|Moore speaking at a rally in 2006.|
I recall her in full flower in late 2009 at the height of the Tea Party activity. The event was her town hall in a huge auditorium at North Division High School, with union laborers serving as ushers and with the Tea Party enthusiasts free to wave inflammatory signs. They were poised to holler but it wasn’t the brawny laborers who stopped them. It was a panel of health experts answering every question from the crowd.
That was a big difference from current events. Today’s Republicans are being poleaxed at town halls around the nation because they have no “replacement” to defend and no way to defend Trump’s first month in office except to claim it’s early days, give him a chance. Some will, but given what others have seen so far, the people are more than anxious. They are angry.
|Obama as he looked in 2009|
No one at that time envisioned a GOP that would refuse any adjustments based on evidence. Or health providers that would drop or refuse to improve plans. That made Obama the liar of the year in 2013. Perhaps he should have but he had not anticipated how insurance companies would cancel plans and change policies so that “you can keep your doctor and your plan” did turn out to be a lie.
None of that was perceivable in 2009 when there were high expectations by the creators of the Affordable Care Act that the nation’s politicians would pull together to improve it.
I don’t agree that the people of today are the left version of the Tea Party, though they borrow some methods. The Tea Party started quite legitimately, almost in partnership for awhile with the Occupy movement. Then in funding and organization, in payments for signs and busses and the running of headquarters, it was co-opted by Koch Brothers groups. Today, no longer active on the streets, the Tea Party has reshaped a weighty segment of House Republicans who have been a thorn for House leadership and may do the same pricking action with Trump.
By the time of Gwen’s town hall, the Tea Party, funded and not, was there in force. But so were her traditional voters and total strangers. They all shared a lot of fear. Should they believe the signs that said “Government Takeover.” Should they laugh at the sign that said “Hands Off My Medicare,” which assumed that was not a government-run system (and quite successful and low-cost at that).
People were not even yelling “Obamacare” a lot in 2009, according to memory. Years ago the Atlantic did a fun piece on when Obamacare was coined, tracing it back to 2007 before Obama was elected and the GOP was using it interchangeably with Hillary-care (they thought she might win). By 2011, the Democrats didn’t want the phrase used because it was a pejorative. Obama said what the heck – he was so positive about ACA’s eventual acceptance that he didn’t care what it was called.
Now the irony has landed full force. It was easy to pick on the ACA, insisting on repeal, as House Republicans did some 60 times, knowing Obama wouldn’t advance it. Now the Republicans own any change – the old Pottery Barn rule, break it you own it.
And the public is letting them know full throttle that there will be hell to pay if they repeal without replacing. And they have not yet decided how to replace it, so they have no defense when confronted at town halls.
|Milwaukee was first city in nation to stage|
a massive Day Without Immigrants
(photo by Joe Brusky)
The promises his voters most liked have not yet been addressed and require big action: Jobs, infrastructure (in the sense of more jobs), assurances to the regions and people who felt left behind, regulations they thought hurt them rather than the regulations he has addressed that only help big businesses.
If you live in coal country, if the growth of manufacturing has not helped you, if no one has explained how all industry is relying more on technology and needs a presidential spur to think of creating jobs for people, you don’t much care about what has consumed his presidency so far.
The wall (which Congress is balking big-time at paying for). The deportation policy (Mexico is now balking at both the wall and the policy). The immigrants (who are not the “hair on fire” problem Trump kept saying). If a rural and disenchanted base helped him get elected, they are not finding much comfort from his first month in office. They are leaning hard on “wait and see” – when not joining the protests.
Now they are sometimes the ones in town halls responding to a rebirth of an ancient nemesis – Russia and its interference in our election and why he has been so resistant to acknowledging it.
His hidden taxes are now a bigger issue to both liberals and conservatives. His travel ban was clearly not some technical difficulty the courts dismissed. Trump, these voters say in interviews, needs to get over feeling threatened by inquiries into Russia and his taxes.
Even in 2009 it was clear the ACA was actually Obama’s second choice after universal care. He chose it because he wanted to preserve the private health industry with its decades of existence and hundreds of thousands of workers. The screams against it by Republicans worked in 2010 while the ACA kept rolling along anyway, building support. And while Obama was re-elected in 2012 the screams against his policies worked again in 2014.
But now the Republicans are faced with how strategically Obama provided subsidies to health insurers and how any plan the GOP brings forward has to keep the essential aspects. They can toy all they want with health saving accounts, maximum risk pools of maximum risk patients, age and income limits and whatnot, but the people are asking for hard details they can’t give at the town halls.
They’re also in danger from the answers they can give. Somewhat to my surprise, town hall interest was high in Russia, Trump’s taxes and Betsy DeVos.
|Sen. Cotton dressed down|
at his town hall.
The audience may have been unpaid. They may have leaned Democratic. But they were informed. They were also independents and Republicans -- and any hope they will fade away in a few months, like the Tea Party street activists did, I strongly doubt.
The Indivisible movement, which has provided a guide of how to approach your issues of concern and an easy way to sign up for events and even create them, now has two chapters in every congressional district.
Its guide is not an ideological manifesto but a practical road map to what may work on a variety of issues and agendas.
The Nation is picking up readers by doing entire stories on how to get your friends and neighbors interested.
Social media is alive with ways to protest and plan events, calling people out within hours to join. The level of knowledge and ease of connection via social media is one of the notable differences of 2017 from 2009.
Rather than being paid, volunteers are contributing to causes that concern them.
Citing multiple reasons, police departments are standing up against becoming ICE agents as Trump originally wanted.
An Episcopal church in Seattle is suing the Trump administration for a travel ban on the refugees – saying “help for the stranger” is a central tenet of their Christian practice.
Emerge America almost can’t keep up with the demand of women to be trained as political activists and candidates.
The Republicans in Congress, many back home during a recess, are being pummeled in ways far deeper and longer than the old Tea Party did to Democrats. The DeVos issue broke out at many town halls. But hanging over it all was Trump’s dismissal of the protests as paid for or hardly genuine.
He is stepping right into keeping it alive for years. The people at these meetings are not buying his claim that the media is “The Enemy of the People.” They fear he is.