Democrats Can Learn From Their Medicaid Defeat

Democrats suffered an agonizing defeat when Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) signed a budget that did not include Medicaid expansion, despite the fact that expansion was one of his main campaign promises.  Republicans have a deeply rooted vendetta against Obamacare and went to extensive lengths to ensure that Medicaid expansion wasn’t an option in Virginia.

According to The Washington Post, House Speaker Bill Howell (R-Stafford), a witty opponent of Medicaid, gave Governor McAuliffe an unexpected tutorial on political jugglery. Howell knew that the key to preventing Medicaid expansion was maintaining unity in the GOP caucus of the House. Republicans recently shunned their conservative way of thinking last year when raising taxes for transportation, so agreeing to Medicaid expansion was out of the picture. Furthermore,former Senator Phil Puckett’s (D-Russell) resignation worked in Howell’s favor because it passed the control of the chamber to Republicans.

Governor McAuliffe made an honest attempt to maintain confidence even with reminders of the defeat roaming around every corner. He is sticking to his promise to expand Medicaid by planning to sidestep legislature through executive action.

Ultimately, there is a lesson to be learned from this defeat. Analysts claim that McAuliffe did not adequately sell Medicaid expansion to the people. Instead of trying to bypass legislature, he needs to work on selling the importance and necessity of Medicaid. For the meantime, McAuliffe should focus on changing the minds of Republican adversaries so that Medicaid expansion can occur under accepting and positive circumstances. History suggests that in time, with enough evidence, opinions will gradually change.


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