The Party of Trash
The anxiety I had about the incumbent administration validated itself today when the vice president cast his tie-breaking vote in a deadlocked Senate to open debate on a “Obamacare repeal” bill that, at the time of this writing, no can be best described as a head scratch and a shrug.
The drama that could have been was largely adverted when West Virginia junior Senator Shelley Moore Capito, needled (embarrassed) the previous day by a disgusting politically-themed speech made by the incumbent at the annual Boy Scouts Jamboree (held in her home state), capitulated to the demands of the party and voted to advance the measure. West Virginia, where the incumbent’s populist talk and promises of “reopening the mines” caused voters to fall head over heels in love with him, is one of the many states with high demand for government-backed health care that stands to lose if the current GOP leadership of McConnell, Ryan, and Pence achieve their wet dream of “repealing Obamacare”.
I have a deep resentment of the Republican Party, not on the basis of values (I haven’t agreed with much of what the party has stood for since high school), but on the basis of political tactics.
For eight years, the party resorted to petulant stonewalling, demonstrating an inability to develop any thoughtful policy ideas that was more than just opposing former President Barack Obama (or promoting Paul Ryan as a faux policy wonk). For the now 6 years that the Republican Party has dominated Congress, the party has illustrated a stunning inability to govern. The party is bankrupt on any meaningful philosophy besides exalting market fundamentalism, dismissing poor people as lazy and uninspired, and promulgating conservatism as a cult and not as an approach to governing.
But what’s more damning about its inability to govern? The shocking lack of interest in doing so. Governing, in my opinion, takes into account the pros and cons of an idea and actually evaluating its human cost. Ideology can be good if it contributes to an overall discussion and leads to a consensus that is based in reason and not purely in emotion.
Today, there’s only one party that clearly does care about governing (the Democrats) and one party that doesn’t care to do it at all (the Republicans). Say what you will about the stalwart social liberalism and aggressive socioeconomic progressivism of the Democratic Party (to degrees that have not been seen 1970s), I can trust that the party takes much more scholastic, realistic, and reasoned approach to developing policy. The conservative cult that has solidified control of the GOP is reactionary and driven by its own echo chamber of reality, and not much else. Conservatives whine about the sensitivity of “snowflake liberals”, but the truth is that conservative rhetoric and political tactics have evolved in a way that policy proposals such as “bathroom bills”, “reduce government regulation”, “gun rights”, and “voter ID laws” are not given — and don’t deserve — the benefit of the doubt and is rightfully met with concern.
Which brings us to today. No one said that the Affordable Healthcare Act was perfect — personally, I did not like the law because it was far too dependent on the cooperation of states and the free market to make the law work as fully intended. However, not working as fully intended (which is true) and the law being a complete utter failure (which is not) are two completely different things.
The ACA, for the most part, actually does work because the whole point of the law was to expand the risk pool through funding state expansion of Medicaid (which the Supreme Court blocked the part of the law that would have allowed the federal government to force expansion) and the individual mandate. Through risk pool expansion (which is basically all that this law is anyway), medical costs have been able to decelerate in terms of growth, even though premiums have unfortunately spiked due a sicker-than-expected risk pool — many healthy adults did not buy health care plans period.
You don’t have to be an actuarial expert to realize that if you propose anything that allows for the risk pool to be shrunk in anyway, premiums would increase. The GOP plans largely aim to revert back to the previous system of separate risk pools for the healthy and the sick. This may be a boon to healthy adults, but it is catastrophic for sicker adults — something illustrated by various scoring by the Congressional Budget Office that clearly illustrates that these bills would do more harm than good.
(For those that want to argue against the CBO score, bringing up how the CBO score missed on the ACA, there’s two caveats to remember. The ACA scores were based upon the intended risk pool expansion through the individual mandate and Medicaid expansion; the individual mandate was loosely enforced and Medicaid expansion was not compulsory. In the case of the GOP plans, it is risk pool division and contraction with no unforeseen circumstances that would reverse CBO projects — and no, the US economy, nearing full employment as it is, is not going to achieve yearly 4% GDP growth.)
However, all my insurance talk aside, today was about scoring political points. Applause after the vote. One step closer to “defeating” Barack Obama, even though Barack Obama is no longer in office. The GOP never scored an overwhelming political victory against the former President and, as it sold its soul in resentment towards the perceived liberal success of a Democratic racial minority being elected to the highest office in the land, proved itself to being short on ideas but long on being pissed off and seeking atonement.
The GOP will never develop a meaningful alternative to the ACA because, for the most part, the ACA is a conservative idea. The ACA still depends on the “free market” to set premium rates. This is clearly in line with conservative orthodoxy; the only thing that the GOP can do at this point is to reverse the core mechanism of the law: reverse the risk pool expansion — not because this idea is better, but the gives the GOP a “win”. The risk pool contraction is why most medical think tanks and advocacy groups have came out against the GOP efforts and insurance companies have been lukewarm to absolutely cold on a total ACA repeal.
The GOP knows this, but the GOP doesn’t care. The GOP cares about getting back that one policy victory against a guy that’s no longer in office.
And that’s the disgusting thing. This party sold its soul and gave up on meaningfully governing for the sole purpose of regaining control. And it worked. From gerrymandering (a conservative tactic long utilized for well over a century), to false populism, to open racism, to blatant xenophobia, and rabid anti-intellectualism, the GOP left no stone overturned in their quest to regain power, and voters rewarded them from cost to coast with a slew of gubernatorial, state legislature, and congressional victories.
And this is why I am vehemently against the incumbent. The incumbent is a total idiot, in over his head, and sooner or later, he’ll fall on his own sword. However, the incumbent’s victory managed to give the GOP a victory that it did not deserve — control of another branch of government even as it cannot even effectively govern the branch of government that it already controls. Some voters might have thought they were ushering in a populist era, but surprise! This is a right-wing government through and through. And the more partisan a faction becomes, the more said faction will seek to assert and maintain its supremacy.
Don’t get me wrong, I am by no means absolving the Democratic Party of blame here. Obama’s PAC gutted the state-by-state network of the Democratic National Committee. A power vacuum of leadership exists in the party currently, similar to the lack of leadership of post-Reagan Republicans. The Party at times was too passive on big firms and too timid and inconsistent in messaging. The lack of a Democratic game plan to actually maintain power destroyed them at the state level. It had no counterattack against the relentless conservative machine and it wrongly abandoned rural voters in favor of (and depending too much on) the more socially liberal and economic progressive metropolitan voter.
So today I sit here as a disgusted, angry centrist Democrat. I never bought an ACA plan. In fact, most of the Democratic social insurance plans don’t completely benefit me much at this time. But I am cognizant of the fact that society deserves better than the market-oriented, Social Darwinism that conservative orthodoxy embraces. The incumbent is the incumbent and no I don’t suffer from Incumbent Derangement Syndrome.
But I cannot help to be repulsed about what the Republican Party has become, and I’m embarrassed that there was a point in my life that I did call myself a Republican. Luckily, that was back in high school and I really didn’t know any better. This is a political party that does not care about governing; it only cares about wielding power and settling scores. The supporters of this Party of Trash cheer it on as if it’s one of their favorite sports teams. And through the intransigence and the ignorance of voters, the petulance and soul-selling that this party has embarked on has been rewarded with control of three branches of government, culminating into despicable exhibitions of power like this afternoon’s vote that is the first step in what could be a series of consequences that leave a lot of people hurt.