A thirst for hem­lock

GOP seeks pre­dicted pit­fall

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE - Doug Thomp­son Doug Thomp­son is a po­lit­i­cal re­porter and colum­nist for the North­west Ar­kan­sas Demo­crat-Gazette. Email him at dthomp­son@nwadg.com or on Twit­ter @NWADoug.

What is the big­gest pit­fall Repub­li­cans should avoid, I was asked two years ago. Now I am watch­ing my an­swer come true.

Repub­li­cans swept the 2014 elec­tions. Soon after, a lo­cal Repub­li­can group asked me to speak at its lunch meet­ing. Some­one asked the pit­fall ques­tion. That is easy, I replied. Do not do what the Democrats did.

The Dems won in 2008 out of voter frus­tra­tion. Vot­ers wanted jobs and peace. But when Dems swept the board, they as­sumed “Wow. We have a man­date to pass health care.” They got shel­lacked in the next elec­tion.

Dou­bly frus­trated vot­ers turned back to the GOP. They wanted jobs and peace. So what­ever you do, Repub­li­cans, do not as­sume: “Wow. We have a man­date to re­peal health care.”

Cut a hick­ory switch and flail me well if that is not ex­actly what is hap­pen­ing.

I ob­serve hu­man af­fairs for a liv­ing and have since 1981. I started cov­er­ing pol­i­tics full time in 1998. I have never seen such a wide, deep, brim­ming-full cup of po­lit­i­cal hem­lock as the Se­nate health care bill. I have never seen a ma­jor party’s lead­er­ship so bound and de­ter­mined for mem­bers to drink it, lick the sides and wear the cup for a hat.

The GOP ran against Oba­macare for four con­sec­u­tive elec­tions. Now every­one sees they never reached a con­sen­sus on how to re­place it. This toxic mess of a bill is the re­sult. Hav­ing no agreed-upon re­place­ment plan ready after seven years of wail­ing and gnash­ing teeth is po­lit­i­cal mal­prac­tice.

Yes, Oba­macare is headed for col­lapse. The health care sys­tem was headed for col­lapse be­fore Oba­macare, too. Now, show me some other gov­ern­ment pro­gram on any­thing 1 per­cent as com­plex as health care that ran it­self for more than six years without any fix­ing be­cause it is too po­lar­iz­ing to touch.

I un­der­stand the GOP base and party donors think Oba­macare is a pact with the devil that causes ev­ery prob­lem health care ever had, in­clud­ing warts. Then why does the GOP bill not re­peal and re­place it? This Se­nate mess is not a health care bill. It is a tax cut bill for the wealthy.

This plan does not kill Oba­macare and put some­thing bet­ter in place. It is not even surgery. It is some sort of vivi­sec­tion in which the cut­ters ar­gue about how many body parts they can whack away and still leave the sub­ject alive.

As for taxes, I can prac­ti­cally hear Rep. Steve Wo­mack of Rogers say­ing what he al­ways says: We will never get the bud­get un­der con­trol un­til we rein in en­ti­tle­ment spend­ing. I fully agree with him. Rein­ing in en­ti­tle­ment spend­ing to pay for a re­peal of the 3.8 per­cent in­vest­ment tax, though, is a zero-sum game as far as the bud­get is con­cerned.

There is a war go­ing on over­seas. At home, we have roads we need. In North­west Ar­kan­sas, we sit in the gar­den spot of growth in the whole coun­try, but 40 per­cent of the kids in Fayet­teville pub­lic schools are on free and re­duced-priced lunches. If con­cen­trat­ing wealth in the hands of in­vestors is the magic for­mula for eco­nomic growth, then that mis­sion is al­ready ac­com­plished. So when does the magic start? We have waited to see that rab­bit pulled out of that hat since the last re­ces­sion be­gan.

To be clear, Repub­li­cans will not all die and bring the Democrats back into power if the GOP drinks this poi­son. That re­sult re­quires a mis­be­got­ten war that turns into a quag­mire, fol­lowed by a stock mar­ket crash and a Wall Street bailout. Even then, Repub­li­cans will come roaring back two years later.

Some GOP con­gress­men will die po­lit­i­cal deaths from pass­ing a “health care” bill. Many more would only sicken. Most of them would re­cover soon enough. All I am say­ing is that a poi­soned, re­duced Repub­li­can ma­jor­ity in Congress would be even more use­less than they are now.

When you are in the ma­jor­ity, you are sup­posed to do some­thing. The Repub­li­cans are scared they will go into 2018 hav­ing ac­com­plished noth­ing. Gosh, maybe they should do some­thing that more than 27 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion, ac­cord­ing to a Fox News poll, can bring them­selves to sup­port.

But what do I know? I am just a guy who warned against this very thing two years ago.

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