More gruel
Enough rope…

Enough rope…

A funny thing is happening as Republicans get closer to achieving some of their key policy goals. Trump’s approval rating has dropped through the floor. Fake news is all fun and games until it costs you your health insurance.

People are more likely to engage in irrational behavior in politics than in their personal lives. Decisions I make about whether these leftovers are still good have sharp, immediate, individual consequences. On the other hand, my decision to trust Breitbart as a source for political information has consequences that tend to be remote in time and diffused across millions of lives.

Those distant consequences are still real. Occasionally they might hit home in ways that can change minds. We may be living through one of those great political bottlenecks, a moment when consequences become easier to trace and more personally impactful. Letting Trump supporters get what they asked for may be the key to a better future.

Imagine what might happen to our political climate if this administration appoints enough Supreme Court justices to overturn Roe v Wade. They probably only need Gorsuch and one additional Justice. Since the 90’s Republicans have felt comfortable ranting about abortion. They knew it would activate a loony far right base without any real consequences among the rest of the electorate. Everyone else felt safe dismissing Republican positions on abortion, assuming they would always be blocked from doing anything meaningful. Roughly 18% of voters today support the Republicans’ absolutist position on abortion rights. What if Republicans finally had to choose between the religious right and suburban voters?

One or two years under a Republican budget, a Republican social agenda, a Republican health care plan, and a Trumpian foreign policy might be just the kind of rock-bottom experience it takes to sober us up. Will there be damage? Yes. Will it be severe? Probably. Will it harm a lot of innocent people who don’t deserve it? You bet. Compare it to the consequences of a low-grade civil conflict and it seems pretty merciful.

As bad as things are now, we still have a lot of lunacy left to process. We may find that persuasion becomes much more practical as a means of reform after people have seen and experienced the consequences of their preferred path. Perhaps our best hope for an optimal outcome from the collapse of the Third Republic is to adopt a strategy of giving these people just enough rope.


  1. I have to agree; In order for things to get better, it needs to get worse.

    The Republican party has been sheltered as a minority party from the consequences of the pantheon of bad ideas, championed in the purity purges of ‘conservatism’ and draped in the patriotic wrap of ‘the Constitution’ (which most probably haven’t ever read).

    It’s a minority party, taking the bottom 20% on the worst ideas in the country and somehow cobbling together 40% of the electorate behind a vast array of regressive, destructive, and backwards platforms. Anti-healthcare, anti- entitlement, anti-middle-class, anti-working-class, pro-wealthy, pro-isolationist, pro-corporate malfeasance, and now subsists entirely on self-written conspiracy fiction and anti-intellectualism.

    They exist in their own little world where Democrats have spent decades protecting them from the consequences Republicans constantly beg for, and we’ve tolerated them with the false assurance that they could never muster enough electoral power to actually do anything they claim to say.

    I, for one, will never stop an idiot from suffering the consequences of their own actions, because it’s the only sure way they’ll learn. If they want to put a loaded gun to their head, I can only say “Do it or go home.” That’s where we are. The GOP doesn’t actually want to commit political suicide, they’re just acting out to get attention because they don’t want to commit to the bullshit they’ve told everyone they hold as ‘shared principles’.

    The gun is loaded, and in your hands, GOP, and nobody elses. Pull the trigger or go home.

    1. Isn’t everyone TIRED of having this debate? Why not focus on a completely radical idea – go for universal coverage – model it after a country that has controlled cost and good health outcomes….I don’t care who does it, what they call it, but it is way past time that America commits to quality, affordable health care for all its citizens, not just those who can afford it or work for a company that offers it.

      Enough already!

  2. It’s showtime! Trump is calling the Freedom Caucus’ bluff. He and Ryan feel they will get the votes they need and pass the AHCA out tomorrow morning. There is more at stake here than just health care…..And, lest we forget….last week, our government passed the point where it could shift funds around – meaning – it’s “debt ceiling time” too! This is another high stakes Freedom Caucus event…

    1. Assuming for the moment that Paul Ryan somehow manages to eke out a win tomorrow, the AHCA is headed for the slaughterhouse in the Senate. No one believes it has even a ghost of a chance in the upper chamber. The only thing passing this bill would do is give Democrats the gift of ramming Republicans’ votes down their throats all the way through ’18 à la 2010.

      There aren’t many things that could put Republican control of the House in jeopardy. Voting to take health insurance away from 24 million people is one of those things.

      That aside, you raise an interesting point about the Freedom Caucus. If this whole health care farce has made one thing disturbingly clear, it’s that the FC is emboldened in just how far it feels it can push the White House and put the brakes on anything Paul Ryan wants to do. What kind of concessions do they think they can wrangle once the debt ceiling comes around and how far are they willing to push it?

      1. There’s no negotiating with the Stroke Caucus. It’s not about concessions, or negotiation; it’s about control. They’re the bent axle of the Republican Party that can only go ‘far right or bust’, and will never settle for left-of-bust.

        They’re dead seats in Congress at best, and hostage-takers working against their own party on any day ending in the letter ‘y’. They’re the antithesis of why we have elected representatives. We elect congressmen to negotiate on our behalf. It’s bad enough the parties aren’t negotiating, but now you have ‘special groups’ like the Freedom Caucus that exist to sabotage any chance at meaningful legislative discussion.

      2. DS

        Typically, I’d agree that the Freedom Caucus is moving the goal posts and saying no for the sake of saying no; in this case, however, their demands are actually reasonably coherent. Trying to buy them off by repealing EHB without going after pre-existing conditions is likely to cause the death spiral the Republicans claim to be seeking to avoid. For once, it appears that several of these congressmen actually grasp that.

      3. “Coherent Freedom Caucus demands (health care)…”

        One can be coherent and not correct. The Freedom Caucus wants full repeal. You know what? Do it. Let’s go back to where we were in the 90s and early 2000s. See how people like that choice. Repealing the Essential Health Benefits AND 98% of Title 1 of the ACA bill is not coherent. It’s elitist and wrong and it doesn’t even make fiscal sense unless one assumes that death as the logical consequence is acceptable even when it is avoidable.

