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With Democracy So Sick, Medicare for All Will Be Uphill Battle

With Democracy So Sick, Medicare for All Will Be Uphill Battle

Greg Coleridge

The promotion of human health in all its dimensions (i.e. physical, mental, emotional) is among the most important single indicators of a just society. The availability and affordability of comprehensive health care to every person, regardless of income or other factors, is defined by many nations as a basic human right. This is the foundational principal of the Medicare for All Act introduced this week by Sen. Bernie Sanders.

"Ending corporate constitutional rights is the ultimate cure to our critically ill health care system and democracy."

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So, when do we begin the work to find our lost democracy?

Even passing monumental legislation like Medicare-for-all is small potatoes compared with the lost democracy problem. It is a sick citizenry that recognizes democracy has been lost, and responds with apathy and palliatives.

Coleridge’s thinking is in the right direction. It’s the priority that needs clarifying.
Recapturing democracy is The essential first step to begin correcting the problems of health care, global warming, and corporate dominance of nearly every facet of our society.

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The first step to “recapturing democracy” is restoring ALL of FDR’s New Deal financial industry regulations that were decriminalized by the best congress money can buy during the past forty years.

The medical industrial complex continues to leverage that decriminalization as it pays them ever growing dividends with each passing year.


Move to Amend’s amendment has 44 co-sponsors. However, we need to take Congress back, or this has little chance of ever coming to a vote. As far as restoring New Deal financial protections, I submit there is little chance of that (even with Democrats in power) without this amendment.

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Look what happened to Hillary Clinton’s attempt to get universal healthcare coverage in 1993 and her plan included insurance companies. You can’t overstate the power of corporate opponents to change of the healthcare system. In addition this is a poor time for a powerful social movement for healthcare. Most of the energy on the left is going into resisting Trump. Since Trump is attacking everything little time and energy will be left for this social movement. The top priorities are fighting back against fascism, Trump’s war on science, Trump’s Muslim ban, Trump’s attempt to end DACA, Trump’s war on the environment, Trump’s efforts to cut taxes for the rich, Trump’s attempt to increase fossil fuel production despite climate change, and so forth. In this context of fighting to save just about everything we have launching a major social movement for Medicare for all will be extremely difficult. The vast majority of Americans have healthcare insurance. About 150 million have plans in which their employers pay a large share of the premiums. Millions are on Medicare or Medicaid. Winning this uphill battle at this time does not look promising.

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Fix democracy first, then, obviously.



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The design of the US government if you do sufficient study will show that it was designed “to protect wealth and property” as this was the prime objective of those who wrote the Constitution and designed things the way that they are today. In 18th Century America, only a small minority of people were allowed to vote. There was a property requirement that you had to meet. The “south” insisted upon counting slaves as 3/5ths of a white man when it came to representation in the House and Senate. In the case of the Senate, state governments selected who would be a senator who was in effect the representative of his state. The electoral college (that benefits the Republican Party) was designed to balance out the political power of the rural states against the more urban states. So a voter in say North Dakota effectively is more politically powerful than a voter living in California.

Consider the design of the US federal government as opposed to the design of national governments in the rest of the developed world. Compare the parliamentary systems they use compared to ours. So why did those who founded this country pick the design of government that they did. One reason ours has “checks and balances” that don’t exist elsewhere. Wealth gives you far better control of the political system here than it does in the rest of the developed world. A rather small minority with sufficient funds has much more effect upon the political system here in the US than it would have in any of the other world’s developed countries. This is why the rest of the developed world has systems of national health coverage and also pays much less for the coverage than we do. But here in the US “organized medicine” is free to “bribe” (campaign donations) to enjoy a degree of economic power unknown elsewhere. The same thing applies to corporate America. Along with other “special interest groups” that are far more politically powerful here than they would be in the rest of the developed world.

Dear Mr. Coleridge,

Notes on “With Democracy So Sick”

  1. Title and byline hits the problem on the nose, Mr. Coleridge: it will be hard to pass a single payer health bill without a strong progressive grassroots movement (Sanders’ “political revolution”); and it will be harder to build such a movement when right wing wealth and corporations have the upper hand in politics and media, as is the case today.

