Once Upon a Time…

Gather around, boys and girls, let me tell you a story about what life was like back in the “Before Time”.

The year was 1990.  The Internet wasn’t a thing yet, but CompuServe was, and Sears had just launched Prodigy.  (Yes, Sears. Believe it or not, Sears was the Amazon of their day.)  We were only two years removed from Reagan, Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump were still on their second wives, the Berlin Wall had just fallen, and grunge didn’t exist yet.  In short, it was a great time to be alive.

Back in those days, yours truly lived in a wonderful land called Texas, and Texas was in the midst of electing itself a new governor.  See if this sounds familiar:  The Republicans nominated an colorful, brash, outspoken, businessman, one with zero experience in government, while the Democrats nominated, wait for it, *gasp*, a woman, one who had made her career in politics.

Texas, then as now, was solidly a red state, and Texans do love their colorful brash outspoken businessman types (see Perot, H. Ross), so conventional wisdom was that the Republican nominee, Clayton Williams, was a sure thing, a done deal.  Never mind for a second that the Democratic candidate, Ann Richards, might be more qualified for office.

Then one day the tides turned.  Our boy Clayton made a joke about rape.  And that joke, somewhat mild by today’s standards, changed the trajectory of the entire campaign.

Now, let me stop right here a moment , and be clear about a few things.

At no time was Clayton Williams ever accused of any sexual misconduct.  There is no indication he ever grabbed anyone by their… anything.  There were no accusers from his past. No women came forward with complaints.  No shopping malls banned him from their Sears.  And, as far as we know, no actresses, comediennes , or potted plants were masturbated in front of.

What he did do was this:  Inclement weather was delaying a campaign event, and Williams compared it to rape, saying “if it’s inevitable, just relax and enjoy it.”

I should also point out, nothing he said suggested that he advocated or condoned sexual assault in any way.  Nothing he said implied that one could get away with sexual assault if one was famous or took someone furniture shopping.

Further, there was no question that it was a joke.  Although in bad taste, everyone knew it was as a joke.  Everyone sort of knew he was a bully and an idiot, and perhaps he didn’t take rape as seriously as he should, but no one, then or now, has referred to him as a sexual predator.

Yet overnight, what had been a huge lead in the polls dwindled away.  His supporters turned away from him in droves.  In the end Ann Richards was elected the first women governor of Texas.  (With an asterisk, there was another before her, but that is a whole other story.)

Why?

Well, boys and girls, back in those days the people of Texas, including the Republicans of Texas, decided that character matters.  They were unwilling to sacrifice their principles or their values just for the sake of party loyalty.  They were unwilling to overlook a serious character flaw just to keep the other side from power. Principles mattered. Values mattered. I know it’s hard to understand today, but it was a different time back then.

And thus a Democrat, a woman, became the governor of the reddest of the red states.  And guess what?  Texas survived.  Texas remained Texas.  There were no riots in the streets, no gun confiscations, no rampant waves of abortions, no sharia law, and the whole state didn’t turn gay overnight.  None of the fear-mongering we know today came to pass.  Texas remained steadfastly Texas.

What did happen was, the people of Texas came together and rejected someone they found to be unfit of character, and instead elected someone they might not agree with, but at least someone they could respect.

**sigh**

That all seems like such a very very long time ago now.

 

The Opposition

The Republican Party is imploding.  Ana Navarro, one of my favorite Republicans, tweeted the other day, concerning the exodus of conservative Senators Bob Flake and Jeff Corker…

Will last sane Republican left, pls take Reagan’s portrait & turn-off the lights?

CNN recently published Say goodbye to your Republican Party, an opinion piece by Kurt Bardella, also about this exodus, and specifically Steve Bannon’s role in it, summarizing…

And now the Republican Party as we knew it is gone. It is a thing of the past. There is no going back. The silence of the majority has eroded the moral fabric of the Republican Party.

