This morning Charles Krauthammer — who, as a young psychiatry student at Harvard Medical School, explored the dark recesses of human psychosis — suggests, with the most dubious of caveats, a logical escape route for sociopathic Republicans caught in the spidery web of healthcare reform.
Grasping reality simply won't do, he observes. "The purists who insist upon entirely escaping the heavy hand of government are dreaming…. GOP hard-liners must accept that Americans have become accustomed to some new health-care benefits." Americans have indeed become thus accustomed. But will GOP hard-liners ever accept that? Not bloody likely. Political ideology, whether on the right or left, has a way of confronting reality by utterly denying it.
In the GOP's funhouse of ideological denial, the real reality is that Americans — because they're Americans — passionately resist the heavily helpful hand of government and hanker instead for a free-market system of healthcare, in which some invisible hand magically resolves all now-troubling financial predicaments. (Just yesterday, for instance, former Red-Stater Erick Erickson insisted in a NYT op-ed that "unleashing free-market competition among insurance providers … [would] make it far more affordable for Americans to buy their own insurance than wait for government to subsidize it." There exists not a dram of supportive empirical evidence for Erickson's ideological argument — although his "more affordable" coverage would mean, empirically, altogether inadequate coverage. But what's inarguable reality compared to a powerful ideological conviction?)
At any rate, Krauthammer is more intelligently realistic in his assessment of what Americans want. And what they want runs violently counter to GOP hard-liners' ideology. Hence the ideologues are stuck in the stickiest of political wickets. Which leads us to Krauthammer's logical escape route for Republican game-players — a logical plan that's afflicted, however, by a striking Krauthammerian misreading of Republicans' sociopathic psychosis:
[Y]ou go the full Machiavelli and throw it all back on the Democrats. How? Republicans could forget about meeting the arcane requirements of "reconciliation" legislation (which requires only 51 votes in the Senate) and send the Senate a replacement bill loaded up with everything conservative — including tort reform and insurance competition across state lines. That would require 60 Senate votes. Let the Democrats filibuster it to death — and take the blame when repeal-and-replace fails and Obamacare carries on and then collapses under its own weight.
Upside: You reap the backlash. Downside: You have to live with your conscience.
You of course see the problem here, as any lay student of the hard-line Republican mind would. What conscience? Is Krauthammer referring to the ultraconservative conscience that, at the most painful lows of the Great Recession, intentionally deprived millions of jobless Americans of good-paying employment through President Obama's infrastructure-rebuilding plan? Or is he referring to Republicans' remorseless refusal to ever cooperate with Democrats, in any way, to any degree, in patching up some of Obamacare's flaws — to lighten Americans' financial burdens.
For Freedom Caucus types, living with one's conscience is like living with Jimmy Stewart's Harvey. Both are but phantoms of imagination. Take, for instance, former Freedom Caucuser and current OMB director Mick Mulvaney's defense of his boss's budget proposal, which, among other cruelties, would wipe out federal funding for Meals on Wheels. "I think it’s probably one of the most compassionate things we can do," said Mulvaney yesterday. ("We’re trying to focus on both the recipients of the money and the folks who give us the money in the first place," he added, quite imaginatively. NY Magazine's Eric Levitz corrects the OMB director's unconscionable lie: "This budget has no impact on taxes — it just transfers federal spending from programs that directly benefit working families to ones that don’t.")
So, Charles, tell me again: What, exactly, is the downside to Republicans' Machiavellian sabotage of their own healthcare bill? It sure as hell isn't a wounded conscience. After all, if Republican congressfolk possessed anything even resembling a conscience, they wouldn't be Republicans.