Email #111, Subject: basic math

You had two paths for passing the American Health Care Act in the House: 1) amending it to draw votes from the 35-member, conservative Freedom Caucus or 2) amending it to draw votes from the 40-member, moderate Tuesday Group.

40 is larger than 35, but the GOP leadership went with 30.

To get that 35, you tried to strip the ACHA of three of its most popular features: 1) eliminating pre-existing conditions, 2) requiring insurers to provide minimum benefits, and 3) allowing children to remain on their parents’ plans till the age of 26. All three are also popular features of the ACA. But even with them, the ACHA has only a 17% approval rating, while the ACA has 48%.

48 is larger than 17, but not only did the leadership go with 17—they tried to negotiate away the ACHA’s moderate features, guaranteeing that the bill’s approval rating would drop even lower.

If the bill went directly from the House to the White House, this would at least make short-term strategic sense. The GOP promised to repeal the ACA, and so it would. But that creates a far worse, long-term problem, since the new bill—“Trumpcare”—would provide Democrats an even stronger rallying point than “Obamacare” provided Republicans.

But the strategy didn’t make short-term sense either, since the bill already faced opposition from moderate Republicans in the Senate. To pass there, it would need to be amended in ways that would have also attracted moderate members of the House. Attempts to placate the Freedom Caucus only worsened the bill’s already poor Senate prospects.

It’s as if GOP leaders forgot they lost seats in the last election: seven in the House and two in the Senate, reducing their majorities to 55% and 52%. Those are thin margins. Since the GOP has 22 more Representatives, they can pass bills without any Democratic support. But they can’t pass bills that ignore their own moderates. They can, however, ignore their far right, since amendments that would attract moderate Republicans would also attract moderate Democrats. No Republican bill would ever attract all 193 Democrats, certainly not the leftwing extremists, but a centrist one could easily draw 8, off-setting the Freedom Caucus and its unpopular demands. But if you instead placate the rightwing extremists, there’s nowhere to pick up the lost middle votes.

This is not only basic math, it’s common sense. Govern from the center. Democracy works because it requires people to come together. Congress needs to move the country forward, not keep pushing factions further apart.


Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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