Monday, November 27, 2017

Attack against press freedom is the first step to the end of democracy

Revised and updated: 11/30/17

A version of this was published in the Sky Hi News, 12/6/17

Added January 17, 2018

Added: 12/9/17
Net neutrality is also an element of taking away medium freedom.  To understand why,

Everyday I am grateful for this country.  I know that if I lived in Putin’s Russia or Erdogan’s Turkey or any number of countries in the world ruled by “strong men” or  despots, I could could risk my life or freedom by writing  this column that often is in opposition to our country’s Leader’s  view of the world and issues. Fundamentally important first steps  enabling despots to  rise to power and their keeping it was their  destruction of the freedom of press by degrading,  killing,  or imprisoning  journalists and bankrupting opposition press through manipulation by various means.

If citizens only hear one slant on the news, mind control follows. Having many outlets funded by a variety of owners permits those in a democracy to come to their own conclusions which may even be contrary to the interests of their dear Leader. As those who studied the methods of control of media by despots, know that it happens in steps and slowly until it is too late for any opposition to find a platform. For the sake of our democracy, any tendencies of political leaders to try to destroy press freedom must be recognized and nipped in the bud at the beginning before it is too late.

I lived in Berlin in the late 1950’s with a front row seat to the Stalinization of Eastern Germany and I married a refugee from dictator Tito’s Yugoslavia, visiting that Communist  country frequently for many years.  I spent my time in Berlin on a quest of understanding how Hitler rose to power in an educated, western cultural country. What I did learn was that the first step in consolidating power was  destruction of the free press . Our founders even in the 1700s understood that and wrote protections in the First Amendment of  our Constitution. For that reason, media  in the US was once  called the fourth estate, the fourth branch of government  checking each other’s power in addition to the legislative, executive, and judicial branches.

In our  divided country thanks to the Trump campaign and administration,  we have begun questioning any “truth” or “facts” presented by the “other”  side . That is extremely dangerous to any democracy  that depends on open debate of issues  and consensus based on commonly agreed facts.  Claiming there are no credible facts except those presented by the Leader (Hitler called contrary press, the lying press..Lugenpresse) is a tool wannabe dictators  have used to destroy freedom of the press. In fact, at campaign rallies some of Trump supporters aggressively chanted "Lugenpresse" at reporters.

Especially alarming is Donald Trump’s recent attack on CNN and his stated embrace of  only one approved cable news network, FOX News.. Those media outlets who present facts contrary to his pronouncements  or criticize  him are often called “fake news” . Trump Thanksgiving weekend tweeted to  declare that Fox News “is MUCH more important in the United States than CNN,” adding that CNN represents the United States "poorly" to the world. At the same time his Justice Department  sued to block a media merger that critics claimed was a move  to force the sale of CNN, a frequent target of Trump as the conveyor of “fake news”. At the same time, Trump's appointed Federal Communications Commission enacted rules paving the way for the merger of a pro Trump group, Sinclair Media with Tribune Media . At the same time, his FCC approved rules permitting consolidation of local media outlets, including lifting the rule prohibiting print media to also own TV and radio stations, reducing the variety of news sources and interpretations available to viewers. This was overtly favoring and strengthening the media domination of major markets by his chosen media.


The only bright side of Trump's view of what is fake news and what is not is that it has become obvious that the chief conveyor of fake news is Trump himself via his tweets. So outrageous were his tweets in the past couple of weeks, he damaged his own credibility , contradicting his own prior declarations. A recent Trump tweet gave  the link and his accolades to a conspiracy theory media outlet, MAGAPILL.  The site  spouted White Nationalist, anti Semitic, and far fetched paranoia . The following week his tweets linked to a British web site promoting hate mongering anti Muslim propaganda containing a video already debunked by Dutch authorities and raising the ire of the UK Prime Minister and members of Parliament.

