A funny thing is happening as Republicans get closer to achieving some of their key policy goals. Trump’s approval rating has dropped through the floor. Fake news is all fun and games until it costs you your health insurance.
People are more likely to engage in irrational behavior in politics than in their personal lives. Decisions I make about whether these leftovers are still good have sharp, immediate, individual consequences. On the other hand, my decision to trust Breitbart as a source for political information has consequences that tend to be remote in time and diffused across millions of lives.
Those distant consequences are still real. Occasionally they might hit home in ways that can change minds. We may be living through one of those great political bottlenecks, a moment when consequences become easier to trace and more personally impactful. Letting Trump supporters get what they asked for may be the key to a better future.
Imagine what might happen to our political climate if this administration appoints enough Supreme Court justices to overturn Roe v Wade. They probably only need Gorsuch and one additional Justice. Since the 90’s Republicans have felt comfortable ranting about abortion. They knew it would activate a loony far right base without any real consequences among the rest of the electorate. Everyone else felt safe dismissing Republican positions on abortion, assuming they would always be blocked from doing anything meaningful. Roughly 18% of voters today support the Republicans’ absolutist position on abortion rights. What if Republicans finally had to choose between the religious right and suburban voters?
One or two years under a Republican budget, a Republican social agenda, a Republican health care plan, and a Trumpian foreign policy might be just the kind of rock-bottom experience it takes to sober us up. Will there be damage? Yes. Will it be severe? Probably. Will it harm a lot of innocent people who don’t deserve it? You bet. Compare it to the consequences of a low-grade civil conflict and it seems pretty merciful.
As bad as things are now, we still have a lot of lunacy left to process. We may find that persuasion becomes much more practical as a means of reform after people have seen and experienced the consequences of their preferred path. Perhaps our best hope for an optimal outcome from the collapse of the Third Republic is to adopt a strategy of giving these people just enough rope.