Nine Lessons From The Epic GOP Health Care Debacle

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 19: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), center, speaks to the press with U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-SD), left, and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) after the weekly Senate Republicans policy luncheon on March 19, 2013 in Washington, DC. The Senate is expected to pass a revised continuing resolution and send their edits back to the House in order to prevent a government shutdown next week, but any action in the Senate may be delayed until later in the week. (Photo by T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images)

Americans will never forget that Trump and the GOP held us hostage for months while they casually and callously tossed around proposals— over lunch, via Twitter, behind closed doors – that would determine whether millions of us would live or die.

If you were following this debacle, you couldn’t have missed story after story covered by journalists and posted on social media, hundreds of thousands of people pleading with the GOP for their own, their parents’, and their kids’ lives.

No one should ever have to feel this kind of anxiety over their ability to pay for medical care, and when the party in power in a civilized country (especially one that prides itself on being number one) holds that kind of threat over the heads of its citizens, it’s an attempted crime against humanity.

In fact, let’s call it what it is: The GOP is waging war against America.

But as awful as the experience was (and will no doubt continue to be), it was also illuminating: We came out the other side, momentarily victorious, with some valuable information.

Let’s use that information to think like strategists:

Lesson #1: When millions of lives are at stake, the GOP has no qualms about being secretive, lying to the public, and evading questions. This, in fact, is their entire strategy because in eight years they haven’t bothered to put in the work to come up with an alternative to Obamacare.

Just take a look at media coverage and Twitter over the last few weeks to see the GOP’s incessant rants about “failing” Obamacare and their propaganda about repeal and replace. Take, for example, Tom Price’s assertion on CNN that ”We will not have individuals lose coverage” and “the plan, in its entirety, will absolutely bring prices down.”  Or Kellyanne Conway’s insistence that “These are not cuts to health care.” Or sanctimonious Pence’s blatant lie tweeted on 7/14: “We’re saving Medicaid for the sake of our most vulnerable & providing all Americans w/access to high-quality, affordable health insurance.”

Hell, the GOP will even force an eighty-year-old senator they call a colleague and friend who has just undergone delicate brain surgery to travel across the country, make him stay up for hours and hours into the night, and then harass him incessantly. This gives you an idea of how much they value anyone or anything.

Of course, most of us already knew the GOP was capable of this kind of despicable behavior, but now all of us know, and there’s indisputable, verifiable, documented proof that can be used against them. (See #7 below.) In other words, this is not your grandfather’s GOP; stop assuming they care about America, ethics, or anything but lining their own pockets.

Like Mammon and Moloch, the voracious Republican PAC-monster must be fed, and it thrives on human misery.

Lesson #2: The GOP is going to stand back and watch while Trump bullies and threaten Dems for “obstruction,” Murkowski for voting “no,” and the GOP for being losers.  It’s a calculated risk, but ultimately it will backfire as more and more Americans lose faith in Trump and the GOP, and as the GOP looks weaker and weaker in the face of Trump’s petty name-calling.

Before 2016, it was inconceivable that a sitting president would openly and publicly taunt the opposing party, an entire state, or his very own allies. And although it will be difficult for The Resistance to stand back and watch this abuse of respected institutions, this subversion of presidential norms, nonetheless it’s what we’ll need to do.

In the end, the whole party is going to come crashing down like a behemoth, lurching AT-AT Walker; it’s just a matter of time and a few well-placed snares.

Lesson #3: The Hillary/Bernie divide doesn’t mean a damn thing on the Senate floor in a crisis. I’m a passionate Bernie supporter who voted for Hillary, and a democratic socialist through and through, but not once did I think that Senate Dems didn’t have America’s best interests at heart when they were fighting for our health care. You better believe I have misgivings about Dems’ ties to Big Pharma, but come on, did you see Al Franken, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Mazie Hirono (just to name a few)?

In the end, don’t you want Khaleesi and Jon Snow working together to save Westeros?

And say what you will about Chuck Schumer, but he’s proving over and over again that he’s a capable leader who is more than a match for the GOP. I’ve never been as proud of New York State as I have been in the last few months, despite the fact that our imbecilic, senile, and corrupt President is a New Yorker too.

