Last November, Trump promised to convene a special session of Congress as soon as he was sworn in to “immediately repeal and replace Obamacare.” It would happen “very, very quickly.” And with Republicans firmly in control of all three branches of government it appeared to be unstoppable.
But it turns out that large majorities of Americans are unwilling to sit by and watch as more than 20 million people lose access to healthcare and Medicaid is gutted in order to provide huge tax breaks to the 1% and the medical industrial complex. Healthcare, Trump discovered, is “complicated”.
Widespread grassroots resistance is the secret as to why it is so “complicated”. From the moment the House Republicans unveiled their vicious and mean-spirited “repeal and replace” legislation, there has been a mass uprising that has targeted politicians from both parties. On July 17, the Labor Campaign for Single Payer participated in a series of sit-ins and demonstrations in the Senate offices to Kill the Bill. We were joined by members of APWU, NNU and more than a dozen social justice organizations. More actions took place on July 19 and there are ongoing protests in communities and congressional district offices around the country.
This activism has thwarted any Senate action and paralyzed Republican leadership. It has also unleashed a powerful and growing movement for Medicare for All. As this movement begins to come together, here are some things to consider about what happens next:
Don’t Let Up. Like a bad zombie movie, “Repeal and Replace” keeps rising from the dead. The powerful political and economic imperatives driving this attack will not go away. President Trump has called on the Senate to stay in session until a bill is passed. The Freedom Caucus is considering pushing an Obamacare repeal through the House and the Senate may vote on a new version as early as next week. We need to keep the heat on every representative and senator to do all they can to stop these murderous attacks. You can use the AFL-CIO hotline to call your Senator today at 1-888-865-8089.
Resistance is not Enough. As people rise up to resist, they realize that they are fighting for more than just the right to buy a lousy health insurance policy from a state exchange. They want to fight for the right to healthcare. Medicare for All has rapidly been embraced by broad sections of the resistance movement. Large segments of the political establishment now pay lip service to single payer. Even publications like the Harvard Business Review are debating whether the time has come for single payer. Congressman John Conyers’ Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Bill–HR 676— now has 115 cosponsors. Senator Bernie Sanders has vowed to introduce a Senate Medicare for All Bill once the current debates over Republican proposals subsides. When we talk to our representatives, we need to demand that they not only oppose the Republican attacks on healthcare but that they also add their names to and actively support single payer legislation.
Don’t Forget the States. From New York to California, there are strong, labor-backed initiatives to establish publicly funded state level universal healthcare systems. While these efforts face formidable obstacles, pathways to victory are beginning to open up. A victory in a key state can be a counterweight to the continuing assaults on the right to healthcare coming from Washington and will build momentum for the national movement.
Build Power. Healthcare may not be “complicated”, but it sure is hard. The Medicare for All solution is easy to envision but difficult to implement. That is because we must overcome the entrenched economic and political power of the medical industrial complex that stands between the American people and their healthcare. This requires a powerful social movement with labor at the center. Now is the time to start building such a movement.
Six months ago, as President Trump was being inaugurated, very few thought that a grassroots movement could stop an administration with majorities in both houses that was intent on turning back the clock. Even fewer thought that, six months later, the movement for Medicare for All would become stronger than it has ever been.
We have come a long way but have miles to go before we sleep. We’ve found our voice and learned how to fight. Now is the time to plant the seeds for victory.