On April 1, 2017, I rallied with healthcare providers, labor activists, and ordinary people organizing for world class healthcare to discuss the defeat of Trumpcare and how we can build the movement for “Medicare for All” style single-payer healthcare in Washington and the US. See my speech below.
Just over a week ago, on March 24, ordinary working people all over the country joined together in celebrating Trump and Ryan’s utter defeat and failure to pass Trumpcare!
Trump and Ryan weren’t just forced to concede that the votes didn’t exist in the House — they were forced to admit that their efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act are over for the “foreseeable future.”
For years, Republican Party politicians have been campaigning on the promise of repealing the Affordable Care Act. And we, working people, have fought consistently against such attacks, to defend the real, progressive gains that have been won through the ACA.
But Obamacare — the ACA — also already provides the big insurance companies, healthcare providers, and Big Pharma with too much power: the power to set impossibly high premiums; grossly overcharge for services; and jack up pharmaceutical costs.
And that is why, without a clear plan, it left Republicans painting themselves into a corner. Because they couldn’t just kill Obamacare. They couldn’t find a market-based alternative that would both increase profits for insurance companies while still providing affordable coverage to consumers. Their plan was so ramshackle that it divided, instead of uniting, their own 1% billionaire class.
But what was the main, fundamental reason that Trump was defeated? It was because working people fought back.
Trump, Ryan, and the Republican elite apparently took the calculated risk that in this political system, under capitalism and its oppressive conditions, the poor people who would have been most affected are the ones that don’t speak out and the ones who don’t regularly vote — so Trump thought that they could get away with it.
While this gross assumption proved a major political miscalculation on the part of Trump and the Republicans, the overwhelming majority of America, including a majority of Republican voters, strongly opposed Trumpcare.
A poll taken just days ahead of the events showed that Trumpcare had only 17% support. Tens of thousands of voters, including Trump’s voters, turned out to town halls, public meetings, and the offices of Republican representatives, and revolted against the prospect of losing what they had gained from the ACA. The revolts in the Republican town halls grew to such a point that Republican Congress members started hiding out from their own electorate.
While the defeat of this bill is a major victory, we must be clear that this is not the end of the fight. And that is why we are gathered here.
On the one hand, Republicans are guaranteed to continue their efforts to attack and erode healthcare, pass regressive tax reforms, and they will particularly go after reproductive rights and funding for women’s and trans healthcare providers, like Planned Parenthood.
On the other hand, we all know the Affordable Care Act is not enough! We need to tax the rich and deliver “Medicare for All” single-payer healthcare. And we need to seize this opportunity before us right now.
Trump and the Republicans face a major crisis in their party. Future efforts to force through right-wing, anti-women, anti-immigrant, and anti-worker laws will be imperiled by the divisions within themselves that have been exposed and deepened by the battle over healthcare.
But while Republican Party divisions have been highlighted, particularly the resistance of the far-right Freedom Caucus, we do not have the luxury of lulling ourselves into complacency.
We have to recognize this moment as an historic opportunity to fight for and win single-payer healthcare. And if we don’t recognize this opportunity, it will be a historic loss.
This successful resistance to the Republican healthcare plan has mobilized a whole new generation of millennials looking to fight back. It has energized physician groups, nurse’s unions, the AARP, and the socialist Left, which has long fought for single-payer healthcare.
But this resistance has also brought out a broad layer of working class voters who did not see themselves as political before this assault, and it has brought out even Republicans and former Trump supporters as well.
Bernie Sanders’ widely viewed town hall on healthcare in McDowell County, West Virginia is an example of just how reviled the Trumpcare plan is, and just how much potential there is to win working people over to a working-class agenda with a program of demands that raises the living standards and the quality of life for all.
The process of millions of working people who voted for Trump, who are realizing that the promises of “draining the swamp” are being systematically betrayed — that process has begun, sisters and brothers. And it is in this context that we have to build our fightback.
We need to unite our forces in a principled manner, around the demands that we all agree on. And right now, there is a shift taking place, a phenomenal agreement forming around the demand of building for nationwide single-payer healthcare.
But if we’re serious as a movement, then we have to be serious in our analysis: the primary obstacle that our movement faces, which must be overcome immediately, is the fact that the Democratic Party is firmly wed to donations from Big Pharma and Big Insurance. And if we are to have success, we cannot be wed to the Democratic Party.
Democrats have refused to bring Medicare for All or any single-payer proposal forward during the two years they controlled the White House, Senate, and House of Representatives.
Even at that time, the most progressive wing of the party wasn’t willing to fight for a proposal for single-payer healthcare, even though there was so much support for it. I don’t know if there is any reason to believe that they would do so now.
In early January, thirteen Democrats in Congress voted against Bernie Sanders’ proposal to allow Americans to buy cheaper medications from Canada and other countries, killing the amendment. Both of Washington’s Senators were among the thirteen. If they had voted the other way, the amendment would have passed. If we weren’t clear on where they stood before that vote — with the people, or with the CEOs — we should be clear now.
We shouldn’t be surprised if Democratic representatives aren’t willing to threaten billions of dollars in profit for the CEOs for the sake of our health.
Sisters and brothers, my question is: If Democrats support healthcare for all, what is stopping them from moving forward right now in states they control?
There is a movement in California that is fighting for single-payer healthcare. So why is California’s Democratic Governor Jerry Brown speaking out against single-payer rather than championing it? He recently said, “Where do you get the extra money? This is the whole question.”
Well I know where you can get the extra money: Tax the Rich! Tax Wall Street! Tax the Billionaire Class! That’s how you “create” the money that was lost to us in the first place.
The best defense is a good offense. Imagine if California, Oregon, and Washington all won a West Coast-wide single-payer healthcare system by taxing big business and the super-wealthy. We can win it, but only if our movements refuse to be beholden to what’s acceptable to corporate politicians.
The story of how Canadian workers won their single-payer is a useful lesson to us in America. Canadian workers had long fought for their right to healthcare, but only succeeded when the workers, the labor movement, and the socialists in Saskatchewan built a party independent of big business, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, or CCF, which described itself as socialist.
In 1946, the CCF passed public healthcare programs in Saskatchewan. But you know what happened in Canada after that? Everybody in Canada wanted it!
The response from Canadian working people was so great that in 1961 the Federal government, run by big business parties, was forced to pass single-payer federally. Because the movement was so strong, they knew that if they did not pass it, the workers’ parties would come to power.
That is the type of bold approach that is needed in the coming months and years that can lay the basis for real national healthcare reform — a transition from a system designed for corporations, to one that is rooted in the interests of working people. To do this, we need to immediately unite our struggles.
And a huge, historic opportunity is coming up: May 1st, May Day, is International Workers’ Day, and historically in America, is a day for immigrant rights struggles. Let’s come together on May 1st in strike actions, protest actions, rallies and marches, and demand that America and Seattle be run in the interests of working people — not the super wealthy.
Many workers in Seattle will be going on strike, including public school teachers, immigrant workers, and student workers at the University of Washington. Let’s join together, and discuss the best strategies to move forward.
Let’s build our movement and win Medicare for All single-payer healthcare! Tax the rich!