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Republicans give up on controversial, unpopular health plan

"Trumpcare" died today. It's worth taking a moment to understand who derailed the Republican plan and why.

House Republicans have pulled the GOP health care plan from the House floor just minutes ahead of a planned vote, a House leadership aide tells NBC News, leaving the fate of the party's efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare with an uncertain future.The move comes after a chaotic week of intense negotiations to convince at least 215 Republicans to support the leadership-written health care bill that was ultimately not enough to fulfill a seven-year long pledge to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

After Trump was elected, many assumed it was a foregone conclusion that the ACA would be destroyed by the new, dominant Republican majority. But as it turned out, the only thing GOP policymakers agreed on was that they hated "Obamacare" -- and they had contradictory ideas as to what to put in its place.There was some talk today about the White House demanding a vote anyway, getting members on the record about the bill Trump wanted, but there was ultimately no point to the exercise. Holding a vote on a GOP bill that would be killed by GOP votes would've needlessly put House Republicans in an awful position.There's no single explanation that captures why this fiasco ended this way, and a variety of factors contributed to this humiliating failure. Paul Ryan, for example, wrote a ridiculous piece of legislation behind closed doors, failed spectacularly to get any buy-in from stakeholders, couldn't think of any substantive defenses, and had even more trouble reconciling his party's factions.Donald Trump, meanwhile, couldn't be bothered to learn the basics of the debate, made no real effort to sell the plan's purported merits to the public, and proved to be an abysmal deal-maker.Republican divisions -- there were never any core agreements within the party about why they were even pursuing a health care bill or the purpose of their legislation -- are deeper than GOP leaders understood, and there's been no meaningful effort to resolve them.But let's not overlook one of the more important factors: regular ol' Americans stepped up in a big way, pressured lawmakers not to take their families' health benefits away, and it made an enormous difference.I've been thinking a lot about this report from exactly one month ago today.

Republican Rep. Mo Brooks said Thursday that protests at town halls around the country might prevent Republican lawmakers from repealing the Affordable Care Act."I'll tell you, Toni, there are a, in my opinion, a significant number of congressmen who are being impacted by these kinds of protests and their spine is a little bit weak," the Alabama congressman said in an interview on "The Morning Show with Toni & Gary" on WBHP 800 Alabama radio. "And I don't know if we're going to be able to repeal Obamacare now because these folks who support Obamacare are very active, they're putting pressure on congressman and there's not a counter-effort to steel the spine of some of these congressmen in tossup districts around the country."

As we discussed at the time, Brooks wasn't exactly pleased with the progressive activism -- he's a far-right critic of the ACA -- but the Alabama Republican nevertheless saw the fight slipping away because so many American voters were stepping up and speaking out against repeal efforts."We don't have the votes in Congress to pass a repeal bill, in part because of what these people are doing," Brooks added."These people," in this case, referred to ACA proponents.Republican leaders were operating from the mistaken assumption that the public would back their play, since the ACA seemed unpopular, and GOP candidates had a good cycle in 2016. But Republicans had the health care fight backwards from the start, as this afternoon's developments helped prove.This is not to say the fight is over -- because it's not. The American Health Care Act, a.k.a. "Trumpcare," has apparently died, but it's unrealistic to think Republicans will simply give up on this issue and accept the Affordable Care Act as the law of the land. Health care proponents and their allies should remain vigilant, knowing that there are additional rounds to come.But in the meantime, progressive activists and their allies can take a bow. They helped derail a dreadful and dangerous piece of legislation.