Washington disarrayed over faction turmoil

By Clifford A Kiracofe Source:Global Times Published: 2017/8/6 20:13:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Can the turmoil in Washington and the crisis in governance be overcome? Deep structural issues in the US polity suggest that this will not be easy or soon in coming.

President Donald Trump won his election because the American people rejected business-as-usual Establishment politicians subservient to Wall Street. It was the victory of Main Street over Wall Street at the polls.

When they voted, Americans were fed up with endless and unnecessary wars. The top issues were the economy, terrorism, illegal immigration and border control. Public opinion has not changed on these issues and the political reality is that support for Trump is rising in Mid-Western and Southern states.

So what is going on?

The most important fact to bear in mind is that both America's main political parties are split into factions under Establishment and Wall Street domination and factions that are not. Bernie Sanders represented the anti-Establishment faction in the Democratic Party and Donald Trump represented the anti-Establishment faction in the Republican Party.

But when Trump won the election, he tried to accommodate the Establishment faction of his party. He permitted the all-important job of the head of presidential personnel to fall into the hands of the Establishment faction. Thus, his transition team and then his administration team were flooded with people from the Establishment faction.

In the meantime, ardent Trump supporters of a populist-nationalist bent were overlooked or locked out by the Establishment faction. This meant that in the White House and in the administration, these two factions generally came to loggerheads over policy. The internal contradictions could not be overcome and the result has been disarray and a dysfunctional White House.

Trump attempted to appease the Establishment by making the party-savvy Reince Priebus his chief of staff. His choice of Mike Pence for the vice president position also reflected accommodation for the Establishment. 

Trump thought that these two would help him win support in Congress for key legislative initiatives. But the catastrophe over healthcare reform proved otherwise. It also proved that he could not rely on Paul Ryan, the Republican Speaker of the House, and on Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate Majority Leader, who are both Establishment Republicans.

Trump compounded his political mistakes with Congress by harsh treatment of his very own political base in the House of Representatives. This is a group of about 25 populist-nationalists called ''the Freedom Caucus.''

Internally, the White House has become disordered for two main reasons. First, Trump as a businessman had a very idiosyncratic management style of creating rival groups in his organization and pitting them against each other. This chaos theory of management is not transferrable to the political realities of Washington, DC. 

The second main reason for the disarray is that he had no political experience and was unfamiliar with the complexities of the politics in Washington and the complexities of the vast Executive Branch bureaucracy.

Complicating and inflaming the situation even more is the hostile media war against Trump conducted by the mainstream media, which is dominated by the Establishment and Wall Street.

Trump finally has taken some decisive steps. He fired Priebus and replaced him with the highly respected Marine Corps general, John Kelly. Kelly promptly fired the bizarre and incompetent communications director Anthony Scaramucci. The ineffective press spokesman Sean Spicer, a Priebus ally, was fired earlier. 

Trump now must belatedly create an effective communications team and an effective legislative relations team. Additionally, he must weed out any Establishment Republican operatives in the administration who seek to undermine his policies.

All this is a tall order. Kelly, while a proven manager, does not have political experience. But he does clearly support Trump's policy line, particularly in security matters. Conversely, H.R. McMaster, Trump's present national security advisor, is out of step with Trump's vision.

So after a very rocky half-year in office, it may be that Trump can finally bring some order out of chaos. But there are significant problems in both his domestic legislative agenda and in his foreign policy. 

Trump must get the White House act together and lead the US forward out of its present political, social, and economic mire.

The author is an educator and former senior professional staff member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn Follow us on Twitter @GTopinion

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