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Democratic platform challenge on Medicare for All

July 28, 2020

Topics: Quote of the Day

At least 360 Democratic delegates, mostly his supporters, have signed a pledge to oppose the Democratic platform unless it endorses single-payer.

By Holly Otterbein
POLITICO, July 27, 2020

More than 360 delegates, most of whom back Sanders, have signed on to a pledge to vote against the Democratic Party’s platform if it does not include support for “Medicare for All,” the petition’s organizers told POLITICO. They argue that single-payer health care is an urgent priority amid a worldwide pandemic and the biggest unemployment crisis since the Great Depression.

The warning is all but certain to set up a clash between Sanders’ most dedicated supporters and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, who opposes Medicare for All, at a time when the party is seeking to demonstrate unity ahead of its August convention. Though the petition signers have little chance of revising the platform to include Medicare for All support, they do have the numbers to draw attention to their protest and cause.

The left-wing groups Progressive Democrats of America and RootsAction.org are announcing Monday that they support the vow to vote against the platform if it doesn’t include Medicare for All. The Bernie Delegates Network, a coalition made up of hundreds of Sanders delegates, said it will also publicize the petition. Organizers expect those efforts will net hundreds more signatures, including from Biden delegates.

“The sea change that’s underway could swell as a result of this initiative,” said Norman Solomon, national director of RootsAction.org and a Sanders delegate. “It’s a reasonable hope that historians will look back at the next couple of weeks as a time when hundreds of delegates stepped forward and said, ‘This is a red line for a humane society and we’re not going to stop saying so.’”

Despite their frustration with Biden, progressive leaders behind the pledge all said they are voting for Biden and working to elect him.



By Don McCanne, M.D.

The majority of Democrats support Medicare for All, but the presumed candidate, Joe Biden, is opposed. The task force that was to bring the moderates and progressives together was deliberately weighted in favor of the Biden supporters, and thus they rejected a recommendation to include single payer Medicare for All in the party platform.

The progressives and many of the moderates have not given up. They are organizing to have Medicare for All included in the platform. At the same time, they agree to support Joe Biden regardless of the outcome. That should allay the fears of the moderates who are concerned that the progressives would split off, allowing Donald Trump to be reelected.

Joe Biden has made his position clear, so it really doesn’t matter whether or not single payer is included in the platform; Biden will oppose it. If the delegates do vote to include it in the platform, more progressives will stay on board. Although the progressive leadership will continue to support Biden, even without a single payer plank, the rank and file progressives may fail to vote or may cast a protest vote for a third party candidate.

Between the pandemic and the recession, Democrats really don’t need the additional hit of being told by their leadership that Medicare for All is off the agenda for the foreseeable future. We don’t need a superimposed second pandemic of clinical depression.

PNHP does not endorse any political party or candidate.

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About the Commentator, Don McCanne

Don McCanne is a retired family practitioner who dedicated the 2nd phase of his career to speaking and writing extensively on single payer and related issues. He served as Physicians for a National Health Program president in 2002 and 2003, then as Senior Health Policy Fellow. For two decades, Don wrote "Quote of the Day", a daily health policy update which inspired HJM.

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