Americans are Celebrating Today

Alan Zendell, July 19, 2017

This morning, Mitch McConnell said he imagined Democrats were celebrating today, but they ought to be clear why. That statement is another lesson in learning to translate political gibberish into English.

First, it’s not just Democrats who are celebrating. It’s every American who worries about the cost of health care, and recent polls suggest four out of five of us fall into that category. More significantly, what Americans are celebrating is the failure of an attempt to pass bad legislation crafted in secret while excluding everyone but the fifty-two members of the Senate Republican caucus. And in the twisted logic of political rhetoric, McConnell blames that failure on the refusal of the Democrats he excluded from the process to cooperate.

The truth that no Republican senator will speak publicly is that the entire conservative agenda is aimed at reducing the cost of what they refer to as “entitlements” so they can reduce taxes. That seemed like a good idea to millions of voters when the Tea Party wave took opponents by surprise more than a decade ago. But average people are realizing that what conservative billionaires consider entitlements are actually things that every other industrialized country guarantees its citizens. And reducing taxes doesn’t benefit them, partly because it’s the wealthy who see the biggest savings, but more importantly, because the things government stops paying for are things they want and need.

The Tea Party, like all extreme movements, whether it changes its name to the Freedom Caucus or pretends to be acting in the interests of all Americans, invariably overreaches. It becomes drunk with power and thinks it can subvert the democratic process and dictate change.  That’s understandable, because its supporters have done that all their lives, using their wealth to overwhelm all opposition. In their world money speaks louder than rules, morality, or principles, but when voters realize they’re being deceived, it doesn’t work in government.

So what we’re celebrating, Mr. McConnell, is that your party contains people of principle. And it contains people who, even if their principles aren’t pure, understand that if they try to ram legislation like the AHCA down voters’ throats, they will pay a heavy price next year. The party of Lincoln is being reminded of one of its founders most memorable quotations:  “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” Populist movements come and go, but eventually Americans tend to get it right. Extremists never represent the will of the majority though it sometimes takes a while for the truth to sink in.

That’s why the checks and balances built into our system are so essential, and why we can’t permit those same extremists to denigrate or eliminate them. It’s why the senate has filibuster rules, and why its sometimes arcane-seeming rules that make passing revolutionary changes difficult exist. It’s why demonizing the press and the broadcast media strikes at the heart of our democratic process. It’s why attempts to delegitimize the courts that attack the basis of our constitution cannot be allowed to succeed.

Senator Schumer responded to McConnell by saying Democrats have been ready to work with Republicans and remain so, but before any bipartisan solution can be crafted the ideas of slashing Medicaid and depriving millions of Americans of the health care they need to provide massive tax cuts for the wealthy must be abandoned. That too was a political statement, but it’s one that the vast majority of Americans support. Schumer also reminded Mr. McConnell of his own statements on the record, that when a single party seeks to impose its will on the country it will invariably fail. In McConnell’s own words, the only way to create stable laws that meet the needs of the country is with bipartisan cooperation.

The unfortunate truth is that the people we have elected to represent us seem to be the only ones who don’t understand that the vast majority of Americans want them to work together. In my opinion, this is to a large degree the result of gerrymandering, which deliberately skews the result of legislative elections. The whole point of gerrymandering is to permit one extreme political view to suppress the clear wish of the majority of voters. Let’s hope the Supreme Court recognizes the damage this does to our country and fixes it.

Let’s also hope that now that Americans are awake and paying attention they maintain their focus. When politicians know we’re watching it affects their actions.

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