I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, but Trump’s Supreme Court pick is the perfect opportunity.  I think to some degree, Trump has too many liberals in hysterics over everything.  As awful has Trump has been– and that’s pretty awful– a fair amount of what he has done– both cabinet nominations and executive orders– would have been entirely predictable from almost any other Republican politician.

I’ve therefore encouraged my students to use the “What Would Mike Pence do?” standard.  Sure, a good liberal will hate the ideology of Trump’s Supreme Court pick, the abortion gag rule, executive orders paving the way for a repeal of the ACA, etc.  Liberals can, and should, complain about these things.  But, this is just normal politics.  Trump is a horrible president, horrible person, and a profound threat to our democracy.  But the truth is, most of what he does will be what any Republican president would do.  It’s counter-productive to the attention demanded on the genuine threats Trump poses by conflating “normal” partisan politics with it.

It’s crazy, scary, and surreal to have to judge a president by the absurdly low bar of, “at least his Supreme Court pick wasn’t totally crazy.”  But there we are.  And Neil Gorsuch is almost a Republican Supreme Court nominee from central casting, so, yeah, actually, I am pleased.  Sure, he’s way conservative, but it least he is clearly smart and thoughtful, too– so not a gimme with Trump doing the nominating).   Excellent Gorsuch explainer from Dylan Matthews.

Jennifer Victor— who’s been a Political Scientist inspiration of late– has a terrific post that conveys a lot of similar ideas:

These actions have been decried by liberals as being regressive and are a clear attempt to roll back some of the progressive policy achievements of the Obama administration. We should expect liberals to oppose such policies, just as we would have expected conservatives to have been vocally opposed to early actions by a Hillary Clinton administration. While further actions of these types may directly and negatively affect segments of the population (i.e., those who will lose health insurance, see taxes raised, or restrict migration with our southern neighbor), they can generally be labeled as being consistent with the conservative ideology the Republican Party has supported for several decades…

On the other hand, another category of Trump administration actions is more pernicious. The second category of actions should be of concern to all Americans. The president of the United States has begun taking a series of actions that have caused government scholars to raise red flags. Many political scientists have expressed grave concern over the health and stability of our government system, based on observations of Trump administration actions. Scholars have expressed particular concern about administration actions that are either inconsistent with our democratic republic or consistent with authoritarian forms of government.

For example, the president had openly questioned the veracity and integrity of the country’s vast professional intelligence community, and expressed greater willingness to believe claims made by foreign adversaries. This raises alarms for government scholars because if the president is unwilling to believe the intelligence he receives from his own agencies, and is more likely to believe conspiracy theories or claims made by foreign non-allied states, it calls into question his ability and willingness to make foreign and military policy choices that are in the best interests of the country…

Making these distinctions is difficult and sometimes ambiguous. This is why, as I have argued previously, it is imperative for scholars of government and politics to be vocal about their observations. Our expertise has perhaps never been more relevant or needed.

Social scientists have a tendency to be reticent to exercise their political voice for fear of appearing partisan — but making clear that some political actions can severely disrupt government, civil society, the national economy, and security is a nonpartisan observation.

Political scientists have important knowledge and skills. Scholars of American politics understand our existing Constitution and political institutions that have held together our democratic republic for nearly 250 years. Scholars of comparative politics understand authoritarianism and regime change and the factors that contribute to state collapse. International relations scholars understand the conditions for peace, international order, and basic human rights…

A doctor, whose primary job is to treat her own patients in her practice, who walks down the street past an injured person and does not stop to offer medical assistance is ethically in the wrong. The doctor who has the skills to prevent a human death has a professional responsibility to come to the aid of the injured person. It is the same for political science. Saving our government is not our mission or our primary job, but it is our ethical professional responsibility to contribute our voice, knowledge, and insight.

The country and world needs assistance in understanding the unprecedented actions of the new American administration. We are professionally trained to provide the appropriate context and evidence about what is happening. Scholars, journalists, and other experts can help distinguish between partisan policy proposals and administrative changes that threaten the constitution and republic. Speak, write, question, post, lecture, comment. The republic is worth it. [emphasis mine]

So, where can I get my WWMPD? bracelets made?

Photo of the day

From a Telegraph gallery of best drone photos of 2016:

Despectus wins first place in the Skypixel enthusiast drones in use competition. 

Despectus wins first place in the Skypixel enthusiast drones in use competition.  Credit: SKYPIXEL

Paul Ryan does have a spine

It’s just a twisted and greedy one.  Love this from Chait:

Paul Ryan, who used to regularly signal his displeasure with Donald Trump, has backed Trump to the hilt since the election. And so the newest meme has been born: Paul Ryan has no spine. Andy Borowitz and ClickHole have columns riffing on the Spineless Paul Ryan meme, and somebody even edited the Wikipedia invertebrate page to add the House Speaker.

