A man who makes deals for a living does his deals in the world as he finds it. He accepts the world as it is, and tries to make the best deal possible. He doesn't try to change the world; he deals with it.
Leaders, on the other hand, such as Washington, Lincoln, and Reagan, do not accept dealing with the status quo. Reagan didn't want to deal with the Soviet Union. He wanted to destroy it. Jimmy Carter, on the other hand, believed in détente, in building relationships and making deals. He scoffed at Reagan and his inordinate fear of communism. In 1980, we wisely chose a leader, not a dealer.
A President Trump would make a lot of deals, or try to. But you don't make America great again by making deals. American greatness rests on American principles, as set forth in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Trump seems unfamiliar with these principles. He's more of a technician, and the fundamental law of this country is of little interest. What's that got to do with making good deals?
Trump would fit right in with the Washington deal-makers who are so contemptuous of Ted Cruz. Sen. Mitch McConnell knows how to make deals as well as Trump, and he knows how Washington works – you make deals. Like Senate majority leaders Trent Lott and Bob Dole before him, McConnell sees in Trump a man he can deal with.
In October of 2013, Cruz didn't want to deal with President Obama. He wanted to stand for the principle that only Congress has the power of the purse, and if the Congress chose not to fund Obamacare, it would not be funded, and it would die. The American people had put the Republicans back in control of the House of Representatives in 2010 in reaction to the passage of Obamacare, with the expectation that they would oppose it. Since all revenue measures must originate in the House, its refusal to fund would kill the program. Though he'd only been in the Senate for nine months, Ted Cruz was the leader of this attempt by the House to assert its constitutional authority.
Obama not only wanted Obamacare funded, but wanted a "clean" debt ceiling increase, one that did not require any spending cuts. He wound up getting everything he wanted, though there were some extraneous items added to the debt increase legislation. One in particular stood out: almost $3 billion for a dam. In Kentucky, of all places. We didn't get spending cuts; we got pork. Like Trump, Mitch McConnell knows how to deal. He had a re-election coming up in 2014 and needed to show his voters he still knew how to bring home the bacon. That's what dealers do.
It's really not hard to understand Trump's appeal. If Obama represented the "coalition of the ascendant," unmarried women, youth, and minorities, Trump represents those who seem to be descending – older, married, and white. The white working class in particular have been consciously abandoned by the Democratic Party and are well aware of it. They ask if anyone speaks for them, represents their interests, will fight on their behalf. Because Trump is so fearlessly politically incorrect, they see in him a champion.
What they want is another Reagan, and Ronald Reagan never bragged of his ability to make deals. He was a leader. The first and best example of his leadership on the domestic front was the tax cut package that was the foundation of his economic policy. Tip O'Neill ran the House with a 243-member majority. To get his bill, Reagan needed at least 25 Democrats. While he made some accommodations, he won his great victory not by making deals, but by appealing for support directly to the American people. He showed leadership, and the public responded overwhelmingly. O'Neill never knew what hit him. Reagan didn't deal. He led.
Trump says Cruz can't make deals because nobody likes him. But Ted Cruz doesn't have to make deals if he leads. For instance, there would be no "deal" on Obamacare. It's going to be repealed. And any appropriation that contains a nickel of funding for it will be vetoed. And if the funding is in the budget and causes a government shutdown, so be it. You win by standing firm, not making deals. Mitch McConnell may never like Ted Cruz. If you think that means he'll refuse to cooperate with him as president, you have absolutely no idea of how the mind of Mitch McConnell works. Ask Kentucky's Gov. Matt Bevin about McConnell holding grudges.
Here's the deal Cruz wants with the Democrats. It's the deal Reagan wanted with the Soviet Union. We win. You lose.
Fritz Pettyjohn was chairman of Reagan for President, Alaska, in 1979-1980; is a co-founder of the Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force; and blogs daily at ReaganProject.com.