An attempt by the right wing group Veritas to try to trap the Washington Post into demonstrating they were the source of fake news backfired last week as well. An undercover worker tried to sell Post reporters on a story that was fake as a way to bait them into reporting a fake news story to damage their credibility. The problem was that the reporters did their due diligence on the story and discovered the sting operation, only proving that the Post's skills and reporting were even more credible and respected, not less.

Do I think Trump read Hitler’s, Putin’s, Erdogan’s playbook about how to turn a democracy into their type of “strong man” governance?  He certainly has shown a nearly fawning admiration of their style, but he also has demonstrated  ignorance of the Constitutional provisions and  lack of interest in American history and seems angered when some judicial body or judge  reigns him in, calling an executive order he issued as  unconstitutional.  The concept of the  rule of law seems to be a puzzle to him. His answer: stack the courts with  appointees with ideologues favorable to his beliefs. He has already tamed all but of few of the GOP members of Congress, who fear meeting his true believers in their gerrymandered district’s primary.   No, I do not think he has read the despots and dictator’s playbook, though he tries to mimic some of their techniques.    He is an organic , impulsive wannabe strong man; it is a part of his nature and his soul.

Friday, November 24, 2017

A warning to the politically smug: What goes around can come around

One of the beauties of our still functioning democracy is that the political pendulum can yet swing.  Yes,  democracy is still intact, a bit wounded, though, and some  tactics that worked for the GOP in the Trump era can also be used by Democrats, too, whenever they become a governing majority. Imagine if the shoe were on the other foot, if Democrats took over the House in 2018 and the  Senate and White House in 2020. Trump era attempts to sabotage  affordable health insurance by executive order or tax breaks for the wealthy could be rolled back. Whatever discriminatory executive  orders regarding Muslims and immigrants , or discrimination  against certain groups under the guise of religious freedom, that  survived judicial scrutiny of their constitutionality could also be reversed.

All reversals and new agenda could happen more easily and quickly, too, since the GOP Senate changed rules in 2017 and set precedence for use of parliamentary procedural tricks. If and when  Democrats became the majority, they too could take advantage of them. The GOP Senate has set  in motion ways to pass legislation and approve judicial appointees with  51, instead of 60 votes, avoiding   filibusters and the need for bipartisan compromise ,  permitting a bare party majority to steamroll over the minority, and ensuring the end of moderation.

The pendulum is still able to swing and  some recent elections indicate a possible  backlash against GOP and  Trump excesses in 2018 and 2020. We still are a democracy. We still have an independent media in spite of Trump’s branding any news that is not favorable to him as fake or his wishing  to get the FCC to take CNN’s licenses away or denying their merger or treating Fox News as  the favored one to be taken as the only  truth tellers. We still have an independent judiciary in spite of fast track efforts by GOP to fill federal bench vacancies .What if there are no Supreme Court vacancies to fill until after 2020 and two occur? The Court’s ideological balance could also swing back to the center or left with Democrats in charge. Policies that both benefit little and hurt many in the middle class while making the rich richer could anger voters  as pocket book pain and disappointments  are felt in real  election time pain and disappointment. It is even more possible there would be a backlash benefitting Democrats  if  Special Prosecutor  Robert Mueller actually puts some of Trump’s close associates in jail or finds proof that Trump himself obstructed justice or was compromised by the Russians.  

What could hamper a pendulum swing?  One is foreign interference in elections and another,  ineptitude of the Democratic party. We know now  from Congressional hearings Russians  were running ads and spreading their pro Trump, false news,  cultural divisive  issue support messages to 146 million targeted  and unwitting  Facebook users. What if they try it again in 2018 and 2020?  Will voters be willing dupes or educated enough to discount those attempts or will Congress require disclosure of foreign media and internet posting  and ad sources?

