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Hullabaloo


Saturday, July 29, 2017

 

Heroes of the #Resistance

by Tom Sullivan


Woman removed from wheelchair during Capitol Hill Trumpcare protest. Photograph: (Twitter)

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, received applause upon arrival at the Bangor, Maine airport last at night, a Twitter user reported. Collins was one of the GOP no votes when the Obamacare "skinny repeal" bill failed in the U.S. Senate early Friday.

Arizona's Sen. John McCain garnered the lion's share of press attention and endless video replays after his no vote bucked both the GOP leadership and President Trump's wishes. But it was Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Collins who stood up against the pressure longer and more fiercely. They objected because the repeal would hurt people rather than for the procedural reasons McCain gave. They objected as well to how the all-male-drafted GOP plan hurt women's health, hardly a pressing concern for Donald Trump.

When the president tried to apply pressure on Murkowski by having Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke threaten to kill further development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, he was trying to bully the first successful write-in candidate for Senate since Strom Thurmond. Not to mention Murkowski being the senator in charge of the committee that oversees Zinke's department and who won't face reelection until 2022. As the New York Times' Gail Collins quips, that's a lot longer than Republicans are likely to be dealing with Donald Trump, and demonstrates why Trump "has barely managed to exercise enough clout to get a building renamned."

(The Monday Morning President is berating Republicans to Get smart! and MAKE CHANGE! this morning. They should have done what he would have done had he the first clue about or any regard for how governing works.)

The months-long efforts by activists to keep up pressure on Congress has received less credit for the repeal defeat. Charlie Pierce decided yesterday that credit was overdue to the activists who took to the streets or traveled to the Capitol, some of them sick, all of them uneasy:

The primary force driving the events of Thursday night and Friday morning was the energy and (yes) persistence of all those people who swamped town hall meetings, who wrote, or called, or e-mailed various congresscritters to show them what real political pressure felt like. I remember watching town halls in Maine, to which people drove hundreds of miles to tell Susan Collins what they thought. Those people bucked up vulnerable Democratic senators so that Chuck Schumer could count on a united Congress.

They brought pressure on Republican governors, too. People like Brian Sandoval in Nevada and John Kasich in Ohio were handed put-up-or-shut-up choices from their constituents. Perhaps the most significant Republican governor was Doug Ducey of Arizona, whom McCain repeatedly said he would consult before voting. Late on Thursday afternoon, Ducey came out strongly against the bill. But it all begins with the people who put themselves in the streets, and the people in wheelchairs who got roughed up on Capitol Hill, and all those impassioned voices on the phone, just as Lisa Murkowski's continued political survival depended on all those Alaskans who took the extra time to write in her name on a ballot.
Lawrence O'Donnell observed last night that it is the senator who casts the last vote that decides a close issue who always gets the glory. Yet Murkowski and Collins were "unwavering in their opposition" throughout and paved the way for McCain's grandstanding thumbs-down vote. But how might they have voted, O'Donnell asked, had millions of women not taken to the streets across the country and the planet the day after Trump took office, had men and women not appeared to voice opposition at town halls, had disabled Americans in wheelchairs not put their health and their bodies on the line to defend their own freedom and the health of 23 million others? The #Resistance showed them the way.

Outside of the last week of a campaign, this has been perhaps the most tense and stressful many of us have seen. But Pierce's reflection on how activism works is perhaps as comforting as it is instructive:
As I walked back into the Capitol, what came to mind were all the people I have heard over the years who told me that political activism was a sucker's game, a rigged wheel, a space for performance art with an audience of rich people. I agreed with a lot of the last part of that, and still do. But there are only two ways to go, even if you accept the latter part of the premise. You can accept that political activism is a sucker's game and give up, or wrap yourself in the robes of ideological purity as though they were suits of armor. Or, you can accept that political activism is a sucker's game and then engage in political activism to make it less so.
This week you made it a little less so.