The AHCA, the health care monstrosity that Paul Ryan wrote and Donald Trump tried to sell to the House of Representatives, is dead. There are some delicious ironies here, but first some thanks are in order. Thank you to all of the activists who showed up at Republican town halls, and showed moderate Republicans that they risked their seats if they supported this. Thank you to everyone who wrote, called, or emailed your Representative with the same message. And thank you to the Democrats for staying united in opposition to this terrible legislation. A lot of hard work went into defeating this and saving the ACA, and it is appreciated. Next up is another round of equally hard work to defeat the nomination of Neil Gorsuch. We must draw strength from this victory, and bring it to the next fight, but we must also understand that this next battle can not be won in the same way.
It is worth looking at the dynamics of the House of Representatives that made this victory possible. Yes, the moderates let their misgivings be known, and those misgivings only grew as the bill got amended in an attempt to appease the Freedom Caucus. Irony number one here is that the only way Trump can get the House to pass a health care bill is to craft something that all of the Democrats and a handful of moderate Republicans can support. Why then did Ryan try to save this bill by tacking to the right and not the left? That is irony number two. The death of the AHCA was brought about by years of Republican gerrymandering.
The Republicans have worked long and hard to create as many safe seats as possible for Republican candidates. These are convoluted districts that look ridiculous on a map, but have all but assured a Republican majority in the House for the foreseeable future. Swing voters, who might support either a moderate Republican or a Democrat, are not welcome here. As a result, these districts don’t just reliably elect Republicans, they reliably elect Republican extremists. These districts are won not in the general election but in the Republican primary, and moderates fair poorly. In other words, they elect the Freedom Caucus. This brand of Republican is an absolutist. They believe that compromise is weakness, meaning, as we saw this week, that they are completely unable to govern. They were not interested in the replace part of repeal and replace, seeking only to eliminate Obamacare, and not replace it with anything.
We won this battle by bolstering the moderate wing of the Republican Party, giving them cover to stand up against the extremists. We won also by giving the Democrats the strength to stay united. But it was and is the dynamic created by gerrymandering that made this a viable strategy in the face of a Republican majority. It is a dynamic we will be able to use again to our advantage, but it won’t work in the Senate. There we must give the Democrats the strength to stay united in opposition to Gorsuch, but it would be best if we could also find some moderate Republicans to cross the aisle and stand with us. It will be harder to find stories to tell of how this will affect us personally, but the special education community might be a good starting point. We came to accept many extreme positions as normal when Antonin Scalia served on the Supreme Court, so we will now also be battling against legal precedents that never should have been established. I believe we can win again, but the fight will be different. The goal here is to persuade a majority of Senators that supporting Gorsuch will endanger their chances of getting reelected. That means we need to get the voters to tell pollsters they oppose this nomination. It won’t be enough to say that Gorsuch and Trump would be stealing the seat that should have gone to Merrick Garland, although that is true. Instead, we must make the case that Gorsuch would hurt people like them. I believe that we can do this, and I look forward to the fight.
Tonight’s song is a new discovery for me, but it works in its own way: