Up to us to #DrainTheSwamp

Yes, Donald Trump tapped into the fears of a segment of voters who feel disenfranchised despite eight years of economic growth and stability. Forget the racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, false bravado rhetoric from the campaign trail. He really said those things — all those awful things about men, women, and people not … white — yet his bleating still convinced a large number of querulous people that he could bring about change that would ease their fears.

Donald TrumpYes, Donald Trump managed to win the Electoral College handily — but far from a mandate to enact sweeping change. Even Trump’s bio, posted on WhiteHouse.gov on Inauguration Day, stretched the truth before being updated: “Mr. Trump won the election on November 8 of 2016 in the largest electoral college landslide for a Republican in 30 years.” (… Umm, in 1988, George H.W. Bush (426 electoral votes) tallied 79.2% against Michael Dukakis (111). For those who are mathematically challenged, that’s only 28 years. In 2016, Trump won 56.9% of the EC votes. …  And never mind there had only been one Republican in the Oval Office since that time.)

The key takeaway for Democrats should be the disconnect between the party and what once was its core: low- and middle-class white workers. As Real Clear Politics pointed out:

Hillary Clinton had the best performance of any Democrat in recent memory in the so-called “Mega-Cities,” winning almost two of every three votes cast. In large cities (those with metro areas of between 1 million and 5 million people), Clinton performed a bit worse than Barack Obama in 2008 and Bill Clinton in 1996. In other words, looking only at large urban areas, she was headed for a big victory.

The problem is that the Democratic coalition fell apart below that. Her performance in small cities was closer to Al Gore’s 2000 performance than either Obama’s or Bill’s landslide wins. Beneath that, her performance was a disaster; she ran behind Michael Dukakis in large towns, about 10 points behind him in small towns, and about 15 points behind him in rural areas. She ran over 20 points behind Bill in small towns and rural areas.

For the media, it should not come as a surprise that Donald Trump uses the press as a personal piñata.

… At the major national news outlets, campaign correspondents rarely stick to just-the-facts reporting (“Hillary Clinton held a rally in Des Moines today”). Instead, it’s increasingly common for articles about the campaign to contain a mix of analysis and reporting and to make plenty of explicit and implicit predictions. (Usually, these take the form of authoritatively worded analytical claims about the race, such as declaring which states are in play in the Electoral College.) Furthermore, editors and reporters make judgments about the horse race in order to decide which stories to devote resources to and how to frame them for their readers.

The media — including left-leaning, self-proclaimed middle-of-the-road, and right-wing outlets — should stick to just-the-facts reporting. If nothing else, it may, just maybe, spur the reader to dig a little deeper than the click-bait headline or the easy-to-share meme on social media. (But where’s the money in that? Carry on …)

While the media licks its collective wounds over being blindsided on election night, the fact remains low- and middle-class white America reached its breaking point — with the media and with Democrats. And both institutions have no one to blame but themselves. Too much time spent talking down to the audience. Too much time spent currying favor with other demographics. Too little attention spent on those stateside who were driving the Trump Train.

The most glaring example is the Affordable Care Act. It is the first major legislation the Republicans will try to gut. Still, the Democrats will not stand united and put the shortcomings of Obamacare at the feet of the GOP, which gutted the original ACA legislation under pressure from Big Pharma and insurance lobbyists.

  • In 2013, more than 20 states — most fully controlled by Republicans in the legislature and the governor’s office — denied some of the neediest Americans care by refusing to expand Medicaid. Some 9.7 million of the 15 million potentially eligible adults lived in states that refused to expand.
  • In 2013, more than half the states declined to establish their own insurance marketplaces. All but six were run by Republican governors and a Republican-majority legislature.
  • Between 2010 and 2013, House Republicans devoted at least 15 percent of their time on the House floor trying to ruin the ACA, voting 39 times to repeal, defund or delay the law. Those legislative efforts cost taxpayers upward of $50 million. Meanwhile, between 2010 and today, the GOP hasn’t offered an alternative health care plan.

Politically, Republicans took the position that the Affordable Care Act must be repealed — not fixed by bipartisan agreement. However, it has been six years since the ACA was signed and there were no repeal or major fixes.

Politically, the Republicans did this to try to damage Barack Obama and the Democrats. … Yes, the GOP consciously made Americans suffer more. The target was always the president; the victims are millions of families.

Believe that Republicans would not deliberately undermine Americans? Talking Points Memo reported:

In late 2014, Republicans inserted a provision in budget omnibus legislation that tinkered with what’s known as the risk corridors program, which buoys insurers who spend more money than they planned for on covering populations that are sicker than anticipated.