      4. I wouldn’t be so sure that the AHCA is doomed in the Senate. It has a very steep hill to climb.

        Part of me says “pass it” I double dare you. I want to see the consequences of Republican governing to hit people in the face. The problem is they have so damaged the operating structure of the ACA that without restoration, it will die. And so will too many people.

      5. DS

        Not saying they’re morally correct; just pointing out that, in a moral universe in which depriving millions of people of health insurance is acceptable, you cannot repeal EHBs without also repealing the pre-existing conditions mandate. Regardless of what you thing of the morality of the Freedom Caucus, Trump and Co. didn’t put forward a realistic bargain.

      6. The Freedom Caucus excepted pre-existing coverage and keeping kids on parental policies for one simple reason: political expedience. They have no interest in any action other than full repeal but even they recognized that repeal of these provisions was a “bridge too far” with their own base and party.

        This is an arrogant group of men who will burn down our government for their own ideology. Want to reduce the national debt? Don’t build a fricking 22 B wall. Don’t give the Pentagon another $54 B. Work for sensible reforms through consensus rather than the mack truck approach. Their methods are juvenile, bullish, and they are not helping make government work; they are working to make government fail.

      7. DS


        They didn’t accept those provisions. Part of the stated reason for many of their members remaining ‘no’ is that repealing EHBs is not sufficient. What they’re demanding is ultimately political suicide, but would make a coherent, if woefully inadequate, insurance system.

      8. DS, that is not correct. Here is an eminent authority on health care and he specifically outlines the demands (and exceptions) that the Freedom Caucus made to the President. Trump agreed (sadly) to repeal the ten essential benefits, but he would not agree to roll back the rest of the Title 1 as demanded by the FC. Please read this and see if it doesn’t clarify your understanding of the issue.

      9. DS


        From the article:

        “Some conservatives are apparently insisting that all of the ACA’s Title I insurance reforms be repealed before they will vote for the bill.”

        The bulleted list of reforms is not a list of exceptions, but a list of provisions that “could be” repealed if Title 1is fully repealed. The author makes no other mention of the specific demands of the Freedom Caucus. A full repeal of Title 1 necessarily includes both the pre-existing conditions mandate, as well as the provision permitting children to stay on their parent’s insurance until age 26.

        At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter, since, as far as team Trump is concerned, full repeal of Title 1 isn’t on the table.

      10. Where it does matter, DS, is intent and who “controls” the agenda of the Republican majority. To Trump’s credit, he understands or at least supports the view of others who do, that gutting the Title 1 provisions of the ACA law in addition to the ten Essential Benefits, kills the ACA – which is their preference. I think the Freedom Caucus would just as soon repealed the ACA in entireity and let the free market work out the details. Hardly governing, but it would achieve their end goal. Bear in mind, if you look at the list of the FC membership, none of these men will be in dire straits should health care reform fail or succeed. It is the abject insensitivity to the needs of the people in America who live in completely different circumstances that is so inexcusable. I have been concerned about this group since their push on the debt ceiling issue. That is the next shoe to drop intheir agenda.

      11. DS


        Unfortunately, I think the sad truth is that Trump neither understands, nor cares to understand, even the simplest dynamics of the healthcare system. What Trump understands is that he can’t realistically strike the most popular provisions of the ACA without paying a significant price among his voters. EHBs are important, but obscure. He can get away with stripping them because people don’t understand them. He cares little for the actual effects of this law.

  3. This follow-on to Case and Deaton’s study of working class white mortality due to “deaths of despair” is freaking me out. “The combined effect means that mortality rates of whites with no more than a high school degree, which were around 30 percent lower than mortality rates of blacks in 1999, grew to be 30 percent higher than blacks by 2015.”

    We need some answers here.

    1. You’re absolutely correct, regarding answers. I opened the link and briefly scanned the article also looking at the maps. For WA, with which I am familiar, I noticed that the areas where the mortality rates due to “deaths of despair” coincide almost exactly where the resource extraction industries (fishing, timber, mining) have largely collapsed. Those are the areas of the state that have the most depressed economies. Of course those are the areas which employed large numbers of whites with a HS diploma. Much of that employment was in the mills and factories associated with the resource extraction. The article discusses that, but just a little non-academic confirmation there. And no coincidence, but those areas also went for Trump, some of them were Republican for the first time since the 1920’s.

      The mainly agricultural areas also showed increases, but not as severe.

      On the other hand in Pugetopolis, we are in the midst of a boom.

      This dichotomy is a real problem. I also am convinced that if one looks at the population distribution, there will be very few white families. Many of the younger people are leaving and the ones who are left do not have the opportunities for family formation. Again the article touches on this.

      I am as puzzled and looking for ideas and solutions as much as anyone. Neither of the major parties have discussed this in the national rhetoric, though Sanders is beginning to address it.

      1. It would be interesting to use the Kaiser Medicaid map to see how many people in these depressed areas were signed up for health care. In addition, how many took advantage of it. The answers are probably complex and yet understandable. More time needed to plumb the figures/regions/reasons if we can link them. It almost demands a cancer-incidence study where when a higher than normal number of same type cancers appear in a given area, it indicates a problem that is larger than random chance. Of course, we will now have an NIH whose budget is cut so who knows if studies like this will occur for a very long time.

      2. Mary, regarding your comment about healthcare, I can confirm that the areas in WA that I discussed also have the highest percentages of people enrolled in Obamacare through the Medicaid expansion. They also are among the areas with the biggest declines in the number of uninsured. Unfortunately, there is a problem with lack of physicians and healthcare facilities in those areas. The state is making a major effort to address that issue, by increasing the training of healthcare professionals. A second public medical school at Wash State Univ is enrolling its first class this year and the Univ of Wash is increasing the enrollment in a program specifically designed to serve rural areas. The proposed Medicaid cuts will be deeply felt in WA. These are topics of serious concern in the state at this time.

      3. You are pointing out a legitimate problem area for the ACA. Of course we both know that had there been more cooperation in ironing some of these “fixable” problems out, we would have a better network of both physicians and facilities. It needs to be researched but I do not see this Congress nor this President nor anyone in his cabinet caring enough to make this a priority or even make the list.

  4. EJ

    There’s something that’s been bothering me for a while now.

