In the run-up to the 2016 US Presidential Election and the period immediately after it, I often referred to parallels that I thought I could see between the situation in the United States and that in Britain surrounding Brexit. And I think I’ve spotted another one.
Firstly, let me say that Trump has made an utter arse of himself over this healthcare bill: he is supposed to be the master deal maker and he’s now resorting to blaming the Democrats for not supporting what the media are now calling Ryancare. This will reflect badly on Trump, as it should, because he was in charge and he backed it. But other than that, this doesn’t really have much to do with Trump.
From what I can tell, Ryancare was a complete disaster: it didn’t address any of the fundamental problems with Obamacare, nor did it address any of the underlying issues with American healthcare that existed before the Affordable Care Act. If it looked like something thrown together in a hurry for the sake of being able to wave something around as an alternative to Obamacare, that’s because it was just that. The question is why.
If we are to believe the words that come out of their mouths, the Establishment Republicans were vehemently opposed to Obamacare and longed for the day they could repeal it. But if that were the case, they would have spent the necessary time and effort to come up with a viable alternative and presented that to the public loudly and often during those five or six years that they were in opposition and Obamacare was in force. Only they didn’t: for all their talk in the election about repealing Obamacare, when it came to the job of actually coming up with an alternative, they didn’t have a clue. And the reason for this is the Establishment Republicans never had any intention of repealing Obamacare: sure, they liked to use it as a stick with which to bash Obama, but they believed they’d either lose the election and not have to deliver on any promises, or that they could simply fudge their way through if and when they had to. I suspect the Establishment Republicans are terrified at having to come up with a genuine alternative because it will involve hard work and taking on the enormously powerful vested interests that make providing healthcare in America almost impossible.
The irony in all of this is that Trump won the Republican nomination mainly because conservatives in America were utterly fed up with Republican politicians saying one thing in public and then quietly going along with whatever the Democrats had in mind. The Establishment Republicans gave the impression they were in it not to lead and to govern but to enjoy the fruits of high office and the trappings of power, and if that meant staying in opposition but not rocking any progressive boats, so be it. So it’s hardly surprising that a lot of Republicans refused to back the mess that was to be Ryancare, they might be the ones who understand why the mainstream GOP is so detested by its base right now. I am glad this bill has failed because it would solve nothing and further entrench the Republicans as the party that cannot govern properly and can only tinker around the edges of the disastrous policies they inherit from the Democrats. Trump’s failure was to back this train-wreck and stake personal political capital on it instead of ordering the Republicans to go away and do what they should have done years ago: draw up a viable alternative.
The parallel with Brexit is that, just as the Establishment Republicans never wanted to repeal Obamacare and were wholly unprepared to do so when asked, David Cameron’s government was similarly caught out when the referendum went the opposite way it was supposed to. A serious, competent Prime Minister would have put in place a plan for both outcomes, and not get taken wholly by surprise by something they really ought to have considered, if not seen coming a mile off. Sure, I get that he resigned because he didn’t feel he could lead Britain out of Europe, but as the head of government in charge of the country his resignation should have been part of a plan which had been thought through in advance. He wouldn’t have had to publicise these plans in advance, but he ought to have had one, and he didn’t.
The reason he didn’t have a plan, and nor did anyone in the Conservative party, was because they were happy with the cosy status-quo which provided them with wealth, power, and privilege. For all their sniping about X, Y, and Z our Establishment politicians knew that those on the opposition benches and in the ivory towers of the EU were really their partners in crime in this great conspiracy to stitch up the public and keep the gravy train rolling. Which is exactly how the Establishment Republicans see the Democrats, and vice versa.
The only problem is, the citizenry, at least in part, has now woken up to it and is seeing how the game is played. Hence Brexit and hence Trump, and now the Establishment politicians are letting us all know who their real enemy is: us.