Obamacare set up health insurance marketplaces. It didn’t take over health insurance like some would make you believe, but one thing it did was establish a website, not much different from expedia, where people can compare available insurance plans. Of course, it made some rules about the plans that can be sold on this platform, and each state has its own set of plans, so somebody from NY, for example, only gets to shop for plans in NY. Republicans latched onto this, and said that it hurt competition, because insurance companies should be able to sell across state lines. I’m not an expert in health insurance, so I’m sure I’m missing something (maybe something big), but the whole thing always seemed silly to me. I’m the first to warn against anecdote, and I should probably use my own advice here, but every now and then we all ignore the rules (even our own), so here goes.
The culture war has gotten plenty of new kindling to burn in the form of a protest by a black man. In a totally non-violent, passive way, Kaepernick kneeled during the playing of the National Anthem. It went unnoticed for a while, but eventually got picked up and became a huge controversy. Things got even more heated this weekend after President Trump tweeted things about the kneeling (note, well after Kaepernick stopped playing), and players and owners responded. Even those who supported Trump in the past were bothered by his tweets, and stood with kneeling players to show their support for their players. Of all the things that are fascinating (and deeply troubling) about the whole thing, what I find most telling might be the deep importance of a symbol from the self-declared patriots. It’s a flag, it’s a song. And it’s not like he’s burning the flag (which itself shouldn’t be all that upsetting; the consequences for burning a flag aren’t like burning a building, right?). It’s not like he’s pissing on it, or spitting on it. He’s simply kneeling, quietly. But some are outraged (not hyperbole) by this disrespect for a symbol of America. This got me thinking if there was some symbol that I felt so strongly about, seemingly more so than the thing the symbol represents.
President Trump has had trouble getting the GOP-controlled congress to pass signature policies. The Senate failed (by a very slim margin) to repeal Obamacare, and Trump and the GOP leadership clearly do not get along very well. This shouldn’t be a surprise, he didn’t get along with them during the primary season, or the general election either. I don’t think any of that was about politics, but more about personality, and people can only fake their way through those kinds of deep feelings for so long.
So Trump has turned to democrats to try to get stuff done, or at least that’s what his supporters are saying. From what I can gather among my diverse group of FaceBook friends, and outlets like FoxNews and Breitbart, etc, his supporters seem to have divergent responses to his new partnership with democratic leadership. I’m finding this fascinating, and revealing.
These are hard times. I can handle people who disagree with me about policy. I can handle if you think taxes should be lower and I think taxes should be higher. I can handle if you want a private sector solution and I want the government to do more. I can handle if you think that we haven’t found the right balance of how to help those in need. I can even handle if you think we should use our military more or less than I do. But I still can’t handle if you don’t seem the least bit bothered that a president you love is also loved by nazis. After the election, I hit a low. I wrote about it here. I bounced back from it a bit since, but I’m back to where I started again.
None of us has the ability to perfectly predict what current event will be meaningful one hundred years from now. Some things are easy (the attacks on 9/11 for instance), but others are much harder to predict. It’s starting to feel possible, maybe not yet likely though, that we’re witnessing a real split in the republican party. In a simplified version of reality, the party has two groups. It has the classic republicans who feel strongly about free-markets, deregulation, private solutions over government involvement, individual responsibility, low taxes, and those kinds of things. These are the fiscal conservatives who are more likely to be socially liberal, or at least agnostic on social issues. The party also has the social conservatives. This group is where the white nationalists thrive. This is the group that is anti-immigration, feels the “fabric of America” is slipping away (which I can’t explain other than America becoming a more diverse pool of ethnicities), they have, or at least had, strong opinions about morality and decency, and this helps fuel their dislike of “gay culture” that they see as flamboyant, gratuitous, and indecent. At the same time, they balked at the way the government made them be fair to minorities. They way the government had anything to say about the way of life (that was great for them, even if less so for others). People who felt that we were once the base of the democratic party, but found themselves without a satisfying political home when the democrats became the party of civil rights, and stopped being the party of the KKK. That’s when the adoption of the southern strategy and the inclusion of the Reagan Democrats paid off, and brought a big win for Reagan. His characterization of government as something to be feared hit home, and his attacks on the welfare queen driving a Cadillac fit well with their feeling that they were being pushed out of the society they once dominated. And the party has balanced these two groups ever since, and somehow managed them well. The fiscal conservatives seemed to become more socially conservative and the social conservatives became more fiscally conservative. They had a comfortable balance. Trump is disrupting that.
We’re in very strange waters, and this makes it so difficult to predict the future. The President has survived things that would have decimated politicians in the past. He insulted John McCain, and specifically attacked his experience as a war hero, yet supporters, even those in the military, stood by him. He bragged about sexual assault in a more vulgar way that we’ve heard from most politicians. He threatened to use the justice department to jail his political opponent if elected. He blamed President Bush for 9/11. And all of that was before he got elected. Any one of those would have destroyed the candidacy of any normal candidate, but Trump wasn’t a normal candidate. Likewise, there have been so many things that would have crushed a sitting president, and it doesn’t seem to be doing too much harm to him.
The past day (or so) has been hard for me. The events in Charlottesville have taken an emotional toll, and it’s been almost nonstop fighting on FaceBook since then. I’m so saddened that anybody would turn a blind eye to the President’s reluctance to take sides against Nazis, but my FaceBook threads, and those of others, are full of horrible defenses of what President Trump said and failed to say in response to the events. The last post came before the President’s first statement, and that was when my disgust really started.