By Judd Gregg - 07-24-17 06:00 AM EDT
How could President Trump and the Republican Congress have so far failed to execute on one of their primary goals?
How could they not have come up with a healthcare plan that repeals and replaces ObamaCare? After all, they only need a bill that can be passed by a Republican-controlled Congress.
It is not that Republicans do not know how to govern.
If you look at the states, it is fairly evident that those with primarily Republican governance fare much better than those where Democrats hold most of the levers of power.
Compare Illinois to Texas, or New York to Florida, or Rhode Island to Idaho, or Connecticut to Utah. The list goes on and on.
The states with longtime Democratic governance are grossly overtaxed and ill-managed, suffering from massive unfunded public employee pension programs and patronage. Often their population is declining.
The longtime Republican states are the opposite.
People and businesses are expressing their dissatisfaction with the ineffective Democratic-dominated states by leaving. They often move to the Republican-dominated states where the lifestyle and job opportunities are simply better, in large part because the style of governance is also better.
It is true that these states have lengthy histories of being dominated by one party or the other, while the federal government has swung back and forth between the parties - often with neither party having dominance.
Thus, at the federal level there has been no consistency of effort.
But this reality is not really the core reason for the failure of the president and Congress to move forward with their agenda.
The problem seems to be much deeper than lack of consistency; it goes to a lack of a sense of responsibility.
The Freedom Caucus in the House has made it virtually impossible for Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to develop workable solutions to complex problems such as replacing ObamaCare. It is their way or no way on most key issues.
This approach pushes most proposals away from the territory where bipartisan support - or even Republican unanimity - can be found.
In the Senate, which has always had a strong cult of individuality among its Republican members, there are a number of folks such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) who protect their sense of their own purity by simply not cooperating on anything that is realistic.
Given the GOP's narrow majority, Republican action in the Senate is wrapped around the wheel of these individual senators.
These facts make it virtually impossible for Ryan or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to deliver on the most basic campaign purposes of the party.
They can of course be overcome.
All it takes is leadership.
Presidential leadership, to be specific.
It is true that the president retains the support of his most ardent followers. He seems to look solely to those supporters in determining how he governs. But, at best, they number less then 30 percent of the electorate.
No member of Congress gets reelected with 30 percent of the vote. It is simply not a big enough swathe of the population to drive an agenda through.
The president's unyielding approach may defeat some folks he is frustrated with in primaries. But it only stands an extremely slim chance of helping elect people in competitive races in general elections.
It is not a divide-and-conquer approach. It is a divide-and-sub-divide approach that reduces significantly an already-small majority.
It is much more likely that Republicans in Congress - and maybe even some Democrats - would respond to a president who spoke to and for more people than his base.
Threats rarely accomplish much in politics. But reaching out constructively to other constituencies beyond your core supporters can build coalitions that, in turn, produce results.
A better approach for the president would be to go beyond his true believers and actually generate a working majority.
It is sitting there.
Literally, all people need to see is someone who accepts the responsibility of the job - someone who understands that leadership in a democracy means speaking for and to the many, not the few.
Judd Gregg (R) is a former governor and three-term senator from New Hampshire who served as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, and as ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Foreign Operations subcommittee.
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