What is the Republican plan to expand healthcare coverage to all Americans? The Trump administration is currently backing a suit that would strip it away from tens of millions while offering no alternative. What is the Republican plan to deal with monopoly power, which is distorting markets and harming consumers and workers? What is the Republican plan to boost wages, beyond ethereal talk of Economic Growth that will benefit all, even if all that growth of the last few decades has mostly benefited the few? What is the Republican plan to make college more affordable? What is the Republican plan to fix the nation’s dilapidated infrastructure? What is the Republican plan to address the climate crisis, an existential threat to human civilization as we know it?
All of these issues remain, even if they’ve been pushed to something beyond the back-burner by the three generational crises now battering the country. Donald Trump, American president, doesn’t have much of a plan for those, either—and they threaten to subsume his campaign for re-election. But even before the pandemic, and the accompanying economic turmoil, and the massive movement for racial justice that has sprung up in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by officers of the Minneapolis Police Department, the president didn’t have an agenda. His argument for re-election wasn’t really about what he’d do, it was that the other side are insane socialist anarchists in league with the Deep State, or whatever.
Nothing much has changed now, something Sean Hannity of the Fox News Channel unwittingly exposed via one of many softball questions he served up to the president Thursday night. Hannity’s servitude might be at the point where he rode with the president on Marine One on their way to this little engagement, but there’s no such thing as a softball when the hitter’s brain is broken.
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How in the hell did we get to John Bolton? (And of course, Hannity used this product of the president’s randomly firing synapses to muse about whether the power of the Justice Department should be wielded against a political dissident, no matter how odious Bolton might be.) The answer is primarily that Trump has nothing else to say.
He has basically given up on fighting the pandemic, and it’s spreading like wildfire in states across the country—many of which he’ll need to win in November. He and his party are set to allow the current boosted unemployment benefits—which Congress appropriated to meet the economic turmoil—to expire. That won’t be good for his prospects. Senate Republicans have a criminal-justice bill that would encourage local police departments to do better, but offers few mechanisms of accountability for wrongdoing. It’s nowhere close to meeting the demands of this moment.
The fact is that the Republican Party hasn’t been much interested in governing the country for some time. They want to deregulate industries whose executives pay the campaign bills, and cut taxes on the donor class, and knuckle immigrants, but the idea of drawing up a comprehensive set of policies to make life better for the broader American public has long been anathema. (The Democrats often govern incompetently, and with too much regard for the preferences of powerful interests over those of working people, but they do seek to govern the country.) Trump is merely the most garish expression of this, turning the nation’s highest governing office into a rolling circus act while shredding the institutions of democracy, and while the termites of the state go to work behind the scenes.
It’s hard not to feel like he’s run out of steam, that he’s sick of doing this job he never really wanted anyway. But then you remember that, thanks to our idiotic system, he could be re-elected despite losing the popular vote by as much as six percent. What would his agenda be then?
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