President Donald Trump smiled like a very pleased Cheshire Cat after the great hope for Georgia, Democrat Jon Ossoff, lost his Sixth District House race last Tuesday to his Republican challenger, Karen Handel, by about four points.
The race turned out to be closer than once thought, but at the end of the day Trump bellowed that he still can’t be beat. More than half the country doesn’t like him and the job he’s doing so far as President of the United States, but his dislike nationwide didn’t translate into a win locally in suburban Atlanta, in a long-time GOP district that came home to vote for Handel on Election Day, nullifying Ossoff’s early vote lead of 1.4 percent.
The Democratic loss in Georgia marked the fourth U.S. House race that Republicans have won this year. They haven’t won by the whopping margins that Trump beat Hillary Clinton by last fall in similarly red districts, but by enough to proclaim that Democrats who want to win seats next year in the House or the Senate better fashion a new message sometime soon. They’ll need to lure Democrats who switched to Trump last year back into the fold, and entice independents who felt snookered by voting for a pig in a poke like Trump to cross the great divide.
Ohio U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, one of just four Democrats in Ohio’s 16-member U.S. House delegation, has decried the failure in Democratic messaging, especially the economic message that many say Clinton couldn’t deliver in Ohio and other key states with the same bombast and over-the-top rhetoric Trump used. Calling for a new national leader other than House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to deliver a new national message, Ryan, who declined to run for Ohio governor next year, mounted an unsuccessful challenge to Pelosi earlier this year. He called the Democratic brand “toxic.”
What happened in Georgia might just stay in Georgia, though. In battleground Ohio, Ryan’s plea for a new message may hit bedrock before it hits pay dirt if the contours of the new message differ widely from long-held positions on workers wages and rights and health care benefits, among many other issues that push people’s buttons.
Despite Trumps descending poll numbers, Georgia won’t be on the minds of Democrats going forward.
As pundits work their worry beads in light of the loss in Georgia, Democrats have to be bold enough to stick to long-held principles. Otherwise, their agenda will be a Republican-light version that betrays what they stand for by trying to assimilate with a GOP agenda that has it out for the average American who isn’t a billionaire.
Now that Senate Republicans have shown a card from their otherwise secret health care poker hand, the new Democratic message must maintain solidarity with the old Democratic message. This message is that the ranks of the poor will rise while access to affordable health care will fall if Trump’s agenda is made possible as legislation is rammed through Congress by Majority Caucus Republicans who refuse to hold public hearings or conduct debate all Americans can be privy to.
Ohio candidate for governor, former Democratic U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, was out with a response to the Senate bill Thursday. Sutton, one of four women running for governor (three Democrats and one Republican), said that the Senate healthcare bill is Ohioans’ worst nightmare come to life.
“It guts Medicaid, defunds Planned Parenthood, and will kick millions off healthcare, all the while giving the most privileged of our society massive tax cuts,” she said. “It is a betrayal to Ohioans pure and simple.”
Sutton was in the U.S. House in 2010 and worked in tandem with then Speaker Pelosi to help pass the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
The Ohio Democratic Party joined Sutton in whacking the GOPs plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which includes erasing Medicaid.
“The Senate Republican plan takes away health care from millions, while giving away a huge tax break for millionaires and billionaires,” Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper said in prepared remarks for the occasion. “The devastating Medicaid cuts in the bill would be effectively throwing gasoline on the raging fire of Ohio’s opioid crisis because Medicaid provides $650 million in funding to fight the opioid crisis. Ohio taxpayers would be forced to make up the difference if Congress takes away this funding.”
While Republicans are busy trying to throw the nation into crisis in Washington, Republicans in the Ohio Statehouse approved a budget that cuts off enrollment for the Medicaid expansion program. More than 150,000 Ohioans with mental health or addiction issues have coverage through the Medicaid expansion.
Pepper salted his response with comments aimed at GOP gubernatorial hopefuls, including Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Jon Husted, U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor.
If this bill becomes law, Pepper said, Ohio families will suffer higher premiums and deductibles; Ohioans with pre-existing conditions will lose protections; and Ohioans will die when they lose health coverage.
“The voters of this state deserve to know whether the Republican candidates for governor stand with Ohio families or if they stand with insurance company CEOs and millionaires and billionaires,” Pepper said.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who opposes the ACA has championed Medicaid spending after 700,000 Ohioans obtained health insurance because it expanded eligibility. Kasich didn’t like what a small group of Republicans senators, (including Ohio’s own U.S. Sen. Rob Portman) are doing to shutdown expanded Medicaid. Analysts say the Senate GOP bill will carve even deeper cuts than the House healthcare bill that jettisons 23 million off insurance.
The bill was odious enough that Kasich has lined up with Democrats calling for bi-partisanship on the bill’s design.
“I have deep concerns with details in the U.S. Senate’s plan to fix America’s health care system and the resources needed to help our most vulnerable, including those who are dealing with drug addiction, mental illness and chronic health problems and have nowhere else to turn,” Kasich tweeted.
The secrecy in Washington forced Ohio’s normally secret governor in Columbus to say more than one party approach is needed if complex problems are to be solved.
With some luck, Portman might listen to his political bro to work with Democrats.
“That’s the only way to address the flaws of Obamacare that we can all agree need to be fixed,” Kasich said.
For seniors, children with disabilities, people combating addiction and rural hospitals who might go out of business if Trumpcare goes operation, the Senate bill should contain the message public officials like Ryan and Sutton and many more are seeking that could be in plain sight.
The bill is scheduled for a vote next week. But if three Senate Republicans reject so-called Trumpcare, it won’t pass. Had Jon Ossoff made the ACA and what Republicans want to do to it a major focus of his campaign, which he didn’t do, maybe, just maybe, he might have been a winner instead of a loser Tuesday.
Georgia ought not to be on the minds of Buckeye voters going forward. Instead what should be on their minds, especially the minds of registered Democrats, is just voting, a basic American value. The core new message should be, “Please, just get out and vote.”
If you do, you win. If you don’t, the self-fulling prophecy that Democrats can’t beat Trump, no matter how mean or crazy he gets, will prove alluring despite being patently false.