Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), one of the most conservative Democrats in the Senate, has developed a reputation with progressives for reducing and criticizing several progressive policies that are growing in popularity.
During a town hall in April 2017, she told her constituents that policies like free college tuition are too expensive to enact; “Free college tuition is a great goal except it’s really expensive,” she said. “It’s really expensive, and we are struggling over how we’re going to pay in terms of what we have right now for Medicare. We can’t just start having the government pay for everything. When people talk about that and they point out countries where that happens, people are paying 70 percent of their income in taxes.”
Just weeks earlier, she pleaded for help from Bernie Sanders supporters to help her get re-elected. “All of you who are Bernie supporters … I need you. I want you. I want to talk to you. I want you to be part of our effort,” she said, hoping to stave off a progressive primary challenger. During the 2016 Democratic Primaries, Bernie Sanders received 49.4 percent of the vote, losing by just 0.2 percent to Clinton. McCaskill, a Clinton surrogate, frequently criticized Sanders and his supporters throughout the primaries. Earlier this year, she complained about the prospect of facing a primary challenger, “I may have a primary because there is, in our party now, some of the same kind of enthusiasm at the base that the Republican party had with the Tea Party,” she said in a February 2017 interview. “We are seeing that same—and many of those people are very impatient with me because they don’t think I’m pure. For example, they think I should be voting against all of Trump’s nominees and of course I’m judging each nominee on its own merit.”
Since Trump took office, progressives have criticized McCaskill for undermining the Trump Resistance, voting for several of Trump’s more conservative appointments and defecting from the majority of the Democratic Party on several issues. Last month, McCaskill criticized single payer healthcare as Bernie Sanders introduced a Medicare for All bill in the Senate. In part due to her stance against single payer, a progressive primary challenger has emerged to hold McCaskill accountable in the Democratic Primary and represent progressives in the Missouri Senate race.
Angelica Earl, a former verification specialist for Obamacare, is challenging McCaskill in support of a single-payer healthcare system having witnessed first hand the flaws in the Affordable Care Act.
“I had to do expirations at one point. My second expiration ever, the second one I ever had to do, it was a three-year-old boy. That really upset me to have to expire a three-year-old child,” said Earl in an interview with me. “They had to lose their insurance. So here I am sitting in front of this button. I have the person next to me who is helping me learn expirations saying, ‘You have to hit the button. You have to expire them.’ I couldn’t do it. My supervisor came over and said, ‘You have to.’ So I ended up having to expire that person. I did four more expirations that day and walked away for about a week. That was probably one of the hardest things I had to do. There’s no reason children should be getting expired. There’s no reason people shouldn’t have healthcare, so I’m saying from all the people I’ve talked to, the hundreds of people while working at the marketplace, single-payer healthcare is the way to go.”
Earl noted that she would be forced to expire someone’s health insurance for a variety of technical reasons, from incomplete applications to the required documents not being submitted, yet those requirements were often muddled and incoherent. “Now, a lot of people say the Affordable Care Act can be fixed. I can say from an inside of knowledge of how disorganized, dysfunctional, and how completely irrational the working environment was the ACA probably cannot be fixed. It was changing every day multiple times a day. It never had a consistency. If you missed work for a week, you’re coming back to a totally different playing field. It’s a great thing that we had, but it was not the solution. The solution is seen in countries all over the world, but not here.”
Due to the Affordable Care Act marketplace losing so many people signing up for it, not able to afford the high premiums and deductibles, Earl was let go from her job. “I’m on unemployment right now because the marketplace had nobody signing up, so we all lost our jobs. They cut, I think, half the people if not more,” she said. “I will say, Claire McCaskill seems like a very nice person. She, in my opinion, is not evil. However, she is very, very detached from what Missourians actually need. So I guess once you’ve been involved in and engulfed yourself in money for so long–and of course, you have Citizens United, which just keeps pushing more money at you–I can see how it would become very easy to not realize what the people down at the bottom actually go through.”