2016, Affordable Care Act — September 14, 2016 at 4:26 pm

How Lyndon Johnson helped create today’s GOP


The greatest irony ever is that the GOP wouldn’t be a national party today if Medicare weren’t keeping seniors alive


The latest Quinnipiac poll shows the presidential race tightening on up, with Hillary Clinton ahead of Donald Trump by 5 percent in a head-to-head race and 2 percent in a four-way race.

But here’s what stood out to me:


It’s not unusual that a Republican presidential candidate only has a chance of winning the White House thanks to older Americans. What’s more unusual is that he’s not doing while promising to gut Medicare — though Trump’s plans to explode the debt to pay for tax breaks that favor the richest would make cuts to everything government does inevitable, especially Medicare.

Another thing that would make Medicare unsustainable under Trump is his plan to repeal of Obamacare, which — nobody seems to mention has cut $2.6 trillion from the estimated costs of the program while actually expanding benefits. Before the Affordable Care Act became law, the program’s trust fund was supposed to last until 2017. That date is now 2028. And we have no idea how much we’ll end up saving because future beneficiaries end up more healthy because they gained coverage due to health care reform.

Trump wants to undo that and replace it with… something. And if he wins, he has a Congress that’s dying to gut Medicare under Paul Ryan’s voucher plan.

So here’s the sick irony. Look at that chart.

If it weren’t for Medicare, the GOP would likely have no chance of winning the White House ever again.

We’ve been tortured with stories of how Lyndon Johnson knew he was surrendering the South and much of the white vote to the GOP by signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. LBJ’s goal of out-Lincolning Lincoln made the Southern Strategy possible begetting the dog-whistle messaging that conservatives how used to undo the middle class, leaving us with its most vile avatar — Donald Trump.

But conservatives plans would never have been so potent without LBJ’s second greatest accomplishment just behind his amazing civil rights feats — Medicare.

The guaranteed health insurance for seniors has extended the life of the average senior by 5 years. I’m no demographer but there are almost 40 million voters over the age of 65, with 18 million of them over 75. Without Medicare millions of them wouldn’t have made to this election — and you’d say goodbye to a huge chunk of Fox News aging, white audience, too.

And still, the GOP is a machine designed to end Medicare as we know it.

UPDATE: Stephen Wolf notes that the Hart-Celler immigration act also signed into law by LBJ has served as an antidote to the combination of the Southern Strategy and Medicare by making America vastly more diverse, leaving the GOP to retreat into a “smaller, rump organization dedicated to white retrenchment.” The question is whether the current GOP withers before it kills the guaranteed benefit that saved it.