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There is an old saying that a week is a lifetime in politics. In most weeks, there is a lot happening either behind the scenes or at lower levels (e.g., committee hearings and markups on bills that nobody is watching). It is the rare week, however, that so much is taking place front and center competing for the attention of the American public.
The big story of the week was the non-vote on and the collapse of the Republican effort at major health care reform — the so-called Affordable Health Care Act (a name that in itself was an attack on the bill that it was trying to “repeal and replace,” the Affordable Care Act. There are several significant aspects to this non-event.
First, despite their efforts, Donald Trump and Paul Ryan could not get the sizable Republican majority in the House to pass a bill (forget the exact details of the last version of the bill, they could not get a majority behind any version) on one of the top Republican priorities of the past seven years. While Trump may have been a great negotiator, it is very easy to reach a two-sided deal. (Of course, it’s possible that Trump’s belief in his negotiating skill may be one of his great delusions. He may have just been offering the right deal at the right time and actually have been taken to the cleaners in his business negotiations.)When you have three or more sides to a deal, however, it becomes very difficult to keep everybody on board. This problem is particularly true in politics — when one faction thinks that a bill is too conservative and the other faction thinks that the bill is too liberal, there really isn’t any change that could make both sides happy. At that point, it’s not really about negotiating but selling.
A long time ago I had a boss my family referred to as “Bad Eric”. (I later had a boss named “Good Eric”). Anyway, Bad Eric thought he was a really smart guy. I’m not talking about any of those esoteric views of intelligence, he thought his actual, tested, IQ was higher than anyone else’s in the company, especially mine. This was a big deal to him. He liked to say hello to me in the following way “Good Morning, you dumb b***h”, although in fairness, he sometimes used the “c” word in lieu of the “b” word.
Working for Bad Eric was no picnic, but I did end up learning the difference between “idiot” and “moron”. It turns out that “moron” used to have a technical meaning in DSM classifications of someone with an IQ of 80 or below. (100 is average on a Bell Curve.) And so, when I talk about the stupid things that voters do, I no longer refer to them as morons, I use the strictly pejorative term “idiot”. And today, I’m going to rant about idiots. Feel free to skip to the end to find out what happened when Bad Eric and I went head to head in the quest for who was smarter.
In the past few days, a number of media outlets have gone out and interviewed Trumpkin voters who will now be affected by changes to the ACA. Their overall response is that while they do understand that they will no longer be able to afford insurance, and thus cancer treatments, insulin and other necessary medical care, they believe that #TheAngryPumpkin will actually save them because he’ll negotiate with Paul Ryan and let them keep, basically, the ACA as it is. I kid you not. Idiots.
For Democrats and, especially for those progressives who voted for third party candidates or stayed home, the last four weeks have been a reminder that there are significant differences between the policies of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. The nominees to fill many cabinet positions are people who are either clueless about their responsibilities (Ben Carson at Housing and Urban Development) or actually hostile to significant parts of the core responsibilities of their departments (EPA, Labor, Justice, Interior, Education, Health and Human Services). The past eight years might not have been perfect for the progressive agenda and Secretary Clinton might not have been pushing as much of the progressive agenda as some would have wanted, but it is clear that the Trump Administration will be working to reverse not just the last eight years, but much of the past fifty to eighty years.
While the nominees for most positions so far seem to be the dream team of the far right, the current rumors for Secretary of State represent a nightmare for even Republicans. Since World War II, the two parties have shared a common basic foreign policy. For both parties, the original foreign policy was to contain communism and to promote stability by means of adding even more countries to regional defense agreements. Within each of the two parties, there was a disagreement about how much we should emphasize promoting human rights and democracy as opposed to seeking to stabilize government willing to work with us on our overall goal of defeating the Soviet Union.
Earlier this week, Donald Trump — again — expressed his admiration for the strong leadership of Vladimir Putin as compared to the current leadership of the United States. It is understandable why somebody who is the head of a closely-held family business would sympathize with the leadership style of Vladimir Putin. There is a lot of similarity in the ability of such individuals to make decisions for their company or country between such a business and a police state. The leader of a democracy, however, does not have the same ability.