Can we stop pretending that leading Republicans care about anything beyond winning and power?
To be sure, there are some in the party who are guided by conservative “principles.” House Speaker Paul Ryan said he’s been “dreaming” of gutting Medicaid — the program that provides health care to the poorest Americans — since his college days.
No doubt that goal came from some ideological notion of cutting government programs in order to lower taxes on the wealthiest Americans, presumably because the poor are “lazy” or “undeserving.”
Trump, for his part, just wants to win. Remember how he promised we’d all be “tired of winning” if he became president?
He didn’t mean we’d “win” by having the best, most comprehensive health care system in the world. Or the best education system in the world. (If he cared one bit about education, he would’ve picked a secretary of education who had any qualifications to hold that job at all. But he didn’t.)
Trump isn’t interested in policy. Trump is interested in Trump.
At every step, his record proves he doesn’t know or care much about the particulars of any health care bill Republicans in Congress write. He cares simply about getting it passed. He just wants to declare a “win” by repealing Obamacare. He wants to make the Democrats “lose.”
If 22 million Americans lose their health care in the process, as the Congressional Budget Office predicts, so what? If people with cancer literally die when their health insurance is yanked out from under them, so what?
Case in point: After the House passed its version of the health care bill, Trump held an event in the Rose Garden for it. Normally such a ceremony is reserved for when a president signs a bill.
In this case, the Senate hadn’t even considered it yet. Trump just wanted the optics of having a win.
Remember, this is the very same bill he later called “mean.”
Trump gets a high from holding rallies where he speaks off the cuff to crowds that cheer and chant his name. It makes him feel loved and important. Plus, he doesn’t have to prepare that much, always a plus.
Yet he’s never learned that much about policy. He just promises that everything he does will be “tremendous” without giving any details, because he doesn’t have any. If he gets a big cheer for something, like building a border wall, he’ll keep it in his repertoire and ham it up even more.
No wonder he came to believe that solving the most difficult problems on earth — North Korea, health care, terrorism — would be easy.
There are two problems with Trump’s win-at-all-cost ideology.
One is a practical problem for Republicans. Congressional Republicans have enough principles (if you count cutting programs for the poor as a principle) that it’s near impossible to pass a health care bill that unites all of them.
The bigger problem is for Americans. We don’t win when Republicans or Donald Trump crush the Democrats for the sake of looking like winners. We win when our leaders carefully analyze the nation’s problems and craft legislation that solves them.
Republicans don’t want to lose face by keeping Obamacare, or even by reforming its shortcomings, after promising to repeal it for years. Even though their proposals to replace it are unpopular and awful, they’re willing to push them through out of fear their base — or their donors — will turn on them.
Republicans in Congress would rather millions of Americans lose health insurance than risk losing their own jobs. Apparently that’s what “winning” looks like to them.
Americans won’t win unless their leaders’ goal is to help the American people instead of only helping themselves. Otherwise, Trump’s right: I am tired of winning.
OtherWords columnist Jill Richardson is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It. Distributed by OtherWords.org