There was a time when Republicans sucked at governing, sucked at conscientious consistency and really sucked at displaying even minimal fragments of human decency. But by God they excelled at messaging. When it came to rhetorical drivel, their charlatanism was awesome and their party unity stupendous. They could gather 'round the national cracker barrel and quite impressively peddle wholesale gibberish about taxes, deficits, inflation, creeping socialism and "government takeovers" and Democratic presidential despotism. For students of demagogic humbuggery and party solidarity, Republicans were the unsurpassable ideal — a textbook collectivity of opportunistic horseshit over steadfast principles.
And now, to quote Goodfellas' mobster Henry Hill, it's all over. Their once-tight messaging, enabled by party unity and a common enemy, is a shambolic cacophony. To know a Republican position is to know only a Republican faction. The party's conservatives say one thing, the "moderates" say another, and, most amusing of all, the party's leadership says something entirely different — even within its own ranks. The anarchy that the party wished to impose on the country has turned inward.
The GOP leadership's reaction to the Congressional Budget Office's scoring of the Careless American Health Act makes the above case. "[The CBO] report confirms that [our bill] will lower premiums and improve access to quality, affordable care," brayed Paul Ryan at Speaker.gov. "I’m pretty encouraged by it. It actually exceeded my expectations," he added on Fox News last night. Meanwhile, the Trump administration — the higher authority, of course, in party leadership — decried what Speaker Ryan was so encouraged by: "We disagree strenuously with the report," said Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.
OK, guys, which is it?
One thing is certain. The House bill that Ryan so enthusiastically swears will "lower premiums and improve access to quality, affordable care" is somewhat contradicted by the CBO's alternative facts. For instance a 64-year-old earning $26,500 currently pays $1,700 a year (6 percent of his income) for a $15,300 health package. Under Ryan's plan, the probable Trump-voter would see his annual premium jump to $19,500 — $14,600 of which the 64-year-old would be obliged to pay out of pocket: i.e., 55 percent of his income. Not to be unduly critical of the reputedly wonkish Paul Ryan, but that just might imperil the gentleman's "affordable care."
Indeed, in defense of Ryan's gibberish, Paul Krugman notes this morning that "Trumpcare is a slapdash, incompetent piece of legislation; but even a much more competent set of people couldn’t have done better given the constraints of Republican Party ideology."
Such as it is — and as it is, the party's ideology has become a ramshackle embarrassment of internal squabbling and wildly disparate messaging. So now in their absence of awesomely unified rhetorical drivel, Republicans are reduced to an ungovernable, ungoverning mess of a party. And that should be Democrats' unified message.