    Suppose – for the sake of argument – that Trump falls as a result of the Russia affair. He’s ousted or made to resign, and Pence takes over. What will Trump’s followers do? There’s lots of them and they’ve shown that they have no love for party traditionalists. They may be expected to meekly return to the ranks, but that seems increasingly unlikely.

    I’m told that the Tea Party inflicted a lot of damage within the Republican Party by primarying people who weren’t sufficiently ideologically pure. I’m uncomfortable with the thought of overt white-supremacists doing the same.

    1. I agree that the slavish cult followers will not take kindly to their orange idol being cast down, but them turning on the GOP is far less alarming than some of them becoming the next Tim McVeigh. I think the majority of then are all talk and no action, but you don’t need that many sociopathic scumbags to do a lot of harm.

  5. This article by Paul Krugman boils this whole sorry political mess surrounding the Republicans: “whatever the eventual outcome, what we’re witnessing is what happens when a party that gave up hard thinking in favor of empty sloganeering ends up in charge of actual policy. And it’s not a pretty sight.”

    I couldn’t agree more. Potshots are easy; governing is hard and the American people are tuned in.

    1. Thanks for posting the Krugman column; it was one that I had missed. That the GOP is not ready to govern has been apparent for a long time.

      To me the entire AHCA act has two primary aims:
      1. Completely dismember Medicaid.
      2. Reverse the tax increases imposed on the wealthy by the ACA.
      These fully explain why the AHCA must be passed immediately. They can’t wait for transparency.

      This is fully in line with Ryan’s and the GOP’s Ayn Randian governing philosophy of “comforting the comfortable and afflicting the afflicted”. I hate to say it but in general that has been the GOP’s policy since shortly after it was formed. To be sure there have been brief periods when they did significantly modify that policy, e.g. Teddy Roosevelt’s administration and the part of the immediate post WWII period, but those periods have not lasted.

      1. There’s a third reason, Tmerritt. Tax reform. That’s why the market went into the tank yesterday. To enact tax reform, they have to be able to demonstrate that they can pass this legislation. That’s more important to Wall St than health care reform, obviously. It’s all about money. Always.

    1. I love these politicians that can’t praise their wives enough when they get into a tight spot. The ones that hold hands while they’re making apologies for an affair…geez. The one that showed some real spunk was the AL Gov’s wife who got his phone with all the recorded messages and leaked them to the press. That wife got even. Scumbag is still serving…only in the south.

  6. I have two concerns, and would welcome this community’s thoughts on them:

    1) Here’s a short excerpt of a very long FB post by Robert Reich outlining his impressions after visiting D.C. for the first time since Trump was inaugurated. His last point (referred to as #10) jumped off the page for me:

    10. “Many people asked me bewilderedly, ‘How did this [Trump] happen?’ When I suggest it had a lot to do with the 35-year-long decline of incomes of the bottom 60%; the growing sense, ever since the Wall Street bailout, that the game is rigged; and the utter failure of both Republicans and Democrats to reverse these trends – they gave me blank stares.”

    Since November, I’ve been saying this, among other things, to show we didn’t just wake up to Trump one day out of the blue. Reich’s experiences mirror mine EXACTLY. Blank stares, almost uniformly. Wanna know what’s worse? The FB responses directed specifically to #10 are the virtual equivalent of a blank stare: they agree, then launch into the problems of gerrymandering, money in politics, and voting out the Republicans, even though HE JUST SAID THAT’S NOT WHY WE LOST.

    I’ve never seen anything like this in 30 years of politics. People seem utterly incapable of taking it in; you can almost see the idea hitting them for a brief moment and bouncing off. People are very engaged now politically, with announcements about new 2018 candidates popping up all the time. The bar is set pretty low; all you have to do is call yourself a Democrat, and you’re good to go—the theory is a Democrat (or what passes for one) is always better than what passes for a Republican.

    So here we go, full speed ahead to recreate the environment that brought us Trump. I think we are well and truly fucked. Which brings me to…

    2) On a few occasions, I’ve wondered if Trump is half-assedly inviting a terrorist attack or declaration of war, in hopes Americans will unite around him and let him off the hook for all kinds of stuff, like we did for 43 after 9/11. But after Comey’s testimony yesterday, any shred of legitimacy his administration may have had before is gone, and the worry that came up a couple of times before is now squarely in the front of my mind. Short of a national catastrophe, there is absolutely NOTHING that would bring Americans together to unite behind him (and maybe even that wouldn’t). From his perspective (that of someone who has not once demonstrated the typically human ability to empathize), what choice is he left with? Please respond by telling me my imagination has gotten the best of me, and there’s absolutely no reason to worry my pretty little head about anything like that. ☺

    1. I just read the referenced blog posting from Robert Reich. He is a person whose writings to which I give a great deal of credibility. I basically concur with all 10 points and particularly 10. As I have stated in several postings, I consider the growing inequity, which results in stagnant incomes, etc. to be one of the most important challenges facing the American economic system at this time. This subject has been covered considerably in some of the recent economic literature.

      Regarding, your question #2, I do not for a minute think that your concerns are misplaced. I too am concerned that his policies will lead to an existential crisis as I’ve mentioned earlier. Even a crisis that is not existential might serve, if it could be hyped considerably. BTW, I define an existential crisis as one that threatens the very existence of the American System as we know it. 9/11 did not come to that level, but GWB was sufficiently terrified, that Cheney was able to hype it and scare the American people so that Cheney’s purposes were basically served. Bannon could serve a similar role. But his legitimacy and that of Trump are so low now that statement may no longer be correct.

      As a point of clarification, in my opinion and of many historians the US has faced two existential crises since its formation. The first was the Civil War and the second was the Great Depression and WWII. Actually, the Great Depression was the more severe portion of the 2nd crisis to the American System, but certainly WWII was very significant coming as it did while the recovery from the Great Depression was only partially complete. One needs to remember that the war actually began affecting America and the economy in 1939 as soon as it began and very quickly become dominant in 1940. If WWII had not been underway FDR may not have ran for the 3rd term in 1940. He was certainly already aware, that he was no longer “Doctor, Cure the Depression”, but was “Doctor, Win the War.”

      1. My experience is that Trump supporters have dug in. They simply cannot or will not accept that he is a lying, inept president who cares very little for this country except for what it will do for him. I’m pretty jaded about this. Until people feel the pain or have to confront a truth they will not voluntarily see, I don’t know how things can change. Trump will have to proven to be in cahoots with the Russians in very clear terms as those who support him simply choose to look the other way.

      2. Certainly the hard core Trump supporters will not be swayed, as long as they can get an occasional fix from Faux News or Breitbart. The hardcore Trump “True Believers” remind me of the psychology of Nazis or Communists, as explored by Eric Hoffer in the “True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements” (1951). I read that probably in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s during the height of the Vietnam protests. Hoffer was a longshoreman in San Francisco, after being rejected by the US Army during WWII. At that time longshore work was dangerous and a very rough occupation. Before that he was an itinerant worker and had little formal education. He eventually was presented the Medal of Freedom by Reagan. Of course all that is ancient, but sometimes the ancients had good thoughts.

      3. Then why do Democrats feel they (not me) need to work so hard to recruit these Trump die-hards? I just don’t see a return on investment here. I’d rather go back into grassroots politics and join forces with today’s minorities, tomorrows majority. We have more in common with our respective agendas. Work urban areas where we’re strong, and yes, as possible, work rural areas. But it seems to me from my experience talking to T supporters that they are not worth the effort. Cold, I know, but think about it.

      4. Just my opinion, but it is pointless to try to change the minds of Trump, or for that matter, Republican, voters. in 2008, G W Bush’s approval rating was 25%! That is 25% after he started 2 unwon, unplanned for, unpaid for wars that had virtually no end, pissed away a big budget surplus and set the arab world on fire. Not to mention that little issue of almost setting off a world wide depression!

        And still, 25% of the voters, Republican all, thought he was doing a hunky dory bang up job!

        Now, how the hell does one change a mind that is able to approve of Bush’s presidency! Can not be done!
        Trump’s approval is 37% and on the way down. My opinion, it is a waste of time even talking to these people. They listen and agree with Hannity, Rush, read Brieitbard and have absolutely no ability for critical thinking, never having had an original thought ever!

        And Trump’s budget will royally screw them. But they are still believers. Let them drink the coolaide.

        as someone said, you can not fix stupid!

        In my almost 72 years, i have never seen so many people cheerfully jumping off the cliff together so billionaires can have even more money to be used to buy congressmen!

        As George Carlin once said “You know how stupid the average person is? Well, half the people are stupider than him!”

        I know all the above does not sound optimistic. Realism can be a bitch:-))!

      5. One year older than you and see things the same. Some may think our voices speak to wisdom of time; others may think we’re hopelessly adrift. I’m at the point in life where I really don’t care.

        I say: Work with those who have shared values. There’s more promise there.

      6. Let me assert my firm belief that we are most certainly not fucked. As long as we continue to strive each and every day to hold Trump and his entourage accountable, we can mitigate the damage that they’re able to inflict and pull through, no matter how difficult things get. Giving up is the one thing that the likes of Bannon wants more than anything else and that is what we must never give them.

        That said, the Democratic and Republican parties are, without question, finished. Yes, Republicans have more collective political power than at any time since the 1920s, but ask yourself what, exactly, it is that they’ve been able to do with all that power. At this point in his presidency, Obama had already passed a trillion dollar stimulus to the economy and was getting into healthcare reform. By comparison, Trump is chaos incarnate with his first 100 days being distinctive only for being the most unproductive in American history and Republicans in Congress are an absolute clusterf*** and can’t even get together on the one thing they all agree on, repealing Obamacare.

        This is the end of the beginning and the beginning of the end. We’re in the midst of a titanic political shift and no one knows where this is going. All that’s for certain is that the status quo has shattered beyond repair.

        These are difficult times, but what we as individuals have to do, even as we fight back against the scourge of Trump, is raise the debate with ideas and proposals that can open up a path to the future where opportunity, equality, and responsibility are given to all and expected from all Americans. These can’t just be words on a piece of paper anymore or subject to the conservative idea of an ideal that we endless strive towards step by step, noble though that might sound. We already have everything we need to make this ideal a reality and we can and must do it.

        We will beat back Trump, make no mistake. Our real work starts afterwards.

      7. While I agree that changing the minds of the hard core Trump contingent is not likely to happen, a sizeable portion of the Trump voters are not hard core. Rather they are generally fairly reasonable people. Often times they happen to live in some of the same areas as the hard core. If the reasonable voters can be reached and encouraged to speak up, then the hard core may think twice and not be so vociferous. Sometimes, they even live in the same households as the hard core Trumpikins. I think of my associate who voted for Trump, he admitted that his wife voted for Hillary.

        With this in mind, I believe that the Democrats must put a lot of outreach into building the party in rural areas. One reason is that not all the voters in those areas are hard core GOPers or TEA partiers. Those voters must be encouraged to get active so the hard core types do not dominate the civic discussion and their votes are countered. Another is that politics is a game of percentages. If just just a few tenths of a percent more people had voted Democratic in each of the four Great Lakes states, Hillary would be president. Our discussion would be totally different. To be sure candidates recruited for those areas must support democratic values, and not be “DINOs”.

        I know the above is true in Washington State. We presently have a narrowly Republican Senate, largely because there was a slight gerrymander implemented in 2011. Because of that we can not get adequate funding for our schools among many other difficulties. This is despite the fact that in general our state is quite blue. Yet when I am in many of those republican strongholds, I find many of the people are quite reasonable and actually don’t disagree with the Democratic positions. The loud voices of the hard core must be countered. If the Democrats had just a few percentage points more votes in many of these areas, the state Senate would be Democratic.

        I could continue, but that is not necessary. I believe that the focus on the urban areas and minorities must be extended to the rural areas. Maybe just a little bit more rural attention or alteration of the tone of the discussion, would make a huge difference. The Democratic party still needs to stand for the people, policies that extend the voting franchise, good healthcare, good education for all, and a fair chance for all including minorities. That is where Reich’s entire post and particularly that of is Point #10 comes into play. Just a slight modification of the discourse might help considerably.

