Lessons We Must All Learn from Congressional Republicans Voting Trumpcare out of the House
Here’s what I have to say about this dark day in American history, one that aptly culminated with what’s virtually the keg party of Paul Ryan’s dreams.
Republicans were clear from day one, for the entirety of the past seven years, that they had every intention of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. Why? Well, arguably there are numerous reasons, none of them good. But we can’t forget the fact that the ACA was the most major piece of healthcare legislation since LBJ signed Medicare and Medicaid into existence. And it was intentionally based on a conservative and successful healthcare plan so that Republicans couldn’t find anything reasonable wrong with it. That proved true. Instead, Republicans actively worked to decimate it from its very inception, spreading lies about it, throwing sand in its gears so it couldn’t function optimally, refusing to expand Medicaid in too many states — and dubbing it Obamacare to tie it to the president they vowed to undermine from his first day in office. Do not forget the deeply rooted racism intertwined with Republican hatred of the Affordable Care Act. And do not forget Republican word games that tricked people into believing that the ACA and Obamacare were two different laws.
A vote for Trump was a vote to undo the ACA. He said so, Republican representatives said so, his surrogates said so. They all declared this pointedly and repeatedly. Among other things, this election was a referendum on this country’s single greatest healthcare advancement since the Great Society, expanding health insurance to more people than ever before in our history, lowering prices across the board, preventing insurers from charging people with preexisting conditions as much as they wanted or outright denying them coverage, mandating that all insurance plans needed to cover a baseline level of coverage encompassing essential healthcare needs, refusing to allow insurers to charge women more than men, precluding insurers from jacking up costs for seniors, and more. No one thought that the ACA was perfect, but it was objectively, unquestionably, good. The perfect is the enemy of the good, and its framers understood that. It was a substantive starting point for future healthcare reforms to render our healthcare system more just, more inclusive, more comprehensive.
Any vote that allowed Trump to enter office was effectively a vote against the ACA. It was a vote that allowed Republicans the power to write a bill that they passed out of the House yesterday, an act that gave proof to their rhetoric. They stamped their callous cruelty on their foreheads. They showed that they genuinely believe that not all lives are worthy of existence, that human life should be judged based upon its monetary value. Affix a price tag to a human being and see if they’re a valuable investment. If you cost too much, you’re not worth it — unless, of course, you’re a member of Congress exempted from Trumpcare.
House Republicans and the Trump administration believe that I am expendable because I was diagnosed with my first of an array of chronic conditions when I was 7 years old. They believe my friends and family members who have medical conditions and chronic diseases are expendable. The ACA was on the ballot in November, and we just saw — yet again — the outcome of failing to rally behind Hillary Clinton in the gut-wrenching moment when learned that House Republicans passed Trumpcare. The one is inseparable from the other. Now Trumpcare has to go to the Senate, and I hope that with our continued hard work, the Senate led by Senator Chuck Schumer — and with the staunch support of other Democrats like champion of women’s rights and health Kirsten Gillibrand — will reject Trumpcare for the atrocity that it is.
I’m done with empty expressions of support and word games that purposefully ignore the heart of the issue: providing the necessary means for all people, whatever their health status or ability, to live good and meaningful lives. To live their lives just like you live yours. If you profess to care about people who live every day of their lives with chronic diseases, show them your support with your actions. That’s all there is to it.
Let’s be completely clear. Yes, congressional Republicans voted Trumpcare through the House, pressured by the Trump administration. Yes, House Republicans and the Trump administration bear the primary blame for this atrocious mockery of a bill.
But who put them there? They are our representatives, elected to represent the people who voted for them and who paved their way into office. We have become a society of people who increasingly cannot recognize and own when we are wrong and when we have wronged others. Shame has a place and a purpose. It’s a message to oneself of wrongdoing so that one can do better in the future. It instills humility and reminds us both of our own imperfection and the fact that our choices, words, and action have the potency to harm others more than we can imagine.
Trump voters, third-party voters, non-voters, and those who begrudgingly voted Democrat while peddling falsehoods and false equivalencies about the single candidate who had a solid chance of beating Trump all have a hand in the horror that occurred yesterday. The message to me and to other people with preexisting conditions is that these people consider us expendable, as long as they get to promote their ideology, their theory, their own wealth and power.
If we are a country of the people, by the people, and for the people, then that means that when elected officials we have allowed to do the business of our country act in a morally reprehensible manner, those who put them there — or allowed them to get there by standing idly by — are not off the hook. I say this not to point fingers of blame, but to ask that we all do some deep soul-searching and vow never again to put theory, ideology, and self-interest over the welfare of actual people.
If you don’t have a preexisting condition (yet), you can bet you know someone who has one. Or five, as diseases tend to travel in packs. Work with every breath in your body to save ACA and defeat Trumpcare. Let nothing get in your way — not ideology, not theory, not self-interest wrongly understood. Make no mistake: Trumpcare will kill people, drive them into bankruptcy, and cause them to suffer more than you can imagine. It shames the sick, the poor, LGBTQIA folks, seniors, children, parents, women. It adds insult to injury. It makes the lives of those who already live moment to moment with draining diseases even harder and needlessly so. It is cruelty masquerading poorly as a bill.
From the bottom of my heart, in total sincerity, I ask you this. If you care about anyone who has a chronic illness and did not vote Democrat in November, or sought in any way to undermine the sole presidential candidate who would protect and work to strengthen the Affordable Care Act, consider your choices. Reflect on your decision. Think about whether your vote mirrors your values, and if so, whether those values center doing the most good for the most people in a real and meaningful way. I in no way wish to relitigate the primary or the election, as I think such exercises are largely fruitless and distractions from the real task at hand of protecting people who are suffering and will suffer under the Trump administration. But if we do not learn from our past errors, we are doomed to repeat them. Any vote or non-vote that permitted Trump to enter office signaled that millions of Americans’ well-being was not an important issue to the individual who cast the vote or chose to abstain. And to me, as a person who has lived the vast majority of my life with serious medical conditions, and who has close friends and family members who also struggle with serious medical conditions, that is simply unacceptable. Trumpcare adds insult to injury by telling people who already grapple with significant and debilitating chronic diseases that not only will they be unable to obtain literally vital healthcare, the government and the people who put them there via action and inaction view them as expendable, easily discardable — or at best, don’t care sufficiently about them to factor them into their votes or lack thereof. Human health and life are not a game. People are not pawns. History judges those who place ideology over human lives, and it is not often kind.
End Trumpcare and the careers of the Republicans who voted for it now. History will be your judge.