At some point in the next few days, the House of Representatives is allegedly going to hold a vote on the American Health Care Act, which was hastily being revised in the dead of night on Wednesday after it became clear that it wasn’t cruel enough to win the Republican votes it needed. This round of “repeal and replace” fury has had it all: wretched Congressional Budget Office scores, internecine fighting, packed town halls of angry constituents, and President Donald Trump trying to play dealmaker.
Really, what was it missing? How about: the idiotic input of one of Washington’s longest-running clown shows! Well, have no fear, because No Labels ― now in its seventh year of fleecing wealthy lackwits in the name of fuzzy-headed goals about which the group is not even sincere ― is back on the scene, tweeting complaints about the legislative process in its own inimitably clueless style.
Soon after this late-Wednesday tweet got bleated, it got deleted. Not fast enough, though. It really deserves to be remembered for all time, as the ne plus ultra of this organization’s particular brand of hackery.
Where to even start with this? Well, the big story, from the perspective of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) ― who’s attempting to will the AHCA into existence as the first step of a convoluted, high-wire process that’s ultimately supposed to yield a massive tax cut for the wealthy ― is that the so-called Freedom Caucus has been the hardest cohort of his GOP colleagues to win over.
’Twas ever thus. The group of right-wing ideologues that calls itself the Freedom Caucus thwarted the designs of Ryan’s predecessor, former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), just as steadfastly. And their numbers have been great enough that any Republican leader in the House who want to get anything done with the GOP’s congressional majority is going to have to make sure the Caucus is happy.
In this particular instance, Freedom Caucus members arrayed themselves against Ryan’s initial plan because, among other things, they felt that the refundable tax credits in the AHCA were still too generous ― a government “entitlement,” they said, that would add impurity to the free market. (In response, Ryan has tried to sweeten the pie by eliminating the essential benefits that the Affordable Care Act made mandatory to any insurance plan, turning what was already a breathtakingly harsh piece of legislation into something even more inhumane.)
It’s important to note here that what we call the ongoing “health care debate” is entirely an intra-party fracas among Republicans. (One that’s only likely to drag on if this bill ever manages to pass the House, because signs point to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell ― who also has a whip count problem ― putting the bill to a quick death.) Democrats have absolutely nothing to do with any of this. They didn’t seek this fight, and they’ve contributed zero to the problems that have bedeviled Ryan. It’s beyond weird for No Labels to suggest that Democrats are somehow responsible for “getting off the sidelines” and resolving what amounts to an ideological standoff in the Republican caucus.
Moreover, even if Democrats wanted to help Republicans overcome these fratricidal impulses, it’s not clear how they would go about doing this. Democrats have been entirely shut out of the debate. Some conservatives, like Christopher Ruddy and Peggy Noonan, have urged Republicans to reach across the aisle, but GOP legislators have treated their Democratic counterparts as personae non grata throughout this process.
So there’s no point of entry by which Democrats could insert themselves and bring peace unto Paul Ryan’s lands. And all of this simply looks past an even more essential question: Why in the name of chicken and grits would Democrats want to help worsen the health care of millions of Americans?
No Labels’ contention, that Democrats have “missed their chance to shape healthcare,” manages to overlook the time when Democrats “shaped healthcare” by passing this thing called the Affordable Care Act. When that happened, enormous efforts were made to involve the GOP in the process ― beginning with the fact that Democrats borrowed a center-right template that at one point was the entire justification for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s entry into presidential politics.
If anyone at No Labels would be interested in learning who missed the chance to shape health care, the ur-text was written by David Frum in March 2010. Spoiler alert: It was Republicans, who made the strategic decision not to compromise or negotiate, despite the near-desperate overtures President Barack Obama was making at the time.
From start to end, the beliefs that No Labels expressed in this one tweet are truly bizarre. In order to hold them, you would have to literally not know anything about current events or contemporary politics. To call No Labels merely out of touch doesn’t really go far enough. Theirs is an ignorance so vast, and so total, that light cannot escape from it.
But we are not nearly done! Maybe the most important thing you need to understand about No Labels is that the group does not actually have a stance on health care reform. Its members haven’t the slightest idea what would constitute an effective health care policy. They don’t have any concept of or concern about outcomes, or how a massive health care overhaul would affect millions of Americans. They do not offer any values, or goals, or benchmarks of their own about what health care in America should look like, whom it should cover, how it should be paid for or whether it should be a fundamental right. They have no earthly idea about how ordinary people live or what they want.
This is literally the case! Right now, on the No Labels website, they are polling people about “What should Congress keep in or remove from health care reform?” This is not a survey that No Labels needs to conduct. That it exists demonstrates how intellectually uncurious this organization is. If the No Labels people wanted to, they could pick up a phone and call a group like the Kaiser Foundation, which is likely to have up-to-the-minute research about what people want. Kaiser’s Drew Altman, in fact, has shared research from Kaiser’s most recent focus groups right in the pages of The New York Times.
So, remind me again, who is it that “missed the chance to shape healthcare,” exactly?
No Labels: How about y’all find the sidelines, grab some pine and stay put.
Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost Politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.