The PPACA – Obamacare – has survived. In the past, the attacks have been skirmishes, often fought in darkness, intent on inflicting wounds to cripple the program – filing lawsuits, withholding funds, promoting language, lying. Now this latest assault – this failed assault – this Trumpcare – a frontal attack by the combined forces of the anti-Obama legions and their very best strategists, commanders and troops.
Yet the PPACA remains standing, while the attack force skulks back to their bunkers, dazed, confused, and more than a little disheartened.
Finding Blame, Giving Credit
The pundits, the winners, and the losers are rummaging through the wreckage, looking for the keys to why this assault failed. There are many qualified candidates for taking the blame (or the credit), of course. McConnell’s “13 white men” working-group made for bad optics and worse legislation. The Senate’s version of the House’s “Freedom Caucus” complained that they didn’t destroy enough of Obama’s legacy. Trump’s inept buffoonery meant there was no viable attack force from the White House. The Republicans, heady with electoral victory, overreached, trying to kill not just the young PPACA program but also the 52-year-old Medicaid program (and its brother, Medicare).
But the roots of this failure were set years ago – on March 23, 2010 – when President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law.
The People’s Experience
All of the anger and all of the lies and all of the trickery that has flowed from the Republicans since that day could not match the one weapon that the PPACA carried – the people’s real-life experience.
Amid the shouts of “failing Obamacare” and “death spirals” and “collapse”, the people’s experience told them the truth – that their family, their friend, their co-worker, their teammate, they themselves have been helped by the PPACA. That reality drowned out the rants.
People have been helped. Illnesses have been treated. Lives have been saved.
Telling Their Stories
It took the Resistance, the nationwide gaggle of Indivisible groups, ADAPT protesters, health care advocates, and the people themselves to bring this reality to the forefront. They marched and shouted, they posted and tweeted, they emailed and called and sang, they carried photos of their friends and family, yes, they disrupted and got arrested – but mostly they told their stories.
They told of rejections and poverty and hopelessness that they experienced before PPACA, they told of the access and help and medical care that they experienced under PPACA.
They told of their fear of going back to those dark days, and they told of their children, their parents, their spouses who would be cast out once again by an unforgiving system driven by hollow-hearted politicians.
The people’s experience killed any hope of Trumpcare succeeding. Trumpcare is a bill about money. It could not stand against a law that is about people.
A Big Fucking Deal
And we cannot overlook the political savvy that made this possible. In 2010, the White House was occupied by a young president, light on experience but strong on insight, on strategy and on courage. He joined with two leaders in Congress, both strong on experience and on strategy. They understood the importance of putting something in place. They battled against those who complained that it didn’t do enough, that it didn’t go far enough, that it appeased the insurance industry, that it didn’t support abortion rights, that it didn’t provide “Medicare for all.”
That young president knew then that the critical factor was to put a program in place so that the people could have the experience of better access to health care. He understood that no arguments, no analysis, no budgetary complaints would be strong enough to overcome the people’s experience.
In 2010, his vice-president told him “this is a big, fucking deal.” This week we found out how big it was.
The Battle Continues
This is not a final victory, of course. The assaults will continue, the skirmishes will resume.
And the people will tell their stories – more stories, new stories. We continue our work so that their experience – the people’s experience – holds fast.
Photo: This popular image of “Pickett’s Charge” depicts the Confederate troops breaching the Union line at Gettysburg before being repulsed on the final day of that epic battle. This failed assault is cited as “the high-water mark” for the Confederate forces, as the Union forces drove them back here and elsewhere, until their surrender 2 years later. Photo credit: Bettman/Corbis, cited at Encyclopaedia Brittanica.