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OPINION

Trump recycles his health care hokum

Can he fool his MAGA followers again with his cynical promise to replace Obamacare with something ‘much better’?

Do you believe that Trump is seriously looking at cover-everyone alternatives to the ACA? Do you think he will ever propose, let alone develop, one?Alon Skuy/Getty

It’s a question that arises again and again as Donald Trump pursues his political comeback: Just how gullible does he think his supporters are?

And is he right?

Trump was at it again on Saturday. Like a golden oldies DJ taking his listeners on a nostalgic journey back to the classic hits of his heyday, he revisited his platinum health care prevarication.

“The cost of Obamacare is out of control, plus, it’s not good Healthcare. I’m seriously looking at alternatives,” he wrote on Truth Social, the platform he uses to launch sophomoric insults, bully actual truth-tellers, and fume in fine fascist fettle about communists, Marxists, and “leftist thugs and lunatics” supposedly scheming to destroy America.

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On Wednesday, he doubled down, proclaiming: “I don’t want to terminate Obamacare, I want to REPLACE IT with MUCH BETTER HEALTHCARE. Obamacare Sucks!!!”

For many in MAGA that declaration triggered a wave of wistfulness, the way a song from your high school days can transport you back to a haloed summer of warm sand, soft breezes, and old sweethearts. That is, to an age of innocence, before experience taught that since trust is easily betrayed, it should be cautiously offered.

Trump, of course, has long preyed on the credulous.

Nothing demonstrates that more fully than the Big Lie — and its utter implosion. No one awake and aware in the world of fact can still believe that voting fraud somehow stole a 2020 election victory from Trump, which is no doubt why the former president and his conservative-media fabulists have developed their fallback narrative: OK, even if none of Trump’s or Rudy Giuliani’s or Sidney Powell’s or Jenna Ellis’s or pixilated Mr. MyPillow’s claims about ballot-box stuffing or ballot burning or tally-changing voting machines turned out to be true, the election was still stolen.

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In their telling, that’s so because the mainstream media, made skittish by the array of former intelligence officials who cast doubt on the authenticity of Hunter Biden’s laptop, failed to obsess over its supposedly scandalous content in timely fashion, thereby depriving the Trump campaign of an October surprise that might have driven voters away from Joe Biden.

Which prompts two observations: None of that describes voter fraud, and if rationalizations were horses, hustlers would ride.

But back to Trump’s long-running health care hokum.

Who can forget those happy days of the 2016 campaign, when he promised to provide health care that would be “much less expensive and much better” than Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act?

That was highly unlikely, those versed in health policy complexities tried to point out, but to little avail. Throughout his term, Trump revisited that ruse, periodically claiming that he and his team were putting the finishing touches on an ACA-replacement plan that would provide “phenomenal health care,” or a “much better & less expensive alternative to ObamaCare,” or “great health care at a lesser price,” or a plan “second to none.”

He promised such a plan at least a dozen times. It was always coming soon, usually just a few weeks away. But with just three months left in his term, it had yet to be proposed.

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“I do want to say that we’re going to be introducing a tremendous health care plan sometime prior — hopefully, prior to the end of the month. It’s just completed now,” he said in early August 2020. “And I think it’ll be very impressive to a lot of people.”

On Sept. 24, 41 days before the election, Trump released an executive order that offered up an orgy of self-praise for his health care efforts. But where was the promised new policy? Deep within the auto-adulation, it made this quick cameo: “It has been and will continue to be the policy of the United States to give Americans seeking healthcare more choice, lower costs, and better care and to ensure that Americans with pre-existing conditions can obtain the insurance of their choice at affordable rates.” That no-details declaration was soon undercut by this caveat: “This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.”

Impressed?

With that historical review complete, let’s pose these questions: Do you believe that Trump is seriously looking at cover-everyone alternatives to the ACA? Do you think he will actually undertake the effort required to develop a realistic plan, let alone put it out publicly, thereby allowing health care specialists and political rivals to offer critiques?

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If you answered yes to either question, heartiest of congratulations! You’ve just earned your full-member-of-MAGA merit badge.

Now the bad news: Your discerning-citizen certificate will take some extra work.


Scot Lehigh is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at scot.lehigh@globe.com. Follow him @GlobeScotLehigh.