When I was in Washington, after I had been released from jail. I met Lindsey Graham in a crosswalk as I was going to the Metro.
I introduced myself and showed him a photo of my son. We spoke briefly and it was very cordial, and as we parted, I begged him not to vote to strip away access to health care for 33 million people.
Last week, he introduced a bill to do just that.
Here’s the letter I faxed to him this morning:
You might remember me. I stopped you in a crosswalk in Washington a few weeks ago and introduced myself. I told you I’m from North Carolina, and you smiled and called me your neighbor.
I showed you a photo of my beloved son, who died because he couldn’t get access to health care and ended our conversation with, “I beg you, sir, please don’t vote to take away access to health care from 33 million Americans,” and you said you would consider it. You actually went back into the Senate Chamber and voted against that first bill.
This is my son, Mike Danforth. I miss him every moment of every day.
Real people die when they lose access to care. Each year before the Affordable Care Act became law, 45,000 Americans died prematurely because of lack of access to health care. That’s one every 12 minutes.
At 4:48 p.m. on April 1, 2008, it was my precious son whose heart stopped beating. I would rather it had been me, but I didn’t have that choice because I couldn’t make any insurance company sell him coverage and without that coverage, I couldn’t get any doctor to give him the care he needed. Yes, he went to the emergency room, but as I’m sure you know, they were only required to stabilize him, so instead of a diagnosis and treatment for the cancer that by that time was blocking his colon, he got a laxative and a bill.
My son worked 30 hours a week in a restaurant and attended college full-time, majoring in history with a minor in philosophy. He was also a volunteer, helping people get and stay sober. With all this, he still maintained a 3.75 GPA.
I know you like to call yourself pro-life, so I’ll tell you that when I was first pregnant with him, I had a rare virus that my doctor said could cause birth defects. She advised me to have an abortion and try again, but that child was real to me already. I chose to continue the pregnancy, and I never regretted that decision because he was such a remarkable human being.
My son was brilliant, kind and wickedly funny. His work saved lives. I know this because so many people told me their stories after he died. One mother came up and hugged me and said, “Had it not been for Mike, my son would have died. Mike literally picked him up out of the gutter and saved his life.”
Mike needed a colonoscopy every year, but no doctor in Savannah, Ga., would do one for him, even though he had a one-in-four chance of developing an aggressive form of colon cancer. It would have cost us about $60,000 over the course of his lifetime to do the screenings and remove any polyps, but we said no, and instead shelled out nearly $1 million for his care and he died anyway. So don’t tell me we can’t afford it because I know it’s a lot cheaper to take care of people before they get really sick.
I tell you this about my son because you appear to believe that people who can’t get a job with insurance coverage, or who were born with a “pre-existing condition” are morally inferior. They are not lazy. They are not worthless. They are not looking for a handout, and even if they were, they don’t deserve to suffer and die the way my son did. No one does.
I have been doing health care advocacy work since my son died and I haven’t met a single person who doesn’t deserve health care. Not one, although I have questioned whether the selfish, greedy people responsible for my son’s death deserve anything.
You see, I consider the people who withheld care from my son to be murderers. Their inaction killed my son as surely as if they had put a bullet through his heart. Actually, putting a bullet through his heart would have been more humane than the three years of suffering he endured.
To be eligible for Medicaid, my son had to leave his wife because she had a late-model car and some student loan money for tuition in the bank. My son applied for disability and waited 37 months for approval. He was dead nine days before his first check came. He applied for food stamps, and with no income and no wife he was offered $10 a month. He refused the offer.
If so many people hadn’t loved him so and been willing to care for him, my son would have died on the street.
Life without my son borders on the unbearable every moment of every day. All I can do is beg for you and your colleagues to care enough about human life to shore up the Affordable Care Act, or to pass Medicare for all.
Consider the words of Jesus (I believe you consider yourself to be a follower of Jesus) in Matthew 25 (paraphrased here for modern times):
“For I was hungry and you voted to cut Food Stamps, Meals on Wheels and school lunches.
“I was thirsty and you voted to allow polluters to poison my water.
“I was sick and you voted to strip me of my access to health care.
“I was in prison and you allowed corporations to profit off of my misery.
“I was naked and you told me to get a job, but you wouldn’t ensure I could make enough to buy clothes.
“Whatsoever you did unto the least of these, you did also unto me.”
I beg you to think about this and then withdraw the bill, or at least your support for it.
Oh, and the day I met you I had just been released from jail for disrupting the Senate. I was one of the people who chanted, “Kill the bill!”
I had been hauled from the gallery a few minutes before the chanting began because in my hand was a 5×7 photo of my son – the same one I showed you in the crosswalk. The guard called it a poster.
When the chanting began, I joined in and was arrested, along with 31 other people who are truly pro-life.
I didn’t have to join the protesters.
I could have not been arrested. I could have stayed home and been alone in my grief, but I do this in his memory and because no one should die the way my son did. No one. And I will fight with every breath left to me to make sure no one does – not even those who would take access to care away from 33 million of their fellow human beings.
Matt Coffay has dropped out of the race for the 11th District Congressional seat in North Carolina.
There is another candidate named Phillip Price and I have e-mailed him to request a meeting. I want to know where he stands because I’m not ready to vote for another moderate who won’t work for my interests.
I don’t want someone who’s happy with the Affordable Care Act; I want someone who will push for a single-payer system.
