When the one-man band called Donald Trump shows up on your TV screen, you can’t look away.

Yellow hair, orange face, red tie hanging down toward his knees, he’s a spectacle. And even he doesn’t seem to know what’s going to come out of his mouth next.

With a guy like that up front, it’s hard to remember that Trump is not a solo act. He’s the leader of the majority party that has control over all three branches of government and he would not be where he is today without the loyal support of almost all Republicans almost all of the time.

That’s important, because governing is a team sport, and if you put aside the allegations of Russian espionage and creepy lawyers who make payoffs to porn stars, you can’t separate the Trump agenda from the rest of his party’s.

So what is the Republican agenda? In the last two years we have gotten a pretty good idea:

It starts with dismantling the health care system.


Right out of the gate Republicans passed a bill in the House that would have cost 23 million Americans their health insurance. Then the Senate tried to pass a bill that would have pushed 22 million off the books, but it came up short, thanks to courageous votes by Republican Sens. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and John McCain.

The party didn’t give up, though. The president did what he could from the executive branch, canceling cost-sharing payments to insurers so that premiums would rise, and making it harder for people to sign up for coverage by slashing the marketing budget and cutting the open enrollment period in half. Then congressional Republicans came back in the picture by passing a tax cut bill that not only exploded the deficit, but also eliminated the tax penalty for people who don’t buy health insurance. (Collins, Murkowski and McCain were back on board this time.)

They did that knowing it would start the “adverse selection” wheel spinning, where healthy people drop their insurance to save money, leaving the sicker people in the insurance pool, thus causing rates to go up and more healthy people to cancel. Combined, all of these factors are going to substantially drive up rates next year.

And they weren’t done. Republican governors sued the federal government, saying that without the requirement to buy insurance, the law becomes unconstitutional. The bargain with the insurance companies was that they would get millions of new customers who were required to buy their product, but in exchange they could not reject people who had pre-existing conditions.

The Trump administration says it will not defend the government in the case, so depending on how the Supreme Court handles this, millions of Americans who have survived cancer or other diseases could be forced to risk life without health insurance – just as they were before the Affordable Care Act.

This is not the work of one man. It doesn’t mean that every Republican is on board with every issue, just like not every Republican agrees with everything the president tweets.


But the reason that the stand taken by Collins and the others last year was such a historic moment is that it was so unusual.

Collins is widely known as the most bipartisan member of the Senate, but she votes with Trump nearly 80 percent of the time, according a tally kept on the fivethirtyeight.com website. And although it was nice to see 2nd District Rep. Bruce Poliquin stand up to the lunatic fringe in his party last week, he’s on board with Trump more than 90 percent.

The Democrats don’t really make their way into this conversation. It’s like the comedian Michelle Wolf said during the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in April, “Democrats are harder to make fun of because you guys don’t do anything.”

Like all the meanest jokes, it’s true, but it hasn’t always been this way. The Democrats had control of Congress and the White House for two years, from 2009 to 2011. They passed an $800 billion stimulus package aimed at stopping a depression; a financial regulatory framework to protect consumers from the kind of fraud that crashed the economy, and a health care program that made coverage affordable for 20 million people.

None of those efforts were perfect. Maybe none of them were even good enough. But that’s what they did when they had the chance.

The Republicans have had their free shot since 2016. And what have they chosen to do with it?


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