The Coronavirus Is Killing Americans, but Trump and Barr Are Trying to Kill Obamacare

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Win McNamee/Getty
Win McNamee/Getty

With almost 125,000 Americans dead and tens of million more still out of work, the U.S. government Thursday night filed its brief in opposition to the Affordable Care Act with the Supreme Court. If they succeed, 20 million people would lose their medical coverage amid a raging pandemic and a deep recession.

For good measure, the Foundation for Moral Law, the non-profit helmed by Kayla Moore, wife of the Trump-approved ex-Alabama judge with an eye for under-age girls, is siding with the government.

The reality is that Americans place greater faith in Joe Biden than the president when it comes to healthcare, and right now, they are not buying what the administration is selling. Simply put, gutting Obamacare is a political loser.

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From the looks of things, Trump’s 2016 campaign promise to “repeal and replace” the ACA must be kept regardless of the cost to himself and others. Yey, more than half of the U.S. favors leaving the ACA alone. Just a quarter want to see it struck down by the courts.

Even before this latest episode, the president’s reelection bid was in trouble, and DOJ’s latest stance won’t help. For all of Trump’s populism, he evidences a visceral disdain for at least half of the populace. Opposing mail-in balloting — even as his vice-president votes from out-of-state, listing the Indiana governor’s mansion as his residence — while jock-sniffing dead Confederate generals is, among other things, a bad strategy.

Nationally, Trump trails Biden by ten points now, and more in some polls. Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are for the moment, anyway, poised to turn blue. Fox News also shows Biden leading by two points in Georgia and ahead by a whisker in Texas. If the election were held today, the former vice president would be on track to capturing more than 330 electoral votes, a landslide by Trumpian metrics.

If Trump has his way with Obamacare, the ranks of the uninsured would more than double in Michigan and Pennsylvania. Florida would probably see a jump in uninsured by two-thirds. As for Wisconsin and Texas, the figure would swell by one-third.

In case Trump and the Republicans have not noticed, Obama and Obamacare are now popular. Trump’s presidency burnished their image, and the key to understanding all this is aversion to loss.

According to John J. Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna and a former member of the Republican National Committee opposition research operation, “people opposed Obamacare at first because they (reasonably) suspected that it could take away what they already had.” Time, however, did not stand still.

A decade later, Obamacare is not a threat to the status quo. It is the status quo, “People don’t want to lose it,” says Pitney, “especially since the GOP lacks a plausible plan for replacing it.” The late Sen. John McCain’s iconic late-night thumbs-down on the Senate floor continues to haunt the president.

Right now, Trump is looking a lot like Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush, our last one-term presidents. It’s not that polls in June are oracular, and of course a comeback is possible. But at this moment, Trump’s campaign is devoid of a coherent message. It’s definitely not “Morning in America”.

Meanwhile, members of the president’s Secret Service team that accompanied him on the road have been directed to voluntarily quarantine. Brad Parscale, the Trump campaign manager, is working from home out of an abundance of post-Tulsa rally caution. At the same time, Republican governors Doug Ducey of Arizona, Greg Abbott of Texas, and Ron DeSantis of Florida struggle to put the genie back into the bottle as the scourge sears through their states.

As fate would have it, the State of Texas is the lead respondent in the scrum before the high court. In the words of Kyle Hawkins, the Lonestar State’s solicitor general, “petitioners defend the ACA as good policy, citing the current pandemic. Not only are those policy arguments incorrect, but they miss the point.”

That was the sole mention of the disease of the century in 49 pages of argument. Arizona and Florida, among other states, are also onboard with the brief.

Covid-19 cases in Texas are exploding and Arizona’s hospitals are nearing full-capacity. Florida is set to host the NBA at Disney starting in late July and the Republican Convention in August. Oral argument before the Supreme Court could be slated in the run-up to Election Day.

It’s all gonna get even uglier between now and then. Count on it.

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