After promising to "repeal and replace Obamacare on day one [of his presidency]", Donald Trump suffered an ignominious rejection on day 64.
True to form, Trump took no responsibility for the defeat of the Republican plan (the American Health Care Act) but, instead, blamed Democrats. Trump had attempted a "full-court press" to secure passage of his plan but was not successful winning over Tea-Party Republicans and, at the end, moderate Republicans who objected to last minute changes to the bill.
What have we learned?
1.The Resistance Works: 64 days ago, when Trump lumbered into the White House, it was unthinkable that he and his exuberant Republican allies would not succeed repealing the Affordable Care Act.
Then Democrats built a grass-roots resistance. They put aside whatever differences lingered from the stinging November 8th defeat and began to work together in every congressional district.
It's true that at the end, congressional Democrats stood united against the Trump-Ryan legislation, but the resistance pushed them to do this. Think of the millions of phone calls that were made to members of Congress -- supposedly 48:1 opposed to Trump's bill. Think of the all the citizens who showed up at congressional town hall meetings.
On the March 24th Rachel Maddow show, Rachel detailed how the resistance in Morris County, New Jersey, (NJ 11) convinced hard-line Republican congressman, Rodney Freylinghuysen to vote against Trump's plan. The resistance works and it is just getting started.
2. Trump's entire legislative agenda went into the toilet. The Trump Administration had planned on a big healthcare win to facilitate a massive tax reform -- big cuts for the wealthy -- and to follow this with a jobs bill -- faux infrastructure construction. Now it's "back to the drawing board."
Trump's problem is that he can't draw and has no "drawing board." ("There's no there, there.") What he has is a collection of tired campaign one-liners, such as "we're going to repeal Obamacare and replace it with something terrific." The substance in the Republican plan came not from the Trump White House -- which has a tiny policy group -- but from the Republican Congressional leadership (and the network of conservative think tanks that support them).
Repealing the Affordable Care Act was the linchpin of the Trump legislative "agenda." Trump's huge loss has jeopardized Republican chances in the 2018 midterm elections.
The re-election cycle has gotten very long and, therefore, political observers says that any substantial Congressional legislation has to be accomplished in the first 200 days. We're a third of the way through these 200 days and it look like 115th Republican-controlled Congress is a bust.The 237 Republican representatives, who are up for re-election in 2018, have a huge problem.
3. Trump's approval ratings will get worse. Failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act might mean nothing to the Trump Administration if "the Donald" had high approval ratings, but he doesn't. His latest favorability ratings show him "underwater" by 20 points and headed down; even his support among Republican stalwarts has slipped -- and will slip further after March 24.
The longer Trump goes on with no significant legislative accomplishments, the more his ratings will decline. The more Trump's approval ratings decline, the less likely Republicans in Congress will be to defer to him. (And the less likely that Trump will get any significant legislation passed.) Before Labor Day, most Republican Congressmen will crank up their reelection campaign without Trump.
What happens next? The next focus of the resistance should be opposition to the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. As was the case with defense of the ACA, Americans should call, fax, and text their Senators. They should demand to see them to express their disapproval of this nomination.
Meanwhile the investigation of the Trump campaign's ties to Russia stumbles through the Washington jungle. If it bogs down, the resistance needs to demand a special prosecutor.
Trump has failed. Hugely. But Trump is like a wounded predator thrashing around in pain; he's capable of inflicting enormous damage if he's not constrained. The resistance needs to keep the pressure on in order to prevent further damage to American Democracy.
Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. In a previous life he was one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.