Democrats and their grassroots supporters’ victory at blocking the Republicans’ Obamacare repeal provides a much-needed boost to morale. Since the election, national Republicans have been riding a wave of enthusiasm as they anticipated turning back the clock on everything Obama. Democrats needed a win and this is a giant one. The odds of saving Obama’s signature health care legislation against a massive Republican majority seemed slim to none.
But Republicans didn’t anticipate that the Democrats’ supporters would ignite an immense and enthusiastic resistance to the Trump agenda. This passionate grassroots support for Obamacare exploded across the country following Trump’s election. These supporters swelled town halls and engulfed Republican staffers. They tied up Republican congressional phone lines, buried them in emails and swamped local offices.
This grassroots uprising by groups like Indivisible, Our Revolution, Planned Parenthood, unions, OFA, MoveOn and others sprang up organically. This massive resistance movement surprised the Democratic Party nearly as much as the Republicans. Obviously many Democrats participated in this movement, but it certainly wasn’t directed as a top down organizational movement.
Indivisible, a grassroots organizing strategy group, said in their weekly message, “Your relentless constituent pressure ensured that TrumpCare was deeply unpopular before it was even introduced.”
The Republican-controlled House voted more than 50 times to repeal the law since it was passed in 2010. There seemed to be little doubt that Republicans could and would repeal Obama’s signature law with their large majority in the House.
Instead all those Republicans that had voted for repeal over and over discovered repeal without replacement became an impossible vote. Iowa Congressman David Young provided a preview to this impossible vote while answering a question at his Urbandale town hall a few weeks ago. Young said in that town hall that he supported parts of Obamacare. He was asked why he voted so many times to repeal it, if he supported the major features of the law. He said his “votes were really just symbolic.” In other words, all his repeal votes were just political obstruction.
When it came to an actual vote that would rob millions of Americans of health care, many Republican Congressman like Young simply folded.
“Trump and Ryan were in a bind,” wrote Indivisible members on one of their websites following the failed repeal attempt. “With no Democratic support, they needed to pass a bill that would satisfy both the extreme right and the purple-state Republicans. Your constituent power, asserted week after week over the last few months, ultimately made this political calculus impossible.”
That far right and purple state Republican split can be seen here in Iowa. Steve King is the far, far right that voted for Trumpcare. Blum voted no because he thought the bill didn’t go far enough to the right and Young voted no because he thought it went too far.
That split within the Republican Party isn’t going away anytime soon. That makes them susceptible to progressive grassroots organizing just as effective on other upcoming issues. Add in Trump’s dismal approval at 37% and his threats are meaningless to Republicans. They won’t be afraid of a Trump paper tiger at 37%.
President Trump’s often repeated campaign promise, to repeal Obamacare on day one, should win the award as the biggest Trump lie ever told. His silly vow to make Republicans sick of too much winning proved to be just another big whopper as well. Trump’s fictional deal-making powers were revealed to be as bankrupt as his many business failures. Obamacare repeal which should have been a slam dunk for Trump turned out to be a disastrous bust. This failure has severely damaged his reputation as a winner and deal maker.
This win proves progressive grassroots organizing can beat the Republicans and set the stage for retaking the House and Senate in 2018. The Tea Party took the House back from the Democrats in 2010 using a similar strategy.
It’s essential we maintain the intensity and magnitude of the resistance. We must overwhelm every town hall, every legislative forum and bury Republicans in phone calls, emails and office visits.
Winning on Obamacare put the wind at our backs and it demonstrates we can win some of these seemingly impossible battles.
by Rick Smith