It’s no secret that the Democrats were caught completely unawares by Donald Trump’s upset victory. But it turns out that all the Republican gloating about the polls being very, very wrong was just for the cameras. Over the long Fourth of July weekend, a Republican Senator admitted that almost no one in his party expected a Trump victory.
Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania held a town hall meeting at WHTM-TV in Harrisburg on Wednesday night. At that gathering, Toomey dropped a bombshell–hardly anyone on his side of the aisle expected to have Trump in the White House. Watch a clip here.
When asked why the Republicans can’t seem to figure out a way to repeal Obamacare despite having complete control of the federal government, Toomey offered a very frank assessment.
“Look, I didn’t expect Donald Trump to win. I think most of my colleagues didn’t, so we didn’t expect to be in this situation.”
The GOP spent almost six years campaigning on repealing Obamacare. The main fruit of this was innumerable votes to repeal Obamacare in the House. The Senate finally voted to repeal Obamacare in December 2015–but it was well aware that with Obama in the White House, it was a veto waiting to happen. Despite this, according to The Washington Post, nobody in the House or Senate GOP held any planning sessions to hash out a potential replacement for Obamacare in the event Trump won.
Once Trump’s victory was beyond doubt–in part due to Toomey’s own state of Pennsylvania flipping to Trump by a paper-thin margin of 0.7 percent–Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell found themselves in a scramble. They had to keep their promise to the base, but didn’t have a credible plan on the table in order to do so. Ultimately, they decided to push for a clean repeal of the Affordable Care Act, then figure out how to replace it in the next two or three years.
As we now know, that plan exploded in the GOP’s face. The House was ultimately forced to craft a replacement bill that repealed those portions of Obamacare within the scope of the budget–but the replacement was so bad that the Senate opted to blow up the bill and start over. However, at present the Senate bill is on life support.
This stands in sharp contrast to the 2008 election cycle. Knowing that it was possible that they would have a federal government trifecta, the Democrats were already putting out feelers for what would eventually become the Affordable Care Act long before Election Day. While there was still a lot of intraparty haggling over the next two years, the Democrats already had some idea of what to do and how to do it. The Republicans, in contrast, didn’t seem to have either of those nailed down.
But that isn’t the only Republican pet project that seems to be languishing because no one actually expected a Trump victory. For instance, Ryan has long dreamed of overhauling the tax code. As part of that overhaul, he wanted to slap a tax on imports. However, there were never any intraparty discussions about an import tax during campaign season, leaving the entire tax reform package in limbo. Additionally, Trump’s much-ballyhooed infrastructure package has barely gotten off the ground because spending-averse Republicans never even gave it a second thought.
The most glaring evidence that even Republicans were shocked that their man actually won, though, is that key jobs in the administration are being filled at a slower-than-glacial pace. It was no secret that the potential talent pool for sub-Cabinet posts–the people who do most of the gruntwork of running the executive branch–was more limited than would be the case for a “normal” Republican administration. After all, a significant number of those worth getting were never-Trumpers. Trump has faced particularly tough sledding filling national security posts for this reason.
But The Post discovered that there was another large category–people who didn’t bother angling for posts because they believed there wouldn’t be a Trump administration in the first place. In contrast, there were a large number of volunteer advisers in the Hillary campaign who were already preparing to be interviewed for jobs in a Hillary administration. Simply put–one party was prepared to take the reins on Inauguration Day, while the other party wasn’t.
It’s no secret that the GOP doesn’t know how to govern. We need only look at what has happened in Kansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, and countless other states where the GOP either has or had all of the levers of power to see this. But it’s quite another thing to not even be prepared to govern. That’s essentially what Toomey admitted over the weekend. File this away for 2018.
(featured image courtesy Gage Skidmore, available under a Creative Commons BY-SA license)