The Antidote to Steve Bannon

One irony of Washington these days is that a press corps that claims to loathe right-wing political operative Steve Bannon can’t get enough of him. The media broadcast his every utterance, cheering on his declaration of “civil war” against Republicans in Congress.

.. “It’s a symptom of a greater problem. If we don’t cut taxes and we don’t eventually repeal and replace ObamaCare, then we’re going to lose across the board in the House in 2018. And all of my colleagues running in primaries in 2018 will probably get beat. It will be the end of [Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell as we know it.”

..  “Mitch McConnell is not our problem. Our problem is that we promised to repeal and replace ObamaCare, and we failed. We promised to cut taxes, and we’ve yet to do it. If we’re successful, Mitch McConnell is fine. If we’re not, we’re all in trouble, we lose our majority, and I think President Trump will not get re-elected.”

.. Mr. Bannon is recruiting carpetbaggers or multiple-race losers, but they’ll have a chance if Republicans can’t deliver on their campaign promises. Mr. Bannon’s best enablers are the GOP Senators who killed health reform: Susan Collins, John McCain, Rand Paul and Lisa Murkowski. If they want to make Mr. Bannon a kingmaker, they’ll do the same on tax reform.

JD Vance: the reluctant interpreter of Trumpism

Obamacare was perceived to make winners of the poor, but at the expense of the lower-income working class. (23 min)

 

J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy has been adopted as the book that explains Trumpism. It’s the book that both Senator Mitch McConnell and Senator Rob Portman recommended as their favorite of 2016. It’s a book Keith Ellison, the frontrunner to lead the DNC, brought up in our conversation last week. Everyone, on both sides of the aisle, has turned to Vance to explain What It All Means.

All of which is a bit odd, because Vance’s book is an awkward fit with Trumpism. As Vance describes it, it’s about “what goes on in the lives of real people when the industrial economy goes south. It’s about reacting to bad circumstances in the worst way possible. It’s about a culture that increasingly encourages social decay instead of counteracting it.” It’s a memoir about growing up amidst a particular slice of the white working class — the Scots-Irish who settled in and around Appalachia — and the ways that both propelled Vance forward and held him back. It’s a book about one man’s story — a story that is universal in some ways, particular in others, but was certainly not written with Donald J. Trump in mind.

Vance, today, works for an investment firm founded by Peter Thiel. He’s an Iraq veteran and Yale-educated lawyer who fits comfortably among the elites he never expected to know. He’s a conservative who doesn’t like Trump, but has nevertheless become a favored interpreter for his movement. He’s a private person who finds himself having shared the most intimate details of his life with total strangers.

We talk about all that, as well as some specific debates that have emerged in the age of Trump, and that speak to issues in Vance’s book:

– The resentment members of the lower-middle class have towards the non-working poor
– The ways in which the discussion over poor white communities has come to mirror the debate over poorer African-American communities
– How Trump constructed an “other” that merged both marginalized communities and powerful elites
– Slights Vance faced as a member of the military attending elite schools, and how that made him think about the broader debate over political correctness
– The difference between “economic anxiety” and “cultural anxiety,” and why it matters
– How members of Vance’s family reconcile their support for Trump with their close friendships with unauthorized immigrants
– What he feels defines the values held by elites, and how they differ from those he grew up with

And, as always, much more. Enjoy.

Books:
-Robert Putnam’s “Our Kids”
-William Julius Wilson’s “The Truly Disadvantaged”
-Charles Murray’s “Coming Apart”
-Robert Tombs’s “The English and Their History”

Timing of White House actions unrolling parts of ACA ‘couldn’t be worse,’ states say

President Trump finally dropped the ax with timing that could inflict maximal disruption on the Affordable Care Act enrollment season scheduled to begin in two weeks.

.. Hundreds more consumers than usual have phoned its call center in recent days, uncertain whether they can still get and afford health plans.

.. In Washington state, Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler also told insurers to file two rates. “In order to get the smoke to clear,” he said, the marketplace there “may consider holding back on when” enrollment begins.

Maryland is in worse shape, because the two insurers in its marketplace were told by regulators to file only rates that assumed the CSR payments would continue.

Trump governs by disruption — and overloads all the circuits

Nine months into his first term, President Trump is perfecting a style of leadership commensurate with his campaign promise to disrupt business as usual in Washington. Call it governing by cattle prod.

.. In the face of his own unhappiness, the president is trying to raise the pain level wherever he can.

.. He cares about ratings, praise and success. Absent demonstrable achievements, he reverts to what worked during the campaign, which is to depend on his own instincts and to touch the hot buttons that roused his voters in 2016. As president, he has never tried seriously to reach beyond that base.

.. Trump has managed to turn an issue that once was about police violence in minority communities into a cultural battle about patriotism, the flag and pride in the military. His critics are now on the defensive.

.. There’s little doubt that part of the president’s motivation is to undo what former president Barack Obama did. He campaigned against Obamacare, although his prescriptions for what should replace it lacked consistency or, for that matter, clear alternatives

..  he has decided to force Congress to act on whether to fund the insurance subsidies that help lower-income Americans purchase health insurance. That’s another way he’s trying to bring the Democrats to the table,

.. Trump is trying to ratchet up attention to those problems but by threatening to walk away from the nuclear agreement has created a rift with U.S. partners

.. Foreign policy experts worry that by opening up a new confrontation with Iran, the administration may be stretching its capacity to handle both matters with the patience, skill and delicacy they require.

.. The president has proved himself capable and willing to start controversies and policy confrontations. That’s what being a disrupter is all about. But there is more to the presidency than initiating conflict, and on that measure, Trump has much to prove.