Right now, there are two huge crises in American politics, but one is clearly bigger than the other. Yet looking at my recent columns, and to a large extent my blogging and tweeting, I’ve been focusing mainly on the lesser crisis. A few thoughts about why.
Clearly the most important thing happening in and to America right now is the constitutional crisis. Not potential crisis: it’s already here. The president’s inner circle is under investigation for possible collusion with a hostile foreign power, collusion that may have put him in office; he himself, whether or not he’s currently a direct target of that investigation, is clearly suspect. Yet he has already made clear his determination to block any investigation that gets too close.
This is way worse than Nixon – yet all indications are that the moral rot of the Republican Party now runs so deep that the constitutional answer to a rogue president is null and void. This is an existential threat to the republic, and it can be hard to focus on anything else.
Yet if Trump-Putin-treason weren’t in the news, we’d all be focused on health care, where Republicans are still trying to ram through a disgusting bill, inflicting immense harm, under cover of secrecy and lies. In the process they are bringing conspiracy theorizing to the heart of politics: every attempt at objective analysis, every statement of plain facts, just shows that you’re an enemy.
So, what to write about? In my case, I’m mainly doing health care. Why?
First, personal comparative advantage. I’m not a national security or legal expert. That won’t stop me from weighing in when I think other pundits are, for whatever reason, failing to see the obvious – as was the case long ago when I stuck my neck out to argue that we were being lied into the Iraq war.
But Trump-Putin-treason is in fact getting plenty of attention.
Meanwhile, health economics is close enough to my home areas of expertise that I think I know what I’m talking about (and who to consult); so it’s an area where I think I can still add significant value to the discussion.
Equally important, health care is an area where punditry can make a difference, either by helping to stop the Republican bum’s rush or by helping to ensure that those responsible for destroying health care pay the appropriate price. For now, by contrast, Trump-Putin-treason is largely in the hands of Robert Mueller and Trump himself.
Investigative reporting can help move the situation along, and it will be all hands on deck if and when Trump fires Mueller (which seems more likely than not). But for now, it seems to me that I personally best serve the public interest by focusing on the lesser but still great evil.