Democrats and labor organizers spent Sunday at dozens of rallies across the country, pledging to fight in Congress against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and any attempt to change Medicare or Medicaid. The party’s leaders faced crowds ranging in size from dozens to thousands of people, urging them to call Republicans and protest the push for repeal.
“Nobody’s gonna shut us up! Nobody’s gonna turn us around!” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), the Democrats’ 2016 vice-presidential candidate, at a rally in Richmond that drew a crowd of at least 1,000. “We’re standing in the breach and battling for tens of millions of Americans!”
“Our First Stand,” the catchall theme for the protests, represents one of the earliest protests by an opposition party against an incoming president. Brainstormed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Democratic leaders in Congress, each rally introduced crowds to men and women who had faced death or bankruptcy before the ACA went into effect, then challenged Republicans to listen to their stories. Rattled during the ACA’s passage by tea party protests and raucous congressional town hall meetings, Democrats were flipping the script.
“The immediate goal of the rallies is to show Republicans that the majority of people are against repealing the Affordable Care Act,” Sanders said in an interview this week.
“I think people are waking up to the fact that the Affordable Care Act has been helping tens of millions of Americans,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) after a rally in Bowie organized by Maryland Democrats that drew 1,500 people. “Energizing the public around a common goal can have an important result.”
I also like the basic message here — “The Affordable Care Act is a major accomplishment, and repealing it would cause an unconscionable amount of death and suffering, and we should be focused on making it even better by expanding the public insurance provisions.” I still don’t think there’s any value in the lie that the ACA was a “Republican” plan, but implicitly “moderating” the ACA by noting the superior endpoint is fine.
Is protest guaranteed to work? No. But Republican margins are narrow and there’s no way Republicans can get rid of the ACA that won’t be massively unpopular, plus rather than being led by a president with a focused agenda on the issue they’re dealing with a president who is committing them to things they can’t deliver because he doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about. And even if Ryan and McConnell can ram repeal through, there’s a second-order goal: ensuring Democratic unity. If Republicans are going to play murder by numbers, make sure they own it in its entirety, increasing the chances Dems will be in a chance to start repairing the damage in 2020.
In related news, enjoy this Republican profile in courage.