Georgia’s Gov. Nathan Deal being left behind as other Republican governors endorse Medicaid expansion

By Guest Columnist TIMOTHY SWEENEY, director of health policy at the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute

A rule of thumb holds that when something happens three times in short order, it’s a trend. So it’s fair to say that the melting resistance to Medicaid expansion among Republican governors just changed from anecdotal to a full-blown trend.

Last week, two more Republican governors came out in support for taking advantage of new federal funding to ensure health coverage for more of their state’s residents.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder bring to six the number of GOP governors who have announced they will move forward to expand Medicaid through the national health care law known as the Affordable Care Act.

Saxby Chambliss and the rural-Republican arc

When Saxby Chambliss was elected to Congress in 1994, he was the first Republican to represent a rural Deep South district since Reconstruction, which made him stand out in the big freshman GOP class that came to Washington that tumultuous year.

He could have been described then as a pioneer, which is hardly the way he seemed last week when Chambliss announced he’d decided not to seek a third U.S. Senate term next year. The two-decade arc of that Washington career spans much of the story of what’s happened in American politics since the year when the Democrats lost control of Congress for the first time in decades, and Newt Gingrich declared Year One of the new Republican Era.

Bob Gibeling

From a straight Young Republican to a gay Democrat delegate

In 1972, Georgia Tech student Bob Gibeling cheered Pat Nixon’s arrival at the Republican Convention in Miami. He gave interviews to national media about his generation’s support of the GOP’s progressive policies. He dreamed of becoming mayor of Atlanta, his hometown.

This week, Bob Gibeling will cheer Barack Obama at the Democratic Convention in Charlotte. As a volunteer coordinator for a faith-based nonprofit in Atlanta, Gibeling is thrilled to be voting for a platform with a full marriage equality plank. His political career has been spent not in local politics, but working for change in his religious denomination.

Over 40 years, whose life and context doesn’t change? The constants in Gibeling’s story are a family-bred passion for politics, a lifelong commitment to the middle ground and a willingness to stand for change.

His arrival at the opposite political pole is one marker of discovering his true religious faith and sexual orientation – a secret that kept him from realizing his political dreams. As he found himself, he realized the ground he had always stood on no longer made room for people like him.