Trumpcare has failed, and despite a few rumblings to the opposite, it’s a long shot that we’ll see it come up again, at least for a few months. The dominant story as to why it failed has come down to differences in the nature of the president and the speaker of the house. Trump is a great salesman, and Ryan is a great policy wonk. Their differing styles meant they couldn’t agree on a strategy to make it work, and it died dramatically. I have a hard time buying this.
Let’s look at Ryan first. He has a reputation as a guy who understands policy. He knows the nuance and the best way to push it through the House of Representatives. First off that doesn’t really fly because of his history. I’m not aware of any major legislation that he has pushed through in either his time before becoming speaker, or during. True, most of the time he was speaker Obama was president, which tied his hands somewhat. But even during that time there was almost no legislation trying to create something. It was almost always trying to tear down something. Get rid of Obamacare or Planned Parenthood. There is very little in his history to suggest he’s any better at policy than a well informed voter. And the mess that was Trumpcare, how did he miss it? It was basically the same as Obamacare, but less generous. It satisfied exactly no one. The only policy benefit it had was to cut the deficit a bit over a decade, which would give him a bit of breathing room for tax reform. That is seriously it. And it didn’t even cut it that much. If he actually thought that one benefit would be enough to balance out the fact that it had enough in it for everyone to hate, then has a seriously bad idea of what policy is important to whom. That seems like an important thing for a policy wonk/house speaker to know.
So if Ryan dropped the ball on policy, maybe he expected Trump the salesman to pick it up and close. He kept saying that the president was the ultimate closer. I kept thinking he misspelled loser, but I digress. But if Trump is a great salesman, what kind of salesman is he? Is he an insurance salesman, who seriously and professionally appeals to your rational, long term thinking self? Maybe he’s a real estate agent, who really doesn’t sell much at all, but instead just tries to optimize the situation to make selling more likely, without twisting any clients’ arms. Perhaps a used car salesman? Sure, they can use some ethically dubious techniques to get people to buy, but who ultimately want repeat business, and hence will avoid telling you any lie that could be too easily discovered. No, the truth is Trump is closer to a pitchman. He falls into the Billy Mays style of saying anything and everything to get you to buy the product, without Mays’s commitment to quality. For Trump, all he cares about is getting you to like whatever he’s selling for the time it takes to get your money. After that, I doubt he cares about his customers at all. In the world of Washington, where memories are long and terms are set in stone, that strategy is less than optimal.
The reason Trumpcare failed is because we have a policy wonk who doesn’t really understand policy and a salesman who’s skills are better suited to selling ovens on late night tv. They are going to have a tough time selling anything that requires more than shouting at your customers.