Why Progressives need to force a vote on Medicare For All — NOW.
There has never been a better time for such a vote, and there won’t be another chance for many years to come.
There is a debate raging currently that has cleaved the progressive Left in twain. On one hand, there is well-known leftist comedian and political commentator Jimmy Dore who has called for the progressive Squad to demand a floor vote on Medicare For All in return for their supporting (voting for) Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House.
The disastrous performance of the House Democrats in this year’s election has left the Party’s majority so slim, Dore says, that just a few progressive members threatening to withhold their votes could put Pelosi’s speakership in jeopardy.
Indeed, the Democratic losses in the 2020 election mean that if just five House members withheld their vote, then Nancy Pelosi could not be Speaker.
On the other side of this debate is Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, a member of the group which Dore believes should put the screws to Nancy Pelosi as described above. AOC has countered that such a vote on M4A now would be a meaningless gesture, a symbolic act of no consequence which would only serve to weaken the cause for M4A and risk fracturing the Democratic caucus still further.
AOC has also argued that there are “better” things to bargain for, although it is not clear whether she is actually proposing to withhold her vote for anything specific in return from Pelosi. Rather, the main thrust of AOC’s argument is that there are structural “insider” issues to address within the machinery of the House that she and her fellow progressives are fighting for, things which we outsiders cannot see, but which are nonetheless very important for progress.
I call bullshit.
Democrats disrespect their own base
AOC’s argument seems to indicate that she has been captured by the Establishment. She is essentially saying, “you voters don’t understand how things work. We who are in power see the Big Picture, and what you are asking is just not feasible, not practical and not helping.”
This is the Establishment line. Here‘s why:
Most people on the progressive Left understand that the purpose of the Democratic Party is to hold the line against the self-same progressive Left. A big part of this effort is to ensure that progressive candidates like Eugene McCarthy, Shirley Chisolm, Jesse Jackson, Howard Dean and Bernie Sanders all get crushed during the Presidential nominating process.
However, there is a second and very important part of the Democrats’ bulwark against progressivism. That is to treat their base of multiracial, working-class and young progressives with utter contempt and scorn.
The progressive Democratic base is constantly being told by its elected officials that there is simply no way to get what they want. That they must concentrate on “the art of the possible” and be happy with whatever their elected representatives can deliver. That despite what some like Obama may preach on the campaign trail, real change is just not possible. Not now, at least. Democratic voters must be patient, settle for the lesser of two evils, and leave the strategy to their betters.
And, if the Democrats cannot deliver what their base wants, then that is the fault of the base. As Adam Johnson of FAIR has opined, “the Democratic Establishment cannot fail, it can only be failed.” If the Democrats can’t deliver, then it is the fault of the voters, not the politicians. Voter shaming among Democratic elites is a high art. It is an all-important tactic to deflect criticism while keeping the voters in their place.
For example: in Obama’s latest memoir, he justifies his feckless failure to get anything done by saying that he “did not have the votes”. LBJ and FDR, he moans, were able to get so much done because they “had the votes” to do what they wanted.
This is the excuse Obama also gave at the time when asked why he didn’t push for a public option in the ACA or accomplish meaningful immigration reform. Obama and the Democratic leaders in Congress refused to push for something they felt could not pass easily because, in their eyes, Democratic voters had failed to give them a comfortable majority. Moreover, they saw no utility in making a “symbolic” legislative push simply in order to make a point.
Apparently no one ever explained to them that 90% of successful politicking consists of “making a point”.
And sadly, AOC makes that same argument to excuse herself from pushing for a M4A vote now.
So I guess we poor slobs here on the ground just aren’t thinking enough, or even at all, when we make such outrageous demands of our Representatives (?)
Moreover, AOC’s snarky “Then what?” comment above reeks of arrogance — and is also disingenuous. She would seemingly have us believe that she doesn’t know the enormous political value of pushing for single payer health care in the middle of a deadly pandemic.
