The Trump healthcare bill failed yesterday. Of course I am pleased. Twenty four million Americans were going to lose access to affordable healthcare because of it. That, though, was not enough for the hard right. Ultimately the House could not agree to deliver that package. Obamacare stands.
I am not going to discuss intricacies, and I am aware that there are many. That's for others with more detailed knowledge. Instead there is one over-riding thought I felt on hearing this news, which was that might this failure be the true indicator of things to come for populist politics? Should we already embrace the idea that these politics are doomed to failure?
Trump has failed on healthcare. Don't rule out that he will fail on tax as well: when the chasm of the deficit that his cuts will create faces the House will they really be able to bring themselves to vote for that? And will those cuts ever be big enough for the right? Might the same divide appear again?
Is there, in addition, a similarity with the U.K.? Here populist politics is riding high in the form of Brexit, but the reality that this might simply be impossible to deliver has yet to be embraced even though it is an obvious possibility. At some point the realisation might dawn on a great many people, in Westminster and onwards, that Brexit represents the most almighty pot into which vast resources of effort and political capital will be poured and all for not only no net gain, but in fact to make things at almost every level worse than they were.
As the Republicans had to admit in the US yesterday, this was not their finest day. Despite controlling all three branches of govnment one of their totemic policies could not be delivered. The reverse makes the recent NIC reverse in the UK look trifling. But might it set a precedent? Does it suggest that populist politicians who put forward obviously harmful proposals that appeal to certain parts of their parties, which then because of the absurdities of the electoral system select them for office in locations where election is likely, will not actually be able to make those policies a reality because at least some of their colleagues might see through the destructive thinking that underpins their offer and reject it before legisaltion can be delivered?
I may, of course be clutching at straws. But I am not sure. And I sincerely hope not. Maybe, just maybe, there may be limits that legislators will eventually accept to the damage that populist politics can deliver. And in the face of causing real harm some will back down, let common sense prevail, and be willing to face the lesser evil of explaining the failure to deliver to the electorate rather than have the weight in their conscience of actually voting to cause harm.
The failure of Trumpcare may be just a blip and yet it looks so like what happened here on NIC, where it was the far right intransigence of the Tories that destroyed Hammond's lukewarm plans even though the Tories had a supposed majority. Maybe Populism simply can't deliver because inherent within it are just too many demands that require extremism in the face of common sense. We can hope.