Blog

February 6, 2019

Bernie and the Fight for Medicare for All

by DSA M4A Steering Committee

For the first time in our lifetimes, Medicare for All appears to be within reach.

For decades, one rogue Senator has repeatedly proposed single-payer healthcare, agitating against the profiteering of private insurers and drug companies while calling for a movement of working people to wrest healthcare out of the market. That Senator is Bernie Sanders, and now he’s on the verge of running for president.

Sanders made Medicare for All a leading demand in his 2016 presidential campaign, drawing out the division in the Democratic Party between billionaire donors, their establishment politicians and millions of working people.

Since 2016, Medicare for All’s popularity has only grown. Now single-payer healthcare enjoys the bipartisan support of a majority of Americans, and for the first time in history, will receive hearings in the House. But as the 2020 Democratic presidential primary heats up, we are seeing billionaires, centrists, and party leadership closing in to crush our movement.

As democratic socialists, we believe that the struggle over Medicare for All is class war: a fight between the wealthy few and the working many to redistribute wealth and power. Only on those terms can we build the mass movement necessary to win—and only Sanders can help to build such a movement. His campaign offers two concrete opportunities for us to leverage what we’ve built.

Firstly, the campaign season offers a chance to articulate and debate Medicare for All on a national stage and through all of our local chapters. There is no greater political contest in the country than the Presidential election, no other election draws in so large a group of politicized working people. We can set the terms, and raise class consciousness for millions of Americans wondering why corporations are allowed to profit off of something that should be a basic human right.

Secondly, we have a historic window to pass single-payer legislation. Already our campaign is working hard with coalition partners, like the Labor Campaign for Single-Payer, National Nurses United, Healthcare NOW and others,to make Medicare for All a litmus test in Congress. We can keep this up in 2020 and beyond, building a militant, mass movement of working people to enact a democratic mandate for a piece of real democratic socialism. Without that campaign being independent, we could experience demobilization following election day.

So, there will be overlap between our fight for Medicare for All and our campaign to elect Sanders. That is why our campaign has prepared some key recommendations for the National Political Committee. We produced these through broad and inclusive strategy meetings, as well as more focused deliberation from our political subcommittee.

In the event of an endorsement, DSA should launch a nationwide campaign in support of Bernie’s candidacy. Much like our Medicare for All Campaign we should develop independent communications, messaging, materials, organizing guides and more. Our philosophy is to build a campaign that centers Sanders’ platform and foregrounds the kind of robust working class politics that characterizes that platform. The DSA Medicare for All campaign should lend serious support through coordinated strategy and the involvement of our field and communications organizers. We want the campaign to spring into action, but to do so cohesively.

We also know that electing Bernie Sanders is not the same as winning Medicare for All. The fight for Medicare for All will extend beyond the 2020 elections, regardless of the outcome. For this reason the Medicare for All campaign will continue to support chapter organizing including pressuring elected representatives to support single-payer bills and associated measures. We will also maintain our existing communications channels including our website, social media, and newsletter.

Class struggle is alive and well in America, and it’s moving around Bernie. The stakes are high: involving not only decades-long shifts in our political terrain but also the lives of tens of millions of people facing skyrocketing healthcare costs and insufficient coverage. We can stay out of the water, for fear of getting wet, or we can enter the fray and bring democratic socialism into the mainstream. Equipped with our collective experience and principles, we must take the latter step, and fight to win. For the first time in our lifetimes, socialized health insurance appears to be within reach—but we have to reach out and take it.