By Heather Digby Parton / Salon March 10, 2017
This week’s rollout of Paul Ryan’s “repeal and replace” Obamacare bill is an excellent reminder of what the country would look like if any Republican other than Donald Trump had won the presidency — not that different. We can now say for sure that the problem isn’t just that the party nominated a crude, unprepared conman for the top job. The problem is that the party itself is a big sloppy hot mess. How could we have forgotten?
Like the old Republican cry of “tort reform,” which nobody really understood, “Repeal Obamacare” became a slogan that would evoke lusty cheers from an audience of partisans. If you asked any of them what it meant in practice, not one could tell you. Not that it mattered. The whole issue was political kabuki once the Affordable Care Act was rolled out and tens of millions of people signed on to it, and the Republicans knew it. Their elected legislators just kept voting for repeals they knew would never be enacted and screaming their empty slogan at rallies to keep their base excited.
When Trump unexpectedly won the elections, after having promised that he too would “Repeal Obamacare!” and “replace it with something terrific” which he promised would happen immediately, cover everyone and be much cheaper and much better, Republicans were suddenly stuck with a problem that had no solution. Now that he’s president, Trump has discovered that “nobody knew health care could be so complicated.” Based on what we’re seeing from the GOP Congress, he’s actually right about that.
I won’t go into all the machinations here because they’re changing by the hour. First Trump’s on board and then he’s not and then he’s back on. (He’s been saying for weeks that he’d really prefer to let Obamacare fail — sabotage it from the executive branch —and then blame the Democrats.) He does not want people to call this monstrosity “Trumpcare” — but everyone is doing it anyway.
House Speaker Paul Ryan is holding televised power point presentations that would be equally incomprehensible but more entertaining if he used some puppets to help him explain it, as Glenn Beck used to do on his old Fox News show to reveal the “Soros conspiracy.” The Freedom Caucus is rebelling, the entire medical community is freaking out, conservative senators are telling Ryan to back off and start over and the White House is still trying to figure out where the light switches are.
In other words, they have absolutely no idea what they’re doing. Surprise! You thought it was just Trump, didn’t you?
It’s been a while since Republicans had to do anything but run their mouths and throw sand in the government’s gears. Obstruction is much easier than governing. But as they were honing their skills as an opposition party over these last few years, they also empowered a group of amateurs, fanatics and flim-flam artists to rise to positions of power in the party. In their hands opposition was largely a matter of theatrics, playing to the crowd. With the help of the burgeoning right-wing media, vastly wealthy benefactors, a well-established but radicalized ideological infrastructure and an energized grassroots, they won office for a period of years by promising a conservative nirvana with numbers that never added up. The GOP was ripe for a snake oil salesman like Donald Trump.