Wise Up

In the Senate right now, Republicans are making rapid progress on repealing Obamacare and forcing more than twenty million Americans off the health care coverage rolls. They’re doing it by making a mockery of almost the entire legislative process. The law they’ve written is secret, even apparently from most Republican Senators. It will remain secret until after a score is released by the CBO. Then, presumably, it will be rushed for an immediate vote before anyone has had a chance to even look at the law or what it does. President Trump will sign it. And it will be done.

This is awful. But, really, stop saying it’s awful.

There is a perhaps understandable but entirely wrongheaded reflex to shout from the rooftops how this is simply wrong, how it’s not the way to legislate in any way in the public interest, how it willfully breaks all the norms of legitimate legislative behavior. But seriously, stop.

The process isn’t the wrong. The corruption of the process is evidence of the underlying political bad act.

This kind of griping operates on the premise that broadcasting a situation in which you have zero power and acting as though your attempted shaming will produce any positive effect will have some positive effect. It won’t. Broadcasting weakness is never an effective strategy. Always choose to fight on a different ground. It looks hapless to try to shame people with acts they are carrying out openly, eagerly and happily. You look stupid. This kind of shaming operates on the unstated premise that the targets of the shaming care or are in some sense failing to grasp the extremity and inappropriateness of what they’re doing. Stated as such, this is obviously not true. It’s a feature not a bug and all that. Pretending otherwise makes you look stupid, weak and hapless. Those are never qualities that political victories are made 0f.

Rhetorically, politically and in the simplest terms of reality, Republicans know there is no justifying this legislation. The public has already spoken. It is overwhelmingly unpopular. They are trying to do it in the dead of night because they know that. They convict themselves by their actions. Not because those actions violate norms but because they are evidence of knowledge of the underlying wrong. They are trying to slip it past everyone, do it by stealth and have all the details secret until it’s too late. That’s a political crime, a corrupt bargain. That’s the message, with all the rhetorical color that can be added to it. Don’t say that Republicans shouldn’t feel the license to act this way. They can do it if they want and it is entirely in character. Accept their freedom do it and label it for what it is. Adjudicate it at the next election. Make that clear.

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