As things are going right now, it looks like sincere conservatives who accepted the “lesser-of-evils” excuse to vote for Donald Trump will soon be choking down its consequences when it comes to policy. President Trump is praising the bill to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, offered by the GOP’s House Leadership. But a slew of conservative groups has let out a howl of dismay, including cries of betrayal. They are demanding that Obama’s socialist government takeover of the health system be peremptorily dismissed—to be followed by legislation that promotes a health system based on free enterprise principles.
What they demand is exactly what will benefit the nation. But their cries of betrayal are patently unfair. Throughout his Presidential campaign, it was clear that Donald Trump never abandoned his commitment to socialist goals and principles for health care in the United States. He insisted on universal coverage, subsidized as needed by Federal government largesse. He told conservatives they would just have to get used to it. Now he is working comfortably with the GOP’s elitist faction leadership (whom he pretended so heartily to despise) to produce a result consistent with those promises. TrumpCare will have a lot in common with Obamacare, especially in its embrace of the socialist premise that shifts responsibility for universal health care to the national government.
I am tempted to say that Mr. Trump is reverting to type. But in this case that wouldn’t be true. President Trump isn’t reverting to socialism because candidate Trump never professed to support anything else. We’ll soon see whether he reverts to his erstwhile identity as a socialist Democrat, with self-serving exceptions, in areas where he did make promises that plainly reject Obama’s lifelong identity as an anti-American socialist ideologue. But Obamacare was never one of them. When he said “Repeal and Replace Obamacare”, it was clearly a matter of making socialism work, not discarding its goals or government concentric methods.
This contrasts with what would be the goal of a truly conservative administration—to make free enterprise the norm, based on individual initiative; informed individual choice; and individual, family and corporate responsibility for doing right, as God gives us to see what is right. As with other matters that are inherently of consequence to our common good, government’s role would be to facilitate and encourage such free enterprise; while good political leaders seek to assure respect for God-endowed right—making it their aim to bring together a sufficient majority of the people to safeguard it. One thing is clear, however: using government coercion to enforced uniformity, as socialism envisages, is utterly unacceptable.
Just as the government plays a limited role in assuring that, as singular and corporate individuals, we can trust each other to have the training and information we need to act responsibly in the conduct of our vehicles on our roads, so it has a role in assuring our confidence and mutual trust when it comes to maintaining our bodily health. Our national security and material well-being self-evidently depend on it. But the health of our body politic requires that health care be focused on the initiative of individuals and the free associations they form voluntarily, not on coercively enforced government control. As a free people, the health of our body politic declines as the sphere of liberty is constricted. (Liberty being the free choice to do what accords with our obligation to respect what is essentially right for our humanity.)
In light of this understanding of the right role of government, socialism has to be rejected in principle. Neither Donald Trump nor the GOP’s presently prevailing Congressional leadership have any intention of doing so. They never did. This is why Mr. Trump and other elitist faction GOP leaders have long professed to admire socialist health care schemes in Canada and Great Britain. Like the Canadian political parties, the leaders of both the Democrat and Republican parties are committed to a socialist path.
The Reagan era represented a tentative hiatus in this bipartisan abandonment of American principles. But the whole point of Donald Trump’s bid for leadership in the GOP was to cast aside the last semblance of that truly conservative understanding, fulfilling the elitist media’s headlines at the outset of the Obama era, proclaiming that “We are all socialists now.”
Socialism is utterly inconsistent with the founding premises of our identity as a free people (i.e., a people whose character and institutions permit their self-government). That identity is predicated on our common embrace of responsibility for preserving the integrity of human nature. It does not consist in some purely self-centered, routinely nationalistic obsession with our own material power and ambition. So, the triumph of socialism requires that we leave our identity behind. Donald Trump’s boisterous assertion of “nationalism”, narrowly conceived, is meant to distract from this dereliction.
America’s understanding of human right is rooted in the obligation to respect and preserve human nature. This understanding ought to be a key influence on our deliberations about the proper approach to health care. All human beings have a common interest in what preserves and enhances human bodily health. Almost since the birth of medicine as a systematic discipline, the key premise of the medical profession has been to respect and serve that common good. To serve this good, in preference to any and all selfish individual aims, was the main profession of faithfulness undertaken by medical professionals.
This may seem directly in conflict with the understanding of free enterprise that sees the individual selfishness, stylized as the profit motive, as the motivating rubric of economic choice. But not once we remember that the real root of “economics” is the household—the family concentric association of individuals raised up in light of the mutual and voluntary commitment of parents to care for their children; and of all family members to care for one another.
On account of this commitment, profit is not defined in terms of radically selfish individualism. The rubric of each family member’s identity involves their participation and inclusion in the family’s life. It involves their responsibility to and for others in their community. True free enterprise approaches take account of this responsibility. They may use government as an instrument to assure that it is taken seriously, but they do not substitute the coercive power of government for choices informed by the decent character of the people, and their natural and voluntary associations. Are there still true conservatives in the GOP willing to battle for this responsible, free enterprise approach? Is there any chance that President Trump will abandon his evident commitment to making socialism work in order, instead, to work with