The GOP shows us what it looks like to respect your base
The Republican Party has a vastly different relationship with their base. They respect their base. They even FEAR their base. The rise of the Tea Party, the out-sized influence of the Freedom Caucus, the unlikely primary win by Donald Trump — all stand in stark contrast to the jack-booted, iron-fisted, authoritarian rule of the Democrats.
The Tea Party unseated House Majority leader Eric Cantor and forced Speaker John Boehner into early retirement. Can you IMAGINE something similar happening on the Democratic side? When the Squad, our most vaunted progressives, dare not even ask their Speaker for a vote on an issue that 9 out of 10 Democrats support?
And what is the lame excuse for their impotence? AOC and others would have us believe that there is no merit in holding a vote on Medicare For All when we know it has no chance of passing.
That is some high-grade bullshit right there.
Under Obama, the Republicans in the House voted no less than 54 times to “repeal and replace” Obamacare. Of course they knew that such legislation had practically no chance of passing the Senate, and even then, it would meet with a veto once it reached President Obama’s desk. But they knew that this was an important issue for the GOP base. They wanted to be seen as representing the interests of that base — the base that they respected and feared.
The result was that by the time Trump ran for President in 2016, his promise to “repeal and replace” Obamacare resonated with the now receptive Republican voters, and helped him ultimately win election.
The fact is, what AOC and others call a “symbolic gesture” actually has HUGE meaning and power in the world of politics. Signalling to your base that you hear them, that you are with them, and that you are fighting for them is VERY important.
Remember: Democrats spent two years on a performative, symbolic impeachment
What really chaps my ass is that many of the Democrats who are condemning the “waste of time” in having a vote on Medicare For All were enthusiastically willing to “waste” two years on an impeachment process that they knew from the start would fail. They were perfectly happy to hold hearings and ignore the people’s business in order to grandstand, preen, and grab the media spotlight.
Back then, though, the Democrats saw the value in a “principled fight” and maintained that, even as it failed, it was still worth it.
So let us be clear: Democrats — including AOC — know that having a vote on Medicare For All in the middle of a national health care crisis would also be incredibly useful for commanding media attention, generating interest and advancing the cause of single payer healthcare. And that is exactly why they oppose doing so.
Why Pelosi fears a vote on Medicare For All
Pramila Jayapal introduced her Medicare For All bill in February 2019, at the very start of Nancy Pelosi’s new Speakership. Pelosi has thus far refused to let it come up for a vote.
Why? I think I know.
Jayapal’s bill currently has 112 co-sponsors in the House. As Nina Turner has pointed out, all 112 of those M4A co-sponsors won re-election in 2020, a testament to the popularity of the position.
More importantly, these 112 members now represent virtually HALF of the entire Democratic House Caucus.
If a vote on Jayapal bill ever reached the floor, it is reasonable to expect that it would gain much more than just the votes of those co-sponsors. This means, in turn, that such a vote would prove that a strong majority of House Democrats support Medicare For All. It would show that the majority of House Democrats are — astoundingly — actually aligned with a the vast majority (87%) of Democratic base, as well as with 72% of the American people overall.
No longer could Pelosi and others push the narrative that the goal of the Democratic Party regarding healthcare is to “build and improve on the ACA.” A strong showing in the floor vote would force Party officials to acknowledge the fact that M4A is incredibly popular, and that the majority of their caucus supports it. They could no longer make the entire healthcare debate about just “saving Obamacare.”
Such a vote would also put centrist and conservative Democrats on the chopping block for being primaried. And, should they survive the primary process, the number of such “corporate” Democrats who lost their seats in 2020 will pale compared to the carnage they will suffer in 2022.
Pelosi naturally wants to avoid this. Her Speakership is, after all, on the line in 2 years. But Democrats cannot let Nancy Pelosi’s lust for power stand in the way of showing solidarity with the American people in a time of pandemic.
Jimmy Dore and AOC: a Backstory
Many on the left are attacking Jimmy Dore for what they perceive to be his unfair allegations of AOC having sold out. In order to understand the genesis of Dore’s criticism, we need to take a look at their relationship over the past 3 years.