    2. I talk to Trump voters in my family. Anout half are bias against minorties and woman. The other half voted Trump because their economic prospects have fallen for decades. They figure both main political parties have paid no attention to their concerns so they took a chance on Trump. Fiqured if nothing else their vote would not be took for granted again. Many of them were Obama voters. So #10 certainly is pertinent. I read Reich too. But he is very to the left while I am more centerist. But the guy is smart and at times sways me.

    3. Is any of the deep thinking tempered by the larger number of people (2,800,000) who voted for Clinton rather than the person currently occupying the White House?

      He wasn’t elected by vote of the most people, he’s president because of a constitutional quirk.

      That is not to say problems shouldn’t be identified and attempts made to solve them.

      But I sometimes fear our search for THE fundamental issue of the Democrats and/or economic policy and/or societal clans and/or….and/or….and/or… makes the political issues we face seem deeper than they actually are.

      The level of political interest and activity and resistance is remarkable right now. Maybe that’s a good thing.

      1. I agree that searching for the fundamental issue makes the political issues seem deeper than they actually are. However, twice in less than 20 years we have gotten a president that did not win the popular vote, both by the same constitutional quirk. In the first case, we got a disaster as president and in less than three months in office the second president is on course to be an even bigger disaster.

        To me the fundamental issue is that too many voters are shoe horned into densely populated urban areas combined with the small state bias of the US Constitution. At least at this time the urban voters have a distinctly different viewpoint than the rural voters. There are other factors as well including the US Constitution giving control of elections to the states, leading to Gerrymandering and other abuses. However, these were compromises required to get a strong federal government formed initially. So we have to live with them and hope that the American System will muddle through this crisis as we have others. Maybe some time in the future there will be a sufficient consensus enabling the correction of some of these issues.

    1. This follow up story from AP today regarding Manafort is going to rock this administration and keep the Comey/Rogers testimony front and center. I can’t believe these guys thought no one in the FBI or intelligence would be tracking people playing footsie with folks like Oleg Deripaska. I am also dumbfounded that no one vetted Flynn.

      On top of the President live tweeting more lies while testimony regarding a prior twitter lie is underway in the House. “House of Cards” wouldn’t dare such a bizarre story line for fear of losing credibility. I can’t see this administration as legitimate.

      1. Did you see CA Rep. Nunes in a press conference allege that the Obama administration could have been involved in wiretapping Trump? He was going to brief the president who is part of the investigation….Where’s the integrity of the house investigation after this? Who can anyone believe? Is this more deflection/diversion from Trump? Is this an appropriate comment for the chair of an ongoing investigation to volunteer? I’m aghast. He hadn’t even briefed the Dem co-chair, Schiff!

  7. Two things I am holding on to these days:

    1. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

    W was so terrible, the Country elected a black President!
    I believe the reaction to this occupation has and will result in an unprecedented and continuing surge of political awakening and engagement. This goes well beyond the typical Left v Right – People are outraged and activated.

    2. We’re being being pruned like roses. It’s painful, but that’s how you get beautiful new growth in unexpected places.

    Discussion about Public Banks as new sources of revenue should appeal to all non-Wall Streeters as a scalable and logical idea whose time has come.
    Info here:

    Financial Transaction Tax to pay for Medicare for All should be pushed by;

    – Explaining how universal coverage solves individual healthcare
    – Benefits US corporations by eliminating their employee insurance outlays, thus inoculating them from relentless premium increases and making them more competitive with foreign competitors.

    YMMV, but I see possibilities.

    1. I don’t think a single-payer program is the way we should go for universal care, but I do agree that the idea itself should play into a larger narrative that benefits all Americans. We need it if we’re going to enact a Basic Income, and once we do that, all that wasted money we’ve been spending on an outdated and inefficient system can be used for all sorts of things, from repairing our dilapidated infrastructure to investments in our schools, worker training, economic assistance to struggling areas, etc.

      1. Universal health care makes sense. It also impacts those who have profited for a long time from health care. They will fight for their market share. I don’t know even after significant study, what the perfect solution is, but I do know this: what we have is not serving all people; the quality of care varies with income; preventative care is important to save cost and increase productivity; and health outcomes in America are on the floor while costs per capita are double that of the next country in the stack. Beyond these arguments, there is the moral issue of turning away people from health care simply due to lack of affordability.

      2. I totally concur with Mary’s statement. I am now a little more than 50% through the “Healing of America” and find it fully relevant despite having been written approximately 8 years ago. I also do not have an opinion on what the perfect healthcare system is for the United States. Whatever the system might be, it must account for the US’ unique history, our politics, our diversity and the legacy of white nationalism. I think that if the US could get to 95+% over a period of years, we would find cost pressures would ease considerably, public health would rise significantly and we might be able to start make significant progress on some of the other significant health care issues, such as cost of medication and the inefficiencies in the system. I further think Obamacare is a good start, unfortunately it’s lifespan may be severely limited.

        The current edition of The Economist has two interesting articles on the current healthcare debate. The links follow:



        The first column describes the historical differences in the welfare systems between the US and other industrialized nations. The second looks at the debate from Trump’s perspective of being a salesman. The first is particularly interesting in that it gives a different perspective on the historical background including immigration and by extension the “white nationalism” prevalent in America.

        In the event that you wish to review these columns and are paywalled, I can extract them and post them in MyDropbox. Let me know.

  8. I am losing faith that any consequences will change the minds of Trump supporters, as long as Fox News and Breitbart are in the bag for him. An older relative (“Party over personality! We have to support the GOP at all costs.”) bemoaned to me during the campaign about how The Weekly Standard was being too mean to Trump. That person (and many others) take the “give him a chance to do things and see how it goes” tack, which is frightening to me. It’s so clear that his campaign promises were as likely as the jr high student council candidate’s promise for Gatorade in the drinking fountains.

    They continue to have great hope that Federalism will win out. It’s almost as if Federalism would be a deus ex machina, curing all the evils the Federal Govt has wrought. But I live in Illinois, which has proven for years that it is incapable of serving its citizens. Their optimism astounds me.

