The Washington Post had a story this week entitled, “Trump threatens hard-liners as part of escalating Republican civil war.” It made me wonder: Why has the president himself had to take the point in the fight against inter-party opposition? Not that anyone can control the president’s tweets, but where has the Republican National Committee’s new chair, Ronna Romney McDaniel, been? I was often critical of former Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, but President Barack Obama knew he could rely on support from the DNC when times got tough. Even if Wasserman Schultz’s support was counterproductive at times, at least it was there. I give the now-exiled DNC chair her due. So where is the RNC?
The president’s problems are the party’s problems. But so far, McDaniel is taking a low-key approach in making that clear. As more and more reports highlight the president calling out the Freedom Caucus and other House Republicans who opposed the American Health Care Act, one wonders why tweets are in the headlines and yet pressure from the party leadership calling on Republicans to support the president’s agenda is hard to find.
When pressed this week during a Michigan radio show interview about the Freedom Caucus’s role in blocking Republicans’ efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare, McDaniel said the “president’s going to work with them. We have to work with all Republicans. We’ve got to all come together and let our purpose unite us. The reality is, if we can’t get things through in one group or one caucus, it is not helping to push the agenda that every Republican ran on, which was the repeal and replace of Obamacare. They are basically siding with the Democrats.” Well, that’s nice. But why isn’t that message, with a little more of a cutting edge, being splashed all over the airwaves and Internet? And while we’re at it, why did Katie Walsh, an RNC veteran and until yesterday, the president’s deputy chief of staff, leave her post at the White House to work with America First Policies, an independent pro-Trump advocacy group, when it seems as though the RNC could use some help in organizing efforts to defend the president’s policies?
Anyway, it’s the RNC’s job to protect and promote the president and the Republican brand and to take the lead in enforcing party discipline. The RNC chair’s voice is applicable in all areas where the president is being challenged, from opposition against the replacement health care bill to the growing partisanship of the Russia investigation to the filibuster threat surrounding Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination. The list goes on. And theoretically, an RNC chair has the freedom to say things that aren’t necessarily befitting of government officials who work at the White House.
To follow through on campaign promises regarding health care, tax reform and infrastructure development, the president will need all the support he can get. I’ve worked around several RNC chairmen. I recognize that it is still early in the administration and that it takes time for the media to gravitate to the chair. But the silence is still concerning. It is time for the RNC to get in the game.
Ed Rogers is a contributor to the PostPartisan blog for The Washington Post.