Let’s be clear here. The failure to pass what the GOP comically referred to as a healthcare bill in the House was a devastating defeat for the Party. Do not for a moment believe either Paul Ryan or Donald Trump’s claim that Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer were to blame here. The fault lies clearly and completely with the Republicans.
First of all, not one Democrat was invited into this process. From the beginning Ryan and Republican leadership, along with the White House, decided that they were going to ram this bill through the House, and magically Mitch McConnell was going to get 51 out of 52 Republican senators to vote it, knowing that it would lead to the repeal of a law that, despite its inherent problems, has broad appeal across most of the country and which many Republican governors were reluctant to back.
Secondly, Ryan, with the largest majority his party has had in the House since the Great Depression, could not get a simple majority of his own conference to vote for a bill that would’ve fulfilled a promise Republicans have been making for the last seven years: to repeal Obamacare. It was, ironically, the Freedom Caucus and its 37 members that did this bill in, not Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats. Fancy that.
And lastly, this defeat proves what we’ve known for quite some time: that, much like the dog who finally catches the car, Republicans discovered they can’t drive the damn thing. Eight years of saying “No” to everything President Obama wanted has ostensibly turned them into an opposition party only with no vision or ability to govern. They are purely reactive, beholden to a fanatical base that threatens them with primary challenges if they don’t listen to them and constrained by the political realities of what would happen if they did.
It is the ultimate quagmire, and I for one do not pity them for a minute. You don’t burn the house to the ground and have the audacity, as both Ryan and Trump did, to blame the fire department for responding too late. While Democrats are certainly no angels, without them and Obama millions of people would not have access to affordable healthcare.
Flawed though the ACA may be, it was at least an honest attempt to address a major problem, and all Republicans did was sit in a corner sucking their thumbs and acting like little brats. Well now they have the one thing they’ve haven’t had since 2006: complete control of the federal government, and much like what happened when George Bush was in the White House, Republicans can’t seem to get out of their own way.
But while Democrats may be crowing over the humiliating defeat of the GOP, I would caution them against being too cocky. Michael Moore is right when he says this is not the time for Democrats to “gloat” or “throw a party.” For one thing, Republicans are hardly done with their attempts to repeal the ACA. They may lie low for a while licking their wounds but, trust me, they’ll be back to try again. Know this much: when it comes to obstinance and determination, the GOP has no competition.
And that’s why Democrats need to make the case not just for preserving the ACA, but improving it. If its flaws are not corrected, the likelihood is that the law will inevitably fail. What we know is this: Insurers are pulling out of markets, small businesses and many middle-class families continue to incur rate hikes that are becoming increasingly alarming. Voters will not care who shot the baby next year when they go to the polls; they will want to know who tried to save it. If Democrats make the mistake of simply taking the contrarian view of the GOP here, they run the risk of being lumped together with them, and a golden chance of possibly retaking the House and Senate will go by the wayside.
Democrats must not become the next party of “No” like the Republicans did for eight years. That doesn’t mean they should roll over and play dead; what it does mean is that they must learn how to pick their fights. And this is one fight they must wage and win, not with platitudes, but with actual ideas. They have a tremendous opportunity to prove to voters that they can come to the table with real solutions that can make people’s lives better.
There was a time when watching Republicans commit political suicide worked brilliantly for Democrats. It allowed them to retain control of the Senate for a time and keep Mitt Romney out of the White House. That time has come and gone, along with the White House. Even with a president as incompetent and unpopular as Trump, Democrats will have a long row to hoe if they are to regain the trust of the American electorate.
This would be a good place to start.
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