The “repeal and replace” Obamacare fiasco is over for the moment. Now we need to talk about our Junior Senator. John Barrasso reminds me of Stephen Vincent Benet’s story “The Devil and Daniel Webster.”
“There was a man named Jabez Stone, lived at Cross Corners, New Hampshire. He wasn’t a bad man to start with, but he was an unlucky man. If he planted corn, he got borers; if he planted potatoes, he got blight. He had good enough land, but it didn’t prosper him.
“He’d been plowing that morning and he’d just broken the plowshare on a rock that he could have sworn wasn’t there yesterday.” His horse began coughing. At home his children and wife were ailing. It was the last straw.
“I vow it’s enough to make a man want to sell his soul to the Devil. And I would, too, for two cents.” The next day, the Devil arrived to cut the deal.
You’ve seen that ubiquitous photo of Senator Barrasso photo-bombing Mitch McConnell? It costs Wyoming more than you realize. Inclusion in that photo is not free. In order to be at the right hand of the Senate Leader, you must sell your soul to the Party leadership. Inclusion comes with more “Terms and Conditions” than benefits.
Wyoming pays a price. Being part of that photo means never questioning the Party regardless of what it costs your state. Don’t believe it? Ask yourself why independent Republicans like Maine Senator Susan Collins or Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski are never in the photo. They prefer representing constituents to photo-bombing Senator McConnell.
They are busy negotiating better deals with the Majority Leader rather than standing at his side. Not Wyoming’s junior Senator. Barrasso is so reliably in McConnell’s pocket that the GOP leadership never bothers to ask what Wyoming needs. Taken for granted, Barrasso goes along to get along. Wyoming pays a price.
Truthfully, Barrasso hasn’t received the credit he deserves for the failure of the Obamacare “repeal-and-replace” bills. He led the GOP chorus demanding the ACA’s repeal but produced nothing but bad ideas that would have damaged the lives of those he was elected to care about. Need proof that Wyoming voters don’t matter to Barrasso? Exhibit A was the bill he helped draft secretly, which would have taken healthcare from approximately 50,000 Wyoming citizens. He thought we wouldn’t notice his attempt to slash Medicaid. He’d have been gleeful to have destroyed people’s lives on a 51-50 vote.
Three courageous Republicans saved us from Barrasso’s folly. Independent GOP Senators, worried more about constituents than themselves, saved millions of Americans from losing health insurance while the Devil collected his due from John Barrasso.
In Benet’s story, Farmer Stone lived at “Cross Corners.” It’s the place Members of Congress make choices. It’s where lawmakers with empathy choose to help their hurting constituents and those with political ambition don’t. Stone, like Barrasso, made the wrong choice. He sold his soul for seven years. Barrasso sells his six years at a time.
Unlike Wyoming folks, Stone had an empathetic advocate. Daniel Webster represented his constituent with passion. Webster argued that Stone was the victim. He’s no Barrasso. He’s Barrasso’s constituents. Webster told the jury of “the early days of America and the men who had made those days.”
Jabez Stone was, according to his advocate, “an ordinary man who’d had hard luck and wanted to change it.” Webster argued his client represented those who “got tricked and trapped and bamboozled.” The jury agreed. Stone won. The Devil lost.
Applying Benet’s story to Barrasso’s sold soul, doesn’t allow John to be “an ordinary man who’d had hard luck and wanted to change it.” John is a politician, who could have offered his soul to his constituents. They are Jabez Stone. They’ve been “tricked and trapped and bamboozled” into voting for people like Barrasso.
Jesus warned we cannot serve two masters. John agrees. He chose to serve the powerful over the powerless. Great photo John, but Wyoming deserves better.