Come January, the Democrats will once again control the House and they need to do all they can to fend off the Trump administration’s destructive agenda.
The Democratic Party should start by addressing the tens of thousands of Americans who die each year because they lack access to affordable health insurance.
A landmark statistical study published in 2009 by the American Journal of Public Health compared death rates of insured and uninsured Americans. After controlling for various factors, the study found that every one million uninsured Americans is correlated with nearly 1,000 extra deaths. Under the Affordable Care Act, the number of uninsured plummeted from 46 million in 2009 to 28 million in 2017.
While the Trump-led repeal of the ACA failed even with Republican control in Congress, only Democrats can stand in the way of the GOP’s efforts to dismantle Obamacare, by legislation or executive order.
Democrats also need to end the GOP’s damaging military action abroad. Trump has proposed expanded military budgets, which were hastily approved by Congress, each year of his presidency. The U.S. military has flattened cities like Mosul, Iraq and Raqqa, Syria to expel the remains of ISIS’s regime, exacerbating the refugee problem and killing thousands.
Since August 2014, Airwars, an independent organization that tracks civilian casualties, has collected reports of more than 26,594 innocent civilian deaths attributable to the U.S. coalition in the Middle East. And the vast majority of these deaths occurred during U.S. coalition strikes after Trump took office. According to October’s report, “at least 98 civilian non-combatants” were killed in coalition attacks that month.
Democrats could restrict the military by rejecting budgets that raise defense spending and demanding more accountability through the control of House committees.
Trump’s decision to cozy up to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is proof that Democrats must act. In 2017, he negotiated an agreement to sell $110 billion in weapons to Saudi Arabia over the next 10 years. Saudi Arabia then uses those weapons to wage war against Yemen — apologizing only when the media decides to care.
Saudi Arabia has also blockaded the important Yemeni port, Hodeida, which means commerce and aid cannot enter the world’s fifth poorest country. This has led to massive cholera outbreaks and has put 13 million people at high risk for starvation in just a few short months.
The U.S. isn’t innocent either: The Trump administration finally ended its direct refueling program in Yemen last month after pressure from American activists protesting the death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered at the behest of Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman.Without U.S. support, Saudi Arabia couldn’t justify starving another 85,000 Yemeni children.
With control of the House, Democrats can work to end U.S. involvement in Yemen and encourage Saudi Arabia to do the same, potentially saving an entire generation from starvation. A similar bill is popular in a Republican-controlled Senate, leaving the Democrats with no excuse.
Democrats should also revive oversight of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.), which now has the ability to subject all undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. for two years or less to “expedited removal,” a process that essentially eliminates due process and the right to appear before a judge. Before Trump, I.C.E. reserved expedited removal for illegal immigrants found near a border who arrived in the U.S. less than 14 days before their arrest.
Administering proper oversight of the National Security Agency, which regularly ignores constitutional limits on surveillance, should be another Democratic reform.
With their recent election gains, Democrats have many more opportunities to help those suffering at the behest of the U.S. But it would require a huge shift for the party. Democrats must be more than a reaction to Trump’s agenda; they must show a new face with a new vision. They must start caring about these people.
After all, it was former President Barack Obama, the Democratic champion with a charismatic legacy, who left millions uninsured under the ACA, expanded and multiplied the drone program, brokered a $60 billion arms deal with the Saudis, refused to curb an unjust immigration system, and oversaw a massive, unconstitutional, domestic spying apparatus.
Democrats must refuse reactionary politics and embrace a new, life-saving, bold political program that treats Americans and the world’s people with the dignity they deserve. They must embrace and promote Medicare for all, a humane approach to immigration, and a consistent and diplomatic foreign policy that centers on human rights rather than cheap oil. They must brave Trump’s savage politics. They must become the party that cares.
Cal Abbo is a sophomore studying the liberal arts