SALT LAKE CITY — When a shooting happens everything changes. And then nothing changes.
This column today was originally headed into presidential politics, particularly about what is not being said on the debate stage. Thirty-five minutes of one of last week’s Democratic debates focused on how to get health insurance to, well, everyone.
The cost of a plan and freedom to keep your own health care provider are key issues. Is it realistic to be more like Canada with a single-payer system? Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren say yes. Others on the stage said not so fast. Republicans want change, but were unable to repeal Obamacare and put forth a new plan. In other words, sound bites happen, but little else.
What was not discussed in the debates was the cost of some of our biggest health problems, like obesity, addiction, alcohol bingeing and the subsequent highway carnage that follows; teen vaping, drugs, suicide. These are all medical concerns with billion-dollar impacts. They cripple families and strain the health care system, driving up the cost of hospital care. Find solutions here and money is loosed to provide health coverage elsewhere.
Can candidates discuss how to really bring down the cost of health care?
Then Saturday came. Twenty people were killed in El Paso, with dozens of others injured. It comes less than a week after a shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Northern California. There a 6-year-old child was killed, as was a teenager and one adult (in addition to the shooter who turned the gun on himself). It was a painful day, but only a single news cycle. Nothing changed.
Deseret News Opinion Editor Boyd Matheson has written eloquently and spoken around the nation about the problem of “instant certainty” — the instant analysis that shows up following an event, often a tragic occurrence or a political event.
Boyd discussed “instant certainty” as the enemy of truth, as it can take an argument down the wrong path and make it more difficult to find a thoughtful solution to a problem. Some of that was on display Saturday. But thankfully there was also restraint.
What comes next will be crucial.
El Paso is at the center of the immigration debate as migrants have come from Central America across the border, overwhelming the nation’s ability to adequately care for them and process asylum requests. Lawmakers from both parties, including members of the Utah delegation, have gone to the border seeking answers and trying to solve what Washington has failed to do for more than two decades.
The FBI is investigating a written manifesto as it searches for the shooter’s motivation. White nationalism will be explored. The shooting promises to be a flashpoint in presidential politics for the remainder of the year. But what will be the result of the conversations and actions that follow?
What will September’s debates look like on the Democratic side? What will Congress and President Donald Trump do to move toward solutions along the border?
Candidates for president immediately began tweeting condolences on Saturday. The shooting impacted Beto O’Rourke particularly hard as he is from El Paso. He returned from the campaign trail to help his community. Will his voice be louder now with such a direct connection to Saturday’s violence?
President Trump offered the following in a tweet, showing his support: “Terrible shootings in ElPaso, Texas. Reports are very bad, many killed. Working with State and Local authorities, and Law Enforcement. Spoke to Governor to pledge total support of Federal Government. God be with you all!"
When the pain of this day subsides, following the funerals and the mourning, we may do well to remember that solutions take compromise and unique collaboration.
Back in September 2015, folks in Brocktown, Massachusetts came out on a mild end-of-summer day and watched Sen. Elizabeth Warren wield big green chamber of commerce scissors to cut a ribbon on Brockton Neighborhood Health Center and Vicente’s Tropical Grocery.
It was a celebration of a joint public-private partnership to deal with the problem — poor nutrition and eating poorly, as well as health care to help those suffering from obesity, among other health concerns.
A press release at the time said, "We know that great health care alone is not enough to keep our patients healthy. By combining health care services with access to healthy foods, this project recognizes that good nutrition is critical to improving and maintaining good health for the low-income patients we serve,” said Sue Joss, CEO of the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center."
It addressed both problem and solution in a single lower-income neighborhood. There was some federal money, but more private money and great work in the non-profit sector. Warren and her debate mates, as well as President Trump and the Republican Party would do well to find the principles in such small victories and then work to translate those to the nation's vexing, heartbreaking problems.