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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

If Republicans didn’t think the bill that 216 GOP House Members backed on Thursday could cost them the House, they wouldn’t keep lying about it.

A giant tax break for the rich and their corporations that guts our health care system — by creating massive costs for aging people and massive doubt for those with pre-existing conditions, while carving a $839 million hole in Medicaid so it will end up covering 14 million fewer Americans by 2026 — is so offensive to basic decency that analysts now see the GOP majority is at risk.

Not as much risk as Trumpcare would inflict on families with sick kids, but some risk nonetheless.

Already liberal groups including Daily Kos and SwingLeft have used the GOP’s vote to raise millions in just days from small donors to support Democratic nominees who will oppose vulnerable Republicans. And those Republicans are so scared that only a very few of them are holding town halls or even defending their votes in public. And the ones who are doing it, just keep lying.

Republicans should pay for this vote to unsinsure tens of millions at least as much as Democrats did for insuring 20 million, but Republican strategist Rick Wilson doubts they will.

Wilson has been one of the most vociferous and able-mouthed conservative opponents of Donald Trump. He’s the guy who called Trump’s early diehard supporters mostly “childless single men who masturbate to anime.” So he’s not exactly creaming his Dockers over the current Republican Party.


Sen. Al Franken talked with Esme Murphy Sunday on how the proposed American Health Care Act will affect Minnesota (2:31). WCCO Sunday Morning - May 7, 2017

But he’s even more pessimistic about the Democratic Party, which isn’t shocking given that he beats Democrats for a living.

“If the Dems weren’t a joke party they could blow out 40 seats on this issue,” he tweeted on Thursday. “But they’ll campaign on abortion, gun control, and bathrooms.”

Wilson’s tweet was effective trolling that echoes a lot of critiques of the Democratic Party’s 2016 failings, which tend to fail to note that Roy Cooper, the one Democratic candidate who campaigned against a GOP “bathroom” law, won the governorship of a state Donald Trump won.

So I decided to ask Wilson to put a bit of meat on the skewer he put into Democrats 2018 chances.

“Democrats have a perfect opportunity to be relatable, disciplined, and focused,” he told me. “Does that sound like the Democratic Party to you?”

So what would he do if he were advising Democratic candidates?

“Get on and stay on one message, don’t make it about all the other party-purity issues. ‘Obamacare wasn’t perfect but the GOP made it 1000x worse.’ The ads write themselves.”

Republicans have spent most of a billion dollars attacking Obamacare. But in contrast to the GOP’s hive of scum and villainy known as the American Health Care Act, it has become suddenly popular. And there was always a secret weapon buried inside the bill.

In the lead-up to Thursday’s vote, Wilson warned Republicans testing he did in 2009-2010 about the Affordable Care Act. He found that voters from “EVERY group and I mean EVERY group” loved the ACA’s protections for those with pre-existing conditions.

“…it was the killer app,” he tweeted.

Then how have Republicans taken the White House, Congress and two-thirds of state legislatures by campaigning against it for six years, I wondered.

“Because fear of losing doctor access was a VERY powerful push. Then, rising premiums and deductibles. Complexity is scary.”

Guess what? The 24 million Americans the Congressional Budget Office estimated could lose coverage in an earlier draft of the GOP bill would all lose their doctors. The current bill magnifies the system’s complexities exponentially, with the potential for a different system in every state.

And the bill’s effects seem almost perfectly designed to drive older voters out of the Republican Party by raising their premiums, gutting Medicaid (which seniors rely on in ways that most Americans may not even understand yet), and robbing Medicare.

Wilson sees Democrats abandoning his prescription for constant trumpeting of “Obamacare wasn’t perfect but the GOP made it 1000x worse” for internecine fights about the party’s future that drive candidates to stake out positions that divide the party and confound the general public — like a never-ending 2016 primary. Brian Beutler called this Groundhog Day the party seems stuck in at times as “The Democratic Party’s Existential Crisis.”

The party’s grassroots has a long-held suspicion of the party’s DC leaders that has only been exacerbated by the shock of 2016’s narrow loss to a bumbling, aspiring tyrant.

Beutler offered a pretty simple formula for detente on this crisis by suggesting Bernie Sanders — and more importantly Sanders’ fervent backers who often seem to despise establishment Democrats as much as they hate Republicans — “support the most progressive candidate in every race, primary or general election.”

Daily Kos and SwingLeft are looking past these internal divides and focusing on the party nominee whoever she is. That formula could work, but Wilson might argue that you then end up with unelectable candidates.

