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Yvonne Abraham

All smiles as health care flatlines

President Donald Trump spoke while flanked by House Republicans.Mark Wilson/Getty Images

So much machismo, so little heart.

The Republican effort to take health insurance from millions and slash Medicaid to fund a massive tax cut for the rich was a testosterone-laden affair on Thursday.

Before the vote, Huse members amped themselves up with the theme from “Rocky.” Majority leader Kevin McCarthy quoted General George S. Patton to inspire his men (and a few women) before battle: “Accept the challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory.”

Patton also said, “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.” But I rather doubt McCarthy used that one on the members who fell in line behind a bill they hadn’t bothered to read.


Just as Patton scorned those who dwell on war’s human cost, few among the GOP lemmings wanted to talk of the people whose lives will be imperiled when health insurance is out of reach. No, this was a time for celebration, bro-style. The air was so thick with masculinity that even some of the women were infected. “Let’s get this [expletive] thing done!” urged Arizona Congresswoman Martha McSally.

When the expletive thing was done, members took their Eyes of the Tiger to the White House to see the manliest man in the history of mankind. There was President Trump at the microphone, chuffed. Vice President Mike Pence nodded with rectitudinous satisfaction to his left. And House Speaker Paul Ryan, the workout warrior who dreamed of cutting Medicaid at his college keggers, smirked on his right. Their leader took a break from boasting about the bill to crow — or was it freak out? — about the fact that he is, in fact, the president: “I’m president. Hey, I’m president. Can you believe it? Right?”


Their clapping hands said yes but their eyes said no.

So very many men. So many very white men, laying waste to people’s health care, especially female people’s health care, and poor people’s. They voted for an ACA repeal without any hearings or testimony, with no cost estimate, no projections of who will be helped and harmed and despite copious warnings that it would be a disaster.

It didn’t matter. Trump needed an accomplishment — any accomplishment. Ryan needed to keep his job. Works for them.

For the rest of us? Not so much. For example, if you are a woman, the bill approved Thursday pretty much makes you a preexisting condition, opening the door to higher premiums if you’ve had a C-section, menstrual irregularities, pregnancy, or sought treatment for the effects of rape or domestic abuse. And it guts requirements that insurance companies cover maternity and neonatal care, among other needs. If you’re sick or old, or you have one of scores of preexisting conditions, such as obesity or cancer or asthma or anxiety, your costs will probably jump.

When Republicans say their bill doesn’t make such changes, they are lying through their teeth, or being cute: The bill allows the states to make them, and many surely will.

Perhaps GOP congressmen are betting that their voters won’t get it.

In the wake of Thursday’s vote — on legislation about as popular as Roger Goodell — analysts are predicting that 20 Republican seats will be less safe in 2018. Maybe. In normal times, politicians who betray their voters pay a price. We do not live in normal times. A majority of voters in the right states voted for a president who has a track record of swindling people exactly like them, a man who routinely says one thing and does the opposite.

And those voters — who include, incredibly, 53 percent of white women — are still devoted to their candidate.

Trump has provided a playbook for Republicans’ survival here: They can obscure their betrayals beneath nativism and bigotry; propagandist outlets like sexual harassment cesspool Fox News will back up their lies; voter suppression and gerrymandering will insulate them further.


In this world, what Republicans did on Thursday is cynical, but it’s not necessarily suicidal. This vote says something horrible about our elected representatives. That they felt safe enough to take it says something even worse about voters.

But hey, maybe the Senate will save us. Republicans there have formed a special working group to come up with their own ACA repeal.

So far, it’s a very manly bunch. What could possibly go wrong?

Yvonne Abraham is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at yvonne.abraham@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeAbraham.