Defense of health-care law deserves respect

Former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear delivered the Democratic Party’s first response to President Donald Trump’s joint address to Congress Tuesday night.
Former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear delivered the Democratic Party’s first response to President Donald Trump’s joint address to Congress Tuesday night. File photo

A pair of stars from the MSNBC media firmament mocked former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear as the Democrats’ first responder to President Donald Trump’s speech to Congress.

One of the Bluegrass state’s youngest Democratic Party officials is not amused. Neither is this senior citizen Democrat and lifelong Kentuckian.

“Instead of listening to the content of his message, they focused on the superficial,” said Daniel Hurt, 23, a member of the state party’s executive committee.

Beshear spoke from a Lexington diner surrounded by locals whom MSNBC analyst Steve Schmidt, a Republican, laughed off as “hostages.”

Liberal news-show host Rachel Maddow laughed as well, and belittled the spectators as “mannequins.”

Hurt, like me, enjoys political humor but found Schmidt and Maddow’s wisecracks condescending and patronizing. So did I. “The people who were there — Beshear called them ‘some neighbors — Democrats and Republicans’ — didn’t have to be there,” he pointed out. “They came to show support for their former governor.”

“The Democratic Party is at its lowest point of power in this country since the 1920s, and the Democratic response was made by a 72-year-old retired two-term governor from Kentucky, not by Kamala Harris, not by Kirsten Gillibrand, not by the Castro brothers, not by anyone who has a future in the actual Democratic Party,” tut-tutted Schmidt, a frequent Trump critic.

Hurt is a fan of those younger Democrats but suspects national party leaders went with Beshear because he started Kynect, one of the country’s best state health insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act. While the ACA was President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement, Beshear is justifiably proud of Kynect.

One of Trump’s chief cheerleaders in Kentucky is Gov. Matt Bevin. The Tea Party Republican who succeeded Beshear in 2015 campaigned against Kynect and ended the program.

The ACA has been the GOP’s chief object of disaffection since the program started in 2010.

Beshear called out Trump: “You and your Republican allies in Congress seem determined to rip affordable health insurance away from millions of Americans who most need it.”

After agreeing that the ACA needs “some repairs,” Beshear again schooled Trump: “… So far, every Republican idea to replace the Affordable Care Act would reduce the number of Americans covered, despite your promises to the contrary.”

“This isn’t a game, it’s life and death for people,” Beshear warned. Republican proposals “would charge families more for fewer benefits and put the insurance companies back in control,” he said.

From start to finish, Beshear refused to pull punches. He declared that GOP plans to abolish the ACA are rooted in the notion “that folks at the lower end of the economic ladder just don’t deserve health care. That it is somehow their fault that their employer doesn’t offer insurance or that they can’t afford to buy expensive health plans.”

He reminded the president that “these 22 million Americans, including 500,000 people right here in Kentucky, who now have health care that didn’t have it before” aren’t “aliens from some distant planet. They are our friends and neighbors.”

They’re not prisoners or department-store dummies either.

Berry Craig, of Mayfield, is a retired professor, a member of the state AFL-CIO executive board and American Federation of Teachers Local 1360.