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  May 3, 2017

Democratic Party Resistance to Medicare for All Traceable to Campaign Funding

Corbin Trent of, whose group is campaigning for Medicare for All bill, explains the group's research and strategy for pushing the Democratic Party to endorse the plan
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AARON MATÉ: It's The Real News. I'm Aaron Maté.

Under President Trump, the top Democratic priority on healthcare has been stopping Trumpcare, the attempt by the Republicans to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, but what about the struggle inside the Democratic Party?

There is a battle going on right now, between advocates for universal healthcare, and those who refuse to support it, who prefer a more modest approach that keeps the current private system in place.

Well, to discuss this, we are joined by Corbin Trent, of the group Justice Democrats. Corbin, welcome.

CORBIN TRENT: Thanks for having me.

AARON MATÉ: Your group has put out a chart that's gone viral. It keeps track of every single Democrat who hasn't yet signed on to supporting universal healthcare, single payer. Can you explain?

CORBIN TRENT: Yeah. Essentially, what we're watching is the same thing everyone else is, which is the lack of a backbone from the Democratic Party, specifically in the House. And we noticed that of the 193 Democrats that are currently in the House, that only a handful –- 72 before we started the petition, and the image push -– had signed on to support Medicare for All, by co-sponsoring John Conyers's bill.

And we thought that this is sort of emblematic of the problem that ultimately led to the defeat of the Democratic Party in 2016. And emblematic of the problem that led to the loss of over a thousand seats over the past eight years, for the Democratic Party nationwide.

And we thought it was our duty, since we were going to be recruiting and running candidates against these incumbent Democrats in many cases, that we give them a chance to stand for the Democratic voter, and hop on board with Medicare for All. It's something that 83% of Democratic voters support, and 63% of voters as a whole support.

So, it's not an issue that the American people are divided on. And yet we see that even the Democratic Party in Congress seems to not have the ability to take a stand, and support the American people, and the voter. So... yeah.

AARON MATÉ: And what do you attribute that to, the failure of a sizeable number of Democratic politicians refusing to get around the idea of universal healthcare?

CORBIN TRENT: Well, it's funny you mention that. One of the things we looked at were campaign contributions of the 122, I think to start with, holdouts. And it looks like there's an average of about $63,000 per holdout, that comes in some way from the healthcare sector, either in the healthcare insurance providers, or some other form of donation.

So, I think a big part of the reason we have so many Democrats holding out, and not supporting Medicare for All, is because of the current system that's providing funds for their campaigns.

AARON MATÉ: So, where do you go with this? You're making this list of all these Democrats who are refusing to support universal healthcare. What happens to those who stay entrenched in their position? What are you going to do, if anything, to respond to them?

CORBIN TRENT: Well, we're going to keep promoting the fact that they're not taking the position that the Democratic voters obviously want them to take, and keep calling them out on social media, and other ways. But ultimately, the main power we have is in primary opposition.

So, we're going to be really targeting those districts, and ensuring that we have really solid primary challengers for the 2018 midterms. I think that's where you really start to apply pressure, is replacing people in the House, and the Senate, that aren't doing the people's work. So...

AARON MATÉ: How many primaries are we talking about?

CORBIN TRENT: Ultimately, our goal is to run more than 300 candidates, in a nationwide effort, to replace as many incumbents as possible, that aren't... that again, that aren't already fighting for the American people, and for the Democratic voter.

So, it could be as many as 300, 350. We're going to see. Right now, we have 40 candidates in training. We've had nearly 9,000 nominations in total, that have come into the system that we've vetted, somewhere around 6,000 of those. And then we have hundreds more in the pipeline, that are nearing the training phase.

So, this is going to be a really... an exciting campaign, and it's going to be hopefully backed by several hundred authentic, credible and competent candidates.

AARON MATÉ: And in these campaigns, you're planning on making single payer the issue to run against establishment Democrats on?

CORBIN TRENT: That's going to be one of our really strong issues, is focusing on single payer, focusing on Medicare for All. Not just how that is going to impact the American people, by providing opportunity and access to healthcare, but also how it will make American companies more competitive. Right now, the average family cost, through just insurance premiums alone, when you combine the employer and the employee, is over $17,000.