Lesson #4: Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski showed us that women in the GOP are arguably more ethical and capable of compassion than their male counterparts, and thus less likely to be swayed by GOP bullying. I don’t want to resort to stereotypical gender role behaviors to explain this phenomenon, but whatever the reason, it’s one more argument for getting women elected to office on both sides of the aisle at every level of government. In fact, I doubt we’ll get universal health care in America until we reach a gender tipping point, when Congress is made up of 50% women.

In the meantime, you can support Our Revolution. Of the seventeen candidates Bernie Sanders’ organization is currently endorsing for various elected offices, nine of them are women, and five of those nine are women of color.

Lesson #5: There are a lot of stupid, mean, selfish people (our neighbors, friends, co-workers, and family members) who don’t care if other people have health care as long as they have theirs.  How many times did you see people online arguing that millions should get coverage taken away because they didn’t “earn” it, or “they brought their problems on themselves”? How many times did you read “Why don’t they get a job?” which completely ignores the fact that so many who depend on health care entitlements are physically unable to.

Is this really what we’ve become? Or was a percentage of America always like this, and now feels emboldened? Either way, now we know who they are. Like Trump’s election, this issue has revealed the Visitors among us: cold-blooded, reptilian, and predatory.

Yep, They Live. And The Resistance is all out of bubblegum.

Lesson #6: The Resistance is powerful.  It was our calls, letters, protests, blogs, and dissemination of crucial information that likely swayed Murkowski and Collins’ vote

And it was probably Joe Biden (in a moment of absolute poetic justice, considering his son’s medical care was made possible through Obamacare, without which Biden would have gone bankrupt) who swayed McCain’s.

Didn’t we always know that genial gentleman Joe would somehow save the day?

In six months, we’ve gone from fear of the unknown (an American theocracy run by a madman surrounded by incompetent fascists and unqualified family members) to being awake and aware. And when you find yourself in this situation, there are two choices: Remain silent and complicit in the destruction of the lives of people you love; or do something, anything, to stop it.

We’re all Handmaids taking a stand, dropping our stones one-by-one.

Lesson #7: We have plenty of ammunition for 2018 and 2020. I want to see political ads, billboards, t-shirts, bumper stickers, etc. that show pics of Ryan, McConnell, and Trump with captions like “These guys want to kill your kids for tax breaks.”

I want footage of that kegger in the Rose Garden cutting to images of people dying from cancer. I want a close-up of Mitch McConnell crying like a 1970s Indian who’s sad about pollution because he couldn’t destroy millions of people’s lives.

I want direct quotes from Twitter, those outright lies tweeted out by the GOP insisting their plans would cover more people for less money. I want to see Dem, Independent, and moderate Republican candidates slinging this sewage right back in their faces at Town Halls and debates.

We need to stop playing nice. We don’t have to go low and share misinformation, but we have to go smart. We’re selling a movement.  That means ethos, logos, and pathos. It’s Don Draper and Peggy Olson time, people.

Lesson #8: Republicans seem to think they don’t have to worry about re-election. Their outright lies, secrecy, and refusal to meet with constituents at Town Halls (650 days now for Paul Ryan) tells us they believe their actions will have no repercussions, and that perhaps even the rule of law will be suspended. They’ve acted rashly and sadistically without regard for public opinion or lives hanging in the balance.

So what do they know that we don’t? What bargain did they make at the crossroads, and where’s Steve Vai to save this awful movie? What are they counting on? What have they been promised? How much do they know about vote hacking? How many of them are involved in voter suppression and gerrymandering?

These are questions we should be asking because no one (especially seasoned politicians) takes risks with an election looming unless there is near-absolute assurance the risk will pay off.

Regarding liberal opponents of Republican health care, Paul Ryan recently told a radio host “I have seen a lot in my day and this rhetoric, it’s hysterical, it’s hyperbolic. It’s really something.”

Note his word choice; it’s not accidental. He uses “hysterical” instead of “overblown,” “exaggerated,” “reactionary,” or “out-of-proportion” because “hysterical” is feminine. Specifically, it comes from the Greek for word for uterus, and has been historically used to describe mental illness afflicting only women. Using “hysterical” to describe liberals, then, sets up an extended binary opposition that looks like this:

Republican = man = masculinity = rationality

Democrat = woman = femininity = irrationality

I don’t buy the irrational part, but Ryan’s right about one thing: Liberalism in America has a female face.

Which brings us to Lesson #9: Women are going to be the ones who save this country.

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