It is not I who am crazy. It is I who am mad. (prehnite) wrote in ontd_political,
It is not I who am crazy. It is I who am mad.

If Republicans lose the healthcare fight, it's the beginning of the end

At the beginning of this week, Republican senators were planning to head home for the Fourth of July recess and celebrate the nation’s independence and freedom by enacting their idea of liberty: denying health insurance to more than 20 million people. By the middle of the week, their hopes were dashed.

On Tuesday, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell announced that the Republicans didn’t have the 50 votes they needed to gut Obamacare. After promising a vote this week – “I am closing the door” on any delays, said Senate majority whip John Cornyn – the Republican leadership confessed there wouldn’t be a vote until at least the week of 10 July, if not August.

Once again the Republicans have found themselves in the peculiar position of possessing total control of the elected branches of the federal government, yet unable to act on one of their longstanding dreams: not just slowly destroying Medicaid, a federal program that guarantees healthcare to millions of poorer people, but also forcing people to rely upon the free market for their healthcare.

One reason the Republicans are having such a hard time of it is that the public is overwhelmingly against the Senate bill. As Politico recently reported, Senate phones have been ringing off the hook – almost entirely from citizens opposed to what the Republicans are doing.

A staffer for Mississippi senator Thad Cochran claims his office received 226 constituent calls over a four-day period: two in favor of the Republican bill, 224 against. And, yes, you read that correctly. Not Massachusetts. Mississippi.

But that only begs the question: why haven’t the Republican free-market fanatics mobilized their base in support of the bill? Why aren’t they flooding the Senate with phone calls in favor of making people fend for themselves in the healthcare insurance market? Where’s the passion for the market, the hostility to the welfare state, that has so defined the conservative cause since the New Deal?

In April 1982, at the height of the worst recession since the Great Depression, with unemployment nearly at 10%, Ronald Reagan took to the radio and sunnily declared: “You know, there really is something magic about the marketplace when it’s free to operate. As the song says, ‘This could be the start of something big.’”

Even though the Democrats controlled one-half of Congress, Reagan and the Republicans used that magic of the market to ram through the massive tax cuts and retrenchment of the welfare state we are still reeling from. That’s the kind of élan, the intellectual confidence, free-market conservatives once had.

Back in March, when the Republicans failed to get a healthcare bill through the House of Representatives, the consensus was that it was the fault of Donald Trump and House speaker Paul Ryan. Ryan was an incompetent; Trump was, well, Trump.

But no one can accuse McConnell of incompetence or inconstancy, and Senate leaders have been careful to keep Trump mostly out of this one: “The White House’s strategy is to continue to let McConnell take the lead,” the Washington Post recently reported. “Trump is involved only as an encourager.”

But if the New York Times is correct – that the Senate healthcare bill is “edging toward collapse” – and the Senate ultimately fails to pass it after the recess, it will mean something profound has happened to the conservative movement and the Republican party.

If the Republicans can’t turn their trifecta of control into a conservative policy victory – and with the exception of the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the supreme court, the Republicans under Trump, Ryan and McConnell have yet to achieve any major victory – it will mean that the movement is no longer able to translate its faith in the market into the full-spectrum dominance it once had.

The problem, in other words, may not be the personnel. It may be the principles. Unlike Reagan, today’s Republican is no longer warmed in the same way by the burning belief that anything the state does in the realm of social welfare is automatically bad.

That fire of the free market, which gave the Republicans comfort through the dark hours of the New Deal night and conviction in the cold dawn of Reagan’s America, no longer seems capable of delivering the same energy to the movement.

The Republicans may still eke out a victory. After their defeat in March, House Republicans came back in May to pass a healthcare bill, while no one was paying much attention. And no one should underestimate McConnell, who’s got a fistful of dollars to buy off individual Republican votes. The phone calls, and whatever protests opponents of this bill can muster over the Fourth of July recess, are critical.

But the mere fact that we’ve come to this pass, where the bill’s fate is in doubt, despite Republican control, is worth noting.

In 1977, 1983 and 1993, the federal government launched a major retrenchment of Social Security. Benefits were slashed, benefits were taxed and the retirement age was raised. In two of those instances, the Democrats controlled the White House and Congress. In all those instances, the Democrats controlled the House. Throughout the past four decades, in other words, entitlement programs have been under attack – by both parties.

It will be truly significant, if the Republicans are able to overturn Obamacare, that they could only do it by the skin of their teeth, with zero support from the Democratic party. That they’re now struggling not to lose three Republican votes in the Senate tells us how far the politics of the welfare state has come.

For my part, I’ll be much happier if they simply lose the vote. Not only will that loss protect healthcare for millions of people; it’ll also be a major demoralizing blow to the conservative movement.

The left always think it’s the only movement that is subject to feelings of weakness and political hopelessness, that the right is possessed of some preternatural confidence in its right and ability to rule. But that is not the case.

The right has had its spells in the wilderness, where they’ve been exiled from power, left to find comfort in the dark corners of their despair. Crushing their dream of denying healthcare to millions of people will put them on that road to despair.

So call your senator. Now.

Tags: health care, republicans

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