It has long been a complaint of the American people that the Washington establishment, the political elite in our nation’s capital, are out of touch with the American public. There are a couple of reasons why this is, but one of the biggest problems is hyper-partisanship blinds them to the plight of many of their constituents.
Case and point: On Thursday, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz responded to a question about people calling her office to express their concern over the rise in health care premiums, and her response was, “Actually, that’s not what they’re saying.”
“People vote with their feet. What that means is when something is too expensive, they walk away. We have the most sign-ups for the Affordable Care Act in the entire country in the state of Florida,” she adds when pressed to clarify her statement.
Wasserman Schultz is the former chair of the Democratic National Committee who was essentially forced to resign after evidence emerged that some DNC officials, including herself, were not exactly impartial during the 2016 Democratic presidential primary.
Now, before we move forward, I know Wasserman Schultz is not saying no one in Florida is complaining about insurance premiums or health care costs. The page where I originally saw the above video was titled, “WASSERMAN SCHULTZ CLAIMS NO ONE IN FLORIDA IS COMPLAINING ABOUT PREMIUM INCREASES.” That is not true as she later adds, “There are people who always complain that health care is too expensive,” acknowledging at least that there are people who have complained.
However, there are a couple of problems with her remarks, including that last quote:
- The latter quote and the first quote indicate that when she is not recognizing the voters who have called her office to discuss rising premium costs while the ACA is in place, she trivializes their concerns.
- She doesn’t see the irony in her comment, “People vote with their feet.” She also connects two different things: Voting and signing up for ACA. People can sign up for ACA and still have a problem with market behavior under the law.
Florida is a crucial swing battleground state (just look at every presidential election since 2000). In 2016, independent and swing voters who picked Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton made their choice for a number of reasons.
Some people voted for a change to the political status quo. Many of the same voters who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 under the promises of hope and change and turning Washington on its head, voted for Donald Trump in 2016.
When it came to specific political issues, though, two in particular stuck out for swing voters in a number of states: jobs and rising health care premiums. While Wasserman Schultz claims Florida has had the lowest rate increases in the United States, that doesn’t mean these increases are not going to be a concern for some. It also doesn’t address the problem of limited options in the state.
The lack of competition has been a major cause for concern among Florida voters, even among those who supported Obama:
No matter how one feels about the Affordable Care Act, there are millions of Americans who are concerned about the future of health care costs in the U.S. and the impact current policy has on how the market behaves.
On the campaign trail, Donald Trump promised to repeal and replace the ACA. And in the words of Wasserman Schultz, people voted with their feet. Trump won Florida by taking over 4.6 million votes. Not acknowledging these voters is what drove many people to walk away from the political status quo in Washington in the first place.
Rarely does the cycle break in Congress. Democrats pushed the Affordable Care Act without input from the opposing party and ignoring concerns from voters who were not part of their party’s base. They then marginalized voters who became concerned about how the market was behaving under the law and the individual mandate.
Now, the Republicans are doing the same thing. House Speaker Paul Ryan is touting aspects of the CBO report that show deficit reductions under the American Health Care Act because that is what the GOP base wants to hear, while dismissing the parts of the same report that say millions will lose health insurance or their Medicaid benefits, and ignoring the voters who have actually benefited from the Affordable Care Act.
As IVN independent author Erik Fogg points out, without cooperation from both sides of the political aisle, no health care reform passed by Congress and signed into law will ever have legitimacy or longevity because in the name of partisan politics, shutting out opposition of any kind is the name of the game for the party in power, and obstructionism is the name of the game for the minority party.
All the while, few of our lawmakers are really listening to the concerns and needs of the American people. It is this “party before voters” attitude that has locked us in this perpetual cycle. Until that cycle is broken, substantive reform on any issue is unlikely — and, frankly, near impossible.
This is a major reason so many voters are disenchanted and disenfranchised with the two-party system.