JOHN GEYMAN FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Just over a year ago, the Democratic Platform Drafting Committee voted on whether or not to endorse single-payer Medicare for All, or national health insurance (NHI). It lost by a narrow vote of 7-6, with the no votes coming from delegates chosen by Hillary Clinton, a cautious centrist awash with campaign money from special interests in the for-profit health care industry. That position is in direct opposition to the will of the people, with about 60 percent support of single-payer, and of Democrats, with about 80 percent support.
So what's happening today on this front as the Democratic Party tries to deal with its own split party on this issue? As centrist Democrats such as Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi take a victory lap in defending (so far) the Republicans' effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), with or without replacement, they are trotting out their so-called Better Deal. While this has some good ideas, they are much too small for the moment and fail to take on the chains of Wall Street, the military-industrial complex, and the medical-industrial complex. The Better Deal does not come out in favor of single-payer Medicare for All, the only way we can ever achieve universal coverage to health care as a human right for all Americans.
While Democrats may take heart in seeing the demolition derby splitting Republicans asunder and opening up their own comeback in the coming 2018 midterms and the 2020 election cycle, they must acknowledge their own deep split if they are to win back the House and Senate next year and the White House in 2020. Their chances could not be better as the dysfunctional Trump administration and a Republican Congress take so many actions against the public interest. Progressive Democrats are sending a clear message that Medicare for All must be part of their Party's platform. In the House, the Conyers bill for single-payer national health insurance (H. R. 676 has more co-sponsors than ever before (117), and Sen. Bernie Sanders plans to introduce a similar bill in the Senate when Congress re-convenes in September.
Instead, the so-called Better Deal that establishment Democrats are touting now has a few good ideas, but falls far short of what is needed, while risking further defeats in national elections by being too cautious. Even some supporters of health care reform, such as LeeAnn Hall, co-director of People's Action and a member of the executive committee of Health Care for America Now (HCAN), are taking a too wimpy approach, by proposing such surrender in advance proposals as lowering the Medicare eligibility age, expanding Medicaid, and bringing back the public option.
Why should Democrats give up so much ground short of universal health care, which is so strongly supported by the public and by Democrats. Even if Democrats should win in their battle with Republicans with the inadequate "Better Way," they will lose the real battle over universal health care. That would just extend for more years the power of corporate stakeholders in our for-profit health care system, continuing the profiteering of a failed private health insurance industry without real cost containment in sight. Much better would be to boldly adopt the recommendations of progressive Democrats to embrace Medicare for All, such as the People's Platform, crafted by a coalition of grassroots organizations led by Our Revolution, which emerged from Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign.
Why is the Democratic Party abandoning once again, as Hillary Clinton did in her 2016 election campaign, the will of the people on health care? The answer, of course, comes down to money. The Center for Responsive Politics tracks campaign contributions to both parties in the 115thCongress. In its latest report, here are some of the numbers of total amounts to leadership PACs and campaign committees:
In the Senate (including 2012-2016):
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) $3,667,264
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) $3,355,661
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) $2,715,088
In the House (including 2016):
Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ) $1,333,126
Michael Burgess (R-TX) $989,474
Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD) $913,625
Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) $471,060
After their disastrous losses in the 2016 elections, it is clear that the Democratic Party has not learned its lesson -- to support the common good of those constituents they are supposedly representing. As Yogi Berra famously said, "It's déjà vu all over again." That's what is happening again as the DNC puts together its platform on health care. Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, identifies the enduring problem Democrats in winning over the public and elections:
Both of the Democrats' leaders owe their position in large part to their ability to appeal to large donors. They are not going to completely change direction at this stage of their careers. That is why the Better Deal still doesn't look like a very good deal.
Ted Rall gives us this clear answer to the feckless Democratic Party platform on health care:
The answer, of course, is that the party leadership is owned by Wall Street, the Fortune 500 and big-moneyed special interests in general. Figures like Harris, Schumer and Clinton will never give the people what we want and need because their masters will never allow it. The question for us is: when do we stop giving them our votes -- and start organizing outside the dead-end of the electoral duopoly?