And just to bring the point home for me, a very dear friend of mine had this to say, and I literally could not agree more…

I understand political compromise to get the closest one can get to a representative of one’s wishes, but I’m not willing to compromise on basic integrity, honesty, truth, and decency.

The Republican Party, if not imploding, is definitely changing. And not for the better.

I had hoped that one of the bright points of the current presidency might be a reckoning within the GOP.  That when forced to take sides, enough of them would chose what was right over what was expedient.  A few have, but many have not.

I’m losing hope that the few remaining Republicans with principles have any hope of retaking control of their party. From the recent resignations, it appears they are too.

I also hoped this might lead to a party split, and/or the formation of a new conservative party, one for REAL conservatives. But I fear that’s not happening either.

It seems the people who call themselves “conservatives” (quotes intentional) are perfectly fine with a party and leadership devoid of integrity, honesty, truth, and decency. They seem perfectly happy with the abandonment of facts, knowledge, rationality, expertise, and science. They are quite comfortable with dismantling any and all aspects of the First Amendment, just so long as you don’t do anything even tangentially related to the Second Amendment.

None of this I can abide.

And that’s not even starting in on the “nationalism” dog whistling that targets anyone who isn’t a straight white Christian male citizen. And while not all “conservatives” are giddily embracing this new bigotry, many are.  But more importantly, the ones not welcoming this are remaining silent, or willfully ignorant, of its existence.  For me, this silent complicity is just as bad as active participation.

This I cannot abide either.

I’m at the point where I’m ready to do the unthinkable, and join the opposition, even if only as a temporary, “enemy of my enemy” sort of thing. Truth is, I already have, I just haven’t announced it publicly yet. I wasn’t quite sure how I would explain it. Well… I guess I just did.

Therefore…

As long as men like Donald Trump are in power, as long as men like Steve Bannon shape policy, as long as men like Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan stand by and do nothing, and as long as true conservatives no longer feel welcome in the “conservative” party, I will do anything and everything I can to support the opposition.

So I did.  I joined the opposition.

When I renewed my driver’s license a few weeks ago, under the section for updating my voter registration, for the first time ever, I checked the box next to the Florida Democratic Party.

I hope this is temporary.  I very much would like to go back to my previous “No Party Affiliation”.  Or even join a viable third party that might rise from the ashes of the current GOP.  But for now, anyway, I am a Democrat.

God that feels weird.

But the world became a much weirder place on June 16, 2015, and even more so on November 8, 2016. And it hasn’t gotten any less weirder yet.

Because here’s the thing.  Sometimes you can’t stay in the middle, sometimes you have to pick a side.  Sometimes you have to stand up and be counted.  Sometimes the not making a choice is making a choice.  Like RUSH said…

You can choose a ready guide
In some celestial voice
If you choose not to decide
You still have made a choice
You can choose from phantom fears
And kindness that can kill
I will choose a path that’s clear
I will choose free will.

Okay, so that doesn’t fit the situation exactly, but you get the idea.

Why Can’t Republicans Repeal and Replace Obamacare?

Lately our President’s team and our Congressional leaders have been throwing verbal jabs back and forth, each blaming the other for the failure to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, which those of you not paying attention, is the official name of what we have taken to calling “Obamacare”.

In the latest, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated the repeal failed because of artificial timelines and unreasonable expectations on the part of the President, for whom “it may not have been understood” just how these things work.  Dan Scovino, Trump’s director of social media fired back basically saying “more excuses”, you’ve had seven years, how much time do you need?

Now I’m going to do something that might surprise you.  In this blame-apalooza between Trump and Congress, I’m siding with Trump.  Yes, you heard me.  Trump said on day one he was going to ask Congress for a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, and as far as I know, he did essentially that.  He did his part.  The only other thing he had to do was sign the bill when it came out the other end.  A bill that never came.

