We need an uprising of decency.
If only …
If only Donald Trump were not president, we could have an interesting debate over whether private health insurance should be illegal. If only Trump were not president, we could have an interesting debate over who was softest on crime in the 1990s. If only Trump were not president, we could have a nice argument about the pros and cons of NAFTA.
But Trump is president, and this election is not about those things. This election is about who we are as a people, our national character. This election is about the moral atmosphere in which we raise our children.
Trump is a cultural revolutionary, not a policy revolutionary. He operates and is subtly changing America at a much deeper level. He’s operating at the level of dominance and submission, at the level of the person where fear stalks and contempt emerges.
He’s redefining what you can say and how a leader can act. He’s reasserting an old version of what sort of masculinity deserves to be followed and obeyed. In Freudian terms, he’s operating on the level of the id. In Thomistic terms, he is instigating a degradation of America’s soul.
But an important group of NeverTrumpers identified with the right on a very specific set of issues — support for the 1990s-era free trade consensus, Wilsonian hawkishness, democracy promotion — that are unlikely to animate conservatism again any time soon no matter how the Trump presidency ends. These intellectuals and strategists aren’t particularly culturally conservative, they’re allergic to populism, they don’t have any reason to identify with a conservatism that’s wary of nation-building and globalization — and soon enough, they won’t.
.. Along with Rubin I’m thinking here of Max Boot, her fellow Post columnist and the author of a new book denouncing the Trump-era right, who self-defined as a conservative mostly because he favored a democratic imperialism of the kind that George W. Bush unsuccessfully promoted. I’m thinking of Evan McMullin, the third-party presidential candidate turned full-time anti-Trump activist, and certain Republican strategists from the Bush-McCain-Romney party, whose Twitter feeds suggest that they never much cared for the voters who supported their candidates anyway.
.. But observers trying to imagine what a decent right might look like after Trump should look elsewhere — to thinkers and writers who basically accept the populist turn, and whose goal is to supply coherence and intellectual ballast, to purge populism of its bigotries and inject good policy instead.
For an account of policy people working toward this goal, read Sam Tanenhaus in the latest Time Magazine, talking to conservatives on Capitol Hill who are trying to forge a Trumpism-after-Trump that genuinely serves working-class families instead of just starting racially charged feuds.
.. I don’t know if any of these efforts can pull the post-Trump right away from anti-intellectualism and chauvinism. But their project is the one that matters to what conservatism is right now, not what it might have been had John McCain been elected president, or had the Iraq War been something other than a misbegotten mess, or had the 2000-era opening to China gone the way free traders hoped.
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“We must beware at an occasion like this of what’s been called ‘narcissistic policy disorder,’” Will said on Fox News Sunday. “That is the belief that everything in the world is about us: Either we did or said something, or didn’t do or didn’t say something, and if we did something or said something, it would all be well. We can’t do that now.”
Trump demands not just loyalty but flattery, too. He insists that his courtiers treat his pronouncements, however absurd or offensive, as infallible holy writ. Members of his Cabinet have made a humiliating bargain: humor him, suck up to him, and maybe — just maybe — he will leave you alone and let you make policy.
.. Trump demands not just loyalty but flattery, too. He insists that his courtiers treat his pronouncements, however absurd or offensive, as infallible holy writ. Members of his Cabinet have made a humiliating bargain: humor him, suck up to him, and maybe — just maybe — he will leave you alone and let you make policy.
.. Retiring Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, encouraged Tillerson to stay on because he, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly “are those people that help separate our country from chaos.”
.. other Cabinet members have made their peace with the Sun King’s demand for unctuous deference. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin looked as if he were in physical pain as he went on the Sunday shows and defended Trump’s demand for NFL players who kneel during the national anthem to be fired.
Chief economic adviser Gary Cohn, who almost quit after Charlottesville, told reporters he stayed on for the “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to enact sweeping tax reform.
.. What these officials don’t seem to fully grasp is that their policy initiatives can be undercut by the president at any time, and probably will. Look at budget director Mick Mulvaney, who has big ideas about shrinking government and the deficit. He didn’t anticipate having to wipe away Puerto Rico’s debt, which Trump offhandedly promised to do.
Graham-Cassidy, the health bill the Senate may vote on next week, is stunningly cruel. It’s also incompetently drafted: The bill’s sponsors clearly had no idea what they were doing when they put it together. Furthermore, their efforts to sell the bill involve obvious, blatant lies.
The Affordable Care Act, which has reduced the percentage of Americans without health insurance to a record low, created a three-legged stool:
- regulations that prevent insurers from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions,
- a requirement that individuals have adequate insurance (and thus pay into the system while healthy)
- and subsidies to make that insurance affordable. For the lowest-income families, insurance is provided directly by Medicaid.
Graham-Cassidy saws off all three legs of that stool.
- it eliminates the individual mandate.
- sharply reduces funding relative to current law, and especially penalizes states that have done a good job of reducing the number of uninsured.
- And it effectively eliminates protection for Americans with pre-existing conditions.
Did Graham-Cassidy’s sponsors know what they were doing when putting this bill together? Almost surely not, or they wouldn’t have produced something that everyone, and I mean everyone, who knows anything about health care warns would cause chaos.
Republicans are trying to ram the bill through before the Congressional Budget Office has time to analyze it — an attempt that is in itself a violation of all previous norms, and amounts to an admission that the bill can’t bear scrutiny.
.. Lindsey Graham, Bill Cassidy, and the bill’s other sponsors have responded to these critiques the old-fashioned way — with lies.
.. Cassidy has also circulated a spreadsheet that purports to show most states actually getting increased funding under his bill. But the spreadsheet doesn’t compare funding with current law, which is the relevant question.
.. That’s actually a well-known dodge, one that Republicans have been using since Newt Gingrich tried to gut Medicare in the 1990s. As everyone in Congress — even Cassidy — surely knows, such comparisons drastically understate the real size of cuts, since under current law spending is expected to rise with inflation and population growth.
.. Republicans are desperate to destroy President Barack Obama’s legacy in any way possible, no matter how many American lives they ruin in the process.
.. most Republican legislators neither know nor care about policy substance. This is especially true on health care, where they never tried to understand why Obamacare looks the way it does, or how to devise a nonvicious alternative.
.. the evasions and lies we’re seeing on this bill have been standard G.O.P. operating procedure for years. The trick of converting federal programs into block grants, then pretending that this wouldn’t mean savage cuts, was central to every one of Paul Ryan’s much-hyped budgets.
.. Graham-Cassidy isn’t an aberration; it’s more like the distilled essence of everything wrong with modern Republicans.
.. But even if the handful of Republican senators who retain some conscience block it — we’re looking at you, John McCain — the underlying sickness of the G.O.P. will remain.