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Sat Mar 25, 2017, 02:48 AM

If You Can't Be a Good Example, You May Be an Awful Warning...

What a delicious, delightful, de-lovely day it has been (with thanks to Cole Porter)!

Watching >>Redacted<< and Paul Ryan simultaneously flopsplaining the AHCA fail from opposite ends of Pennsylvania Avenue was a much-appreciated moment of fulfilling schadenfreude for so many of us, and surely there will be many, many more.

In fact, if these three contributions to the Great AHCA Autopsy have any validity (and I suspect they have considerable) the hits will just keep on coming:

Republicans Land a Punch on Health Care, to Their Own Face - NYT

Inside the GOP's Health Care Debacle - Politico

9 Strategic Mistakes President >>Redacted<< and Republicans Made on Health Care - Time.com

All three articles offer some interesting and unique analysis, but they also have one strong analytical point in common, which is simply that for all the bill's manifold flaws, and for all the current Administration's bumbling ineptitude, and for all Ryan's unpopularity and weaselly manipulations, the thing that really saved Americans from losing their health insurance and access to care was the House Freedom Caucus:

"Since the Tea Party wave of 2010 that swept House Republicans into power, a raucous, intransigent and loosely aligned group of lawmakers — most from heavily Republican districts — have usually ended up landing a punch to their own party’s face." - Jennifer Steinhauer, NYT

"But by and large, Trump's first attempt to corral the Republican-controlled Congress—and particularly the Freedom Caucus, a rambunctious, ideologically charged collection of GOP legislators who have long refused to fall in line behind the party's leadership—failed miserably." - Tim Alberta, Politico

"Freedom Caucus members were goaded on... The Freedom Caucus had notched one victory. It was time for another. And another. And another. But they were not officially signing on as supporters, and every shift rightward made it more difficult for lawmakers from swing districts or from moderate ideological backgrounds to acquiesce." Philip Elliot, Time.com

Paul Ryan's flopsplaination this afternoon contained a rare moment of honesty:

"Ryan said he was aware of the problem during a 10-minute session with reporters where he accepted blame for the failure. He repeatedly said his caucus was used to functioning as "an opposition party" looking to move into a governing one. “We weren’t just quite there today. We will get there,” Ryan said." - Time.com

Give the devil his due- as Speaker, it's a Party Leader's privilege to give the diagnosis and use the royal "we" in copping to the flaws that accompany it. But I'm betting that he was looking at HFC members when he delivered that line. Or if not looking at them, silently making a bitter roll call.

Of course, it's easy enough to look at the banner carriers of Conservative Ideological Purity as only half of the GOP's problem. At some point during the wild ride, I carried away a journalist's observation that "Ryan's only got two problems: Republican moderates and the Freedom Caucus."

And I thought to myself, "Is there a middle ground between GOPpies who can be reasonably identified as "moderates" (mostly pragmatists from swing districts, I suspect, rather than true ideological moderates,) and the Freedom Caucus? And if so, how big is it?"

Either not big enough, or not assertive enough, to pull the outliers from the middle and the far right back into the fold when the chips are down and the politics really matter. Given something better to work with in terms of policy (these three and many more articles have pointed out that the bill itself offered woefully inadequate policy foundations for the scope and impact to which it aspired) the occupants of such a theoretical middle ground might have been able to pull in enough support. But when politics is all they got, the GOP apparently has no remaining center of gravity.

Hopefully that is the key difference we can rely upon, when the GOP has finally gnawed itself into oblivion and the Democrats are given another chance at Legislative control in either House. We have our own ideological purists whose lessons learned from painful time in the wilderness may well be very similar to the Tea Party-inspired HFC.

When that happens, it will be incumbent on the Democrats in our middle ground between the moderate centrists and whatever we're calling our ideological banner carriers (be it "far left" or "real progressive" or any other form of True Scotsman) to exercise our Party's clear superiority in crafting solid policy to underpin politically fraught legislation. And then to act as a strong center of gravity to bring in enough support.

It will help enormously if Democratic voters study the Awful Warning provided so vividly these past eighteen days.


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