One thing the two of us share is a love of the Los Angeles Lakers. Once a source of pride for the fans, the team has fallen from relevance to the point where fans no longer identify as such.
Since Kobe Bryant’s last great season in 2013, in which he led the league in scoring the majority of the season, the franchise has fallen to last in the NBA’s Western Conference.
Lost in despair, Lakers fans like us are left to reminisce about the glory days rather than watch a game in real-time. We remember the team’s dominance in the 1980s, when stars like Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar led the team to five championships. Fans are left to wallow as our beloved Lakers flounder.
It is a bit like the current situation for many Republicans.
Despite a resounding victory last November, elected Republicans have repeatedly shown that they are unprepared to lead the country and deliver on key elements of their agenda. This has left many long-time conservatives wondering how a party so dominant and influential over the last decades now faces an intra-party civil war.
Let us examine the most recent instance of the GOP’s failure: the implosion of the American Health Care Act. Last week, House Republicans retracted their proposed measure, which would have repealed and replaced the Affordable Care Act, before it went to a vote.
With a majority in the House, Republicans could have passed the bill if all but 22 GOP members voted in favor of it. Though that seemed like a safe margin, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan quickly realized that, despite the president’s alleged deal acumen, they lacked the votes to pass the bill. On Friday afternoon, he removed the bill from the docket — effectively killing the AHCA.
This political fumble reveals the bitter infighting and weak leadership rampant within the Republican Party. We are reminded of a memorable Lakers moment from last year when rookie guard DeAngelo Russell let slip that teammate Nick Young had cheated on his girlfriend, pop star Iggy Azalea. Needless to say, this incited a teamwide feud, turning the locker room chemistry toxic.
That, we imagine, is the atmosphere within the House Republican caucus. What ultimately brought down the AHCA was that it found itself lodged ideologically in between the arch-conservative Freedom Caucus and the moderate wing. Upon introduction of the bill, members from each side withheld their support, believing the bill was either too conservative or too liberal.
Any adjustments that could have been made to appease one side and earn their votes would have lost votes from the other end of the Republican spectrum. Unable to reconcile the factions of his party, Ryan decided to pull the bill rather than suffer the inevitable defeat of a failed passage vote.
There is also a clear parallel between personnel problems on both the Lakers and in the GOP. When traded to the Lakers in the summer of 2012, the emotionally volatile superstar Dwight Howard was assumed to be leader of the new-look Lakers. However, his constant criticism of the organization and selfish play quickly isolated him from the team. When it came down to the wire in the 2013 playoffs, Howard choked under pressure and failed to lead the team to victory.
Ironically, the ultimate deal-maker, President Donald Trump, failed to close the deal on the AHCA when Republicans needed him most. For almost seven years, the GOP has railed against the ACA and vowed to implement an effective replacement. Most national Republicans in the last seven years have run on the platform of repealing the ACA. However, when thrust into the spotlight, Trump and his congressional allies presented a mess of an attempt at a conservative health care system that raised premiums, reduced protections for the elderly and uninsured millions.
Although the GOP controls two — soon to be three — branches of government, rank-and-file Republicans should brace themselves for a Laker-like experience, with more infighting and botched execution in the coming months. Republicans are learning that it is easier to oppose something than to solve the actual problem. Next up on the docket are tax reforms and budget battles, both of which, with firm opposition from Democrats, will prove difficult for a splintered governing party.
Christian Mesa and Aaron Bennett are sophomores in the College. Playing Politics appears every other Friday.
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