The Tale Of Two Dons And One Crew

The situation in Washington is so surreal that it resembles a fairy tale so today I thought I would tell you one and in the course of it explain what I think is happening with health care. Let’s explore.

Once upon a time (now) there was a place that we’ll call Washington. For several years that turf belonged to a powerful and somewhat devious man; we’ll call him Don McConnell. Don McConnell was a master at preventing what he didn’t want from getting done and getting what he did want done. It didn’t seem to matter whether his crew was the largest or not. In the course of his obstruction and manipulation he managed to gain control of lots of money which he sometimes filtered through another person.

Don McConnell had a crew from all over the country. He kept them loyal in large part by financing their election and reelection campaigns with the ill-gotten money. He also was very good at protecting them from having to go on the record with votes that could be used against them in a primary or general election. He realized that his power came from two sources: the ability to pass out money and keeping as many of his crew in Washington for as long as possible.

One day a new Don who we’ll call Don Trump moved into Washington. He really didn’t have much of an agenda but he was willing to share the revenue with Don McConnell. Part of the problem was that Don Trump’s crew was a bunch of backstabbing, self-preservationists who had no idea how Washington worked. While Don McConnell was quiet and cerebral; Don Trump was a flashy big mouth who had no idea what he was either doing or talking about. To compound the problems Don Trump envisioned himself as the Don of Dons.

Don Trump badly needed a legislative victory and assigned Don McConnell the task of bringing one home for him on health care. Now Don Trump really didn’t care about the details, (he thought they were too hard), he just wanted a win. Don McConnell first floated an idea that came from a petty criminal from Wisconsin who had a dysfunctional gang in the neighborhood. Don McConnell, being a savvy veteran, knew that it was dead on arrival but he placated Don Trump. A few members of Don McConnell’s crew bolted from the pack which was enough to kill the bill before it came up for a vote. Two of them were actually principled the others were looking to save their political skin.

Don Trump was furious and ordered Don McConnell to make a second attempt. Don McConnell huddled with the most trusted members of his crew in private meetings and fashioned a second version that had a very slim chance of making it through. He could only lose two crew members and even then would need to borrow on of Don Trump’s crew to get the bill over the line. He immediately lost the two principled members of his crew. A few days later, with no margin for error, two other crew members bolted for political reasons and the bill was dead.

To this point the genius of Don McConnell was that the vast majority of his crew never had to take a public stand. Going against the bills could have angered the far right of their Party and cost them in a primary. Voting for the bill would have taken health care away from tens or hundreds of thousands of their voters and that would not play well in the general election. Not taking a public stand was the safest position and Don McConnell protected them by letting them take that position. Savvy politician that Don McConnell!

Now the irrational and ignorant Don Trump wants what he can claim as a victory so badly that he wants Don McConnell to simply repeal the old program and not even bother replacing it until sometime down the road. Part of this is the typical Washington kick the can strategy except this time they would be kicking a can that had a lit stick of dynamite in it. It would also exacerbate the uncertainty which is the biggest thing hurting the current system. (Hey, it’s my fairy tale and I’ll throw a little economic reality in if I want to.)

I don’t see this plan having any better chance of passage. If things work out the way I expect and Don McConnell is as politically savvy as I think he is here is what I see happening. Several of McConnell’s crew will publically come out against the bill before it ever gets to the floor. McConnell will pull it because it is a sure loser. The majority of his crew members will have never taken a public position by statement or vote and will be free to say what they want in the future leaving them less vulnerable to a challenge from the right in a primary or nasty commercials during the general.

I’m not sure if that will be the end of the story or not. Don McConnell keeps his crew largely in place and Don Trump’s crew will be more rebellious than ever.   This much I do know: Nobody will live happily ever after as long as Don Trump is in town.

Please Note: This article was written on the morning of Tuesday July 18th for publishing at 1am the next morning.

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