Monday, January 21, 2019

Medicare For All — The Democratic Party Audition for 2020


Bernie Sanders' November 2016 aggregate approval rating. Net favorable: +18%

Hillary Clinton's November 2016 aggregate approval rating. Net favorable: –15%

Donald Trump's November 2016 aggregate approval rating. Net favorable: –17%

by Thomas Neuburger

The next two years will present multiple tests of the soul of the Democratic Party, just as have the last 10 years. But two of those tests have "high profile" written all over them. The outcome of these tests could determine the Party's future, and consequently the nation's, in the 2020 presidential election.

One test is the Green New Deal. The other is Medicare For All. Both are mere proposals for now, and neither is as well defined as it needs to be in order to become law. But that day is coming for both, and the first time either comes before the House as a bill, the soul of the Democratic Party will be tried and judged, in full public view, with the bright 2020 klieg lights fully upon them.

How will the Democratic Party, in the aggregate, respond when those bills present Party leaders with a moment of decision — to support or not to support; to sabotage in secret or to show their approval in plain sight and by their actions?

The Party "In the Aggregate"

A note about the meaning of "in the aggregate": Yes, there are many forces and factions within and around the Democratic Party and its ecosystem, and many voices offering different directions to go. Similarly, there may have been many voices in the wheelhouse of the Titanic as well, with factions offering different decisions to consider.

But in the end, one decision was taken, the ship "in the aggregate" stayed its course, and "in the aggregate" it sank to the ocean floor.

It make no difference, in the end, if a small group of senators is opposed to flash-confirming Trump nominees, for example, while Chuck Schumer and his leadership faction act otherwise. The Party "in the aggregate" confirmed those nominees. That's what the public sees; that's what the public bases its opinions on.

Three Questions

With respect to the issues identified above — Green New Deal, Medicare For All — the outcome will be determined by answers to the following questions:

A. Will progressives by then have taken control of the Party, or will current anti-progressive leaders still be in charge?

B. Will current Party leaders keep control but "see the light," thus joining with progressives and the electorate in supporting the strongest possible versions of these bills?

C. Or will money-corrupted leaders controlling the Party dig in their well-funded heels and fight instead to defend the donor class and its destructive privileges?

If either of the first two answers is yes, the Party's 2020 presidential chances look bright. But if both of the first two answers is no and the last answer is yes, the odds are at least even that a faux-change Republican will win or keep the White House.

2016: The Past as Prologue

Consider: The 2016 presidential election should have been a blowout, and Democrats, in their wisdom, turned it into a squeaker by nominating an uninspiring status quo candidate in a change (actually, pre-revolutionary) year.

Democrats have now taken the House. 2020 will certainly be another change election — and another pre-revolutionary year — unless things come completely apart first. The Party's aggregate behavior (meaning, its actions as directed by whoever is in charge) will serve as a two-year audition for the trust of the American people.

In that sense, the 2020 campaign has already begun, and Democrats, especially but not exclusively in the House, are giving an early and important audition for the role of savior of the nation. 

If the Party (in the aggregate) continues to show that its first loyalty is to the donor class — Bernie Sanders' now famous "billionaires" — its voting base will be reduced to Party loyalists, the 25% or so shown in the graphic below, and any status quo or suspicious-but-progressive-sounding candidate will attract only the "never Trump" or "never Republicans" portion of the larger independent-voter pile.

Almost half of the American public identifies with neither party, and a great many dislike both

This is what happened in 2016. The Party, with Clinton as its candidate, turned a sure thing into a squeaker. Bernie Sanders, a genuine change candidate, would have wiped the floor with Trump, a pretender at best.

Note the 2016 election-day approval and disapproval ratings at the top:
  • Clinton, –15% approval
  • Trump, –17% approval
  • Sanders, +15% approval
The race between Clinton and Trump was close, and Donald Trump won. It's easy to see the past as prologue, unless Democrats (in the aggregate) act differently.

The "Medicare For All" Test of the Democratic Party

Let's look at Medicare For All (we'll turn to the Green New Deal separately). Early indicators of the shape of the Medicare For All battle are not promising, despite nominal support from otherwise weakly progressive or pro-corporate Democrats. I'm especially troubled by the implications of these recent stories.

