Protests agains the current GOP health care bill (AP/Lynne Sladky)

No, the Republican health care bill isn't dead — and it amounts to a crime against humanity

Some version of this bill will likely still pass — and it's a vicious attack on the poor, children and the elderly


Chauncey DeVega
June 29, 2017 9:00AM (UTC)

The Republican "health care" bill will not come to the Senate floor this week. But this is clearly only a temporary respite, and progressives should not declare victory. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he may introduce a new version of the bill as soon as Friday, with the stated goal of a Senate vote right after the Fourth of July recess. In any possible version that the Republican majority can pass, this bill is a crime against humanity that will intentionally kill tens of thousands of Americans each year and cause "great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health" for many tens of millions more.

This legislation will take money from the poor, the working class, children and the elderly and give it to the very richest Americans so that they can fatten their already overflowing bank accounts even more.

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This bill will force millions of Americans into bankruptcy and destitution.

This bill will force hospitals, health clinics and nursing homes to close from lack of funds.

This bill will dramatically increase human misery. It will literally cause pain and suffering for millions of Americans.

As I have previously argued, the Republican Party's ultimate goal is to rid our society of the "useless eaters." These "reforms" serve to illustrate the fact that today's Republican Party is essentially sociopathic and terrorizes the American people.

In total, the Republican Party's "health care" bill could more correctly labeled as a "death care" bill. To claim it has anything to do with ensuring Americans' health is an act of Orwellian Newspeak that would make Joseph Goebbels proud. The American Medical Association has even gone so far as to declare that the Senate Republican version of the bill violates a basic principle of the healing profession: Medicine has long operated under the precept of "Primum non nocere," or "First, do no harm."

The Republican Party has long claimed to embody "family values" and to represent "Judeo-Christian civilization." But its health care proposals offer a profound insight into the conservative movement's deranged and perverse version of Christianity. Here, the Jesus Christ that today's Republicans so publicly embrace is not a person who believed in taking care of the poor and the weakest among us, but rather one who loved the plutocrats above all others. Satan smiles at the Republican health care bill; Jesus weeps.

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Quite predictably, the Republican Party's various proposals to overturn the Affordable Care Act are among the most unpopular pieces of legislation in modern American history. Traditional political logic dictates that to pass such laws would be an act of political suicide.

This assumption is incorrect. The Republican health care bill is an act of cruel political genius that could potentially guarantee the GOP's continued power many years into the future.

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Consider the following.

Sick people are less likely to vote.

Undermining public health damages social capital. In turn, this dynamic hurts the ability of individuals and groups to organize for political and social change.

The Republican health care bill will have a disproportionately negative impact on blue state America.

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To be more specific, it will have a disproportionately negative impact on people of color, the poor, the working class and women — groups that are likely to support the Democratic Party.

What about Donald Trump's supposed "white working class" voters? Won't they be hurt by the Republican plan to destroy the Affordable Care Act? Will they rebel against the Republican Party as a result?

The Republican Party is the country's largest white identity organization. As such, Donald Trump's appeal is based on white racial tribalism and authoritarianism. Public opinion and other research has repeatedly shown that it was the politics of white grievance mongering and white victimology that enabled Trump to win the White House. In all likelihood, these feelings will override any "rational" calculation by Republican voters about public policy and the harm done to them by their party's wholesale destruction of our health care system.

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The right-wing news media is highly effective at disseminating disinformation and lies. As demonstrated by Alvin Chang at Vox, the conservative media has skewed coverage of the Republican health care bill to ignore its most onerous, damaging and unpopular proposals — such as how it will raise the costs of premiums and guts Medicaid and other care for the elderly. Republican voters, for the most part, exist in an alternate-reality echo chamber that will only amplify its noise in service of the GOP's devastating and destructive health care initiatives. In a recent USA Today/Suffolk University poll, the vast majority of the Republicans — some 80 percent of those surveyed — said they wanted to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. One-third of Republicans polled said they supported repealing the Affordable Care Act even if no replacement is available.

Once a new government program is introduced, it has historically been difficult to eliminate or curtail. But there is one caveat: White voters are much more likely to reject social welfare programs that they believe will benefit African-Americans and other people of color. Racism's power to shape the way white Americans perceive the role of the federal government, in combination with hostility toward the country's first black president, makes it much easier for Republicans to overturn "Obamacare" without experiencing long-term negative political consequences.

The Republican Party has spent decades weakening the country's already tattered social safety net. Many of the Republican Party's most ardent supporters have seen their lives made more miserable by such efforts. Yet these same voters continue to support the Republican Party because it has perfected sadism and cruelty as political strategy. How? By blaming black and brown people, gays and lesbians, immigrants, Muslims, Barack Obama, the Democrats or "coastal elites" for White America's problems.

The Republican Party does not believe in basic democratic principles such as governmental transparency and accountability. Moreover, Republicans use gerrymandering in combination with other tactics to keep African-Americans, young people, students, the poor, the elderly and other groups who may oppose their policies from voting. As historian Nancy MacLean explained in a recent interview about her new book "Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America":

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The most important thing I want readers to take from this book is an understanding that the Koch network and all of these people are doing what they’re doing because they understand that their ideas make them a permanent minority. They cannot win if they are honest about what they’re doing. That’s why they’re doing things in the deceitful and frightening ways that they are.

The Republican Party cannot compete and win elections based on the merits of its positions. Public opinion polls repeatedly show that the American people largely reject the Republican agenda, on subjects ranging from economic policy to the environment to health care. America's changing demographics will further imperil the Republican Party's ability to maintain its grip on power. The solution? Republicans have decided to engage in a wantonly cruel form of politics that involves targeting those Americans most likely to support the Democratic Party with sickness and death.

A Malthusian desire to disempower or eliminate those who are perceived as social parasites is an old political strategy. Donald Trump and the Republican Party have simply updated it for 21st-century America.


Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega is a politics staff writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at Chaunceydevega.com. He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

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