Reminder: they know that most of what they actually do is wildly unpopular
Drew Altman had an editorial in the Times yesterday that had a lot of the internet abuzz with either sadness or schadenfreude, depending on your personal predilections. It was about Trump voters being confronted with the reality of the GOP’s “repeal and replace” schemes.
But asked about policies found in several Republican plans to replace the Affordable Care Act — including a tax credit to help defray the cost of premiums, a tax-preferred savings account and a large deductible typical of catastrophic coverage — several of these Trump voters recoiled, calling such proposals “not insurance at all.” One of those plans has been proposed by Representative Tom Price, Mr. Trump’s nominee to be secretary of Health and Human Services. These voters said they did not understand health savings accounts and displayed skepticism about the concept.
There’s probably part of you, an ugly part, that just wants to smack these people upside the head, or laugh at them. What did you expect, dummies? I certainly have those instincts, unpleasant as they are. But really, stepping back, it’s sort of hard to blame them. All Republicans ever say is “repeal and replace” with something…better. No specifics, of course. But people hate paying for healthcare, so it is hard to be rational about it, and a lot of people hate Obama, so any price increases (even if they are smaller increases than what you could expect from before Obamacare), are tied to him. When a politician says “we’re gonna get rid of Obamacare and make it better!” it is appealing.
But they never talk about their plans, because they know, on some level, that their ideas are deeply unpopular and only work in the narrowest sense of propitiating plutocrats. Their ideas are horrifying, which is why they never actually run on them, preferring slogans and opposition and hippie-punching. This, of course, found its apotheosis with Trump, who ran on Obama being a clown, on bigotry (the two are not unrelated) and on winning.
That cynicism has reached its peak–well, not its peak, not in a world where Mitch McConnell can say the Dems are obstructionists on the Supreme Court–with next week’s confirmation logjam, in which no less than six hearing will be held on one day (the same day Trump is scheduled to hold his big press conference, but honestly don’t hold your breath on that).
The schedule Wednesday is jam-packed: The Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson at 9 a.m.; the Intelligence Committee will consider Rep. Mike Pompeo, tapped to lead the CIA, at 10 a.m.; the Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee will consider Education Secretary-designate Betsy DeVos at 10 a.m.; the Commerce Committee will hold a hearing for transportation nominee Elaine Chao (the wife of McConnell) at 10:15 a.m.; and the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee will consider DHS nominee Gen. John Kelly at 2 p.m.
In addition, the Judiciary Committee will hold the second day of its hearing examining Sen. Jeff Sessions nomination as attorney general at 9:30 a.m., though it will only feature outside witnesses, as Sessions is set to testify the previous day.
Glancing at the list, one is struck by one’s own ability to rationalize. OK, Tillerson will be a tough one, as tied as he is to Russia. Cho isn’t a good pick, but whatever, it’s standard and she’s a professional. Pompeo and Kelly wouldn’t be my picks, but I didn’t win the election.
But then you get to DeVos, an insane Christianist who has spent a lifetime trying to destroy public education, and of course Sessions, whose confirmation would be handing over the civil rights division to Bull Connors. So there are at least two, if not three, nominees who the Democrats have to fight, tooth and nail.
That fight is winnable, but only if it has oxygen. And the GOP knows this. They know that their ideas are unpopular and so they want to hide them. They don’t believe in democracy, and they certainly don’t believe in a contest of ideas. They believe in slogans that rile so they can perform their fetchservant to plutocracy act in the background. There’s a certain dark genius to their actions, but you can’t say it resembles in any way what a functioning democracy should look like.
President Obama is giving his farewell the day before. I hope he stiffens spines for the fight. We’ll need them.
(Update: Brett reminds me that I shouldn’t ever say “peak” when it comes to the GOP, since they can always reach highers peaks of venal absurdity.)