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  • Writer's pictureKaren Young

3 more ways progressives can split the right

Updated: Apr 13


Welcome to SWOT Sunday!

Since we are so weak on exploiting the right’s internal differences, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to throw out more schisms ripe for the exploiting.  These are: 


  • Pharma vs. anti-abortion movement

  • Boeing vs. airlines and flying public

  • GOP state governments vs. health care industry

Pharma vs. anti-abortion movement


The anti-abortion movement’s efforts to ban or sharply limit mifepristone (through lower courts and now the Supreme Court) aren’t just a monkey wrench in GenBioPro’s efforts to sell the abortion drug, one of a two-part regimen used in the US.  They threaten EVERYTHING about the way drug companies produce and get approval to sell ALL products – and also potentially take a toll on public health.


According to CNN, “ ‘If the [Supreme] court ends up … ruling in any way in favor of the plaintiffs, it says that basically, anybody who may be ideologically opposed to medication approved by the FDA (Federal Drug Administration) could try to go to court and overrule the scientific determination of the experts,’ said Dr. Daniel Grossman, a professor at the University of California San Francisco.”


A group of former FDA commissioners wrote in a legal brief that “In addition to opening up any drug to challenges on ideological grounds, weakening the FDA’s authority could enable challenges from drug companies trying to remove a competitor’s product or to reverse the agency’s judgment about their own rejection.  This new paradigm would take a significant toll on public health.”


The pharmaceutical industry and its investors also warned that a shakier regulatory system could lead to less investment in developing new medicines.


The Supreme Court is expected to rule on this by the end of June


According to STAT,  “Seventy-two senators and 302 members of the House of Representatives cashed a check from the pharmaceutical industry ahead of the 2020 election — representing more than two-thirds of Congress.”   A story in the NY Post said that “Democrats have taken in $7.16 million — compared to Republicans’ $7.05 million — from companies that deal in ‘pharmaceutical/health products’ during the 2023-2024 cycle, according to OpenSecrets.”  So pharma as a whole has been pretty bi-partisan in buying politicians.


Democrats have done more to hold the business accountable than the GOP has (though they certainly haven’t done anything close to enough).  That being said, which party is on the side of completely upending their businesses due to an extreme ideology with which most Americans disagree?  It’s not the Democrats. 


Does Pharma really want Trump or MAGA state legislatures appointing more judges?  Op-eds and TV talking heads could highlight the GOP danger to the pharma business without promising them anything but sanity from Democrats. 


Boeing vs. Airlines, Flying Public

You have no doubt heard of how accident-prone Boeing planes have become.  The company that was once so associated with quality that pilots had a saying, “If it ain’t Boeing, I ain’t going” is now, possibly, resorting to killing a whistleblower and making it look like suicide.  The stories about how Boeing throws safety to the wind while rushing its planes through production are really disturbing.


The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has demanded a new safety plan from Boeing, which is due in June.


Now, the FAA, like the FDA and many other Federal agencies, has been involved in bi-partisan coddling of the businesses they’re supposed to regulate.  That being said, Democrats are generally better at keeping agencies on task when it comes to protecting consumers. 


In spring 2023, budget cuts approved by House Republicans would have caused the agency to furlough thousands of workers and stop hiring new air traffic controllers, making summer air travel worse.  The FAA Acting Administrator Billy Nolen said in a letter to lawmakers that spending cuts also would slow efforts to modernize technology, including an alert system that failed in January and briefly grounded planes around the country.


Not only that, but Republicans have floated a theory that the cause of Boeing’s problems is actually DEI.


If airlines can’t count on planes to work safely, their business is really at risk.  Can they afford to have our government run by people who want to gut the FAA and let Boeing off the hook?  I don’t think so.  Maybe the airline industry should do more to side with those who want to keep flying safe.


The larger problem here is that, after decades of consolidation, there are really only two manufacturers of big jets:  Boeing and Europe’s Airbus.  This might be a good moment for progressives to focus on the high cost of monopolies, and propose more competition in the airplane business. 

We could also encourage people to tell the airlines they don’t want to fly Boeing.  How the FAA can make sure Boeing doesn’t keep putting people at risk – and how agencies in general must crack down more on corporate malfeasance, and be kept free from political meddling - could become campaign issues. Ads by Democrats or progressives in trade publications would be a relatively cost-effective way of getting the message to people who need to hear it.


GOP rural state governments vs. health care industry


American health care companies generally make a lot of profits off us, it’s true.  That being said, a lot of rural hospitals are NOT profitable and have had to close in recent years.


According to a recent report cited by Truthout, half of rural hospitals lost money in the past year, up from 43% the previous year. It also identified 418 rural hospitals across the US that are “vulnerable to closure.”


This is partly due to general weakness in rural economies. In many cases, though, what makes the difference between rural hospitals that survive, and those that don’t?  Two words: Medicaid expansion.  In the ten states that have not yet expanded Medicaid, including Wisconsin and Georgia, health care businesses could be joining progressives and breaking with GOP leaders to save themselves, and take better care of people.


Truthout quotes leaders in Montana, whose population is nearly half rural, saying Medicaid expansion is the reason their hospitals have largely avoided the financial crisis depicted by the report despite escalating costs, workforce shortages, and growing administrative burden.  It’s “cut in half the percentage of Montanans without insurance, increased access to care and preserved services in rural communities, and reduced the burden of uncompensated care shouldered by hospitals by nearly 50%,” said Katy Mack, vice president of communications for the Montana Hospital Association.  Not one hospital has closed in the state since 2015, she added.


The Kansas Health Foundation issued a report in 2018 about the campaigns to expand Medicaid in three conservative states (Kansas, Nebraska and Utah).  They discuss some pretty daunting challenges with these GOP governments and the general conservative environment.  That being said, by 2020, Kansas was still out, but both Nebraska and Utah have expanded Medicaid.   The report is not long, but illuminating on both the challenges and how they have been dealt with.

They talk about reaching a point in Kansas where more organizations were willing to challenge the Governor's strong opposition to expansion, for example.


The report notes that “organizational capacity helps to form early and sustained coalitions who can focus attention on evidence/data in the public debate,” and that “Nebraska’s coalition, led by Nebraska Appleseed, joined the hospital association and consumer advocates in coordinating research sponsorship and media messages.”    It became clear that information had to be seen as bi-partisan, if you will, to be persuasive.

They also noted that “effective coalitions can bridge provider and consumer interests, thereby avoiding wedge issues (like passing Medicaid expansion using a provider tax, or with cost-sharing requirements for consumers) that can weaken alliances.”


These struggles clearly aren’t won quickly or easily.  But splitting business interests from the GOP to pass Medicaid expansion has happened.  It can happen again.




People shouldn’t have to fight so hard for so long, just to get the Medicaid expansion that became law many years ago.  It helps, but it’s not anything close to a real solution that would give every American health care.   Let’s be real.  But: a winning strategy involves victories that can help you win even bigger victories down the road.  If we can learn how to split our enemies and build broad coalitions more effectively, like they did in Nebraska, we CAN expand our vision and our goals.


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