The 2016 campaign may be over, but the 2017 campaign just began.
It wasn’t a 2008 style kickoff in Springfield, Illinois, or 2016 style start on Roosevelt Island, New York, or even a grand entrance on a descending escalator in a Manhattan tower.
In 2017, the campaign starting gun went off in dueling rallies inside the US Capitol, during an extraordinary morning of drama and theater emblematic of the coming Trump era. The Vice President-elect arriving in one corner of the Capitol, and almost simultaneously, split screen, the outgoing president arriving in another.
This year’s campaign is of course not about electing a president or member of Congress or any politician, it is about deciding the future of America’s health care system – something that affects all Americans, whether they voted or not.
Just like in 2009, when Obamacare was before Congress and Democrats spread out across America to try to sell the law to their constituents, they’ll hold events back home starting this weekend to try to fight Republican plans to dismantle it.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley, D-New York, is leading the charge in the House, encouraging members to hold events in their districts this Saturday, January 7, in order to highlight what Democrats warn are the risks of repealing the Affordable Care Act.
Next, Democrats are branding January 15 a “National Day of Action” among Democratic senators, House members and grass-roots organizations.
In his closed door pep rally with congressional Democrats, President Barack Obama even encouraged his party to use tea party tactics to galvanize Americans to urge Republicans not to dismantle the health care plan – which happens to be the cornerstone of his legacy.
But the analogy is hardly perfect. Anyone who remembers the raucous town halls of 2009 knows it was the Democrats trying to sell Obamacare who got shouted down by constituents who didn’t like the law, and were encouraged by conservative media and the brewing tea party movement.
Still, there could be a silver lining here for Democrats. Post-2016, their base is wounded, disoriented and scared. It’s similar to the way the Republican base looked and felt back in 2009 after Obama won and the Democrats took a supermajority in the Senate. The GOP was in the wilderness, and the fight against Obamacare became a motivator for Republicans to find their way back. If done right, and if successful, this new campaign to save Obamacare could rejuvenate despondent Democrats.
As for Republicans, they realize their campaign is fraught with peril. Just look at the President-elect’s own tweets. He woke the morning of this 2017 campaign start and took to Twitter to warn his own Republican brethren to “be careful” not to go too far in their zest for repeal.
Vice President-elect Mike Pence expounded on that after meeting with House Republicans.
“It will be important that we be careful as we do that. that we do that in a way that doesn’t work a hardship on American families. who have gained insurance, through this program – doesn’t work hardship on our economy,” said Pence.
But he also lifted the veil on Republican concerns that their push to repeal Obamacare may get drowned out by Democrats stories of real people who have benefited from the program, and warnings about loss in insurance coverage and rattled markets a repeal may bring.
That’s what Pence meant when he admonished GOP members: “Remind American people of what they already know about Obamacare that the promises that were made were all broken, and I expect you’ll see an effort in the days ahead to talk about the facts around Obamacare.”
When then-White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel argued forcefully to use the Democrats huge 2009 majorities to pass health care reform, he did so by predicting that once Americans have a benefit, they won’t want to lose it.
It is going to be a long 2017 as we watch and learn whether he was right.