Remember, GOP Health Care Bills Are Like Zombies, They Keep Coming Back

Atena Danner, the mother of a disabled child, speaks out against Trumpcare and performs live in Chicago. (Photo: Kelly Hayes)

As the Senate’s “Better Care Reconciliation Act” finally came undone on Monday, another scheme to undermine health care access was hastily embraced by both Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump. In the wake of Trumpcare’s latest setback, both Trump and McConnell indicated that they now supported a simplified but equally ominous goal: a repeal and delay strategy that would allow the GOP to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), with a two year window to hatch a replacement.

Given that every version of Trumpcare has been an attack on the vulnerable, this repeal and replace effort was an obvious effort to create a greater health care crisis that would allow Republicans to portray themselves as saviors when they finally passed a new bill. The GOP has thus far adopted a strategy of claiming that the country was already faced with a health care crisis, due to the failings of the ACA, but given that the GOP’s bill would have exponentially worsened conditions for just about every vulnerable community in the United States, the idea of righting the ship by causing it to sink it has, to say the least, failed to gain the approval of most Americans.

Given the authoritarian nature of the Republican project in Washington DC — unpopular policy decisions, a disregard for longstanding rules of government, and consistent efforts to interfere with voter participation — the bill’s low approval rating was a surmountable impediment for Republicans. Due to Trump’s low approval rating, the GOP’s political strategists can only gain ground if they are not bound by popular opinion, or the Republican party will accomplish none of its aims.

So how did we win this round? There are a number of factors to examine there, and some of them are more encouraging than others.

First of all, I want to highlight efforts that will be largely overlooked by Democratic senators who take credit for this win: The efforts of the disabled and the chronically ill. On the protest and direct action front, this fight was largely led by disabled people and the chronically ill — and let’s invest in their work accordingly. Those most impacted by the failings of health care in the United States fought to maintain what they have, and to uplift the vision that far exceeds anything the Democrats have offered: a vision of Medicare for All. As is usually the case, those most threatened have had the most to teach us about what’s at stake, and in this fight, they have been making their voices heard. We all owe these communities a great debt.

As a disabled person myself, who has organized against this bill, I am grateful for whatever small part I was able to play, and to those who have helped me contribute. That’s another piece of this: Whatever the struggle, we must all do our best to support and amplify those who can speak to their lived experiences of an issue. Every idea I have had, and every moment I have contributed to, would not have happened without able-bodied allies and accomplices.

Remember, if you don’t show up for the communities you care about, you are leaving them in the cold to fight alone. None of us can afford to do that now, so don’t.

Another edge we had in this fight is that a number of people realized that every tactic in play was important. Too often, people who embrace different areas of work, like direct action, or electoral efforts, tend to dismiss the value of other tactics. In fights like this, phone calls matter, just as sit-ins matter, just as faxes and town halls and public confrontations matter. Training efforts matter. Cross-movement coalition building matters. Remember what worked here, and be sure to take notes. Strategies aren’t born, they are built. Take what you can to build for the next round, because there’s going to be one, on some crucial front, very soon.

And let’s all remember that this isn’t over. We can take a breath, and we have every reason to celebrate, but there will be another Trumpcare. Like zombies, Republican efforts to destroy us will rise from the dead, and march forward again. They are waging a social war against us, and it’s not about to end any time soon. So we need to strategize, and kill the zombie in front of us. Because we will be fighting off Republican attacks on our values and our lives for some time.

And for the record, that is what real resistance looks like: a community that builds relationships and numbers, that uses its creativity to outmaneuver the enemy. Real resistance is not a Democratic fundraising pitch: It’s a relentless effort to defend our communities and our lives.

Make no mistake: Their attacks will be unwavering, and while a politically outgunned resistance just shoved Goliath on his ass, we will want a lot more fists in the fight moving forward.

But building numbers isn’t enough. We need a movement that doesn’t meet Trumpcare with calls for compromise, but with calls for Medicaid for all. When they say reform, we say freedom. When they say, “let’s negotiate,” we disrupt. There is no middle ground between good and evil that we can afford to settle for. And that means it’s time to unapologetically polarize this country. Because we are living in the crosshairs of a party that has seized the federal government, and we cannot allow them to wound, cage and kill us. Fortunately, this is another one of those moments that has reminded us that we can take them on — and we can win.

To everyone who’s answered the call to fight for the vulnerable, and fight for your own futures, I thank you. To anyone who’s getting ready to join the fight: There will never be a moment as right as this one. Raise a glass to the resistors, my friends. And let’s hold the line.