If we learned anything from last night’s debates, it’s that Democrats don’t really know what they want.
More importantly, Democrats running for president don’t know what the voting public wants, or how to give it to them.
Should Democrats, provided they manage to wrest the White House away from the Trump administration in November if not before, expand on Obamacare or replace it with Medicare for All? Or should Democrats introduce a sort-of compromise: Medicare for All-lite; medicare for all who want it, or all who can afford it.
Elected Democrats, and Democrats who want to be elected, have a laundry list of other legislative priorities, too. Some are obvious and overdue; wage gaps that lead to systemic wealth inequality, criminal justice system reforms, environmental priorities.
Some are less so. It’s true that open borders, abolishing ICE, free college, a cancelation of college debts, reparations, abolishing the electoral college, federally funded political campaigns and other progressive passion projects might not have gained enough traction yet to achieve legislative viability in a bi-partisan Democracy.
But moving the “Overton Window”- that is the standard range of socially acceptable thought on a given subject- is how liberal progressive Democrats have brought society so far, so fast on issues like gay marriage and LGBTQIA+ rights.
Public polling indicates an almost total shift in views on gay marriage from largely against to largely for in a relatively short time. Without the unceasing work of Democratic activists and legislators, this shift would have happened far more gradually, if at all.
Transcendental politics, as former President Barack Obama recently chided his party, are for campaign season. More specifically, they are for primary campaign season, a time in which the major political parties get to determine, from their relative pools of experience, who has the best ideas.
Who has charted the best path forward in 2019?
Who is moving the Overton Window on everything from health care as a universal public right to a more balanced tax system that ensures the ultra-wealthy pay their fair share?
Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Understanding health care as a universal human right is an important paradigm shift, and it has the power to change the dynamics of U.S. society for the better in a radically short time.
Access to quality health care is one of the great poverty dividers in the U.S. today. The gap between the haves and the have-nots is easily observable. For the wealthy in the U.S., they have access to the best health care in the history of the planet.
For the poorest in the U.S. in need of medical care, they’d be arguably better off in an emerging nation where the quality of the health care services might be poorer but the access might be improved.
Being poor in America today means lack of access to the very preventative care that can keep someone working from paycheck to paycheck. It means not going to the doctor when you’re sick. Even lower and middle class families are one illness, one accident away from losing everything and living on the street.
Plus, it isn’t as if refusing regular medical care to poor people saves the medical industrial complex money in the end; long-neglected conditions end up in the emergency room, where poor patients wrack up huge bills they can never pay. Those costs aren’t absorbed by hospitals or insurance companies- they are passed along to patients.
For many people facing mounting medical bills, bankruptcy is the only option.
Imagine you are someone from a low to moderate income household needing a lung transplant. Perhaps you are underinsured, perhaps you have no health insurance at all. While you undergo counseling in preparation for even the possibility of surgery, one of the steps you must take is financial counseling.
You might be told you must relocate, get an on-paper divorce and put all your assets in your former-spouse’s name, sell your house. Most people give up.
Of those that do not, they are often denied anyway. There are a very limited number of lungs available for transplant; giving someone a new lung who can’t afford the lifetime of expensive medication they will have to take in order to prevent a rejection of the foreign organ doesn’t do that person much good.
This is problem. And Republicans are not addressing it.
Democrats running for president in 2020 have a great many strikes against them. The DNC is doing catastrophically bad at fundraising, which means the eventual nominee will have to help bail out the DNC, instead of the other way around.
Trump and the Republicans, on the other hand, are absolutely stacking the cash, campaigning on impeachment proceedings in the House, which are wildly unpopular with Trump’s base and Republican voters.
Democrats have ideological difficulties in addition to financial ones. The Big Tent Party still has pro-life Democrats, Blue-Dog Democrats, and a minority voting base that isn’t nearly as progressive as the white liberal wing of the party.
Nevertheless, Democrats have what is perhaps the greatest advantage of all; a willingness to finally address the health care inequality gap in America.
To use that advantage to its best, Democrats must nominate Elizabeth Warren. She alone has the vision, the appeal, and the energy to go the distance against Donald Trump.
And she alone knows how to appeal to an electorate tired of not being able to afford their medical bills.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)