As democratic socialists, the fight for an uncompromising Medicare for All — one that guarantees free-at-use care to all through a single, public program — is a singular way to organize working people around a demand that will materially improve their lives. We have the power and the numbers to make it happen: 70% of Americans support Medicare for All, including 85% of Democrats and 52% of Republicans. Winning Medicare for All will save the average working person thousands of dollars per year, while guaranteeing healthcare security to every single American resident. Not only this, but it will democratize nearly one-fifth of the US economy by eliminating a massive, parasitic industry in a major blow against capital.
2019 presents a unique opportunity for the Democratic Socialists for Medicare for All campaign: to be a key player in pushing HR 1384, the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, to a vote in the House of Representatives. DSA is not alone in this work. National Nurses United, along with nearly 30 other national and local unions and progressive organizations are coordinating to take advantage of this moment. Since Bernie Sanders’ presidential run in 2016, single-payer advocates have been successfully turning Medicare for All into a litmus test for politicians. A floor vote in the House will force representatives to finally reveal whether they’re on the side of healthcare profiteers or the side of the working class.
Americans have been fighting for single-payer healthcare for over a century, and at various points have pushed the policy to the brink of becoming a reality. But time and again advocates were unable to overcome the unwavering opposition of the private insurance industry, pharmaceutical companies, and the American Medical Association. Healthcare profiteers have already begun their latest assault on Medicare for All — we’re seeing a wave of public option proposals intended to undermine our movement, as well as key committee appointments being handed to corporate Democrats.
What we need now to fight back against this assault is an unshakeable working-class movement capable of forcing politicians to reject lobbyist influence. Now is the time to be clear about our demands and pressure politicians to get on board. Pushing a floor vote in the House not only tests the political strength of the movement to make that happen, it also sends the bill to the Senate, calling the question there. Though we know Medicare for All will not become a reality under the Trump administration, a House floor vote is the best “Which side are you on?” political opportunity in 2019 and sets the stage to make Medicare for All the decisive issue of 2020.
Every chapter and organizing committee in DSA can be involved in this campaign, as every single House rep can improve their position on Medicare for All. For progressive Democrats who already co-sponsor HR 1384, chapters can push them to join the Medicare for All caucus and to become a vocal champion of single-payer healthcare using our campaign’s principles. We need progressive reps to be clear that the public option is not an option. Even Republican reps can be made to feel the heat: 52% of their constituents support Medicare for All, and we should try to activate those supporters to become involved in the fight.
Momentum has been rapidly building, and 2019 is the year for us to raise the political stakes. It’s time to send the message that Medicare for All is inevitable, and that we won’t accept any compromises.
This guide will help your chapter plan out a pressure campaign on your House rep. The first chapter talks about the ways in which to build and participate strategically in local coalitions; the second discusses planning and preparing for a meeting with your rep; and the third offers a variety of tactics for escalating pressure on your rep.
With the right planning, a strategic orientation, and a good bit of gall, pressure tactics can win great concessions from elected representatives. The gaps in party structure allow pressure groups to have an outsized influence over politicians, especially if those groups can marshal a large number of constituents for their cause. With a large field operation and an active membership, DSA is in a unique position to bring pressure to bear on House reps, and like never before, now is the time to do so.
Here are some strategic questions to help you decide how to approach your pressure campaign:
- What does my chapter need to employ this tactic effectively, and do we have those resources?
- If the answer is “no,” get in touch with your regional organizer from DSA’s Medicare for All campaign, and let’s problem solve together!
- Does this tactic make my chapter or coalition look organized, mobilized, and plugged into a larger strategy?
- When talking to your rep or their staff, make it clear how organized you are, i.e. “We knocked on 500 doors in the last two weeks [demonstrates people power], and we talked to hundreds of voters who support Medicare for All [demonstrates broad base of support], which we defined as involving these five principles [shows that there is no wiggle room on what we’re asking for].”
- Does this tactic build power in my chapter or coalition?
- Will it be visible enough to attract the attention of potential new members?
- If not, how can we get more press attention? Can we increase our social media presence? How can we reach people who wouldn’t have heard about us if we hadn’t done this action?
- Will it spread organizing skills throughout the membership?
- Will more people learn to canvass through this action? Or learn to have a one-on-one? Or learn to conduct research on an elected official? Or learn more about healthcare policy? Can this be used to develop new leaders? Or to build out the infrastructure of our chapter?
- If not, how can we adjust so that we are using this campaign to strengthen our chapter?
Contributing Authors and Editors
James Cole, Benjamin Fong, Frances Gill, Dustin Guastella, Tim Higginbotham, Heidi Sloan, Megan Svoboda
For more information, contact the national campaign committee at [email protected].