Yeah, the AHCA polls at 17% for now, but that’ll go up after FOX (and the MSM) gets going with how this is a great victory for Trump against the liberals and that dastardly Obama (last part only for FOX viewers). Sure, it’s not going to move it anywhere close to 50%, but a bit over 30% is pretty plausible. Within a few days that’s probably about where Trump’s approvals will be as well, but after the vote most Republicans will get on board. Just watch.

Of course, this is a recipe for getting absolutely killed in the midterms – propaganda works best when there’s a kernel of truth to it, and there’s no kernel whatsoever to the proposition that “TrumpCare will improve health care in the United States.” Gonna take a lot of effort to sell it and a lot of people will only be on board grudgingly, while Dems will be eager to turn out. Still. The choices have been made.

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Today in yesterday’s headlines that didn’t age well:

GOP’s Upton serves notice that moderates might be a force to reckon with

In all fairness, he did say might. Might be a force. But wishing for a thing etc.

Also too, you know Republicans can’t do this without the “liberal” New York Times:

Nice and neutral! People scanning and seeing the headline will have no clue what they did. Not a single detail of substance at all. Brilliant!

Also too too, I’m not sure how this would get health care “off the table” as even now the GOP is lying about what it would do. They don’t know and really don’t even care. But how does this not end up as whack-a-mole when everything breaks and the Republicans have to pass one bill after another to fix the problems they themselves created, thus strangling every other item in their agenda? At the least they’ll have to pass pro forma shit to make it look like they’re trying, but this is one of those things where every additional bill passed is just going to make it worse politically.

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The state with the most Republican Reps voting against Obamacare repeal was…Pennsylvania, with four, a whopping 20% of the intraparty opposition. Guess these folks don’t think that their state is going to be Trump Country in 2018.

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Too many Democrats fall into the trap of assuming there’s some thing that will finally make non-rich and sane-rich (if you have a better term please provide) Republicans finally just jump ship, but I don’t really see any reason to believe it. Perhaps they’ll lose some downscale whites over, you know, killing them for rich people tax cuts, but probably not as much as you think. Dems underestimate the power of an entrenched worldview as well as a massive propaganda machine to support it, but I think they also don’t understand just how much of white conservative Christian culture (which is predominantly what we’re talking about here) is geared around making those people feel good about themselves. Most people generally want this I think, but as a longtime observer (and, for some time way back when, participant) the extent of it in this community baffles even me. Something like the subtext of “American exceptionalism” shouldn’t be that hard to tease out if you consider which groups are generally reckoned to be “American” and which are not. But more than that, you’re dealing with people who believe that their humdrum lives are cosmically important, that God Himself is finding their parking spaces, etc. You ask them if this is the best use of God’s resources considering the endless slaughter of humans by other humans going back millennia and they’ll say that’s free will. You ask them how God can produce a parking space without violating free will–God would have to persuade someone who wasn’t going to leave to do so to open one up, and on other drivers not to notice it in time–at best you get a “mysterious ways” bromide. Yes, I have had these exact arguments with people before. Fact is that many (though certainly not all) of these folks feel as though they have “the answers” and aren’t motivated to look any more closely. (Also too: there are plenty of liberal followers who can’t drill below a certain level too, though this is not pertinent to the subject at hand.) They simply like the idea of being special. Liberalism doesn’t offer white people a chance to feel special. Tabling the various overblown “PC” objections, the basic view of liberals is that white people aren’t special, just one group among others. Egalitarianism and specialness are polar opposites. So even if they strongly oppose the AHCA, the odds that quite a lot will flip are negligible.

Also worth noting is that moral superiority is what leads to moral relativism, which isn’t a notable feature of liberal/left debates in spite of constant accusations of such (that are usually misused), but is an overwhelming feature of conservative/right politics. Just like “snowflakes,” this is projection. Ultimately the only way a person (or people) can so flagrantly act in the opposite way of their stated values is if you assume your own inherent moral superiority. Like, you know, doing exactly all the things you said were wrong in the last debate. Yes, yes, procedural arguments are generally opportunistic. But this is merely the example du jour.

