A group of around 40 rallied at the corner of State and Anapamu Streets on Saturday to celebrate the U.S. Senate’s thumbs-down health-care vote the day before, and to call for a single-payer health-care system in the state and the nation.
Michal Lynch, the event’s organizer, did not know when she began inviting various groups to the rally if it would be a celebratory or protest-driven event. Last Tuesday, the Senate had approved to debate on the Affordable Care Act, then scheduled a vote on the “skinny repeal” for Friday, July 28.
Several of the rally attendees stayed up until 1 a.m. that Friday night, watching the vote take place on C-SPAN, the public broadcast network that airs legislative vote counts. And they were not disappointed.
After Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), and Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) cast their “no” votes, there was just one more nay needed to kill the bill.
“I was holding my breath a lot … really hoping they could get that third vote,” Julie Mickelberry, vice president of community engagement for Planned Parenthood’s California Central Coast branch said.
To Mickelberry’s surprise, as well as that of many watching at home, Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) walked onto the Senate floor. He raised his hand in a dramatic nature to get the clerk’s attention, turned a thumbs-down and said “no,” and walked off to gasps and applause from his Democratic colleagues.
As a result, the stars of the rally turned out to be senators Murkowski, Collins, and McCain. Pam Flynt Tambo, a liaison for the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee, was sitting down for the beginning of the rally, writing postcards with the Women’s March emblem to the Republican senators. She said she wanted to make sure they received the thanks they deserved. Mickelberry called Murkowski and Collins “champions” and said she was thankful for McCain’s “no” vote.
Lynch, originally from the Bronx, moved to California as an adult and remembers being disoriented; she’d grown up accustomed her neighborhood streets all being numbered. A folk-dance instructor, she said she is happy she found a way to fit in and said she is thankful she was able to have such a strong local impact in January after organizing the Women’s March, in which more than 6,000 people took part.
“Both sides have an ability to be really blind,” Lynch said of current political dialogue. She sees these marches as opportunities to spark conversation and reach agreement.
A mild-mannered woman, she displayed a keen sense of argument diffusion. During our interview, a combative woman who had been yelling incoherently about President Donald Trump earlier in the day came up to us, asking where all the screamers had gone off to, and why they want single-payer health care since she did not want to pay for her health care, all the while leering at us. Lynch smiled, said it was actually universal health care, and that she would try to get the name changed. The woman said, “Good,” and stomped off.
“The first thing you do in any confrontational situation is agree with the person confronting you,” she said. “You can almost always find some way to agree.”
The rally was not free of hecklers. A middle-aged man biking through with some kids stopped to shout that socialist medicine does not work. He eventually biked away shouting, “Remember Charlie Gard,” invoking the name of the infant diagnosed with an incurable genetic disorder who died in London on Friday, presumably making a connection between the child’s death and London’s health-care system.
A couple of transients also started shouting during some intervals of the rally but were ignored, and they eventually relented in their heckling.
After an hour, people packed up and slowly drifted away, getting ready for their next demonstration, whenever that may be.