Sadly speaking to the reality of our times, the twentieth post in this series comes on the heels of the Senate voting to rob millions of Americans of their health care. In a literal matter of life and death, the GOP chose wealth for a few and feeding their pathological need to try and “fix” their loss in the presidential election of 2008 by voting to go forward with repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. Do we know what they want to replace it with? No. They have no set plan. The rough drafts we have seen rob twenty-two million people of health care, gut Medicaid, abandon those suffering from mental health problems or in recovery for addiction, and roll back any sort of protection for those with preexisting conditions (like myself). There is no longer even the hint of pretense that the GOP at large cares for the America people. I’m angry. I’m sad. I’m exhausted.
As Thomas Kaplan and Robert Pear reported in The New York Times, “The 51-50 vote came only a week after the Republican effort to dismantle a pillar of former President Barack Obama’s legacy appeared all but doomed. It marked an initial win for President Trump, who pushed, cajoled and threatened senators over the last days to at least begin debating the repeal of the health care law….But even with that successful step, it is unclear whether Republicans will have the votes they need to uproot the law that has provided health insurance to millions of Americans….Only two Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, voted against the motion, although at least a half dozen more had at times suggested they too might oppose it. The debate to come will have broad implications for health care and households in every state.”
First, thank you to Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski for having the courage to do what’s right in the face of bullying from Trumpy and McConnell. They did what was in the best interest for their constituents regardless of the party line, as good representatives should. Second, THE DEBATE BEGINS NOW. WE HAVE TWENTY HOURS OF DELIBERATION AND AMENDING TO GET ONE MORE REPUBLICAN TO ACT IN JUSTICE, COMPASSION, INTELLIGENCE, AND MERCY. CALL YOUR SENATORS. DON’T LET UP.
I’ll admit, as I watched every Republican senator – save Senator Collins and Senator Murkowski – abandon their conscience and their soul despite the thousands of people crying out against this, I wondered how we fight on. How do we make our government function the way it was intended to when so many people in this government aren’t playing by the rules? If elected, they are supposed to listen to and represent us. But the GOP ignores all voices contrary to their own agenda and does whatever the hell they feel like. This is the exact sort of tyranny our Constitution was setup to prevent. Yet, here we are. Again, I’m angry. I’m sad. And I’m exhausted.
When the Constitution of the United States of America was drafted, the Framers of the Constitution, the Founding Fathers of our country, sought above all else to create a just and fair system of government. They wanted the voice of the people to be heard. They wanted a say in how they were governed. And they wanted to prevent the tyrannical control of a few from ever rising on these shores again. The Republican Party (with a little help from Russia) have the White House. They have the Senate and the House. As a result, they are doing whatever they want. They have no desire for fair or just governing and certainly no taste for bipartisanship. They only seem interested in undoing everything Obama touched while in office, as though their actions can steal his victory from history after the fact. Yet history will be their judge, and an unforgiving judge it will be. You don’t rob millions of their life-saving coverage and end up the heroes of the history books. And, depending on your personal beliefs, they will eventually have to stand before God, with all their contrived pretense stripped away, and account for their actions and what they carry in their heart and on their soul.
However, the guaranteed judgment of history does little to provide solace now. The question I’ve been wrestling with all day is What do we do? I know how the system is supposed to work. You win your election and then you do your best to represent your constituents. Sure, you have to make compromises and you can’t please everyone all of the time. That’s how representative democracy works. But I can speak from personal experience that this isn’t happening anymore. The GOP isn’t even pretending to listen to those who express any opinion counter to what they’ve already decided to do. I’m one of those people who believes very much in the power and purpose of democracy. So that means I call my representatives and I call them often. I’m not the only one. I see the thousands and thousands of Facebook messages and tweets sent to my reps as well by people who are also expressing concern, outrage, or trying to discuss their problems. But it’s a one-sided conversation. I’m doing my part…but they aren’t even pretending to listen. This isn’t how our government was designed to work.
