Republicans barely mentioned the dreaded word “Obamacare" during their four-day lie-athon last week. They were once super excited about taking health care from millions of Americans. When Mitt Romney was running in 2012, he vowed that once he was president the “bad news of Obamacare" would soon be over. Repealing the Affordable Care Act was part of Romney's five-part plan for a better future where poor, sick people don't have one.

Donald Trump declared in 2016 that “we will repeal and replace disastrous Obamacare!" and his audience of ghouls cheered. “Repeal and replace" was all Republicans could talk about until they failed to do either when they controlled both Congress and the White House. That was embarrassing because they were only really trying to do the first half. It's also a glaring example of how Trump's “promises kept" slogan is a crock of shit. The Republicans couldn't even deliver on their one big, evil promise.

We're also deep in a global pandemic, not that you'd have known it watching the Republican National Convention. It's not the best optics right now for Republicans to go after a popular healthcare law they generously named after Barack Obama. The only person during the convention who mentioned the Affordable Care Act was cancer survivor Natalie Harp, who was dialing in from an alternate Earth where the ACA is unpopular and Donald Trump is Jimmy Stewart.


Cory Gardner keeps trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act www.youtube.com

Of course, Republicans haven't come around on the issue. They are still trying to kill the ACA from inside the house. Kevin Drum at Mother Jones noted that the overwhelming majority of Republicans still reflexively hate the ACA. (They also think Trump is doing a heckuva job managing COVID-19, so they aren't exactly experts on healthcare.) However, independent voters are more susceptible to reality.

Among independents, Obamacare has gone from a net -11 percent unfavorable to +16 percent favorable over the past five years. That's a tough trend for Republicans to fight. They might not need any Democratic votes to win elections, but they certainly need independent votes. It's no wonder so many of them are keeping a low profile instead of loudly promising to repeal Obamacare.

This is also a big challenge for the Senate Republicans who ran and won in 2014 on an “anti-Obamacare" platform. Cory Gardner battered his Democratic opponent Mark Udall on the issue. Udall didn't just vote for the Affordable Care Act, he even supported a public option, which is now the moderate position. (Thanks, Medicare for All!)

Gardner squirmed his way into the House of Representatives in 2010 during the anti-Obamacare Tea Party wave. Back then, Tea Party “patriots" would show up at town halls and scream at Democrats for hours straight. That was democracy in action, as opposed to protesters shouting at Republicans on the street, which is mob violence in Rand Paul's mind. Gardner defeated Betsy Markey in the Republican-leaning fourth district. Markey thought it was worthwhile to address the situation where 16 percent of Coloradans had no health insurance.

Gardner built his entire Congressional career on the premise that certain people just don't deserve health care. It's taken him a while, but he's finally embarrassed by what he's done. He's even removed his pro-repeal position from his campaign's website. Gardner's opponent in the upcoming Senate race, former Governor John Hickenlooper, is running offensive on the Affordable Care Act and not letting Gardner hide from his record. This flips the script on the 2014 Senate election. The healthcare law hadn't fully taken effect yet so Republicans could lie their asses off about it. Now, Republicans are lying about supporting all the popular elements of the ACA, specifically protections for pre-existing conditions.

Hatch Act-violating White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany claimed at the RNC that Trump “stands by Americans with pre-existing conditions." This is a lie. “Obamacare" is why people with pre-existing conditions are protected. Republicans didn't have shit-all for a plan to do this when they fought the ACA with every dirty trick at their disposal. Trump is still trying to dismantle the ACA.

Bottom line: if you like your healthcare, don't keep your Republican senator or president.

[Bozeman Daily Chronicle / The New York Times / Mother Jones / Colorado Times Register]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).

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