For the moment, at least, Trumpcare may actually be dead—thanks only in small part to the “liberal media,” which see Russia, and pretty much only Russia, from their TV studios. Cable news was there to catch the drama of Senator John McCain casting his decisive vote on the GOP’s “skinny repeal” bill early Friday morning, in effect saving health insurance for millions of people. But, even as the vote was approaching, the pundits were still talking excitedly about the latest scandal in Trumpland—to the point where Senator Christopher Murphy (D-CN) tweeted, at 10:27 pm:
Hey cable news: there’s actually REAL BREAKING NEWS affecting millions of Americans happening right now. Stop covering Scaramucci for a sec.
And that’s how it’s been for months. Although the American public cares deeply about the fate of health care—in a recent Bloomberg poll, people overwhelmingly named it the most important issue facing the nation—it simply hasn’t been able to compete with the Trump-Russia saga for the media’s attention.
“Russia is an easy, shiny thing to look at. It has intrigue; it has spies. It’s money; it’s behind the scenes; it’s what we don’t know,” Representative Joseph Crowley (D-NY), chair of the House Democratic Caucus, told me. “I do think the media has done some good things,” he said, like “The New York Times digging into who was at that meeting with Donald Jr.” But the news media had less to do with Trumpcare’s downfall than Mitch McConnell’s miserable bills themselves. “It really died of its own weight,” Crowley said last week, referring to one of the Senate leader’s earlier, failed attempts to repeal Obamacare. “McConnell couldn’t buy off enough senators.”
Maybe Mitch was short on money. But the real reason Trumpcare went down was the effort by thousands of citizens who have been directly confronting their elected officials (or their staffs when they chicken out of town halls) across the country and in Washington, DC. While the networks have been diligently reporting on congressional votes, they’ve been missing in action where it counts—covering the resistance and actual people whose health, and often very lives, would be on the line if the ACA was overturned.
On Tuesday night, for instance, the ABC, CBS, and NBC news programs each covered the pivotal vote to start debate for several minutes, but did so by focusing almost entirely on McCain. He had flown back to DC just 11 days after undergoing surgery for brain cancer, and then voted with his party on the motion to proceed. Then, as each network showed, McCain gave a terrific speech damning the very kind of legislation he had just voted to advance. The networks either brushed quickly by or completely ignored the hundreds of protesters, including scores of activists with the disability-rights organization ADAPT, who were gathered nearby in the atrium of the Senate’s Hart office building, chanting, “I’d rather go to jail than die without Medicaid!” At least 95 people, many in wheelchairs, were arrested.