American Voters Need to Send Trump and his Followers a Louder Version of our 2018 Message

We the People have just one chance to chase Trump out of the White House
We the People have just one chance to chase Trump out of the White House. Click on thumbnail to see Keith Seidel’s cartoon full size.
REPUBLICANS DIDN’T GET THE MESSAGE: HANDS OFF OUR HEALTH CARE!
In 2018, a historic majority of Americans sent Donald Trump and his Congressional followers a message:“We’re mad as hell and we won’t take it any more. Hands off our health care!”It was a landslide rejection at the ballot box. But they didn’t listen. Instead, they listened to their big corporate donors.
We’ve got to send them a much louder message on November 3, 2020.
Please do watch this video of one of those town hall meetings in which a constituent confronts his congressman. The constituent dressing down this “moderate” Republican congressman is where we all need to be today. These Republicans, all lined up behind Trump, are killing us. And after watching the video, please read on.

Donald Trump before the 2016 election: “I will convene a special session” of Congress right after he was sworn in; meaningless, of course, because Congress was already scheduled to be in session. The reason? “[I]immediately repeal and replace Obamacare.” “Very, very quickly.” “If we don’t repeal and replace Obamacare, we will destroy American health care forever.“ “It’s one of the single most important reasons why we must win on November 8th. We must win.”

And so he promised: “We’re going to repeal it. We’re going to have a really great plan that’s going to cost much less and be much better.”

After four years of enduring Trump’s relentless assault on our collective nervous system, I’ll spare you the videos of him during the 2016 campaign. You don’t even have to close your eyes to hear him deliver his lines: I’ll pass the greatest health care ever! You’re gonna love it! The American People deserve affordable health care . . . and they’re going to get it . . . right after you elect me.

So he was elected. And we watched the Paul Ryan-led Republicans in the House of Representatives first fail, and then, on May 4, 2017, Trump’s 105th day in office, succeed in passing the repeal of Obamacare.

Here’s what Republicans called their bill that would strip some 20 to 30 million people of their health care and enable insurance companies to work their “pre-existing conditions” scam on tens of millions more Americans who thought they were insured.

They called their bill “The American Health Care Act.”

That’s how stupid these Trump Republican politicians think we are.

The vote was 217 to 213. No Democrat voted for the bill.

 

After the vote, Democrats serenaded the Republicans: “Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye!”

Louise Slaughter, a veteran New York Democrat: “I have never seen political suicide in my life like I’m seeing today.”

Jim McGovern, Massachusetts Democrat: “You are taking away essential health care protections. You are allowing insurance companies to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions.”

Nancy Pelosi: “You have every provision of this bill tattooed on your forehead. You will glow in the dark on this one.”

She was right.

In 2018, Democrats won control of the House. They gained a net total of 41seats. It was the Democrats’ largest gain of House seats since the
post-Watergate 1974 elections. The Democrats also won the popular vote by 8.6%, the largest margin on record for a party that previously held a minority in the House. Turnout was the highest for a midterm election in more than a century, with over half the electorate casting ballots. Health care was the issue.

And yet the Republicans still aren’t listening to us. Republicans in Branch Davidian mode are under the influence of a David Koresh-type figure in the White House. They’re all multimillionaires with great health care and pensions, and they’re still scamming us.

Here’s Trump in the Rose Garden before the Republican “reform” plan was defeated in the Senate: “Yes, premiums will be coming down; yes, deductibles will be coming down, but very importantly, it’s a great plan.” As though he knew what was in it. We all knew what a terrible plan it was. He knew it, too—but he didn’t have a clue what was in it. After all, you can’t expect the guy who sells you a car to know how the engine works—or in this case, doesn’t work—can you?

And here he is before the 2018 mid-terms: “Competition will bring down prices . . . Freedom to Choose . . . Affordable care for everyone . . . The
American people deserve.” (Note: Whenever you hear a politician utter that last phrase, Katy bar the door.)

Doctors and hospitals, patient advocates, the American Cancer Society, AARP and many others opposed the Obamacare repeal.

Remember the furious protests that erupted all over the country? Republicans were afraid to go home to their districts and face the constituents they had betrayed.

