There are a number of reasons why Jimmy Kimmel, of all the late-night hosts in the land, has emerged as the most high-profile critic of the Republican Party’s relentless, Terminator-like attempts to murder a whole lot of poor and sick people. For one thing, Kimmel, in the parlance of action movies since time immemorial, has declared essentially, “This time it’s personal.” Kimmel’s openness about the ongoing health problems of his infant son Billy, and his parental determination to protect the lad—and millions like him—from politicians waging a years-long crusade against making necessary care just a little bit goddamn easier for people, has granted the host’s campaign a gravitas that no one but greedhead Republican congresspeople can ignore. For another, Kimmel was dragged into the spotlight when Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA), co-author with Lindsay Graham (R-SC) of the latest Republican plot to smother the Affordable Care Act, used Kimmel’s son as a PR ploy to prop up his proposal with lies and empty promises. Again—this time, it’s personal.
But the fact that Kimmel’s style is usually less politically pointed than, well, everyone else except fellow late-night Jimmy (and noogie-knuckling goof), Jimmy Fallon has contributed to the potency of Kimmel’s broadsides. And, on Tuesday’s Jimmy Kimmel Live!, the host was finally able to declare a hard-won victory, as the Republican leadership announced earlier in the day that the Graham-Cassidy plan was officially dead. Thanking everyone who helped pressure their representatives, and calling today “a day of great relief” for himself, his family, and millions of families like them, Kimmel yet wasn’t done with Cassidy, Graham, Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and the rest of the GOP, delivering a harshly contemptuous eulogy for their collective plot to take healthcare away from people who currently have it. He also praised those Republican senators, namely Susan Collins (R-ME) and John McCain (R-AZ) who, once again, chose not to go along with their colleagues’ agenda, and then went hard after Donald Trump (R-Hellmouth) for his Twitter (of course) attacks against McCain’s principled stand. A handy montage of Trump policy hypocrisy and comparisons of the Vietnam service of McCain (distinguished) and Trump (not found) saw Kimmel showing how little willing he is to forgive and forget the GOP’s monomaniacal zeal for repeal-and-replace.
Whether this experience signals a pivot for Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Kimmel himself to the more consistently political territory of Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers in the late-night game remains to be seen. But as Kimmel here warned Republicans (who have already announced their intention to try this bullshit again next year) that “we’re paying attention now,” it sure looks like he’s pissed off and motivated enough to keep bringing the fight to the Republicans.