So, $17,000 a year on average is going to pay premiums for healthcare, and that's a cost that right now employers and employees are bearing the burden of. And with a single payer Medicare for All system, that would be something we distribute across the entire tax base, and it would make our companies, and our industry more competitive, and a global economy too.

But yeah, that's going to be a big center point. The other center point around our campaign is going to be a deliberate, and a significant, rebuilding of our economy.

AARON MATÉ: As an organizer and an activist, what kind of mood are you seeing right now across the country, when it comes to average citizens' response to the single payer issue? Are people ready to mobilize for this? Is there energy behind universal healthcare?

CORBIN TRENT: I think there is. I mean, we put out a series of tweets and images and, as you mentioned earlier, that went viral. We see Bernie Sanders, who ran a 2016 primary against Hillary Clinton, and one of his big focuses was single payer Medicare for All. Ultimately, he raised a quarter of billion dollars, and got tens of millions of votes, and mobilized an entire generation of activists to try to fight for things like single payer, so, yeah, absolutely.

I think that that is something that is going to fire people up, and it's something that's going to get them -- not only on the streets, knocking on doors, making phone calls, donating and organizing -- but ultimately get them in the voting booth in 2018.

AARON MATÉ: Can you talk about how the mood, or the conversation around healthcare, has shifted in the last few years? Back when Obamacare was being debated, Democrats proposed a public option, but ultimately it was other Democrats, like Joe Lieberman, who defeated it.

Now there's talk of basically, Medicare for All being a litmus test, for Democratic candidates in 2020. That if you can't get behind Medicare for All, then you don't have a chance of running. Can you talk about how things have changed in just the last decade or so?

CORBIN TRENT: Well, I think there have been a few things. One is that Democrats, the voter, Democratic voters, have realized that you don't start off with compromise. If you start off with compromise, then you end up with even more substantial compromise. So, when we entered the healthcare debate in Obama's first term, what we ended up with -- because we didn't start with something like Medicare for All -- what we ended up with was basically a Republican plan to provide healthcare for the nation.

And while it's helped out a lot of people in a lot of ways, it's still not addressed the significant burden that most voters are bearing in costs. Right? It's not been very effective in bringing costs down. It slowed the growth, and it slowed the increase of costs, but it's not really addressed bringing that down.

And I believe that that, coupled with the fact that people saw Bernie Sanders's unlikely presidential run blow up, and become a really viral campaign that again, was able to raise a quarter of a billion dollars and mobilize hundreds of thousands of people, and transform people that had been sitting on the couch politically -– like myself -– into people that were willing to do what they had to do to move this agenda forward.

I think that that sort of changed the paradigm, and the discussion, around what is possible. And what we're, as voters and organizers, willing to accept as changed. And what we want is, to shoot to the moon, and then at least we'd get into the stratosphere, if we don't get all the way there.

AARON MATÉ: From an organizing perspective, what are the challenges that you face in trying to hold Democrats accountable for not supporting single payer? What hurdles do you have to overcome to actually put pressure on them?

CORBIN TRENT: Well, I think one of the biggest hurdles is showing that there is enough support for something like Medicare for All. To have an alternative path, to either get... you know, to obtain a seat in the House or the Senate, or to hold a seat in the House or the Senate, right?

So, one of the things I think that's important in the midterm elections in 2018, is that we show that there is grassroots activism that's going to be strong enough to lead to electoral victories. I think that's one of our biggest challenges, is to prove that this is an issue that people will get behind, that they will turn out to vote, they'll turn out to knock on doors and volunteer.

So, you know, it's kind of... I think one of the challenges is to do... is to pressure people without proof, that electoral victory is possible. So, I think that the midterms in 2018 are sort of going to be a real test of that, and I think if we're able to prove -- by electing new people in the House and the Senate -- and supporting people that have moved their positions over to backing Medicare for All, then that's going to be one of the things that really empowers us as organizers, to take the existing incumbents, and show them that there is the will, there is the pressure, there are the votes. You've just got to push it, and you've just got to support it.

AARON MATÉ: Corbin Trent of Justice Democrats thanks very much.

CORBIN TRENT: Thank you. Have a good day.

AARON MATÉ: And thank you for joining us on The Real News.




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