We all remember John McCain’s thumbs down on July 28, 2017. Trump and his Republican low-lifes were very angry at McCain.

Remember Sarah Sanders? Right before the midterms, on October 29, 2018, she got up on that podium and took this question from a reporter:

REPORTER: “The President has talked multiple times about how the Republican lawmakers are going to protect pre-existing conditions if they keep control of Congress. But the administration is supporting a lawsuit that would undercut those protections under Obamacare and take in a couple of regulatory actions to that effect as well. So how do you square those two stances? And what’s the plan—the Republican plan for protecting preexisting—”

SANDERS: “Look, the President’s healthcare plan that he’s laid out covers preexisting conditions. The President wants to lower premiums to make healthcare more affordable. Nobody will be charged higher premiums if they keep their coverage, and nobody will be denied coverage under the President.”

THE BIG LIE: ‘REPEAL AND REPLACE’ MEANT JUST REPEAL OBAMACARE. THEY HAVE NO REPLACEMENT

But Trump never laid out a plan. He had no health care plan! Nada. Nothing.

So in 2019, following the landslide rejection of Trumpism and Republican loss of the House, here’s Trump again—this time in a tweet:

“Republicans are developing a really great HealthCare Plan with far lower premiums (cost) & deductibles than ObamaCare. In other words it will be far less expensive & much more usable than ObamaCare. Vote will be taken right after the Election . . . Also, Republicans will always support Pre-Existing Conditions. The Republican Party will be known as the Party of Great HealtCare. Meantime, the USA is doing better than ever & is respected again!”

That tweet was dated appropriately: April 1, 2019.

Several months earlier, in December 2018—a month after we thought we had sent them the message loud and clear: Hands Off Our Health Care!—they were celebrating their victory in a federal court in Texas. The judge ruled that the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate “can no longer be sustained as an exercise of Congress’s tax power” and declared the rest of Obamacare void, too.

He said his ruling was based on changes to the U.S. tax code Republicans passed in 2017. (Remember the two trillion dollar tax scam that, in Trump’s own words to his Mar-A-Largo guests, made them “a lot richer?” Later for that.)

The Trump-Barr “Justice” Department filed a brief in the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals urging the court to uphold the lower court ruling. Joining
that brief were seventeen attorneys general from Republican-controlled states. That case is now pending in the U.S. Supreme Court.

While all this was going on in federal courts, here’s Trump in September, 2019, preparing the ground for 2020:

“We’re going to produce phenomenal health care, and we already have the concept of the plan . . . We’ll be announcing that in two months, maybe
less.”

That’s how stupid Trump and all these Republican senators and Congress members think we are!

In the courts, in federal and state laws and regulations, in state budgets—on every front—Republicans are relentlessly trying to kill health care.
They want to use that money to pass another multi-trillion dollar tax scam for themselves and their mega-rich donors.

This in the middle of a pandemic, the response to which they’ve completely mismanaged. Worse than mismanaged; they’ve carried out a massive disinformation campaign, and forced government agencies and medical experts to stand down. Words can’t adequately express how venal that is—and how batshit crazy this president is.

In short: We have to protect the health care we have. We have to extend it to more Americans. We have to protect ourselves and our children. And the only way to do that is to defeat Trump. And while we’re at it, defeat his enablers in both houses of Congress.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS REPORTING IN ‘THE NEW YORK TIMES’?

“Twenty Republicans bolted from their leadership to vote no.”

That’s what “The New York Times” told its readers following the House repeal of Obamacare in 2017. It was a 217-213 vote, with all Democrats opposing the bill. 

I don’t have to do any research to know that this isn’t what really happened. By misleading its readers about how Congress really works, it qualified as fake news. “New York Times” reporters and editors surely know better but they do it all the time. I don’t know whether it’s deliberate or not, but self-examination and correction is long overdue.

Many folks who read this may already know the problem but many more don’t. So quickly let me explain. I’ll begin with a general principle on which most of us probably can agree. It’s this: other than getting elected, what matters most to an incumbent politician—Democrat or Republican—is gaining and holding the majority. Period.

