I am not the type of person who says I told you so, but as it happens, I told you so. My view at the time of the Inauguration was counter-conventional, in that I wrote, against the conventional wisdom that a new administration has to hit the ground running and get its big policy proposals on the way to legislation inside the first hundred days, that, on the contrary, the Trump high command ought to lie low for a while, for example in Bermuda (I was not aware at the time the new prez has a nice place in Florida), putting out a communiqué they were studying the current crisis between rounds of golf and tennis matches.
If you view the state of affairs as crisis-laden — which by the way I do not, but that is neither here nor there — you might be well advised to take it easy. By definition, if we as a Republic are facing one or more crises and have been for several years (according to conservative Chicken Littles), then what’s the rush? Another few months will not make any difference if we have survived this long. Or if you prefer, a few months will not make desperate crises less ominous. So why not approach them with due diligence and consideration?
Hence my words of advice: take a leaf out of corporate management and get your top people to a “retreat” where they can assess the reality and come up with a program to deal with it. Plus, this would mesh with the new boss’s inclinations as a businessman. Which, mind, allows me to again say I told you so even though I am not, etc., because during the campaign I stated early and clearly that, with all due respect to his critics, Donald Trump is a pragmatic and moderate man whose most likely antecedent and model is the Eisenhower administration, but again this is neither here nor there.
Otherwise, you waste yet another administration (four years) playing catch-up, which you cannot. Events overtake deep thinking and effective policy making, and politics becomes all. And in democracies, the opposition has a distinct advantage in the political game. This is especially so when, as these days, politics is full of sound and fury, hate and envy and — ideology.
Political activists, ideologues all, believe a new administration ought to be radical. I say phooey, what the American people, who in their goodness have a better grasp of our democratic republic than the ideologues who have hijacked it, want is for a new administration to behave like adults. They have had their fill of radical change, which they dislike even more than the larceny and corruption to which democratic government is prone. They favor being left alone to take care of business, families, love affairs.
The health insurance imbroglio surely is not worth all the fuss it has generated, and if the Republican politicos insist on turning this or that option to resolve it into a litmus test of loyalty to the party’s cherished principles, whatever they are, they will deserve the fate lately reserved to Democrats. Voters will know them for what they are, useless hacks, and will dump them.
Fortunately, the prez is not falling for this but is taking the setback in stride, maybe even chuckling inwardly at the discomfiture of his Republican so-called supporters in the Congress. Maybe he is thinking: let them learn for once what it means to make a good deal in the real world, these folks who have lived off the troughs provided by taxpayers and billionaire ideologues all their allegedly adult lives.
The revelation that the Republicans have been complaining for nearly ten years about the other party’s health insurance program — some 24 years if you count from their first-round knock out of the program the Clinton administration failed to get off the ground, and then are incapable of presenting an acceptable replacement when they are masters of Washington can produce two possible consequences: weeping or laughing. Either way, it makes them look like dolts.
What the prez evidently knows is that it makes the other side look even worse, as they gather like a pack of hyenas and screech for blood.
Note in passing that it was okay for Republicans to look like dolts when they had no pretense of being anything else; that was in itself a reason, perhaps the best reason, to vote for them. The Republicans — moderate, conventionally conservative, boring, were safe as the party of government because they were too unimaginative to use power irresponsibly.
The danger came when they got religion — I mean, politics. When they got politics in the modern sense, sometimes referred to as “ideology” (this is not what Karl Marx, the originator of the term, meant, but it does not matter), the ball game changed. For here they were joining their enemies in thinking that you can use politics to… change the world!
This is a miserable idea. It is the cause of many, if not all, the troubles of the 20th century. Actually, it is an idea that was let loose by an event known as the French Revolution, 1789 and all that, but it really got legs with the 1917 Bolshevik coup in Russia, and subsequent agitations elsewhere.
We as a society have resisted going down that road, but the temptation is strong in Washington, where the swamp is comfortable, and the hacks who live in it use litmus tests as entry requirements (because the market does not operate as it would in other fields.) Frankly, I am not interested — I admit it and I admit it may be a shortcoming — in the deep ramifications of government involvement in health care. This is an issue where what works counts, not what is virtuous.
To be sure, it would be fine if government stayed out this area, but that is unlikely, so the idea is to pragmatically achieve a compromise between the fiscal scrooges and the purists of zero-government and go from there, leaving the door open to reform and improvement, privatization here, state and federal subsidies there: this is what many Trump voters expect, and damn right. It would be political suicide to neglect the longing for national solidarity that Trump expressed, and that is unachievable without some combination of statist safety nets and fiscal incentives.
Maybe the president and his Cabinet of pragmatic, responsible, adults are the only men in Washington who see this. It will catch on, however, and the swamp dwellers and the hysterical hyenas who make a living, oxymoronic as “make a living” sounds in this context, will be relegated, sight unseen, to where they really were headed all along.
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