Email #109: Subject: “Just Say No”?

“If you act like you’re the minority, you’re going to stay in the minority,” said Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy the night of President Obama’s 2009 inauguration. “We’ve gotta challenge them on every single bill and challenge them on every single campaign.”

The Tea Party had the same attitude. According to the Congressional staffers who wrote The Indivisible Guide: “The Tea Party took root in 2009, focused on fighting against every proposal coming out of the new Democratic Administration and Congress. This focus on defense rather than policy development allowed the movement to avoid fracturing. Tea Party members may not have agreed on the policy reforms, but they could agree that Obama, Democrats, and moderate Republicans had to be stopped.”

Since President Trump’s inauguration, many Democrats in Congress have been following Rep. McCarthy’s advice, and progressive activists across the country have been following the Tea Party’s strategy. It’s as easy and effective as that old War on Drugs slogan from the 80s:

Just say no.

Although this is bad news for you and the GOP, it’s not your worst news. That came yesterday when you failed to pass the American Health Care after the seventh anniversary of the Affordable Care Act’s passage. President Trump said it best himself:

“I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.”

That of course is not true. Everyone knew. It’s just that eight years with a Democrat in the White House allowed the GOP to forget. You got used to playing defense. But now that Rep. McCarthy is House Majority Leader and you control the Senate and White House too, you have to do a lot more than just say no.

The crafters of the flawed ACHA did not understand that, but the American Academy of Family Physicians did. They joined over a dozen other health care providers in opposing the bill, diagnosing its core flaw: “The AHCA, in our opinion, chooses to focus on ‘eliminating’ policies and not on addressing the real-life economic challenges people have with health care.”

After meeting with the President on Thursday, Rep. Chris Collins said he still understood it in those terms: “it’s a vote to get rid of Obamacare.” Challenging, stopping, eliminating, getting rid of–that is exactly the mentality of a minority party. Rep. McCarthy and other GOP leaders got it backwards. You can’t play defense anymore.  Instead of crafting new legislation focused on our nation’s actual health care needs, you tried to pass an anti-ACA bill and ended up punting from your own end zone.

And now instead of starting over and trying to get it right, President Trump intends to leave the field. As Press secretary Spicer said, there is no “plan B”. The President is abandoning health care.

That’s not leadership. That’s not governing. But if the GOP prefers being the opposition party, you are well on you way to achieving it in 2018.

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Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University where he teaches creative writing, contemporary fiction, and comics. He has published two novels, Pretend I'm Not Here (HarperCollins 2002) and School For Tricksters (Southern Methodist University 2011), and two nonfictions, On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa University 2015) and Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury forthcoming 2017).

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