The politics of cowardice

Thanks to the wizardly Mitch McConnell and his aides, the Affordable Care Act is set to transform into a bill authorizing tax cuts for millionaires and the vaporizing of Medicaid, the dream of the Ayn Rand-ites since 1964. Before readers gape and wonder how is this possible, remember that Donald Trump is the latest and worst in a series of imbeciles nominated by GOP delegates and elected to the White House. We elected an imbecile in November 1980 – an imbecile who at least knew how to play an executive and had been crystal clear about policy objectives since LBJ sent Barry Goldwater reeling back to the Senate – with devastating consequences; hell, many in Ronald Reagan’s party thought he was an imbecile too. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. He signs legislation.

Thanks to their fealty to Both Sidesism, the Beltway press has constructed a fictional war between conservative and moderate Republicans over the American Millionaires Bailout Act. Firstly, every Republican in 2017 is a conservative to the left of Reagan. Secondly, there are no “moderates.” As I explained a couple days ago, a moderate is a Republican who can be polite on camera because he or she can expect a handsome reward for acquiescing. All is in readiness; nothing is left to chance. McConnell knows he will lose Rand Paul, the curly-topped senator from Kentucky who thinks human beings are chattel before the inexorability of market forces. This no vote leaves him with two more he can afford to lose before Vice President Pence breaks the 50-50 tie, likely Susan Collins of Maine, the most tactically shrewd of the so-called mods (she voted the Affordable Care Act out of committee but didn’t support the final floor vote) because she votes on stuff that allows her to preen on television.

As for the last sucker, Jim Newell has the goods on what McConnell will likely offer:

If he’s sticking to the script, McConnell has a list of giveaways that he saved to offer members later so that they can argue they only voted for the bill after extracting concessions. None stands out more visibly than the BCRA’s treatment of opioid crisis funds. Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, especially, are hoping for $45 billion in funding for the crisis over 10 years as a way to make the phase-out of the Medicaid expansion go down easier. Instead, the bill offers… $2 billion for one year or until exhausted. McConnell could increase those funds to, say, $20 billion, and Portman and Capito could argue that they secured a 1,000 percent increase! in announcing their support for the bill. Other issue- or state-specific piles of cash, none of which do anything to affect the underlying, unpopular structure of the bill, could be doled out to the likes of Maine Sen. Susan Collins, Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, or Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake. It’s just a matter of figuring out who gets the two “no” vote lifeboats. McConnell probably already knows.

Newell is dead right: “Portman and Capito could argue that they secured a 1,000 percent increase” is what you’ll hear from the senators from Ohio and West Virginia when they return to their ravaged districts, and I do mean ravaged (your assignment this weekend: read Margaret Talbot’s dispatch from Berkeley County, filed last month).

Finally, lest my detractors accuse me of eschewing Both Sideism, let me note the signs of cravenness in my own party. Since Jon Ossoff lost the Georgia Sixth race on Tuesday, NPR and political talk shows have booked a few ambitious welts to bemoan the existence of Nancy Pelosi. I suppose it took their considerable devotion to comity to avoid denouncing Pelosi like Laureen Hobbs did Howard Beale in Network. Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio essentially used this language.

However, Ryan is wrong. Tim Fucking Ryan cannot hold a caucus together. The only person as expert as the House Minority Leader in the use of the vise and the cudgel is Mitch McConnell. I’m terribly sorry that Dems think they’re losing special elections because Pelosi is in command. Are the boobs calling for her abdication aware that the GOP will tie every bunny-fresh Ossoff as a peacenik and a Commie even if House Minority Leader Tim Ryan held the gavel?

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