Editor’s Note: Jill Filipovic is a journalist based in Washington and the author of the book “The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness.” Follow her on Twitter. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely her own. View more opinion articles on CNN.
If Donald Trump’s administration has its way, millions of Americans will lose their health insurance, and the entire health care industry will be upended. Make America Great Again? This administration wants to make us sick again – and it’s no exaggeration to say that if they succeed, a great many Americans will go bankrupt; some will die.
Ever since taking office, President Trump has made it a priority to attack his predecessor’s legacy. Trump appears to hate former President Barack Obama with a vigor perhaps matched only by his loathing of Hillary Clinton, the woman who beat him out in the popular vote.
Like a petulant and implacable child still stewing over a toy he was forced to share, Trump has put all reason aside. He’s not interested in improving lives or making this country better. He seeks only to destroy. The sole thing he cares to build is his own ego.
Thanks to a far-right judge in Texas who invalidated the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – the part of the law that requires most Americans to buy health insurance, keeping costs down for everyone and insuring better health outcomes – the Trump Department of Justice is emboldened, and is now asking the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to wipe out the entire law.
That would mean that the millions of people who rely on the ACA for their insurance, including lower-income people benefiting from state Medicaid expansions, would be up a creek. It would also mean that the ACA’s protections for everyone, including those Americans who still rely on private or employer-based insurance – protections like the bar on considering preexisting conditions and free contraception and many other preventive care services – would cease to exist.
And what plan does the Trump administration have ready to replace the ACA – and insure millions – the day after they lose their health care coverage? There is none. Nada.
Calling the Trump administration’s position “crazy,” Timothy S. Jost, an emeritus professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law, told the Washington Post that this “would be like invalidating the Interstate Highway System, causing chaos on an unimaginable scale. It’s conceivable that the entire Medicare payment system would collapse.”
Does Trump care that he is asking a court to throw the country into chaos and set us back? Does Attorney General William Barr, who pledged to uphold the laws of the land but is instead acting as a lapdog to the president? No. These men are agents of annihilation.
Trump’s famous campaign promise tag line was all about moving America backward, and undoing any progress we made. It was also a dog whistle to his white male base – after all, he’s suggesting that America was greatest at a time when African-Americans and women had fewer legal rights, and white men dominated the public sphere. This attempt to kill the ACA is exactly on brand: regress, contract, devastate.
Democrats, on the other hand, want to maintain and expand the ACA, to make sure that more Americans can have high-quality affordable health care. Some Democrats, like presidential contender Elizabeth Warren, support the Medicare for All bill proposed by Bernie Sanders, an independent senator also running for president as a Democrat. Sanders wants the Medicare plan immediately, while Warren says she wants to take some time figure out the most effective way to get to universal coverage. But that’s the key: They are building, moving forward, expanding.
This presents a stark choice, and illustrates the fundamental difference between today’s GOP and the ascendant Democrats. Do we want bigger, better, kinder, more? Or smaller, worse, meaner and less?
Republicans aren’t even pretending to offer an alternative. They have no vision or plan, only a desire to harm their own countrymen because they see Democrats as avowed enemies instead of fellow public servants with a different worldview. They’re only interested in breaking what their despised opponents built.
The next presidential election is still more than a year away, and Democrats don’t yet know who they will run against President Trump. But remember this moment: It tells you everything you need to know.