In a post a couple weeks ago, Empathy For We, But Not For Thee, I wrote about some of the unsavory actions being taken by Republicans at the state level in North Carolina. The incident that had me particularly riled up was that Republicans in the state legislature wanted to give outgoing Republican Governor McCrory (and nine other statewide officeholders) free health insurance for life. Though McCrory was a longtime successful businessman who can certainly afford health insurance on his own, one of the state assemblymen said that there was “ a great deal of empathy” for McCrory and that they “wanted to help him out as much as [they] could.”
This ruffled my feathers because at the very same time, these same Republican legislators are refusing to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), denying any of this same empathy to fellow North Carolinians at or near the poverty level – people who are truly unable to afford health coverage on their own and often suffer mightily as a result.
Well, now it’s a new dawn, a new day: on January 1st, Democrat Roy Cooper was sworn in as the new Governor of North Carolina. A few days later, at a state economic forum he announced that he planned to file to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, and he made his case to the business leaders gathered there for why his plan would be good for the state.
It was crucial for Cooper to file the application for approval of his Medicaid plan to the federal government while the Obama administration is still in place, sinced the Trump administration would be unlikely to approve it, as Trump has promised to repeal Obamacare immediately (the Republican repeal plan likely won’t take effect for 2 to 3 years, so as long as this expansion is approved pre-Trump, North Carolina could still benefit for several years). So last Friday, Cooper announced that he had sent a letter to the Center for Medicaid Services officially requesting the expansion.
That’s great news for the half million or more North Carolinians who will now have a chance to get health coverage if the Medicaid expansion goes through. However, there’s still one big catch, which brings us back to those North Carolina Republicans. They didn’t simply turn down the Medicaid expansion a few years ago when the opportunity arose. In 2013, the Republican legislature passed a law that specifically says Medicaid cannot ever be expanded without the General Assembly’s approval.
And the Republican majority in the General Assembly right now is definitely not going to approve it. In fact, the two Republican leaders of the General Assembly are so determined to stop it that they sent their own letter to the Center for Medicaid Services asking them to turn down Governor Cooper’s application. Governor Cooper, however, is pressing on, saying that the 2013 law does not apply to his plan. Hopefully we will find out soon which side wins this battle of wills, but there’s definitely a battle brewing.
Why It Matters
Now, you may be wondering why I’m focusing on North Carolina. Aside from the fact that I think it’s more important than ever that we all look out for each other, I also think Democrats need to refocus on fighting battles to defend our values & policies at every level of government. Republicans have been really, really good at this. Democrats have really, really not. These last eight years, while Republicans have been out of power at the presidential level, they’ve made huge gains at the state level (see my post Make a Run for It for more detail on this), and man, have they used that power to push for their policies all around the country.
And once they get their policies in place in one spot, they then use that example to spread those policies – such as abortion restrictions, voting restrictions, laws curbing union rights, expanding gun rights & privatizing education, just to name a few – all over the country to other states and now possibly even to the national level. In this way, Republicans have used whatever elected power they had to not only implement their agenda as widely as possible, but also to keep their supporters active and involved at every level.
Now the tables have turned on Democrats as they move out of the presidency. Unfortunately Democrats don’t have control in nearly as many states as Republicans had over the last eight years. But in the places where they do have any power, it’s imperative that they make a stand for their policies. They have to show Americans what they believe in, and – importantly – that they’re willing to fight for it. And those of us who support Democrats and their policies – or who just oppose the current Trump-backed Republican agenda – we need to do everything we can to support those in office who are trying to do good things, especially when they are facing a battle like Governor Cooper is about to.