The ‘Squad’ Should Force a Vote On Medicare For All.
If Pelosi wants their vote for Speaker, they need to play their hand.
Unsurprisingly, with the election behind us Nancy Pelosi is once again hoping to be Speaker of the House. As the new year approaches and the left begins to determine how they will use their power in congress, many among the base have been arguing that AOC and the ‘Squad’ should play their hand in the wake of an election that left them with more progressives in their corner, and a slimmer Democratic majority. Recently, the argument has been intensifying that the progressive caucus should withhold their votes for Pelosi for Speakership unless she brings Medicare for All to the floor for a vote.
In response to calls for these actions online, AOC said:
“The Dem votes aren’t there yet, and with a razor-thin margin the Dem NOs are > margin. So you issue threats, hold your vote, and lose. Then what? If you want to know who’s opposed look @ cosponsor list”
Kyle Kulinski, political commentator and founder of Justice Democrats — which happens to be the platform that got AOC and the rest of the ‘Squad’ elected — had perhaps the best response, writing:
“If medicare for all is gonna lose in the current political climate you either go down laying down or go down fighting. If you fight you 1- get ppl on the record (we know who to primary) & 2- shift the Overton windown in your favor (like the tea party). Force the vote. No brainer. Leftists arguing against having votes on our core issues are doing the establishment’s work for them. You’re not doing some brilliant high minded strategy we don’t understand you’re just weak, scared of the consequences and rationalizing.”
Personally, I would have to agree with Kyle.
I and I’m sure most others arguing for this action are not under the impression that we would get Medicare for All passed the first time it’s held to a vote with our current lawmakers. But that doesn’t change the fact that the Democratic party is entirely aware of how popular Medicare for All is, and now is the time to make them acknowledge that reality. If the current circumstances with the country now approaching 300,000 deaths due to a pandemic, and millions losing their employer-provided private insurance after losing their jobs through no fault of their own isn’t a good time for progressives in Congress to force their “colleagues” to hold a vote on establishing a single-payer system, then when is?
The point of forcing a vote now is not to win on the first try, but rather to see how difficult the battle for the win will be.
Being a “cosponsor” of Medicare for all and voting to pass it are two very different things. I would argue that the entire reason Pelosi has not held a vote on Medicare for All is because she wants to protect the corporate wing of the party, so that they don’t have to vote against the increasingly popular legislation as their donors would expect them to. Making people go on the record either for or against Medicare for All not only holds their feet to the fire, and forces corporate Democrats to reveal themselves to be against such a fundamentally necessary change, but it also shows organizations on the ground like Justice Democrats exactly who they need to primary in 2022.
As Kyle Kulinski also pointed out, forcing the vote would also shift the national discourse in their favor and spark a conversation, particularly now. While the national discussion surrounding healthcare intensified in the wake of such an important vote, even typically a-political voters would begin to question why — in the middle of a pandemic that has cost them their jobs — their insurance is tied to their employer, or insurance companies are able to profit off of children having leukemia. Some would begin to wonder why it is that their congressperson voted against the legislation, and be more inclined to vote for their primary challenger who supports it. Other people might even be inspired to run themselves.
To be clear, I understand that there is strategy involved, and that calculations about risks and rewards have to be made. As Samie on Twitter pointed out — with perhaps the best argument against it that I’ve seen — the move could result in the narrative that Medicare for All failed and the Squad got nothing accomplished. That said, given everything that the nation is currently experiencing, shouldn’t it at the very least be discussed? If not now, with so many people dying and millions of others losing their insurance, then when is a good time to force it to a vote? A vote on Medicare for All does not have to be, and is not, a one time thing. We vote, see which lawmakers need to be replaced, introduce legislation, and vote again, repeating the process until we have single-payer healthcare. This is going to be a long, grueling, frustrating fight, and the sooner we get started the better. Progressives in Congress have leverage, and they should use it.