An Impoverished Party and Presidency
im•pov•ish•ed Exhausted of richness and fertility. Poor. Lacking. Sadly, I think impoverished best describes the state of the Republican Party and its leader, soon-to-be former President Donald J. Trump.
I write as the media reports on 12 senators who plan to challenge the certified electoral college results from the 50 states and the District of Columbia. As a congressman, Louie Goehmert (R – Tex.), and a group of self-appointed Arizona electors lost their lawsuit, which had as its purpose vesting in Vice President Michael Pence the power to choose the next president of the United States, by no evident measurable standard. As roughly two out of three self-identified Republicans question the outcome of the election.
The public Republicans who offer this load of crap do not want for education or knowledge. Congressman Goehmert graduated from the Baylor Law School. Senators Ted Cruz (R – Tex.) and Josh Hawley (R – Mo.) got their legal educations at Harvard and Yale, respectively, and each clerked for a Chief Justice of the United States. The rest of the senators. Educated, smart people, in the main.
What basis do these people offer? The senators want to be heard, and they want to stand up for their constituents. (The truth? They hope they can attract Trump voters in coming elections.) As for Congressman Goehmert, often referred to as the dumbest man in Congress, who knows. His meritless lawsuit ought to generate sanctions and discipline for the lawyers who filed it.
A Failure of Imagination
The postelection nonsense, however, functions like a piece of garlic on top of the worst looking, most awful tasting cake you have ever encountered. The Republican Party stands for nothing that looks forward, and neither does Mr. Trump.
Let’s start with climate change. More than 10 years ago, in a personal memoir, I posed this question:
What if they’re right? What if the Prius drivers – the very same people who hug trees, hate money, despise God, loath progress, bash the good old US of A, avoid taxes, eat granola, detest freedom and drink white wine (you know, your basic liberals) – are right? What if we’ve created a giant oven and are baking ourselves to a crisp? Does anyone want to wait around for the finished product? To learn in 50 years or so that increasing temperatures and rising sea levels weren’t just another climate cycle?
(I wrote these words in more innocent times. The description between the em-dashes represented snark.)
Back in the day, those who supported the status quo at all costs told us addressing climate change costs too much money. Nothing to see here but, even if you find something, tough luck. Can’t afford a fix. (Mind you, the same mouths that uttered these claims took price in American exceptionalism, exemplified by our national wealth.) In fact, of course, technologies which address climate change and leaving fossil fuels behind offer tremendous opportunities for economic prosperity. By way of example only, Tesla stock was up over 800% in 2020, a year in which oil prices fell by about 30%.
Here, we see impoverishment at its best. Ignore the problem and, further, the opportunities associated with the solutions.
During the past four years the Trump Administration kept touting infrastructure week, but it never happened. And, with interest rates at historic lows for the past 15 years, Republicans in Congress and the White House have managed to avoid spending any significant money to upgrade our nation’s physical plant. Again, we passed on opportunities to improve our economy and our physical plant because … who knows. No. We do know. To invest in infrastructure tends to support the notion that government works and can make our lives better.
For the richest nation on earth, our infrastructure ought to shame us at every turn. Lacking. Poor.
Obamacare and COVID-19
On Obamacare, we are still waiting for that beautiful healthcare plan, more than 10 years after President Obama signed into law the Affordable Care Act. Still waiting for something that, if it existed, would have been shared. (No, bullet points on a page do not represent a plan.) If the Republican Party’s response to Obamacare does not demonstrate a poor party, lacking any policy cred, nothing does.
Then, of course, we get to COVID-19. Many times, I have noted the fact that President Trump did not cause the virus. He does, however, own a significant part of our shameful response. Turning something so easy – wearing a mask – into a culture war battleground. Actively flouting basis public health policy by having non-socially distant rallies and parties. Tossing out silly remedies, like bleach and hydroxychloroquine. Etc. ad nauseum.
Certainly, the Trump administration deserves credit for its role in obtaining funding for Operation Warp Speed. That we have tested vaccines, in less than a year, should amaze all of us. Sadly, the fact that we have no plan for putting vaccine into arms, at scale, should not surprise any of us. That President Trump tells us the states own that issue – with others suggesting Red states have the issue handled, while Blue states don’t – demonstrates, yet again, the impoverishment.
Obamacare might have failed, back in the day. There were no guarantees, and plenty of predictions from Republicans about its problems. Fortunately (and collectively), we got the better part of the deal. Want of thought and effort would not explain a bad outcome, however. Serious people showed up. They worked hard for a long time and, frankly, they cared.
Today, elected Republicans offer nothing from a policy perspective. Hand-wringing about spending does not cut it, not after Trump’s pre-COVID spending spree, with nary a concern about the deficits or the debt. A wall, paid for by a foreign government, falls short, too.
Lack of Competency
Policy aside, one more thing shows us the impoverished state of the party. Lack of competent governance. I am way over my normal word limit, so I will offer only one example. Because of the Administrative Procedure Act, courts grant deference to agencies and administrative bodies, allowing them to make rules and decisions unless they act in an arbitrary or capricious manner. The standard is not hard to meet. Make a rule. Publish it. Read the comments. Tweak it a bit. Explain the basis for the decision. Go forth. (I have litigated APA cases and, more often, matters arising under comparable state statutes. Challenging government action rarely succeeds.)
Repeatedly, the Trump administration failed this test. On DACA, it failed. On the census citizenship question, ditto. Same for teen pregnancy funding. And, at least for now, on some EPA-related cases. Bottom line: The law makes it really easy for the government and, still, this crew failed, repeatedly.
We will learn, soon, just how badly Mr. Trump and his party have damaged our democracy. I expect, as well, that we will get documentary proof about misdeeds which resulted in Mr. Trump picking our pockets. To get past the sheer enormity of the damage requires an accounting, so that we can know what happened. But we need more. We need for serious people, coming from the Right, to engage on matters of policy. No one has all of the right answers, but if one side only focuses on false fraud claims and evidences a complete lack of interest on matters of policy, we all lose. (Lost in the nonsense about Obamacare? The Heritage Foundation developed the concept of an individual mandate, to reflect the conservative principle of no free lunches.)
Hope springs eternal for this moderate man. Be well and stay safe.
P.S. I allow for the end of the American experiment on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. Whether the yammering about extra-legal action – delaying the confirmation of the Electoral College results (per Senator Cruz), delaying the inauguration (per Trump advisor Peter Navarro), or violence in the streets (per Congressman Goehmert) – represents the signal or the noise remains to be seen, but we may be teetering.