Democrats, Don’t Let the GOP Sandbag Healthcare Reform With the Border Crisis
When the 2020 campaign started I was of the mind that it was really okay that the points made on issues in the first Democratic Debate were not clearly drawn. The general election is still over a year away, it really didn’t matter so much that the details were confusing because there are a lot of details. It all started out back in June with everyone just trying to get their minds around all these — by and large — good candidates. Mostly fundamentally decent people.
I’ve already written about the most significant points in the first debate when Kamala Harris showed her considerable prosecutorial skill, then had to deal with disingenuous and pathetic efforts— much of which I did and still do believe are deeply rooted in race and gender bias— to discredit her.
Or in the second debate when Julian Castro had some good moments demonstrating his particular ability to best fellow Texan, Beto O’Rourke. Never mind that strange interjection by Tulsi Gabbard — clearly trying to shamelessly undermine Harris with flagrant disinformation — that riled Gabbard’s followers in the crowd into a frothing mob, but was pretty decisively discredited in days following the debate, mostly by Gabbard herself. That gal just can’t get in front of a camera without saying something truly nutty.
Then there was the third debate, where the field was starting to narrow: Elizabeth Warren got less time but was most specific about her “plans,” and Kamala Harris made the single most decisive pivot yet to confronting Donald Trump’s catastrophic incompetence and profound maliciousness on a range of issues, especially healthcare.
Andrew Yang has some interesting policy proposals, including the unconventional “Freedom Dividend,” which — while it will never happen in its purest form — does have some hypothetical validity. But dear God, what was that nonsense when Yang actually offered cash to the first ten people who go to his website and enter some lottery he was promoting? I know he was trying to get some attention — and if the polls are any indication, that stunt apparently had some short term benefit — but that sounded like an ad for “Trump’s steaks.” So Andrew Yang may get another fifteen seconds — God knows, some folks are lovin’ on the guy right now — but it still seems unlikely that he will be a contender by the time the primaries are in the weeds.
Some legitimate candidates such as Kirsten Gillibrand, John Hickenlooper and Jay Inslee failed to get traction and stepped aside gracefully, in the best interests of the party and the nation. Others like Yang and Marianne Williamson persist but that will change soon enough.
So now it really is time for Democrats to get serious, to focus on sharpening the messaging. People are about to start paying much closer attention — especially given the collapse of Trump world — and Democrats are only going to get one shot to frame their positions in a way that moves voters in this sound bite universe.
So, there are some points that need to be deconstructed, nuanced and reframed. That needs to happen now.
The conflation of the immigration crisis at the border and healthcare. The way this conversation went down in the first Democratic Debate left me bereft — watching these smart, thoughtful people create such an unnecessary steaming turd in the middle of it all. I can only imagine how people who don’t study policy as constantly as I do must have felt. And that was largely do to some appalling framing of questions by the moderators, it was not all on the candidates.
The situation at our southern border is an absolute shitshow: that is all on Donald Trump. There was no border crisis when he took office, illegal immigration from Central American across that border was at a fifty year low. Notwithstanding Trump’s predictable rhetoric — fabricated from thin air — about Barack Obama’s failure to keep the “bad people” out, and the far left’s predictable incessant attacks on the Obama administration for deporting so many “good” folks who’d arrived here illegally — choose a batshit argument, any batshit argument, to trash Obama — the reality was that of the actual “bad hombres” were not staying within the confines of the United States unchecked for very long. In fact, immigrants of any stripe committed fewer violent crimes than any other demographic.
As a nation, we were doing what we could to alleviate the particular pressures south of Mexico to help give Hispanics reason to stay in their own homelands. This administration changed that so that even the relatively well off people in those countries had to run for their lives in our direction. And when they got here — as is Donald Trump’s prime directive in life — that sick bastard insisted he’d had nothing to do with creating the violence all those folks were running from. Running to us for “safe haven.” That whole mess is truly a pure projection of something that only existed in his sad, sorry mind; something that he had to make manifest to validate his existence. Let alone the existences of the people who appropriated this demigod of depravity to account for their own failure to thrive in life. And the truest Trump devotees among them are a vengeful miscreant lot for sure.
Children have been ripped from their parents’ arms, brown babies have been pried from their mothers’ nursing breasts and locked in cages by the tens of thousands. Never mind that the adults are — at this moment — still behind bars unfed and unwashed, while their children are being sexually assaulted and vanishing into child sex-trafficking networks because the Trump administration has put this into the soulless hands of Stephen Miller, a pathetic fleshbag whose only calling in life is to eliminate all non-whites from this country. And if I’m guessing, he would like to vanquish anyone not as creepy as himself from the planet. A man has to hold within himself such self-loathing to conceive of this madness, then to act on it, that he is lost to humanity. Our singular objective has to be to stop him. Only God is left to forgive him, that is way above my pay grade.
