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A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a letter (and I encourage others to do the same) calling for a strong public option in whatever healthcare legislation is passed. In the letter, I described the frustration that many rank-and-file Democrats have towards their elected leaders (and yes, it’s not the ‘base'; >80% of Democrats is nearly the whole damn party–and some of the dissenters oppose the public option because they feel it’s too weak):
When you ran for office, you talked about “change.” When it comes to our nation’s health, now is the time for change. Yet, it appears that the same companies and the same lobbyists still have sway even though 76% of Americans in a recent poll support a public option… And we were told–by you, no less–that we needed to elect Democrats to get enough votes for healthcare. Well, we did that, and now, we are told that there are not enough votes.
Mr. President, we did our job, and now, we need you to do yours. Find the votes.
Sadly, socialist (officially Independent) Senator Bernie Sanders is the only one who gets the importance of passing a healthcare bill with a public option, which is supported by about as many people as one could possibly hope for (I’m sure it’s just coincidence–really, I’m not being snarky–that 28% of Americans couldn’t identify that the earth revolves around the sun. The point being that once you broach seventy percent, you’re starting to bang your head on the Asymptote of Stoopid). Sanders in an interview with Ezra Klein (italics mine):
You have a Democratic president and a Democratic majority in the House and 60 votes in the Senate, and the coalition that is determining health-care policy are seven people, including four Republicans?
I have a lot of respect for Max Baucus. I know he’s working very hard. But I think his strategy is just not right. The people have given the Democrats the responsibility to bring real change and that’s what people want. You’ve probably seen the New York Times poll showing 72 percent want a Medicare-like public option. No Republicans support that at all.
So I think, with all due respect to Max and his hard work, it’s the wrong strategy. I think the strategy should be to say to all 60 members of the Democratic caucus that even if you don’t want a public plan in the final bill, you should commit to ending the Republican filibuster. You don’t need 60 votes to pass legislation. You need 60 votes to end the filibuster. And if we do that, we can get a strong public plan that will be real change…..
Look, the Democrats said give us 60 votes so we can come up with something. They gave it to us! I’m not a Democrat, I’m an Independent, but I caucus with the Democrats. They gave us 60 votes. So how many do we need? Seventy? Eighty? I understand that there are some Democrats, without ascribing motives, who are not comfortable voting for a strong public plan period. But I think it is not asking too much that they vote against the Republican filibuster….
But people in the country are not sitting around saying, “We need a good bipartisan bill! That’s what we need!'” They’re saying we need good, universal coverage for every American, man, woman, and child. And it needs to be affordable. If Chuck Grassley and Olympia Snowe and these other nice people I know decide to vote against it, that’s fine. People in America aren’t sitting up nights worrying how they’ll vote. The goal should not be bipartisanship.
“I think that with Al Franken coming on board, you have effectively 60 Democrats in the caucus, 58 and two Independents,” Sanders said in an interview with the Huffington Post. “I think the strategy should be to say, it doesn’t take 60 votes to pass a piece of legislation. It takes 60 votes to stop a filibuster. I think the strategy should be that every Democrat, no matter whether or not they ultimately end up voting for the final bill, is to say we are going to vote together to stop a Republican filibuster. And if somebody who votes for that ends up saying, ‘I’m not gonna vote for this bill, it’s too radical, blah, blah, blah, that’s fine.'”
“I think the idea of going to conservative Republicans, who are essentially representing the insurance companies and the drug companies, and watering down this bill substantially, rather than demanding we get 60 votes to stop the filibuster, I think that is a very wrong political strategy,”
That Sanders is the only Senator saying this just shows how dysfunctional our politics are. Keep in mind, we’re basically talking about expanding Medicare to all adults–in other words, you can have the same helathcare options as your parents or grandparents. It’s just not that radical at all. Yet, despite massive support, it probably won’t pass.