Republicans in the Senate are on the verge of passing a secret health care bill that would likely cut Medicaid by over $800 billion and throw 23 million people off their health insurance, all to finance $600 billion in tax breaks for the rich.
Yet, Democratic politicians do not seem to care. They cannot be bothered to do anything unconventional in this extraordinary situation.
Other than a few tweets, there’s been virtually no effort by the Democrats to call attention to this impending disaster or to slow down the proceedings of the Senate — a move that would both bring media attention to the issue and buy activists time to organize backlash. Instead, Democrats are content to go about their business as if there’s no threat of millions losing access to health care, reaching a deal with the Republicans about Russian sanctions on Monday afternoon, June 12.
Remember when Democrats in the House staged a sit-in to try to force a vote on gun control? That is exactly the kind of civil disobedience that can bring overwhelming media attention to an issue that the media may otherwise be reluctant to cover. That is the sort of creative political theater that is desperately needed right now.
There are 24 headlines on CNN’s homepage right now and none of them tell you that 23 million fewer ppl stand to lose their health insurance pic.twitter.com/QZpBBKoR2P
— Jeff Stein (@JStein_Vox) June 13, 2017
But Democrats won’t even commit to using their procedural powers to grind the Senate to a halt by withholding consent like many activists are calling for. See these tweets from Jeff Stein of Vox, who’s been one of the few journalists covering this issue. Democratic aides are quoted as saying that they do not think effectively shutting down the Senate will help because Mitch McConnell and the Republicans would still be able to bring up the bill for a vote whenever they want and the Democrats will be powerless to stop them.
Though this is technically true, it belies a willfully dishonest reading of the current situation. The strategy behind stopping the Senate from running — to say nothing of civil disobedience — is simple, and something Democrats should easily be able to wrap their minds around. As mentioned above, this would both buy time to organize resistance and in itself draw media attention. Imagine the headlines if the Democrats were to refuse to proceed with the Russia hearings because of the secretive GOP healthcare bill. This media attention would feed into increased activism and ultimately increased pressure on the few Republican swing votes.
A week-long media and resistance bonanza about how the Republicans are moving in secret to take away health insurance from 23 million Americans would certainly make GOP Senators more hesitant to side with their party. Democratic politicians at the highest level could get this started if they wanted to.
That the Democrats refuse to recognize this makes me seriously question how much they care about their constituents. I don’t think it’s crazy to believe that Democratic politicians and strategists think they will be rewarded at the ballot box, were the GOP to succeed in passing this bill, and are thus willing to overlook the millions of lives that will be endangered. Remember, the Democrats sang cheerfully once House Republicans passed the AHCA.