Is Trump Gaslighting Paul Ryan on Health Care Through the Press?

It must be strange to be Donald Trump. He’s previously been in favor of late-term abortion, has never had much of an issue with gays, had Roy Cohn for a mentor, and during his campaign came out in favor of detente with Russia and single-payer healthcare. And now, after a circus freak show of a presidential campaign which coincidentally happened to be the absolute length of his entire political career prior to taking office, he finds himself in charge of an anti-choice, anti-LGBT, anti-Semitic, anti-Russian, and anti-healthcare political party. The only thing that really unites him with the rest of the GOP he literally took over in one fell swoop without paying dues is a form of white nationalism that is much more brash and overt than that of Bill Clinton, who like Trump remains a pig and charlatan of the highest order.

A recent column by Jesse Myerson pointed out the mechanics of how fascism rises and the pivotal role the petit bourgeoisie plays in such dynamics. That insight is particularly relevant because, while Donald certainly has all the glitz of one of his Atlantic City casinos, the plain fact is that the bourgeoisie in any society does not normally depend on the shelter of bankruptcy laws on such a cyclical basis as Trump does. The bourgeoisie has enough capital stored up over generations to make any financial shortfall seem like coins in a piggy bank. Donald straddles the divide between the two and makes up the difference with a blowhard public persona akin to Scrooge McDuck after a bottle of tequila.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen conservative press bastions floating the notion of Trump being the president who will put in place a single-payer healthcare plan. Charles Krauthammer, who could not have made it more obvious if he had winked into the camera, said on a May 2 Fox News interview that within seven years “we will be in a single-payer system”. Then on May 8 Eugene Robinson wrote at the neocon Washington Post that ‘Republicans are accidentally paving the way for single-payer health care’. It is not exactly rocket science to deduce that Trump is probably feeding this to his contacts in the DC press corps who he sees as allies. We are talking about the man who took out a full page ad calling for the innocent Central Park 5 to be executed, this is nothing new to his B-grade horror film carnival barker personality.

Paul Ryan by contrast seems to be reminding me more and more of when a buoy comes disconnected from its anchor and is cast loose into the open waters. Just four years ago he was coming off being Mitt Romney’s running mate and was heading into another stint in Congress where he successfully scuttled every milquetoast legislative effort offered by the Obama administration. It was almost assured that, if he did not jump into the 2016 race, 2022 was almost for certain, perhaps partnered with Rand Paul. Now an orange faced buffoon without a single day of experience in any government at all (even the PTA!) has taken that entire career and burned it to cinders in less than 24 months. And they say there is no justice in this world.

The Trump base is blatantly racist and beholden to middle class delusions of grandeur that are ideologically stuck in 1960. Theirs are fantasies of patriarchy, Jim Crow, and crew cuts that are holding the dread Commie Russians at bay and never mind that the Soviet Union ceased to exist before I learned to read. Kevin Williamson over at National Review said in March 2016 that “The white American underclass is in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles. Donald Trump’s speeches make them feel good. So does OxyContin. What they need isn’t analgesics, literal or political. They need real opportunity, which means that they need real change, which means that they need U-Haul.” Leaving aside the obvious elitism that Williamson seems to spew with glee, it is clear that we are dealing with a Republican establishment that is saying very openly that it has entered a terminal condition.

I think Trump recognizes this also. Ever since Election Night, when he shambled onto the stage with a look that said most certainly he never expected to win this position, he seems every day to be grasping at straws that would be the stuff of a success. Every legislative and policy effort put forward by his White House in the past 110+ days has been dead on arrival. He hops between different spectacular media extravaganzas every seven days in a pattern that is undeniably in sync with the news cycle. This week he’s trying to take on healthcare, one of the foremost elements of the American economy, last week he was goofing around with North Korea, the week before that he was bombing different parts of the Middle East. I’m honestly just waiting for him to fly through a flaming ring on water skis next week.

And so in such desperation he is quite obviously signaling to his base, which is in favor of anti-war and single-payer policies, via his press microphones. He recognizes how precarious his situation is and lords over such chaos that his own White House is loaded with small palace intrigues to rival Shakespeare. In one corner is Jared Kushner, the New York newspaper publisher and real estate mogul who apparently has been tasked with solving, well, everything wrong in the world. In the other is quasi-Leninist Stephen Bannon, the demonic white nationalist who turned Breitbart into a neo-Nazi hangout and is an alumnus of Goldman Sachs.

These developments and efforts are important to understand and observe with care. If Trump does not deliver to this middle class petit bourgeoisie some sort of political bounty that eases their anxieties over the collapse of their American dream then you will see develop rather quickly a third party political force that is genuinely fascist. In short order demagogues like Richard Spencer, David Duke, and Augustus Sol Invictus will say that the Donald “stabbed them in the back” and that a truly open and honest fascist politics is the way forward. While Trump’s flaws are multitude, he also seems to be averse to the blatant fascism of Bannon, exemplified by when he pushed back on the Bannon radio show against the notion of halting all immigration full stop. Instead he is the sort of liberal who could be nice to Dixiecrats 80 years ago.

So he quite obviously seems set on gaslighting the GOP and pushing through some of the policies he plagiarized from Bernie Sanders’ campaign speeches, specifically with healthcare from where I am perched.

And quite frankly his record so far on that has been…not too bad! Remember TPP?


Richard Nixon, a man whose entire career was premised on lies, innuendo, and paranoid fantasies about Alger Hiss, passed the Clean Air and Water Acts, implemented wage and price controls, ended the Cold War by engaging in detente with Russia while recognizing China, and in general is considered our last liberal president. Any radical knows by this point that when it is a Republican in office at least the Democrats show up on the picket lines.

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Andrew Stewart is a documentary film maker and reporter who lives outside Providence.  His film, AARON BRIGGS AND THE HMS GASPEE, about the historical role of Brown University in the slave trade, is available for purchase on Amazon Instant Video or on DVD.

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