First this, about congressional "call time," the practice of "dialing for dollars" by calling members of the donor class for cash. Every such call is an implicit contract: You support me with dollars; I'll support you with votes.
For most members, fundraising is becoming an ever-steeper hill to climb. Incumbents in the House and Senate raised $486 million in 2000. By 2016 that number had nearly doubled to $909 million — far outpacing inflation. Members don’t have to report how much time they spend on fundraising, but leaks to the press have indicated that the parties expect new members to budget four hours a day of call time, plus an hour a day for fundraisers, which can be anything from a breakfast to a cocktail hour to a pass-the-hat potluck to a $1,000-a-plate gala dinner.

“Both parties have told newly elected members of the Congress that they should spend 30 hours a week in the Republican and Democratic call centers across the street from the Congress, dialing for dollars,” Rick Nolan, a Minnesota Democrat who retired from Congress this year, said recently, adding: “The simple fact is, our entire legislative schedule is set around fundraising.”
This is a vastly undercovered story, because its so obviously embarrassing, and there are too few public rebels, like Ocasio-Cortez, against "call time." How many others like her will there be? Enough to change the grip on Congress of the money that buys its members?

When the day to be bold arrives, will the donors who finance elections call in their chips and sink Medicare For All? Based on the following story, I'm convinced they will:
Chamber of Commerce CEO vows to 'use all our resources' to fight single-payer proposals

Thomas Donohue, the president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce, on Thursday vowed to use all of the Chamber's resources to fight single-payer health care proposals. ... "We'll use all our resources to make sure that we're careful there," he said, though his previously released prepared remarks had said the Chamber would use all of its resources to "combat it."
The billionaire industries that benefit financially from our destructive status quo health system are not going to go without a fight. Medicare For All represents an existential threat, and they recognize that.

Finally, will their corrupting influence extend to Democratic members of Congress? Based on the following, it already has:

When Medicare For All becomes a bill, the fight will be a cage match with the bright lights on. What will the Democratic Party (in the aggregate) do in response? Will it support, whole-heartedly and by its actions, the health and welfare of the American people, or continue the abuse of the American people by supporting those who extract wealth from suffering?

I'd love to be wrong, but I fear the Party (in the aggregate) is almost certain to blow it. If it does, the public is certain to notice.

Which means the nation's last hope lies with Party rebels, perhaps Bernie Sanders, perhaps this guy, to make another insurgency run for the nomination, save the Party from itself, and save the nation from the predators who currently run it.

Unfortunately, the last time that happened, the Party made sure the insurgent never had a chance.

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At 10:28 AM, Anonymous Hone said...

Good summary and analysis, Gaius. Fingers crossed for progressives to rise to the top.

If and when we have a big recession or the stock market goes way down, things should look different. I would not rule out a government strike either if the workers continue to not get paid for a considerable length of time. They have become slaves, working for free, against the Constitution. Of course, lots of stuff has been happening against the Constitution and with nothing done about it as of yet. The Senate has become a part of the executive branch.

At 11:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hone, I anticipate the day when you will read something, even by this fine author, with even an angstrom of skepticism.

In effect, this whole piece is a swing and a miss.

"The next two years will present multiple tests of the soul of the Democratic Party, just as have the last 10 years."

first, make that 40 years. and they've failed each and every 'test' since the '80s. The obamanation failure was a negative score where they not only got nothing right, they insisted on getting many things MORE WRONG.
second, there will BE NO tests. part of the reason is the senate democraps succeeded in making themselves even MORE irrelevant in 2016. the rest of the reason:

"the first time either (MFA or GND) comes before the House as an bill, the soul of the Democratic Party will be tried and judged, in full public view, with the bright 2020 klieg lights fully upon them."

which is why NEITHER is destined to come before the house as a bill. AOC could write an air-tight bill but Pelosi will never allow either to see a committee for a hearing (I don't care what she "promised" to Pramila) and certainly never to the floor for a vote.

the main reason: corporate interests are horrified of any and all airing of ideas that would render them an historical footnote. MFA would mean that 99.9% of insurance would go poof AND, if it's written well, could mean nationalization of phrma.
GND would be rightly feared by oil, coal and gas companies as their path to "bolivian".

neither corporate sector nor their lobbies would want any debate at all on these... and would pay a ton to prevent that... and don't think Pelosi, hoyer, cliburn and the rest of those democrap motherfuckers are ignorant of the "earning potential" for putting their quash up for sale.

