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Author: Ted St. Hilaire

In 1944, President Franklin Roosevelt urged Congress to pass a “second bill of rights.” Number six on the list was “the right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.” So, began the drive to assure access to health care for every American. Though Congress failed to pass the second bill of rights, the Democratic Party has not given up the fight and they never should. Presidents Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, and Clinton all sought ways to make health care available to all. Republicans have been unbending in their opposition and President Lyndon Johnson was able to accomplish a part of the goal through Medicare. When finally, President Obama and a Congress controlled by Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Republicans were furious and pledged to repeal it.

Now that the Republicans control the Presidency and the Congress, they have found that all their mocking and belittling of the ACA, which they cynically label as Obamacare, has not tarnished its popularity. The American public does not want their access to health care taken away. It has become politically unpopular to simply repeal the ACA and return to the pre-ACA circumstance. So now the Republicans are trying to replace the ACA with their own version which they say will keep the good parts of the ACA and eliminate the problematic parts. The House has passed their version; next the Senate will work on their version.

As troubling as this Congressional action is to Democrats, we can find some solace in the fact that Republicans seem to have conceded, for the most part, that progress toward universal health care for Americans has taken a new step forward; they now understand that Americans want and insist on having access to health care available to everyone. The battle is not won but progress has been made and sometime in the future health care will be a right for all, not just for those who can afford it.

Author: Justin Crabtree

I’ve been conscious of politics and political issues most of my adult life. Aside from a small amount of volunteering for Barack Obama in 2008 while in college, I had never been active in politics until this last year. Washington being a caucus state and me being rather passionate about the choices presented in the Democratic presidential primary, I was forced to do more than just check a box or mark a line on a ballot. In order for my voice to be heard, I had to attend my precinct caucus. At that caucus we had to decide who would represent the group at the legislative district caucus. Unlike most of the precincts meeting that day, my precinct only had a few attendees and since I was one of the few willing and able to go to the next caucus, I was elected as a delegate.

Being packed into a high school gym on an uncharacteristically hot April afternoon with several hundred fellow delegates from my legislative district, listening to speeches from those that wanted to move even further on to the next caucus level, I found myself surprised by how many I could relate very directly to and how many seemed to share my views and goals for our society. For the first time I felt like maybe I wasn’t as alone as I thought as I was in thinking that we could do better for everyone in society, not just constantly be looking out only for ourselves. I realized that there were so many people at my local level feeling the same frustrations with a system designed to benefit the wealthy and powerful and punish the disadvantaged, and that they wanted to change things. I realized that if all of us worked together, we might actually have a real chance to change things.

That realization is what spurred me to get involved with my local Democratic party organization as a PCO. I didn’t really know what to expect and it’s been a constant learning process, sometimes good, sometimes not so great. Whenever things feel difficult or even impossible, I think back to that April afternoon and remind myself of that feeling of hope. I remind myself that the change I seek is possible as long as I keep fighting and keep working together with the many people fighting for the same change.

Author: Charlene Rawson

“Beautiful, elegant, and gentle with a core of iron and a burning passion for social justice…”

That is how I will remember Rashida Harris who I saw just last month after she returned from her most recent trip to India. When I joined the 38th LD Democrats in 2000, Rashida was, and had been for some time, our State Committeewoman. I have no idea how many decades she served as a PCO for Everett 75. I only know that a flame that burned brightly in our organization long before I arrived burns elsewhere now.

Rest in eternal peace, sweet Rashida. My deepest regret is that this world failed to achieve in your lifetime, the peace and harmony for which you so yearned.

Author: Ted St. Hilaire

The Republican controlled House of Representatives has, over the years, voted over sixty times to repeal the Affordable Care Act. So, it seemed that when the House Republicans unveiled its proposed repeal and replace bill, that they would finally have their way. The bill’s proponents asserted that the replacement would improve accessibility, lower insurance premiums, provide more choice in plans in that they can be tailor-made, allow purchasing insurance across State lines, that no one would lose coverage, and that it would retain coverage of existing conditions. It would eliminate the individual mandate, Medicaid expansion would, within several years, replace subsidies with tax credits, would eliminate taxes imposed by the ACA, and would eliminate the requirement to include mental health and addiction.

However, facts belied those Republican claims. First accessibility to purchase a health insurance policy depends not only on availability but also on affordability. The elimination of the Medicaid expansion would make a comprehensive health care policy unaffordable for those dependent on Medicaid assistance, hence accessibility is not improved but in fact lost for millions of Americans. Second, Insurance premiums of all kinds based on the open market never decrease; they only increase and the amount depends of market costs of goods needed to repair damage covered by the policy. Third, increased choices do not guarantee adequate coverage. Tailor-made policies can leave out coverage of specific items that a person could decide not to include due to cost of belief that the specific hazard will never happen to him/her/or their child. Fourth, there is no federal prohibition of crossing state lines for the purchase of insurance premiums. Each State has its own laws and regulations which make the inter- state buying of insurance premiums complicated and costly. Fifth, the CBO’s assessment of the Republican health care bill states that initially 14 million who are now insured will lose health care insurance and that in nine years’ time 24 million will have lost health care insurance. That will mean more uninsured than there was before the Affordable Care Act. Sixth, eliminating the individual mandate will drive up premium costs due to the decrease in policy holders and probably decrease the coverage of the policies either by what is covered or by the dollar limitations allowed. Seventh, rural and low-income populations will lose the most due to the loss of Medicaid and as they learn of the loss of the ACA they began to oppose its repeal.

