Opinion

Stay focused on what matters to voters – health care and Social Security

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Democrats took control of the US House of Representatives with a consistent and constant focus on issues that matter to voters, namely health care.

In Maine’s 2nd Congressional District and the race for governor, health care was the No. 1 issue for voters. And the candidates treated it that way.

If Democrats are to be successful in 2020 in delivering our country from President Donald Trump, it will take that same discipline and focus on issues that matter day to day to voters.

The president is helping.

Just this week, the Trump Justice Department shifted its position in a court filing and is now calling for a “full invalidation” of the Affordable Care Act. The Republican commitment to taking health care away from millions of people and putting quality care out of reach for countless more continues unabated.

With his budget and his other policies, Trump has made clear he wants to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and he wants to destroy Obamacare.

While some Democrats might have pinned their hopes to remove Trump from office on Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his report, the Democrats running for the chance to replace him aren’t talking about Russia or potential impeachment.

Instead, they’re talking about prescription drug costs, health care, climate change and the cost of higher education.

According to Dave Weigel, a Washington Post reporter who spends more time on the ground with candidates around the country than just about anyone else, those are the same issues that voters are asking about.

Last week, 70 people turned out in Farmington to talk with freshman US Rep. Jared Golden about health care. With the Trump administration committed and working to repeal the ACA, voters are concerned about being able to see a doctor when they get sick or hurt.

The first major legislative victory for Gov. Janet Mills and Democrats in the Maine Legislature was a bill to ensure that no matter what happens at the federal level, people living here cannot be denied coverage based on preexisting conditions.

“I will not leave critical health care protections for Maine people to the whims of Congress or the courts. I am proud that our state has taken the important step of strengthening the laws that protect critical coverage for people with preexisting conditions and other essential health benefits,” Mills said during a bill signing ceremony. “From this moment on, Maine people can rest assured that, regardless of whatever happens outside of Maine, they will not be denied coverage here in Maine.”

State Senate President Troy Jackson, who pushed for the legislation, personalized the importance of the new law.

“For me, this bill has always been personal. As someone who has a preexisting condition and who has gone without health insurance, I understand what threats to patient protections mean for families. People with preexisting conditions cannot afford for things to go back to the way they were,” Jackson said.

Yes, Congress should investigate the president and conduct its oversight responsibilities of the executive branch.

But candidates – up and down the ticket – should remain focused on values and issues that resonate with people.

In 2018, Republicans attacked Golden, trying to tie him to now Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. In a North Carolina House race, at least one Republican is against outspoken US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is from New York and nowhere near the Tar Heel state’s ballot.

There’s no question that a lot of people have strong feelings about Pelosi and AOC. But when it comes to making a choice among politicians, they care a lot more about issues on the home front.
Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and health care security matter a whole lot more than attacks against powerful women from other states – and more than a special counsel’s report.

Democrats: Stay focused on making people’s lives better. Tell that story. It worked in 2018 and I believe it will work again next year.

David Farmer is a public affairs, political and media consultant in Portland, where he lives with his wife and two children. He was senior adviser to Democrat Mike Michaud’s 2014 campaign for governor.

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