Targeting the worst anti-vaxxer lawmakers

It’s long been clear, thanks to their humanity-dooming inaction on climate change, that Republicans either don’t believe in science or just don’t care about it. Since the rise of birtherism and accelerating with the sickening ascent of Donald Trump, it also became apparent that modern Republicans don’t care much about truth, either — blatant lies and conspiracy theories are now the lifeblood of all GOP discourse.

That has created the perfect storm for the anti-vaccination movement, a parade of malicious absurdity led by cynical goblin lawmakers and paranoid fringe-right lunatics. A rise of parents who have not vaccinated their children has led to a rash of measles outbreaks, with Washington State suffering in particular, and instead of acknowledging this as a public health crisis, these goons have been working overtime to make it worse.

Malicious far-right lawmakers are pushing bills in legislatures nationwide that would weaken vaccination requirements and cater to the paranoid and religious nuts that are their base. The idea that vaccinations cause autism and other disorders has long been discredited, but that hasn’t stopped them from weaponizing the suggestion and pairing it with their deep state conspiracy theories to undermine the health of children. While YouTube and Facebook have pledged to take down anti-vaxxer propaganda, we need to work to take down the lawmakers pushing to turn that spook nonsense into crippling public policy.

With that in mind, here’s a look at some of the most blatant and awful anti-vaxxer lawmakers. This list can and will be updated as more of them come to the forefront.

Arizona:

State Sen. Kelly Townsend (R-HD-6) is one of the most pernicious and unhinged legislators in office today. The two-term Republican pairs absurd public statements that read like InfoWars headlines with vicious legislation that read like Breitbart wishlists. Among other distinguished positions she has staked out, Townsend is a sworn enemy of teachers and rape victims (and, sidenote, is very confused by furries). Earlier this month, she ramped up her attacks on vaccinations, calling them communist plots and comparing them to concentration camp tattoos. It’s all insane.

While Townsend is the most vocal anti-vax voice in the Arizona legislature, two of her colleagues are taking concrete action, pushing several bills that would loosen child vaccination requirements in the state.

State Rep. Nancy Barto (R-HD-15) is sponsoring three bills in the State House of Representatives that would, among other things, add religious exemptions to vaccination requirements, allow parents to skip required education about the risks of not vaccinating their children, and require medical providers to give parents a detailed ingredient list. That last part is generally considered by experts as counterproductive and fuel for conspiracy theories. Barto is a first-term legislator who squeaked out a victory in 2018, meaning she could be ripe for a flip in 2020.

State Sen. Paul Boyer (R-SD-20), meanwhile, is sponsoring similar bills in the State Senate. He’s also a first-termer (he previously served in the State House) who won his race by less than four points, making him a prime target for 2020, as well.

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Inching toward universal healthcare: New York City to guarantee healthcare to everyone, Washington State plans a public option

A demented old racist has taken our federal government and TV news bureaus hostage, so it’s easy to overlook the progressive policy announcements made over the last few days. But with new Democratic administrations taking office and others looking to make a splash, it’s been a good few days, especially for healthcare policy.

In New York on Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city would be moving toward guaranteed healthcare for undocumented immigrants and low-income residents. It’s not any kind of Medicaid expansion — states run that program — or new health plan, but instead, a guarantee of proactive care that won’t cost patients anything if they can’t afford to pay.

From the NY Times:

The city already has a kind of public option for health insurance for low-income New Yorkers, through an insurance plan run by city hospitals known as MetroPlus.

The new proposal would improve that coverage, which already insures some 516,000 people, and aim to reach more of those who are eligible, such as the young and uninsured, and others who qualify but have not applied.

It would also provide additional direct city spending, at least $100 million per year when fully implemented, officials said, for the city’s hospital system to support care for those without insurance. The city estimates the uninsured population to be about 600,000 people, including as many as 300,000 undocumented residents. A major component of that effort would be improving customer service, including the phone line, to help those with questions about their care.

The program will have a membership card that will allow patients to get care from a wide array of doctors. Right now, over half a million people use the city’s emergency rooms for their medical care, which is a very unhealthy and fiscally disastrous status quo. According to NBC New York, this new program will allow people to seek “primary and specialty care, from pediatrics to OBGYN, geriatric, mental health and other services.”