I want someone who will push to regulate Big Pharma and rein in the drug companies’ abuses.
I want someone who will fight to raise the minimum wage to $18. Three years ago, $15 would have been adequate, but time marches on, as does inflation. $18 now, not in five years.
I want someone who will work for universal voter registration. Everyone in, no one out, just like I want in health care.
I want someone who will understand the dire risk of global warming and who will demand action immediately, in spite of what Big Oil wants. I want to see solar panels and wind turbines popping up in the landscape like weeds in my garden.
I’m looking for a candidate who will work on re-funding education and strengthening schools, colleges and universities.
I want someone who will actually reduce spending on the war machine.
I want to see someone who’s unashamed to support Planned Parenthood.
I want someone who’ll work to stop the militarization of our local police forces.
I’m tired of moderates who aren’t willing to challenge the corporate overlords. Nothing will change until we the people make those changes. and moderates won’t work with us.
I voted for Hillary Clinton, not because I agreed with her on everything, but to try and keep the Orange One out of the White House. She is qualified to be president, but she is in bed with the big corporations.
She doesn’t get Black Lives Matter. The issue of institutional racism is somehow out of her grasp.
She doesn’t get the need for an immediate hike in the minimum wage to make it a living wage. If you’re making $7.25 an hour, you need that raise now. It’s only about 40 percent of what’s needed to live in any city in the United States and less than that in many places. If you’re in business, you don’t get to enrich yourself on the backs of others. If you can’t pay a fair wage, you shouldn’t be in business.
She wasn’t for an immediate move to single-payer because the insurance overlords don’t want it and they would have withdrawn support.
It was, in part, purists who put this clown in the White House because they wouldn’t vote for someone who disagreed with any of their stands. I get that and I’m not a purist.
I do, however, want a candidate I can back wholeheartedly. I want a true progressive because more and more Americans are beginning to understand the need for progressive policies.
So, can we at least try to recruit a progressive without the Democratic Party getting its panties in a bunch?
Mark Meadows is an oligarch. He has no idea how we struggle with bills or how terrified we are of getting sick in one of the worst health care systems in the world. He cares only about himself and his little circle of the pampered and privileged.
We need someone strong to run against that. We need to be able to show people there is a very real difference between the parties because if there isn’t, we truly are lost as a nation.
I was ready to make a very public exit from the Democratic party if Tom Perez won the chairmanship, but other events Saturday raised my hopes for the party.
It started with the precinct cluster meetings in the morning. I’m vice-chair of my precinct (45.1 in Buncombe County, NC), and in previous years, the chair, John Parker, and I had to scramble to get five people out to a meeting so we could have a quorum. We had to make calls and get people to the meetings so our precinct wouldn’t lose our “organized” status.
“Can you just stop by for a half hour while we vote on resolutions and elect officers?” we begged. We were able to keep organized, but barely.
Yesterday, instead of begging for people to show up, we had 16 people, several of whom were young and progressive. The others were from a retirement community, and I was afraid they might be conservative Democrats like the ones who killed several progressive resolutions last year, but they were old-style progressives who decided to become active again so we could take our party back from pro-corporate influences.
Last year a conservative banker convinced people to vote against a resolution calling for re-regulation of the banks and against a resolution calling for a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. He wouldn’t stop talking until he had the votes to defeat these two resolutions.
This year, the banker was nowhere to be seen and both resolutions passed unanimously, along with resolutions calling for an immediate raise in the minimum wage to $15, plus one calling for a single-payer health care system. In all, we passed nearly a dozen progressive resolutions, all unanimously.
I wrote two resolutions — the ones calling for the $15 minimum wage and Medicare for all — and most of the precincts passed them without amendments. One precinct leader asked if the minimum wage resolution could be amended to phase in the $15 over three to five years. I told them no. If you’re making $7.25 an hour, five years without a living wage is not an option. The raise is needed now, and in five years, inflation adjustments should have it up to about $20. People need to be able to feed, clothe and shelter their families NOW, not in five years.
“Well, these a pretty conservative people,” the precinct chair said.
“Those are the very people we need to outnumber to take the party back,” I said. “Go ahead and write your own resolution, but mine stays as is.”
These new party activists were Bernie Sanders supporters, determined to move the Democratic Party back to its FDR progressivism, back to the days when LBJ signed the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts. They were inspired by the organization, Our Revolution, which is comprised of progressive fighters.
I left the precinct meeting with renewed faith that we can do this.
From there, I went to speak at an Our Revolution rally downtown. We had 500 people turn out to call for improvements to our health care system, from support of keeping and improving the ACA, to a public option in the marketplace, to single-payer.
I told my son’s story and reminded people that 45,000 Americans died the same way every year before the ACA took effect. We’re still losing 15,000 to 20,000 in states that haven’t expanded Medicaid.
What I saw yesterday was a determination to take the Democratic Party left again.
When it was announced that Tom Perez won the party chair election, we were encouraged by the fact that the election was close and that our candidate, Keith Ellison, is now the vice-chair and that Perez has vowed to work closely with him.
I am encouraged. We have to remember that the Republican right wing has worked since the 1960s to achieve what it has, and that in one election cycle, we progressives have made remarkable progress.
So, let’s follow the Indivisible playbook. Let’s take this nation back in the 2018 elections, despite gerrymandering, despite voter suppression laws. We are the majority. If we work for this, and most importantly, if we vote, we will not fail.