Given the potential of the GOP to  alienate their moderates, Democrats should be able to ride a swinging pendulum. However, Democrats  are  without a positive  message about what they would differently and without a unifying leader, and face a divide and conquer vulnerability with a  potential fight between the moderates and the Bernie Sanders wing.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Judge Roy Moore runs into a cultural shift

A version of this was published in the Sky Hi News Nov. 29, 2017

Updated 12/6/2017: Time Magazine named the cultural shift Time's Person of the Year

The  firestorm over the candidacy of Judge Roy Moore is not the beginning of a heap full of a cultural shift in the US but a catharsis and a result.  On December 12, as Alabama voters go to the polls.  Alabama  is a battleground  among three  currents of thought: those who put moral and fairness values above political concerns; those who  who believe the accusations,  but put political concerns above moral outrage, and those who hear, see or ,speak no evil and thereby  can avoid making the choice between a clean conscience and and achieving  political goals. However the December vote plays out, the GOP  in the US  loses. They lose either a seat in the Senate or they are burdened with  reputation of a party that does not care enough about the personal qualities of their candidates.

Why the shift? What is different now than earlier is that more women are working side by side with men. Plaintiff attorneys have demonstrated a successful technique to find multiple women  victims willing to speak out so  they could  show a pattern of behavior, which makes each accuser  more credible. I date the technique resulting in women being believed instead of being treated as liars and publicity seekers to the Bill Cosby trial.  What has not changed is that the workplace is mostly still male who are in the position of power over women’s career advancement and who have gotten away with taking advantage of women far too long and who missed the signals of changing attitudes. The cultural shift is still a work in progress. In 2016, moral outrage lost out to political expediency when Donald Trump won in spite of the credibility  of multiple  witnesses to  many of his penchant to grab women  and his boasting of his conduct recorded on the Access Hollywood tapes. “Deny, deny” worked well enough  for him and showed the way  for Roy Moore to defend himself.

All cases of  accusations of  unwelcomed male sexual conduct toward women are not alike. Where the  Roy Moore issue  differs from the accused behavior of Donald Trump and Al Franken  or past president’s infidelities is that Moore preyed on children who  were were not considered old enough to make decisions about their sexual choices. He is an accused pedophile. However, the issue has opened the floodgates to ensnare actors, celebrities, politicians, and intellectual icons whose alleged or proven victims were women of legal age.  

While politics and policies are an integral part of the storm, the issue of sexual victimism of women and girls is non partisan.  Bad male behavior toward women used to be mildly  tolerated and expected by women who were beginning to work in jobs once solely occupied by men. Sometimes public exposure  of sexual misdeeds was used  and excused as political weapons  against political adversaries , or it was swept under the guise of locker room talk, while those who came forth were  publicly shamed.  Even in my memory, the sexual escapades of FDR, JFK,  and Bill Clinton  were either ignored by the good ole boy press at the time, passed off as “he said, she said,” or revealed later by historians and investigative  journalists.  Many of the accused now of past  misdeeds will only stand trial in the court of public opinion or the ballot box or Senate ethics processes because the statute of limitations ran out.  The only president to pay the price while in office was  Bill  Clinton who was nearly  impeached.

Some have called it a Faustian bargain to believe the accusations, but to in spite of that think it is more important to ignore them if it advances a political goal.

Why Faust? The greatest work in German literature, Faust,  was authored  in the late 1700’sby  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.  He tackled a basic human dilemma,  a conflicted man making a choice between being moral or losing  out on other personal goals.  In Goethe’s plan,  Faust   makes an arrangement with the devil: the devil will do everything that Faust wants while he is here on Earth, and in exchange Faust will serve the devil in Hell.   That whether Roy Moore is a devil and those who believe he committed those acts, yet support him because his vote in needed in the Senate for other conservative issues is an over the top analogy is debatable. But it does illustrate a common  human dilemma. In most of the accused of sexual predatory behavior  involved of age women or  who were compromised by slipping them a mickey (Bill Cosby). Where the Moore issue is even more extreme and differs from the behavior of Donald Trump and Al Franken is that Moore is an accused pedophile who preyed on children.  But, as Kellyanne Ann Conway, often spokesperson for Donald Trump, said on cable news, the decision is up to the people of Alabama, but his vote is needed to pass tax reform. The Alabama  chair of the GOP gave the same kind of rationalization in the party’s continued support of Moore.  Faust’s bargain lives on.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Talking turkey about religious freedom

