Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne writes in his column on Tuesday that the Republican-controlled Congress is the last vestige of an ideological party that will not rest until it has pulled every lever of government power to aid its Christian conservative base.
In this context, he writes, President Trump’s announcement on Thursday that the federal government will no longer fund so-called conversion therapy for minors is sure to be celebrated by Republicans. That’s because Trump himself subscribes to the religious conservatism that is the public face of the Republican Party — which is not, in my view, the whole story.
For starters, it’s important to understand that Trump’s announcement on conversion therapy is hardly a game-changer. More importantly, it can be readily understood as only one more of the ways Trump’s ascendance has exposed the limits of Republican power.
The U.S. government could, and should, fund family planning programs and provide health care services, including education, to all Americans, regardless of their income. Instead, it largely shies away from such efforts. Trump was elected promising more of what these programs have proved they can provide. Yet the Republican Congress has so far refused to comply.
Further, despite the arrival of the first African-American president and the Democrats’ control of every branch of government, Republican majorities in Congress continue to push policies that negatively affect blacks.
Other radical measures have gone unopposed. The Trump administration has declined to enforce laws against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It has repealed a rule to cut back on offshore drilling and has endorsed a course of action to turn Medicaid into an unfunded entitlement program.
All of this is a very long way of saying, of course, that even without the Trump administration, the Republican Congress is looking increasingly powerless, let alone interested in the public good.
But by discussing the limits of Republican power, Dionne is in many ways telling us a different story: that of a majority party whose leaders, despite holding executive and legislative authority, remain committed to the views of the electorate in the far-right ends of the political spectrum.