Washington Democrats have been in a political death spiral since the day Donald Trump descended his tacky golden escalator to announce a run for the presidency. In the three years since, the Democratic response to Trump’s toxic tweets and putrid pronouncements has been confused and ineffective. Their Capitol Hill news conferences bemoaning the former reality TV star’s racism, misogyny and corruption have usually fallen on mostly deaf ears. Even the demagogue in chief’s self-inflicted wounds only serve to harden the support of his base.

So it has been fascinating this week to watch Trump Republicans running scared whenever the subject turns to health care.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, in a tight Senate race, desperately launched a last-minute ad campaign declaring his support for protections for people with preexisting conditions — despite trying to kill Obamacare for years.

When another Republican Senate candidate, Arizona Rep. Martha McSally, faced reporters’ questions about the topic, she comically suggested that health care was irrelevant to voters and instead claimed that Arizonans cared more about the “caravan” conspiracy theory cooked up by Trump and his right-wing cheerleaders. McSally’s deer-in-the-headlight moment captured perfectly the GOP’s attempt to distract voters from their record on health care by resorting to racist scare tactics.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) recently went beyond mere attacks on Obamacare protections by targeting Social Security and Medicare as a way to offset the GOP’s trillion-dollar tax cuts for the rich and billion-dollar giveaways to the military-industrial complex by purchasing military weapons that the Pentagon doesn’t even want.

Is it any wonder that Trump Republicans are so desperate to change the subject from health care? After all, how do you face voters knowing that your primary political goal in Washington has been to wipe out health-care guarantees so multinational corporations and Mar-a-Lago billionaires can fatten their bank accounts and pour even more money into their children’s trust funds?

Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks to Cuban American supporters at a campaign stop in Hialeah, Fla., in July 2018. (Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press)

That platform won’t even play well in Palm Beach.

Despite Republicans opposing, denigrating and repeatedly trying to repeal Obamacare, a growing number of scared conservatives are now paying lip service to the preposterous idea that the law’s provision protecting coverage for those with preexisting conditions can remain intact even if the rest of the law is gutted.

But do not be fooled — it has only been lip service. In these midterm elections, with health care at the top of voters’ concerns and preexisting-condition protections now established law, Republicans are on the defensive and trying to lie their way out of the political hole they have dug. Proving again that he views Americans as clueless rubes, Trump is declaring Republicans the champions of preexisting-condition protections and claiming it is Democrats who are fiendishly scheming to abolish the Obamacare requirement. Never mind that 20 Republican-run states joined a lawsuit to do away with the provision and that McConnell and other Trump Republicans are planning to make another run at repealing Obamacare after the election.

But voters are finally on to the GOP. That’s why endangered Republican candidates are changing the subject from health care in America to migrant families in Guatemala. Scott, McSally and scores of desperate candidates have decided to follow America’s most famous birther by playing to voters’ worst instincts. With their congressional majorities on the line, Republicans are frantically trying to stoke fear of “others.”

Don’t worry about health care, their argument goes, when thousands of brown-skinned marauders — somehow organized and financed by big-money Jewish Democrats — are heading our way. They aren’t like us, they have no place in our country, and they will be stopped in their tracks by U.S. troops at the border. This nonsense obviously polls well among low-information voters who have already forgotten that the last such “invasion” from Central America only resulted in a few dozen arrests.

But facts stopped mattering to my former political party a long time ago. Instead, Trump’s party is betting its congressional majority on the cynical belief that racism in America is such a toxic force that voters will throw away their families’ health-care protections in response to a phony conspiracy theory cooked up in the diseased minds of radicals and race-baiting politicians.

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