Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) was drowned out with chants of “save our healthcare” as she spoke at a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day rally in Spokane. More than 250 people turned out to the Gerald R. Ford Library in Grand Rapids on Tuesday to question Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) about Medicaid cuts and the details of an ACA replacement plan, prompting security to turn dozens away. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) was surprised to find himself facing angry questions from a group of 50 at a Houston Chamber of Commerce session billed as an opportunity for locals “affected by Obamacare” to share stories about “rising costs and loss of coverage.”
With all three branches of government soon to be under GOP control, these voters know they may not be able to prevent Republicans from charging ahead with repeal. But they aren’t going to let it happen without a fight.
After learning about the meeting with Brady through a progressive Facebook group, Emily Hoppel said she showed up with her 2-year-old son to ask how women’s health care would be affected by the millions of dollars in Medicaid reimbursements that Planned Parenthood stands to lose when the ACA is repealed.
“Rep. Brady did not adequately address anyone's questions, in my opinion,” Hoppel told TPM in an email. “He repeatedly assured attendees that they would not lose the parts of ACA that they like (protections for pre-existing conditions and coverage of dependent adult children) while simultaneously promising to do away with the mandate and taxes. That's a two-legged stool waiting to fall over.”
Other progressives were working alongside the national Democratic Party to kick up a public fuss over ACA repeal. Thousands showed up to a Sunday “Save Our Healthcare” rally led by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in Macomb County, Michigan, which went for Trump. Numerous smaller satellite demonstrations were held across the country as well.
In Keene, New Hampshire, multimedia artist and diehard Sanders fan Heather Stockwell helped draw around 200 people out to a Sunday rally. The support from the national Democratic party was “great for getting numbers out,” Stockwell told TPM.
After being involved with a number of regional liberal organizations over the course of the 2016 election, Stockwell this week helped consolidate several of those groups into the Monadnock Progressive Alliance, an umbrella organization focused on taking an issue-oriented, hyper-local approach to progressive change.
Stockwell said she drew inspiration for the MPA in part from the Indivisible Guide, an online handbook put together by former Congressional aides that encourages Democrats to take a page out of the tea party playbook in order to derail the Trump-Paul Ryan policy agenda. Their advice boiled down to the following: confront your representatives on their home turf, organize locally and direct resources towards stopping specific pieces of legislation.
Harvard University professor Theda Skocpol, who co-wrote “The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism,” said she saw some tea party tactics at play in this week’s coordinated protests in favor of the ACA.
“In the past, Democrats have tended to focus on Washington” when they disagreed with elected officials on policy issues, Skocpol told TPM.
“Democrats also see protest as something that’s aimed at the media," she said. "I think the added ingredient here borrowed from the tea party is that it’s really effective to speak up both publicly and in terms of contacting local offices of their representatives in Congress.”
The key distinction, according to Skocpol, is that the tea party coalesced in backlash at the institutional GOP that allowed Barack Obama to be elected, while Democratic leadership is actively encouraging and participating in the current public outcry over ACA repeal.
Health care is also a uniquely easy rallying point for progressives hoping to mobilize resistance against the new administration because the need for health insurance transcends political boundaries.
“Any cuts that occur in this law are going to hit Trump voters very hard, and the areas that supported him too,” Skocpol said. “They’re going to hit older, non-urban whites just as hard as they’re going to hit the Democratic constituencies.”
After using the ACA as a political punching bag for years and failing to agree on a replacement plan, Republican lawmakers are finally facing the real-life consequences of inaction, from voters on both sides of the aisle.
Have more stories about lawmakers facing pushback over ACA repeal or organizing efforts around the issue? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org