A version of this was published in the Sky Hi News Nov. 22, 2017

Update: Dec. 5, 6, 16 2017: Supreme Court to hear the Masterpiece Cakeshop case:

Hopefully not forgotten  when we feast Thanksgiving   is the reason the Pilgrims risked  the dangerous passage  across the ocean . It was to find a place to practice their religion free of persecution by the English crown.  It took another 160 years before the concept of religious freedom changed from  just for protecting  the practice of the majority group’s  religion to  Constitutionally enshrined   tolerance  of all to practice their religion free  from  government  restrictions and persecution, prohibiting  the establishment of a state religion that meant the separation of church and state.  Those. provisions were incorporated in the First Amendment :“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religions, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….”

To reach an agreement  from the desire of colonialists to protect only their  own colony’s majorities’ religious practices to protecting everyone else’s took time and  bitter experiences. The Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony hung Quakers for not going along with their concept of purification.  Roger Williams left the Colony to found Rhode Island  as a result. Nearly every colony had established their state approved religion before 1776 and some, like Maryland, found themselves entangled in anti-Catholic  turmoil.

Interpretation of  the meaning of the First Amendment is constantly under pressure for revision  by conservative  religious  groups who want to expand its meaning to suit their own brand of theology, sometimes  to the detriment of others who hold  different beliefs and values. A changing  ideological makeup of the Courts will help  the religious right find success  for years to come

 In our divisive partisan times  there is a concerted  fast track effort  by  the  GOP majority Senate  to approve  young appointees  to lifetime  federal bench  positions who demonstrate  allegiance to a   very conservative  religious based  ideology with less regard of  their professional credentials  and  judicial temperament. In the last Obama administration years, the GOP Senate dragged its heels in approving Obama's nominations, leaving 159 seats (1/8 of the total) vacant for a GOP Senate to fill in 2017-2018. Last week  a GOP dominated  Senate committee gave approval  for a federal judgeship to  blogger Brett Talley,  a  highly partisan Trump administration family member  with no court trial experience and who was  declared unfit to serve  by the  American Bar Association.  With the appointment of  Judge Neil Gorsuch to the US Supreme Court  this year  even past decisions could be in jeopardy  of revision given the tilt of the Court to the right, including the reversal of Roe v Wade and the right to same sex marriage. It is likely to happen..

Could tax payer funded vouchers be issued for students to attend religious based schools?  In Douglas County, Colorado,  an election of a school board that  advocated such  vouchers triggered  suits claiming violation of the separation of church and state,  resulting in stalled  court decisions, and a  successful counter revolution against  the voucher advocates in recent school board elections  this  November 7. Outside groups supporting vouchers  plan to continue the  legal fight.  Courts have ruled against state legislation banning Sharia law on Constitutional grounds .Federal courts overturned President Trump’s “Muslim ban” twice  as  religious discrimination.  However, with a  third revision, the ban was given  partial life by the Supreme Court  on procedural matters, but other challenges on substance remain. A Trump executive order in October permitted employers to stop insurance coverage of birth control on religious grounds. A court case to permit businesses  to refuse service  to gays  because of religious beliefs, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission ,will be heard and decided by the US Supreme Court in 2018.  

Even the  the candidacy of Judge Roy Moore in Alabama reminds us of his advocacy of the public  government display of the Ten Commandments to discrimination against gays were also struck down by courts on First Amendment grounds.

While Pilgrims and Puritans came to America to practice their own brand of Christianity free of the King of England’s persecution, tolerance of others was not their purpose. It was the son of the Age of Reason, Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom in 1779 and his concepts were incorporated in the First Amendment by those who argued for separation of church and state. disestablishment of state churches and protection of religious freedom.