    1. I spoke this morning to a very nice, senior who voted for Trump, believes the wall is needed, and that America has been too easy on those who come here illegally. She also feels that the ACA was terrible and that Trump will bring about change. To which statement I responded: Are you pleased with the changes you have seen since Trump became president? She said she was.

      White, female, upper middle class, intelligent, Republican.

      1. When I’ve entered into conversation with “White, upper middle class, intelligent, Republican” folks, the answer is often, “well, he’s better than Hillary.” I don’t get it. Which shouldn’t surprise me, since Trump still acts like he’s running against her. It only stands to reason that his supporters feel the same.

  9. (I should note I paraphrase from the writing of one of my relatives here, so credit goes to them for a lot of the ideas expressed here.)

    It’s been pretty depressing to realize that I’m going to be living through an obviously unstable period in American history where America is currently headed by an unhinged demagogue and and is threatened by the possibility of converting from a respectable democratic republic to a soft-kleptocracy along the lines of Hungary. Sadly, Americans like me have become too lazy, expecting that everything will eventually work out and that Americans could never fall prey for an authoritarian figure. And even more depressing to think, even if Trump is impeached (unlikely) or we elect another President in 2020, we will be dealing with his supporters and with the Trumpist phenomenon for several generations.

    I agree with Chris that, since the end of the Cold War, the united “other” that Americans once banded against – communism – has been lost, and now we instead are fighting each other as new illiberal ideologies emerge within our own country. The loss of religions’ prominence in American society, as each succeeding generations is increasingly atheist or agnostic, leads to new pseudo-religious ideologies forming that define the causes they are for and the causes they are against. ( The important thing about the cause you’re against in many religions is that it’s this ephemeral evil which must be defeated, but which can never truly be defeated. It is always there, rallying members to fight endlessly against it.

    Team Bannon wants to make radical Islam the equivalent “other” that is seen as a challenge to Western values and culture. I don’t think Team Bannon will quite succeed, because I don’t think radical Islam and ISIS are comparable to the Nazism or communism of the past, but they can still inflict massive damage to American values and to the security of the American Muslim community as as long as they’re in the White House and especially whenever the next ISIS-inspired terrorist attack occurs on US soil. Meanwhile, the radical fringes of the Left are taking honestly important ideas like implicit racism (which continues to drive inequality in outcomes between whites and blacks in America) and suddenly jumping to believing that they must silence any dissent, for any dissenting voice is instantly a voice of “white supremacy.” To be clear, I am far more worried about America’s right-wing than it’s left-wing, because the right-wing holds significant sway in our government right now, but I am witnessing people on the Left radicalize before my own eyes and it’s worrying that, as long as hyperpartisanship and polarization continue (and I don’t see why they won’t:, we are probably already watching the beginning formation of an authoritarian equivalent to Team Bannon on the left.

    The end-game of modern liberalism is, unfortunately, boring. No cosmic struggle, no epic heroes battling against unstoppable forces, no legendary tales that will endure for ages, and no rewarding or punishing afterlife at the end of it all. When people disengage from our current religions and have nothing worthwhile and tangible to fight for and distract themselves, and lose a greater meaning to their lives, they turn inward and start to see all their own flaws. But that sucks, so they start to see the flaws and differences in those around them and focus on those instead. In response to the uncomfortable anxiety-inducing idea of stability in our liberal society, new pseudo-religious illiberal ideologies form that provide the meaning that people desire in their lives – importantly, with a greater force, a malicious “other,” that they fight against but which, of course, can never actually be truly vanquished. There’s always another stage in the fight.

    1. I don’t mean to downplay the seriousness of our situation, but one could see this whole slog as our extraordinary unseemly growing pains as we make the slow transition into a less religious country. All we can do in the meantime is outvote the Trumpistas and see that their influence is mitigated to the greatest degree possible.

      1. Of course I’m bothered by it, mime, but we don’t have much of a choice here. We have to face these challenges head on, working to mitigate the consequences of them as best we can while we continue to make our steady progress into the future.

        On the positive side, our task could be seen as that much easier as we’ve had the numbers moving quite dramatically in our direction in only a single generation, and there’s no reason to think that that progress will reverse itself in the next generation or the generation after that.

        At least that’s how I see things. If there’s a problem that needs solving, I want to get moving on it.

      2. EJ

        There’s precedent in the world for a more hopeful solution. The Scandinavian countries managed their transition to high-civil-investment, low-violence, low-poverty, nonreligious countries without descending into civil bloodshed.

  10. Here’s the thing.

    Any normal Republican, yeah, string out the rope. Congress passes the AHCA, pundits bicker for nine months, the provisions start hitting early 2018 and suddenly constituents are all up in GOPs asses saying “What the fuck is with my new insurance premiums?” GOP is like “Shit man we’re in an election year” and they hustle and pass something else. 50/50 that ‘something else’ is either actually useful and they managed to save face and limit their losses, or it’s just as bad and they’re swept in the House and challenged in the Senate. The ACA is thrown under the rug but nobody liked it anyway.

    Great. I’m on board. I’m young and can handle a few years chaos and uncertainty.

    But we’re not dealing with a normal Republican. We’re dealing with a petty tyrant that’s literally assigning commissars to cabinets to oversee civic servants’ fealties. This in an era where he’s modelling his behavior after a Turkish despot who is literally repealing his country’s Constitution, a Russian kleptocrat who has long since dismantled true oppositional representative democracy, and a Filipino sociopath who is literally presiding over the murders of thousands of his own people as we speak.

    It’s like you, Chris, yourself said during the election: the difference between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump is that if Ted Cruz got impeached, he’d actually leave. Furthermore, I really appreciate your analysis of the past, but every ‘come to Jesus’ moment you’ve predicted on the American right has never happened.

    This is where I bring up again that as a younger person, I’ve never met these OG Republican statesmen older people are so fond of remembering. The majority of my political adulthood has been surrounded by a group of reactionary obstructionists who have doubled down against every single come to Jesus moment thrown at them. And the biggest and shittiest lesson of 2016 is that it all worked: Obama’s entire work is being dismantled, the ACA is toast, Merrick Garland will never be on the Supreme Court, and the GOP has full control of every branch of the federal government. Their dickwad intolerance WORKS, and has rewarded them handsomely for their hard work. They have no reason to change tactics, ever again.

    So all this would be more appealing again if I had some sense that those OG statesmen that older Republicans are always telling me about were around to, you know, do something about this. But I don’t see them anywhere. Point me to a Republican who a) is still in office, b) has held their principles in actions as well as speech, and c) represents that old guard outlook. I’d like to look up their VoteSmart ratings and see if they’ve helped DeVos become Secretary of Education (or House of Representatives equivalent failure to enact 11th hour principled conservativism).

    And am I supposed to trust the people of the United States to have enough and say, “No, I don’t like this.” No, the people of Russia find ways to publicly excuse Putin just fine. I can’t speak to how women in Iran feel but the rollback of their rights since the 70s hasn’t lead to an eventual “I’m sick of this shit” course, at least yet. And that was forty years ago, which means if a similar rollback happens in the US today, then maybe I can hope to see some movement back toward democracy around when my grandchildren are coming of political age. Woo.

    Polls keep showing that people are actually kinda okay with stronger background checks on guns and aren’t really into assault rifles. That debate is a no-go in the government, dead on arrival. People keep saying, “You know, weed isn’t that big of a deal.” Jeff Sessions is Attorney General now. People keep saying “I’d really like some infrastructure spending.” Trump is proposing cuts to nearly everything that keeps local communities running. People keep saying, “I’d really like a balanced budget.” Well I frankly don’t expect the Republican ‘fiscal conservatives’ to make a lot of noise pouring money into a useless wasteful piece of shit wall.

    So I don’t see the point in giving slack in the hopes that anybody ‘hangs themselves.’ That rope is already signed over to the white nationalist mobs to hang … uh… democracy.

    1. I can only speak for myself, but I don’t think anyone here, Chris included, is saying that we should be holding out pointless hopes for the true faithful in the cult of Trump. Those people are a lost cause, absolutely. It’s the comparative moderates and independents that voted for him that we still have a chance with, and those people are absolutely worth fighting for.

      From the moment it was clear Trump won, a requisite degree of pain, suffering, and death was inevitable for our comeback. It’s our job to see that that isn’t in vain and people get woke the fuck up. Thankfully, we seem to be well on our way in that regard, though our work has only just started.

      That aside, the idea of OG Republicans somehow riding to our rescue (romantic though the idea is) is a bit humorous. If the Republican Party were anything other then the relative equivalent of a can of 4Loko that’s been sitting out in the sun for WAY too long, that might be an option, but it’s not. Old-school Republicans have no place in the party anymore and what few are left have had their voices and influence stifled and silenced.

      Honestly, for anyone who actually understands what the Republican Party used to be, still hearing people, even Chris, still calling them Republicans is annoying. They’re not.

  11. Wondering the same thing Chris. It looks like a lot of folks view this as a consequence-free game. Until they’re personally affected, of course. Those people being railed against aren’t real people, they’re welfare queen characters in a political video game. Socially vicious policies directed at minority groups: just showing those damn libruls we’re tired of their crap. They’re not people, they’re tokens or obstacles or something. The government won’t *really* strip mine the Grand Canyon or sell off Yellowstone. Or *really* take my SS or Medicare.

    Case in point. With (former) friends. Apparently it was a “just us white folk” moment one night at their house:

    FF: Did you see those f*cking Mexicans the cops busted up the street? Driving a Jag. Glad the cops caught ’em–either stealing the Jag or drugs. Or both. F*cking Mexicans. Taking jobs when they’re not stealing shit.

    Me: Um, you know that (my wife)’s parents immigrated from Mexico, right? (He’s well aware of it.)

    FF: Yeah, but that’s different–she has a job and doesn’t look Mexican.

    Me: Maybe you’d better count the silver before we leave.

    Shock, surprise, feigned remorse. I’m sure he shoots off his mouth like this all the time, but here he had a minor consequence. Cost him some long-term friends. Interesting thing: he (no shit) works for the EPA. Voted Trump. He’s a damn engineer, voted for a republican administration and yet never somehow considered the blindingly, ironically obvious personal consequences. It was just a damn game to him. And, hey, his team won. Huzzay.

    I hate to believe the average American only learns through pain, but, jeez are we going to have to have a Great Depression or a WW II every generation or so? And if the catastrophe doesn’t happen of itself we’ll just create one?

      1. I hear ya, Tracey. Question now is, what are we – the people of all races and ethnicities – gonna do about it? Here’s one view and I have to say, I’m there. I have talked with enough Trump voters recently to know that they still “believe” in this man. Despite every vile word he has uttered; every ugly thing he has done; and every promise he’s broken. Why waste your time trying to convince these people when if they choose to ignore or accept or support what they see happening around them is so abhorrent to me? Here’s a little reinforcement for my frustrations:
        “After the debacle of 2016, might the time have at last come for Democrats to weaponize their anger instead of swallowing it? Instead of studying how to talk to “real people,” might they start talking like real people?”

        This is what the Resistance is building upon – recognition that there are many, many Americans who will never choose to see what is going on. I’m coming around fully to Frank Rich’ POV.

      2. Just read Frank Rich’s article, Mary, but it isn’t letting me respond to your comment directly. It doesn’t matter if diehard Trump voters refuse to stop supporting him or whether we can talk sense into them–the fact is America owes both them and the rest of us a fair chance to live a decent life if they work hard, and they haven’t gotten that.

        Fortunately, we don’t need to win them over to win elections in the future. But we do need to win over the large number of registered voters who stayed home on election day–largely Democrats, and largely people of color. They stayed home because the withholding of their vote was literally the only way they could get the message across that they will no longer be placated by empty talk. This was not about race, it was about economics–but communities of color bear a disproportionate share of an economy that offers little opportunity to improve one’s station in life. This election proved that economics trumps (no pun intended) both race and sex in the voting booth. That message cost us dearly, yet we still won’t allow ourselves to hear it.

      3. One thing to keep in mind is that there are several “types” of Trump supporters. The poor who are desperate have my sympathy. Upper middle class people who are educated and don’t lack for a thing except good sense, they don’t.

