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writing for godot

Senator Charles Grassley's Honesty

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Written by Carl Peterson   
Tuesday, 26 September 2017 19:08

Charles "Chuck" Grassley, Senior Senator from Iowa, recently informed reporters in Iowa that he "could maybe give ...10 reasons why [healthcare reform sponsored by Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy] shouldn't be considered...but Republicans campaigned on this so often that you have a responsibility to carry out what you said in the campaign.  That's pretty much as much of a reason [to vote for the bill] as the substance of the bill."

This statement needs a bit of translation for its meaning to be clear.  The first part means that even Chuck Grassley, a Senior Republican Senator, doesn't think that the Graham-Cassidy bill is very good.  It is not clear why Senator Grassley doesn't think it is very good, because he does not specify what is wrong with it.  But whatever the 10 things are that in his opinion are wrong with it, they are not enough to make him vote no on it.  This is because, he says, Republicans have a responsibility to follow through on their promises.  So, although Senator Grassley is for unspecified reasons not excited about this version of healthcare reform, he thinks Republicans need to pass it anyway.

Taken literally, Grassley's statement means that the bill is so flawed that it only provides about 50% of the sufficient reason to vote for it.  The other 50% of the sufficient reason to vote for it is provided by the Republican Party's need to keep its promises.  The result of Senator Grassley's thought process is his conclusion that Americans should get flawed healthcare reform because why?  Because Republicans need to keep their promises.  Why do they need to keep their promises?  Senator Grassley did not make this clear in his statement, but it has been said many times elsewhere by other professional Republicans and media pundits that the Republican party will be hurt with its base if the party does not keep its promise about repealing Obamacare.  This means that keeping its Obamacare repeal promise is a special interest of the Republican party, distinct from the interests of ordinary Americans.  According to Senator Grassley, this is a 50/50 formulation.  Only half of the reason for Senate Republicans to vote for Graham-Cassidy is in professional Republican self -interest.  For those of you who believe that professional Republicans put the interests of their party above the interests of their country and fellow Americans, this should set your mind at ease, that in fact Republicans believe that their party's interests are not above American interests, but only equal to those interests, such that the interests of the Republican party are not supreme but need to be balanced with the interests of the American people.  Now we know that on top of all of their other virtues, professional Republicans are humble too.  Still, it seems odd that the result of Senator Grassley's calculation is that professional Republicans would get to fully tend to their own self-interest in keeping promises, while Americans would get healthcare reform that Grassley admits is flawed in at least 10 ways.

Let's mention here, but not dwell on it, that if the American people ever asked in the first place for Republicans in the House and Senate to promise to repeal Obamacare, that would only have been after professional Republicans had so misrepresented and vilified the law that many Americans came to believe that Obamacare, like Godzilla, was coming to get them.  In the end, Obamacare did come, but instead of crushing cars underfoot, it provided healthcare coverage for an additional 20 million Americans.

Let us also mention that Kaiser Health Tracking Polls of American adults have shown that since February 2017 more Americans have a favorable opinion of Obamacare than view it unfavorably.  Also, a Kaiser Health Tracking Poll done in July 2017 shows that 46% of self-identified Trump supporters said that Republicans should continue to work with Democrats to fix Obamacare, while 47% said that Republicans should continue to work on their own plan.  These results suggest that Senator Grassley wants to keep a Republican promise to people, but many of those people do not want that promise to be kept.

A recent CBS poll of American opinion of the Graham-Cassidy bill shows that only 46% of polled Republicans approve of the Graham-Cassidy bill, and only 20% of all poll respondents approve of the legislation.  It seems then, that if you are to believe Senator Grassley's claimed reasons for continuing to support Graham-Cassidy, he thinks keeping promises is very, very, important, even more important than having good legislation, and more important than what Americans, including Republican Americans actually want.

CNN Senior Editor-at-large Chris Cillizza recently wrote of Senator's Grassley's statement, discussed above:  "So.  Huge points to Grassley for honesty there.  And he's right."  This is a good example of what is wrong with the mainstream media.  It is not so much fake news as it is poor analysis.  In these eleven words Cillizza is wrong twice, probably not because he is just poor at analysis, but because he is part of the corporate media groupthink that declines to go below the surface of the superficial narrative that it spends most of its time supporting.  Grassley was not being honest when he said that he could give 10 reasons why the bill should not be considered.  Honesty would have required him to say what some of those 10 reasons were.  Grassley was not being honest when he indicated that half of the reason to vote for the flawed bill was that Republicans needed to keep their promises.  Honesty would have required him to explain why Republicans needed to keep their promises, and to whom they needed to keep their promises.  Grassley was not right if he was saying, as Cillizza explained, that Republicans needed to repeal Obamacare to keep from being hurt with their base, "with potentially disastrous consequences on the ballot next fall."  As we have discussed above, polling shows that many Republican voters no longer want to see Obamacare repealed, but would prefer that the parties work together to improve it.  It makes no sense then that Republicans will face "disastrous consequences" next fall if they fail to repeal Obamacare.

Now we have arrived at the interesting question.  No doubt Grassley is aware that many Republicans no longer favor the repeal of Obamacare, and that at least these Republicans will not hold it against professional Republicans if they fail to repeal Obamacare.  It is now not improbable that professional Republicans will be hurt with their base if they do repeal Obamacare.  Why then is Grassley talking about keeping a promise, a promise that if kept might actually damage Republican party self-interest?  It is probably for a couple of reasons:  One, is that when viewed in the way that Grassley seems to be viewing it, professional Republicans can claim the virtue of integrity if it is believed that because their virtue demands that they keep promises, professional Republicans are repeatedly attempting to repeal Obamacare.  Two, is that the professional Republicans promised the plutocrats that they would repeal Obamacare.  These plutocrats are massively underwriting the Republican party.  That is the promise that Chuck Grassley is thinking about.  To merit continued access to the bottomless plutocratic piggy bank professional Republicans must at least be seen as trying, trying, and trying again.  The plutocrats have to think that their servants are actually working for them.  But Chuck Grassley is probably worrying too much.  If plutocrats don't give their party money to professional Republicans who are they going to give it to?

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