Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Humiliating Best-Case Trump Administration Scenario

I want to talk about what I take to be the best-case Trump administration scenario. Now let's be clear, along a lot of axes that scenario is still a pretty grim one. On many issues -- civil rights and liberties, voting rights, the environment, reproductive rights, to name a few -- it's hard to imagine a Trump administration being anything less than cataclysmic. I don't talk about those here, not because they don't matter, but because they aren't meaningfully different in the "best-case" scenario versus the median-case.

So what is our "best-case"? Well, Trump's victory speech focused on infrastructure, and I've joked with my friends that if Donald Trump wants to distract himself for four years by building trains I would be over-the-moon. And this is hardly implausible -- Trump has very little in the way of firm ideology (he's the consummate populist panderer), but he does like building things. He's already calling for a huge stimulus package, of the sort that Democrats have been begging for for years now but Republicans always derided as socialist. Well, "always" meaning "when Democrats propose it." If there's one thing we know about Republicans, it's that they're entirely fine with massive federal government spending so long as it isn't a Democratic idea. So it strikes me as eminently plausible that this could get through Congress.

Likewise on health care. The big news and the end of this week was that President-elect Trump may consider keeping major portions of the Affordable Care Act: specifically, the ban on preexisting condition discrimination and the allowance that young people can stay on their parents' insurance up until age 26. I've also heard that he might continue to support the Medicaid expansion, and I'm dubious Republicans state politicians will continue to resist taking that money now that it isn't an explicit middle finger to Obama. The ban on preexisting condition clauses, for its part, would make it virtually impossible to get rid of the mandate. I fully expect to see some law out of the Republican Congress that purports to "repeal Obamacare." But rather than "repeal and replace," it may well be in essence "repeal and keep." The "repeal" part would basically be an ego salve; or perhaps more accurately, an effort to appropriate Obama's legacy to themselves by taking what's properly termed a "fix" and pretending like it's a brand-new Republican idea.

So let's see: Infrastructure spending. Stimulus. A health care plan modeled on the ACA. All of these are Democratic ideas, that Republicans will now consider only because it won't be a party of Black people and women that's proposing them. This is actually not even that surprising when you look back at American history -- remember how the healthcare mandate was bog-standard Republican orthodoxy right up until it became Obama's policy, at which point it transformed into the greatest threat to human liberty in the past century? Much like Rock & Roll, they'll savage them right up until they can steal and take credit for them. Again, it's the best case scenario because it preserves or implements some genuinely good policies. But it'll be humiliating to see Republicans act as if they came up with these wonderful ideas all by themselves.

And of course, the real moral of the story would simply be "we can get Congress to invest in America again, but only if we wash it down with a gallon jug of White nationalism and misogyny while we're at it." This would not augur well for the future of American progressive politics.

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