For those who argue our country was founded on Christianity, that this is a Christian nation,  it  may have been  so at the beginning, but it was not  ultimately reflected in our Constitution.  It was the Age of Reason that was the non-religious, non sectarian view which prevailed in the First Amendment.  The new nation  reflected  Judeo-Christian values, if not a specific theology,  of the dominant  western European culture of the time.   Our founders did acknowledge that we had rights endowed to us, the people, by the Creator. Still fought by atheists is whether we are indeed “one nation under God” and much has been made that Masonic symbolism permeates our national symbols and architecture.  The model used as a form of government  by our founders mostly  was Roman. The philosophers drawn upon  in the enlightenment and age of reason  by Jefferson were Greek and their 18th century interpreters. A motivating pragmatic reason may have been the history of bloody wars and divisiveness of the Catholic-Protestant conflict that swept  England and Europe for centuries  after the Reformation, as well as the unfairness of Kings who claimed they had the divine right to govern absolutely.  By banning a state religion and providing for the separation of church and state, those bloody religious based civil wars were made less likely.

Dec. 4 2017 update.
In the recent version of the tax bill that passed out of the Senate and is on the way to conference committee, Orin Hatch sneaked in an amendment that permits tax deductions for the cost of going to a private school...any...including religious. However, for expenses parents may have to attend public school, there is no tax break. Expect this to be challenged in court.

Also, see the 9/19/17  blog posting on this site: Islamphobia Comes to Grand County.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Veteran's Day Prayer

This is an excerpt from my blog posting and a column published in the Sky Hi News in May 2015,  My prayer is relevant today as we face a potential devastating nuclear war in Korea. The text of the poem that inspired the day of remembrance, In Flander's Fields:

Veterans Day names and celebrations differ from country to country. Originally called Armistice Day, it is to celebrate on the day the combatants signed the end World War I. Most countries (except France and Belgium) the holiday name.  The United Kingdom and Canada in 1931 adopted the name  Remembrance Day, while the United States chose All Veterans Day (later shortened to 'Veterans Day')  in 1938 and later extended it to  honor military veterans of all conflicts. When I was a child in Oklahoma in the 1950s we still referred to it as Armistice Day. I remember wearing a crepe paper poppy on that day to remind us of the end of World War I and those that died in it.
 I have often found myself on British Commonwealth territory in November. Artificial poppies, red with a distinctive black middle, are worn in remembrance of the fallen in the poppy covered Flanders Fields in Belgium inspired by a poem by John McCrae. Poppies are sold as fund raisers to provide charity to veterans of all wars. I always bought a poppy to remind me that our close allies in the British Commonwealth suffered even more than us in World War I.

In remembering my relatives and ancestors who fought on our behalf, I do have a special prayer. It contains thanks for their service but I also pray that the leaders who will send them to battle in the future have the wisdom to avoid putting them in harms way in vain and first seek other options to settle conflicts. War should only be a defensive action against an attack on us and our allies. To launch wars as a preemptive strike should never be in our country’s traditions.

A version of this appeared in the Sky Hi Daily News Friday May 22, 2015

A fellow Rotarian asked if I had ever heard this version of Waltzing Matilda which became a war protest song in the 70's.  I thought I had heard most of the folk songs of that era, but this one I had not, or if I did, I forgot it.  On Poppy Day, as I called veteran's day, and also celebrated it in UK territories, I thought this was a reminder of the horrors of war, not only horrible to those who died, but the horrors of  the wounded warriors who returned home.  Thank goodness we no longer practice trench warfare, and modern medicine saves so many who otherwise would have been corpses, the return of them home is equally devastating, new protheses technology not withstanding, and especially those with PTSD.

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Freedom Caucus is becoming an oxymoron.

Revised November 12, 2017
 Version of this published as a column in the Sky Hi News, November 15, 2015 p 7

"Keeping up  with the Mueller investigation  will risk a coup d'etat"  could be taken as   an implied  threat  by  hard core members of  the  Congressional Freedom Caucus even though it is couched in terms of an outcome  if  Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller continues his investigation  into Donald Trump's administration.
Have they lost their minds? What they are saying is frightening. Within our democratic form a government, impeachment is the method of regime change.  By definition, a coup d'etat is" the sudden attempt by a small group of people to take over the government usually through violence." (Merriam-Webster) .A coup , a  non democratic power takeover, destroys any pretext of freedom and begins a chain of counter coups, economy killing instability, and civil war. Including the word "freedom"  in their caucus name itself is  an oxymoron, the opposite of what they say they stand for.

