Mark Schoeff Jr.: No Trump coattails for Stutzman, dilemma for Young
Thursday, May 05, 2016 10:12 AM
WASHINGTON – Following his domination of the Indiana Republican primary, Donald Trump is basking in an aura of “maybe.”
Now that he’s the presumptive presidential nominee of one of the two major political parties, there’s a 50-50 chance he could win the White House.
By Labor Day, the “maybe” is almost surely going to become a “no” for the real estate mogul and reality TV star who offends more people than he inspires - even though he will be running against another candidate, likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, whose disapproval rating also exceeds 50 percent.
But voter rejection of Trump won’t necessarily translate into down-ballot trouble for Republicans. So far, he appears to have no coattails.
Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd CD, was hoping to ride the anti-establishment Trump wave a win.
No matter how toxic Trump makes the political environment, Republicans will certainly maintain control of the House and could hold onto the Senate.
Rather than give Young breathing room, this situation presents a challenge for him and other Republican candidates this fall.
They must demonstrate whether they will govern with a President Clinton or will extend the political gridlock that has become the hallmark of the relationship between the GOP Congress and the Obama administration.
Young has portrayed himself as a conservative who also can get things done, although some bills he touted, such as one to give Congress the power to stop costly regulations, only garnered GOP support.
He depicted Stutzman as a back-bench bomb thrower who was more focused on blowing things up than making things work in Washington. That pitch was effective in winning the primary.
But now Young and one of his biggest allies, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and other Republicans will have to lay out a plan for governing in the general election. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., already is trying to turn the focus of the campaign toward policy and away from personalities.
People are fed up with dysfunction in Washington that alienates them from governance and keeps their concerns off the political agenda.
Young and his Republican colleagues will have to decide whether they can accept a third straight Democratic administration and actually reach agreements with the executive branch that can make Washington worthy of the trust of the American people. This doesn’t mean approving everything Clinton proposes. But it does mean considering it in good faith under the assumption that she also is trying to do what she thinks is right for the American people.
McConnell has secured bipartisan successes on an array of measures since taking over Senate leadership in 2015.
But on major issues, namely, consideration of a Supreme Court nominee, the chamber has tended toward inaction.
The question for the GOP will become: How will you react to a President Clinton? Are you going to block her Supreme Court nominee - or, if in the minority, filibuster the choice - for four years? Are you going to work with her on foreign policy or let partisanship continue to seep beyond U.S. borders?
The inflexible, pugilistic approach to governance favored by nihilistic tea party Republicans has fostered the rise of Trump and his former chief rival for the GOP nomination, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
If Young, McConnell and other Republicans want to take the party in a new, more productive direction, they will have to show a willingness to govern.
For Young, that will mean going beyond boilerplate rhetoric, such as “I’m a pro-gun, pro-life conservative who wants to replace Obamacare,” as he told HPI publisher Brian Howey in a recent interview.
It will mean taking risks to talk about concrete ways to help struggling Americans that incorporate the best ideas from both sides of the aisle.
Maybe making America great won’t carry the day in the general election. Perhaps making Washington work will.
Schoeff is Washington correspondent for Howey Politics Indiana.