IF THE “HEALTHCARE” BILL PASSES—I refer to the $800,000,000,000 tax cut for the rich concocted by a clutch of decrepit white men in the Senate basement with all the transparency of the Manhattan Project—the Republicans will have let a particularly noxious genie out of the bottle. It’s one thing to cut services that GOP core voters hate anyway to save some coin for the wealthy and corporations; quite another to, in effect, condemn millions of people to bankruptcy and death to achieve the same result. I don’t think Mitch McConnell and his minions realize how ugly this could get.
In the time between writing the first and second drafts of this piece, a disgruntled man translated his political grievances into actual violence, gunning down a member of Congress. The shooter, as the conservative press is so keen to point out, is a member of the “alt-left.” The Congressman he attempted to kill, Steve Scalise, is a hard-right Republican—a Second Amendment purist who once described himself as “David Duke without the baggage.” I can’t pretend to know what went on in the head of James Hodgkinson, who is certainly no hero, but the Congressman’s racist, homophobic policy positions likely made Scalise a target.
Republicans appeared shocked that this tragedy happened—Paul Ryan actually demonstrated empathy, an emotion I did not think him capable of feeling—but really, if you sow hate, you should not be shocked when hate is reaped. The GOP is terrified of dissent. Its president vets who attends his rallies. Its members of Congress refuse to hold town halls. Its Senate majority leader instructed Capitol police to remove peaceful protesters in wheelchairs. When the usual avenues for protest are closed off, then what? Do they really think the people will give up and go home?
To the contrary: if the Senate passes this egregious tax break for the wealthy/corporations masquerading as a healthcare bill—and it’s increasingly, alarmingly likely that it will—James Hodgkinson may well become, unfortunately, not a deranged lone wolf but a template for a desperate form of last-resort resistance: the John Brown of the 21st century.
Let’s say you live in Kentucky. You’re a hard-line Republican and an avid Trump supporter. You are an NRA member and you own a lot of firearms; you have posted to various Facebook pages your insistence that the Second Amendment is there to protect your right to take up arms against a tyrannical government, as the Founders intended. You also have a medical condition that requires expensive medicine that will no longer be adequately covered by the new Trumpcare system, even though Trump and his supporters assured you over and over that this would NOT be the case. So you’re basically on death row, and who signed the writ of execution? Your own Senator! A guy you reflexively voted for every six years! If you’re this person, is it in your nature to lie down and die without a fight? If you’re this person, why would you not go after Mitch McConnell? The passage of this legislative abomination, I fear, will create thousands of desperate would-be vigilantes. And the Republicans seem not to realize this, or not to care.
To state the obvious and the obligatory: I do not condone violence. I don’t want anyone to get hurt. I’m not calling for an armed insurgency against the GOP agents of destruction. But Republicans have been in a pathological state of delusion for a long time now. They can convince themselves that Donald Trump is competent, that his cabinet members are exemplary, that Russian collusion and global warming are hoaxes, that Obama is a Kenyan Muslim, that every questionable move made by any GOP member can be explained away by something untoward Bill Clinton once did. But this can only go on for so long. The alternative facts will stop working when the unpaid medical bills, house liens, wage garnishments, and bankruptcy filings tell a different, grimmer tale.
If this bill passes—and brainwashed GOP voters come to understand exactly what was taken away from them, and for what deplorable reason—Republican lawmakers shouldn’t be surprised when their wake-up call takes the lamentably violent form of a hundred James Hodgkinsons, locked and loaded…when the targets on their backs become something other than figurative.