BOSTON, UNITED STATES — The House Freedom Caucus is up in arms about President Trump’s Obamacare reform bill. While he might say the Affordable Care Act is ‘dead’, conservatives have reason to believe otherwise.
Jeff Duncan writes: ‘Many have dubbed the bill “Obamacare Lite” since it does not repeal the Affordable Care Act, but instead nibbles around the edges in an attempt to make Obamacare less harmful.’ Jim Jordan asks: ‘Why not do what we all voted for just 15 months ago – clean repeal – and then get focused and build some momentum to actually replace Obamacare with something that’s going to bring down costs?’
Why not indeed? The 2016 repeal bill only failed because Obama vetoed it. Republicans maintain leads in both the Senate and House. What’s the President’s excuse for not pursuing a more aggressively conservative policy when Congress would be solidly behind him?
It’s worth remembering that Trump was a consistent favourite among Republican voters who described themselves as moderate-to-liberal, which is why – despite the media’s efforts to brand him as an extremist – his main opposition came from ultra-conservative Ted Cruz, not that autistic squish John Kasich. And that’s fair. While Trump ran to the right of the other candidates on his signature issue, immigration, he spent a while riding to Hillary Clinton’s left on issues like healthcare and taxes.
We can thank Trump’s most persistent conservative backer, Steve Bannon, for helping bring him back solidly to the Right. Bannon, the self-proclaimed ‘Christian capitalist’, anticipated the Trumpian moment by years, possibly even decades. He was there to help redirect Trump’s populist fury away from hard protectionism and toward fostering a deregulated jobs market that advantages working Americans. He was also the architect of the (excellent and perfectly lawful) executive order temporarily barring certain classes of aliens from the United States.
Of all people, David Brooks – who would probably style himself as a ‘Burkean progressive’ or something equally absurd – has recognised Bannon’s invaluable influence in the White House:
Bannon had the opportunity to realign American politics around the social, cultural and economic concerns of the working class. Erect barriers to keep out aliens from abroad, and shift money from the rich to the working class to create economic security at home.
It was easy to see the Trump agenda that would flow from this philosophy: Close off trade and immigration. Fund a jobs-creating infrastructure program. Reverse the Republican desire to reform and reduce entitlements. Increase funding on all sorts of programs that benefit working-class voters in places like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.
Many of us wouldn’t have liked that agenda — the trade and immigration parts — but at least it would have helped the people who are being pummeled by this economy.
But Bannonesque populism is being abandoned. The infrastructure and jobs plan is being put off until next year (which is to say never). Meanwhile, the Trump administration has agreed with Paul Ryan’s crazy plan to do health care first.
Brooks is half-right. Bannon certainly has teased the party’s Right wing before, saying ‘the conservatives are going to go crazy’ over his proposed $1 trillion infrastructure plan. Bear in mind, though, this is also the man who’s compared himself (favourably) to Darth Vader, Satan, and… Dick Cheney. He’s a larrikin.
But to say Trump’s ‘Obamacare Lite’ plan is demonstrative of Bannon being edged out by more traditional conservatives is just nonsense. Politico’s report on his alliance with congressional conservatives is patently biased but substantially true:
The Freedom Caucus… has clearly found a sympathetic ear in Trump’s right-hand man Bannon, who wants conservatives to be included in the legislative process instead of twisting their arms to vote yes.
Administration sources say [conservative lawmakers] stovepipe concerns to Bannon because of his relationships with the far right, and they warily eye others aligned with chief of staff Reince Priebus, who is closer to Ryan.
Priebus is widely considered an orthodox free-market conservative, as is (or, rather, was) Speaker Ryan. Yet conservatives prefer to lodge their complaints with Bannon, the so-called statist. You connect the dots.
The point is this: conservatives’ ‘ideal Trump’, who can balance populism with conservatism and oppose globalism without restricting the markets – that’s Bannon. When the President behaves otherwise, it means he’s not acting on Bannon’s advice.
What we call ‘Trumpism’ should, at its best, really be called ‘Bannonism’. He’s been advancing this same agenda his entire career, biding his time until an independently-minded patriot-billionaire was smart enough to put his philosophy into action. That just happened to be Donald Trump.
Bannon’s the one that got him into office, consolidating conservatives behind his aimlessly centrist candidacy. He gave the Trumpian movement a coherent philosophy and an actionable plan to restore American greatness. The president would be a fool to forget that.
The failing New York Times published an op-ed this past January saying the White House chief strategist wields so much influence we really should be talking about President Bannon, not President Trump. It’s passé, I know, but… Bannon 2024 anyone? Don’t get me wrong: I think Trump will continue to do a fantastic job. But when his two terms are up, let’s have the real McCoy.
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