© Josh Sager – January 2017
The “shock doctrine” (term coined by Naomi Cline) is a tactic for achieving political victories by using serious disruptions to the status quo. In short, after a significant political upset (e.g. a scandal, economic crash, war or terrorist attack), there is a window for an organized political group to push an agenda that wouldn’t be achievable in normal years.
Americans have been the target of the shock doctrine numerous times. A premier example of the shock doctrine as a destructive force is how, in the aftermath of 9/11, the Bush Administration used the attacks to invade the Middle East, authorize the Patriot Act, justify torture, and deliver giant gifts to the military industrial complex. A positive example of this tactic is when FDR used the tremendous shock of the Great Depression to push the New Deal policies and regulations that helped our nation prosper.
The presidency of Donald Trump gives progressives an opportunity to prepare an organized shock doctrine campaign to push progressive policies. Trump is completely ignorant about public policy and is surrounding himself with oligarchs (e.g. Rex Tillerson), the corrupt (e.g. Tom Price), extremists (e.g. Jeff Sessions), and fools (e.g. Ben Carson), thus the failure of his presidency in several extremely damaging ways is more a question of when than if.
Because we can predict several catastrophic decisions by the Trump Administration months or years before they impact the American public, we can prepare ahead of time to leverage the ensuing crises in policy fights.
A perfect case study of how this progressive shock doctrine could be implemented is found in the repeal of Obamacare (The Affordable Care Act).
Trump Repeals the ACA…Millions Lose Coverage
Donald Trump and the House GOP leadership are going to destroy the Affordable Care, throwing millions of Americans off of their healthcare and dramatically increasing the premiums for those who remain on their plans. While they claim to have their own plan, the only specifics that they have given are that they will let insurers sell across state lines (so they set up shop in least regulated state), stop regulating policies (letting insurers sell junk policies to poor people), and incentivize health savings accounts (only effective for people who have money to save).
According to an estimate by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), in the first year after Obamacare is repealed, 18 million Americans would lose their coverage, individual premiums would increase by 25% over projected increases, and millions of those who lose coverage would be barred from obtaining new policies due to pre-existing conditions. In the following year, insurance losses would balloon up to 27 million, as the ACA subsidies are phased out, and premiums would increase by up to 50% for individuals.
Put simply, the level of rage that will be unleased in the nation if 18 million people are thrown off of their healthcare and the rest suffer gigantic rate hikes is hard to overstate. To put it into perspective, this week, Bernie Sanders held a rally in Michigan to protest the threat of an Obamacare repeal and got approximately 8,000 attendees…it was below freezing and the repeal hasn’t even begun. Once the GOP actually manages to destroy Obamacare, these thousands will become millions of angry voters and there will be an enormous groundswell of popular support for health reform.
Progressives can rally this support to go far beyond the line set forth by Obamacare. While the ACA is better than nothing, it is still a neoliberal market-based plan that is inferior to more social democratic plans like single-payer or the public option. By harnessing the rage created in the wake of the repeal of Obamacare, progressives can make a credible push for a universal buy-in to Medicare. Harnessing this anger will require progressives on the local level to organize activists, while progressives on the federal level create a unified narrative that mobilized Americans can get behind.
If enough voters are mobilized to political action based upon this issue, even corrupt Republicans and pro-corporate Democrats (e.g. Cory Booker, who just voted against making medications cheaper and who, coincidentally, is also one of the top recipients of big-Pharma money) could be swayed to support such a progressive plan. Corrupt politicians typically lack real principles and take money because it helps them keep their job—this means that a large enough threat to their next election can force them to abandon their donors and sign onto reforms that they otherwise wouldn’t. A mobilization of millions of Americans who just lost their healthcare is such a threat.
The anger created by the consequences of an Obamacare repeal will exist and the only real question right now is who will control it when it materializes. If progressives do not capitalize upon it, somebody else will and that could have disastrous consequences (e.g. misdirected anger over outsourcing has been redirected at immigrants). As such, it is imperative that progressives not squander this opportunity and let conservatives or corporatists control the narrative.