Dave Weigel at the Washington Post has this story about the Democrats' grassroots efforts to beat the AHCA and how it helped stopped the vote in the House. There's only one problem with it: Democrats didn't have a damn thing to do with stopping the ACHA, period.
On Friday afternoon, as congressional Democrats learned that the GOP had essentially given up on repealing the Affordable Care Act, none of them took the credit. They had never really cohered around an anti-AHCA message. (As recently as Wednesday, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi was still using the phrase “make America sick again,” which most Democrats had abandoned.) They’d been sidelined legislatively, as Republicans tried to pass a bill on party lines. They’d never called supporters to the Capitol for a show of force, as Republicans had done, several times, during the 2009-2010 fight to pass the Affordable Care Act.
Instead, Democrats watched as a roiling, well-organized “resistance” bombarded Republicans with calls and filled their town hall meetings with skeptics. The Indivisible coalition, founded after the 2016 election by former congressional aides who knew how to lobby their old bosses, was the newest and flashiest. But it was joined by MoveOn, which reported 40,000 calls to congressional offices from its members; by Planned Parenthood, directly under the AHCA’s gun; by the Democratic National Committee, fresh off a divisive leadership race; and by the AARP, which branded the bill as an “age tax” before Democrats had come up with a counterattack.
Congressional Democrats did prime the pump. After their surprise 2016 defeat, they made Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) the outreach director of the Senate caucus. Sanders’s first project was “Our First Stand,” a series of rallies around the country, organized by local Democrats and following a simple format. Elected officials would speak; they would then pass the microphone to constituents who had positive stories to tell about the ACA.
“What we’re starting to do, for the first time in the modern history of the Democratic Party, is active grass-roots organizing,” Sanders said in a January interview. “We’re working with unions, we’re working with senior groups, and we’re working with health-care groups. We’re trying to rally the American people so we can do what they want. And that is not the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.”
Weigel goes on to say that because grassroots groups like Planned Parenthood, the AFL-CIO, MoveOn, and the AARP rallied town halls around the country, they were able to stop the bill.
That's a nice thought, guys. It's also 100% not what happened.
What actually happened is that Republicans in the Freedom Caucus wanted a total repeal, and they were able to stay united to the point where the bill was pulled and the vote postponed until that happens. Democrats taking credit for this would be like hen house chickens celebrating record egg production because the foxes were too busy arguing over whether or not to kill and eat all the hens or just some of them.
It's a nice rallying cry for Dems, it gives them something positive as a symbol to build on, it does provide hope for the future that grassroots opposition to Trump will be a factor going forward.
But in the case of the AHCA House bill? Dems were 100% powerless, and pretending otherwise is also promoting a fundamental misunderstanding of the facts. Let's not delude ourselves, guys. We got lucky here that the Freedom Caucus, including my own Congressman Thomas Massie, decided that the perfect was the enemy of the evil. They sank their own bill through incompetence.
And eventually it will be back.