Our mutual acquaintance dropped your old Beaglescout a note about recent deplorable developments in our national swamp. Lots of people have been talking about John McCain’s vote against the Skinny Repeal of Obamacare being his revenge against President Trump. But there’s another reason McCain might have made his choice…
Here’s how it works in Congress.
There are two rules; (1) the Prime Directive is Get Re-elected; (2) You must get re-elected, which takes a lot of money, and either keeping 50-60% of the constituents happy, or keeping your constituents highly motivated and on the incumbent’s side.
Obamacare has been the World’s Greatest Fundraiser for the Republicans. Better than meaningless measures to oppose abortion or gay marriage, better than supporting the troops or censuring jailed Democrat lawmakers.
Sure, 40% of the elected Republicritters, mostly from safe districts, ran on repealing it, and in their hearts want nothing more than to repeal it. Maybe 20% of the elected Republicritters don’t want to repeal it ever, don’t want to touch it in any way whether to fund it fully, repeal, or fix. They’re in hotly contested contests in the next 1-3 years, and it’s a radioactive issue because (sorry) the majority of voters are morons who want tons of benefits, don’t want to pay taxes, and want a happy ending too, and the smarter tuned in voters, mostly conservatives, want it off the books without figuring out how to politically deal with the problems of health care for the uninsured and poor, particularly the government-dependent voting class.
Thing is, there’s no sex in the champagne room, there’s no fatass socialist benefits without fatass socialist taxes and likely fatass Stalinist coercion at some level, but if anybody other than Ted Cruz said that publicly, they’d be out on their ass in a heartbeat. So the voters are going to stay dumb and while they want repeal, they want the medicaid expansion, pre-existing conditions coverage, Cadillac care, and something just under a $100/month premium, at most.
Meanwhile, there’s another 40% of the elected Republicritters who will go whichever way party leadership tells them to, because party support, particularly in the form of money and efforts to stir up the voters, is key to re-election.
Thus killing Obamacare has to make sense to almost all the elected Republicans from a standpoint of fundraising, political winds, and party leadership goals. And as for party leadership… well, the graft is much better when you run things, than when you don’t. That slim majority is a retirement plan for most of these schmucks.
The 40% of Senators who are in locked up safe districts don’t have to worry about money or leadership wishes, they are good. The 20% of the vulnerable are scrambling like cockroaches when the lights come on – their swing voters are going to be pissed (no matter what) and if you kill a terrible new law like Obamacare, it kills a huge party fundraiser, and if you lose leadership support it’s probably all over too. Gay marriage bans won’t get it done any more and even the Family Research Council is now aware that abortion bans are token garbage meant to stir up the base. This ACA thing is useful still. And the 40% of Republicans who will go with the party know they are there largely because of O-Care hate (and maybe they can get re-elected on the strength of that) but also know that 20% of their colleagues, and the Senate Majority, may evaporate if the voters want more socialism (to go with their lower taxes, and a Happy Ending.) So maybe for them the best thing is to vote repeal over and over again, but then nothing happens, except a Gallic shrug from our intrepid Senator. Win-win. Well, except for you people. And you people can fuck off unless you’re bundling at least a million six, million eight in donations, then maybe we can chat over some rubber chicken.
So it’s quite a political muddle… Yes? What to do?
Mitch McConnell has obviously decided the right answer is NOTHING. well nothing real, anyhow, coupled to repeated charges on an old nag toward a heavily fortified windmill. This combination of opposing-while-not-really-ending preserves the Republican fundraising benefit of O-care, likely protects most of the vulnerable incumbents, and even the conservatives can say, “well, we tried, I cast every vote I had.” McConnell knows the conservatives will live with it, if angrily, 40% of his Senators will go along with whatever he tells them to do, the 20% of nervous incumbents will want to blow him out of gratitude, and here we are.
But how does McConnell keep killing Obamacare repeal?
You need somebody to drink the hemlock and defect from the party. The easiest people to pick are those whose constituents are likely to re-elect them, no matter what. Somebody who is a prickly individualist, a principled conservative who will never settle for anything other than a full repeal, a man of character, is a good bet. Ben Sasse might have been that guy a year ago but he’s gotten more pragmatic. Ted Cruz would have done it six years ago. But now? Looking at you, Dr. Paul, Jr. You’re living up to your dad’s reputation. Good job, Dr. Paul, for your threats of defection in the weeks leading up to this. They didn’t need your principled vote, but your communications strategy worked.
Ol’ Mitch can also pick off a couple openly liberal Republicritters. Their constituents, accustomed to life on the government teat, will praise their fierce independence. Step on up, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski.
And Mitch can maybe get a few people who have nothing to lose to throw in a “no” vote. We’re talking about John McCain here, primarily. Oh, that vote will cost McConnell a bit. But it’s gettable. What is the base going to do if McCain votes no? Kill him in three months with cancer?
The group dynamic works this way. The people who can absorb the consequences of a vote that is unpopular (with the national Republican base) vote cast that “No” vote, to give cover to the 8-10 senators who wanted to vote no because a “yes” vote would hurt their re-election chances. The rest of the party can vote “Repeal” to no effect, and when it comes time for re-election or fund raising, they can say they did their best – and who’s to say they didn’t? The two 40% blocks are not satisfied but they are pacified for now, the 20% block maybe survives to fight in another election cycle. And Mitch McConnell… did I mention that his wife, after being the Secretary of Labor in the Bush Administration, is the Secretary of Transportation in this one?
It works similarly in the House, although the House generally isn’t quite as disciplined. If you are getting the idea that the Republican Party, even a bunch of people who ran on Tea Party credentials, have no interest in touching the New Third Rail of American Politics, ACA, you are probably getting the right idea. They have no nerve, no vision. Just an inchoate desire to get re-elected and keep the graft flowing.
It’s clear at this point that McConnell does not want to touch the ACA, wants it to keep going just as it is for now for a variety of electoral and fundraising reasons. The only question is, what the cost was to secure Senator McCain’s high profile, flag waving, Mavericks R Us, Incorporated, defection from the party faithful. I have a really strong suspicion about what the payment was.
For now, I give you, the Senator from Arizona, Senator McCain.
No, I am not talking about John.
Meghan. Meghan McCain.
I am betting she figures into this somehow. She went to Columbia, you know and retweeted that she went for a nice long hike with the Senator this morning. He isn’t going to last the full term. Doug Ducey is the governor of Arizona. He is a Republican. Meghan McCain would be an easy pick to serve out her father’s term when he dies or steps down. She is one of those telegenic RINO Republican types the national establishment loooovveeeees. Wouldn’t she be just a great fit for that seat, and really, who could oppose her?
Maybe it’s D.C. inside baseball, but this is starting to look like a curveball that fails to break, and Bryce Harper tipped his head, and is starting to wind up a big swing..
It went down that way last night. Whether my prediction about Meghan McCain becoming a senator on the quid pro quo is right or wrong is hard to say for sure. But if I had a way to put a $20 on it, I’d put it on her as the next Senator from Arizona. Thing is, the Vegas bookies are sharp as shit, and I’d probably be looking at 2:5 odds, because it looks like such an obvious play if you’ve lived in D.C. long enough. The fix is in with McCain and to a lesser degree with Murkowski, it’s in there somewhere. The only question is, “What were the payments?”
And that is how it works in D.C. in the Swamp on the Hill.