This might seem a good time to catch up on politics given my prediction of a few months ago that not much was going to happen, that politics were frozen, until Mueller came up with his report and that then all hell might break loose because it seems unlikely that there will be no finding that none of the principal figures were involved in collusion with the Russians even if the President is not guilty of an impeachable offense. This is a good time because the withdrawal by Mitch McConnell of the Obamacare repeal and replace bill might seem to mark where finally Trump’s bluster has met a reality check. But that is not the case, even if people have been looking for just that sort of comeuppance.
Remember how all of his primary opponents were waiting for his campaign to flounder because of his gaffes and outrageous remarks, many of those opponents waiting to pick up the pieces and inherit his supporters, and so not very vigourous in calling him out? Well, it didn’t happen and the Republican stalwarts were not able to do what competitors in a democratic election tend to do: negotiate among themselves to find a single candidate for all of them to support and let him or her take on Trump. But they couldn’t agree on the plausible picks, like Jeb Bush or even Marco Rubio, just as the Liberals in Cairo couldn’t settle on a candidate to joust with the Moslem Brotherhood in a fair election. And so each of the Republican contenders were picked off one by one by Trump, who found a way to belittle every one of them even as none of them found a way to diminish Trump as a human being, that being the sum and substance of the primary campaigns, however much there was to work with in Trump’s past life and his at the time positions. The same thing happened when Hillary went after him as a person not suitable to be President and something of a cad to boot. He out insulted her over Benghazi and e-mails, the attack abetted by a media more interested in her shortcomings than in his-- so much for a media bias in favor of Democratic candidates, a media that at the same time did not know how to handle a candidate so long on bluster and so short on specifics who was peddling only disdain for those groups and people who disagreed with him.
So it could be said that the withdrawal of the repeal and replace bill was what happens in a democracy, sooner or later: the people let their representatives know their displeasure with a bit of proposed legislation and the representatives, more concerned about their own re-electability than about anything else, give in to the people. The vote is what counts, the final veto of the electorate on those who feign to be their servants. Southern sheriffs became nicer to their African American constituents when African Americans got the vote as a result of the Civil Rights Movement.
People come to their senses, put ideology aside, and vote their interests when it is very clear that their interests rather than their sentiments are at stake. That is particularly true of health care. It impacts on nearly everyone and causes suffering that is clearly visible to everyone, including people not in your own family. So however much people hate something called “Obamacare”, they don’t want their medical benefits taken away from them. Somewhat the same thing happened when George Bush said he was willing to invest some of the capital he had earned by his 2004 victory and had congressman go around the country selling his plan to cut back on Social Security and have payroll taxes invested in individual retirement accounts. The people at the town meetings said no and the plan died. And so to with health care. The people spoke and it died.
But that would be a mistaken analysis because, in fact, there have been many stays of Trump initiatives. His travel ban is still held up by the courts. States will work around him to be in compliance with the Paris Accords. Trump’s failure to appoint sub-cabinet level officials means that any large scale attempt to roll back Obama era initiatives are not easily undertaken. And the most important checks on Trump triumphalism have been in foreign policy where he covers up his failure to make the changes he claimed he would bring about by just declaring that everything he does is a success. He was going to do something about North Korea and then did nothing because nothing is to be done other than to build a latter day star wars system that can defend against rockets aimed at Seattle. He did not get anything going to resolve the Syrian civil war and his secretaries of defense and state regularly undercut his remarks critical of Europe, the European leaders knowing their nations will outlive his term and then resume their very cooperative arrangements with the United States and indeed on other than a presidential level continuing to do business with their American counterparts in the agencies and the cabinet departments.
The main thing to learn from the failure to repeal and replace Obamacare is nothing about Trump, however much he sucks up attention. The truth of the matter is that his opinion is not of any significance, partly because it is not really qualified to be considered an opinion because it is so uninformed and changeable, Trump not understanding even elementary aspects of the bill because, were it otherwise, how could he condemn the House bill and support the Senate bill? He can’t make a plausible case to the Congressman and Senators he speaks to on the phone. That is above his head. Rather, the bill fell clearly into the hands of the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader. They could craft any bills they liked and get their memberships, so they thought, to agree to support the legislation. So the cloak that Trump provides to the Republican Party is to be torn away to reveal that the Republican Party is led by people who are just as cruel as the most crude vulgar Marxist might say they are: nothing else than pawns whereby rich people get their way to decrease their own taxes, never mind what that does to the public good or to numerous people who need the government to look out for them.
Henry Kissinger was describing a party that no longer exists when he said that the Republicans were a first rate party with a second class constituency. Its constituency has become what Hillary properly described as “the deplorables”, and its leadership has been racing to become as intellectually impoverished as its constituency. Where are the Rockefellers and the Percys and those other gold plated Republicans who buy their offices so that they can serve the people? Instead, there are people without personal charm who get elected so as to please Goldman Sachs, though I don’t know why that should be necessary, given that for the present a President of either party would put the Treasury Department in the hands of someone from Goldman Sachs. Those people, after all, know their way around a dollar.
I don’t know the way out of this dilemma. Bernie may want a different Secretary of the Treasury but I don’t know if he has people around him who can craft a legislative agenda that can get by the Koch Brothers. I am looking for fresh blood, perhaps someone who has been in the Senate long enough to learn the ropes and can garner both leftish and centrist support--perhaps Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota or Sherrod Brown of Ohio. I don’t want 2020 to be a retread of 2016, Joe Biden taking up the mantle he did not try for last time. But so much will happen before then, that new figures are bound to arise-- won’t they?