Sunday, July 02, 2017

Why We've Already Lost

One of the most staggering things that has happened since President Trump has become president, which happened less than six months ago for those of you who needed to be kicked while you were down this morning, has been the level of civic engagement I've seen from people across the country wanting to make sure that Trump (and even more so, the Republican Congress), have their voices heard.  From the seismic number of phone calls that nearly took down Betsy DeVos to marches at airports for the travel ban to (most recently) Mitch McConnell's motion-to-proceed on the BCRA being pushed until after the Independence Day recess, it's been a true marvel to see millions of Americans take to the streets, to their social media, and to their phones to show civic engagement at its finest.  It's also a sign that we have a profoundly broken system, one that Democrats desperately need to correct by the Midterms if they don't consistently want to become a minority party like they were in the mid-Aughts.

The reason I say this is because, let's be real here-it is pathetic that so many millions of people have to BEG their members of Congress not to take away their healthcare and rights.  That's the cold hard reality here, and something that needs to be said repeatedly, even if it is indeed vitally important that people continue to call and show up at town halls.  Donald Trump last year campaigned on a lot of things, but what he didn't campaign on was taking Medicaid away from millions of Americans-that's something that the Republican Party wants to do, and by proxy, now so does the president.  This is a wildly unpopular viewpoint, something that most Americans don't want, but that isn't really stopping the Republican Party.  The same can be said for major legislation regarding immigration, gay rights, and gun control-the Republican Party is decidedly in the minority if you look at public opinion polling on these issues, and yet they continually not only stand behind these issues, they successfully win while touting them at the ballot box.  Yes, Donald Trump didn't campaign on these things, but you can sure as hell find clips of Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney, and Mitch McConnell talking about taking away safety net programs and health insurance away from America's working poor.

We have now entered a stage where literally people are calling and pleading with their members of Congress not to kill their fellow countrymen.  That's not hyperbole here-the CBO, which is a non-partisan organization despite what you might read on right-wing blogs, has stated that 208,500 people would die in the next decade if the bill didn't pass.  That's the equivalent of wiping out all of Rochester, New York.  22 million people would lose their health insurance in the next decade; that's the equivalent of taking healthcare away from everyone in well as Idaho.  States with Republican senators like Alaska, West Virginia, and Louisiana would see massive amounts of their populations go without healthcare, and yet there are still senators from these regions that are either voting for the bill or considering voting for the bill.  This is just unthinkable, but there's still a very strong possibility that the bill will pass in some form come the end of the recess.  And all of this, it's worth noting, will benefit no one who makes less than $250k a year as the benefits of this bill will go to a tax cut for the wealthy.  It literally feels like the Republicans have become caricatures of themselves, but quite frankly-this is just who they are at this point.

All of this, you would think, would mean that Democrats should be poised to win back some seats in Congress next year, but I'm not entirely sure, and that's because of two reasons.  One, Democrats have historically struggled to gain traction when it comes to economic issues with socially conservative voters.  Even now, when it's in the starkest terms ("vote for us or you might die"), I'm still not confident that places like Alaska and West Virginia will be willing to throw their representatives out because you can say "abortion, gays, and guns" loudly and they'll forget that the medication that keeps them alive is under a program that the Republicans are trying to eliminate.  I keep thinking of Debbie Mills in Kentucky, a woman who literally needs the Affordable Care Act in order for her husband to stay alive, who voted for Donald Trump anyway because she thought he'd bring back jobs to her community despite him not having a concrete plan to help coal country other than to say "Hillary Clinton hates coal."  Kentucky, in particular, has had three elections where they voted for Republicans (2014 Senate, 2015 Governor's, and 2016 President) where healthcare was the central issue of the campaign, and they rejected Kynect, their state exchange program that was wildly popular and was frequently cited as the best state exchange in the country, because they assumed the Republicans wouldn't get rid of it.  It's quite possible that the BCRA would kill her husband, and yet she voted for Donald Trump anyway, and her state elected Mitch McConnell and Matt Bevin anyway, despite the Democrats having three qualified candidates running in all of those elections who would have protected her right to insurance.  Until the Democrats can find a way to point out to people that their Medicare, Medicaid, social security, and government pensions may be on the line (because that's the case), if they vote for the modern Republican Party, they will struggle here...and the lower income Republicans in states like Kentucky, West Virginia, and Alaska will also continue to suffer even though they are blaming the wrong party for their ills.

The second problem here, though, I want to address and is squarely the Democrats' fault.  I don't want the Democrats to have to abandon social issues in order to have to win the South, and quite frankly I don't think that's possible at this point (the bell has been rung), but I do want to state that Democrats need to grow up when it comes to elections, and realize that not everywhere is Austin, San Francisco, and Portland.  I remember reading articles and on social media a number of people who were excited that Jon Ossoff lost not because they were Republicans, but because "he wasn't liberal enough" and to them, I say, "go f#%@ yourselves."

Honestly-you cannot expect a district that historically (and by historically, I mean as recently as November) has delivered victory after victory for the GOP to elect an Elizabeth Warren.  Ossoff is a smart, capable man that had a number of progressive ideals, and would have delivered a major message to Republicans on Capitol Hill that you can't take away people's healthcare without consequences.  He would have moved the voting record of his district's representative decidedly to the left, and might even have made the BCRA a tougher sell because marginal members like Cory Gardner or Pat Toomey could see the writing on the wall.  I'm not saying the sole reason he lost is because of angry liberals, but people like Bernie Sanders do the party no favors when they state "I don't know if he's a progressive," as if that's helping his cause at all.

Quite frankly, I am going to admit since I'm already near there: I'm so fucking sick of Bernie Sanders dictating what the Democratic Party is allowed to do.  It's easy to be a man of principle when you can get a devoted band of followers for doing literally nothing in Congress (he's been in Congress for decades with very little to show for it in terms of actual legislation).  It's easy to stand in the corner from one of the most liberal states in the country and say everyone else is wrong and I'm right, even though you can't translate your beliefs into actual victories (despite assurances that his message would work anywhere, Bernie-backed candidates in Kansas and Montana are not sitting in the Halls of Congress today).  What Sanders does by stating everyone should stick to where he stands or else they aren't part of the movement is actually showing that he doesn't care about these issues enough to make them reality.  If he cared about these issues, he would have been pushing for Jon Ossoff with all of his might because he sure as hell is going to help the cause more than Karen Handel.  If Sanders supporters really cared about these issues, they'd be out pushing hard for the Kay Hagen's and Mark Begich's, because they would be able to keep Mitch McConnell out of power, and in the process keep Neil Gorsuch off the Supreme Court.  Purity tests that you apply to different geographic areas NEVER work, and always result in putting your party's heroes (the Bernies, the Elizabeth Warrens, the Chris Murphys) into the minority.  Bernie Sanders behavior is juvenile and ridiculous, and if he can't see that when it matters like in the Georgia special election (or last year's presidential election), he has no business running for the Democratic nomination, or stating that he cares about progressive ideals, because he clearly only cares about his own fame and hero-worship, and not about tangible change.

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