Forget Donna Brazile & Hillary: the Single-Payer Army Can Lead the Way

Only a few days ago, the Old Guard, elitist leaders of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), began showing their teeth to the thousands of Berniecrats they once signaled might fill cavities in a rotting party. Add thousands more Bernie Sanders diehards in dozens of grassroots movements—Our Revolution to BerniePDX—or the thousands joining party affiliates such as the Working Families Party and the Democratic Socialists of America.

Their official dismissal as anything but worker-bees came at the DNC’s recent annual meeting when new party chair Tom Perez began purging four Sanders’ supporters from its executive committee. Official reason? To “diversify” party leadership and bring “new people “into the fold,” as if “Bernie’s Army” were chopped liver. Yet kept as an at-large committee member was former interim chair Donna Brazile, a black made infamous as a CNN staffer for slipping presidential candidate Hillary Clinton drafts of questions for its primary debates.

Brazile’s forthcoming book on DNC operations reveals that 15 months before the presidential election, when it had to be neutral on primary candidates, Clinton’s operation paid $10 million of Obama’s $24 million campaign debt. That permitted them to take total control of a destitute DNC and “ throw the [primaries] to Hillary…”

And so at its recent meeting, seemingly to quash any chances Bernie would run again in 2020, a resolution failed that demanded he be a registered Democrat. It was a strong indicator that in the Establishment’s eyes he was still an interloper, or a “junkyard dog,” as Clinton considered him. This, despite his being regarded even in mid-October as America’s most popular politician (71% of 255,120 voters, Morning Consult Poll)

Further, the hotly disputed DNC super-delegate ploy never came up for a vote. These delegates are key party leaders appointed by the DNC to provide 714 votes of 4,765 delegates at the presidential convention. Designed in 1982, it keeps popular grassroots candidate from winning—and helped defeat Sanders in 2016 with a 2,842-1,865 vote.

However, the worst blow to Bernie and his campaign army had to be the leaders’ quiet decision to ensure single-payer health insurance is never enacted because the healthcare-pharmaceutical industries have ferociously opposed it with million-dollar campaign donations—and threats. They’ve been doing that since Harry Truman was president and show few signs of changing.

One major recipient of their benevolence, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, was rewarded with $437,945 during 2015-16 and $185,954 so far this year. Small wonder she provided The New York Times with the DNC’s view of single-payer coverage:

At a briefing with reporters last month [May], the House minority leader, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, replied with a flat “no” when asked if Democrats should make single-payer a central theme in 2018. She said state-level action was more appropriate…. “The comfort level with the broader base of the American people is not there yet,” Ms. Pelosi said.

But her “base” is the 1% because the current percentage of American voters favoring single-payer is 60%; for Democrats, it’s 80%.

To reinforce their tactics, the DNC seems to have mandated that Bernie and progressive groups pushing single-payer do so in 2020, not the 2018 midterm elections. They know the nation and Congressional candidates—incumbents and challengers—will be totally focused on presidential primaries and election, not single-payer.

Nor is it unreasonable to suspect the reason Sanders kept postponing his single-payer bill from March to September was because DNC approval was being stalled or had insisted it contain a public option section as a poison pill blocking Senate passage. Else why not hopper a replica of Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) all-encompassing HR 676 (Expanded and Improved Medicare For All Act) replete with its five critical funding sources?

In the meantime, a Republican Congress and President were trying to kill Obamacare, Medicaid, and sunset the Children’s Health Insurance Program so no healthcare would be available at all and the tax savings would go to the 1%. That sharp Congressional incumbents or challengers recognized single-payer should be their No. 1 campaign plank was amply demonstrated this past year. Hundreds of enraged recipients (and family and friends)—even Republicans—stormed town halls demanding single-payer coverage immediately, not 2020 or 2024 or 2034.

These explosive coast-to-coast public objections about those bills played a major role in their defeat and warned Congressional delegations and national party strategists that it would be a third-rail factor in the 2018 midterms.

By contrast, the potential size of a constituency voting for single-payer candidates is staggering, considering the usual low-turnout midterm election. In 2014, only 83.3 million out of 227.2 million eligibles bothered to vote. Weigh that against the 2018 potential of most of the 183.5 million angry eligibles enrolled in federal healthcare programs:

+ 12.2 million in Obamacare

+ 72.3 million in Medicaid

+ 6 million in CHIP

+ 58 million in Medicare

+ 3.3 million (@10,000 daily enrollees) new Medicare recipients

+ 28.2 million uninsured (aged 18-64) prior to Trump’s presidency

+ 3.5 million since his inauguration.

Add to this mix millions of their riled-up families and friends. Or the frantic millions fearing loss of health coverage because of downsizing or being priced out of it in the next few months. The Congressional Budget Office’s estimate for 2023 is that those 28 million uninsured will increase to 31 million if things don’t change.

