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Could Bernie Sanders Deliver on His Promise to Push Through Medicare for All?

The path to a single payer system is going to have a hard time coming through the Affordable Care Act ... or the Democratic Party.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/Ryan Rodrick Beiler

Green Party candidates, while supporting Sanders, question whether or not a truly progressive candidate can exist within the Democratic Party. Does single-payer require an independent party? Green Party candidates Dr. Jill Stein and Dr. Margaret Flowers share their thoughts with Paul Jay is the Senior Editor of The Real News Network. Below is RNN's video coverage and transcript:

 

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Let's talk about what we have to talk about. All right. So there's a kind of big debate going on. And it shows up between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, but it also shows up in terms of how the Green Party's--people approach the Green Party. Which is, what's realistic? And I'm putting quotes there only because it can mean different things. Hillary is saying even if she thought Medicare for all was the best policy, and at one time in her life it seemed she did, and now it's not so clear what she really thinks of it. Except we do know she thinks it's not winnable. And incremental change is actually possible. And I know on our staff we have some young people who are pretty savvy, and as critical of the Affordable Care Act as they are, they're under 26, and they're getting covered, and they may not have had any coverage otherwise. And, and some of the other, you know, there are some incremental reforms in the Affordable Care Act, where some real people's lives are better off because of it. Even if there's 30 million people who aren't covered, and there's terrible weaknesses, and even if it did help, in fact, strengthen private insurance and so on. There are some--.
 
FLOWERS: So even though it made the problem worse, a few more people got care as a, as a tradeoff.
 
JAY: There are, there are some real people whose lives are a little bit better because of it. There--I mean--.
 
FLOWERS: And we compare that to a solution that actually would provide comprehensive healthcare.
 
JAY: No, I'm not saying that. We're talking about the politics of what's achievable when you have at least half the voting electorate vote for a party that doesn't think climate change is real, is against any kind of public healthcare plans at all. It basically would like almost to eliminate the social safety net.
 
JILL STEIN: Can we just acknowledge, though, that that--that base of the Republican party is now 21 percent of voters. And the base of the Democratic party is now 29 percent of voters. And the number of voters, this is according to the Wall Street Journal poll in June, so most recent. The number of voters who have rejected both of these corporate parties is now 50 percent of voters. You have to ask, when you start splitting, you know, splitting between Democrat and Republican, and who's taking away from what, remember that the largest block of voters have been basically thrown out of the electoral discourse altogether by corporate-sponsored parties who are basically serving the interests of predatory banks, and fossil fuel giants, and war profiteers. That, you know, after a while you gotta connect the dots here and see that they're just [not working].
 
JAY: Okay. So, so then what--how is the Sanders candidacy affecting you, then? Because at least some of the dots he is connecting.
 
STEIN: Oh, absolutely. Yes. And I don't want to disparage Sanders, here. But it's the party. You know, I think Sanders is running a great campaign inside the Democratic party, that has a rock-solid track record for basically destroying campaigns of integrity. They have a killswitch which they created after the election of George McGovern, and between superdelegates, super Tuesdays, and smear campaigns, they know how to essentially dismantle challengers in their ranks, and to use those challenges to keep marching to the right. So it's a fake left [go] right.
 
JAY: Stop for just a second, and quickly--I would say that most of our younger audience, and maybe some of our older audience, don't know or don't remember the George McGovern moment.
 
STEIN: Okay, great.
 
JAY: Talk a little bit about that, because it's very significant.
 
STEIN: Yeah. So in 1972 the Democratic party nominated a peace candidate, George McGovern, who they then went on to abandon, basically, and to sort of let his campaign just sort of run adrift. And he had a very poor outcome. But after that race the Democratic party basically decided that they would not let that happen again, that they would not let a truly progressive candidate win the nomination on the wave of public support that McGovern was riding. So they--.
 
JAY: Against the Vietnam war.
 
STEIN: That's right, that's right. And also in the tail of the civil rights era, and all that, there was enormous, you know, public interest movement at that point, which was reflected in the movement of politics and his nomination. So in the face, in the aftermath of that, the Democratic party established super Tuesdays, which are basically a number of primaries that all take place on the same day that makes it impossible to win without a whole lot of corporate money and super PACs and so on.
 
JAY: Because you can't do a ground game in so many states at the same time without a ton of money.
 