Pertinent:

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I’ll just repost my open letter to the GOP. Obviously this is tongue in cheek, but I don’t think any of it is actually wrong.

Hello Republicans,

I wish I could say otherwise, but I’m afraid to say that there’s really no way you can afford not to vote for the new American Health Care Act. The bill is a humanitarian travesty that would deprive millions of hard-won health care and further enrich the wealthy, but I assume these are features and not bugs to you, so let’s table that. To those of you uncomfortable with voting for it, just remember this: there is literally nothing your party can fuck up that won’t be rapidly forgotten. Nothing. So don’t be so frightened! You might as well vote for the AHCA knowing full well that it will fuck up American healthcare. The political consequences of this will likely be short-term and may be more manageable than you think. The long run consequences will be much worse, but as your sometimes bugaboo Keynes said, in the long run, we’re all dead (admittedly, an uncomfortably poignant term to use now, but nevertheless).

Let’s look at this objectively. During the early 2000s, you ran the whole government. You started a pointless war of choice in Iraq that has in all likelihood only begun to destabilize and wreck the entire Middle East. You directed the apparatus of the state to torture essentially because a fictional character did it. You also fell into the endless trap of bloated empires in trying to create an Afghan state, which in case you forgot is a conflict that we are still actively fighting. You enacted huge tax cuts that (along with Alan Greenspan’s monetary policy and Dubya’s homeowner policy) helped to inflate the real estate bubble. When it popped, quite a lot of people lost everything, though thanks to the credit card industry-giveaway bankruptcy rollback you implemented a few years earlier it was even worse on people than it would otherwise have been. You responded to that with calls for austerity, based on a crock academic study that you never really believed anyway, but which made the recovery even worse. In a halfway-sane country, your party and the your movement would have been out of power for a generation after compiling that record, untouchable, radioactive.

But this isn’t even a halfway-sane country.

Sure, passing the AHCA would be a disaster on par with the ones I mentioned before. But the funny thing is, with just a little bit of facile rebranding, the Republican Party bounced back faster than Alan Partridge. The media ate it up, inexplicably finding garden-variety Bush-era Republican Paul Ryan to be some kind of redemptive figure. You won the House back in 2010, and only a few years later you had the whole enchilada again. In fact, thanks to our broken media, your own fuckups have become advantages in a twisted way. Rather than emphasizing the obvious chain between the vacuum left by the Iraq War that ISIS filled, the media chose to bring back its Iraq War shtick, going full scaremonger a few months before the 2014 elections. Then there was the whole Donald Trump nonsense about the Iraq War that I don’t want to get into, but suffice it to say, while Hillary Clinton deserved tremendous blame for her Iraq War vote and her generally shitty record on foreign policy in general, it is utter insanity that she somehow wound up shouldering the entirety of the blame for the war, while the party that still reveres its architects has effectively escaped blame. Thanks to the media’s indefensible “both sides” policy, Republican fuckups must be matched with Democratic fuckups in order to keep balance. Its why Hillary Clinton’s emails got so much coverage: she clearly made a mistake, but the notion that this one mistake rated anywhere near Donald Trump’s top twenty is silly. The public, though, rewarded this malpractice with record donations and subscriptions. My point being that if you fuck up health care, they’ll need to compensate by seizing onto some Democratic failing or other, lessening the impact. And then you can use that momentum to blame it all on them. This is, sadly, a complete inevitability from our courageous media truth-tellers.

