The shelving of his health care overhaul -- despite an alliance with the House speaker and negotiating techniques that built a billion-dollar brand -- is a dramatic example of the limits of Trumpism, and of what a brash new president can hope to achieve.
Trump immediately blamed Democrats for offering unanimous opposition, declaring the “losers” to be the top House and Senate Democrats. Yet he also hinted at a particular frustration with members of the House Freedom Caucus -- the far-right members who held out for a more complete repeal of Obamacare.
“We learned a lot about loyalty,” the president said. “I’m disappointed. I’m a little surprised, to be honest with you.”
It’s a brutal blow to the Trump agenda, one that will ripple through nascent legislative efforts in other areas. Yet there’s an intriguing flip side for Trump, who campaigned against Washington and leaders in both parties, and without a fixed ideology.
Trump may now feel liberated to abandon far-right elements of his own party. He’ll find it hard to appeal to willing collaborators on the Democratic side, but tax reform and an infrastructure package hold enticing possibilities for new partnerships.
Trump quickly pronounced that because, in his view, Obamacare is “exploding,” Democrats will be looking to work with him in the future on stronger health care reform. That sounds like happy talk, given his sharply partisan statements on the topic, but Trump has surprised before.
“I don’t think this is prologue on other future things,” the speaker said.
Still, the Trump presidency stands diminished by the whirlwind repeal-and-replace push. The bravado is stripped away after members of his own party showed that they didn’t fear his political force.
The precious first 100 days are now nearly two-thirds complete. So far, Trump has been held back by the judicial branch and the legislative branch, as well as his own actions.