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The Moral Dilemma of Trumpcare, from a Liberal Point of View

The marginal voter for Trump—the people who took him over the top in the Electoral College—is understood to be a rural, older, white, male voter in a depressed Rust Belt state. Furthermore, I take the core Trump voter, the one most committed, to be an economically marginalized voter in a depressed state like West Virginia.

It now appears that Trumpcare—or Ryancare, if you prefer—will wreak havoc on exactly these voters. And the Trump budget would compound the felony, yanking away some of the last remaining economic lifelines directed at these communities.

One possible liberal reaction would be resort to schadenfreude: “you suckers, you voted for that charlatan, now you’re gonna take it on the chin and up the keister. Bwa-ha-ha-ha.”

But that’s not really a comfortable position for a liberal. It, uh, lacks compassion. And a huge motive for adopting the liberal position on Obamacare was compassion: that no American should be unable to afford needed healthcare.

But now the moral dilemma comes into view. I’m also a believer in justice, defined in shorthand as, “you reap what you sow.” Actions have consequences, and in a just world, the character of the consequences aligns with the character of the action. The marginal Trump voter did a stupid thing. He asked, “how could it get any worse?” He told himself, “What the hey, time to roll the dice.”

From a patriotic standpoint—from the standpoint of someone who cares deeply about the American project, and who fears for its future in a hostile world—that nihilistic attitude toward the vote is worse than stupid; it is an evil. Down that path lies one pit in which America dies (per Franklin: “a Republic, if you can keep it”).

It would be a just outcome if the nihilistic Trump voter suffered terribly for his cavalier vote, and for succumbing to the Trump con. America will not endure unless voters learn to do better.

Now to thicken the plot: if Trumpcare becomes law, and those voters do suffer, then the Republican party will reap the whirlwind in 2018. That too would be a just outcome after seven years of living the lie on Obamacare (read Jonathan Chait). And it would be a good outcome, because then a Democratic House could fulfill the Constitutional expectation that it can and will serve as a check on would-be tyrants such as Trump. To avert tyranny, and preserve the American project, is a very good outcome, to be weighed heavily in any moral scale.

But that just outcome requires that family members of careless Trump voters fall sick and die, because Republicans took their insurance away, causing the perfidy of Republican blandishments to be revealed. And the suffering of those innocents is a bad outcome.

Now run the argument in reverse. If Democratic legislators succeed in defeating Trumpcare, those voters and their families will continue to enjoy the benefits of Obamacare (a good outcome, from the standpoint of minimizing pain and suffering). And those voters will be free to continue to disparage Obamacare, since they don’t know what they have—because they haven’t lost it. And with Obamacare preserved, Republican legislators can continue to run on the lie that they must be returned to office, in force, to fix the mess of Obamacare, which they came so close to doing, give us just one more chance. And on that platform, Republicans will retain control of the House, and there will be no constitutional check on Trump, and the slide into tyranny will continue to threaten.

Which would be a very bad outcome, not in terms of immediate pain and loss, but in terms of the prospects for the American project.

What to do? For which outcome to hope?

Published inPolitics

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