Neither my Republican senator Pat Toomey nor my Republican Congressional representative Mike Kelly hold town hall meetings (unless you count “tele-town hall meetings” where they can control who talks and keep the message focused on what they want it to be). When I call their offices, sometimes multiple times a week, I’m never heard. Or, if they hear me, they don’t care what I have to say. All I’ve ever received in reply is a form letter where they say they’re essentially going to do what they want because it’s the best thing anyway – a form letter that has never addressed any of my specific points or concerns nor given me any sense that they paid any attention to my requests or comments.
When I went to Pat Toomey’s local office today to discuss this all important vote (because no one has answered the phone in his D.C. office since before Trump was elected) I encountered the bizarre circular logic that has become par for the course in our political discourse. It was very obvious the woman I spoke with was ready to dismiss anything I had to say unless it agreed with Toomey’s plan. It was both damn frustrating and wildly fascinating to watch how “reality” and “logic” had no affect on her. When I said I could clearly see my opinion didn’t matter to the senator and how, if he was to proceed with voting how he planned to, he didn’t care that my life (as a Type One Diabetic) or many like me may be in danger, she assured me, “The Senator does care about you and what you have to say.” I asked how I was to believe that when all he ever does is vote against what I ask him to do, underscoring it isn’t just me he is ignoring but the thousands of daily messages I see on Twitter and Facebook (and that’s not even counting phone calls and emails I don’t have access to) from other Pennsylvanians. Her response? “Well,” she told me, “that’s just a vocal minority.”
Me – “The people who are speaking up are the people who will be affected by this legislation.”
Her – “Yes.”
Me – “And those people are asking him vote against this.”
Her – “Yes. But those aren’t the only people in Pennsylvania.”
Me – “Yes, but those are the people who this will affect.”
Her – “Yes, but that’s not everyone in Pennsylvania. He has to represent everyone.”
Me – “So you’re telling me he ignores the people directly affected by the legislation in favor of people who aren’t saying anything which he takes as support?”
Her – “Yes. He has to represent everyone in Pennsylvania, not just people who are upset something is going to change.”
Then we got into the he-ran-on-the-promise-to-repeal-Obamacare-and-people-elected-him-so-he-must-keep-that-promise thing.
Her – “He’s been against this for years. Now that he’s actually voting that way people are upset. Why are they surprised that he’s doing something he said he’d do?”
Me – “People may’ve supported the idea of repealing the Affordable Care Act but the Republicans didn’t specify a plan. Now people have seen the plan the GOP wants to go forward with and they oppose it. I’m not saying we should never repeal and replace the ACA if we find a better plan. I’m saying we can’t repeal and replace with what they have now.”
Her – “Well they are just voting to proceed with repealing and replacing. They’ll settle on the final version of the bill in the deliberations.”
Me – “The Republicans have had seven years to come up with a reasonable and effective replacement for the ACA and they have nothing. You’re saying they are going to come up with something better than what we have now in twenty hours of debate when seven years was fruitless?”
Her – “Yes. That’s why Senator Toomey is voting ‘yes.'”
That was a real conversation. Nothing has been exaggerated for comedic effect (as this is no laughing matter) nor to underscore the point. That was how events transpired.
What is so frustrating, I think even more frustrating than being intentionally ignored by those who are supposed to represent me, is the fact that Mitch McConnell and all his other GOP lackeys will go to bed tonight unworried. They have gotten to the place where they have so silenced the voices of their heart and soul they don’t see or don’t care about either reality or the people this will hurt. Millions of people will be put in NEEDLESS danger by this move. But. They. Don’t. Care. They will sleep easy and have no problem looking at themselves in the mirror all because they got to “win” over President Obama.
So what do we do?? How can we have our say in our government when the GOP, the party in control of the legislative and executive branches of our government, has willfully hardened their hearts and closed their ears?
