It’s well and good that Sens. McCain, Collins and Murkowski are receiving widespread tributes for their pivotal opposition to ‘skinny repeal’ of the Affordable Care Act. But let’s also thank the Senate Democrats, whose unanimous rejection of the measure lead the way. David Leonhardt does a good job of it in his New York Times column, “The Americans Who Saved Health Insurance“:
I know it’s unfashionable to praise a political party, and I have plenty of complaints about the Democrats. But the fact is, many Americans would soon lack health insurance were it not for the unity of elected Democrats.
Not a single one wavered in recent months. On the left, Bernie Sanders, who’s technically an independent, worked to poke procedural holes in the bills. Every red-state Democrat stood firm, too. Why? They thought their Senate leader, Chuck Schumer, was listening to them and their concerns. They had also held their own town halls, and they knew the bills were deeply unpopular.
The unity was a fitting echo of 2010, when Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid kept their party together to pass the most important social policy in decades. Today, it remains the law of the land.
Democrats can be rightly proud of their leadership in protecting the Affordable Care Act. But let’s also affirm the pivotal leadership of citizens and human rights organizations who supported Democrats in winning this battle. In his HuffPo post, “Thanks to the millions who fought to save our health care,” Mike Lux points out that citizen activism was the key to defeating ‘skinny repeal’:
It should not be forgotten that it was all those actions by regular people fighting their hearts out for this cause that won this fight. The people demonstrating, the town hall meetings, the letters, the petitions, the phone calls, the social media postings. Everything all of you did made the difference. You not only terrified the Republicans, but you bolstered and fired up the Democrats to fight back— and fight back they did, to their enormous credit…We have so many battles yet to fight. You activists have shown you can pull off miracles and we are going to need some more of them in the years to come. But last night gives me faith we can do it— again and again and again.
Leonhardt also acknowledges the critical role of “thousands of citizens who took time to attend meetings, visit congressional offices and call those offices, often repeatedly. This sustained action worked better than any poll to show Congress how unpopular the bills were. It was a reminder of how democracy can work.”
It’s important, however, to see the defeat of ‘skinny repeal,’ not as a war that has been won, but a battle victory, or really just one of many skirmishes in the decades of struggle for health security for all Americans. As Leonhardt cautions, “No one should think the fight is over. Murphy, the Connecticut senator, says he wakes up every day fearful of a new repeal effort. Even without one, Obamacare needs to be improved, and defended from Trump’s sabotage. There’s much more work to do.”
For now, however, let’s give the Democrats in congress due credit for their unified defense of health security for all Americans. Too often, the public takes Democratic support for needed reforms for granted. But the impressive unity Democrats demonstrated in this battle should not be shrugged off. It took courage and vision to hold the line against relentless opposition that controlled the rules and agenda. Countless lives have been saved and million more will get needed health care because of Democratic unity in this most central of struggles for a decent society.