There is really no other explanation for the business of refusing to vaccinate any of these children so that avoidable diseases such as chickenpox, measles and mumps are tearing through these concentration camps — there really is no other word for them — and guaranteeing the slow, grueling deaths of many of these kids. Trump flunkies trying to whitewash this can decry my words all they want to, but somebody needs to explain to me how this is any different than the slow-rolling brutality of the gas chambers the Nazis used to exterminate the Jews, because I don’t see any difference in motive or effect at this point.
The final phase of the genocide of the Native Americans was not because they were out gunned, but because the indigenous nations couldn’t defend against the diseases the white men brought with them. In the early nineties, when the Hutu put bullets in the backs of the heads of tens of thousands of Tutsis in Rwanda, then buried men, women and children in mass graves, they thought they had their reasons. And you know that started with just a few defenseless dead — just to get it out of their systems, I guess — they didn’t start out planning a genocide, but that’s what they did. It all started somewhere. Genocide is genocide. Intent is intent. Rationalization is just rationalization.
The now clearly ill-legitimate election of Donald J. Trump to the presidency has been the equivalent of a cataclysmic disaster in the lives of the brown people who, thanks to his policies towards their countries, showed up to our southern border looking for refuge, for “safe haven.” This has been the same as if an earthquake of a 9.0 magnitude or a category 5 hurricane had swept their homeland and, by extension, ours. I proffer to all these Democratic candidates that it should be treated that way.
This is not an “immigration” issue. This is not about our “healthcare” debate. This is a cataclysmic disaster the likes of a tsunami. Democrats, do not conflate the mess at the border with national policy debates on internal issues.
This is an “all hands deck,” call out the Red Cross, Amnesty International and all manner of crisis response to the border the minute Trump is off the White House lawn. Healthcare professionals, therapists, churches and every non-profit relief organization that can be aligned in the transition needs to be on the ground to address this humanitarian crisis the minute the next president tells all of Trump’s operatives to stand down.
Granted, there will be all kinds of low-lives trying to squeeze as much profit or depraved pleasure out of the chaos as they believe they can get away with before they can’t anymore. Private prisons had their deal in place to drain taxpayer dollars out of the federal government to the tune of $775 a day per immigrant, per child before Trump ever took the oath of office. And if you don’t know it yet, that is roughly the average cost of a night at Trump hotel, but there you get hot water, a toothbrush and toothpaste for your money. And all that cash he’s been grifting for that stupid wall is really just a way to channel money earmarked for the military or FEMA into the off-shore accounts of contractors to move some dirt around and dig some holes. The wall was never intended to be built, it was just a money laundering scheme from the start; everyone knew that but that idiot who started to take his bloviating literally. I’m not really sure what more we can do about that between now and January 21, 2020. For that, we should hang our heads in despair.
But Americans will understand responding to a humanitarian crisis with whatever is required to stabilize this existential horror. Whatever it takes to save babies’ lives and put families back together. And they will understand that there is so much harm done, so many lives destroyed that we can never fully fix this. Americans will take responsibility for helping where they can and seeking redemption for what’s been done in our name, where ever we can.
But what Americans heard in that first Democratic Debate — and what not one candidate had the presence of mind, or just the time, to call out — when discussing healthcare, the moderator asked that truly stupid question, should the government “provide coverage for undocumented immigrants at the border?” was that liberals want them to foot this bill for all those desperate people in Trump’s limbo. Most of the candidates raised their hands because they felt they had no choice but to reduce this epically complicated matter down to a “sound bite” that would not set the progressive base’s hair on fire. But that premise was utterly ridiculous.
Even I — a left leaning moderate Democrat who loathes what have been done to these fragile souls in my name — even I balked at that. The whole “Medicare for All” discourse was completely conflated with the border crisis and not in a good way.
And if Democrats do not break this down in manageable pieces that can be pragmatically debated and addressed, if they cannot make the argument that all those people stranded at the border should be given appropriate care — necessary triage — to stabilize the situation, but that that doesn’t include — does not have anything to do with — ‘medicare for all,’ Democrats will lose this argument.
Most voters simply don’t see — yet — what the mechanism to provide healthcare for American citizens looks like. What they are perceiving from liberals and progressives is that, what amounts to a “massive and very violent tornado” in the form of Donald Trump, is something that “we the people” have to strap on our collective backs and allow to drag us all under as a nation. Because one way or another, this aberration from the bowels of hell seems bent on taking us all the way down with him, and the GOP is carrying him like the body of some fat, bloated messiah, hoping not to be crushed by his morbid mass.
It is a GOP trap that they didn’t have the good sense to set, Democrats need to show the good sense not to do the resurrecting for them. Conflating the humanitarian disaster at the border with immigration and healthcare policy is a sure way to terrify voters into complacency and inaction.
About the Author:
Gayle Leslie is a writer, political consultant, published author, actor, and policy wonk publishing extensively on Medium. She is a native Texan, graduated from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, and Circle in the Square Theatre School in NYC. She wrote her serialized memoir, Dwelling in the Vast Divine Vol. 1 & Vol 2. You can follow on Twitter at @gayleleslie7