I’ve spent more than a little time wishing the Ghost Rider and his penance stare were real. I’ve thought about it a lot today and have been thinking about it for some time. As a kid, I never understood the point of the penance stare. It always seemed like a really lame power to me. So you make someone feel the honest weight of and pain from all their sins in their heart and mind? So what? But now I get it and I doubt there’s a scarier power to face than something that will strip away all of your bullshit and make you honestly and fully feel all the wrong you’ve done to all the people you’ve wronged. The idea of Mitch McConnell and all these morally bankrupt assholes having to feel the pain they carelessly bring to so many puts a smile on my face. It might not be real, but it’s a wish/fantasy that helps me fall asleep at night. And honestly, given the way the GOP conducts itself anymore, it seems like a demon from hell or an unstoppable supernatural force created by God (depending on the Rider mythos you’re looking at) might be the only thing that can get through to them.
Granted, there’s always the chance that the GOP has already made itself immune to something like the penance stare. Given their actions this doesn’t seem that far off base…
Right? That seems to fit. But I’m choosing to believe their souls are still intact, even though it’s hard to believe that in light of the evidence on days like today. Their hearts and souls still have to be there…even if they haven’t listened to them in ages.
Sadly, I don’t think any demonic motorcyclists with the power to make people like Mitch McConnell or Pat Toomey feel the weight of their evil actions will be riding through D.C. anytime soon. So, again, what do we do? I don’t know. I’ve felt very helpless since the vote happened this afternoon. I don’t know what to do when our elected officials refuse to govern as they’re supposed to and I don’t know how to teach someone to care.
Not knowing what to do, I turned to writing. Often these New American Resistance pieces take a lot out of me. They can be emotionally taxing to write. Today it’s been helpful. It’s cathartic to exorcise this anger and frustration, to try and drive it out of me by writing it down. It’s also helped me to rekindle that spark of hope within me. I can’t write something that ends in hopeless, helpless desperation. We all deserve more than that!
I may well spend the rest of the week focusing on some brighter, more positive topics in my writing. I need to reset and recharge while I write even as I spend my days calling/emailing/tweeting/Facebooking/etc. Pat Toomey to try and get him to understand putting people’s lives over party loyalty is the right thing to do. Will he listen to me? I don’t know. It’s doubtful. But I can’t, I won’t be silent. We only need ONE more Republican to openly act in the interest of protecting human beings. I will do my part. I’ll do all I can because I can’t do anything else…no matter how discouraging it is.
Despite all of this, I can’t give up hope. I want to. I don’t know how to keep hoping or what to place that hope in when the broken, sinful system seems so impenetrable. But I can’t give up hope. After the darkest moments today, that flicker of hope and faith would reignite, looking for something to latch on to and allow itself to grow brighter. So, even when it seems impossible, no matter what the odds are, we fight on. This isn’t over yet. We fight on for all those who will be hurt by this wanton disregard for human life. We fight on for those struggling with addiction, those in poverty, those with mental health issues, those with preexisting conditions, those who will lose coverage, those who will only have access to coverage they can’t afford, and everyone else the GOP has abandoned.
As The Times said, “The Senate will now move ahead with debate, amendments and ultimately a final vote in the coming days on legislation that would have a profound impact on the American health care system — nearly 18 percent of the economy.” This will affect people’s lives. This will affect our economy so, even if you have good coverage, we may see another recession come crashing down. But most importantly, this is the right thing to do. The GOP is comfortable forsaking their soul at the expense of all those they choose to ignore in the name of spite and profit. We can’t. We won’t. So we get up, get loud, and fight on. We resist.
Alright people. We’ve got twenty hours of deliberation before they vote on passing the bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. CALL YOUR SENATORS and keep calling them. We must be DEDICATED and we must be LOUD. People’s lives depend on it.
***Updated: Apparently there was voting late into the night last night. The Senate vote to outright repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with the BCRA failed as did the vote to just repeal the Affordable Care Act and figure out what to replace it with later. So, yay! That’s great. However, this still isn’t over. There’s still deliberation yet and the GOP is trying to figure out some way to repeal something to serve as a victory. Keep an eye on the news, stay vigilant, and keep your senators’ numbers on speed dial, ready to go.