I went to bed thinking it was in the bag for the GOP. I woke up and I see that John McCain, Lisa Murkowski, and Susan Collins — “moderates” — have proven to be somewhat better than useless, and stopped (for now) the policy-and-process madness of this health care repeal.
The GOP three will be sainted. They don’t quite deserve that; under the circumstances, this was a limbo-low bar to cross: A terrible, cruel bill that would bankrupt millions, and shorten the lives of many more; and a Calvinball-cum-Kafka legislative “process” meant to avoid any substantive scrutiny of the language. Everything, everything was predicated on utter party discipline — the enforcers of which have been extraordinarily successful in the GOP during the Obama years. Only in today’s GOP can asserting the merest normality — on the level of brushing your teeth before bed, or driving on the right side of the road — be considered courage.
There is some relief to be found, in the continuation of politics itself: That is, that checks and balances exist; that politicians have egos, habits, institutional bailiwicks, and constituencies that go beyond the strictest party loyalty; that public pressure works; that governors still have influence because they deal directly with budgets, and hospitals, and real problems — their own constituencies, whose concerns can’t be hand-waved away with the cheapjack ideology of cable news.
In any event, it’s a reminder that — even now, in this ugly, mean and corrupt era — politicians are lagging indicators. They follow the public mood, they don’t set it, and they can’t steamroll it. Many thanks and congratulations to those who demonstrated, called, organized, informed, harangued, told their stories to our elected officials. It shouldn’t be this hard to maintain a shred of decency in public life. But many folks are giving more than they realized they had to give.