RIP the People’s House, 1789–2017
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As the U.S. House of Representatives ends its historic role as the People’s House, Americans know a few things more clearly than they did just 104 short days ago. Money talks. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. And joined together, money and power have begun the painful, purposeful dismantling of the Constitution and the protections it has offered for the past 228 years.

No doubt, as the vote on healthcare trumpets for all to see, Trumpublican Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanThe Hill Interview: Budget Chair Black sticks around for now Gun proposal picks up GOP support GOP lawmaker Tim Murphy to retire at end of term MORE will take his victory lap as if exactly the opposite were true. Alternative facts above all else.

Over the past several weeks, Americans throughout the nation have appeared at town halls to express their deep concern about the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Millions have called, written, marched, yelled, begged, demanded and struggled to be hear. Bold, worried and committed constituents have documented this clearly.

In Florida, one constituent polled those assembled; they indicated their preferences and they did so clearly and respectfully. The Tampa Bay Times shared this video of one of those interactions, as constituents asked Rep. Gus Bilirakis to represent the will of the people. 

In Colorado, Rep. Mike Coffman was elected to represent a richly diverse district where working-class people, immigrants, veterans and seniors live and sometimes struggle to be heard. They showed up to a town-hall meeting to express their concerns, and Coffman ducked out. At later town halls, he developed an intricate system of hearing only mild criticisms. Snipers and security protected him at later public events from constituents fighting for healthcare.

Coffman sees his constituents as enemies. The local NBC affiliate, 9News in Denver, shared the video of Coffman running out of his January 2017 town hall. By April, the congressman had perfected his shtick; hundreds endured long waits and tight security — as if by the very nature of their being they were to be guarded against. The local newspaper, the Aurora Sentinel, wrote up the meeting. One thing was made perfectly clear to all in attendance. The people this man was elected to represent were being lectured, not represented. No matter the demand of the people, Coffman stands with and represents the quintessential Trumpublican mumbo-jumbo. 

The People’s chamber, created in Article I of the Constitution adopted in 1789, made it clear that representation from all congressional districts was one of the essential pillars upon which the republic would stand. It was our conduit to power and our protection from abuse. But in 2017, no matter how many millions of people across the country stood and cried out to be represented by their elected House members, the response was largely to kiss the ring of the new American king and Trumpublican standard-bearer, Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump pens op-ed on kindergartners learning tech Bharara, Yates tamp down expectations Mueller will bring criminal charges Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax security employee left after breach | Lawmakers float bill to reform warrantless surveillance | Intel leaders keeping collusion probe open MORE.

Dear American family, does the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act really signal the death blow to any semblance of representation by members of Congress? Consider what is being done to rip health security from millions of people, rather than work cooperatively to get us to a system modeled after what most Americans know and love: Medicare. 

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Extending Medicare as the insurance coverage for all Americans would take a great idea from the right, in public and private delivery of healthcare and free choice of providers, with a great idea from the left, in a social insurance that is publicly financed, creating one centrist model. Seniors and the disabled know and love Medicare. Extending to all Americans would honor what the majority of Americans support. So, clearly the will of the people has been lost.

 

When something as critical and as intimate to the daily lives and well-being of the people has been usurped by the political elite with this much jubilation and reckless disregard for the consequences, we all have lost our voices. 

What should the Democrats do now? If it were up to me, they would immediately engage more closely with their constituents and with constitutional experts and scholars and figure out if there is any legal way to save the People’s House. If not, I hope every person over 50 years old will join together in bringing legal action against those who have broken not just political promises but also moral, ethical and legal boundaries.

A contract was made with the people of this nation, and the Trumpublicans are not only breaking that contract, they are enjoying the moment. They will not be content until the entire Constitution is gutted, in complete devotion to the American oligarchy they truly represent. The American people must know now, without question, that a nation divided against itself cannot stand — and this nation has just been split down age and health status lines (with a healthy dose of deference to the wealthy).

This sort of divisiveness has terrible consequences for us all. And the responsibility for that must ever lay at the feet of those who failed to prevent it.

 

Donna Smith is the executive director of Progressive Democrats of America, founded 2004, in Roxbury, Mass. Follow her on Twitter at @donnasicko  


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