Democrats have settled on a grisly theme in their attacks on the Republicans’ new legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare: death.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) tweeted on Thursday: “I’ve read the Republican ‘health care’ bill. This is blood money. They’re paying for tax cuts with American lives.”
I’ve read the Republican “health care” bill. This is blood money. They’re paying for tax cuts with American lives. pic.twitter.com/298DLguNiM
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) June 22, 2017
And former presidential nominee Hillary Clinton tweeted Friday: “Forget death panels. If Republicans pass this bill, they’re the death party.”
Forget death panels. If Republicans pass this bill, they’re the death party. https://t.co/jCStfOaBjy
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) June 23, 2017
Her 2016 rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), tweeted a similar message — then deleted it.
That alarmist rhetoric is spreading throughout the party, from the top down, as if last week’s shooting attack against Republicans, in which House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) was critically injured, never happened.
Democrats seem not to care that telling Americans that Republicans are trying to kill them might prompt others to act violently in what they may perceive to be their own self-defense.
It is not the first time Democrats have accused Republicans of wanting to kill Americans. During the debate over Obamacare in 2009-10, Democrats told the public that if Republicans succeeded in blocking the bill, they would be responsible for mass death across the country.
Then-Rep. Alan Grayson stood on the floor of the House and said: “If you get sick America, the Republican health care plan is this: Die quickly.”
And left-wing pundit Ezra Klein attacked Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-VT) for opposing the “public option” — i.e. government-run health care for all — by accusing him of being “willing to cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people” (original link).
But that rhetoric was largely confined to the political fringe. Today, the party’s leaders are accusing Republicans of wanting to kill Americans.
Perhaps Democrats believe that by referring to mass death, they are answering Republicans tit-for-tat, after former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin attacked Obamacare’s “death panels” in 2009.
But as with the effort by the so-called “Resistance” to repeat what it thinks the Tea Party did to win in 2010, the Democrats have failed — perhaps deliberately — to understand what it is they are imitating.
“Death panels” referred to a real aspect of Obamacare: namely, the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), which has sweeping powers to determine reimbursements under Medicare, and whose rulings could only be overruled by a two-thirds majority of Congress. There was a justified fear that health care would be rationed — i.e. withheld — from the elderly by the IPAB as a way to cut costs. (Health care is rationed under any policy, but the free market ensures it is rationed by individuals themselves.)
In this case, there is no link whatsoever between the Republican bill and the potential death of patients. Democrats argue that death is relevant because the Congressional Budget Office and other analysts have estimated that more people will go without health insurance under the Republican plan.
But even uninsured people can obtain life-saving care in an emergency. If not having insurance is equivalent to death, then Obamacare “killed” the millions of American whose insurance policies it canceled.
It is entirely legitimate to criticize the Republican legislation for potentially increasing the number of uninsured people. But telling Americans that Republicans will allow them to die — or that they want them to die in order to give the rich more money — is a reckless and inflammatory exaggeration. The Sanders supporter who shot Scalise and four other people was enraged, among other things, by Republicans’ health care policies.
Many Americans will recognize Democrats’ alarmism for what it is — the same failed tactic that President Barack Obama used when he trotted out a “parade of horribles” to argue against the budget sequester (which he had proposed!) in 2013. Obama’s scaremongering backfired, and Democrats’ new accusations likely will as well.
But to tell Americans, just days after a politically-motivated mass shooting, that Republicans want them dead is worse than divisive. It is dangerous.