  12. Chris, I think you underestimate the extent and longevity the damage that can and will be done by this cabal. Any number of the things they plan on doing cannot be undone easily, or even at all.

    If Asian Carp get into the Great Lakes as a result of a 97% reduction in federal funding to protect the Great Lakes, that is irreversible, and cannot be traced directly back to any funding reduction.

    It is very possible that this cabal will be installing not one, not two, but possibly 3 justices (Breyer is 78). That will ensure a hard right Supreme Court for decades. So WHEN Roe V Wade is overturned, outside of some extraordinary intervention, outside of the constitution, abortions will be illegal regardless of who is in Congress, the Senate, and the White House, for a long long time.
    Same goes for Citizens United.

    And let’s not even begin to get into the long term damage of having a bannon show with pruitt demolishing the EPA. You don’t simply reverse a contaminated drinking water supply.

    Can you further imagine the difficulty, ANY government will have, when they go to the people and say “look, we know that the past regime’s actions have actually radically increased the deficit, but we are going to have to raise taxes, plus go even further in debt, to rebuild all the social constructs the past regime wiped out.”

    The only hope I see for the western world is occurring right now. I am watching CNN and watching the bannon regime gets bound more and more tightly to the russian work on the election.

    One last thing: I so hope that Canada starts building nukes, and points them squarely at the U.S., and states “When you come for our water in the future, think REAL hard about that.”

  13. The pain and suffering from the actions of this administration and the Republican agenda will be consequential to those who can least tolerate it. This madness extends well beyond deprivation of health care, it impacts workplace safety, womens’ rights, respect for diversity, livelihoods, science, the environment, education, and so much more. It is mean-spirited and portrays a hardness that would have never seemed possible – until, now. Some of the losses may never recover; others only after great pain and devastation. Who cuts health care and gives the top 10% tax cuts in the same legislation? It’s simply unfathomable.

    As a small example – consider the cuts to Meals on Wheels. The statement by Congressional Budget Director and hard right conservative Mick Mulvaney that this program hasn’t proven to be effective epitomizes the lengths to which some will go to find an excuse to act in a way that has no justification. This program, MOW, not only helps feed poor, disabled, and likely shut-in people, it offers companionship to those who frequently have no one else. It offers a visual glimpse into their state of health, and, yes, it offers sustenance. When one’s primary goal in life is driven by quantifying financial losses without consideration of life’s most basic needs, we have indeed sunk to an unimaginable low place. And this is just one program that is recommended for major funding cuts.

    1. Many lovely people truly believe in their hearts that it’s worse to take from the rich (who they identify with as givers and thus good) than to give to the poor (who they see as takers and thus bad). In other words, they feel more empathy for those who have things taken than to those to whom things are given.

      For these same lovely people, they will only feel twinges of pain (or anger) when they realize that in the new social order, critical services will be taken from those in need and – important – those that they know. And when they find out they’re the ones who are losing? Maybe only then will we hear from them in anger. It’ll be fleeting, though, because they’ll never feel that they’re “takers” like the others and so they’ll never empathize with the takers.

  14. DS

    I have to say, thus far, it doesn’t really appear that enough of the Republican agenda is going to become law to influence voters. Too many semi-responsible Republican legislators appear to be experiencing epiphanies along the lines of what you’ve outlined here. On the one hand, good for the country; on the other, it will continue to allow a certain strain of conservatism – let’s call it “Ryanism” – to maintain that it hasn’t been given a proper chance.

    On a side note, Politico ran this piece on the VA’s EHR, Vista:

    It’s only one side of the story, of course, but, as an IT professional, I find it sadly plausible.

    Also, in other news, I believe these folks were referred to as ‘commissars’ in the Soviet Union:

  15. I agree. What people need is to actually see the consequences of their decisions. I am not sure it will wake up all of them. Certainly not the Fox News watchers. But if there is some pain attached to their decisions, well, that may wake them up enough to stop wanting another Benghazi hearing and think before they vote.

    As the below points out, and we all probably know, the red states are the poorest states, the ones who get the most federal dollars, and the most Republican. And all went for president who is now being investigated by the FBI!

    1. I’m working with a resistance group and my committee’s focus is healthcare. To your point about people feeling no pain nor interest because they will not be affected – Here are some statistics that may change their reality.

      1 in 5 people on medicare, 11M medicare benficiaries – receive help from medicaid.

      2 out of 3 nursing home residents who are on medicare, receive assistance from Medicaid – most of them are women.

      4 in 10 people on Medicare with Medicaid are adults under age 65 with significant disabilities.

      Two-thirds of ALL Medicaid spending for people on Medicare is for long-term care services and supports.

      Federal and state Medicaid spending for low income people on Medicare totaled almost $147 M in 2011.

      (Kaiser Family Foundation, 3/20/17)

      Now let’s look a little further down the road.

      By removing the taxes instituted under the ACA, the revenue stream that has been used to “shrink” the doughnut hole in seniors’ prescription plans, will not be there. Further, the loss of a steady revenue stream that had extended the solvency of Medicare for another decade is not shortened by 3-4 years.

      And, this is just Medicare. Consider the fact that working people may not be offered health insurance (mandate to employers is gone); the basic coverages instituted under the ACA are no longer mandated so the plan may not offer the same quality of coverage. Those who are 50-64 will face a 5 x premium ratio that will make premiums sky high and deductibles prohibitive.

      Funding for pandemics, vaccine development, research for cures for chronic illnesses? Cut. Programs that help the poor find housing keeping them from homelessness? Cut. Pollution of streams, air – guaranteed. No chemical safety board. I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

  16. You’re singing my tune. Imagine if Clinton had won? The complete state of consequence-free “leadership” from the right would have doubled down, tripled down, and one could argue that the fallout would have been far worse than the ridiculous farce of a Trump presidency. Instead, the far right will have to live with the results of what they’ve always demanded. In honesty, I flirted with the idea of voting for Trump to force this showdown, but then decided that willingly contributing to this was a bridge too far. I also think the risk of setting a course of action on a new political reality is very dangerous. Now that we’re here, however, I’m hoping people will step back from the edge and that we can return to some semblance of normalcy…and respect for facts over opinion…and a more rational discourse.

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