Normally, with the senate Nazi firewall, the house could simply pass something... ANYTHING and rely on the senate to bury it.
But these are necessary AND WIDELY POPULAR reforms (for the American people and the planet) and they'll pay a ton to prevent even a mention in congress. money over people and the planet... democraps theme song.

The democraps have not cared to even toss many scraps the way of the left for over a decade. They correctly surmise that there are plenty of sheepdogs and their voters are both colossally stupid and have no place else to go... and also refuse to create a genuine left movement. So they have no reason at all to address MFA nor GND... and billions of reasons NOT to.

Therefore, the rest of this article is, sadly, a lot of pointless speculation with no basis in possibilities.

Now, if a truly left party were in the majority, maybe the speculation would be useful. But that ain't the case.. and won't be the case if DWT has anything to say about it.

Thomas, you're better than this.

At 11:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the "past as prologue" category:
Look for perpetual antidemocratic results in presidential elections. With the baked-in antidemocratic biases, it'll be possible for a Nazi, like trump but certainly worse in a short time, to win the electoral college while garnering as many as 12 million fewer votes in the aggregate. CA's electors will always go blue while they could provide 8 million of that aggregate surplus. NY could make up the other 4m.

if there were 12 million more blue voters, it might mean the senate got closer to even and the house might see a pretty consistent blue majority. But states could still lean Nazi something like 28-22... even worse.

But all that speculation still does not mean anything at all will ever change. The democraps are now and always will be for sale. Even if they start a very long string of losses, it won't mean they'll change... as long as the money is still flowing (and voters remain stupid and under their 'Stockholm Syndrome' anvil).

At 11:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"A. Will progressives by then have taken control of the Party, or will current anti-progressive leaders still be in charge?"

Status quo corporatists will maintain control over the party. AOC only has so much time to do her thing in the face of a hostile corporate media.

"B. Will current Party leaders keep control but "see the light," thus joining with progressives and the electorate in supporting the strongest possible versions of these bills?"

Not just no, but HELL NO! The Big Money donors of the democrap faction don't want higher taxes to pay for anything which benefits the majority in this nation.

"C. Or will money-corrupted leaders controlling the Party dig in their well-funded heels and fight instead to defend the donor class and its destructive privileges?"

This is what will happen. considering that Pelosi just shivved progressives in the back with Pay-Go, what other conclusion is even possible?

"But if both of the first two answers is no [technically, A and an either-or question] and the last answer is yes, the odds are at least even that a faux-change Republican will win or keep the White House.

This is where Kasich is headed. He's been working to establish this position since he had to drop out of the last presidential election. As much as I despise the man, I admire his sense of opportunity in the moves he's taken to achieve that goal. As I see things at this moment, he's the one person best positioned to win in 2020.

Last item: Inslee doesn't have a snowball's chance because no one really knows him and he's done nothing which has caught the eye of the public. I live just down the coast in CA and I didn't even know he was WA Governor.

At 7:50 PM, Blogger Alice said...

This fishwives are never welcomed into the palace grounds, it is up to us to crash the gates. I will be watching the elections this year in Virginia and NJ, will we see more Lee Carters emerge? That will tell us a great deal.

At 1:14 AM, Blogger Gaius Publius said...

Anon @ 11:19

I hope you realize that there's nothing inconsistent about what I wrote and what you wrote. That is, I could entirely agree with you and still have written what was posted as the main article.


At 6:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thomas, this is possibly true, but you have the habit of saying it BWO asking rhetorical questions.

I say it more plainly.

11:57 is another responder like moi.

My issue with making your point as you like to do is that the audience cannot discern your method. They do not understand that the questions are rhetorical.

You're the best contributor here. But you have to lower your estimation of much of the audience.

At 2:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thomas, let me contradict myself at 6:29.

One of the big reasons you are the best one here (for my eyes) is that you have NOT lowered your estimation of much of the audience. You present stuff that requires more education and intellect to understand, particularly on climate. I'd like to continue reading stuff like that.

But if you know that an either/or rhetorical question is obviously, to someone with one eye open, one rather than the other... maybe just say so. The first responder will benefit from that.


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