Jimmy Dore was the first person to do a proper media interview with AOC. He had the young candidate on his popular YouTube show on June 7, 2017, before she had made a name for herself, at a time when she was just one more Justice Democrat candidate trying to take down a powerful centrist incumbent. That YouTube video garnered over 80,000 views.
Once AOC got elected, however, she froze Jimmy Dore out. Not only did she refuse to come back on his show, she stopped even responding to his emails. She refused to engage with him on Twitter. It was obvious that she had joined the rest of the Democratic caucus in treating Jimmy Dore as persona non grata.
Why? Well, I believe it was because Dore was one of the first to call bullshit on the Democrats’ #Russiagate conspiracy theory. He had the audacity to criticize Hillary Clinton and the DNC’s theory of the case. He brought on actual NSA veterans and other experts to debunk the Democrats’ bogus claims, which earned him the undying enmity of Pelosi and the rest of the Democratic Party establishment. Even after release of the Mueller Report, Dore continues to be assaulted as a “Russian asset,” a “Putin puppet” and a “useful idiot” for the Kremlin.
Jimmy has also attacked other Democratic sacred cows. He vehemently defends Julian Assange, whom the Democrats have declared to be Public Enemy Number One for having leaked Hillary’s emails. Even today, AOC refuses to say that Assange should go free, lest she incur the wrath of the Democratic elites.
Syria is another area where Dore has outraged the Democratic Establishment. While Democrats in Congress were calling for Trump to go after Assad because “he gassed his own people”, Dore had on experts to tell the truth about what was happening, and the “wag the dog” scenario that the Democrats were using to gin up the US war machine to push for regime change in Syria. Again, the Democratic and media establishments were outraged at his contrariness, and pushed him still further towards the top of the Party’s shit list.
For these and many other reasons, AOC has treated Dore like kryptonite since she got into office. Dore rightly maintains that he helped her win that office, and so he feels betrayed. I don’t blame him.
But this does mean that Jimmy Dore views AOC’s reluctance to take on Pelosi over M4A as just one more instance of AOC’s having “sold out” to the Dem establishment.
Dore may have a point. Any fair observer would have to admit that the AOC we see today is very different from the bold renegade who, on her first day on the Hill, joined a loud demonstration for the Green New Deal staged right outside Nancy Pelosi’s office. It seems obvious to me anyway that AOC’s defense of her own position is more than a little informed by the “inside baseball” of the Democratic Party’s internal machinations.
And let’s not forget Joe Biden …
What makes this entire discussion so disingenuous is the “elephant in the room“ that AOC and others on her side of the argument refuse to acknowledge.
I am referring, of course, to Joe Biden.
The President-elect is a fierce and iron-clad opponent of Medicare For All. Of all the Democratic candidates running for President in 2020, Biden was the most virulent in his condemnation of Medicare For All. Since he won election, Biden has continued to rail against the policy, stating and confirming on several occasions that if a bill for Medicare For All ever reached his desk, he would veto it.
Given this fact, one must therefore assume that AOC’s real position is not just that we cannot have a vote on M4A now, but that we should not have a vote on M4A for at least the next four years or longer — until Biden is out of office.
It’s now or — most likely — never
Historically, the President’s party always loses seats in Congress during the midterms. This is almost certainly going to be the case in 2022. And then the entire subject of Medicare For All will be suppressed until … when?
When will there be another pandemic that puts healthcare so high on the list of everyone’s priorities?
When will we have another situation where 15 million people lose their employer-provided healthcare?
When, indeed, will we even have another Democrat-controlled House or Senate?
The answer to these questions is possibly, if not probably, NEVER. That is just one more reason why the Squad and other progressives must act NOW to get Medicare For All into the public square as a major issue and a legitimate policy proposal. They must act quickly to make Medicare For All the “official policy” of the Democratic Party while Americans are beset with a pandemic and widespread loss of health insurance, medical bankruptcies and health insecurity.
The time could never be more perfect to do this. The Squad need to step up and leverage the tremendous power that they hold for this one fleeting moment.