Showmanship and Sales
The Placebo Politics of Healthcare?

The healthcare bill that the House passed this afternoon—and which Donald Trump celebrated in a victory-lap press conference—was for all intents and purposes empty. As the Washington Examiner reports, the Senate is planning to simply craft its own bill from scratch:

Senate Republicans said Thursday they won’t vote on the House-passed bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, but will write their own legislation instead.

A Senate proposal is now being developed by a 12-member working group. It will attempt to incorporate elements of the House bill, senators said, but will not take up the House bill as a starting point and change it through the amendment process.

In other words, the House passage of the AHCA represents the start of the healthcare fight, not the end of it. The final product, if there is one at all, will likely bear little resemblance to the legislation passed today.

President Trump’s Rose Garden performance, along with the cheering of his media allies (Drudge’s homepage banner has a picture of a “Promises Kept” sign at a Trump rally), doesn’t yet reflect a real policy victory. It looks once again that Trump is engaging in another display of placebo politics—an attempt to make his constituents feel like they are winning without massive upheavals to the status quo.

But there is a further canniness to this strategy. By taking a victory lap, Trump has increased the sense of momentum, and has ratcheted up pressure on any Republican Senators (and later, once again, House Republicans) to not stand in the way of a “win”. But at the same time, legislators by now know that Trump is not a details guy; he just wants a win to sell to his constituents. He is confident in his skills as a salesman. After all, they have served him well thus far.

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