2014 midterm election implications

I have read very little news or punditry the past week. Most immediate post-election “analysis” is dregs-of-adrenaline meaningless noise, even by journalism’s ordinary standards, and in this case the specific election results make me physically ill.

Most of the few peeks I have taken have been over at Vox. The conclusions of their staff are thoughtful, appropriately cautious… and horrible. Matthew Yglesias has noted that “American politics is descending into a meaningless, demographically driven seesaw.” If you want more than that, well, that’s a problem, as Ezra Klein has elaborated:

The last five elections, taken together, wreck almost every clean story you might try to wrap around them. They show an electorate that veers hard and quickly between left and right and back again — shredding any efforts one might make to draw deep ideological conclusions from a single campaign. They show that Democrats can, in the right circumstances, win midterm elections. They show that incumbents can win presidential campaigns. They show an electorate that seems to be searching for something it cannot find.

Indeed. Perhaps because that electorate is doing something wrong… one could, of course, easily point to the system in a number of ways, but the strongest hope of changing that system rests in the hands of the electorate… On the whole, it’s easier than ever to see why people are disgusted by politics and declining to participate; unfortunately the spotty, knee-jerk participation that this leaves behind exacerbates the randomness and dysfunction that turn people away.

As someone wrote at The Economist a few years ago, “we have a system-wide problem with system-wide problems.”

Perhaps it might help if the idea that elections have real consequences, for real people, became once more central to political conversation, instead of just a source of anecdotal weapons. Very possibly not, but as self-indulgence is one of life’s few dependable consolations at present…

What state I live in a couple of years from now could well depend on what happens—or does not happen—next in our nation’s capital.

Having declined to nuke the Affordable Care Act in one go, the Supreme Court is now going to consider more of a controlled demolition job. My instinct is that they won’t, and that if they do, something will be worked out if only because the US health insurance industry now shares vital organs with “Obamacare.” From here on, it’s difficult to see them surviving separately from it, and I suspect they will thus apply all their influence to avoiding even a state-restricted death spiral.

That said, it would feel foolish to count on any of this. I’m reluctant to overstate the mysticism of what is now mostly just one more simple, partisan body, but there’s still an element of who-knows in the Supreme Court if only because there are only nine members, too few to smooth out the effects of individual whim. As for Congress, which could make this entire court case irrelevant right now if majorities wanted to (in a way that would not be vetoed), big corporations badly want immigration reform, e.g., but that’s still going nowhere. It seems like the concerns of health insurers could go unaddressed as well, no matter how dire.

Meanwhile, I need health insurance, not only “just in case” but for known, predictable, ongoing and expensive interventions. Which emphasizes the point that “insurance” is at this point really a misnomer, but whatever; not getting into that right now. If a death-spiral gets started in Ohio’s insurance market, and premiums go up-up-up even faster than I’m already familiar with, I won’t be able to both stay here and afford important care. Certainly not when I am carrying both “my” share of the premiums and my “employer’s” share.

I have the option to clear out, frankly. Essentially all of my paying work is transacted via telecommunications, these days, and mostly with clients who aren’t in this state anyway. I would miss cozy, just-right Lakewood, and could do without the hassles of moving across the country or finding a new gastroenterologist, e.g. But moving to a state with its own exchange, where insurance subsidies would be safe and thus forestall a death spiral, could very well become my least-bad option in the next couple of years. If it does, I expect I would take it rather than staying here and becoming a martyr…

For many other people, though, it won’t be a matter of “volunteering” for martyrdom. I doubt that “sorry, we have a broken system and not enough of you act consistently and constructively in response” will be enough of an answer, really… but it may be all that’s available.

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