Thursday, March 16, 2017

Trumpcare vs. Trump's Voters

Students of the presidency know well the perennial problem of presidents getting off to a bad start by beginning with the wrong issue. It could be argued that, in terms of actually accomplishing something that might potentially be of benefit to his voters, President Trump might have done better to start with, say, infrastructure spending. But, of course, he and the party he conquered campaigned on a promise to repeal Obamacare, something Republicans have been screaming about now for some seven-plus years - only to discover, rather late in the day, that their path to the White House depended on the votes of  "working class" and other downscale and rural voters who might actually appreciate government help with their health care more than they crave tax cuts for the already overly wealthy. 

In his sobering but entertaining account of the 2016 election, (Insane Clown Car President: Dispatches from the 2016 Circus) Matt Taibbi (author of The Divide and The Great Derangement) echoed what many others have observed over the years about the Republican party's curious relationship with its electorate. 

"In the elaborate con game that is American electoral politics, the Republican voter has long been the easiest mark in the game ... the CEO class has had a brilliantly winning electoral strategy for a generation. ...They get everything from the Republicans because you don't have to make a concession to a Republican voter."  For their part, the role of conservative "intellectuals," Taibbi argued, "was to cook up a sales pitch designed to get them to vote for politicians who would instantly betray them to business interests eager to ship their jobs off to China and India. The most successful trick was linking the corporate mantra of profit without responsibility to the concept of individual liberty."

But 2016 was supposedly different: "The decision by huge masses of Republican voters to defy DC-thinkfluencer types like George Will and throw in with a carnival act like Trump is no small thing. For the first time in a generation, Republican voters are taking their destiny into their own hands." Trump, Taibbi argued, achieved the presidency as "a one-man movement unto himself who owes almost nothing to traditional republicans and can be expected to be anything but a figurehead."

If so, then what exactly is happening in Washington - especially in the current contretemps over replacing Obamacare with Trumpcare? President Trump may not be traditionally schooled in public policy or in Washington politics, but his campaign showed an excellent instinct for understanding and responding to what most bothered a lot of voters. So he may yet well prove to be no "figurehead," who would abandon his voters by uncritically signing into law Paul Ryan's agenda.

Will the anti-establishment anger of Trump's Republican voters for once be truly translated into actual policy, or will business as usual prevail again in Washington with the Republican establishment successfully acting against the interests of many of the very voters who have made their ascendancy possible? That would seem to be the overriding fundamental question defining this curious Trumpcare moment.

No comments:

Post a Comment