It is true that Ryan does not care about the principles he claims to care about. But it’s inaccurate to imagine him as merely a soulless careerist. Ryan does have serious principles. He is deeply committed to the principle of liberating the affluent from the burdens of progressive taxation. That description may sound like an arch comment to those of us who don’t share Ryan’s bent. But to people like Ryan, it is a moral conviction of the highest order.

Ryan has repeatedly cited the influence in his younger days of such works as Wealth and Poverty, by George Gilder; The Way the World Works, by Jude Wanniski, plus, of course, Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand. These books treat the struggle against progressive taxation as the fundamental project of politics. The central problem of mass-participatory politics, in this view, is its tendency to allow the masses of voters to gang up on the rich (whether through democratic or undemocratic means) and redistribute their deserved rewards to themselves. It is tempting to dismiss his fixation with the top tax rate as greed on behalf of his donors, but to adherents of this ideology there is nothing more serious.

Obviously, the defense of the right of the one percent to keep its earnings is an unpopular basis for political messaging. And so Ryan has an ecumenical view of the political message needed to sell his policies. He is happy to posture as a fanatical debt hawk if debt-hawkery is a promising vehicle to advance the goal of cutting taxes for the rich, but he will also support and even demand massively higher deficits if that is what is needed. Ryan has promoted outreach to Latinos and other socially moderate constituencies as a practical step toward expanding his party’s base. Ryan continued to defend those policies before the election, when it looked probable that Trump would lose, and he would need to rebuild in the wake of the expected defeat. But he is also perfectly willing to abandon those policies if he happens to have a race-baiting Republican prepared to sign his cherished tax cuts into law.

Ryan might supplicate himself to limitless acts of corruption or misrule by Trump, but he would never stand silent if Trump attempted to implement even a tiny tax increase on the highest-earning one percent. I happen to find Ryan’s belief system to be rather deranged. But it is a belief system. [bold is mine, italics in original]

Yep.  I think that pretty well nails it.

About that “replace”

Sure, there’s been plenty of other stuff to occupy our attention, but part of the reason we haven’t really heard much about replacing Obamacare is because Republicans are hopelessly gridlocked among themselves based on what they say they want to do, what they’ve promised, they ways they complain about the law, and their anti-government-damn-the-costs ideology.  Sarah Kliff offers a nice explanation:

Even when Democrats were split on how to expand coverage in 2009, they still were all working toward the same goal. They all agreed that whatever bill they came up with should lead to millions of Americans gaining coverage, particularly the type of people who had struggled to obtain coverage in the past (people who are older and sicker generally). There was a key principle at the heart of the party’s policymaking.

 But Republicans don’t seem to have this — it’s not clear what particular objective their policymaking is striving toward, aside from dismantling the Affordable Care Act. Sometimes their words and their plans point in opposite directions. [emphases mine]

You would think from the rhetoric of conservative legislators that the problem is what people have to pay out of pocket: that the deductibles under Obamacare are far too high.

“Many people who have insurance can’t even use it because they have $10,000 or higher deductibles,” House Majority Whip Steve Scalise told Fox News this weekend. Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) lamented in his confirmation hearing for Health and Human Services Secretary that “you have deductibles that have escalated to $6,000 to $12,000.”

 Or as President Trump put it to Sean Hannity last week: “The deductibles are so high that unless you get hit by a tractor, you will never be able to use it.”

The rhetoric is incredibly unified on this issue: Cost sharing under the health law is far too high. But the actual policies Republicans are developing move in the opposite direction. They don’t do anything like limit the size of deductibles in the marketplace, or cap out-of-pocket spending. Instead, most envision high-deductible health plans as an even more prominent part of the health care system

This is a debate we could be having about health care: about whether it would be better to make the overall cost of the law cheaper by moving toward high-deductible plans. You could envision a world in which Republicans say the government ought to take less of a role in health care and Americans have to become better shoppers as they face high-deductible plans.

But this isn’t what is happening — Republicans don’t seem, right now, to be working toward the goal of lowering deductibles or expanding coverage or anything else. They’re working toward the goal of repealing Obamacare, without a particularly clear vision of what exactly comes next. Until Republican rhetoric and policy come into line, it will be awfully hard for the party to come to any kind of consensus.

I really have no idea how this will turn out, but I do feel pretty confident that there will not have repeal and delay or just plain full repeal.  But how Republicans manage to make sense of the competing messages and policy priorities is a mystery to me.  And them.

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