Thursday, May 25, 2017

Down, Down, Down We Go, Where We'll Stop, Nobody Knows

By the time you read this, we'll probably know the results of the Montana special election. As I'm writing it, though, we do not. We do know that Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate assaulted a reporter on the final afternoon of campaigning. The reporter had previously published an unflattering story about that candidate's investments in Russian companies under sanction by the US. The reporter was attempting to ask the candidate about the CBO report on the health care bill that was passed by the House Republican majority that the candidate is running to join. And we know that the candidate lied about the assault in a statement, and that a lot of Conservative commentators defended both the assault and the lie.

We know that most Republican elected officials have avoided comment on this topic, because let's be honest, we also know that if he wins the election, they will of course support him. All that matters is that R after his name. We know that spme Republican voters in Montana have told reporters that they don't care about the assault and think the reporters perhaps also deserve to be assaulted. And we know that the campaign says they raised more than $100,000 in the final day of the campaign, much of that after the news of the assault broke.

My reaction to all of this is just profound sadness. I am sad for my country. I am sad for the people who have so lost their sense of morals that they think a candidate's unprovoked assault on a journalist doing his job is not just not a problem, but an actual good thing. I am sad for a batch of Republican leaders who seem to have no principles beyond party power and cutting taxes for wealthy people.

Of course, none of this can be truly considered surprising anymore, given all the other horrible behavior that we're just shrugging off these days.

I want to ask the people defending Gianforte where the line is. They were OK with Trump calling the press the enemy of the people. They are OK with Gianforte actually assaulting a reporter. Where is the line, past which they will say that behavior is not OK?

How much will they tolerate in their pursuit of lower taxes and what they call "Christian values"? (Scare quotes because I don't think assaulting reporters should be considered "Christian values.")

And, then there is that CBO report. It was as bad as expected, and as Kevin Drum has pointed out, actually highlights that despite the supposed protections for people with pre-existing conditions who keep continuous coverage, if you live in a state that requests a waiver on the community rating provision and you have a pre-existing condition, you'll probably end up priced out of the non-group health insurance market even if you keep continuous coverage.

I have to admit, that last bit is weighing particularly heavily on me, for reasons I discussed a couple of weeks ago. Of course, I live in California, which is extremely unlikely to request a waiver. But what it would mean in practice is that if Mr. Snarky got a job offer in, say, Wisconsin (a state whose governor has said he'd probably seek a waiver), we'd have to consider my health insurance options before he took it. And I keep thinking about all of the people who live in states likely to request a waiver, and how they may find themselves facing a decision about whether to start looking to move. And all the people who will lose coverage outright because of the changes to Medicaid. I hate that we're doing this.

And I keep thinking of the fact the people pushing these unpopular, extreme ideas are not done. Trump's budget, although essentially dead on arrival at Congress, shows us that. They want to cut disability insurance, and food stamps, and on and on and on. And they will keep trying not to investigate the disturbing Russian interference in our election or the many problems happening with the intermingling of Trump's company and our national government to protect their chance to push through these unpopular ideas.

Again, I wonder, how far down do we go? How much evidence of collusion will we ignore? How many unethical business deals will we accept? How much corruption will we pretend we don't see? How much tax money will we let flow to Trump's businesses?

I keep thinking of this tweet I saw during the election:

I am fighting against feeling fatalistic about all of this. According to Nate Silver and his colleagues at 538, polling data indicates that Trump's base is eroding. I also listened to one of Ana Marie Cox's With Friends Like These podcasts that gave me some hope. It was the discussion with Ben Howe, and I can't really summarize it, except to say that I wish the people like him, and Evan McMullin, and David Frum, and so on would either start a movement to take back the Republican party or start a new party. Analysis and discussion is great, but I won't really believe it matters until I see some of the current group of Republicans getting primaried. I sincerely hope this happens. I cannot make it happen, because I do not support even the "normal" Republican positions. But the situation now seems to be that the Republican party is an unholy alliance between people who want extreme cuts to government programs and taxes, the theocratic right, and white supremacists, with each group willing to overlook the excesses of the others as long as they have some hope of achieving their own policy goals.

I have to say, from where I sit, it is a horrifying monster. I am not in the position to fight it from the inside, so I am expending my energy on trying to beat it at the ballot box. But as long as it exists, it will be a threat to our country. None of those groups has anywhere near a majority on its own, but if they keep their mutual assistance pact, they can get in power, especially if the more moderate people who sort of agree with their positions but wouldn't take them quite that far continue to hold their noses and support them. And that's sort of normal for our political system! It is a system that forces coalitions. But the members of this particular coalition are so extreme. It would be like me deciding to vote for someone who wants to nationalize our oil companies because I agree with them on raising the minimum wage, and doing so even though I knew another group in the coalition wanted to outlaw Christmas, and a third group was going to try to send all people of German descent "home" to Germany. It boggles my mind.

And so we continue to hurtle downwards. I hope we reach the limit of the moderates' ability to ignore the stench soon.


  1. I understand what you're thinking about regarding job offers and insurance issues; I've thought about that in the context of Baguette's needs for several years now. I don't know that we'd be able to leave California, because although nearly all states have autism mandates, the services covered vary widely. We aren't willing to consider my brother and his wife as potential guardians--not because of anything to do with them as people, but because they live in Texas, and Texas is already doing a poor job of providing special education. We can't risk putting Baguette in that kind of tenuous situation.

  2. A) I hope we don't sink as far down as Iran (much respect for Iranians, and I think a good chunk of them do feel their country was hijacked)

    B) Last I checked, Trump's approval rating among Republicans was ~82%. When Nixon was (finally) facing imminent impeachment, his disapproval rating was about 36% among Republicans. I suspect we'll need to sink however far it takes for Republican approval to sink below 60%, and a friend of mine thinks 50% (which was, I think, arbitrary, but seemed about right in light of the Nixon factoid).

    Also I love me some Nate Silver, but it is near criminal malpractice of his article that he didn't note Trump's approval rating among Republicans. Trump's *policies* are detested. Republicans still approve of the job Trump is doing. Either they like him as a person (eww) or, more likely, they aren't actually paying any attention to anything that he is doing.


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