Let’s not forget the 12,029,699 impassioned Bernie voters in the 2016 primaries and the millions picked up since then in big rallies around the country like the more than 2,000 cheering nurses recently in San Francisco.

If voters have driven miles to show up at town halls to confront Congressional delegations about losing federal healthcare benefits, they’ll have plenty of reason in 2018 to get to the polls and vote for candidates making single-payer their No. 1 priority both on the campaign trail or in casting a floor vote for it.

In short, four winning elements exist for America to get single-payer now, as Bernie has urged, by launching a multi-partisan

“Single-Payer Army” for the 2018 midterm elections:

+ More than 200 million voters demanding it

+ 435 seats in the House, 34 in the Senate open for conquest by single-payer candidates

+ Thousands of Bernie’s campaign veterans and fund-raisers eager to find and support single-payer candidates

+ Bernie as the “Single-Payer Army’s” general—as of now

Yes, it’s true that the average House challenger is usually significantly underfunded—typically at around $111,000—compared to an incumbent and lacks name-recognition. But in the 2018 midterms, neither factor may count. What will count is that challengers such as Portland’s Marc Koller have talked-up single-payer to householders desperate for adequate and affordable coverage.

And yes, it’s also true that the midterms are only a year away, but that means less expense, less campaigning, and making the single-payer issue look low-budget to the desperate healthcare have-nots: homemade literature, a stint at the local radio station during morning “drive time.” It’s also well to remember that it took only three months to launch Bernie’s campaign in that summer of 2015.

Moreover, single-payer practically sells itself in canvassing or phone-banking whether in the city and especially out in rural America where healthcare is getting rare and is miles away.

We early-bird canvassers in Portland have learned that just a mention of Medicare for everyone under 65 usually puts householders on board. As for those opposed to single-payer’s small increase in income taxes, we’ve successfully countered that knotty point by asking questions about their current and expected stratospheric increases in monthly premiums, deductibles, and co-pays. Those bills outweigh the small tax increases and can be deducted as health expenses.

The stopper is telling householders what Medicare recipients have been paying—monthly premiums: $134; deductibles: $183 deductibles for incomes under $85,000. So is explaining Medicare’s 1.5% administrative costs, compared to private carriers’ 18% to cover CEO and upper-management salaries, stockholder dividends, advertising, and lobbying costs to reach state and federal lawmakers.

A “Single-Payer Army” would involve millions of volunteers who have commitment to this vital cause for the 99%, plus energy, organizational skills, and astounding fundraising abilities ($27 contributions?).

Their mighty efforts have centered around implanting Bernie’s new political and social culture in every state—especially single-payer. Few may want to be part of a Democratic pool of obedient foot-soldiers to re-elect elitist incumbents opposed to that cause. If volunteers in DNC-controlled movements ordered to push single-payer in 2020, it shouldn’t take much to change that date to 2018 and to withstand the party’s slings, arrows—and subsidies.

As for that “General” of a Single-Payer Army, he’s still on the road and still chiefly promoting single-payer to his usual sizable and enthusiastic crowds and declaring at one “After decades of talk, now is the time to get it done!”

Fresh from dozens of post-nomination/election meetings, large and small, most recently in Puerto Rico, Bernie still found time in late October for an op-ed in The Boston Globe to pitch for rural health care centers that serve 27 million people—yet another constituency urgently needing single-payer coverage:

Millions of Americans are at risk of losing their access to health care because Congress did not renew funding for the community health center program at the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30. Unless we renew funding immediately, 70 percent of funding will be cut, the doors of 2,800 community health centers will close, and 9 million patients will lose access to quality health care. That is unacceptable.

Our nation’s community health centers provide affordable, high-quality health care to more than 27 million people. This includes not only primary health care, but also dentistry, counseling, and low-cost prescription drugs. For the 13 million rural patients served, community health centers often are the only health care provider for hundreds of miles. And they provide good jobs in communities that need them the most.

Sanders’ speeches almost always emphasize single-payer’s—high quality, low cost. That “constant” indicates it is perhaps the issue is worth every drop of energy he has. Indeed, he may be at the crossroads of his life in deciding whether to battle the DNC again on another presidential run or to spend his remaining years ensuring single-payer coverage—Medicare-for-All—is available to every American from the first breath to the last.

At one recent rally sponsored by what could be the vanguard of a Single-Pay Army, a huge banner behind him proclaimed:

“IT’S TIME TO ACT! MEDICARE FOR ALL! So did the sign hanging from the podium. That can only mean a national, heavy public lobbying—emails, calls, canvassing, letters, local office visits—by all those who want the single-payer program to contact their Congressional incumbents or challengers seeking votes in the 2018 midterms. And to start right now!