I’ve been covering politics for 16 years and obsessively tracking current events since my high school goth phase. And I’ve never seen anything like I did last night when the U.S. Senate’s version of Trumpcare spectacularly went down.
You couldn’t script a more dramatic scenario, with U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who survived five years in the Hanoi Hilton only to recently be diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, came back from his hospital bed to cast the deciding vote against the so-called “skinny repeal” (which would have left 16 million without health insurance by next year).
Before midnight, it looked like Trumpcare was a done deal. When I watched McCain brush off Republican pressure on the floor and hug U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) I refused to believe my own eyes. It was going to pass. It was just a matter of time. That was where the smart money was.
But I have never been so happy to be wrong. Why? It’s pretty simple. Trumpcare’s failure means 20,000 fewer deaths and a lot less suffering. This is not an exaggeration. That’s what the research shows.
U.S. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) had hung tough against various versions of Trumpcare and also voted “no.” No, it’s not fair that McCain has overshadowed their repeated principled stands, but the sheer drama of the staunch conservative riding back into D.C. to fight for people — which seemed unbelievably ripped out of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” — was always going to be the main storyline.
Likewise, many stories don’t mention that every single Democrat in the House and Senate, from the most liberal single-payer advocate like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to vulnerable 2018 red state conservative Dems like Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), never wavered and voted against Trumpcare. Not bad for #DemsinDisarray.
And, as always, the tireless work of everyday people who called, wrote and protested about their health care being snatched away often gets short shrift. But that’s how social change really happens. And it did make a huge difference.
I was trying to think of a comparable scenario to the early-morning drama in the U.S. Senate. I guess it would be like if four more GOP state senators had stood up on Dec. 6, 2012, and shockingly voted against Right to Work in Michigan. But as much of a might-makes-right spectacle as that was, it was not a matter of life or death like Trumpcare is for thousands of Americans.
The last time I was this shell-shocked was starting at 9 p.m. on Nov. 8, 2016, when I saw where the returns were heading in Wisconsin and Michigan for the presidential race. This feeling is much better, so if you’ll excuse me, I am going to savor it for just a little longer.