Part 1

As I follow recent events, I find myself asking the question: “How much damage can Donald Trump, et al., do to our nation and its institutions during the period that his administration has access to the levers of power?

I also acknowledge that there is a chasm that exists between my own personal opinions regarding “the common good” and the damage this administration has already managed to do in a stunningly short period of time. Thus far, it’s been breathtaking.

I find that what the Trump administration is about, as expressed in a flurry of executive orders (or in 140 early-morning characters), is unsettling at best and often wonder, can this be what 63 million Americans voted for?

But before citing some of the most egregious examples of what has occurred thus far — such as the preliminary budget and the failed “repeal and replace” health care train wreck — consider the dismantling of Obama’s environmental policies aimed at reducing emissions from fossil fuel. Trump has pledged to roll back fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks, end funding for scientific research regarding climate change, and has made the return of coal the centerpiece of his new environmental efforts, repudiating what is now a scientific consensus regarding the linkage of global warming and CO2. Trump, who often referred to climate change as a hoax perpetrated by China, has already moved quickly to hollow out the EPA.

Regarding the common good, I would argue that health care is a right, and the most elegant and cost-effective solution is Medicare for all. But if you are looking for a window through which to examine where the GOP stands regarding health care, you need only look at the most recent “replace” proposal. Of course the “repeal” part of this slogan, used by Trump repeatedly during his presidential campaign, has always been the easy part. The House Republicans voted more than 60 times over the past seven years to repeal the Affordable Care Act. What they were completely unprepared for was to deliver a plan of their own. Being the party of “no” for eight years required no governance. But no longer.

Trump and his Republican cohort also touted that by eliminating the mandate to purchase health care they were taking a stand for freedom and liberty. It’s every American’s right not to buy health insurance. What they failed to explain is that, like all insurance (say, car insurance) everyone has to have some skin in the game or it won’t work. The healthy can go bare until they can’t. Then what?

The Republicans also failed to remind voters that some 24 million people would lose their insurance by 2020 when Medicaid expansion was phased out. Keep in mind that there are a lot of coal miners (Trump supporters) who rely on the ACA today and into the future.

Growing desperate, suddenly realizing that the Republicans are fractured along ideological lines (moderates and the far-right, anti-government Freedom Caucus), and seeing the “replace” plan imploding, Trump and Speaker Ryan added the sweetener that if the Freedom Caucus would vote in the affirmative, they would eliminate what is referred to in the ACA plan as “Essential Health Services.” These services comprise wellness visits, maternity and newborn care, mental health treatment, lab tests, outpatient care, emergency room services, hospitalization, pediatric care and prescription drugs.

The Republicans (Trump) needed a bill, any bill, and they were prepared to put lipstick on this pig and insist it could fly. It was an unprecedented sell-out of Trump’s rural/working-class base along with those millions who rely on these essential elements as part their health care. It was morally reprehensible.

When the bill was withdrawn for lack of Republican support, Trump is now blaming the Freedom Caucus, whose members felt that even with the promise of eliminating the 10 essential benefits, the bill was, well, too generous.

In other words, Trump now understands that there are two Republican parties — the moderates and the Freedom Caucus.

Suddenly the Democrats have become his new BFF. But good luck with that. Didn’t he recently call Chuck Schumer a “clown”?

— Chris Honoré of Ashland is a Daily Tidings columnist.