There’s plenty who will do it for free

At the Nevada Legislature, Sheila Leslie is a registered lobbyist for Washoe County Social Services. She does not write about that agency or its requests to the legislators.

The Republicans’ obsession with the myth of the paid protester has been very puzzling to me since it’s so easily proven false. It surfaced during the 2016 campaign in the form of rumors of busloads of paid provocateurs being transported over state lines to disrupt Trump events, a trope quickly dismantled by Snopes, the “urban legends” website that investigates internet rumors and “other stories of unknown or questionable origin.”

The myth has been circulating more strongly in recent weeks as thousands of people across the country fill congressional town halls to denounce Trump and the Republican plan to repeal Obamacare. When I read a fake news story circulating among far-right political commentators about an organization called Demand Protest that supposedly is paying people $2,500 a month to work as protesters, I laughed out loud, knowing it was a hoax even before I confirmed it on Snopes.

Anyone who has attended a hometown protest this year would know it was false, too. That’s because the events are jammed with neighbors, friends and family, and lots of new acquaintances eager to share their views on the outrageous Muslim bans, the unqualified cabinet appointees, the influence of Russia in our elections, the rolling back of LGBTQ equality, and the Republican plan to destroy the Affordable Care Act.

Many of the protests are loosely organized by local groups with paid staff and volunteers who publicize the details primarily over social media. That’s not a money-fueled plot, though. It’s just good community organizing. The protests have the organic feel of a nascent movement with creative homemade signs and chants. Many of the protesters are “first timers” or haven’t been to a protest since the ’60s, a fact easily uncovered with a simple conversation. And they are certainly not being paid by anyone to be there.

Nevada’s Sen. Dean Heller, one of the primary targets of people hoping to topple Republicans from at least one point of the power triangle in D.C., doesn’t seem to appreciate the hostile crowd that protests his private appearances since he has refused to schedule an in-person town hall. He prefers “tele-town hall” events where angry calls can be squelched more effectively and he says he doesn’t like applause or booing.

What Republicans can’t see or don’t want to admit is the frequent organic protests reflect the resentment and anger of a multitude of Americans whose ranks will surely grow in coming months if millions lose their health care. As the public digests the new American Health Care Act (AHCA), cleverly named to mimic Obama’s ACA, the protests are bound to explode since the individual math doesn’t pencil out, especially for older, sicker and poorer people. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that under the new plan 24 million people will be uninsured by 2026, much higher than even the pre-ACA days.

Speaker Paul Ryan’s defense of the plan seems to rely on the point that people will be able to “choose” if and how they want to be covered under Trumpcare. But virtually no one would prefer a plan that only covers catastrophes, especially as premiums go up when younger Americans, freed from the individual mandate, decline to enter the marketplace.

Even more offensive is the notion pushed by Republicans that everyone will still be covered because they can go to the emergency room for their health care, the most expensive care on the planet, intended for serious trauma, not primary health care. Heads will roll as people figure out who will pay for that.

The White House is actively soliciting Obamacare “disaster” stories. They need to hear from Nevadans who have had positive experiences, too. You can share your story at