"Obamacare is the law of the land." - Paul Ryan
Look at that statement. It's extraordinary. I don't think anyone, in their wildest dreams, expected to see the Speaker of the House, Mr. "I've wanted to cut Medicaid since I was drinking out of kegs," stand in front of the American people and utter those words. And yet, on a Friday afternoon in March, it became reality.
Think about how you felt on November 8th, watching the impossible become possible in the worst possible way. I still clearly remember the anger, the grief, the despair all fighting for prominence in my heart. I can still recall the litany of impending disasters that ran through my mind in the days and weeks that followed: lost years fighting climate change, a hard-right Supreme Court, the upcoming rending of immigrant families, the end of Obamacare!
There have been days since the election where I've given in to cynicism. Nights when I've felt the overwhelming urge to say goodbye to politics and just stop caring. It's a struggle that I know many of my friends and family have dealt with as well. I'll admit, even after witnessing the formation of the Resistance, participating in marches and protests, and seeing videos of energized town halls around the country, there has still been a part of me thinking that none of it was going to matter.
And then Friday happened.
Sure, there were numerous reasons why Trump, Ryan, and company failed so spectacularly in repealing the Affordable Care Act, and the whole debacle is going to be a source of discussion and debate for a long time to come. You can point to the bill itself, which was essentially a shittier version of the ACA combined with a big tax cut for the wealthy. You can talk about the rollout, which amounted to a blitzkrieg attempt to get a vote on the bill before anyone had a chance to analyze the thing. You can blame Trump, who promised on the campaign trail that his plan would give healthcare to everyone at a cheaper rate while protecting Medicaid and then proceeded to back a bill that gutted Medicaid and knocked 24 million people off their coverage. You can blame Ryan, who was utterly unable to unite his own party behind a law representing its chief stated goal for the better part of a decade. You can blame the House Freedom Caucus, who stymied the repeal process because the new bill just didn't remove coverage from enough people. You can even blame the Republican party as a whole for lying about the ACA for the last seven years, convincing their constituents that everything would be better once the law was dead, and painting themselves into a corner when they actually had the power to do something about it.
But when I look for the chief party to "blame" for the death of Republican hopes to repeal the ACA, I look at all of you. I look at the people in the Resistance who showed up by the thousands at town halls to demand accountability and who made hundreds of thousands of calls to representatives and senators. Because you scared them. For the first time in a long time, these people were afraid, not of a primary challenge from the right or of campaign funds being cut off by their donors, but from a general election loss. And so, when the White House and Ryan tried desperately to reel in the Freedom Caucus by offering to eliminate more and more of the protections that the ACA provides, the party splintered even further. Moderate Republicans or purple-state Republicans who might otherwise have been convinced to go along for the ride as the bill was dragged further to the right now had thousands of reasons not to do so. They saw your faces, they heard your calls, and they knew they would be held accountable.
And so the ACA, having survived two Supreme Court challenges, dozens of votes for repeal, and now the combined efforts of a Republican White House and Congress, inconceivably lives on. That's something worth celebrating. And I hope you all did. I hope everyone who made a phone call, sent a letter, or stood in the cold to attend a town hall took the last 72 hours and enjoyed this most improbable of victories.
Because we still have so much work to do.
The Trump administration and the Republicans in Congress may have failed with health care, but they are regrouping and moving on. They are already drafting a "tax reform" bill to give a huge break to the wealthiest of Americans. They have a hard-right Supreme Court nominee that they are trying to appoint to a stolen seat. There are rumblings that they are willing to risk a government shutdown to defund Planned Parenthood and provide funding for Trump's ridiculous wall. They are taking steps every day to weaken environmental regulations, break up immigrant families, and undermine public education.
Saving the Affordable Care Act was a big win for us all, but it was only the first battle in a war we are going to have to fight for years. And we are not going to be victorious every time. There will be losses. There will be times when you feel that same despair you felt on that dark night in November or that rainy afternoon in January. It will never be easy.
But when you start to feel like it's pointless, that it doesn't matter, that it just isn't worth the effort, think about the millions of Americans who still have health care because of your efforts. Think about the time you stood up and forced them to listen to you.
Remember the ACA. And never stop resisting.