So why not pass the AHCA? You managed to evade blame among some parts of the public for the housing crisis by blaming it on black people and poor people generally rather than stupid rich bankers who didn’t even understand what they were holding, so surely the jackals of FOX News and talk radio are up to the task again with healthcare. Admittedly, the short-term losses are bound to be rough. The 2018 and 2020 elections could be as bad as 2006 and 2008 were, though probably not given gerrymander maps enacted since then. But even if they’re that bad, let’s face facts. Your rapid rebound last time provides an easy blueprint for the next time, too. The liberal resistance to Trump upped the ante from what the Tea Party did to Obama, so you can blame liberals when you up the ante even more. I know you like to do that. Most likely, the democratic nominee in 2020 isn’t going to be Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, but more likely some mediocre “safe” choice like Andrew Cuomo, who would be more than happy to work with you. I can already see it now: after all, we’re going to need all that money Andrew can raise to compete with the Koch Bros? (Never mind how that turned out in 2016, or 2004 for that matter.) Even if it’s not and Democrats get someone halfway decent like Kirsten Gillibrand or Sherrod Brown, you can simply obstruct them all the way again. That is what you do best, after all. You can count on Ross Douthat to write columns on how Donald Trump was such a reasonable compromiser by comparison to whoever his successor would be and why can’t a good man like Herbert Hoover be back in the White House again, David Brooks will inveigh against their agenda as being in violation of medieval values, cynical types like Mitch McConnell can talk about what a nice, reasonable man Barack Obama was in comparison to the new person, or whatever. You get the picture. Most importantly, no Democratic president will touch healthcare for another generation, and when they do, history tells us that the proposal will be even more modest than the one that came before. From Truman’s opening bid of single-payer insurance through ClintonCare and then the ACA, it keeps getting less ambitious, less generous. It’s pretty difficult to imagine something more modest than the ACA that could still be technically considered universal health care, but perhaps we’ll find out. At any rate, the backlash to a new Democratic president, the implications for future health reform, the off-the-charts amnesia of the public coupled with a broken media and your own propaganda machine, make this a pretty easy sell.

Admittedly, in the long run, this may not work out so great for you. The collapse of private insurance could well pave the way for single payer, since a major obstacle to that is loss aversion. Admittedly other obstacles remain (they’re called “doctors” I think, I’ve heard they like to make lots of money and don’t like making less money), but if there isn’t anything to lose, then “Medicare for All” becomes pretty damn appealing. And, ironically, the death of ObamaCare would be an absolute calamity to Trump’s white working class supporters, killing off many of the people who are willing to wage your class war against themselves because black people. That wouldn’t be so good for your electoral prospects, though given partisanship trends, one wonders just how many would actually turn against Trump over this. Then again, even if you lose some of those folks, at some point you’ll suddenly discover that a key minority is “truly American” in the same way that Irish and Italians weren’t a century ago, and that Eastern Europeans weren’t half a century ago, but now are. Pretty magical how quickly a group goes from being suspect and un-American to being humdrum as soon as Republicans court their votes. But in the end, the prospect of electoral losses, long-term brand decline, and, oh right, a humanitarian catastrophe–what does that compare to FREEDOM! And if there’s anything that spells freedom more than The Health Care Status Quo Ante of 2008, I don’t know what does.

–Lev

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Giant Meteor

Visual: Bret Stephens’s column and its effects on the New York Times’s reputation

Judging from the way they’ve reacted to the Bret Stephens fiasco, I’m not really sure how I could argue any answer besides “yes” although anything is possible. The easiest solution would be for the Times, the Post, and other such outlets to simply get rid of op-eds entirely if they wanted to continue in the hallowed both-sides model. It wouldn’t solve the problem of the coverage of 2016, but it would be doubling-down on factual coverage and avoiding these specific problems of whether someone speaks for the paper or doesn’t, and if you want to find opinions, the internet is an endless well. Plus, it would mean a bunch of high-status mediocrities would be out on their asses, crying in the green room of Meet The Press (would they still qualify to go on?), which would be fun to watch. But that would mean tossing a lot of social capital since quite a lot of media people covet those gigs and it would eliminate a critical way in which MSM elites can reward people in their own social circles, so that won’t happen. The other way would be to simply adopt a point of view and opinionated reporting a la The Guardian but I honestly can’t even picture that, it’s almost like science fiction. The institutional culture of the MSM is so wedded to the superiority of both sides that they don’t seem to think any other way of doing things is morally permissible. And almost everything offensive that they’ve done over the past generation has been connected to a desperate (and failed) desire to make the MSM safe for conservatives, from running with Clinton scandals to “Al Gore invented the internet” to pumping the Iraq War to 2016 and beyond. Now MSNBC, which carved out some modest success as a sorta-liberal brand, now wants to toss that out because both sides, in a decision that surely isn’t going to tank their ratings after liberals abandon the network. On an emotional level, I don’t think MSM decisionmakers can deal with being the news source for half the public, even though half is unrealistically generous.

