter Iran in its ceaseless attacks on American forces and international shipping and now to back away from wholeheartedly standing with Israel in the aftermath of the 10/7 massacre.6346437514112
The president got off to a great beginning with the Jewish State when he visited Israel following the atrocities. But ever since Team Biden has been pursuing a slow, steady, indeed inexorable effort to force Israel to accept something less than the destruction of Hamas. It is a classic Biden mess unfolding, and it’s going to get worse as Biden perceives in Israel’s necessary war of survival a threat to his re-election.
Republicans by contrast need to be steadfast in their support of Israel. It is the equal of any ally we have, a nuclear power, and the only democracy in the Middle East. Trump was a reliable friend to Israel. Biden not so much. The House GOP has to deliver the aid our allies need and do so quickly.
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National security is going to be one of the go-to points of the former president’s campaign if he wins the GOP nomination and presses his case against the infirm and increasingly confused president. (Tuesday’s moment when the president could not summon the name of Hamas to mind is just the latest in a long string of "Whoa!" moments.) Trump can continue to promise to conclude a peace in Ukraine quickly but if Putin has rolled forward on the next nine months it will be far more difficult to do.
The GOP, if it is to remain a viable party, simply has to pay attention to what matters to its base. Judges and specifically the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Justice Scalia was crucial to Trump’s win in 2016, and Trump realized that and pushed the issue hard. If he (or Ambassador Nikki Haley) want a shot in November the party platform has to be crystal clear on the Wall, on rebuilding the nation’s defense and industrial base, projecting power on and under the oceans and on standing with our allies. "Peace through strength" didn’t begin or end with Reagan but it remains the weight-bearing wall of the party. It cannot be abandoned because of a noisy minority no matter how sincere or loud.
Speaker Mike Johnson may well lose his gavel if he forces through the Supplemental as the GOP as a whole wants. The Knucklehead Caucus that toppled former Speaker Kevin McCarthy is still there, still ready and able to fundraise off of chaos and clicks, and it may throw a tantrum when Ukraine aid passes, and mount yet another mindless attack on itself.
National security is serious stuff, however, the most serious stuff. Sacrifices may have to be made, including by the Speaker. Johnson needs to step up come what may and guarantee the country’s defenses and its alliances.
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