STEIN: Not if you're running on just plain old, you know, individual campaign contributions from small donors. It's not going to happen. So that was one way that they decided to firewall against a future George McGovern. The second way was by creating what are called superdelegates. Most delegates, that's about 80 percent of delegates, are actually chosen by voters. But not all of them are. And there's a sizable block of 20 percent of the delegates to the convention that are not chosen by voters, but are basically appointed by the Democratic National Committee. And these are existing officeholders or other, you know, people of importance inside the Democratic party. So there's a very conservative bloc that assures that the nomination will not go to a rebel in their ranks.
 
JAY: Sort of the role the electoral college can play in national elections.
 
STEIN: As well, absolutely. So this has done the trick. And there have been many very principled and inspired campaigns, from Jesse Jackson to Al Sharpton to Dennis Kucinich to Howard Dean. They have all been beaten back by one tool or another, most recently Dennis Kucinich, who basically got redistricted, wasn't allowed into the debates either, because he was really outspoken. But Howard Dean, you may remember the Dean Scream, which kind of came out of nowhere and just undercut him massively in the polls. Suddenly he was made out to be a madman.
 
JAY: It was a crazy scream.
 
STEIN: Well, hello, who doesn't do a crazy scream at sometime, or something that can be made to look really bad? He was shafted. Jesse Jackson was shafted when he had a thriving campaign riding on the tail of the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement. And he was basically discredited as being anti-semitic because of some comments he had made about Israel. So he was also brought down. So the Democratic party has gotten really good at this. You can see they're beginning to sharpen their daggers against Bernie right now.
 
JAY: So how do you see this, then, playing out? If Bernie does continue to gain momentum then the daggers have to get even sharper. How does this affect the Green Party?
 
FLOWERS: There's a myriad number of ways that, that Bernie can be, you know, sidelined. But I think I really want to get back to the question you initially asked was, you know, can we reform the Affordable Care Act? Is it, does it make more sense to try to reform the Affordable Care Act than to actually go for what we need, which is a Medicare for all solution, which the majority of the public supports. Eighty percent of Democratic voters support it. They're the highest group that supports it.
So we've experienced decades, now of this current system, and people trying to tweak it. And what we've seen is a greater march towards privatization. Very high healthcare costs. People are left out that can't get care. People who have insurance, the latest study shows that 60 percent of people, or more than 60 percent of people who have medical debt, have health insurance. That's under the Affordable Care Act. So do we keep trying to tweak and leave tens of millions of people out and continue to have poor healthcare outcomes, or do we actually go for the real solution, which is not a rocket science solution. It's happening in almost every other industrialized nation in some form. And we have our own systems here in the United States. Medicare in the VA, which are, traditional Medicare or single-payer. So you say that it's not politically feasible--.
 
JAY: I didn't say. I said Hillary says.
 
FLOWERS: Well, okay. Hillary says it's not--.
 
JAY: No, I actually would say that at least what's happening in the Democratic primaries now proves your point. Because Sanders is, you know, at the very least competing in Iowa. It looks like he is going to win in New Hampshire because he's pushing a big, exciting idea. He's not, he's not winning because of incrementalism.
 
FLOWERS: Well, it's always best to go with bold, yeah.
 
JAY: And the other interesting stat is he's doing better against Trump than Hillary is. Again, you know, essentially pitching big ideas, not incremental ideas. At least [inaud.].
 
FLOWERS: But getting back to, you know, so--. Often the real solution is not the solution that's on the table. It's the job of us to put it on the table. And so we saw this in the net neutrality fight, when we were told that that was not on the table. It was a popular movement that pressured it and got that on the table. We're looking at a climate crisis right now, if you haven't noticed. And so are we going to say that big oil and big gas are too hard to take on, that we can't change to the renewable energy solution that we need? No. If we had leadership it would be even better. But even without leadership we've got a popular movement that is fighting back against the fossil fuel industry, and unfortunately a confluence of other events, that we're going to, we're going to beat that back and we're going to get to the renewable future that we need.
We need the same thing with single-payer. This is the solution. This is the solution. The evidence shows that. It's done in every other country. If we had strong leadership in the White House, we had strong leadership in Congress combined with a powerful, popular movement, we could do this. It's not implausible. It's perfectly plausible, because it's the only real solution that's going to solve our crisis.
 
