When I first met Wendell Potter, Tarbell’s founder and Chairman, I was immediately struck by his intelligence, humility, and his insatiable determination to call out corruption stemming from the ability of corporate money and the ultra-wealthy to drive their special interests into the fabric of our society. It wasn’t long after our initial introduction that Wendell asked me to become involved to assist he and his team in building Tarbell into a voice for fair play and reasonableness. I was not only honored, but hugely excited.
Wendell had two very firm positions that I was bound to follow. Firstly, Tarbell’s mission is apolitical. Our objective is to always straddle the fence. Tarbell is committed to taking on issues on behalf of our fellow citizens, not to take sides based on red or blue. Secondly, the primary goal of Tarbell is to advocate for adequate and affordable healthcare for all Americans, regardless of wealth, race, religion, social standing, or any other metric that serves as a measuring stick in our society.
But these are strange times and strange times create strange situations. And sometimes strange situations call for action from actors that might not otherwise occur. I must apologize to Wendell, but in the immortal words of Marlon Brando in the Godfather, it’s time to go to the mat. Tarbell, or any other likeminded individual or organization, will not achieve our primary goal related to healthcare reform with Donald Trump in office for another four years.
Forget the assault on the rule of law. Forget the undertones of racism. Forget the lies. Forget the daily reality show. Forget impeachment, Russia, and silence of the Republican Party. The bottom line is that Mr. Trump, his Justice Department, and his childish, cult-like Congressional following, are doing everything within their power to roll back the progress that was made with Obama Care without a replacement. In more than three years of using executive powers to turn countless political norms into past history, they have not uttered one word of a plan to implement healthcare reform, to lower pharmaceutical prices, to expand Medicare, to advocate for mental health and addiction treatment, to promote preventive healthcare or any other initiative to improve the ability of millions of Americans to receive quality healthcare that they can afford. The man cannot even commit to providing leadership and federal support during a pandemic that is creating more death and economic destruction than our country has ever endured.
In looking at the upcoming election themes, Trump isn’t offering solutions to any issues that bind us together, and certainly not healthcare. There is no reason to believe that a healthcare plan or strategy is going to magically appear in the next four years either. A Trump re-election would ensure that at least eight years will have been wasted in the quest to improve America’s healthcare system.
Unfortunately, there is a bigger issue at play. My opinions of Mr. Trump as I alluded to in the previous paragraphs, are a glaring example of the political division currently overwhelming our nation. But regardless of political philosophy, healthcare is something that all of us can mostly agree needs to be pushed to the forefront. Healthcare reform drove the Democratic landslide in the 2018 elections. However, basic issues like healthcare are now overshadowed by Mr. Trump’s consistent and effective tactic of distraction. It’s a well proven military strategy – deceive the enemy and conduct your attack where the enemy is not looking. Now is not the time to be deceived. Now is not the time to take comfort in polls that suggest the end of this fiasco is near. Now is not the time to take the foot off the gas. Now is the time to attack. Now is the time to go to the mat. It is time to crush any hope of a Trump re-election. Tarbell, nor I, care if the new administration is independent, Democratic or Republican. We care that our primary goal of reasonable access to healthcare for all is shared by our nation’s leadership, regardless of political affiliation. I urge the Joe Biden camp to not create ammunition that Trump can use to his benefit. Please Mr. Biden, do not select a divisive running mate. Please do not advocate for defunding police but for reform in the administration of our laws. These kinds of positions create distrust and fear in the very people that you need on your side to win.
Stay above the fray. If you play into Trump’s strength of creating fear formed on baseless assumptions Mr. Biden, you will lose. If you go too far left and alienate the middle Mr. Biden, you will lose. I wrote an article in Tempus magazine in 2015 that suggested that Trump could win in 2016 because he can speak the language of the disgruntled and paranoid. He can win because he is ruthless. He can win because of his uncanny ability to play to an audience that he neither likes, nor respects. He plays dirty and he plays to dominate or to go down in flames trying. Trump can still win in 2020. He can lose by a slim margin and claim voter fraud. He will fight to the bitter end to stay in power. He must be crushed. Anything short of total victory will only result in chaos. To eliminate this cancer from our society, all who are reasonable and humble must become warriors in the name of the higher good of the health of our country. We can argue in a civil manner and within the framework of our constitution over our political differences. But we need to go to the mat to remove Trump or our vision for healthcare reform may die an agonizing and unfortunate death.