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More Blunt Truths From Republicans, Please

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
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One of the most encouraging signs in this often depressing election year is that more Republicans are stepping up to try save their party. Not only is Donald Trump the wrong choice for conservative Republicans, some are saying, but the reason Trump happened to the party in the first place is that the party has some serious problems.

These Republicans don't just write Trump off as a fluke of a nominee -- one who is hugely unpopular and has little or no commitment to party issues. They accept that he’s part of a pattern of embarrassing candidates such as recent Senate nominees Todd Akin in Missouri, Christine O’Donnell in Delaware and Sharron Angle in Nevada.

Arizona Senator Jeff Flake and Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse are among those who have faced up to the bigotry that Trump exploits and to the closed information loop that allows myths to flourish within the party.   These and other voices hint at the possibility of a healthier Republican Party emerging from this debacle.

Another welcome sentiment comes from Steve Deace, a #NeverTrump talk-show host and author of a recent column titled "Conservative Media Needs To Do Its Job and Start Telling People the Truth.” He's right that Republican-aligned media have spread too much misinformation. Unfortunately, he falls far short of arguing for the truth.

Instead, before making his strong indictment of Trump, he starts by repeating the myth that Republicans in Congress haven’t opposed Barack Obama. Except for blocking Obama's Supreme Court nominee, he said, "it’s tough to pinpoint exactly how things would be substantively different if Nancy Pelosi were speaker and Harry Reid the majority leader.” 

This is exactly the kind of mythology that makes Republican voters willing to support Trump.

If congressional Democrats had retained the majorities they held back in 2009-2010, they almost certainly would have passed comprehensive immigration reform, a climate change bill and even some sort of gun safety legislation. Democrats on appropriations committees would have spent more on domestic programs (no one would ever have heard of a sequester), and Democrats on the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees would probably have paid for that additional spending with additional taxes on the wealthy. The minimum wage would be higher. Obama’s preschool and community-college initiatives would be law.

And not only would Democrats have confirmed a replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia -- and Obama would likely have nominated someone younger and more liberal than Merrick Garland – but most of the current 11 vacancies in circuit courts and 72 vacancies in district courts would have been filled with confirmed judges. Instead, Deace makes the preposterous claim that Republicans “rubber-stamped all of Obama’s administrative and lower court judicial appointments.”

Granted, Democrats would have needed very large majorities to do all of the things I mentioned. And maybe one or more of the party's initiatives -- gun control? -- would have been derailed anyway. But can you seriously make the argument that the Republicans have not succeeded in shutting down Obama’s legislative agenda? Or that Obama hasn't been just as successful at preventing Republicans from achieving all that they campaigned on? 

  1. Among conservative analysts, Bloomberg View's Ramesh Ponnuru and the health-care specialist Avik Roy are among those who have addressed this subject as well.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Katy Roberts at kroberts29@bloomberg.net