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The Obamacare court decision was a disgrace, but let’s use it to flip the Senate in 2020

First thing’s first: As the title of this story states, the Texas court’s decision to strike down Obamacare was a lawless act of partisan idiocy, and will hopefully be reversed upon appeal. There is no silver lining in taking healthcare away from 20 million people.

That all said, this is the hand we’ve been dealt, and fortunately, we know how to play it now.

As Bloomberg reports today, the case is likely to stretch into 2020, and possibly beyond if it reaches the Supreme Court. That means that it will be the defining issue of the 2020 elections (well, beyond Trump’s brain rot and treason), and it could mean a lot of trouble for the GOP. Healthcare was the top issue in 2018 and voters broke overwhelmingly for Democrats on the subject, helping them take back the House and, notably, expand Medicaid even in three red states.

One of those states was Nebraska, where voters enacted Medicaid expansion via ballot initiative despite years of the GOP-controlled state legislature’s refusal to do so. Once implemented, an additional 90,000 people in Nebraska will have healthcare. That’s not a benefit they’re going to want to give up. And that puts Sen. Ben Sasse, who is up for re-election in 2020, in a perilous situation.

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The wreckage from a week of Republican power-grabs

The Republican Party has now fully entered the next phase of its all-out war on American democracy — not only are they cheating in an effort to win elections, they’ll now disregard the will of voters when they lose. After giving it a test run in 2016, when the GOP-controlled North Carolina legislature tried to strip Democratic Governor-elect Roy Cooper of many of his powers, Republicans are going all-in on the strategy in key states across the country.

The scheme played out this past week in Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and once again in North Carolina, where Republicans have become the nation’s leaders in abject and blatant cheating. It’s hard to keep up with all the corruption, as so many of the most insidious clauses and maneuvers are nestled into giant bills that were kept secret from the public up until now. To help catch you up, here’s a running list of state GOP’s anti-democratic lame-duck treachery.

Wisconsin:

In a marathon Tuesday night session that stretched into the next morning’s rush hour commute, the GOP-held legislature passed a number of bills that will hamstring Democratic Governor-elect Tony Evers and Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul. The state is already gerrymandered beyond belief, which allowed Republicans to keep their legislative majority despite Democrats earning a majority of statewide votes this November. You’d think that would send a message to GOP legislators, but that assumes that modern Republicans have consciences or even self-awareness.

Awaiting outgoing GOP Gov. Scott Walker’s signature are a number of bills that will significantly weaken the executive branch and hurt voters and working people. They will:

  • Curtail early voting, reducing it from six to two weeks before the election;
  • Double down on new Medicaid work requirements
  • Stripping the Attorney General of the ability to remove the state from lawsuits, including the suit against the Affordable Care Act
  • Takes away Evers power to control or disband a key economic development council
  • Require legislative approval for some decisions made by the Governor

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Julie Oliver, in TX-25, is running one of the most inspiring campaigns of 2018

After years of establishment Democrats running rote, indistinguishable TV ads and peddling cautious, focus-group-tested messaging, a wave of fresh, progressive candidates have decided to communicate like actual humans. Fresh faces such as Randy Bryce and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have produced a series of especially moving digital ads that have gone viral, and this week, even amidst the Kavanaugh calamity, a new progressive star was born.

Julie Oliver, who is running to represent Texas’s 25th district in Congress, narrates her own life story in the ad; she grew up in near-poverty and ran away from home as a teenager, squatting in abandoned buildings until she got pregnant at 17. Shunned by her boyfriend’s family, she returned home, where her mother agreed to help her — on the condition that she get back to school.

The rest is the sort of up-from-your-bootstraps American Dream success story that seems to only happen in movies or very hypothetical conservative scenarios: Oliver worked and raised her family while attending college and law school, and now at 45-years-old, she’s an accomplished lawyer and community leader running for Congress. Her experience makes her uniquely empathetic to the needs of working people, a quality in short supply in Washington today.

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