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.
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.
I like democracy the way Tila Tequila likes MySpace: generally and in principle, but almost never when it appears in individual manifestations. Winston Churchill, who is fortunately dead and unable to see himself name-checked immediately after Tila Tequila, remarked that “the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” Now that the internet has threatened to turn our mediated discourse into a 24-hour conversation with the average voter, we are better equipped than ever to answer the fundamental question of American democracy: are we fucking stupid or what? The results of the most recent Newsweek/Daily Beast poll may surprise you. As usual, “surprise” means “grimly confirm.”
Let me head off your objections right now: son of bride of health care is not just son of health care, because Mrs. Health Care subsequently remarried and lives in Ohio. Father of son of former bride of health care is John Boehner, and even though he pretends to be friendly, he keeps subtly insulting health care by saying things like, “I understand where you’re coming from; when I was younger, I had to eke out a living sweeping somebody else’s floors, myself.” Basically, new husband of ex-wife of health care is a dick, and every time he claims to do health care a favor he only humiliates it further. Last week, for example, he organized a purely symbolic overturn of last year’s reforms with the Repealing the Job-Crushing Health Care Law Act, which really puts certain other phrases from this paragraph in perspective. It was a pretty cynical move, incorporating as it did both a purported desire to improve the law and a sure exemption from having to do so. Anyone could see what spray-tanned second husband of health care was doing except those closest to him, and so the duty to say something fell to former coworker of both health care and father of son of former bride of health care, David Frum.