In what could be a harbinger of things to come in November this year, voters of Oklahoma, a traditional bastion of Republican Party, have voted in favour of expanding Medicaid, the social welfare scheme that provides medical insurance to economically weaker sections of society.
This is a massive blow to the GOP as well as President Donald Trump. Opposition to the famous 2010 Affordable Care Act, more well-known as Obamacare, has become an article of faith with right-wingers, especially Republicans.
The passing of this act, one of the most hotly debated and controversial pieces of legislation in modern American history, became the main talking point for years to come and galvanized the GOP's base vigorously. It also played a key part in the party regaining control of the House of Representatives in the 2010 mid-term elections.
Medicaid underwent substantial expansion due to Obamacare as the net of coverage was expanded widely. However, many Republican-dominated states, including Oklahoma refused to concur with the Federal legislation and to expand the coverage provided by the program.
However, many Oklahomans, backed by some organisations started a petition to hold a referendum on whether the state's constitution should be amended to include more people within its ambit. After the petition got a record number of signatures, the State Question 802 was put on ballot.
The question was whether the eligibility to come under Medicaid be extended to those earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty mark. The voting concluded at 7 PM Tuesday evening and the verdict has come out in favour of yes.
According to the latest reports from local media, the victory for the 'Yes' campaign was a narrow one and the margin reported by them is 6,488 votes. This means Oklahoma will become the 38th state in the Union to expand Medicaid.
This has happened despite the fact that both the legislature and the executive in the state is with the GOP. Governor Kevin Stitt had opposed the expansion on grounds of fiscal prudence but his voice has gone unheeded by 50.48 percent of the people who voted yes.
Implications for Trump and GOP
This is a very bad news for the already embattled President and his party. The alleged mishandling of the Corona crisis, followed by the nationwide stir over the George Floyd incident had already pushed the Republicans into a corner. Now, with a reliable red state voting in favour of a legislation opposed vehemently since 2010 by them, the situation looks dire.
Just a few days ago, a nationwide poll had shown President Trump trailing his rival for the highest executive office in the land, Joe Biden, by 14 percentage points. On top of that, polls also indicated that states such as Texas and Georgia, traditional fortresses of the GOP, are in doubt this time.
If Oklahomans are also tilting towards turning blue this November, the chances of Trump's re-election will look very slim. This vote could well reflect a discontentment with the state of healthcare in the country in the wake of a high number of fatalities caused by COVID-19.
It could also be a sign of the galvanization of the Democrat's base. The only saving grace for President Trump could be the fact that his attitude towards Obamacare has been less dogmatic, in fact, at times, ambivalent. Perhaps this would prevent all those who voted Yes in this referendum form rejecting him in November.