Town Halls Erupt With Passion As DAPL Camp Goes Down In Flames

The following post, written by The Rev. Robert A. Franek, is a part of Politicus Policy Discussion, in which writers draw connections between real lives and public policy.

There were not long lines of people, as Donald Trump claimed during his speech at CPAC, waiting to get into that venue, however, when GOP Congressman Dave Brat tried hosting his town hall 60 miles away from where most of his constituents live, they came out and lined the streets. Indeed, Republican Representatives and Senators in states from Virginia to Arkansas to Iowa were greeted by crowds of protestors when they showed up for town halls during last week’s recess for district days. Passionate citizens from all walks of life told heartbreaking stories of what would happen should they lose key healthcare benefits made possible by the Affordable Care Act. And they have every reason to hold their representative’s feet to the fire. As Jason Easley reported after a leak revealed the substance of the Republican plan.

The Republican plan would kill subsidies and Medicaid expansion. It would allow states to create high-risk pools with benefit caps and would cause millions of Americans to lose their health care. The Republican plan is a death sentence for millions of Americans who benefit from the ACA.

After seeing the heat their colleagues were taking some Republicans, claiming town halls were too dangerous, looked for alternatives or tried canceling altogether rather than face the fire of their constituents. This inspired none other than former Representative Gabby Giffords to challenge these members of Congress to face their electorate. Even Hillary Clinton chimed in on Twitter “If you can’t stand the heat get of out the…Congress.”

The future of healthcare policy is a life and death matter for every American. The Affordable Care Act is not an insurance policy that only applies to people who get their health insurance through the exchanges, but a law that applies to every healthcare policy in the country. Not only would tens of millions of people lose their life saving healthcare with the repeal of the ACA, but every American would face the reality of higher costs for less coverage, while the insurance and drug companies would see a surge in profits.

Economics alone should be enough to stop all efforts at a repeal of the current healthcare law the and the chaos that would create in the markets to say nothing of disruption to the lives of tens of millions of Americans. However, the people are not coming in droves to town halls with charts and binders of economic cost-benefit analysis. They are coming with stories of loved ones whose continued life has been made possible the Affordable Care Act. They are showing up to make the moral argument that lifesaving healthcare must not be taken away from tens of millions of people.

Many of these Republican lawmakers claim a devout Christian faith, however fail to show that faith when it comes to policies that help the poor and vulnerable in our society. The love of neighbor, especially the vulnerable neighbor, is at the heart of Christian teaching and scripture is clear that the neighbor is to be loved through social policy and practice. See Deuteronomy or Isaiah or Amos or Luke.

This love of neighbor extends to the environment and the protection of air and water and all the ecosystems that sustain life. But sadly under the current administration fossil fuel industry profits are more important than sacred treaties or clean drinking water.

While Republican members of Congress were facing heat in their town halls, the protestors of the Dakota Access Pipeline set fire to their structures in an ‘act of defiance’ before being forced to clear their camp last Wednesday.

However, this is not the end of the pipeline protests, as reported by Reuters, “The closing of the camp is not the end of a movement or fight, it is a new beginning,” Goldtooth said in a statement on Thursday. “They cannot extinguish the fire that Standing Rock started.”

Indeed, the fire of passion started by the Stand Rock Sioux will continue so long as Donald Trump and his administration continue acts that violate sacred treaty rights benefiting a handful of fossil fuel elites. It is also clear where Trump is getting his inspiration. As Hrafnkell Haraldsson reported, “In fact, what Trump is doing is more akin to what his pal Vladimir Putin is doing to Ukraine than to the rule of American law.”

While respect for treaties and common sense protection of the environment should have been enough to allow the Obama era policies to remain in place, the Trump administration chose instead to put profits over people (again).

But all policy and profit arguments aside, the moral directive stemming from the love of neighbor ethic ought to extend from the Trump administration to the Standing Rock Sioux not only to honor the treaty rights but to protect the water that is now utterly vulnerable to contamination by some of the dirtiest sludge on the planet. Remember, ‘Water is life.’

For the party that talks so much about the value of life they sure put a whole lot of energy into policies that promise to be a slow death sentence whether through lack of health insurance or a polluted environment.

As members of Congress return to Washington from their districts and Donald Trump from another tax-payer funded weekend at Mar-a-Lago the moral cries of the people continue to light sparks of opposition to the serious dangers of Donald Trump and the Republicans in Congress who fail to hold him accountable all while lying to the people about their healthcare and tax reform plans.

Robert Franek

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