JAY: What do you make of the argument that at the national level, to have--to really have some impact, it's almost impossible to do it outside the Democratic party. And--like, if Sanders had run, for example, for the Green Party, I don't see any reason why he would have had any more mass traction than you running for the Green Party. And that's because of the way the media treats, primarily treats the Green Party. And within the Democratic party they tried to marginalize him. But his ground game in some small states, and generally starting to have some impact. They were forced to pay some attention to him. But at local levels, city levels, and state levels, I think you guys could have enormous impact.
 
STEIN: Well, I think we can definitely have enormous impact. We already are having an enormous impact at the local level. You can just look at Gayle McLaughlin's impact in Richmond, California, where she, you know, reigned in the corporate abuse of the dangers from Chevron corporation, and sued them, and used eminent domain to basically, turned it on its head to use it on the banks, to seize mortgages of homeowners at risk. Reduced crime, reduced police violence. Just did the right thing, really stood up for the right thing. But we've got big problems right now. You know, and it's, it's not only that we need to do the right thing locally, we need to do the right thing globally. And by, you know, unless we stand up at the national level, we are not going to move these big ideas forward. Bernie Sanders needed to do it within the Democratic party. Unfortunately, the Democratic party is probably going to cut him off at the knees, and there's going to be an even bigger movement now that is just not going to go quietly into that dark night. And you know, get, get demoralized and diminished inside of Hillary Clinton's campaign, which basically represents the opposite of everything that Bernie stood for. You know, we've got a climate crisis which is in meltdown right now. And we could have a matter of decades only to take concerted action which must begin now if we are to prevent 10, 20, 30 feet of precipitous sea level rise, which is basically a wipeout for civilization as we know it. We are in the middle of a mass extinction even right now, which also we will not survive. We have massive proliferating wars right now. And Bernie Sanders, again, is not standing up to that system, either. He's a proponent of the Saudis basically doing our dirty work for us. Unfortunately, we have been up to our eyeballs in dirty work with the Saudis ever since this so-called terrorism problem was created by the CIA and the Saudis together, basically creating the international jihadi movement to fight the Russians in Afghanistan. And it's only gotten worse every step of the way. So this is not something we can sit on the sidelines and not comment on and not fight with every fiber of our being. In the words of Frederick Douglass, power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and it never will. And I think after having entrusted our fate over and over again to leaders who then turn around and betray us, you know, fool me once, fool me twice. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I think after having been really burned by Obama in the last two elections, a lot of people, seeing how things are just unraveling before us now, this is a, you know, this is an existential moment that we're in right now. This is a big wake-up call. It's speak now or forever hold your peace. The clock is ticking, we're running out of time. This old paradigm of entrusting our fate to the political predators to somehow do the right thing for us on their own behalf, it's just not going to happen. And they keep marching to the right while the Democratic party entertains these principled campaigns, but then crushes them, and uses that as a smokescreen. The party uses that as a smokescreen to keep marching to the right. We cannot afford to do that. And let me just say, this is not only pie in the sky. There are 43 million young people locked in debt who have no way out except through our campaign, where the only campaign that will cancel student debt upon being elected, which the president has a fair amount of discretion over, as well as many other ways to achieve that. But this is a, this is a deliverable. This is a very quick deliverable, and as young people get the word they can come out and vote to cancel debt in the November 2016 election, that will move like a wildfire across 43 million people who are a plurality of the vote, and can win the election simply by coming out to cancel debt. So there are all kinds of doomsday scenarios that the political predators will inflict on us, and try to convince us that it, that resistance is futile. That there is no sense standing up that it's oh, it's all ridiculousness. It's so ridiculous because if we get to the microphone we can win this. I'll just mention in 2002, when I had the opportunity to actually get into a televised, statewide debate, I was told as I walked out of that debate hall and was mobbed by the press that I had won the debate on the instant online viewer poll. And the electorate is far more mobilized right now, and far more volatile than they were in 2002. If we don't put real solutions on the table, we are enabling real fascists like Donald Trump to really win over that really discontented electorate. We need to stand up with big ideas, and stand together right now, because we have the numbers, we have the solutions, and we have the potential to turn this around. This is not a time for the politics of fear. This is a time for the politics of courage.
 
JAY: All right. Thanks very much for joining us.
 
FLOWERS: Thank you.
 
STEIN: Thanks for having us.
 
JAY: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.
 
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