The provision resurfaced in the political discourse last fall when Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) took it on a victory tour during his presidential campaign, bragging that he stopped a health insurance “bailout.” The legislation did not so much end the program as screw up the mechanism by which money can be carved out to fund it. The risk corridors can now only be funded by transferring profits from insurers whose populations cost them less than expected, and the government can no longer pull from savings elsewhere in the law to make up the difference.

Basically, Republicans made minor tweaks to mechanisms within the Affordable Care Act so that certain parts of the program become weaker. New reports then come out showing that premiums went up. Then Republicans use those new reports to brag about how Obamacare is broken even though they were the ones who broke it in the first place.

“One could reasonably argue that, like so much of Obama’s first term, the bill was weakened by an inability to see the political reality of Republican radicalism and obstruction for what it is,” Elias Isquith wrote for Slate. “But if there’s one thing that should be inarguable, it’s this: We won’t be able to fix the larger structural problems with American democracy so long as we continue to pretend our system of accountability is working.”

Another example of Republicans co-opting the message: defunding Planned Parenthood. The pro-life wing of the GOP seeks to end federal funding for abortions. News flash: The Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funding of abortions, and as a rider to the Health and Human Services appropriations bill, must be passed each year. Hence by law, Title X funds may not be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning. Medicaid funding is restricted by the Hyde Amendment to only abortion cases involving rape, incest or endangerment to the life of the mother.

However, some states use their own funds under Medicaid to go beyond that. Here’s where it comes full circle: Under the Affordable Care Act, people with incomes up to 133 percent of the poverty line qualify for Medicaid. But … not all states have expanded their Medicaid programs to include this increased number of eligible residents.

According to the Guttmacher Institute:

  • 32 states and the District of Columbia follow the federal standard and provide abortions in cases of life endangerment, rape, and incest.
    • 3 of these states also provide state funds for abortions in cases of fetal impairment.
    • 3 of these states also provide state funds for abortions that are necessary to prevent grave, long-lasting damage to the woman’s physical health.
  • 1 state provides abortions only in cases of life endangerment, in apparent violation of the federal standard.
  • 17 states have a policy that directs Medicaid to pay for all or most medically necessary abortions.
    • 4 of these states provide such funds voluntarily.
    • 13 of these states do so pursuant to a court order.

For all the blustering from Republicans over trimming the federal budget in favor of “states rights,” the Affordable Care Act yields to states — and those states are making the decision to withhold coverage.

The Oval Office is not the center of power within our republic. Donald Trump will be no better, no worse than Obama, Dubya, Clinton, Bush, Regan, Carter, Ford. … Nixon, eh — he’s one of a kind. … Congress is where the power is wielded by the U.S. government. Midterm elections are next year, so it will be interesting to see if Trump follows through on his pledge to help #DrainTheSwamp.

“Our system of accountability” — that’s what is broken, not the White House, not Obamacare. Congress, one-third of our system of accountability, has been allowed to run amock. Implementing term limits. Reeling in lobbyists. Exorcising “dark money” in our election cycles. Those are tangible issues we, the people, should be pushing our elected officials to address.

Do not get caught up in the “gaslighting” that many are promoting. Don’t fall for the “alternative facts,” or the ongoing pissing match between the press secretary and those who cover the White House. There are real issues that should be addressed. Losing your way while navigating the smoke and mirrors of politics is exactly what Congress hopes. Ultimately, you will give up on trying to hold these career politicians accountable and they will carry on with business as usual.

Do not get caught up in rhetoric from either side. The sky is not falling. The Democrats want more control in Congress. The Republicans want even more control in Congress. Neither party is deserving of representing the people’s voice if they are not willing to listen to the people. This is why 2020 — the next presidential election — should not be the focus. A change in Washington begins now, in preparation for 2018, when the makeup of Congress can be changed.

Donald Trump cannot drive the train off the tracks. (And hey, neither could Obama; still got your guns — correct?) But Congress can gut this nation for generations to come. The president can do nothing without a culpable Congress. Much like Trump could do nothing without deep-pocket financiers bankrolling his ventures. (If you still believe he is a “successful businessman,” you simply are not paying attention. Donald Trump is a world-class marketer — of Trump.)

Personally, I believe the GOP will use Trump to forward its agenda — then it will turn on Donald Trump, impeach him for a misstep, and elevate Vice President Mike Pence. … Really, would that surprise anyone?