Over the past several days the Republican American Health Care Act (ACHA), proposed to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act aka ObamaCare, has been shown to be nothing but a complete boondoggle in the making. Everyone from Bernie Sanders to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has picked it apart, exposing the sophistry of the whole affair.
But was it always going to be this bad under a President Trump?
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away known as the last season of The Late Show with David Letterman, the President was making one of his regular appearances on a program he visited multiple times over the past three decades. In one answer, he described how he admired the Scottish single-payer healthcare system while deriding the failures of ObamaCare. “I fully subscribe to the fact that we have to take care of the people,” he said.
This video, more than anything else, hammers home for me why Donald Trump won the election. It had nothing to do with Putin, Russia, fraudulent ballots, or whatever the hell Rachel Maddow is rambling on about these days.
I spent the summers of my childhood going to visit family in central Illinois, which is just south of the Rust Belt’s western tip. Thomas Frank cut his teeth as a young reporter covering one of the Caterpillar strikes in the early 1990’s that impacted some of my family members. The despair and resignation of people who find themselves in a hollowed-out industrial core that once made America Great (if you were white, Christian, and heterosexual) is the embodiment of what Nietzsche meant when he said “If you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.”
For many Trump supporters, particularly the Baby Boomer set, Make America Great Again expressed for them not as much desire for a Klan rally down the main street as a yearning for the welfare state circa 1956, back in the days when Eisenhower oversaw an economy that was the most productive on earth and targeted full employment as a goal while the military-industrial complex was busy defending our hallowed shores from godless Communists. The past 24 months of Bernie Sanders and Trump appealing to this sort of nostalgia has been nothing more or less than the political equivalent of Back to the Future with the American voters as Marty McFly.
As I wrote last year, Trump combined about six positions far to the left of Clinton with about ten to the right of Attila the Hun. If you go to these former centers of economic prosperity and campaign against a Democrat using job-killing trade deals like TPP and NAFTA and the bungle of Democratic healthcare “reform” (remember, before ObamaCare there was HillaryCare), you will win electoral votes regardless of whether you display the most naked forms of xenophobia, sexism, and racism.
Now let’s be clear, Trump was quite obviously stealing lines from Sanders, whose campaign was the eerie doppelganger of Trump’s. By the time of the convention, when Mike Pence took his place on the ticket, it was obvious that establishment Republicans had their reins around the Donald’s neck. It also seemed more than likely that his packaging of a fantasy Reagan-era economic landscape had helped transform him from a two-bit sleaze landlord and reality TV star into the bizarre media and political persona that Andy Warhol would never have dared imagine.
But after the conventions, the liberal establishment and its servant chattering class in the media relentlessly hammered voters with the idea that they should not select their ideal candidate but a “lesser evil” candidate, with figures like Noam Chomsky and Adolph Reed throwing their weight into the mix for good measure.
And so on Election Day, millions of men and women went into the voting booth and did just that by voting for Donald Trump. Someone I know went as far as saying “Look, Donald Trump is an asshole but at least he isn’t Hillary Clinton.”