At his campaign rally in Florida last night, Donald Trump insisted that Republicans "will always protect Americans with pre-existing conditions. Always. Always." There's no real ambiguity here: the president is brazenly lying about his party and its approach to health care. Lying. Lying.
But it's a familiar deception. GOP officials and candidates have spent the 2018 election season pretending to be progressive champions of the Affordable Care Act's most popular provisions, most notably protections for those with pre-existing conditions. The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler has a good piece today on ads from Rep. Scott Taylor (R-Va.), Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), and Gov. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), each of whom have boasted to voters about their support for "forcing insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions."
And if that phrasing sounds familiar, it's because that's Barack Obama's line.
[S]ome Republicans are stealing Obama's rhetoric and claiming they will do what the ACA -- which remains largely intact, despite President Trump's efforts -- already does. It's certainly an interesting turnaround. [...]The irony is rich: After years of trashing Obamacare, these Republicans are now saying they will do what he promised he would if elected president.
This is, of course, well-tread ground. The GOP's efforts to pull off an extraordinary con on health care is one of the year's most striking developments. The fact that some Republicans have begun echoing Barack Obama's script, hoping the public won't know the difference, is simply the capstone to a ridiculous attempt at deception.
But Matt Yglesias raised a related point yesterday that struck me as notable: "The racist and demagogic aspect of the GOP 2018 message is at least honest. The health care message is the most bizarre lying I've ever seen in American politics."
That's true. Republicans, especially the president, have made all kinds of false claims about immigration and the existing system, but there is a core truth at the heart of their argument: GOP officials and candidates want voters to know that the party embraces a divisive, ethno-nationalistic posture on the issue.
They're not telling the truth about the details -- Democrats have not endorsed an "open border," for example, and there's no left-wing caravan conspiracy -- but the broader theme reflects a legitimate sentiment. Republicans have moved sharply to the right on immigration and they want the public to know it.
On health care, however, the GOP is lying about the details and the broader sentiment behind them. The party is, for all intents and purposes, pretending to be Democrats, despite everything they said and did up until a few months ago.
The fact that Republicans are parroting Obama's rhetoric from a decade ago is extraordinary, but the fact that they expect voters to believe it is laughable.