However, Jon Ossoff and Rob Quist — Democratic special election candidates who are effectively competing in Republican districts that are not even necessary for the party to take back the House — seem to be doing well in tailoring their messages for their districts, as the GOP’s suicidal instincts do the job of heightening the contrasts between the parties.

And even if Democrats overcome their own divisions and stay fixated on a message that works for their constituents, there’s still a larger problem that Democrats seem to be either ignoring or at a loss to confront.

Since 2010, the GOP has gained extraordinary advantages from gerrymandering, a series of Supreme Court decisions exploding our campaign finance system as typified by Citizens United, and an attack on voting rights unlike anything since the 1960s.

Republicans have picked their voters and their voters keep picking them. They have an extraordinary off-year advantage because voters tend to be older, whiter and more rural and they have a party machine that exists in at least duplicate because of GOP donors’ 50 state “solution.”

Until Democrats confront these pre-existing conditions with a Manhattan Project or Marshall Plan to register and turn out unlikely voters, this whole debate will be as useless as that hour the House GOP allowed before voting on a bill that traded the biggest improvements in our health care system in 50 years for a few stacks of cash for the richest, who have never been richer.

Democratic nominee Joe Biden

If you were a Trump supporter anticipating a ruinous assault on Joe Biden's integrity during that final debate, too bad. What you got instead was a series of incomprehensible outbursts from Donald Trump, who seems to assume that everybody believes whatever nonsense they hear on Fox News, just like he does.

The day after the debate was even more disappointing. The Wall Street Journal, owned by Fox News chairman Rupert Murdoch himself, dropped a front-page investigative report that directly contradicted Trump's accusations about Biden and China. The only candidate with unseemly business over there is Trump himself, whose secret account in a Chinese bank was just exposed.

For months, Trump and his minions have hyped allegations of financial corruption against Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. Trump got himself impeached, with the help of legal genius Rudy Giuliani, over his attempt to force Ukraine's president to open a fake corruption probe of the former vice president and Burisma, the energy firm that once employed Biden's son Hunter. Their deception collapsed when Trump and Obama administration officials testified – with ample documentary evidence – that Biden had done nothing to protect Burisma and only carried out United States and European initiatives against corruption in Ukraine.

But that failure didn't discourage Giuliani, former Trump campaign chief Steve Bannon, or the other fabricators in the Trump entourage. In recent days, they have unveiled a mysterious laptop computer that purportedly belonged to Hunter Biden and reached Giuliani and then the New York Post through a series of implausible events. There are clues that the electronic data on the laptop was invented or altered. Who might do that? Let's see: The Kremlin is seeking to harm Biden politically, and Giuliani has openly welcomed the assistance of Russian intelligence assets, so the answer is fairly obvious. Especially because Russian agents provided similar services for the Republican candidate four years ago.

When the laptop gambit flopped, the Trumpsters still didn't give up.

On the eve of the debate, a Wall Street Journal columnist published a claim that Joe Biden personally profited from investments in China fronted by Hunter. Her column was based on assertions by a shadowy but euphoniously named businessman, a certain Tony Bobulinski. In a move worthy of that old pardoned felon Roger Stone, Bobulinski actually attended the Nashville debate (after staging a "press availability" where he refused to answer any questions.)

Unfortunately for both Bobulinski and that eager Journal columnist, her newspaper on Friday published the investigation that cratered their nefarious tale. After months of actual reporting, the Journal's real journalists found that the venture cited by Bobulinski "never received proposed funds from the Chinese company or completed any deals." Moreover, corporate records reviewed by the Journal's reporters "show no role for Joe Biden."

So far the Biden "scandal" most closely resembles Whitewater and the entire panoply of Clinton finance scandals that never revealed any wrongdoing whatsoever. Whatever Trump may spew and sputter, there is no plausible evidence that has been subjected to examination by journalists of integrity.

And fortunately for Biden, the nation's traditional news outlets are approaching the allegations against him with a cool and appropriate skepticism. That wasn't the case in 2016, the last time Steve Bannon played the same games. For Bannon and Giuliani, as well as their echoes across right-wing media, the objective was always to launch their false narratives into the mainstream. They succeeded brilliantly in 2016, with the assistance of the New York Times and other news organizations that should have known better and done better. This time they are failing.

In promoting these serial smears, the risk for Donald Trump is always that someone competent will inspect his record. That's what should have happened four years ago, when he and Bannon falsely attacked the Clinton Foundation while concealing the sordid truth about the Trump Foundation, a brazen criminal enterprise.

That 2016 frameup was a classic instance of projection – and we can assume the same dynamic is at work today. So now is the time to scrutinize all of the Trump Organization's crooked, conflicted deals overseas – and how he and his family have profited from his presidency.