The problem with democracy is that people never just shut up and give you what you want. Take American democracy, for example. You would think that after Republicans won control of all three branches of government—at no small cost to their principles, I might add—people would accept their robust agenda of cutting taxes and reversing the flow of time. But no. Everyone has to get their pantaloons in a buncherino over who’s going to die, what sexual orientations deserve legal rights, which countries colluded with the president’s campaign, et cetera. By “everyone,” I mean Republicans. Today is Friday, and even the conspirators are too divided to act. Won’t you vent your frustration with me?
Good news for freelancers with trick shoulders: Senate Majority Leader Mitchell “Mitch” McConnell has declared that there will be no vote on the Senate bill to replace Obamacare. This turn of events is a blow to the Republican agenda and, frankly, satisfying comeuppance after listening to them rail againast the Affordable Care Act for the last seven years. It is easy to find fault. It is not so easy to find workable solutions, as McConnell discovered over the past few weeks. He lamented the phenomenon in this statement, which also proposes a terrifying idea:
“Make sure to emphasize that Obamacare is the real failure,” he told his staffers. Also note the appearance of the word “immediately” in the established phrase “repeal and replace,” like a guest star who comes on in the last episode of a long-running drama to take the fall. So we failed to replace Obamacare immediately. We’re still going to replace it. What do you say we just repeal it now and replace it later?
Fortunately, the New York Times reports that plan dead on arrival. The same Republican senators who did not want to take health insurance from millions and give them savings accounts also did not want to take health insurance from millions and give them a timeline. For now, at least, the effort to repeal Obamacare has failed decisively—even though Republicans control both houses of Congress and the executive branch when “Watters’ World” isn’t on.
What does it all mean? I don’t think we can call this a triumph of Democratic opposition. Various operatives, particularly Andy Slavitt, have kept up a steady drumbeat against the Republican plan, but it’s hard to argue they stopped it. McConnell scratched his vote because a handful of Republican senators wouldn’t go along. They were the usual moderate naysayers: Murkowski and Collins, plus Shelly Moore Capito of West Virginia. Their persistent refusal could mean a few things:
- The GOP has drifted so far to the right on issues of social welfare as to lose the moderate members of its caucus.
- The bill under consideration was so particularly bad for women that these three women objected.
- Contemporary Republican politics is vigorous as a critique of liberalism but morbid as an approach to governance.
Guess which explanation I favor. The Republican lifestyle brand as we know it today was forged in opposition to Barack Obama. He was the smooth-talking biracial latte drinker atop the pyramid of liberal power, and they were the Real Americans who said no. Over the last nine years, the outlines of this coalition have become remarkably clear. You can guess whether someone votes Republican by their car, their facial hair, their music and TV habits, their religion—any number of cultural signifiers. This cultural coalition is the one that propelled Donald Trump to the White House, but it is not a coalition of political interests. Once you have to start making concrete policy choices, the Republican coalition falls apart.
How many interests do a West Virginia coal miner and a Chicagoland hedge fund manager have in common? What health care policy goals does Peter Thiel share with Ted Cruz’s dad? All four of these people are likely to agree on the issue of President Obama, but it’s harder to think of what else might bring them together. Right now, the GOP base consists of whites with high school diplomas, the investor/rentier class, evangelical Christians and libertarian idealists. A parliamentary system would put these demographics in at least three different parties. The contemporary Republican coalition has brought them all together, but it is not well suited to governance, because it is not an alignment of natural political interests.
It’s a great way to get a bunch of people all watching the same TV network or voting against the same lady. But it has yet to be fully tested as a machine for solving the country’s problems or even passing substantive legislation. After nine years of tenacious opposition, the need to cooperate may be what finally shakes the modern GOP apart.
Did you hear? President Trump dropped the MOAB on Afghanistan, killing 36 ISIS fighters and presumably ending our 15-year war. “MOAB” stands for “mother of all bombs.” The 11-ton weapon loves all other bombs and just wants them to be happy, and even though it has different expectations for each bomb, it is behind every single one of them 100 percent. You know who else loves bombs? Fox and Friends. Here’s the video they put together for yesterday’s strike:
“The video is black and white,” Ainsley Earhardt says, “but that is what freedom looks like. That’s the red, white and blue.” It’s true that a tyrant could never bomb anyone. Freedom isn’t life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness. It’s a giant explosion seen from 30,000 feet. It’s Geraldo Rivera and his Wario mustache saying that “one of my favorite things, in the sixteen years I’ve been here at Fox News, is watching bombs drop on bad guys.” Today is Friday, and the most comfortable people in the world love to watch other people get bombed. Won’t you experience hot, searing freedom with me?
Congressional Republicans have released their plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, and it is less than comprehensive. Andy Slavitt, former Acting Adminstrator for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid services under President Obama, described the plan as “basically a $600 billion tax cut funded by gutting Medicaid.” Although its architects claim it will preserve access for the millions of previously uninsured Americans who found coverage under Obamacare, it does away with the subsidies that let them buy it. When it was pointed out to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) during an appearance on CNN’s New Day that “access doesn’t equal coverage,” the congressman implied that people who couldn’t afford insurance were spending irresponsibly. Quote:
You know what? Americans have choices. And they’ve got to make a choice. And so maybe, rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to spend hundreds of dollars on, maybe they should invest in their own healthcare.
Chaffetz’s father once owned part of a professional soccer team, so the representative may have a shaky notion of how much individual health insurance costs. Either that, or he’s playing an old card: poor people aren’t poor because of iniquity or an economy that doesn’t serve them, but rather because they spend unwisely. The poor have just as much money as everybody else! Assessment after the jump.
Luis Lang has a detached retina and bleeding in his eyes due to complications from diabetes. He needs a series of expensive injections and eye surgery, or he will go blind. A critic of President Obama, he refused to buy health insurance until late February, when he incurred $9,000 in emergency room bills. That’s when he tried to buy a policy through his state’s exchange and learned that he’d missed the 2015 deadline. He and his wife blame Obama and Democrats for passing a flawed, confusing bill. “[My husband] should be at the front of the line, because he doesn’t work and because he has medical issues,” his wife told the Charlotte Observer. “We call it the Not Fair Health Care Act.” First of all, I am sorry for Lang’s health problems, which are scary and bad. Also, he appears to be kind of an asshole. But does that mean we should let him go blind?