The most likely circumstance is that they keep doing the same bullshit they’ve been doing for the past two and a half decades while liberals continue flee their product in favor of other sources that don’t secretly/openly despise them. Certainly there would be something lost in that transition, but a media world that more comes to resemble TPM and The Guardian seems infinitely preferable to me than the contemporary MSM. At least you don’t have to continuously interrogate their motives for publishing a piece, agree with it or not.

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Pictured: A comprehensive set of things Donald Trump knows nothing about.

You still sometimes get people saying that Trump is totally using his tweets to distract from all the nefarious stuff he plans to do to X. It’s a weird inversion of the “Obama’s playing 12-dimensional chess” meme from way back when. It’s like conspiracy theorism-light. There’s this secret knowledge out there, you see! You all don’t get it but I do! Except that the actual person distracted here (Trump) got nothing he wanted out of the funding battle, and Democrats (despite having no majorities anywhere) got pretty much everything. Winning! No doubt Trump lost interest after his big, splashy spending cut announcements. Of course, this outcome was unsurprising given that those moderate Democrats he was looking for don’t actually exist (killed off by Republican hands, ironically, in 2010) and once Schumer and Pelosi necessarily got into the picture there wasn’t going to be any defunding of Planned Parenthood or any of that shit. While there are no doubt some downsides of having a president who both knows nothing and is utterly useless at doing anything, in general, if it’s a Republican it beats the alternative.

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My basic view on canceling a Times subscription over the idiocy of hiring a climate denier as an op-ed contributor (among other reasons, such as the one pictured) is that, if they can afford to pay him and the other mostly hacks who write columns at rates of hundreds of thousands of dollars a year they’re clearly not at the finding money in the sofa cushions stage that a lot of local media is. (Support them instead! Just a thought.) Probably more revealing is the sight of “straight” reporters trying to smack down normal people on social media who disapprove of legitimizing lies in such a manner, which shows just how much they despise their exclusively liberal readership. Reading it, they really do seem to hate the fact that conservatives don’t read their paper as well, which is likely why they hired Bret Stephens, which will draw a grand total of zero conservatives to read their paper. The conservative media is a multibillion dollar business premised upon outlets like the Times being hopelessly biased, meaning that there’s a strong business interest in stoking that belief. You’d figure that after a generation of trying this strategy and failing they’d just give up and embrace being a liberal paper, but if anything the opposite seems to be happening. Sad!

Still, it really is bizarre that in 2017, op-ed pages are still a thing. It’s trivially easy to find excellent commentary on the internet these days, particularly on national events. I find it hard to believe that any of the op-ed people actually earn their keep (except perhaps Paul Krugman), and most of the writers seem to continue because they have connections or small fan clubs with elite memberships. The MSM model precludes any opinion in reporting, which means that op-ed pages need to find a spectrum of opinions to avoid any bias accusations, only those choices leave them open to criticism based on who they let in the door. In the Times‘s case it’s extremely well deserved. The most rational thing the Times could do would be to simply end their op-ed page on the grounds that it’s interfering with their core mission of reporting the news. Not much chance of it, I’m afraid, but the whole idea is a dumb anachronism whose time has long since passed.

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