Recently Beth Lynch of Progressive Army published an article titled, “We Have the Momentum, Let’s Use It.” It was composed of one part optimism: that progressives and the left have much to be hopeful for in this moment, and that we can and must seize the moment to build a “people politics” and a better future. The article also touched on a long-standing flaw of left movements, particularly the U.S. left: how we tend to fragment ourselves searching for the way forward.
Much of the story of the left’s fragmentation lies in our nation’s history, with the power of capitalists and corporations crushing unions and independent movements, and the “Red Scare” producing a deeply seated fear of “communism” and socialism in the American consciousness.
This includes the more recent political project called Neoliberalism, which has an exact meaning that can be debated, but would have to include the crushing of unions, deregulation of capital, upward redistribution of wealth, and infiltration of education institutions with free-market ideology.
And then there is another challenge, that is not as clear from a study of history, but is more philosophical in nature. The left has always been more exacting because it is very concerned with being “correct.” We cut each other up for saying the wrong words or phrases, or having a difference of approach. We tend to think that this must represent justice and that is not my idea of justice.
Wanting to do the right thing is more difficult in a time when so many things are wrong. We are at a very dangerous and culminating point in human history. The questions of climate change, nuclear warfare, economic automation, and global capitalism are among the greatest challenges we’ve ever faced on this planet. While their solutions may often be simple, the implementation of these solutions will not be easy.
And when center-left Bernie Sanders is cast as radical in 2016 for proposing policies and programs that would move us toward a baseline level of European standard-of-living, that is a testament to our narrow social and political discourse. We have a lot to fight for―and many powerful people, and deeply-seated toxic ideas, to fight against.
It can be overwhelming. But there are ways to make it less overwhelming. One way is to rally around an issue. A very important issue. Something that everyone wants, needs and cares about. In this moment, that issue is health care.
Unlike Leftist pontification about the means of production, the fight for healthcare is now a mainstream concern in the public consciousness. Many Americans were dissatisfied with the Affordable Care Act under the Obama administration, and rightfully so, since it left tens of millions uninsured in its wake―and many more people under-insured. Much of the U.S. public still would choose to avoid medical care until it seems like an emergency, or we do not fill prescriptions because of expensive pharmaceuticals; we cannot afford co-payments, and we are denied coverage. Preventive care is still underutilized, largely because it is not immediately seen by the insurance companies as necessary, though it would ultimately lower costs and improve well-being.
Then came the Republican Party, in their ruthless attempt to capitalize on the public resentment, birthing a bill that is not worthy of the name “health care,” a bill which in reality would result in more death, more sickness, and more resentment. All of this while the insurance industry would profit more, and the super rich get tax cuts that they absolutely do not need.
To recap: millions did not have health care under “Obamacare,” and under threat of the Republican-proposed ACHA (which may still resurrect in some form), millions more are on the verge of losing their care, and potentially, their lives.
This can only go on for so long before people realize an enemy. ”Why would someone want to take away my healthcare, especially when they promised something better than what we had?” And with much credit to Bernie Sanders and allied movements, the public is beginning to widely understand that the United States is unique among developed nations in its failure to offer healthcare as a right.
Healthcare is one of the few issues that has the potential to quickly overcome political ideology. You won’t find many conservatives and neoliberals on their deathbed arguing about the joys of a healthcare free-market. Not any honest ones, at least.
Everyone wants healthcare. Nobody wants to lose it. And an issue that is traditionally “left-wing,” and which the entire left can agree on, is the issue of the day. This is our moment to build a people’s movement. Medicare-for-All is the strongest point around which to unite.
A strategy to win the present – and the future
I see three parts to the fight for #MedicareForAll. First is the justification. We build and propagate a bulletproof message that Medicare-for-All is good and necessary.
The second part is saying “No.” We fight against, and withdraw our support from, anyone with power who obfuscates the clear truth (that Medicare-for-All is both morally and economically justified).
The third element is to organize. We continue to build a movement outside and within electoral politics, which applies ever greater pressure on elected officials. We also run new candidates to replace the ones who will not meet our demands.
In Part Two, I will delve into the three-part strategy.