  2. And yes - in addition to lobbying and shaping media - the 2010 Supreme Court Citizens United ruling - which let the corporate Frankenstein out of the closet to politically spend as it wants - has sickened democracy even more. How can a people’s movement resist - or even form - in a political culture saturated in pro-corporate messaging?

  3. Hence your call to increase democracy with a constitutional amendment to “end corporate ‘personhood.’”

Two thoughts.

  1. One, a constitutional convention could backfire.

Right now in NY, my teachers union argues members should vote no on a state constitutional convention likely to be called for by right wing forces, because the right will propose ‘right to work’ amendments that will weaken unions. (Members would then get a free ride - benefiting from union protections, but not paying in, ultimately weakening the power of unions to bargain for them…which would lead to even greater member attrition.) Isn’t there the same risk of a Federal constitutional amendment, when the right has so much power in all three branches? That the right might use its power to make changes that would increase and lock in its power even more?

  1. Two, I think the increase in corporate power is only half the story of the sickness of US democracy - the other half is the structural weakening of progressive forces - the weakening of unions due to automation and offshoring, a weakening that involves both ‘class consciousness’ (awareness of politics due to being in a union) and the former ‘countervailing’ lobbying power of unions. Atomized workers think less in terms of worker-group interest and, as a result, are easier prey for corporate messages and right wing media.

And this is a problem that does not have an easy solution.

  1. But, last - not to be defeatist! - the single payer drive opens the door to one strategy to progressive movement building that is not being done, but that could be effective. Several nonprofit organizations in the US provide free primary care at large, coliseum or open air-type events, events often attended by thousands of low-income people.

A progressive version of such an organization could deliver primary care and, a the same time, educate people - especially low income people who are often the least organized and who are some of the strongest supporters of a government role in healthcare. Our corporate political and media culture would continue about its propagandistic business when attendees went home, but they’d have been innoculated: they’d have been apprised of the good of single payer; they’d have been given a heads up about anti-single payer propaganda; they could have been registered to vote at the event; and they could have been encouraged to support a local pro-single payer movement, thus potentially organizing and mobilizing a hard-to-reach group with a progressive message. Last, it is to be hoped - this message would be more likely to get through because it was not a tv corporate message, but a person-to-person message from someone that had actually helped them.

I am currently writing a piece for publication on this last idea - feel free to reach out to me if you would like to review and comment on a draft.

In solidarity,

[sent to Greg Coleridge email]

“[T]his is a poor time for a powerful social movement for healthcare. Most of the energy on the left is going into resisting Trump…In this context of fighting to save just about everything we have launching a major social movement for Medicare for all will be extremely difficult.”

And…sorry, but remind me…how are you devoting “most of” your “energy” to “resisting Trump”…other than wagging a scolding finger at progressives? Not that clucking from the sidelines isn’t strenuous and draining…

Please, enlighten misguided posters by sharing your steadfast “fighting back against fascism,” your time-consuming devotion to “saving just about everything we have.” Hand out “ACA - Better than Nothing!” flyers on street corners? Go door-to-door giving away remainder signed copies of “What Happened?” Be a model for the rest of us!


FYI, an old bio and email was listed in the original post. The updated version submitted is:

After spending the last 7 years as a grassroots leader for Move to Amend in Ohio, Greg Coleridge joined the Move to Amend National Team in June 2017 as the national outreach co-director. Greg served 34 years as a peace and justice organizer for the Northeast American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in the Akron/Cleveland area.
Email: greg(at)movetoamend(dot)org

We need a reverse Marshall Plan. Bring in some grateful and wise Germans, some sympathetic and familiar Canadians, maybe some practical Britons to meet with ordinary Americans and explain how it’s OK to support one another in society through a universal health care plan and in everything else. We have been played off each other so long, no wonder we don’t know what real democracy is. We must get universal health coverage for all Americans, but you’re right, America is too broken to even realize it at this point.

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At some point the resistance has to articulate a vision for the future and work to build it, or everybody might as well just go home now. It seems to me, this is the perfect moment for the Medicare-for-All movement to go on the offense.

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