The Freedom Caucus' reasoning is  they believe Special Prosecutor  Robert Mueller is getting revenge  against Pres. Trump for the firing of Mueller's  friend,  fired FBI director  James Comey. Per chief advocate Rep. Matt Gaetz  of Florida that Mueller as former FBI director failed to prosecute Hillary Clinton on the Uranium One deal where the right wing alleged there was bribery that involved Russian investments.  Therefore, there is an appearance of a conflict of interest, they say. There is no evidence that Mueller is investigating Clinton as part of the Russian probe. It remains a conspiracy theory since even the accusers have presented no evidence Clinton intervened  on behalf of the State Department in the issue to pressure the other eight agencies who also reviewed and  approved the deal.  That these theories and suspicions are a  cause for dismissal will not fly, given the overwhelming accolades  of his competence and independence that followed Mueller's appointment. Firing for cause means that there is incompetence or abuse of power that is provable.  Suspecting political motivations do not count as a cause. The problem for the Freedom Caucus  is that Mueller's competence has been so  credibly demonstrated in his  meticulous and detailed  indictments, he  has now become  a serious  threat to their hero, Donald Trump.

 These Freedom Caucus members  are divorced from reality  for even suggesting a coup could happen.  A coup  by whom? Some  volunteer militia out there? Alt right activists waiving torches?  By the generals  in the administration like White House Chief of Staff, John F Kelly, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, and National Security Adviser  H.R.McMaster,   men  well educated in political science whose oath  of office includes a duty to democracy and the Constitution? 
The founders of our country and the Constitution warned us about such kinds of threats to democracy.  .That is  why they provided the impeachment process in the Constitution, the alternative to coups, armed insurrections,  and revolution to determine the legitimate  ruler. Impeachment is the more  likely outcome of the Russian connection investigation if Trump were to fire Mueller, his ultimate act of obstruction of justice. The GOP dominated  House of Representatives would never begin the  impeachment process. Flipping it blue to impeach Trump  would at minimum become  the dominating 2018 campaign issue.

 These members of  the  Freedom Caucus  must have slept through  history classes,  much less civics. History of the past hundred years  is littered with failed states with countries who trashed their democratic institutions.  A lesson from history:  a warning that without citizen support, democracy is  damned. Most dictators and autocrats from banana republics to large industrialized  countries gained power by popular vote, flaunting laws established in their governing documents, including  Hitler, who was elected to office.  Once gaining power in the voting booth, they set about ignoring or  eating alive any constraints on their power. It is happening now in Russia, Turkey, elsewhere.    Those who care about our Constitution and rule of law need to start speaking out loudly.

From history and current events, we can see what we could repeat. As the French Revolution unfolded, even the inventor of the guillotine eventually  fell to its blade as the revolution got out of control. Coups blow   back even on their instigators.  What goes around has a way of coming around. The next half century of the 1800's resulted in Napoleon's reign  and restoration of monarchy.  Because of our newly minted Constitution, America did not fall into that trap. 
Fareed Zakaria outlines how that is happening within our memories and now.

So what is  wrong with a military coup and rule by the military that motivated our founders to set up safeguards against military coups? Military rule is hard on both sides of a conflict and destabilizing. Our founders  realized that and put civilians with power over  the military. 

Janet Schaw, a Scot visiting her brother , likely an English loyalist in Wilmington  North Carolina, in 1775, wrote of her time in the colonies:"At present the martial law stands thus: An officer or committeeman enters a plantation with his posse. The alternative is proposed. Agree to join us [Whigs] and your persons and properties are safe . . . if you refuse, we are directly to cut up your corn, shoot your pigs, burn your houses, … and perhaps tar and feather yourself. Not to choose the first requires more courage than they are possessed"

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Health care a top concern in key elections Nov. 2017.

