Friday, March 17, 2017

Trump and the Freedom Caucus

Speaker Paul Ryan could ever realize on healthcare issues. John Martin, National Political Reporter for the NY Times, planted that idea in my mind this week on MSNBC with Chris Jansing. Martin suggested that Trump and the Freedom Caucus appeal to a similar base of voters. The idea continued to ruminate in my mind and evolved into what follows.

President Trump is famously fluid in the stances he takes on issues. He thinks like a Product Marketing wiz— as I explored yesterday. He appears to rely on one simple criteria for choosing his positions: “whatever sells”. The Freedom Caucus and all its brethren (Tea Party, Libertarians, Nationalists, etc) are the opposite of fluid. Their stances appear rigid, demanding and intolerant of compromise. Compatibility with Trump is unlikely given the unyielding criteria that the Freedom Caucus applies to political stances. Here are a few of the likely sticking points I foresee:
  • Trump says he wants universal coverage and the Freedom Caucus wants access to care unrestricted by bureaucratic regulations which interfere with free market competition.
  • Trumps says he wants to protect Medicare and Medicaid from revisions and the Freedom Caucus wants to eliminate subsidies that increase taxes and provide disincentives for hard work.
  • Trump wants to maintain a Federal healthcare program and the Freedom Caucus wants the States to ensure more competition which will bring soaring costs under market control.
When I have sought to empathize with the Freedom Caucus, I have found it helpful to imagine these members of Congress as trial attorneys in private practice who argue for the plaintiffs in criminal cases. They assume the defendants are guilty of the crimes before the trial. The public defender for the criminal clients appears to be a chronic loser who cannot win. There is no incentive to win in the pay from a government job. There’s no chance to win when protecting a guilty party. There’s nobody with the education and talent for prosecution who would work for the government. There are no extra resources available to the public defender that could create an advantage in the minds of the jury or a judge. 

These trial attorneys need to win at all cost. They assume they are right and everyone else is wrong. It makes no sense to settle out of court or utilize mediation when a total conviction is easily obtained. They go after the win like a shark feasting on chum. They do not see their own shortcomings, obsessions or predictability. All they see is too many public sector losers who spend tax dollars to lose every time. The winners in these courtroom confrontations are subsidizing incompetent losers by paying the taxes that pay for public defenders. 

Adding President Trump to this scenario brings in a new character unlike the public defenders. These unexpected attorneys can flank attack the trial lawyers focused entirely on winning. The fixated lawyers don’t anticipate the surprise witness, new evidence or contradictory testimony. They fall prey to more a fluid winner who can come at them from many different angles.  The shark becomes confused by the strange behavior of the chum. The defense is defying the sacrosanct expectations and failing to put up lame arguments to be easily shot down.

In this way, it does appear President Trump could force some concessions out of the Freedom Caucus, but not get their willing cooperation. Because they share a common base of voters, Trump could be between the voters and the Freedom Causus. He could challenge the older voters to question their loyalty to the Freedom Caucus MOC’s who were about to mess with their current, trusted healthcare. The Caucus would probably experience getting taken advantage of or pressured into submission — just like those “public sector losers” they despise. This, of course, would spawn lots of resentment toward Trump and even inspire some retaliatory moves in the future. It’s doubtful Trump would risk those consequences in the process of getting this deal to come together. 

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