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November 22, 2019

Chapter Spotlight: Lehigh Valley DSA Pressures Bethlehem City Council to Support M4A

by Lehigh Valley DSA

The city of Bethlehem, PA found itself in the national spotlight earlier this year when FOX News hosted a town hall here with Bernie Sanders. And despite a lot of liberal handwringing about whether a Democratic candidate for president should give time to Donald Trump’s favorite network, Bernie scored. The standout moment came when FOX’s Bret Baier asked the audience how many of them would be willing to switch to Sander’s Medicare for All Plan. Nearly everyone in the crowd raised their hands.

We’re telling you this story from April to set the stage for something that happened in November, when Bethlehem’s city council unanimously adopted a resolution supporting Medicare for All. A host of other cities, including Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Detroit have all passed similar resolutions.

Our chapter has made Medicare for All a priority since the beginning. We’ve held town halls on the topic, done phone banking and door-to-door canvassing and worked with local and national Medicare for All advocates. So when we learned on November 5 that Bethlehem would be taking up the resolution the following night, we went into action, mobilizing our members to attend the meeting and to contact members of council to show our support. 

Our message to council was:

“We believe that health care is a human right. Our chapter sees every day the toll our inhumane health care system takes on the people around us. It's evident even among our members, from the people facing surgeries that will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to those who simply can't afford to go to the doctor.
No one should have to go bankrupt keeping themselves healthy. A society where people have to resort to GoFundMe to purchase insulin or pay for operations is not a healthy one. 
 But you can be part of turning things around. Let the rest of the world know that Bethlehem believes healthcare is a human right.”

Our chapter co-chairs, Emily Hibschmann and Anthony Downing, spoke in favor of the resolution prior to its adoption.

Anthony told The Brown and White, the student paper at Bethlehem’s Lehigh University, “Even now, at a city level…people are dying, people are not able to pay their medical bills, people are not able to eat…and it’s something that needs to be handled.”

We hope the vote in Bethlehem puts pressure on other communities and on our local legislators, including U.S. Rep. Susan Wild. 

We’d be lying if we took credit for what happened here. The truth is that our chapter was just one of many voices advocating for Medicare for All in the Lehigh Valley. 

What we're counting as our victory here is that we’ve shown we can align with the community and make things happen. We saw it here in November, we saw it in October when we supported striking auto workers at our local Mack Truck plant and we’re confident we’ll see it again and again as we canvass for Bernie Sanders over the coming months.

That’s what we’d tell other chapters who – like us – are still experiencing growing pains: show up for stuff. Talk to people. None of us can do this alone.