Here’s something I’m quite sure I’d never have said would it not have been for the 2016 presidential election: I feel sorry for professional politicians. Republicans and Democrats alike. Not to mention the Libertarians, Greens, anarchists and the handful of weirdos who comprised Jake’s Political Party—a party whose sole purpose was to get a guy named Jake elected to anything. Any democratically elected position anywhere in the United States. (He lost, by the way. To everybody. On Nov. 9, the party voted to ban itself—but I digress.)
I feel sorry for them because each must have intense ideologies, whether buried under the way business is done in the Beltway or worn on their sleeves. I’d guess that, for most, their ideologies brought them to politics in the first place: "Hey, I’ve got some good ideas about how we should run this country, so I’m going to run for office."
I’m sure each of them would have loved to have spent more time in 2016 talking to the media, not to mention constituents, about how exactly they plan to make America a better place. But particularly since the actual election Nov. 8, they’ve probably spent 99 percent of their time talking about Donald Trump. That’s too bad and is probably tremendously unfair, but on the other hand, given the chance to speak to a member of the House of Representatives, one cannot not ask about the president-elect. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann was good enough to field my questions about him. I’m sure he knew the questions were coming.
In describing the 2016 presidential election, Fleischmann called it "very dramatic." Who would disagree? It’s a cautious, nigh-on euphemistic characterization. But given the opportunity and perhaps temptation to dance upon Hillary Clinton’s grave, it’s at least considerate.
In Fleischmann’s view, the Democrats were too Clinton-centric in their overall strategy, from prenomination to Election Day. As though she were owed the presidency. Reader, are you familiar with Father Michael Pfleger? A Chicago-famous thorn in the Vatican’s side, a Catholic priest from the South Side,and an unabashed Barack Obama supporter? In the leadup to the 2008 presidential election, he spoke thusly of Clinton and the Democratic presidential nomination. Skip to about 2:19. The word would be "entitled." Fleischmann implied the Democrats' defeat in 2016 was due in large part not only to Clinton’s sense of entitlement to the White House, but most of the Democratic Party’s sense that America owed the White House to her. For the record, Fleischmann also said Joe Biden would have been a more formidable opponent, particularly against Donald Trump.
Given the unprecedented campaign promises that Trump made, I had to ask Fleischmann about what the new administration’s priorities are going to be. The wall? Deportations? A Clinton prosecution? Without hesitation, Fleischmann said there were two: Repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (AKA Obamacare) and tax reform. From a GOP perspective, two fairly normal-sounding political priorities, ones which any one of the original Republican candidates could have also realistically proposed. So I pressed a bit further regarding some of Trump’s more unprecedented (now it’s me speaking in euphemisms …) rhetoric from the campaign trail. Fleischmann believes the administration is serious about them and will get to them, "in time." In other words, we may yet have that wall.
Overall, Fleischmann described the president-elect’s agenda as "ambitious" and has prepared himself for an "unprecedented amount of time in session." In his observations and from his interactions with Trump, Fleischmann believes him to be a practical and "results-oriented" president-elect. In fact, Fleischmann said of the GOP ticket, Trump was the more "pragmatic" one, with Michael Pence being the "ideologue." At any rate for Fleischmann, and for Congress in general, there appear to be long days ahead.
One of the biggest questions on my mind, and this would have been true had Clinton won, is how exactly does the president-elect unite the country? Certainly 2016’s presidential election divided the nation in a way unlike any other in recent memory. The depth of the rift, in fact, is quite discouraging. But Fleischmann pointed out that even going back as far as the foundation of the country there have been enormous political divides in American politics. Even as the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution, they fought among themselves about what the role of the very government they were creating should be. America has survived the divides and even thrived.
Fleischmann mentioned that he believes Trump’s talk of unity is sincere. That is, despite the divisiveness of the campaign, Trump really does want to bring both sides together. Fleischmann stated that Trump should "reach out early in (these) difficult times" to those who oppose his positions and policies. In an example of what doesn’t work, in terms of successful policy implementation, Fleischmann said, "Obamacare was a dismal failure," and that Obama did not reach across the aisle as it was being created. It begs the question, "What good would it have done?" but Fleischmann’s point, I think, stands. If ever there was a time to reach across the aisle, whether Democrat or Republican, this is it.
Again, many thanks to Fleischmann and his staff for taking the time to do this interview. Stay tuned for part three in a couple of weeks, where the topic will be the alt right.
Paul Luikart is a writer whose work has appeared in a number of places over the years. His most recent book, "Animal Heart," is available now from Hyperborea Publishing. Follow him on Twitter. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.