Nov. 28: Nov. 28, update CBO Score: The new score includes the impact of removing the individual mandate from Obamacare. It verifies that premiums would rise so much, 4 million could not afford health insurance by 2019 and 13 million by end of bill. Also, the middle class cuts go away and hurts them.

The CBO report, released Sunday, estimates that lower-income groups would foot a bigger bill from tax cuts than previously expected. In 2019, all income groups under $30,000 would have a bigger burden under the bill, the CBO projected.
In 2027, that would extend to all income groups under $75,000, as individual tax reductions expire.
The change largely stems from the bill effectively getting rid of the Obamacare provision requiring most Americans to have health insurance or p...

Revised Nov 12, 2017

Update Nov.15, 2017: Repeal of individual mandate in Obamacare attached  is to tax reform bill in Senate. How did this end up as a tax issue? Calling the penalty on those who do not have health insurance a tax. A rose is a rose but this one stinks. The budget and deficit implications also fit into the tax reform bill because it would reduce government expenses by $338 billion. Leading advocate and voice  Sen. James
Lankford  (R-OK)on MSNBC today called this penalty  a tax on the poor who could not afford to pay the premiums.  Oklahoma already has one of the  worst uninsured rate in the US.second only to Texas.
Oklahoma refused to expand Medicaid. If they had, 84,000 would would have access to health insurance.
CBO score on eliminating the individual mandate would leave 4 million uninsured by 2019, 13 million by 2027 nationwide. and would increase premiums in the individual market by 10% in most years over the next decade .

Those who think GOP's inability to govern is why they lost elections November 7  are barking up the wrong tree. .While cultural and racial issues certainly were factors, , issues were important.. It is not just the GOP has failed to pass legislation, it is the kind of legislation they tried to pass. Voters  are paying attention to issues and how they impact their family finances.

Analyzing various polls, CNBC concluded about the Virginia governor's race ""More than twice as many people said Gillespie's support of Obamacare repeal made it less likely they would vote for him than said his support would make it likely he would win their vote." GOP Candidate  Ed Gillespie lost by 9%.  

The irony of health care being such a factor in key November races is that GOP's attempt to repeal Obamacare gave free advertising of the benefits of Obamacare. Voters who had been suckered in by GOP messages of the evils of Obamacare suddenly realized they almost lost something important to their economic well-being.. Not only did this awakening  figure into the elections, enrollment in Obamacare has surged, breaking records.

 Failure to pass legislation may be frustrating for Trump's core supporters., but the problem was what  harm their legislation would have done to everyone else. It was the GOP's desire to take away Obamacare benefits and health insurance affordability and their opposition to expanding Obamacare's Medicaid in certain states besides Virginia..  In Maine , an initiative to expand Medicaid under Obamacare  to cover more people was overwhelmingly approved..  

What could also be emerging is public realization of the paltry crumbs of tax relief thrown to the middle class in order to give enormous tax relief to the wealthy.  The tax reform issue will have center stage in the coming weeks as it is debated in both houses of Congress  and public awareness will increase. In spite of doubling the standard deduction,  as the bills stand now, 9% of tax filers with income between $48,600 to $86,400 per year will get a tax hike next year.   31% of the middle class will see a tax increase by 2027 while the rich will enjoy their huge tax relief forever. Popular itemized deductions are on the GOP chopping block  from real estate taxes, student loan interest and employer provided tuition reimbursement, state and local income taxes, and high medical bills. 

.This may help point to way to the Democrats finding themselves in 2018. Democrats have been coasting on Trump's unpopularity, but they need a positive message as well.   If Democrats focus on pocket book issues and the   harm GOP legislative initiatives are doing to kitchen table issues, they may be able to find a theme that could flip  Congress blue  in the 2018 midterms.  Pocket book issues are a great unifying theme in these cultural divisive times.  They cross racial, gender, and geographical lines. That is the lesson Democrats should learn from November 7.

See how different groups are voting in the Virginia governor’s race between Ralph Northam, Ed Gillespie and Cliff Hyra