Trump Healthcare Ultimatum Is Equal Parts Stupid and Cruel; or: The Quintessence of Trumpism

 

Donald Trump sits in a truck, pretends to be big man.

Tough guy.

I’ve never read The Art of the Deal. With all due respect to his ghostwriter on the project, who turned out to be a real standup dude, there are maybe five books in the entire universe I’d enjoy reading less. The self-aggrandizing money-worship of an overfed huckster in celebration of our gaudiest decade? The vast majority of cereal boxes have more insight on the human condition, and probably more wit.

That said, from having had to pay attention to this man for decades, I know a little about how he operates, and it is from false machismo, the not-tough toughguyness of rich men in suits with lawyers. His main plank is to be willing to walk away, so that the other guy, nervous about sunk cost, gives away the store.

The other plank is that the deal is the thing, no matter how terrible it turns out to be, so long as there is short term gain. Both of these are on display with what the President is offering the Republican Party right now.

WASHINGTON — President Trump issued an ultimatum on Thursday to recalcitrant Republicans to fall in line behind a broad health insurance overhaul or see their opportunity to repeal the Affordable Care Act vanish, demanding a Friday vote on a bill that appeared to lack a majority to pass.

A couple of things. First of all, that shouldn’t, strictly, be true. There is nothing that says “one and done” with health care. It might make it more difficult to pass later on, but in theory, they could try to come up with a better bill. But this is Trump’s dumbbell toughshow on full display. You pass this bill, or else, hoping that will clarify their minds. It shows that he has no idea how government works, and thinks his shtick can pass for actual knowledge or skill (to be fair, it has his entire life, which says a lot about our culture).

And it might work! The Republicans might be terrified of this failure, and hope that they can make a widely despised piece of legislation come to life, or at least have the Senate somehow fix it. So this might come to pass (Politico still says too close to call), and if it does, might ghostwalk through the Senate, though there are a lot of institutional and electoral obstacles to doing so.

But let’s look at what we have. In the last few days, Trump and Ryan have given away the store to the far, far, far right members of the House Freedom Caucus, making their already unfathomably cruel and reckless bill even worse. It’ll cost more, and insure fewer people. The latest horror was stripping away the 10 essentials that health care should cover, on the extremely Republican idea that if you aren’t going to get pregnant, your money shouldn’t cover other people’s pregnancies.

(It could be pointed out that that’s how all insurance works, but at least they are ideologically consistent: no help for anyone, and pull the ladder up after you.)

So, basically, because Trump only wants to make deals, and has his whole phony image based on being great at negotiating and closing, is going to make life worse for nearly everyone, including the people who voted for him, so that he can get this quick little victory and show off how good he is at twisting arms. It’s stupid and cruel, which is really the essence of the man.

Please don’t take this as any sympathy for Paul Ryan or the Republicans. This is their fault, and not just because they acquiesced to Trump. They’ve spent seven years salivating over the idea of kicking people off insurance rolls, gutting Medicare, block-granting Medicaid, and most of all, shoveling money upward. They couldn’t wait! They rushed this through to maximize pain, and were suddenly stunned when it turned out that people didn’t equate dying in poverty with freedom.

So maybe this is their last shot. Maybe they recognize that the whole edifice of Republican governance is crumbling. It’s crumbling because of Trump, of course, his Russian connections, his inability to do anything that isn’t directly tied to his ego, and the fact that the sleaze with which he’s lived his life is an inescapable part of his administration.

But it is also crumbling because a party who thinks that self-government is Communism and that there is no such thing as the common good can’t govern when their plans are brought to light. For eight years, the cruelest and most Randian elements of the right wing had been percolating, able to tear at Obama, but still hidden by his shadow. Their guttersniping worked while they weren’t in charge, but now that their plans have seen the light of day, much of the country is reacting in horror. They can’t govern because they don’t believe in it, and that comes from their one core belief: you’re on your own, sucker.

So yes, they want to push through this bill while they still can. It’s cruel and insane, and it comes from their ideology, and it comes from the man who thinks that any deal is good so long as he isn’t holding the bag. It’s Trumpism, which is really just a flamboyant way of saying it’s the modern GOP.

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