It was up to Congress, and particularly the Republicans in Congress, who by the way, have literally FULL control – they can do anything they want, it was up to them to actually come up with the replacement.

Now Trump was no help on that front, but honestly, did anyone think he had an actual plan?  Come on, of course not.  We all know he’s not a “details” guy, he just blusters around and throws out tasty sound bites, and expects others to come up with the details for him.  This is not new, he has literally always worked this way.  No one should be surprised by this.

So, Republicans, with a solid majority in both houses of Congress, were unable to pass a bill to repeal and replace.  Why?  It’s simple.  Their bills were, in a word, shit.

Trump promised to repeal Obamacare and replace it with something better.  Remember?  Better.  That’s the key point here.  The replacement was meant to be an improvement.  It was going to be “a beautiful picture”, remember – his words.  And you know what?  I’m on board with that.  I can get behind that.  You want to repeal the ACA and replace it with something better, you have my full support.  Have at it.  Seriously.  Do that.

The problem is, not one single bill from the Republicans, not the House bill, not the first Senate bill, not the revised second Senate bill, not the repeal-now-replace-later bill, not even the “skinny repeal” bill, whatever the fuck that was, not one of those bills was even remotely better than the existing ACA.

Not.  One.  Of.  Them.

Not even close.  They were all, demonstrably and quantifiably, worse.  And by a lot.

How do we know they were worse?  I’m glad you asked.  Did you know, we have a department of the government, the Congressional Budget Office, whose sole job it is, I mean really, this is the only thing they do all day long, is to look at every single piece of proposed legislation that comes out of Congress, and determine its financial impact.

These are not politicians or bureaucrats.  These are accountants and actuarials and statisticians and economists, you know, the mathy, sciencey guys.  In short, they’re professional bean counters, non-partisan bean counters, and they count up exactly how many non-partisan beans it’s going to cost us, for literally every piece of legislation.

And they counted the beans for each of those repeal and replace bills, the ones that survived long enough to be counted anyway, and they all came up short.  Way, way short.  And yes, I know:  projections, estimates, error, all of that.  Sure, but… even if their estimates are off by a factor of ten.  Even if the exaggerated the impact to ten times worse than reality, those bills are STILL significantly worse than the ACA they meant to replace. More uninsured, higher premiums, less coverage.  By any measure, each and every one of the proposed bills was far worse than Obamacare.  Like I said.  Shit.

The real shame for Republicans here is not that they failed to repeal Obamacare.  The real shame is that, in the end, there were only three Republican Senators, only three, unwilling to sell out their constituents and replace Obamacare with something they knew would be worse.  That, is shameful.

So, why could they come up with nothing better?  Well, first off, what nobody ever realized, according to our President, is that:  healthcare is hard.  I mean really hard.  It’s complicated, with like lots of math and probabilities and charts and stuff.  Us ordinary guys have no chance of understanding it.  Who knew?

Beyond that, to come up with something better almost certainly means moving closer to universal coverage, that’s just the way insurance pools work.  And it probably means moving closer to single payer, or otherwise removing the profit motive from the business of deciding who lives and who dies.  And because modern-day Republicans have decided they will always side with businesses interests over the best interests of individuals, they can’t move in either of those directions.

To be fair, Democrats often side with businesses over individuals too, but at least they’re coy about it.  They at least pretend to support and value the individual, and on rare occasion even put forth legislation to reflect that, you know, just to keep up appearances.  Things like, for example, oh, I don’t know, the Affordable Care Act.

And by the way, the ACA is devolving into the problem it is today precisely because of the business interests at work with the Democrats during its creation.

So where does that leave us?  Well, Obamacare is starting to stink like day old fish.  All this flailing about in Congress for the last six months has done nothing to solve the problems with the ACA.  It still needs to be fixed.  Or replaced.  Either way, I don’t care, but the result HAS TO BE something better than what we have now.

I cannot explain why no one in Congress understands that.  Even Trump figured out that part of it.  Sad.