Sure, I can think of one or two instances in a long career in and around politics where an incumbent knowingly put themself in jeopardy of losing their seat. But it’s exceedingly rare. It goes down as a profile in courage.

For Republicans to hold onto their majority, it’s necessary that there be more Republican Congress members than Democratic members. Not that more people have to vote Republican than vote Democrat. Even with voter suppression, and foreign and domestic actors rigging elections ever more brazenly, that doesn’t happen often enough for Republicans to rely on. So they resort to gerrymandering, recently upheld by the Roberts-led Supreme Court. 

When in the majority in any state and thus in control of drawing congressional and state legislative district boundaries, Democrats do the same. In that regard, though, Republicans are our clear and present danger and must be kicked out of office if we are to survive. Democrats aren’t innocents. We need non-partisan commissions to draw district boundaries –maybe with commission members selected ex oficio—but that’s for another day.

What follows from the idea that holding the majority is the paramount objective is that only one vote really matters. It’s the vote that each party conference or caucus holds privately at the beginning of a legislative session: the vote to choose its leader.

All Republicans vote for a Republican leader and all Democrats vote for a Democratic leader. Accordingly, if the Republicans hold more seats, their votes elect the majority leader, and the Democrats choose the minority leader. After that, a leader has great power to impose his will on his own members and if he’s the majority leader, on the legislative body itself. How s/he does that, is for another piece.

You can think of our system—not only our economic system but our political system—as winner-take-all. If you’re in the minority, you might as well mail it in. That’s the way it works in most, if not all legislative bodies.

So if you’re reasonably sane and desperately want Republicans to be held accountable for enabling this monstrous regime, and if you’re mad as hell that the Republicans simply ignored all the protests over taking away our health care—and are right now in the Supreme Court trying to finish the jobany conservative Democrat is a much better vote than the most liberal Republican.

That’s also why the media framing of these elections as horse races between candidates who believe in this or that policy issue or who is a nicer person than the opponent is so much fake news. If you vote for any Republican senator, congress member, or state legislator, you’re simply voting for Mitch McConnell or his equivalent down ballot Republican.

Again, this is broad brush. But the reason we have a right-wing Supreme Court, for example, is because Mitch McConnell is the majority leader, not the minority leader.  

If people understood these fundamental facts of political life, they’d understand that “Twenty Republicans bolted from their leadership to vote no” is as phony as Trump’s riffing on the pandemic.

I don’t have to look at the districts those twenty Republicans represented to imagine the conversations that took place among Republican leaders and their members: “If you, Paul Ryan, force me to vote to repeal Obamacare, my constituents will vote me out of office.”

That’s all that needs to be said. If it were true, Republicans would lose one vote in the all-important decision: who will be the Speaker? A Democrat or a Republican?

In fact, it probably didn’t have to be said at all. For a period, I worked in the New York State legislature. The Speaker was a Brooklyn Democrat. When a Democratic legislator came to the Speaker and asked to be released to vote against a Democratic-sponsored bill (on anything of importance they had to have the Speaker’s permission to “go off the reservation”) the Speaker, who had his own polling operation, would pull out his own numbers and demographic analysis of that person’s district. He wasn’t going to be played by his own members. And based on those calculations and perhaps personal considerations, he would decide whether that legislator would be allowed to go off the reservation.

And of course, if the vote wasn’t needed to pass the bill—as with the Obamacare repeal—there was no need to impose party discipline. The Speaker could be lenient because it was in his interests and that of every other Republican Congress member to hold onto the seat. So again, “Bolted from their leadership”? Bullshit.

There’s a lot more to say about this process but I’ve already said more than I intended and probably more than you want to know.  I just want folks to understand the fake news that slides beneath the average reader’s consciousness. There’s much, much more of it than most people realize. If you want to hold Republicans accountable for taking away our health care, for their handling of the pandemic, for giving their mega-rich donors yet more tax breaks, for resisting appeals to fund your city’s transit system, for rigging the elections to pick you as a voter rather than you picking them (that’s the objective of gerrymandering)—we could go on for pagesvote every damn one of these Republican senators and congress members and state legislators out of office. They don’t work for you! And they’ll never work for you. Unless and until you send them the only message they’ll ever hear: “OUT!!!” 

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