Tag Archives: Fred Hiatt

Looking For A Bright Side

We are all hungry for good news these days–even if the search for the “bright side of life” sometimes seems reminiscent of that famous scene from Life of Brian….

So–can we look for any good news emanating from the Trump Administration? I’ve previously pointed out that civic participation is up dramatically since the election–huge numbers of people who were previously apathetic about government have evidently realized that public policy really does matter. (I know, clutching at straws here…)

Granted, any positive consequence coming from this misbegotten administration is by definition inadvertent. But that doesn’t make such consequences nonexistent.

In a recent column, Fred Hiatt expanded on that inadvertence, which he dubbed “The Boomerang Effect.”

Did your head spin when Utah’s Orrin Hatch, a true conservative and the Senate’s longest-serving Republican, emerged last week as the most eloquent spokesman for transgender rights? Credit the Trump boomerang effect.

Much has been said about White House dysfunction and how little President Trump has accomplished in his first six months. But that’s not the whole story: In Washington and around the world, in some surprising ways, things are happening — but they are precisely the opposite of what Trump wanted and predicted when he was sworn in.

Hiatt reminds his readers of the conventional wisdom–or at least, the conventional punditry–that saw Brexit and Trump’s election as harbingers of a global white nationalist resurgence. Putin and Russia would gain power, the European Union would fracture or disintegrate. That didn’t happen.

But European voters, sobered by the spectacle on view in Washington, moved the other way. In March, the Netherlands rejected an anti-immigrant party in favor of a mainstream, conservative coalition. In May, French voters spurned the Putin-loving, immigrant-bashing Marine Le Pen in favor of centrist Emmanuel Macron, who went on to win an overwhelming majority in Parliament and began trying to strengthen, not weaken, the E.U.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whom Trump belittled for having allowed so many refugees into her country, has grown steadily more popular in advance of a September election.

Conventional wisdom also saw the GOP’s control of Congress and the White House as evidence that the Affordable Care Act aka “Obamacare” was doomed. Thanks in no small part to the Trump’s incompetence and the internal divisions within the once Grand Old Party, that didn’t happen either.

But here’s the boomerang effect: Obamacare is not just hanging on but becoming more popular the more Trump tries to bury it. And if he now tries to mismanage Obamacare to its death, we may boomerang all the way to single-payer health insurance. This year’s debate showed that most Americans now believe everyone should have access to health care. If the private insurance market is made to seem undependable, the fallback won’t be Trumpcare. It will be Medicare for all.

I fervently hope Hiatt is correct about that, although I admit to having my doubts.

Among the other “boomerangs” that Hiatt identifies are several that are familiar to most of us: firing Comey really ratcheted up the Russia investigation, and increased the public’s perception that Trump has something (many things, probably) to hide. Withdrawing from the Paris Accords prompted state and local governments to increase their efforts to combat climate change. Trump’s threats of massive cuts to the NIH research budget may have strengthened that agency’s hand .

Unfortunately, none of this really mitigates the harm this administration is doing every day.  We have a racist Attorney General who is sabotaging civil rights and criminal justice reforms; an appalling Secretary of Education who wants to destroy public schools and use vouchers to “build up God’s Kingdom;” a climate denier in the pocket of fossil fuel interests is in charge of the EPA.  Whatever Rex Tillerson’s strengths or weaknesses, the State Department staff and institutional memory have been eviscerated…

The “boomerang” we desperately need is a clean sweep of Congress in 2018.