Politics and the Transatlantic Chasm

A brief thought. If you had lamented recently that British politics were stale, broken, corrupt or whatever you could take some solace from the fact that they are not US politics. This notion hearkens back to one of the first pieces I wrote discussing news media but the theme has currently expanded. Here we are dueling things out over the matter of austerity versus… austerity lite, and it’s undoubtedly a feisty one, particularly where discussions are taking place among normal folk who either hate the Tories for being heartless bastards or still despise and distrust Labour’s legacy on the economy. The political rhetoric is comparatively meek… “Britain can do better,” for example.

Whereas the US government is quite literally on the verge of a very real and very serious meltdown. Within 24 hours it will have its funding suspended courtesy of House Republicans and their hellbent mission to bring down Obama’s flagship policy, the Affordable Care Act. The what what which now, you ask? Sorry, Obamacare, as per the toxic branding that America’s hard right wing have given it. Their current position is to suspend its implementation for a further year if the Federal government wants a single red cent come Tuesday morning to pay wages and generally allow the whole system to function at all.

Stunning brass neck if you ask me and only more so when you consider the shameless fashion in which the Republicans are going about this. You might have heard about Senator Ted Cruz’s laborious 21 hour speech the other day, the intention of which was to speak his piece in opposition to the impending healthcare start up, but was in fact a vacuous and self-infatuated bit of grandstanding that probably contained less substance than the odious little gremlin’s gleaming hair piece. The claims are just remarkably sensationalist… “people are suffering under Obamacare, it’s the greatest job killer in America, a nightmare, a disaster.”

A disaster for who exactly? People who are going to finally have a semblance of a modern and civilized healthcare system? Republicans have been bashing on about how the provision of care under the ACA means employers will seek to give workers short shrift to avoid having to pay the insurance premiums to the providers, but this is a lonely cry of vaguely realistic opposition amidst the raging gale of, “We hate Obama, and will do anything to make his administration unsuccessful in its primary ambitions.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has basically said as much in the past, why should we believe now that the Republicans are acting in the people’s interests?

Well we shouldn’t really. Or rather Americans shouldn’t, I don’t really have a dog in this fight and yet the principle of giving one’s people sufficient access to affordable healthcare is such an obvious one that I frequently slip into a defensive attitude on behalf of Americans. The ACA isn’t great, and I think most folk who backed a more universal model in America really wanted a single payer system like the NHS, but it’s better than nothing. Other than trying to wreck Obama’s legacy, one suspects Republicans were aware of the electoral issues that would arise in allowing the Democrats to implement something that would secure them more than a few votes.

The right wing of America is already losing minorities and women at a startling pace and 2016 would be looking like an entirely lost cause if they couldn’t heavily narrativize something in their favour. So now they’re playing on the extraordinarily dangerous gamble of trying to convince the public that the ACA is really something dreadful instead of a hugely positive step in the right direction, and they have to win. Losing is now so completely not an option for the Republicans that they are pushing the country to the brink of serious, serious trouble. If the government caves in and suspends the ACA, it will be a political coup unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

It’s not even a smart gamble if the Republicans should win. Polling shows that most Americans would identify a government shut down as the Republican’s fault and most seem to take the Democrat’s position that the hard right is holding the nation hostage. And if the ACA is ultimately revoked there is no question where ire should and will be directed as regular people continue to feel the pain of ever more expensive private healthcare. More proof that as far as partisan lunacy goes, the USA maintains a brand that we in the UK can praise the heavens doesn’t exist here.

The world looks on aghast at the puerile, apocalyptic antics of Boehner, Cruz, McConnell et al that make American politics look like a farce. I’ll be watching the next session of Prime Minister’s Questions with a renewed sense of respect for our legislators, even as they heckle and barrack each other with pantomimic vigour.


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