The Republican apparent lock-step approach to the repeal and replacement of the ACA proved to be unfounded. For varying reasons, moderate and libertarian Republicans criticized elements of the House Bill; moderates felt it was going too far and Libertarians felt it didn’t go far enough. The “Freedom Caucus” opposed replacement; it wanted only to repeal the ACA. Democrats were universally opposed so that even if the House had approved the bill, the Senate’s approval seemed doubtful. Finally, at the last moment, the Republican leadership, realizing they lacked the votes to approve the bill, withdrew from the floor.

It may have seemed that this saga was coming to a finale; but it hasn’t. The Republican distaste for government social programs is far too strong to let this issue die. Discussion among Republican members of the House continues. The extremist “Freedom Caucus” wanted no replacement of the ACA, only its repeal. Moderates do not want their constituents to lose health insurance; they want to replace the methodology of providing it. In those red States where the ACA was implemented through Medicaid expansion, the beneficiaries learned that the ACA and Obamacare are the same thing and soon voiced their opposition to repealing and replacing Obamacare with the Republican plan.

The heath care issue will probably continue to be discussed and fought over in Congress and ‘the nation indefinitely. Medicare’s popularity does not discourage some from trying to repeal or replace or privatize it. Democrats need to stand firm in protecting federally subsidized and effective health care insurance.

Author: Hillary Pirtle, Vice Chair of the 38th Legislative District Democrats

For the duration of the 2016 US presidential campaign, Donald Trump promised massive disruption of the American political landscape, marked by racially divisive and xenophobic rhetoric. In his first ten days in office, President Trump delivered on this promise with a series of controversial Executive Orders, many of which seemed to come as a surprise to lawmakers and lack constitutional grounding. This blitzkrieg of autocratic decrees not only delivers on Trump’s divisive campaign rhetoric, but quickly sets the norms and expectations of the Trump administration: secrecy, lies, and chaos. But for all the negativity that has come with his presidency, Trump has awoken from its depressive post-election stupor the newly defiant left wing of the country. We have a resistance.

On Fridy January 20, protesters turned out both nationally and globally to oppose the inauguration of President Trump. The next day, millions of women marched in solidarity in every state of the union, on every continent on Earth – to protest the open hostility of the incoming administration to human rights, including equal pay for equal work, reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, and Black Lives Matter. In Seattle, the Women’s March had approximately 130,000 attendees and was marked with diversity in age, race, and socio-economic class.

On Friday January 27th, Trump hastily signed Executive Order 13769, aka the “Muslim Ban”. The order immediately stopped visitors, students, and most confusingly green card-holding legal permanent residents of the United States. If you want to enter the US from any of the seven countries in which the majority religion is Islam, this EO aims to block your entry. Legal scholars agreed that the EO was poorly executed and confusing – in an interview with Yale Daily News, Georgetown Law Professor and former Secretary of Health and Human Services Peter Edelman described the EO as wreaking “grossly incompetent havoc”. Students, professionals, workers, and family members were turned away at airports around the US – many of whom were permanent US residents.

While customs agents and lawyers scrambled to interpret the virtually unprecedented EO, the people of America, as they often do in times of crisis, stood up to defend our basic human rights in the face of injustice.

That evening, we quickly saw the emergence of individual citizens mobilizing and sitting in airports with signs demanding the release of the detained travelers. Volunteer immigration attorneys showed up in droves to offer free legal advice and services to the detained. At Sea-Tac airport, approximately 3,000 protesters converged throughout the airport and some were met with violence from Airport Police who utilized pepper spray. Nationally, more than 30 cities organized to protest Trump’s immigration policies.

On Tuesday, Chicago Tribune photographer (and Italian immigrant) Nuccio DiNuzzo shared on Twitter a photo of two fathers smiling and chatting while protesting the immigration ban at O’Hare International Airport with their children atop their shoulders. While the scene was likely similar to countless other interactions at airports around the country, this photo went viral and to date, has been shared over 16,000 times. One of the fathers, wearing a yarmulke, holds a sign that says “Jews Against The Ban.” The other father, his daughter wearing a hijab, holds a sign that says “Empathy.”

Like the unprecedented resistance and protest that President Trump’s first week in office has prompted, the simple photo provides hope and promise. A Muslim and a Jew – united against hate, their children laughing together, while a throng of people protest around them – promises that regardless of what Trump and his administration may have planned, a people united will never be defeated.