Defeated multiple times on their own health care bill, writhing in confusion over political direction, you might expect Trump and the Republicans to scurry off, lick their wounds and try to regroup.
Instead they are forging ahead as if there had been no setbacks, no disabled carried out of the hearing room, no outrage from coast to coast at even attempting this nonsense after previous defeats.
Moving past health care as if nothing had happened, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell held a press conference September 27 to talk up a tax package as the same essential rescue of America from disaster that, a week earlier, they claimed for a much hated health bill.
(Has anyone looked deeply at this tax plan? Beyond the “do your taxes on a postcard” promise? Everyone supports a simpler tax code but how far will the GOP get removing the special protections for their own members, as they continue to deny those are even there? Or eliminating the mortgage deduction so popular with middle class buyers?)
Trump meanwhile is engaged in health care sabotage, along with promising an executive order to further a Republican myth and a health insurance company nightmare – selling policies across state lines in the hope that the cheaper states will drive costs (and real health care) downward. He has pulled most of the promotion budget for the health exchanges and for the Navigators, the trained helpmates for people to sign up.
These actions deliberately undercut some true bipartisan efforts in the Senate as Republican conservative Lamar Alexander and Democratic leader Patty Murray both believe that solidifying the insurance market and solving some frayed edges of ACA could succeed.
That runs straight into a seven-year itch of the Republicans to defeat Obamacare and to hell with the health of the citizens. They always had the wrong end of the elephant since improving health care should have been foremost – yet foremost was hatred of all things Obama. That was not only unworthy but probably gave them Trump to deal with.
The people don’t care whose name is on it, they just want affordable and comprehensive care, and recognize that Obama was at least trying for that while the Republicans are only trying to defeat the Democrats.
At this point it looks like only active citizenry can save the nation, as it always has. It’s time to talk to young people and others confident in their own good health and skeptical about needing coverage. They have to be forcefully reminded to get on board. Anyone can get sick tomorrow and it is unfair to ask fellow citizens to pay for their treatment. If they begin to feel a solidarity with fellow citizens, even a self-centered realization rather than a burst of compassion, they can sign up in droves no matter how Trump threatens and rants.
The Republicans are drowning in their own mudpit until they actually come up with better ideas. That seems to be harsh given some good people I know who vote GOP. But they of all citizens know how far their party has strayed from reality. They are secretly hoping that some explosion of reality will keep crazed Christian zealot Roy Moore from taking the Alabama senate seat in a December election.
“If you thought Jeff Sessions was extreme,” one D.C. journalist told me, “you ain’t seen nothin’. I’m hearing from Republican officials who would rather have a Democrat win than this guy. But Alabama is not about to turn that way,” he added, “and those Republicans know they can wish in safety.”
But Republicans are talking seriously – as are some Democrats -- about the need for a third party, of somehow isolating the Bannons and even the Trumps for more moderated positions that might actually succeed in running the country. Their fear is that Trump has unleashed a primitivism he can no long control and the more that raises its head, the more progressives will lash out in rebellion.
The health care debacle taught several Republicans to look outside their own party – the conservatives for something more extreme, the established Republicans for something more likely to work. Meanwhile the progressives are looking, too, but with more unfettered debate than the unhappy Republicans seem capable of.
They are watching with some dismay while Ryan and McConnell keep cheerfully pressing the wrong buttons. Given past behavior, I doubt they will stand up without some severe prodding. Such as the Mueller investigation.